Chapter 8: Matt Murdock
Peter took the subway for the second day in a row. His body was still healing from his battle with The Shocker, and he didn’t want to injure his body further by web slinging before his classes. He still had his Spider-Man costume under his clothes just in case, but he didn’t plan on using it. He hadn’t gone to or called anyone at The Dailey Bugle since his blow up with Jameson, but he didn’t have any pictures of Spider-Man with him taking a couple of days off to heal anyway.
“Hiya, Petey,” Gwen said, coming from behind Peter to give him a tight hug. It took all his strength not to scream out in pain. His ribs must’ve been more tender than he thought.
“Hi, Gwendy,” Peter said. “Good morning.”
“Here’s a sight,” Harry Osborn said, walking from behind them. Harry was slightly taller and thinner than Peter with short, brown cornrowed hair. “Peter Parker on time for class. There must be a snowball fight in Hell today.” Peter laughed. Even though they had only just become friends recently, they had become very close. They even joked about getting their own apartment in the city.
“You should’ve seen Puny Parker in high school,” Flash Thomson said, joining his friends with Mary Jane Watson. Flash was bulky with muscle, and had a head of blonde hair. He reminded Peter of a muscled-out Ken doll. “Never late for class. Homework always done. Hell, I think he used to beg for more homework. What happened, Parker?”
“Don’t listen to him, Peter,” Gwen said.
“I rarely do,” Peter said, walking with his arm around Gwen. He caught Mary Jane watching from the corner of his eye. She definitely had the looks for the modeling / acting career she wanted so badly, with her long red hair and seductive eyes. He wondered if Gwen had a sour look for her, and decided the answer was yes without looking to see. It wasn’t that long ago that they both seemed to be vying for Peter’s attention (a situation he wasn’t in the least bit comfortable with). She had been flirting heavily with both Flash and Harry as of late. Peter often wondered if she really cared about either of their feelings.
“I’m just happy we don’t have to hear a Peter Parker excuse,” Gwen said.
“Some of those are fun,” Mary Jane put in, maybe as a jab to Gwen. Mary Jane and Gwen sometimes would lock horns in some sort of female competition that Peter didn’t even try to act like he understood. “I like the one where he was accounted by the nuns for interrupting their service.”
“It wasn’t funny,” Gwen said. “They bruised him up pretty bad. What if it was a mugger or something? Did you read what happened to that blind lawyer? What’s his name? I’m drawing a blank.”
Peter stopped dead. He knew the name.
“Matthew Murdock,” Flash Thompson said. “It was in The Bugle today.”
“He got mugged and beat up pretty badly last night,” Harry piped in. “He’s still in the hospital and might be there for a while.”
“He probably ruffled some feathers,” Flash said. “He’s always on the news. It’s too bad Spider-Man wasn’t around to fight them off.” Flash mimed a fight as Mary Jane stepped back. The biggest irony of Flash’s life was his bullying of Peter and his unconditional love of Spider-Man. He actually told Peter to drop dead the first time they ran into each other on the ESU campus, but he seemed more tolerable of Peter’s presence once Mary Jane Watson entered into the equation.
The others went out of earshot as Peter stood with Gwen. Mary Jane took one more glance over her shoulder before going into class with Harry and Flash. “What’s the matter?” Gwen asked.
“I have somewhere to go,” Peter said.
“Now?” Gwen asked. “But class is about to start. Can it wait?”
“Yeah,” Peter said, remembering that Harry had said that Matt would be in the hospital for a while. “I’ll go after class.”
“It’s OK,” Gwen said, not questioning where Peter had to go and why. “But I want to go with you. You seem pretty spooked.”
Peter almost told her no, but didn’t think it would be wise to blow off his girl when she was so concerned. “OK,” Peter said. “But I have to find out where he is.”
“Who,” Gwen asked, walking with Peter into class.
“Matt Murdock,” Peter said.
“I didn’t know that you know Matthew Murdock,” Gwen said, walking through Roosevelt Hospital with Peter. She had kept stealing glances of him during class, worried. She regretted talking him into attending class before checking up on his friend. “How’d you two meet?” She asked.
Peter was deep in thought. He hadn’t met Matt Murdock. Spider-Man met Daredevil in the weirdest of circumstances. A villain called The Ringmaster took a circus audience hostage after advertising that he’d have Spider-Man as part of the show. Spider-Man decided to make an impromptu appearance, inadvertently falling victim to The Ringmaster’s hypnosis. Luckily, Daredevil also showed up, battled a hypnotized Spider-Man, and undid the hypnotism of both Spider-Man and the audience.
It wasn’t until later that Matt Murdoch ran into Peter Parker and deduced that he was Spider-Man based on the pattern of his heartbeat. Daredevil entrusted his identity to Peter Parker as well. The pair had teamed up and watched each other’s backs on numerous occasions.
But Peter couldn’t tell Gwen the honest truth about what had happened.
“Matt defended The Bugle when it was being sued for some of my photos,” Peter lied. It was more believable than the truth. He wondered if Matt was close enough to hear with his super human hearing. “He got me out of some serous hot water.”
“Oh,” Gwen said. She wasn’t a fan of the lengths Peter took to get his pictures, but she didn’t complain. He seemed to be passionate about helping to paint Spider-Man as a hero when his boss took the opposite stance.
“You shouldn’t have been in that neighborhood that late,” the police officer in Matt’s hospital room was saying as Peter and Gwen entered. He had closed his small notepad, stashing in his pocket.
“It’s my neighborhood,” Matt said. He sat up in his hospital bed, wearing his dark sunglasses. His red hair was a mess, but he probably hadn’t run a comb through it since he was admitted.
“There’s little we can do,” the officer continued. “Considering how little you saw.”
“I didn’t see anything,” Matt said, deadpan. Peter almost laughed but bit his tongue.
“I didn’t mean…” the officer stammered. “Call us if you remember any details.” The officer left a card on the nightstand, tapping it so Matt would know where he left it.
“Thank you,” Matt said. The officer hurried down the hall, towards the exit.
“Hi Matt,” Peter said, acting as if Matt didn’t hear him enter by his footsteps or recognized him by scent. “It’s Peter.”
“I know the sound of your voice, Pete,” Matt said. “But unless you started wearing perfume, I think you’ve brought someone with you.”
“Sorry,” Peter said. “This is Gwen Stacy, my girlfriend.”
Matt put his arm out, looking for a hand to shake, and Peter almost laughed again. He knew that she hadn’t moved since she entered the room. She broke her trance and hurried to Matt’s side and shook his outstretched hand. “Pleased to meet you,” she said. “I’ve read about you in the papers.”
“Just the good parts, I hope,” Matt said, smiling. “It was nice of you to come see me. You just missed Foggy. He had to get back to the office. He said he’ll come by with Karen later.” Matt was cofounder of the law firm he ran with his friend Foggy, Nelson and Murdock. Karen worked for them as their receptionist.
“I just wanted to make sure you were doing OK,” Peter said.
“I’m famished,” Matt said. “But the nurses won’t give me anything but mush.”
“I can try and get you something to eat from the cafeteria,” Gwen said. “I’ll see if I can sneak it up here for you.”
“Thanks,” Matt said. “Peter and I will catch up.”
“See you soon,” Gwen said, giving Peter a peck on the cheek and leaving the room. Matt waiting, listening for Gwen’s footfalls to fade enough to speak again.
“She’s gone,” Matt said. “I’m glad you stopped by.”
“What happened?” Peter asked.
“Some costumed villain got the jump on me,” Matt said. “He wanted me to give a message.”
“A message?” Peter asked. “For who?”
“For you,” Matt answered. “Do you know anyone called The Scorpion?”
“Nope,” Peter said, looking up while he thought. “Never heard of him. He’s not one of mine.”
“Well, he’s looking for you,” Matt said. “He wanted me to tell you that he’s coming for you.”
“Did he say why?” Peter asked.
“I didn’t ask,” Matt said. “Didn’t get the chance for a long conversation. He’s strong, fast, and fights using a tail.”
“A tail?” Peter asked. “Like an actual scorpion? Could he be a mutant? Maybe we should try and contact the X-Men.”
“No,” Matt replied. “I felt the tail when it hit me in the chest. It’s metal. The tail is man made, and he’s at good using it.”
“So he’s a skilled fighter?” Peter asked. “He would have to be to take you down.”
“I wouldn’t use the word ‘skilled’,” Matt said, making a weird face. “He’s a pure brawler. Maybe a little boxing in there. I didn’t have much room to maneuver because he cornered me in an alley, although I don’t think he intended it that way.
“Still, he’s pretty tough as far as these guys go. Promise me you’ll be careful if you come across this guy.”
“I will,” Peter said. “But it sounds like I don’t have much of a choice. If he’s strong enough to put you in the hospital, then it’s only a matter of time before he finds me and likely does the same.”
“But there’s a difference between you and me,” Matt said. “A difference between me and most of the others.”
Peter didn’t respond, but he knew what Matt was saying. For Daredevil, there was no radioactive spider, no cosmic rays, and no super soldier serum. Matt’s four remaining senses may have worked on super human level, but his strength was all his own.
“What are you going to do?” Matt asked.
“There’s no point in looking for The Scorpion,” Peter said. “It sounds like I just have to wait, and he’ll find me. I fought plenty if these guys before. What’s one more?”
“Remember what I said,” Matt said. “This one’s different. I’ve fought you before, so I know your strength and speed. The Scorpion may be stronger and faster. He was done with me in a matter of minutes.”
Peter thought hard. If Matt was right (which he almost always was), then he’d have his hands full and then some with this Scorpion character. “I think I’m going to take a snooze,” Matt said. “Give me a call if any more of those pictures land you in trouble again, Peter.”
Peter didn’t have to turn to know that Gwen was back. “OK,” he said. “I’ll catch you later. Oh, hi Gwen. I didn’t hear you come in.”
“They didn’t have much in the cafeteria,” Gwen said. “How’s a burger burnt onion rings?”
“Sounds great,” Matt said. “Thank you. It was really nice meeting you, Gwen.”
“STILLWELL!” Mac Gargan shouted, walking through the halls of Stillwell Pharmaceuticals. He swung his arm, putting a large crack in the wall to his right. He was growing weaker. Whatever was in the serum that Stillwell had been injecting into his veins was wearing off quickly.
He wasn’t able to keep the tail up any longer, and it dragged behind him like dead weight. He was lucky he was able to keep it wrapped around his midsection so it stayed hidden as he made the trek back.
“What are you doing?” Dr. Stillwell asked, running down the hall with an escort of guards. “Were you out in the suit all night?”
“Not all night,” Gargan said. “What’s happening to me, Stillwell?”
Dr. Stillwell stood, transfixed. He didn’t answer Gargan’s question.
Mac faltered. He suddenly found it hard to stay on his feet. “WHAT’S HAPPENING TO ME?!” he shouted before collapsing. Two of Stillwell’s employees came rushing down the hall.
“Get him out of that suit and into his room,” Dr. Stillwell said. “And lock the suit up when you’re done.”
Dr. Stillwell sat at his desk, trying to decide what to do next. He didn’t give Gargan leave to pursue Spider-Man, even though Jameson demanded it. He hadn’t told Gargan or Jameson, but he was weakening the doses of The Scorpion’s serum to test the effect on Gargan.
A blood sample was taken from Gargan after he was stripped of The Scorpion suit and put to bed. After examining it, Dr. Stillwell’s fears were confirmed: More scorpion DNA was present in Gargan’s blood than should have been, despite his collapse. The only explanation was that Stillwell’s experiment was working too well, and Gargan’s DNA would be too far gone if he didn’t stop taking the serum. The scorpion’s evil nature could already have taken over. It may have already been too late. This, coupled with Gargan’s recent outbursts of violence and destruction, steadied Stillwell’s resolve.
Dr. Stillwell picked up the phone and dialed Jameson’s private number. “Jameson,” he said after a single ring. This number allowed him to bypass his operators and secretary.
“It’s Stillwell, Jonah,” Dr. Stillwell said. “We need to talk.”
“What is it this time?” Jameson said, annoyed.
“It’s Gargan,” Dr. Stillwell said. “I think we need to back off on The Scorpion Project until I can run a series of tests.”
“Back off?” Jameson asked. “For how long exactly?”
“Indefinitely,” Dr. Stillwell replied.
“Out of the question,” Jameson said.
“With all due respect, Mr. Jameson,” Dr. Stillwell said. “Gargan has been displaying signs that quite frankly worry me. He punched a hole in a wall just this morning, and he completely destroyed an entire room before sneaking out with The Scorpion suit last night.”
“Sneaking out?” Jameson asked. “I wanted him out looking for Spider-Man last night.”
“There’s also an issue with his blood -”
“Listen to me,” Jameson said, raising his voice. “I’m paying you for this experiment, and I’m paying you well. I don’t appreciate you telling me that you want to put this entire thing on hold after the amount of money I’ve put out.”
“I think we need to talk about pulling the plug before Gargan is too far gone,” Dr. Stillwell said.
“There’s nothing wrong with Gargan,” Jameson said. “He’s frustrated, like I am, that that wall-crawling menace has been in hiding ever since he helped in a bank robbery. We are NOT pulling any plug.”
“It it’s about the money -”
“Do you have the funds to pay me back?” Jameson asked.
“No,” Dr. Stillwell said sighing. He kept the secret that the corporate lawyer had returned to make another offer on Stillwell Pharmaceuticals and all of its research, but he we wanted to see the Scorpion Project to whatever end. “But Gargan -”
“Then we move forward,” Jameson interrupted. “I’ll give Gargan a nice vacation after he has defeated Spider-Man. On me.” Jameson hung up the phone, ending the conversation.
Dr. Stillwell held the phone in his hand, not knowing what to do. Jameson was stubborn and probably wouldn’t chance his stance. Still well turned off his desk lamp and decided to retire for the night. He’d have to sleep on whether or not to put an end to The Scorpion project without Jameson’s approval.