Acies sat comfortably tucked into the rooftop alcove, blue eyes locked onto the warehouse doors.
This part of Chicago lay near the old docks and was currently being repurposed away from its former industrial mindset. The new wave of hipster culture had made it a point to lock down many of the potential buildings for bars, clubs, apartments, and shops, along with whatever other business the evolution of changing times might bring. Politically, however, it was a lot harder to finance such a push by the new mayor’s campaign, so for now it was just a work in progress.
Eventually, it would become a shining example of modern commerce in the city, but for the next four years, this would be the perfect location for training. The problem was, he still needed to find the funds to purchase it. While petty theft might have been an option for some individuals, Acies felt such an act carried too much risk on the off chance it might backfire. Plus, he was far too old and set in his ways. Even if he couldn’t call himself a hero any longer, by all that’s holy, he could still act like one. No, this called for a change of plans.
Previously, he had wanted to set up a location, then draw in his target, then figure out the best path forward. But being here had already changed things. Getting others involved was almost inevitable. So… he shifted from his comfortable hidey-hole.
Time to call on some old friends. Or new ones? Bleh, this crap was confusing.
Two hours later found Acies slouching outside of a well-known bar on the south side of the city. This was a dangerous place for him. Not because he had any fear of being recognized but because the faces here might pull up memories he would rather do without. Though usually in civilian clothing, almost all those entering or leaving this place had the same hard look and vigilant gaze about them. This was a bar for active and retired heroes.
Bill’s Sports and Grill Bar had been around since the 60s. It had endured the hard times and the peaceful years, largely due to the reputation of its founder and proprietor Bill “Ironsides” McGrath. All those who had worn the mask were welcome within its thick walls, and it was a perfect place to meet peers and discuss sensitive information. Acies was confident he could pass as a still-active hero but truthfully didn’t want to push it too far. Besides, the individual he was currently after always left about this time. His schedule never changed. Three fingers of whiskey straight and a quarter past six, he would walk out the front doors and head home.
It was about that time when a young couple walked towards the building, coming fairly close to Acies’ position in the alley. The woman glanced in his direction, eyes passing over his form like normal, before frowning and murmuring something towards her partner.
They both paused to take a closer look.
Acies cursed mentally. It would not help things if he was found right now. Still, he needed that money, and he needed it yesterday. This was his best option, and he really didn’t want to try again later.
Thankfully, he didn’t have to wait much longer.
A man that could have walked right out of a 10 cent detective novel made his appearance, stepping through the bar doors and out onto the sidewalk. He situated his fedora, rearranged the grey domino mask on his face, gave a casual shake of his dark leather trench coat, and began to stride past Acies’ position.
And none too soon, as the couple had almost reached his alley. Quickly but carefully Acies scaled the building beside him, from the dumpster to balcony to window. Looking down, he saw the man and woman inspecting the area where he had so recently been standing. Too close. Acies would need to stay away from this area for now, till the time was right.
He continued to track the fedora-wearing individual, pausing once as the man below lit up a giant cigar. A small smile touched Acies lips.
In a world of constant upheaval, Rodney Derrabon never changed. Literally. As if frozen in a picture, the man known as Nightwatch had operated for almost a century without fail.
Course, Acies knew the real secret beneath the fedora.
Seeing no deviation from the man’s usual route, Acies decided to skip ahead to the hideout and avail himself of a glass of bourbon that was undoubtedly hidden somewhere in the office.
He had been sitting on the comfortable couch for a while by the time the front door opened but didn’t mind too much. Rodney really did know his alcohol. He took a sip, watching quietly as the man first checked each room, then relaxed enough to drape his trench coat over the desk chair.
At this point, both revolvers were pulled from their shoulder holsters, each being checked before being gently set on the desk nearby. Finally, the dark-haired man collapsed into his chair, leaning back to remove his hat and gingerly run his long fingers across his scalp.
“You’ve got an excellent choice in bourbon Rodney. I knew that, I just didn’t think you’d keep a bottle of the best in your desk.”
Acies voice was calm, pitched low and with no threat attached. He wasn’t too worried about Rodney’s reaction, but then again he hadn’t known him at this point. Thankfully, his instincts proved true.
Before the fourth word had been spoken, a revolver was pointed in his direction, no waver in the hand holding it.
“I like to keep a bottle nearby just in case I get visitors. Case in point.” The gun motioned in his direction. “Now… who the fuck are you?”
“Why, I’m an old friend Rodney. From a long time away. Now, you might not know me yet, but I was very familiar with your predecessor.”
Rodney’s eyes narrowed. “Funny, he never mentioned someone of your description.”
Acies waved his glass in a shrug. “Yes, well, Charles always was a forgetful sort. In this case, literally. He had all the memories of our… adventures… wiped about a decade before his death. There are a number of reasons for that, but they are his secrets to keep.”
Carefully standing, Acies made sure to keep his hands in the open, though he continued to drink from his glass occasionally. He approached the desk slowly and slid a file across its surface.
“Just take a look at this. If it doesn’t pique your interest, I’ll leave, right now; and you never have to see me again.”
With his gun hand still focused on Acies’ chest, Rodney flipped the file open. Not even bothering to look at its contents, he simply placed his open palm down upon the papers within. At first confusion, then fear, then adrenaline flashed across his face.
In a single lunge, he crossed the desk and smashed the glass out of Acies’ hand. “What was that!? What the fuck was that!?” His left hand was twisting the front of Acies’ shirt into a fist, and the barrel of his revolver was grinding into the lower jaw of the taller man.
Holding his hands wide and open, Acies stared straight back into the steel gray pupils of the man threatening him. “The truth, Rodney. The truth only a very few will ever be able to see. Now you know why I’m here. Now you know who I am. The question is… what are you going to do about it?”
Slowly, the gun slipped from its position, finally tumbling out of shaking hands. Tears filled Rodney’s vision, and he slumped to the floor in front of his desk. Acies remained standing at first, then carefully lowered his bulk to the floor as well. Before leaning back, he grasped a silver inlaid box on a lampstand nearby and fished a couple of cigars out. He cut and lit one, then handed it over to Rodney, who took it without looking. Then he did the same for himself.
Then he leaned back, slowly enjoying the taste of the tobacco, occasionally blowing out long streams of smoke.
Sighing, he spoke softly, letting the words form on his tongue before exiting. “It won’t be an easy thing. What we have to do. But it is necessary. We won’t be entirely alone. There are a few others I can surely convince.”
Rodney stared at his hands, cigar held between limp fingers. “Will it be worth it? Will it even work, this plan of yours?”
Acies shrugged. “It might. It’s the only chance we get though. I’ve already screwed that up, unfortunately.”
Nodding slowly, Rodney felt his mind beginning to engage the problems they faced. “Shit. Today’s the start of the semester, isn’t it? Initiation and all that.”
With a grin, Acies flicked his ash into a nearby tray.
“Yep. It sure is.”