A/N: I just thought I'd let people know that this is meant to be written in the present tense. Everything is unfolding as it happens as described by the narrator who is our main character. He's not only talking to himself, but to you the reader as well. Just thought I should point this out. Also, this takes place in a city known as MAD City, which is also the setting for my webcomic RIOT and Fade-Out! which can be found at riotandfadeoutdotcom

Thanks, and enjoy!

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CHAPTER ONE

I wake up in a hospital hooked to what seems like a million different machines; their incessant beeping throbbing through my brain like some deranged jackhammer. I try to get my bearings, see if maybe I can remember just how I ended up here when I notice her sitting there. My angel. My muse.

"Scott?"

My ex-wife.

"How are you feeling?" She says and she looks just as beautiful as she ever has. My name is Scott Acid and I used to be a professional wrestler, a fighter. She was my manager, my agent, and ultimately my wife all rolled into one. Her name is Gwen and what we had was the stuff only Hollywood could dream of. Too bad I screwed it all up. "Well, I'm alive--so I guess that's gotta count fer something, right?" I try grinning but right now even my teeth hurt. "What are you doing here?"

"I was called. You still have me listed as your emergency contact."

"Oh. I-I'm sorry...I'll get that changed."

"Don't worry about it." She stood up then, casting her gaze down at me. Beautiful brown eyes that used to always fill me with such hope and purpose. Now all they do is shame me and kick me down a notch or two. It's not her fault. I know she doesn't mean it. Hell, she can't help it and who could blame her? Years ago we were on top of the world. I was winning world championships and most considered me a true credit to my profession. I had the respect of my peers, and the love of millions of adoring fans. Yeah, I know what you're thinking; but Wrestling wasn't this scripted stage play anymore. It had evolved into a sort-of gladiatorial contest between the best fighters from all over the world. True combat...and I was without equal. I should know, I told any one who would listen.

Eventually, my ego would be my downfall because nothing ever really lasts forever. Injuries took their toll, of course, and I had to leave that world behind. But I had my beautiful wife, I even had a daughter...her name was Ivy. My greatest creation. Thinking of her still brings me back to a time in my life where nothing was good enough for me, even if in retrospect it's obvious I had all I'd ever need.

"Is...is Ivy with you?"

For a moment she just looked at me. As if she was surprised I'd even mention her at all. "...she's with my mother."

"Right. Of course...it was a dumb thing to ask." I don't blame her. I never could. Even with a family-my family-I never felt so alone, so low, in my entire life. The fame was gone. That rush from a crowd, gone. My so-called friends-my peers-all gone. Everything was gone.

All that remained was the pain.

Instead of turning to those I loved the most, I took solace in the only thing that made the pain go away: Painkillers. Opiates, Heroin, whatever--it never mattered what it was so long as that pain went away. Suddenly I found my life revolving around this little pill that made all my aches go away. Who cares that it was temporary? Damn things might as well have been magic. All I needed, all I wanted, were the pills--and I'd do anything to get my hands on more. I had changed. Suddenly I was this monster, this...junkie. I turned on everyone. My wife, my...child.

Myself.

"Well, I'm glad you're alright. Do you know what happened?"

"Barely. I remember I was going to see a client but..."

"A client huh? I take it business is good then?"

"Keeps a roof over my head. Can't ask for much else; I'm a man of simple tastes these days."

"Good...glad to hear it." She smiles at me and I can't help but wonder if it's out of pity for me or not. Doesn't matter. Can't think like that anymore. Pity became a crutch for me in the end; I expected it out of everyone. Oh pity poor me because I'm an addict! I can't help myself! Ugh. Just thinking back on it gives me a disgusting feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like butterflies who never really learned how to fly got drunk and decided to take a tour of my insides.

In the end it took her leaving and taking my daughter away for me to realize how shit my life turned out. I cleaned up but I knew that if I just went back out into the real world without a goal I'd just end up right back where I started. I couldn't go back to fighting, I was too damn broken down. Plus I'd burned too many bridges while I was there as it was--I was a bit of an asshole in my prime; at least that's what they say. They were always jealous. Sorry--Anyway, I couldn't go get a so-called "real job", no way I'd be able to stand the tedium.

Besides, who in their right mind would hire a broken down ex-junkie anyway? No, I needed to go into business for myself. Now, I live in Madagascar City, MAD City to the rubes and the rest of the nation. To be blunt, it's a shit hole. After all I've done in my life, I felt I needed to get my karma right and maybe make a difference. At the very least, maybe I could prove to Gwen I was a changed man. A pipe dream for sure, but a goal worth attaining. At least to me. I didn't want to be a cop because corruption sticks to that place like cancer to a smoker. Instead, I decided to get a private eye license and open up shop in town.

"Well...like I said, I'm glad you're alright."

"Really?"

"Of course Scott, don't...don't be that way. I didn't leave you because I stopped caring about you."

"I know. I know. It's just...I mean, I haven't seen you in a year and it took me being in the hospital for it to happen...you know?"

"I know."

"For what it's worth...I'm-I'm sorry." She says nothing for a minute and a heavy silence falls over the both of us like a weighted blanket. Even after all this time I still can't look her in the eyes and it bothers me. How could I? Even after everything, there are days I can barely look myself in the eye. I don't feel worthy of her, my beautiful angel. It bothers her, I know it does. There's this chasm between us, deep, wide, and black as night because of it.

Eventually she smiles again, albeit weakly. "I-I'm going to go, okay?"

"Yeah, sure. It was good seeing you again."

"You too. Good luck with your PI thing...I'm sorry your client got killed."

Suddenly it hits me like a ton of bricks, the whole reason why I'm here. Why I'm sitting in this hospital bed instead of in a morgue. I was at my clients door, an old friend actually, when my whole world exploded. The last thing I remember was looking at a towering inferno before waking up here. Before I could say anything I hear the door to the room shut softly and she was gone, leaving me to my own thoughts and to a couple of important questions:

Of course there's the obvious who killed my client and why, but that's kid stuff.

More importantly, why the hell did they wait until I got there to "pull the trigger"? It's rude. And it pisses me off.

I need to get out of here.

Pulling out this I.V. is going to be a bitch, so not looking forward to that. Fuck it, the longer I wait here, the harder it'll be to get at the truth. I kind of got a thing for it; it made the whole becoming a private dick thing a no-brainer in the end. I start off easy, removing anything that's not actually, y'know, stuck inside me.

Okay, stop looking at the the I.V. and just do it. It'll be like a band-aid. Only with blood. No big deal.

My hand hovers over it like a lost UFO looking for a place to land when I hear the door open again. I don't look up because I secretly hope it's Gwen again. I miss her already, I wont lie.

"Going somewhere, Mr. Acid?"

Okay, not Gwen; it's worse.

"Detective Cammy Boothe, funny seeing you here." This is grief I don't need.

"It's Camilla shit bird. Not even a minute and you're already pissing me off."

"It's a gift." or a curse. I suppose it depends on your perspective. I shrug my shoulders at her nonchalantly just to tweak her a bit. It's a game we play where I act like an asshole and she hates me for it. It's fun. Don't get me wrong, Cammy is a good cop, a great detective, but she kinda hates my guts and I tend to not get along with people who treat me like shit. I'm funny that way.

Don't ask me what started it. She claims I get in the way of official investigations which is totally a lie. Personally, it's obvious to anyone that she secretly loves me and she doesn't know how to deal with it. Shit, she might as well pull on my pig tails every time she see's me; at least she's not insulting me and who knows? Maybe I'll get around to asking her to the sock-hop after school one day. Seriously, it's that obvious.

"What are you doing here anyway?"

"Gee, I don't know. Could it be that someone is dead, and I'm a Homicide detective? Could that be it?" See? She loves me.

"Okay, I get it. What do you want from me?"

"Let's start with what happened."

"I don't remember much." She gives me a look that says then tell me what you do remember asshole, which shrinks me down to about the size of a pea. Evil eyes this one. "Okay...okay..." I pull out the I.V. with grimace and swing my legs over the edge of the bed. "All I remember is walking up to the door and....not much else. Unless you wanna count looking up at flames kissing the sky."

"Sure, I'll count that. What were you doing there?"

"I was meeting a client."

"How long had you been working for him?"

"It was our first meeting in that capacity."

"'in that capacity'...?"

"He was an old frien...co-worker."

"You mean one of your wrestler buddies." She says it with such disdain, not so much as a single ounce of respect. You learn to live with it.

"Whatever. He paid my retainer up front via messenger and asked me to meet him." I find myself not too steady on my feet, but I'd rather not show any weakness in front of Cam so I tough it out. With a little help from the nearby wall of course. "Where are my clothes?"

"Burned. I heard your wife-"

"Ex-Wife."

"--ex-wife. I heard her tell the nurse she brought you something and left it in the closet."

"Awfully kind of her." Sure enough, there they were. I didn't leave you because I stopped caring about you echoes across my mind as I reach for the pants.

"You're client's name is listed as 'Venome', what's that about?"

"Had his name legally changed to, y'know, to his professional name. Like I did."

"Obviously."

"Oh no! Are you telling me you've always known my secret?!"

"Fucking wise-ass. What did he hire you for?"

"Dunno. Said he'd tell me once I got there but obviously..." I shrug and it sends a sharp pain up and down my body forcing me to sit on the bed again. I'll be lucky to put on this pair of pants let alone walk out of here. "Anyway, two to one it prolly had something to with his wife."

"What makes you say that?"

I look up at her and grin while I'm sliding on the pants as best I can. "It always has something to do with the wife, trust me."

"Strange..."

"What?"

"I keep forgetting you're a chauvinist asshole and I don't know why. But, at least I can count on you to remind me every time."

"Funny. You should do stand up." ah, finally! Got those damn pants on. Feels like it took an eternity.

"Where do you think you're going?"

"What does it look like?"

"Oh no, don't you even think about it. Stay out of this Acid, I don't want you lousing up my case alright?"

"Pfft. Somebody killed my friend...my client. I'm going to find out why."

"Oh please! That's the second time you've had to correct yourself so don't try to hand me some sentimental bullshit and act like you have friends"

"Ouch. Yeah, alright so me and him ended on a sour note a long time ago; doesn't change the fact that he was murdered and, technically, I'm still on retainer until his wife says so." I manage to finish putting on the shirt and stand. We're face to face and the tension is so thick I decide to break it.

"You smell nice."

"God, I hate you." Totally loves me, she means. "This is the only time I'm going to warn you: stay out of this."

"I'm sorry but I have to find out who killed my friend and why." I'm basically talking to her back at this point since she's turning to leave, but that doesn't stop me. "I have to."

Now, Cammy Boothe is the type of girl who always has to have the last word. Most days I don't let her have it; sometimes just to be a dick, other times, welll...ah, who am I kidding, it's always to be a dick. But not today.

Oh no, today...she leaves me with a doozy:

"What makes you so sure they weren't trying to kill you instead?"