My body aches.
I pop six painkillers into a glass of water and watch them fizz aggressively. I never thought I would need mortal medicine, but they seem to work. If I take enough…
Worse than the pain, though, is the huge sense of loss that follows me around like a second shadow. The hind’s blood Alastor, the Avenger, infected me with, has robbed me of my abilities. What am I without my abilities? I’m neither god nor mortal. I’m just a…a…I don’t know anymore.
The humiliation is unbearable. No-one can know. I would never live it down. Prometheus: the Titan who lost his gifts. The so-called God of Forethought who couldn’t foretell his own downfall. I would be the laughingstock of the God Complex, a source of constant ridicule. Or worse, pity.
I down the water and rest my head in my hands. Argos places his chin on my lap, looking up at me sympathetically with his multi-colored eyes. I stroke his ears, and he slowly wags his tail. Come on, Pro, snap out of it! He seems to urge. He doesn’t know what’s going on, but he can tell that something is wrong.
After Alastor left me on top of Mount Caucasus, I was angry. I swore that I would have my vengeance, that I would make him suffer, but then a sense of reality kicked in. He had outwitted me at every opportunity, and that was when I had my abilities. Now I have to face him weaponless, what chance do I have?
Disbelief and the need to rationalize followed: he couldn’t have obtained hind’s blood. It was virtually impossible…the effects would wear off soon…I had embellished the events in my mind.
No. It was real enough, and realization paved the way for an overwhelming sense of sadness over the pathetic god I had become. It felt like I was grieving for a lost friend, and my self-loathing paralyzed me. I couldn’t think, I could barely move. I had lost all motivation and couldn’t see the point of going on. After a few days, the sadness waned, and I knew that I couldn’t continue in such a sorrowful state.
Now I just feel hollow. I’m adrift, and I desperately need some wind in my sails to get me going. I need to look forward rather than back, but every time I try, I stare into a mirror.
I bang my fist on the table in frustration, and Argos walks away, sensing my mood. I didn’t mean to frighten him. He’s the only thing keeping me together. “Sorry, boy,” I mutter and grab a pile of papers in front of me.
I have work to do. And a lot of it.
Demeter went missing a while ago. I’m not the only one with problems. That thought provides a crumb of comfort, although I worry for her. I always liked Demeter, and I hope it’s nothing serious. Anyway, her role as Legal Counsel to the OA has filtered through to me. Temporarily, at least. It’s not a position I wish to hold on to, but needs must, I suppose. It would seem that she was fighting a lot of fires at the point she went missing. Now I’m getting all of her emails, so I busy myself trying to get on top of it.
It’s a much-needed distraction.
And then an email lands for her.
It seems trivial, and usually, I would skip straight past it, but something about it catches my eye. I re-read it a few times. Demeter requested some searches on someone named Eric Draven, but they have come back blank. There is an apology for the delay; she made the request a few months ago, and it’s been forgotten.
Eric Draven. Where do I know that name?
I carry on with some work and allow my subconscious to get the answer for me from the depths of my mind. The Crow. It’s a film from the nineties with Brandon Lee as the lead. He was shot for real during the filming, and he died from his injuries. He plays a character called Eric Draven, who is brought back to life to avenge the murder of his fiance and himself. I watched it not so long ago, which is why the name seemed familiar.
Now I’m intrigued. Why was Demeter undertaking searches on someone named Eric Draven?
I look at the date the request was sent and then dig into Demeter’s calendar to see what she was doing on or around that time. There’s nothing that looks relevant, so I check her account. I discover an email chain dated a few days before the request was sent from firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s not a particularly interesting read.
The emails tell me that Eric had an unstated proposition he wanted to make in relation to the God Complex, and he wanted to arrange a meeting with Demeter to discuss it. Demeter requested further information, and he pushed back to say it would be in her interest to meet up with him. He confirms his name and the name of his company – Draven Properties. Demeter then agreed to meet him, but there is no correspondence after that.
I look at the filing system to see if there are any records of the meeting and find a file note. Demeter was certainly thorough.
Attendance with Eric Draven
I agreed to meet with Mr. Draven today to discuss a ‘proposition’ he had. He was quite insistent. He came to the office with three files and said that he had a proposal in relation to expanding the building. Mr. Draven then started to cough. When the cough turned violent, I went to get some water, but on my return, he had recovered. He then asked if we could postpone the meeting to a later date as he was not feeling well. I said that I saw no reason he could not send details about the proposal by email in the first instance, and he agreed.
As an aside, I have undertaken some preliminary searches on Eric Draven and the company ‘Draven Properties’ but could not find anything other than a holding website for the company. As far as I can see, there are no companies registered with that name. I have paid for some additional searches to be undertaken as the entire event was rather peculiar. I will wait to see what comes back.
I know that Demeter will have undertaken rigorous searches, but nevertheless, I search for the company and ‘Eric Draven’ and find nothing other than the holding page she mentioned. The company doesn’t exist, so whatever ‘Eric’ came in for wasn’t bona fide, to use a legal phrase.
Then I search for the owner of the domain name. Often such results are hidden, it’s seen as necessary to protect the user’s privacy, but it seems I’ve gotten lucky because they must not have ticked the right box. The owner’s name is listed as Eric Draven, but the associated email address is email@example.com.
A shiver goes down my spine.
The domain name must have been purchased before the website with its new email address was created, and so it was registered using Eric’s old email address. Could firstname.lastname@example.org be him? Is that how he found all that information about me? From Demeter’s office? My personal file would be in there with my number, my address, and everything OA had gathered on me over the years. It would explain how he knew so much, how he was able to stay one step ahead. Knowledge is power.
I undertake some searches of the new email address and play about with the parameters on the search engine. It seems email@example.com has been quite vocal on dozens of forums using the username The Crow, but he reveals no information about himself. All the forums relate to discussions and conspiracy theories on murders and violence from all around the world.
I follow the trail to a message thread from several years ago. In it, a user, Falcon101 complains about her husband cheating on her with her best friend. The Crow responds by promoting a website where she can pay for retribution. The Crow claims to have used the site himself and was very satisfied with the result. Falcon101 is interested, and The Crow provides some instructions.
I follow them. But this isn’t the sort of site you can find on a normal browser. For this, I’m going to need something called Tor, because I will need to enter the dark web. A place where you can’t find anything by searching. A place where people can hide in the shadows and avoid detection.
I take a deep breath. I’ve looked at the rabbit hole, and now I need to venture down it.
I download the software and continue with the instructions.
This is it.
A website called The Avenger.
This is where Alastor sells his services.
It must be.
I scroll through what’s on offer, and it makes me feel sick. There’s stuff on there that would have you screaming for Freddy Krueger to come back. It promotes everything from mind tricks to violent death, each with a price in Bitcoin next to it. There are even reviews. All of them 5*. I look through the site and place violent death in the cart. It then asks me for details: who, when, where, why, how. There are some suggestions for the how that makes my blood curdle. I make up some false information, and then it asks for 30 Bitcoins upfront. The final payment of 40 Bitcoins is payable once the act is completed. That’s a lot of money, like hundreds of thousands of dollars.
I was hoping to find a connection I could work with, but all I’ve done is make myself feel sick.
There’s a box to tick to say that you have accepted the terms and conditions. What on earth could be in the terms and conditions?
I click on them out of curiosity.
They are surprisingly well written and explain what happens if you are dissatisfied with the service or wish to cancel an order like you’re buying socks or something. And then I spot something. A common mistake when terms are copied. The small print towards the end of the terms has not been amended, and they refer to a company called A. A. Construction. It’s in the text lawyers would call boilerplate. The text everyone glosses over. The text no-one cares about. The terms must have been drafted for A. A. Construction and then bastardized for this site, but whoever changed them forgot to edit the boilerplate. They probably got bored.
I close the dark web and return to my normal browser. I feel like I need a shower after that, but I’m excited. I have a lead. I run a search for A. A. Construction and find that it exists. It’s a construction company incorporated a few years ago, and it has one shareholder: Alex Arnold. I look at the company details and discover that it has a large portfolio of properties. Alex Arnold’s address is listed on the records as the company’s registered address, which is not uncommon. But it is not particularly helpful.
I look instead at the original incorporation document for the company, available for a small fee, and I hit the jackpot. I have Alex Arnold’s personal address, and it’s a penthouse in the affluent side of town. I know the location well, I’ve walked past it many times and stared up at the flats with their Juliet balconies and wondered what they were like inside.
I search the company’s website to look for an image of Alex Arnold, but there is nothing. I carry out some image searches on Google, but it comes up with soccer players and actors. I try one last search using Alex Arnold’s name, the name of the company, and the name of a charity event that is mentioned on the website.
An image pops up of a newspaper article.
I click on it and zoom in. There are a lot of people in the picture, but in the background, I spot someone who is wearing sunglasses and looking extremely uncomfortable.
Alastor is Alex Arnold and Eric Draven. The construction company must be his way of cleaning his money. Not only that, but I also have his address. I know how to find him. Quite what I will do with the information, I have no idea, but knowledge is power.
I need to think…I need a vacation.