Watchmen: A Place for Strangers and Beggars, Prologue

Hey guys! Sorry if you were expecting an anime/manga review or any other intense picture post. This is a Watchmen fanfic, based on the movie. Yeah, I know…Watchmen…I wrote this about…3 years ago? And I never bothered to post it up on fanfic.net. I’m going to post it here though!  Basically, it’s about the Blair Roche murder case, and although we know how this ends up, Rorschach is investigating. Along the way, Blair’s aunt tries to help.

A Place for Strangers and Beggars

 –

 1975

 

New York City

She was late for work.

Having woken up, startled, at quarter past eight in the morning by use of biological clock after realising the alarm clock battery had died at the hour of four, she leapt out of bed and dashed into the bathroom, but didn’t have time to brush her teeth, or wash her face or apply powder over her cheeks and typically rushed straight out after pulling on her uniform, with a shoe falling off one foot, a pre-made sandwich jammed in her mouth and a cup of coffee wobbling in her other hand. She tottered out of her penthouse and into the street; had no success in hailing a taxi; the flashing, yellow cars zooming past her like a speeding train, whipping discarded leaflets and rubbish around her ankles.

She didn’t even look at herself in the mirror but presumed she looked a state – her eye circles must have been showing; hair would certainly resemble a bird’s nest, her lips would be dry and cracked, frayed, while arid flakes of skin would litter the crevasses of her cheeks like little splinters, and a rough, white crust of dried saliva would be pasted on the side of her cheek – she generally assumed she would look like as if she’d been dragged along the ground by a tractor.

Maybe that was the reason why the cabby drivers weren’t stopping for her.

She was still having no success and decided to take the subway; took off rushing down the street, her bag hanging limply and irritatingly off her shoulder. She struggled through, getting pushed by all sorts of people in progress. Rush-hour; not a good time at all. She didn’t dare touch the handlebars, remembering that hundreds of other people had touched it before her and that it was festering with germs.

Her coffee wavered dangerously, a mini ocean swirling in a cup. It was almost finished – she was careful not to spill it; stretching her neck forwards so her lips could reach the cup’s rim, attempting to get a sip as she hobbled down the stairs, half-walking and half-being carried by the array of bustling businessmen. Once she arrived at the platform, the crowd dispersed and she breathed in that rancid air that lingered in subways tunnels, until something hard – maybe someone’s shoe – crunched down on her foot and she yelped out, stumbling around clumsily.

A rough, calloused hand grabbed her arm before she could completely topple off into the empty train track, and she looked up; she hadn’t realised she had been almost pushed to the edge of the platform. The man stared back at her wordlessly. Against his other arm, a sign lay precariously over his shoulder. Immediately, her eyes watered as an unbearable stench filled her nostrils. Urgh…where was it coming from??

It wasn’t coming from the train tunnel.

It wasn’t coming from the trash can.

It was coming from…him.

Her expression bunched up immediately, but then she sneered inwardly when her eyes searched the rest of his somewhat unsightly features. At that precise moment, an interesting thought buzzed in her head.

Oh, it’s just a dirty, smelly old man.

 

– which was then shortly followed by an interesting train of thought:

Hasn’t this guy ever heard of the words personal hygiene before? Pause. His face looks like a robber’s dog. Obviously homeless. Urgh…and that smell… like he’s just jumped in and took a bath in the sewer. Pay no attention when he asks you for money. These people let themselves down. No need to feel sorry. Just another piece of rubbish on the street, a waste of space and matter.

She mustered a sympathetic smile at him, and wriggled her arm faintly under his grip. “…Could you please take your hand off my arm?”

His eyes did not move, still locked onto hers. She swallowed down and threw her glance to the side, uncomfortable, and then, he let go.

She didn’t even thank him, but rather threw the vagrant a rather simpering, dirty look. She noted; he was a redhead, dressed in a worn-out jacket and dirtying trousers that looked as though they’d been ravished by moths and beetles; he also looked like he’d just jumped out from Oliver the movie, starring as a scruffy vagabond, only it wasn’t make-up and professional costume. It was the real deal. After that intense scrutiny, she promptly waited for him to ask her for money. To her trifling surprise, he didn’t. And once he was gone, having trudged away a short distance from her, she shuddered and puckered her lips in a sour expression.

Yeesh, what is happening to society? How do these people live with themselves??

She looked at her arm once more; his hand had left a dirty brown imprint on her suit, and her eye twitched furiously. Still holding her coffee, she rummaged restlessly around her bag for a clean wipe until someone pushed past her and something hot and wet splashed on her lap and she looked down, shocked. She had inevitably spilt her coffee, and now people were looking at her strangely when she unconsciously let out a string of colourful curse words loudly. Her face heated up immediately.

Maybe it was karma, she thought, staring down at her soaking lap as the contents burned through the material of her pants and soaking through to her thighs. She bit her lip and cursed at herself mentally, as the drifter with the rickety sign, who had been roaming the premise, stole a look at her from across the platform. No, definitely not karma. It was just a bad day, complete with pervert.

Why’s he looking at me like that? What a creep! Urgh. Never mind him; this coffee’s going to leave a mark forever…

She received a shiver down her spine, and turned her back to him, engrossed in trying to mop herself up, yet still feeling the steely gaze on her back.

…………

“Late for work again, Evelyn, as usual…” said the co-receptionist and the girl inwardly winced as soon as she stepped foot into the lobby from the staff entrance. The receptionist sniffed the air once she bustled past towards the direction of the staff office, and scrunched up her nose.

“It wasn’t my fault.” She protested weakly.

“Yeah, yeah, sure. You got a letter by the way.” The woman handed her the alleged letter.

“I did?” She looked up optimistically, “It must be from the Crimebusters club that I applied for. I hope they accept me.”

And suddenly, a flourish of excitement and anticipation burst through her system and Evelyn took the letters, murmured her thanks and hastily opened one without looking twice at the front. The letter said ‘NO THANKS’.

While Evelyn stared at the letter in bewilderment, the receptionist said, “Oh, by the way, the Supervisor wants to see you immediately. And… oh god, that smell – it’s coming from you. Honey, did you forget to take a bath?”

Evelyn sniffed inauspiciously at herself. “…No.” She muttered out bitterly. The hobo’s stench must’ve passed to her just by contact through hand-on-arm. She knew it! Those people were contagious! They ought to build some kind of public bath and shove them all in there! But of course, if the health services were going to do something about the amount of homeless on the street, then they’d be using government money that was to be used for schools, perhaps, and that would be a waste. She gritted her teeth together, shedding her jacket at the staff coat closet, before looking back at the imprint on the jacket arm and trying to scrub at it furiously with a clean, wetted tissue she got from the reception desk.

It didn’t work.

Still growling, she ignored the jacket for now, entered her reign of space behind the receptionist desk, and plopped down in her swivel chair, greeted her other fellow co-workers while shoving her bags under the desk. Then she clambered back out and hurried towards the Supervisor’s room through the office, before straightening herself as she stood at his closed door. She smoothed down her pants and smart shirt, and fixed her hair, before rubbing at her cheek where she discovered something brittle and brown near the corner of her mouth, presumably from the rim of the coffee mug.

She cleared her throat, and knocked on the door politely, then stepped back, waited patiently, if not, a little nervously. Was she in trouble?

“Come in.”

She took a deep breath, opened the door, stepped in. “Y-You wanted to see me, sir?”

The supervisor’s room space was large, compared to the measly marbled desk which she shared with three or four nattering women; his room even had a window that reached floor to ceiling overlooking a dingy apartment building of the majority of the city. All she had was a nice view of two diseased revolving doors and a ferb plant which she had to water five times every day.

The supervisor was lounging in his chair, swivelled round in his leather seat, his weight making the chair slink down and groan in protest. He kicked his feet up on his desk, a fat, chestnut-coloured cigar jammed between his teeth. “Yeah. I… hope you’re prepared.”

She fell out of position slightly. “…Prepared? For…For what?” She asked, slightly wistful that the word ‘promotion’ might pop up all of a sudden amidst their continuing conversation, although she didn’t really know why she was going to be promoted or why the supervisor wanted to see her in the first place. She didn’t do much, honest.

The Chief watched her, his beady dark eyes looking up but his head never moving. “…We got a phonecall in earlier this morning from the police.”

“…Police?”

“…Your niece is missing.”

For two whole minutes, she blinked numbly at him. The humidity of his room made her feel fatigued and dreary. “…Missing?”

“Yes.”

“I’m sorry, what’s missing?”

The supervisor pulled out his cigar and sandwiched it between two fingers, then rubbed his temples, concentrating, “Uh…Blair.”

“Blair.” Evelyn uttered out, and she looked up at him questioningly, “Blair, is…missing…?”

A prolonged silence plagued the atmosphere. The supervisor looked to the side quickly, then back. “Yes.” He repeated slowly. “Your niece, Blair, is missing, Evelyn.”

She stood limply in the centre of the room. It seemed she still didn’t understand. “…Missing?” She squeaked.

He sighed, clasping his hands together. “I’m sorry.”

Evelyn’s lips tugged upwards into a small, minute smile which quickly dropped as she shook her head. “No. She can’t be — I-I just…I just attended her birthday party a few weeks ago, back in Brooklyn. She just turned six – ”

“She was last seen three days ago.”

Evelyn froze up on her spot, searching the man’s face for any hint of bemusement. This had to be a sick joke. Right?? “How can she be missing?”

“They think she was taken right off the streets.”

And that was when the world around Evelyn Carter faded.

…….

At first, she didn’t believe it. She denied it, in fact. She had to hear it from her older sister herself. She bit her lip nervously, punching furiously at the buttons of the phone. The dial tone was flat for a few moments, before –

“Oh god, Evie…it’s all my fault…”

“Calm down, I’m on my way home; I’m using my vacation. I have five days. I’ll pack my things today and leave in – “

“…Blair is missing. Missing!

The dreary voice wept bitterly and uncontrollably from the other end and Evelyn huddled further into her corner, a hand pressed over her other ear to blot out external noise. In her hand, the phone weighed and resembled a white brick with curly cord. She had to pull the entire telephone body over her lap, just so she was out of her nosy co-worker’s hearing range. The sobs she heard were enough to make her break down herself, and she looked up, blinked numbly at her cactus plant on the surface of her table just a few post-it notes away. She didn’t even know what to say to her sister. Being unable to help made Evelyn’s heart build up with more guilt furthermore.

“The supervisor just told me.” She hissed out, and took a deep breath. She opened her mouth to speak again, but then she paused, reassessing her words; it was unfair of her to say that Blair would be alright. Therefore, she remained silent, gnawing nervously at her fingernails.

“…Evie?? Evie? Are you still there??” The background was filled with more gut-wrenching sobs.

“Yeah,” She began quietly, almost reluctantly, after a few moments of silence, “I am. Listen, I – “

The voice grappled on desperately, “You have to help me. The police…they-they can’t…they won’t do anything…They just told me to sit in the house, put up posters and wait for news. I-I can’t…Please, Evie, do me a favour…”

“…What favour?”

The voice went low, and Evelyn strained to hear, “… Stay where you are. Don’t come back.”

“Uh…What?”

“I’ve…asked for help from someone already.”

Evelyn blanched immediately, and scratched at her head. “Uh…help? From someone else? What help? From who?” She quipped uneasily.

You know who!”

Evelyn hadn’t heard, and she pressed her ear tighter against the phone and strained to listen. “I’m sorry, what?”

“You know who… “ Her sister cleared her throat and whispered cautiously, as if someone else was listening to their conversation, “Rockshack.”

Evelyn’s expression screwed up. “…Who’s Rockshack?”

The voice groaned out in exasperation. “He…He came, when he saw the flyers.” The voice hissed, in between deep pants and breathless gasps, “…But…I can’t meet him in person; I’m still in Brooklyn, waiting for anything to come up. And you’re in the main city, I heard he-he’s there at the moment, doing some kind of investigation…You know, Rockshack.”

Evelyn pondered for a moment, then – “Ohhhhh.”

“…Good, now you finally understand… and I told him he could meet my representative, which is you, so…”

She spluttered helplessly, her eyes widening to the size of plates, “Me?? You want ME to – ?!”

“Please, Evie! He’s my only hope!”

“…No, he isn’t!” She snapped back irately, “Haven’t you heard the rumours about him? He’s violent, dangerous and obviously a little bit off his mind! What about the other – “

“Evie, please!”

“I’m sorry but I won’t affiliate myself with a maniac and/or possible murderer!” She declared angrily, slamming her fist on the table.

“Evie, what’s happening to you?? You weren’t like this…” The voice began to break down again.

Stunned for a moment, Evelyn stopped panting hard and blinked unsurely again. “…I…I dunno.” She blurted out, rather shamefully, as she ran a hand through her tangled hair, “…It must be this city, or-or stress…Yeah, my job’s been pretty…uh, stressful…”

The voice screamed back at her heatedly, maybe even a little desperately, “I know you’re working very hard…and the vigilantes and the police aren’t exactly on good terms at the moment either, but – “

“Yes, I don’t like the fact that they’re doing other people’s jobs, for your information.” She stated back in a matter-of-fact tone.

“But the reason for vigilantes is because the police aren’t doing enough in their jobs…” The voice wept.

Evelyn paused. “Well…”

The voice simmered down, dissolving into weeping sobs again, “…But this is Blair!! I’d do anything to get her back unharmed and so would you!!”

Silence. Evelyn’s mouth hung open slightly, as she slumped against the chair, blinking blankly into space. She put a hand over her face.

“…Ev-Evelyn…?”

“…You’re…You’re right.” She breathed out, “I-I’m so sorry, that was insensitive and selfish of me. Of-Of course I’ll help you.” Once she hung up, she picked up her bags and jacket, tucking in her left arm first, then right. She walked past reception, eased herself out of the revolving door, and exited the building.

…………

Evelyn hunted around the streets outside for information; she raked through the public library but couldn’t find much about the one named Rockman – she knew it was Rorschach – she found tonnes of other information about the others, however, but that wasn’t what she was looking for at the moment. She didn’t even know what she was doing. She had no other information, other than the fact that Blair was missing and Rorschach had come to her mother to help. She tried to look for anything that would tell her about the vigilante, but she didn’t find much – she resorted to asking around the streets – a washerwoman described him as nocturnal, and a man in a bar warned her that caution should be taken if he was to be approached. Nobody exactly got him on tape – just a few flashes of a brown jacket disappearing round the corner, or a nice glimpse of a shadowy figure walking out of an alleyway filled to the brim with half-dead thugs.

She hadn’t heard much about Rorschach because she wasn’t interested in him; the other members of the Crimebusters were better role models and had a good public image. Yet, she somewhat envied him and the rest of the Minutemen, and their rekindling in the year of 1966, although she wasn’t sure about the name they decided to call themselves, the ‘Crimebusters’. If only she knew about the day; she would’ve made her own costume and knocked on their door, demanding membership. She was a shameless, rabid fan at that time and collected merchandise if affordable, though inwardly, she wondered how long the group would continue on for. They were a craze back in the old times, now she thought they were a little bit lame.

Yet, Evelyn vaguely remembered herself wanting The Comedian’s smiley-face badge.

While Rorschach spent his years beating up numpties and winos and making the streets a better place, Evelyn moved to the main city away from her municipal residency of Brooklyn and got a job as a receptionist in the Ritz-Carlton. By day, she was your average, friendly public service worker helping pompous businessmen check in and having to listen to their bumbling complaints or praise…By night, she was an aspiring, freelance writer, resistant to the constraints of her occupational status due to her ‘vivid’ imagination — and with the power to influence perhaps females of her same eminence and identity by the use of parables and anecdotes, which was further inveigled on by her experience concerning relationships with men that only ended in heartache and a box of tissues, her head buzzed with earnest ambitions — and that was to publish romance and adventure in her favourite magazine, Cosmo.

Along with the letter and the manuscript she sent to the magazine’s editor, Gina, she also sent away her hope and dreams, and the rejection letter she had just received this morning crushed it all in less than five minutes. She wept tearfully as she rode the subway back to her measly apartment, standing with her hands gripped tightly on the bar while her body swayed around uncontrollably as the subway churned raggedly through the tunnel, thrashing the rest of the passengers around in their seats. Her day just seemed to be getting worse and worse. Her tears said it all.

Everything seemed to be spiralling out of her control.

She held her head, wondering why this was happening. Earlier on today, she’d woken up and realised she was late, got saved by a hobo from falling to an unpleasant demise on the train tracks, received two rejection letters, and now this. She left the subway and arrived back at her neighbourhood.

The streets felt unwelcoming.

In fact, the entire city felt unfriendly to her, now that this happened. Her niece was missing and she hadn’t been able to do anything; her sister had even turned to a vigilante for help. She hurried down the street, careful to look when crossing. The noise and pollution deafened her. She wasn’t even sure where she was going; her mind a complete blur. She felt trapped all of a sudden, lost. She passed a police car; the two policemen inside were eating take-out. She felt her heart lurch a little, but decided that she wouldn’t let it get to her.

On her way, she passed a news stand. A few steps ahead, and she saw a familiar face.

 

Just great. Him. Again.

Growling under her breath, she resisted the urge to punch the face of the man who had saved her life. Realising how wrong that came out, she scratched at her head, befuddled by the circumstances. She felt as though everything was turning upside down. He was no Prince Charming, that was for sure. She didn’t know how anyone could look so…tedious and frustrating, just by standing like that. So dull, and bland, and… crooked, dishevelled, cluttered. She scolded herself, that she should not to judge books by their covers. But there was something about this man that seemed to irritate her.

She just didn’t know what.

Or why.

… Basing people off looks is discrimination and it is shallow. It is not their fault they are born that way. Don’t pick a fight just because you don’t like the way he looks. He might be a really good guy deep under that messy exterior. Even if the way he looks at you makes you feel uncomfortable.

She reminded herself to rip up Blair’s fairytale books back in Brooklyn; the girl would not be plagued with dreams and fantasies of good-looking men with big wide smiles, sitting on white horses and rescuing damsel in distresses. They didn’t exist. Heroes didn’t have to be attractive men and could be found under rocks, and not all damsels were in distress. Why, this glorious specimen of the common hobo who was leaning against the wall, still with that slapdash sign lying against his shoulder, could become the next president. She let out a snort of laughter just thinking about it, as she passed him on the sidewalk.

A few steps down, and this time, she passed a homeless man who was sitting huddled on a flattened and frayed cardboard box, his eyes closed. His beard was filthy and tangled up, probably stuck with bugs and leaves. His shoes were greyish brown and had a hole, his big toe sticking out. A patchy blanket was wrapped around his shivering body. She stopped in her path, looked at his plastic cup, which had a few cents inside. When she opened her bag and reached into her purse, the man looked up.

Evelyn looked down at him, held her hand out; she let a few cents drop from her palm onto the ground around him. The coins clattered loudly, and he looked up at her.

She tilted her head to the side. “…You can pick those up yourself.”

….

To be Continued.

….

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