This story is set immediately after the events of "Last Rites: Part I of IV"
(Daredevil #297, 1991), at a time in the character's history when his secret
identity was still -- for the most part -- a secret. Bendis is a great writer, but
I miss the good ol' days...
I have to admit I've been a bit careless with my secret over the years. I'd
always assumed there was no way anyone in their right mind would EVER think
that A BLIND MAN could possibly hop from rooftop to rooftop. Our culture is
so visual and the public's pity of the blind runs so deep...
And the few people who DO know that attorney-at-law Matt Murdock is also the
masked vigilante Daredevil? They all have their own reasons to keep my
nightlife to themselves. Wilson "the Kingpin" Fisk would rather have
something rare and precious he can continually deny the world than share
some knowledge that could possibly get me killed -- before having a chance to
kill me himself, that is. Heather won't because she'll always love me. Karen
Page slipped once (and that's how the Kingpin knows in the first place), but
she won't do it again. She just can't.
Henri DuBois HAS to know, because it's his motorcycling business in France
that custom makes my padded leather outfits (the brass studs on the gloves'
knuckles were his idea). Kind of hard for him NOT to know with me buck-naked
in that vat of cold goo he used to sculpt the costume with. And yes, my
superhuman sense of touch can tell exactly what shade of red it is. I saved
Henri's life during those early days when Daredevil looked like a cross
between a ninja and "Shaft." He took one look at what I was wearing, took me
by the arm and snorted, "Come with me." The rest is history.
Fortunately, my realtor DOESN'T know. It seems that at one time, New York
architects got the bright idea of designing upstairs gymnasiums. The
thinking was if double-decker buses were all the rage in England, then the
same would be the case for gyms. It wasn't, and when one of them failed
miserably, I bought it under the same false name I use to pick up that
French leather, "Michael" (after my twin brother who drove my mother to the
church by dying at birth -- dad never had the heart to lose his birth
certificate). My "sensory deprivation tank" was once a tub, which soothed
many an athlete's joints, and the hidden wall was originally installed to
provide an extra space for indoor tennis, etc.
(Hey, you want a car, a plane and a computer in a cave? Find a
multi-billionaire, OK? Like I'm always telling Foggy, I'm not going to sell
out in order to afford more in life.)
I imagine someone in S.H.I.E.L.D. knows by now, after all the attention I've
brought Hell's Kitchen, but spies are good at keeping secrets. Besides, I'm
sure they wouldn't want the world to know HOW they come about such
knowledge. Which brings me to Natasha, "the Black Widow," my partner and
While I was out protecting someone the courts can't touch (for now) from the
Punisher, it seems that Typhoid Mary had escaped from whichever asylum she
was locked up in. Mary went straight for my place -- which is to say Matt
Murdock's -- looking for payback. Imagine her rage when the only person home at
the time was Natasha...
* * * *
Hal Burton was as spoiled as Texas oilmen get. How spoiled, you ask? He
discovered oil on an island no country had any legitimate claim to and hired
a bunch of mercenaries to "defend" the island from its "savages." Problem
was, THE HUMAN BEINGS there have successfully warded off invaders
masquerading as explorers for ages, and a couple of the mercs Burton led
into a trap happened to be Marines who were buddies of Frank "the Punisher"
Poor Castle. A veteran of the first Gulf War who became the FBI's top man in
the 1990s, he watched his whole family blown away by the mob just for being
in the wrong place at the wrong time. Next thing you know, he goes
underground for a year and comes back as an anti-hero who makes the rest of
us REAL heroes look bad by engaging in cold blooded murder. The Fantastic
Four and the Avengers patrol my planet; Captain America and S.H.I.E.L.D.
patrol my country; Spider-Man patrols my CITY and I patrol a NEIGHBORHOOD -- so
I'm not what one would call egotistical. I know my place in the grand scheme
of things. But in the case of the Punisher, I don't mind getting on a high
horse and judging him. He's wrong. Period. Killing criminals (whilst there's
the means to reform them) is a step away from burning books and witches.
It's demonstrates a lack of imagination and a lack of civilization. And
aren't superheroes supposed to DEFEND civilization?
I don't go looking for the Punisher, but whenever he comes to my neck of the
woods, I respond. When Hal Burton was on trial for misleading the
mercenaries, Matt Murdock represented one of the widows (pro-bono, of
course). During the trial, my superhuman nose smelled the kind of paste an
actor would use to apply a facial disguise. The first chance I got, I
scanned the courtroom more closely... and sure enough... there Castle was. He must
have looked like a PIRATE, the poor thing!
'Course, it fooled everybody else, though. And when Castle saw Matt Murdock
lose the trial (Hey, I can't tell the judge I HEARD Burton's heartbeat
change when he lied about the defensive capability of the oil-rich island's
natives!) and stormed out of the courtroom, I knew he'd make a move on
Burton that night, under the cover of darkness, and Daredevil would be
waiting for him.
So here I was, bodyguarding a man who led men to die in the name of greed
from a man who -- to his credit -- never accidentally killed an innocent in his
five-year-long "war on crime." Usually, Castle steers clear of "white-collar
crime" (a specialty of mine), but then, one of the mercenaries involved in
Burton's bloody debacle saved Castle's life in Kuwait, so I suppose it's
PERSONAL for him this time around. Which, of course, will make him all the
harder to deal with.
I can't wear the costume underneath my civvies because it's too thick, so I
rush home to change and find my apartment in shambles. Fortunately, I'm on
the top floor and below me is a mess of plumbing, so no one's hearing
anything short of an explosion. But from the "looks" of things, SOMETHING
Daredevil costumes and masks were scattered all across the living room. A
couple of my billyclubs were lodged into the wall while another swung from
the ceiling fan it had gotten caught up in. And in the corner was Natasha,
hurriedly packing a small bag.
"What the hell is this?" I demanded while quickly closing the front door
"'Typhoid' told me everything," Natasha said amidst sobs and that thick
Russian accent of hers. She had her Black Widow jumpsuit on but it had
clearly been scratched a bit, and wherever it was, Natasha was bleeding.
"How you seduced her and had 'the nut house' pick her up while she was
asleep. That's LOW, Matthew. That's really, REALLY low."
How could I make her understand I didn't enjoy doing that to Mary (much);
that it's part of an ongoing plan of mine to bring down Fisk once and for
all? "Natasha, let me explain --"
"I don't want to hear it!"
"I'm sorry I was in court. I could've been here --" She really didn't want to
hear it, because before I could finish the sentence, Natasha had disappeared
as we creatures of the night often do. She must have stuck around just long
enough to let me know SHE knew I had done wrong.
Then the pit of my stomach went South the same way it used to every day
after school, when I knew the bullies would be waiting for me: Both Mary and
Natasha know who I really am... what if they decided to appear on one of those
trashy talk show Foggy's always watching and "out" me?
No, no. Put it out of your head. Castle's out there right now, about to make
his move, and I've got to beat him to the punch.
* * * *
I don't believe this. Every time I've ever fought this so-called Punisher,
he had a black T-shirt with a white skull on it. There was Kevlar underneath
(similar to mine), but it was still a cloth of some kind. Now I smell
Castle's body and recognize his heart beating inside of what seems to be a
very half-assed version of Iron Man's armor. The only conclusion I can draw
from this is Castle has resorted to stealing in the name of his war on crime
and ripped off Tony Stark, the defense-contracting, alcoholic playboy that
Iron Man from the Avengers bodyguards (sorry, I never met the man, but if
you were raised in the ghetto like I was, a resentment for the elite becomes
As he stepped out of his van in an alley on Fifth Avenue, next to the fancy
restaurant Burton was dining at, I could smell the paint Castle must have
recently laid on the chest of his armor (a skull, I'm sure) and all the ammo
this walking tin can is outfitted with. This has always been a problem with
my work: No one can sneak up on me and I can tell what's going on a mile
away, but every once in a while, some superpowerful whatchamacallit breezes
through my neighborhood and I get smeared on the street like peanut butter
trying to stop it (the Hulk and the Sub-Mariner come to mind). So as Castle
is stomping his way toward Burton, I'm left with the same choice I'm always
left with. Flight or fight.
This is why they call me the man without fear. "CASTLE! STAND DOWN!" I
figured using military slang might jar something deep within him and make a
difference. I was wrong.
Ducking bullets isn't that hard for me. Since I can hear them coming before
they're fired (AND can smell how many are in the chamber to begin with... not
to mention the hormones of the shooter in question and whether they feel
"lucky" enough to try something), it's almost as if they're coming at me in
slow motion, or at the very least, "telegraphing" their moves. It's when
they're coming and I'm already in mid-air, that's the problem!
Nethertheless, I barely managed to keep from getting shot while flipping in
such a way that I caught Castle's new armor dead-in-the-chest with a
dropkick. But before I could flip back far enough away to follow up with a
swipe across the knees to take him off his feet, I learn the hard way
Castle's armor also amplifies his strength. He catches me by the heel and
treats the rest of my body like a fly swatter. It's the Incredible Hulk all
over again. I can hear Burton actually having the gall to complain from
across the street about "those rainbow-colored freaks of nature" and all the
"incalculable property damage" we do, but I recycle what he says and use the
rage it brings me as a kind of fuel. Call it a second wind, but I somehow
kicked that helmet off of Castle's head. Before my other size-13 boot could
find its way to his skull, however, he caught me. I sensed it coming, but my
merely human reflexes just couldn't get out of the way in time.
I'm dipping in an out of consciousness as my radar/sonar detects Castle's
hand reaching for my aching head, presumably to take my mask off in the
middle of Fifth Avenue. I can already hear cameras in the distance waiting
to capture the big moment when Natasha of all people starts yelling at
"He's a mess but he's MY mess!" I hear her say amidst delirium. "Let him go!
I don't care WHO you came to kill, so go ahead and kill them! Obviously, the
devil can't stop you! So go! NOW!"
Castle must have ignored her initially, because I felt his hand on my head
and then heard a gun click. "I swear... Take it off and I'll blow your head
clean off. No helmet, nice shot."
Instead of ruining my crime-fighting career and my life in general in that
moment, I imagine Frank "the Punisher" Castle remembered something he
learned during his time in the Marines' honor. The same honor he felt the
need to avenge when his buddies from the Corps died for nothing working for
Burton. Something similar happened when I drove the Hulk away from downtown
Manhattan. I was bleeding to death with crushed ribs and-I-forget-what-else,
and right before I passed out, I heard two cops arguing over me. The younger
one wanted to go by the book and bust me for vigilantism (only the Fantastic
Four and Avengers are government approved; everybody else is freelance, and
therefore, technically illegal).
But the older cop said no, and barked at the paramedics who were carrying me
away not to take off my mask unless they wanted "something stuck in and
broken off." Nice mouth, but it got the job done. Somehow, that cop kept the
entire hospital from unmasking me those two months I was in traction.
Amazing. I never even found out his name either.
I've been a very lucky superhero over the years. Castle handed my beaten
carcass over to Natasha, who spirited me off to a doctor in the underground
who specializes in secret surgeries for characters like yours truly. And
while Castle escaped, at least the cops who came in response to my fight
with him ran "the Punisher" off before he could murder Hal Burton. I'd also
like to delude myself into thinking I did his jury-rigged armor enough
damage so that he'd never use it again. Oh, well. Such is the life I lead.