Blank Frank is the Messenger of your doom & your destruction.
– Brian Eno
I’ve been away. I don’t like to think about it. I guess you could call it a crisis of faith. It seemed like what I do wasn’t making any difference in the world. Sounds ridiculous when I say it aloud like that, but it’s true. I guess maybe we all feel like that at some point — I’d take out some mook, the next day his ugly twin brothers are running his territory. I put down THOSE bad boys, and a week later some friggin’ fresh puke has brought in a whole baker’s dozen of pimps and dealers.
I’m back now. Nothing fancy this time. Just me and the enemy.
And the fear.
That’s my main weapon-the most trustworthy tool in my arsenal. Of course, if fear alone doesn’t do the job, there’s always the 50mm, or the backup .45, or the M16, or the MAC-10, or the pumpgun, or the custom “Bearkiller” throwing knife with the non-reflective finish. Funny, but since my return I seem to feel a lot less chatty and a lot more pissed-off.
Like for instance, Number One on my list of current pet peeves is a worthless little piece of nothing called Fat Sal Manetti – One of those repugnant cockroaches who somehow buys the leap from petty thug to semi-legitimate businessman. Social climbing through blood money. He has a suite of offices on the thirtieth floor of the building I spent a solid thirty minutes infiltrating. Ritzy place, all marble and glass. Selling crack to kids pays well, but I already knew that.
Fat Sal is a cautious man. Guard Number One is on the stairs a full two floors below my intended point of entrance. He gets a knife in the throat for his choice of careers. Another one with heavier ordnance on the landing of thirtieth floor…I have the luxury of a clear line of vision, so I take my time with this one, and allow him a quick peek at the emblem on my shirt. Poor little creep gets so scared he forgets to go for his gun. It costs him some pain, but only for a moment. Considering his entrance wound, I did him a favor when he went down the stairwell.
Two more by the elevator and it seems like Fat Sal’s help is getting better. Thousand dollar suits and good reaction time. Not good enough, though. Elevator Punk Number Two gets all weepy when I disembowel his buddy. A little of his friend’s blood splatters on his pants, but since they were already wet, who notices? His whining offended me, so I put both thumbs through his eyes, and wiped my hands on his silk shirt. If he had a complaint about the service, he didn’t share it with me.
A security cam sees the whole thing, so I give a big thumbs up. I WANT them to know I’m here. “Hey, Sal”, I’m thinking. “I’m back. Miss me?”
Outside Sal’s office and the bodycount grows. Three unremarkable men meet three well-deserved if unimaginative fates. I line up my shots on the last one so that the fire penetrates the door to Sal’s office. I figure the screams of his henchmen combined with a little heavy artillery will tenderize the meat inside. Even over the symphony of gunfire and Sicilian profanity, I can hear Fat Sal’s panicked voice ordering his personal guards to take me out.
Fat Sal is screaming at his two lieutenants to save him, protect him, for god’s sake SAVE HIS LIFE, but the terrified gunsels are holding their uzis in shaky hands, unsure of both their aim and their nerve. One, “Squeaky” Romasi, longtime-confidante of Fat Sal and a man with twelve kills on his scorecard, actually considers shooting himself just to end the terror he feels. The other, Sammy “Two-Tone” Cotton, is simply frightened beyond his capacity to understand, and holds his gun up almost without being aware of it, not realizing that pulling a gun on Frank Castle is a guaranteed death warrant.
There is a moment of horrible silence as the moans of the men outside fade in volume and inevitably cease entirely. Fat Sal is gripped with the irrational hope that the harbinger of his demise outside his office door has missed him somehow… “Maybe if I hide under the desk, he won’t find me…”, he thinks with a childlike desperation. Then, the door erupts in another deliberate burst of gunfire and HE is there. He doesn’t make an effort at cover. He doesn’t even look at Fat Sal’s remaining two guards, who instinctively drop their weapons, before dropping to their knees and weeping.
PUNISHER: Hello, Sal.
FAT SAL: Oh, god, Castle…please, oh my God. Please…I’ve gone straight, I swear. Please. Jesus…Please, please don’t kill me. Please, for the love of Christ!
PUNISHER: Gone straight. Is that right, Sal?
FAT SAL: Yes! Yes, I swear it, Castle, on my mother’s grave! I’m in textiles now, I got papers and everything! I got a factory downtown…I’m all legit, I swear it!
PUNISHER: You wouldn’t LIE to me, now, would you, Sal?
FAT SAL: (Openly weeping…) Oh, God. No, Castle. I swear it. Please. I got KIDS, Castle…please, please don’t do this thing….
PUNISHER: I only ask because, well, because I caught up with a friend of yours, right before he decided to dive in front of a subway train. Maybe you remember “Fast Eddie” Torrance, Sal? Wasn’t he like, your nephew or something?
FAT SAL: Oh, no…my sister’s kid. Oh, no…(Blubbering now…)
PUNISHER: Don’t shed TOO many tears for him, Sal. He ratted you out. (The Punisher removes a notepad from his belt, flips it open and begins reading from his scribbled notes…) Oh, yeah, Sal…he gave you up REAL good. Arson, Insurance Fraud, Pimping, Smuggling, Bribery…I’d say you’re still in the business, Sal. Read it yourself.
Castle tosses the notebook to Sal, who reads the list of sins that had been given by his now-deceased snitch nephew.
SQUEAKY: Please, Punisher…let me and Two-Tone go, it’s SAL you want. PLEASE…for the LOVE of GOD! We won’t say nothin’ to NOBODY!
Two-Tone begins weeping anew, counting the misdeeds of his too-brief life…
FAT SAL: Hey…what’s this other writing here in this notebook?
FAT SAL: There’s more stuff in here…Hey! It looks like…it looks like poetry!
PUNISHER: That’s nothing. Give it back, Sal.
FAT SAL: No, really! Ha! It’s poetry!
SQUEAKY: You kiddin’ me, Sal? The Punisher writes poetry?
PUNISHER: Okay, now that’s PRIVATE…
FAT SAL: HA! Guys! Listen to this! It’s Be-yoo-ti-ful!
“An Ode To Sunshine
Oh, happy bright yellowy sun
You always make me feel so small
And it always makes my heart feel glad
You make the flowers grow so tall!
I like you for the light you bring
That makes me want to dance and say,
‘Thank you, Mr. Happy Sun!
I’m glad you made me feel this way!'”
PUNISHER: (Angered…) That’s a work in progress!
TWO-TONE: Ha ha ha!
SQUEAKY: Ha! Oh, my GOD! He SUCKS!
PUNISHER: Look, I was going for a certain kind of tactile sensation through…oh forget it! You guys don’t know ANYTHING.
FAT SAL: Here’s another one!
“lonely lonely alone
i wandered lonely through the streets so dark
my van is big no place to park
i shoot and kill each crook i see
but when do i find the real me?
my family is really dead dead dead
it hurts my heart and burns my head
i hope revenge will set me free
but when do i find the real me?”
TWO-TONE: Oh, my GOD! My sides! Hahahahaha!
FAT SAL: He’s an ARTEEST! Hahahaha! I’m gonna crap myself, I swear!! HAHAHA!
PUNISHER: Dammit, did I say you could read those? These are just my personal thoughts. I don’t care if you DO hate them. I don’t see YOU guys doing anything creative! Oh, fine. Go ahead, laugh it up. Laugh at the guy who is trying to SHARE a little part of himself…I should’ve expected this. It’s typical, really.
FAT SAL: Hey! Listen to this, guys…!
“The frost of vengeance
Teaches me an awful truth
The nature of death”
PUNISHER: Okay, here it comes. Let’s hear it. I’m terrible, I suck, I shouldn’t even DREAM of someday getting published in Reader’s Digest, go ahead…
TWO-TONE: I like that one. Maybe I’m nuts, but I like it.
SQUEAKY: Me, too…it’s a whatchamacallit, right? A haiku!
PUNISHER: (Obviously quite flattered…) Yes, it is! That’s so nice of you guys! See, I wanted a kind of stark word-canvas here…
FAT SAL: It’s nice, Castle, really. If you don’t kill me, I’m gonna have it framed.
SQUEAKY: Yeah. It’s friggin’ beautiful. You know what you should try, Castle? Blank verse. I think the rigidity of having a rhyme scheme is holding you back.
PUNISHER: Really? You think?
SQUEAKY: Oh, yeah, friggin’ A! See, you got what I consider a sort of elliot-like avant-garde sensibility. You need to break the shackles of tradition, and you know, just sort of glide on the wings of your imagination. Friggin’ A!
TWO-TONE: You was always an idiot, Squeaky. Anyone with half an ear for diagrammatic criticism could see he was going for an Ezra Pound vibe, here!
SQUEAKY: Two-Tone, you IGNORANT BASTARD! I’ll KILL your ass!
TWO-TONE: Oh, YEAH, Squeaky? Where’d you study poetry, you moron…community college?
FAT SAL: Boys, boys! Let’s calm down, here…maybe SQUEAKY sees a little elliot in the free-associative lack of traditional structure in the piece, and maybe TWO-TONE sees a smattering of Pound’s ironic use of form. No reason to go all weak sister, all right? I myself, if I am not mistaken, detected a certain Baudelaire flavor…
TWO-TONE: Aw, Christ! Castle, you shot SAL! Aw, now his brains are all over the carpet!
SQUEAKY: Oh, why’d you have to go and do that, Castle?
PUNISHER: Sorry. I hate the French Symbolists. My bad. Sorry. Sorry! Should I…you know, should I help clean up or something?
SQUEAKY: Oh, don’t bother. We got these guys we call for that.
PUNISHER: Well, maybe he’s just wounded…?
TWO-TONE: I don’t think so…he’s just a body and a neck.
SQUEAKY: Hey listen, Castle…a few of us in the major crime families get together each Thursday night for a little informal poetry group, and we’d be honored if you could make it.
TWO-TONE: It’s nothing fancy…
SQUEAKY: Right. It’s just a few of us, some blow and some hookers. Two-Tone here usually makes onion dip…
TWO-TONE: The secret is the soup mix!
PUNISHER: I’d LOVE to come! That is, if you guys think I’m good enough…?
SQUEAKY: “…if you guys think I’m good enough…” I’m LOVIN’ this guy, Two-Tone!
TWO-TONE: Yer okay, Castle. You got anything in iambic pentameter?
Anyway, that’s how me, Squeaky and Two-Tone got together and we just really bonded, I guess you could say. So we formed FROM BAD TO VERSE, which is loose confederacy of poets from the underworld, and I have to say that they’re not bad guys, really, once you get over wanting to taste their sweet sweet blood and all. Two-Tone is doing some terrific things with extended narrative, and I’m working with a troupe of interpretive dancers on some biographical pieces. Jigsaw came to the rehearsal and cried his eyes out, which is like the ULTIMATE compliment for an artist. I still try to do the urban terror of the underworld thing, just to keep my hand in, but there just doesn’t seem to be any TIME left for hatred and violence and vengeance and killing and disemboweling, which is sad in a way.
OH! And before I forget, a public apology for that whole Angels-giving-me-powers thing. I think it’s obvious I was really crying out for help during that whole period. I don’t know WHAT I was thinking, honestly. Now that I’m more centered, I even dress differently. I have skull shirts in teal, salmon and sandalwood, for example. They don’t inspire terror, exactly, but they do say, HEY! This is a NEW Punisher and you’re gonna LIKE him!
Welcome back, Frank! To the ARTS!