DCM Vertigo


Moon Knight

Cat and Mouse
by Toby Kernan

"Marlene!" Moon Knight yelled as he flung open the doors of his mansion, running inside. Moon Knight yelled her name again and again, running through every room of the house, frantic to find the love of his life. Finally, nearing the grand stairs that led to the upper levels, he saw, dripping wet, barely covering herself with a towel.

"My goodness," cried Marlene Alraune, alarmed first by her love's frantic yelling, and now the disturbed look upon his face, "Steven, what is wrong with you? I was just taking a bath . . . "

Marlene was shocked, when with alarming speed, Steven Grant - a.k.a. Marc Spector, Moon Knight, Jake Lockely, etc - raced up the stairway and grabbed her in his arms, pulling her close to him. As he held her in a death-grip like embrace, Marlene became frightened. Something had happened tonight, something very bad. Steven had never done anything like this before.

Marlene looked at her lover's face, and soon found herself in a passionate kiss.

Marlene pulled herself away briefly, her thoughts demanding explanation.

"Something happened tonight, didn't it, Steven?"

"Yes," replied Steven, as he pulled his lover towards their bedroom. "Let's retreat to the bedroom, and I will tell you . . . "

"My god . . . " whispered Marlene, after listening to Moon Knight's earlier exploits of the evening.

" . . . And he killed your new psychiatrist, Dr. Flesko."

"Yes," replied Steven, solemnly, "murder the man in cold blood, I believe for no other reason than to steal his files on me, then to use him to unnerve me. Left the man, hanging upon the stage."

"Who is this Scarecrow?" asked Marlene, not sure she really wanted the answer.

"His name," replied Steven, "is Jonathan Crane. Once he was a brilliant psychiatrist, wrote a few books, taught at Gotham University, specialized in fear and phobias. Then one day he snapped, and went psycho. He started killing people in real nasty ways. Eventually he was caught by SHIELD agents and sent to prison. Later, he was sprung by some demon named Neron, and given superpowers. Now he is able to dig into people's heads, pull out their darkest fears, and make them reality.

"This is about the time I first met him. He was determined to kill as many people he could by as many different phobias as possible. We clashed several times, but each time he escaped. Finally, with the help of a little magic from Doctor Steven Strange, I was able to confront him in the subways below the city and defeat him. I sent him to jail."

"And he escaped?" asked Marlene, astonished.

"No," said Steven, angered, "apparently they let him go. He was working for something called Suicide Squad. Some black ops deal where criminals can work missions for the government in exchange for lessening their sentences . . . "

"That is the sickest thing I have ever heard!" exclaimed Marlene in horror.

"I agree, " declared Steven.

"So now this psycho is out there somewhere," asked Marlene, "plotting his next move?"

"Yes," replied Steven, solemnly, "and I am not even sure where to begin looking for him. He is the worst kind of criminal. He is brilliant and completely without conscious or remorse. He will kill without even batting an eyelash. Very scientific and clinical. That is why I want you to get out of town."

"What?" replied Marlene, shocked.

Steven kissed her hand, then looked her straight in the eyes, "For some reason, Crane has decided to pick now to extract some revenge on me. He is a master of psychological terror. If he has the doctor's files, then he knows about you and my love for you. You will be a target. I cannot afford to see you hurt . . . "

Marlene began to think of a million excuses, "But my job . . . my life . . . won't I be safer here with you . . . "

Steven grimaced, "I don't think you will be safe here, and you safety is the most important thing here, for me. All the other stuff doesn't mean a thing. I want you to go to your mother's home in Tampa."

Marlene tried to absorb all the information, "When Steven?"

"Now," replied Steven, moving from her embrace, to the closet and their suitcases. "The chauffeur has the limo running and the private jet is gassed up and waiting at the airport, ready to take off."

Marlene thought to object, but she could see the look in her lover's eyes, and knew the gesture would be futile. His mind was made up, and she would abide by his decision. For now.


Marlene watched as Steven, a.k.a. Marc Spector, jumped and quickly ran for the bedroom door. Marlene recognized the yell, it had come from Steven's friend and assistant, "Frenchie" Duchamp.

Marlene ran out as well, to find "Frenchie" standing at the bottom of the stairs, looking frantic.

"Chloe ez gone."

Chloe awoke groggy, and completely unaware of her surroundings. Before her eyes were ready fully functional, she tried to sit up, only to find her left flank filled with piercing pain, and was forced to lay back down. As recognition began to register, she realized that her whole body throbbed in a dull, lull of pain, accentuated by terrible hurt in her side and shoulder.

Chloe began to remember what had happened. She had entered the nightclub in order to confront the gang members who had shot Gena's children. There had been a scuttle, guns had been drawn, and she had been shot. Well, she thought, obviously, she hadn't died. She had escaped someone. She figured Moon Knight must have saved her, and now she was lying in her bed at Grant Manor.

When her eyesight finally returned to her, she realized she was indeed not in Grant Manor. She was in a very beautiful bedroom, the walls full of Picasso replicas and beautiful flower arrangements. She lifted her head, and noticed an opened closet filled to the brim with Versace and other expensive designers. Whoever had saved her was a person who enjoyed serious luxury.

Suddenly concerned with her own appearance, Chloe looked down at herself. She was in a robe, and little more. She was clean, her wounds were expertly bandaged, and she smelt of oranges and exotic spices. Someone had taken very good care of her, though she was confused as to why she was not just in a hospital.

"She lives."

The voice startled Chloe. She turned to see a woman walking in from what appeared to be a bathroom or sauna or something of that ilk, because steam poured from the room. The woman was very beautiful, and none too modest, because she had walked from the room naked, except for the towel which she was using to dry her red hair. Before Chloe looked away, she noticed the woman was very beautiful of face and had a very muscular and well-toned form.

"Excuse me," said the woman, as she made her way to the closet, "I didn't expect you to awaken yet. Besides, modesty has never been one of my characteristics. It is good to see you amongst the living though."

"Where am I?" asked Chloe, not sure where to begin. She turned her gaze back to the woman, not sure if she should take her eyes off her for very long. She assumed that this had been her savior . . . and the person who had decided to keep her here, rather than take her to a hospital.

"You," said the woman, smiling, as she fumbled through her wardrobe, "are in the penthouse at the Gotham Regent Hotel. Service here is mediocre, but the food is delicious. If you are hungry . . . "

"Are you the one who pulled me from the club?" asked Chloe.

The woman grabbed a silk red blouse from the closet. "Sure was, dear. Not a very smart move, technically, you know. Rushing headlong into a bunch of gun-happy bangers, and you with only a sword. What do they teach you Templars, anyways?"

Chloe's curiosity was now piqued. This woman had been there during her battle. More importantly, this woman knew that she was a Knight Templar, something that wasn't exactly general knowledge to the mass public. This woman had either been following her, or this was a very amazing piece of fated coincidence.

Chloe decided to go for broke, and ask the two questions permeating her thought. "Who are you, and why did you save me?"

The woman didn't even turn as she slipped a pair of Ralph Lauren jeans up her long legs, "I saved you because I liked your aggressive style. And because you were outnumbered and shot full of holes, and looked like you needed some help. My name is Leila."

Chloe had other questions racing through her head, but then the stress of the entire situation, and her injuries, began to take their toll. The room began to spin, and Chloe started to slip back into unconsciousness.

"You rest, dear," she heard Leila say. "You need to build back up that energy."

Then Chloe's world faded back into the darkness.

Gena Rowlands kissed her son Ray upon the forehead and walked from the intensive care unit at Lady of Lourdes Hospital. Her son was heavily sedated and seemed to be sleeping soundly, so she figured now was the best time to get herself a cup of coffee and check and see how the Diner was holding up without her.

Gena felt the tears start to ebb towards the edge of her eyes, but she fought them back. She had to be strong now. For her boys.

Just days ago, everything had been normal. Her sons, both good boys, had been regular teenagers, going to high school, talking about girls and the upcoming DMZ concert at Madison Square Garden. Then they had been at the wrong place at the wrong time. Caught in a gang turf scuttle. Both shot. Ricky, her youngest, took one in the leg. They extracted the bullet and he would be fine. But Ray, poor Raymond, he suffered a far worse injury. His bullet had pierced his skull, going straight through his left eye and out the other side of his skull. He survived, thanks to seventeen hours of surgery. Now, he lie in a coma, doctors unsure when he will come out or what kind of brain damage he suffered thanks to the bullet.

Gena left the elevator, and walked into the cafeteria. She poured herself a coffee, paid her money, sat down at a table, and began sobbing uncontrollably.

An hour later, having gotten all of her crying out, and checked on her diner, Gena stepped off the elevator on the intensive care floor. It was almost midnight, and it was very, very quiet. All she could hear were the constant beeping and clicking of monitors and instruments as she passed by room after room to get to her sons.

Something was different in the air, and Gena felt it in her bones. She walked up to the administration's desk, to talk with the nurses. She had befriended one, a large and jovial lady named Jerry from Indiana, who had constantly on her first night came in and brought her anything she needed. Gena found Jerry and another nurse named Marcus at the desk. Both were asleep. Aghast, Gena nudged Jerry, who was sleeping atop a pile of forms, snoring loudly. The woman did not awake. Gena slapped her, probably too hard. She still did not awake.

Gena thought for a moment, then turned and sprinted down the hall towards her son's room. Something very wrong was going on here. She slammed open the door to her son's room, and her worst terror were realized.

Ray was gone. His body, his bed, all his equipment were gone. All was simply no longer there.

"Only the good die young . . . " Jonathan Crane sang to himself, as he sat in his rented Ford Topaz, and watched as Marc Spector, the man of a million aliases, kisses his love Marlene Alraune, and placed her upon the private Grant Corporation jet. It was a most expected plot, and Jonathan was slightly disappointed, hoping that Spector would provide just a little more originality in the game they were playing.

Jonathan sighed as he started his car, and headed back out towards the freeway. He knew what Spector was assuming. He figured that Crane was in this game for revenge. How utterly petty that notion was! Crane was a genius, and revenge is a silly notion conscripted to lesser beings. No, this was a game of high entertainment. A psychological battle.

Jonathan hoped her was picking a worthy opponent. Spector, with his multiple identities and personalities, hopefully would present a challenge, something Crane needed badly. During his time at Belle Reve - in Suicide Squad - Jonathan was surrounded by idiots. Thieves and thugs with serious delusions of grandeur. They simply were not of Crane's caliber. Toying with them had been like playing with toddlers. They were like wet clay.

Jonathan wanted a worthy game. Spector was his choice, and he had better live up the Crane's expectations. He had been able to defeat Crane before. If he didn't, then Crane would be forced to kill him and all he loved in most gruesome fashion.

" . . . only evil seems to live forever . . . " Crane sang, smiling, as his rental zipped along the highway back into the city.

Next: The psychological game gets even more twisted.