A Place for Strangers and Beggars, Chapter 02

A Place for Strangers and Beggars

Dr Manhattan

“Mr Rorschach.”

No answer.

“Mr Rorschach?”

Still no reply.

“Mr Rorschach!”

She waited for him to turn round.

Instead, he let out a noise. More like a grunt. Like sounds a gorilla, or a bear, would make.

Again, she mentally questioned the possibility of him being some kind of half-human, half-creature thing – maybe he was a runaway experiment. Or maybe a scientist gone wrong, like Dr Manhattan. Maybe he was infused with animal DNA, or came from outer space. Or maybe he was simply a Neanderthal. She even thought about his possible background – that this…thing named Rorschach only started to learn the tricks of the human trade when some kind old gentleman found him as a baby in a nuclear power plant, took him in and gave him a name, taught him English, the alphabet and other human stuff. And then, she wondered, the old gentleman might have passed away, leaving this half-human, half-creature to live by himself, emerging only out at night.

Maybe that was why he wore the mask. He must have the head of a…bear or something. Or maybe he had one eye, like a Cyclops.

She blinked at his ‘vocal’ response owlishly, “…Mr Rorschach. I have a few questions.”

“Nghh.”

She took that as a ‘Yes, Miss Carter, what would you like to ask me?’, and said, “H-How do you see? And-And breathe?” She asked, gesturing around her own face, “D-Do you have a gill on your neck or something… is that… is that really… your face?”

He never replied.

“Okay, maybe you’re a bit uncomfortable with personal questions…” She mused to herself, then – “Where is your gun?” She had to yell; the rain was intensifying, drowning her voice out.

“Don’t use firearms.”

“Oh, I see. You use your fists to do your talking.” She said, grinning as she punched the air with her own clenched fists. She eagerly waited for an elicited response – he seemed to have shuddered instead – she stopped, and cleared her throat. “Mr Rorschach. Where are we going?”

They’d been walking for some time. Rorschach had been walking very fast in the rain; he never looked behind to see if she was following or if she had finally given up and slipped in the mud. It was almost as if he wanted to get rid of her. Evelyn chose not to think that way. It wasn’t like she really wanted to hang around with him, either. But it was all for Blair. As soon as they found her, she’d thank him, give him a bouquet of flowers, and maybe a nice little card or something, then leave and hopefully never cross paths with him again. She sniffed the air and flinched; a strange, unpleasant smell wafted in the atmosphere, and she wondered if he knew he was… er… ponging.

It was amazing he hadn’t even attracted flies, yet.

It must be the jacket; clothes always smelt weird when they were damp. She snivelled and huddled under her own jacket. “Where are we going??” She yelled again, when she received no answer from the silent man.

He still opted to ignore her, trudging down the street towards some unknown district.

“Are we going to see one of your friends, Mr Rorschach?? Like, vigilante friend?? Mr Nite Owl the Second?”

He involuntarily shuddered again. “No.” Not Dreiberg. Won’t drag him into burden. Yet. He swore, her incessant ‘Mr Rorschach’, was really getting to him. Females… so weak. Far too shrill. Complains a lot. Whines a lot. Selfish. Needy. Unfeasible.

“Then where are we going???”

Again, he thought to himself why he hadn’t thrown her down a manhole when he had the chance. Still need to investigate. Carter is suspect. Will carry out interrogation. Not here. Oh, so that was why. He grunted out and turned a sharp corner, still with the girl closely at his heels.

As soon as they entered another alleyway, Carter fell silent. But then, “…Where are you taking me?” She whispered out.

“Quiet.” Rorschach stopped in his pace, forced Carter to stop shortly behind him.

They were at some facility; Carter could not see the sign properly; a giant metal crate obscuring most of her vision. But she vaguely made out the words ‘Rockefeller’ and ‘Research’ on the sign. He gestured her to be silent, that is; he had covered her mouth with his gloved palm, and they waited. A guard made his way past them, and Rorschach shoved her further away from sight, into hiding. She held her breathe and tried to remain as silent as possible. The guard moved away, and then –

Rorschach had moved from his position and was running; running as fast as possible. His legs streaking, trenchcoat billowing behind him, catching in the rain and wind elegantly. Carter was lagging behind, Rorschach holding onto her as if she was a ragdoll, her arms and legs dangling down uncouthly. She cringed as soon as he leapt from one crate to another, leapt up to the ladder and began climbing up effortlessly. Once they reached other side of the facility; they were clear of guards and he set her back down on her feet. Rorschach moved up to a door and stood in front, noticing the replaced glass and the new lock.

Carter waited for him to take out a key or a wire, but instead, his fist clenched and he brought it smashing through the glass. She winced, as he rummaged around; he grabbed the handle from the other side, found the lock and twisted it. The door eventually creaked open.

“Don’t stray.” He warned, and Carter nodded. They began to move down the dark hallway.

She watched him wordlessly. Wow, he’s like a total machine. He must be part robot. “Ohohoho… so this is where the famed Dr Manhattan lives…” Carter then whispered out. Does he give out autographs?

Eventually, they arrived at another door, that was ajar, and entered the living quarters. Rorschach looked around; Dr Manhattan, or Jon, had his back to them. Carter stared at the pair of huge blue feet. They were almost as long as her sofa back at home. She swallowed and looked up. Rorschach had walked up to the man.

His thoughts were interrupted when Carter stepped up.

“…Wow…He’s…so…so…so big and, well… blue.” She breathed out beside him, and she shuddered at the same, precise moment, her eyes staring endlessly at the large, tall and, blue, man, who was currently working on some complicated internal system of machinery she had never even seen before; heck, she didn’t even know how to work her own oven.

Rorschach ignored her. “Dr Manhattan.” He called out.

The Doctor laboured on, engrossed with his work, “Hello, Rorschach… You brought a friend.”

“Hmph.” Rorschach had made the same gorilla noise, ignoring Carter’s sudden dreamy expression as she listened to Jon’s voice, leaning forward slightly, as if trying to capture the tone. “Not a friend; piece of gum on shoe. Can’t scrape it off.”

Carter went red and looked down, away from Rorschach. She didn’t know masked vigilantes could be so rude and unfriendly; she also didn’t know if it was right for her to speak here. Eventually, the Doctor turned round, and slowly shrunk back to human-size. Carter watched on, her jaw dropping. She rubbed her eyes in disbelief; feeling as though she’d just seen all the miracles of the earth.

There was a silence and she took this as an indicator that she was finally permitted to speak; Carter cleared her throat and stepped forwards tentatively. “Uh…H-Hello, Dr Manhattan. It’s, well, a pleasure to meet you.” She gushed out in shock. “M-My name is…”

“Your name is Evelyn.” He said, and she stared, silently stunned. Then he turned to Rorschach. “What may be the problem that you have come all this way to see me?”

“…Rorschach’s journal. October 13th. 1975 – “

Carter recoiled, and turned to Rorschach. What on earth was going on? What was with the monologue?

“Girl gets kidnapped. Blair Roche. 6 years old. No witnesses. No leads. Gone for three days. Mother tells police. Police don’t do anything. Mother calls sister.” Rorschach turned to Carter beside him. “You.”

“Are you suspecting me? Oh, I knew it. You ARE suspecting me. Again.” Carter frowned and crossed her arms over her chest, “I’m family. Why would I do such a thing?”

“Family’s just a word. Doesn’t mean anything.”

Carter’s jaw dropped. “You are absolutely unbelievable.” She snorted at him, “Fine. What is it that you want to know?”

Jon watched on, the interaction between Rorschach and this girl was… refreshing. If not, an irritancy to his frontal temporal lobes because of the bickering pair.

“Relationship.” He barked at her.

“I’m her aunt, okay?” Carter replied, “I’m Blair Roche’s aunt.”

“Age?”

“Twenty three.” She retorted, clearly annoyed, and turned to Jon, who blinked from her, to Rorschach. “Look, I had nothing to do with Blair’s kidnapping.”

Finally, the Doctor turned to the other man. “Rorschach. She’s not lying.” With that said, the masked man responded with the gorilla noise again. Carter snorted as well and looked away. A steely silence wafted through between them. Jon looked from the man, to the girl. “…You will ask me if I can see where she is.” He added, and he looked away, his still white eyes gazing into space, almost blankly. “I’m sorry. I cannot.”

“You can’t see?” Rorschach rasped out, his fist clinching at his side. “Why?”

“…If it helps…I can see her future.” Jon replied; he didn’t seem intent on explaining why he couldn’t see Blair’s future, however.

Carter paused, turned to him and opened her mouth as if to say something, but then she closed it, and paced up and down on the floor restlessly; and finally turned back to the two men. “O-Oh…N-No… C-Could you really see? Oh god, you’re not lying. I…I don’t – as tempting as it sounds, I don’t want to know. I’m out of here.” Without another word, she hurriedly left the room, leaving Rorschach and Jon by themselves in the research area.

Rorschach turned back to him. “What do you see, Doctor?”

Jon was quiet for a few seconds.

He waited.

When the Doctor lifted his head back up, he said, “Death.”

There was a slight silence, then Rorschach turned his head away and grumbled sourly under his breath, and suddenly – a loud buzzer sounded off, and the whole room went dark – Rorschach looked around cautiously while Jon peered around slowly, and at the doorway, Carter re-emerged in a matter of moments. “S-Sorry!” She exclaimed apologetically, as she came running back into the room, and Rorschach growled at her furiously.

“What did you do?!” He roared at her, as she hopped from one foot to the other, arms flailing frantically. The room went haywire, a red light began flickering on and off.

“I-I think I might’ve pressed something – “ She didn’t have a chance to say anymore – the sound of footsteps were approaching them, Guards were yelling; the sound of barking dogs in the distance. Carter began to panic, and she turned away from the doorway to Rorschach, terrified. “AaaAArgghHHH! Whaddoo we do?”

Stupid!” He yelled at her, and Carter flinched, then whimpered.

“Goodbye, Rorschach, Evelyn.” Jon said, but he was ignored; Rorschach had grabbed her roughly, even though he saw her wince at the pressure he applied over her wrist, and they went rushing out of the door and back down the hallway. She had to hold onto his hand over her wrist for dear life. The corridor was dark, and her feet lagged behind heavily all the while.

“Mr Rorschach, wait – “

Her arm was slipping under his grip. And he was running too fast. Her legs couldn’t keep up. Carter squeezed her eyes shut tightly. She didn’t like this at all. Being chased. It was what vigilantes went through everyday, perhaps. Now she knew she didn’t want this as a career choice at all!

“Mr Rorschach – !!”

She caved under, inevitably, collapsing onto her knees and completely crashing to the laminated flooring below. He stopped, and let out a low growl. But he hesitated to return to her. From the corner, he could see shadows approaching. The guards. Gnashing his teeth together, Rorschach made his way back to her and kneeled to her level. Her ankle seemed to be sprained, her hand constantly rubbing at the sore spot.

“Get up, whore.” He barked at her, and she struggled upwards, limping.

Roaring in frustration at her helplessness, he grabbed her arms and hauled her over his shoulder. Carter whimpered again, but otherwise, clutched on without further complaint. “Mr Rorschach – “

What is it?!

“Behind you!”

He didn’t turn round. His thoughts were restlessly. He couldn’t concentrate properly; he could hear his heart pounding in his ear, his blood rushing through his veins. He just continued to run. Must find exit. Must get out of here, alive. Must keep girl alive.

“Freeze, Rorschach! Let the girl go!” A guard had appeared in front of him from an open doorway to the right, with his firearm in hand.

For a moment, he stood limply, but then his free hand shot out and he knocked the gun out his hand with a hefty swing of his hand, slammed his clenched fist into the guard’s nose. The guard toppled to the floor, and Rorschach stepped on him and through the doorway, into another corridor which presumably led to a Fire Exit. Behind them, he could hear more guards rushing towards their direction. Carter could not stop screaming, even though he yelled at her to be quiet.

Rorschach suddenly flinched and stumbled slightly; a bullet had been fired and had grazed the side of his leg. Groaning, he forced himself back up. It was just a scrape, that was all. He couldn’t let that get to him. With the girl in tow, they made their way out of the facility and back into torrential downpour in the yard. They rounded through many blocks and corners, eventually losing the relentless onslaught of security men.

Panting heavily, he let Carter slide down to the ground, and promptly collapsed to his knees beside her. She scrambled up to his level and inspected him carefully, “Oh god… You’ve been shot…you’re bleeding…” She cried out when she saw a large stain on his trouser leg, obviously blood from the bullet, “I’m…I’m sorry…”

“Don’t touch.”

“But – “

Don’t touch!” He roared at her, wrenching his arm from her hand.

Carter winced and couldn’t help inching away from him, retreating her hand back to her side. “I’m…I’m sorry.”

Breathing raggedly, he shifted away and slumped down against a crate. Carter sat limply on her spot, too scared to join him. An uncomfortable silence passed.

Eventually, he begrudgingly grumbled out, staggering as he tried to stand back up. “…Not your fault.”

“…Mr Rorschach…” She got up and waddled to him, reached a shaking hand out towards his arm again. When her palm patted over his sleeve, and her fingers curled unwillingly over his arm, he flinched under the touch, but otherwise, relaxed. He stumbled again and found himself leaning against her, much to his displeasure.

“Mr Rorschach, are you alright?”

No response.

“Are you in pain?”

Still no response.

“O-Okay, take a rest. I-I’ll help you.” Carter grimaced and tried to support him; his weight throttling her. “We’ll…We’ll take one step at a time slowly…Okay? Here goes…Right…Left…” She began, trying to move him at the same time, “…Right…Left…” She struggled, and they chugged forwards at a snail’s pace.

He hated this. He glared at her thoroughly through the mask he almost burned holes in her head. He failed to take account her eagerness to help him through the maze of metal crates and boxes, trying to reach the final exit. His vision was blurring and Carter was starting to panic when he became more and more unresponsive.

“Mr Rorschach…?” She whimpered under her breath, her hand still clutching tighter over the lapel of his jacket, trying to sustain him up.

When he eventually gave way; Carter dropped down with him, his weight bludgeoning her to her knees. “Mr Rorschach!” She cried out in alarm, as he fell to the ground in a slump.

“Nnghh..” He groaned out, his head throbbing.

“Mr Rorschach!! Don’t fall asleep! Mr Rorschach…!” She cried out helplessly; her face inches from his, her hair falling over his cheeks. She was shaking him, shaking him so vigorously that his hat dropped off his head.

Suddenly, she whipped her head back up.

“S-Someone’s coming…” She was terrified, her eyes searching their surroundings frantically, “…Mr Rorschach… Get up!” Carter desperately sought for a hiding place; there was nothing – they were completely exposed.

His eyes were drooping. His muscles were tired, unable to move; finally admitting defeat to fatigue. He tried to move his leg; it didn’t listen to him. He strained his eyes open; she was still hovering over him, with her arms at each of his side, almost in a protective matter. He tried to move his lips; nothing comprehensible came out from the back of his throat, except from a groan and grunt.

She looked back down at him. Her lips moved. He didn’t hear. Her lips moved again. The words were garbled, but much more audible. He looked away, the rain beating down hard against the surface of his mask; then he strayed his eyes back to her again.

 

Ugly look on face.

 

Too loud.

Easily scared.

 

Stupid girl.

Whore.

 

….

……

 

Can’t…protect…her.

 

His eyes closed.

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