The Origin of Mister Haunt? by Nicholas Ahlhelm
Mister Haunt could not understand it, but he knew that only another shadow-walker could perpetrate this crime. Somehow Nikola survived his slit throat. It didn’t seem possible, but Sifu’s powers encompassed many traits that the untrained would call impossible. Perhaps Nikola knew a secret technique, unknown even to Mister Haunt. He didn’t bother to question it farther. He just knew that he must find Nikola before he could kill again.
One of his network connections, a dockyard sleaze named Marlon, had tipped him off that a hired assassin was gunning for Amadeus and his surviving family. A trace of public records by another of his connections showed that Amadeus possessed only one living relative: one Wilhemina Mayfair.
Mister Haunt tracked Wilhemina to her job as a typesetter for the Daily Champion. He kept her eyes on her from the shadows. When her work day ended at nearly eight p.m., he followed her in to the night. He kept his distant, but never let her out of his sight as she made her way by foot back to her home. Haunt wondered about the reserved young woman. She clearly expressed ambition to be a reporter at the paper. But despite or perhaps because of that desire, she certainly seemed nonplussed that her only living relative, Amadeus, was now dead.
She also seemed a ready and willing target. She meandered at every store window. She stopped to pet every animal being walked by its owner. Mister Haunt wondered if she knew that her life was in peril. After an interminable hour, she walked up to her brownstone. She removed keys from her purse and let herself in. Haunt heard a click from the other side. At least she was bright enough to lock her door. He melted in to the shadows. Darkness surrounded him, but he moved through it. His thoughts focused on her home and the shadows within. He slid in to the shadows of her living room. She remained oblivious of his presence. With powers like his, Nikola would have no problem murdering his victim.
Mina Mayfair flipped the lights of her home. She dropped her coat on a free-standing coat rack to the left of the door. She brushed her hand through her hair as she started across the living room and in to the open kitchen. She walked straight for the icebox. She leaned down and opened the icebox door. As she reached inside, Haunt watched a handgun slowly emerge from the shadows cast against the kitchen wall behind her.
Mister Haunt rushed from the shadows. His twin .45s emerged from beneath his billowing black cloak. The barrels blazed as he fired at the shadows. Mina screamed as she turned around at the sounds of the shot. The bullets smacked in to the wall as she stumbled back in to the icebox. The final two bullets didn’t strike the wall. They instead landed with a dull thud in human flesh. Nikola stumbled from the shadows. He wore simple gray slacks and a white shirt, which now sprouted blotches of red on his abdomen.
Nikola smiled as he saw Mister Haunt’s cloaked visage before him. Haunt’s red eyes glowed back at him from beneath the shadows of his cloak. Nikola’s smile drew the ragged scar across his neck in to its own sick grin.
“I knew you’d come. You always were a self-righteous fool.”
Mister Haunt again raised a .45. But Nikola’s hand shot up faster, firing a round in to Haunt’s chest. Mister Haunt stumbled backwards. He dropped a .45 from one hand to clutch the wound while he raised his other pistol. But it was to no avail. Nikola was already gone, vanished in to the shadows.
Mister Haunt stumbled back on to Mina’s ottoman. She rushed over to check on the strange man. “Are you all right? I think you just saved my life.”
Her eyes met his. Mister Haunt recognized that same beautiful shade of green. Just like Lily’s. “You’re welcome,” he said. Haunt melted in to the shadows.
“Thank you,” she said, staring at the shadows that were once a man. On the seat of the ottoman, she found a business card. The card was black on both sides, but otherwise blank. She clutched it in her hands.
Somehow, Mina knew that she would see the strange man again. She knew her life had just changed forever.
Nicholas Ahlhelm also writes for Metahuman Press (where this story originally appeared) while still finding time to edit both fine publications. An overachiever, he also currently produces two web comics, ARC and Tales of the Living Legends. While not trying to be a complete over-achiever at this fine site, he lives with his wife of nearly seven years and two daughters in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.