James O'Barr's



A novelisation by



Based on the comic book series by J. O'Barr

The Crow is copyright ©Pressman Films, Inc.


Dedicated to







chapter one


chapter two

Shattered In The Head

chapter three

White Heat

chapter four


chapter five

Like A Concave Scream


chapter six

Dead Souls

chapter seven


chapter eight


chapter nine


chapter ten

Watching Forever


chapter eleven


chapter twelve

God's Paradox


chapter thirteen

The Atrocity Exhibition: One Year Ago

chapter fourteen

Head Trauma

chapter fifteen

Angel All Fire


chapter sixteen


chapter seventeen


chapter eighteen


chapter nineteen


James O'Barr's









Chapter One


One day you are going to lose everything you have. Nothing will prepare you for that day.

Not faith…

Not religion…


When someone you love dies, you will know emptiness…

You will know what it is to be completely and utterly alone.

You will never forget and never forgive.

So think.

Think about what you have to lose.

Think about what others have already lost.

And learn.

* * * * *

It is another time, almost a time out of time. An ambulance screams its way through the darkness, it's wailing siren drifting into the night air, heard by nobody who wasn't thankful that it was not they who were travelling inside.

As the ambulance cuts its path back to the hospital from which it departed it is followed. From high above a pair of cold brown eyes, glimmering with a supernatural intelligence, watches as the angel-white vehicle carries on its course through the city that seems to have been bleached of life, drained of its colour.

It's a city where white is replaced by black; hot replaced by cold; joy replaced by sorrow; Heaven by Hell.

Life by death.

* * * * *

The city is like a living body. There are healthy, attractive, desirable parts … and there are the ugly, undesirable parts.

Many of the negative parts, like so many things in life, are merely temporary: that blister on your foot could be that car-crash wreckage down the street; that cold that has got you down recently, the recent crimewave…

But some bad parts seem permanent. You just cannot seem to get rid of them.

Like scars.

The slums are the scar tissue of the living city.

And at the moment the city is suffering from a disease, focused directly in the slums, a disease so virile that it cannot be shaken.

The name of the disease?

Petty Theft…

* * * * *

In an alleyway beside one particular slum house, a pile of wooden crates formed a makeshift staircase into a first-floor window. A large black man sporting a shaven head exited from this window, a look of smug self-satisfaction stretched across his cruel face. Despite it being the dead of night, the man wore only a pair of jeans and a sports vest.

Tucked under one arm he carried a large black rectangular box, his bounty for the evening: one Toshiba-make VCR. The object was heavy and awkward to carry, but it bothered the black man little. His arms were long and his body muscular, a combination that made stealing heavy, high-priced goods a good deal easier.

Got the Toshiba man Eddie pays a hundred for Toshiba, the man's thoughts looked forward to later in the evening as he walked briskly along the alleyway, away from the scene of his crime. I be in the rock tonight man!

As was customary for him, the man turned his attention to the situation the victims of his latest crime would find themselves in when they discovered their lack of high-priced goods. In the morning the children would wake to discover the object that gave them more comfort than either of their parents would no longer be there for them.

He felt no sympathy for them. Some people were just born victims.

He then turned his thoughts to the parents, probably too worried about when their next welfare cheque would arrive to care about their children's well-being, just as long as they could get a drink or a fix at the end of the day.

He felt no sympathy for them either; he felt no remorse for his actions. Why should he? People like that were lower then he was. It made him want to puke when people claimed they couldn't afford to feed their own children but could afford expensive VCR equipment the likes of which he held in his hands.

Now Jones Transfer got Toshiba, the man taunted mentally, turning his head to look back at the open window as if he could hurl the taunt through it. Yessir, I be in the rock big-time!

He cared not that his argument was as flawed as any he believed his victims could put forward. After all, it was survival of the fittest in Detroit.

He suddenly became aware of a barely audible squeaking sound, which broke his thoughts into confusion. He turned his head back to face the front of the alley just in time to see a child's tricycle slowly roll past, devoid of a rider.

"What the hell?" he muttered as the trike passed him. He followed it with his eyes until it rolled to a stop a few feet away from him.

He hadn't noticed the huge black figure looming in the shadows until it was too late. As Jones whirled round to face the figure, he felt his grip on the VCR lose its friction and it crashed to the ground, shattering the plastic casing and spilling cogs, wheels, and various other VCR innards across the sidewalk.

"Jesus Christ!" He yelled in shock. The man was so big, but he had appeared so silently! Before him stood the scariest sight Jones had ever seen in his life … and Jones had seen some scary shit. The huge figure, well over 6 feet tall, was clad entirely in black, from the tips of his black boots to the ends of his spiky black hair.

But the most disturbing feature of the giant was his face: it was painted like some sort of mime, a demented and evil harlequin, a ghostly white mask with black trim. Two pairs of thin black vertical lines cut a teardrop's path halfway down each cheek and halfway up his forehead from the centre of each eye. Two more thin lines stretched outwards from the corners of his mouths, as if the coal-black lipstick he wore had spilled out onto his face.

"Do I have your attention, Mr. Jones?" asked the dark man, almost deadpan. His voice was as cool and calm as a dead man's.

Jones glanced at the VCR wreckage lying at his feet. "Attention?!" he yelled. "Man, you scared the crap outta me! Damn!" He kicked at the ex-VCR to draw the dark man's attention to it. "You just cost me a hundred bucks, pal … I thinks you'd better cough up some cash…"

But the dark man was uninterested by this, and didn't even glance at it. Instead he merely continued, as if he hadn't heard a thing. "Shelby the Giant said you know T-Bird…"

Okay, Jones thought, reaching into the back pocket of his jeans. If this guy won't volunteer the money, I'll take it. With an audible klik he unsnapped a switchblade and began waving it at the dark man in an agitated and impatient manner. "C'mon, money, man, money…" he demanded. "Now!"

Just as he had with Jones' initial demand, the dark man disregarded the knife and continued with his list, reciting name after name -- a "who's who" of Detroit's most notorious individuals. "Tom-Tom … Top Dollar … Funboy … Tin-Tin…"

Jones had heard enough. If he couldn't take it from him easily, then that left him with the hard way.

"That's it!" he yelled. "You all done!" He thrust the knife forward with great velocity, but the dark man made no attempt to avoid the attack.

The knife plunged into the man's shoulder as easily as it might cut into an apple. The dark man's only reaction was to look down at it with childlike curiosity, as if he didn't have any idea what had happened to him.

Jones pulled his hand away, leaving the knife imbedded.

"Man," he gasped. This guy must have done some strong shit! "You must be dusted not to feel that…"

"Pain?" the dark man asked, finally acknowledging a word Jones had said. Gripping the handle of the knife, he began to talk in a slow, appallingly calm voice. "I know pain at the molecular level … it pulls at my atoms … sings to me in an alphabet of fear…" With a sickening wet slurp he yanked the knife from his flesh. "I am the boiling man … come to break the bones of your sins, meat puppet." A true grin from hell adorning his charcoal-black lips, the dark man licked the blade clean of blood and offered it back to Jones. "Try again?"

"I … I thinks I'll pass…" Jones stuttered, but nevertheless, he accepted the knife back and pocketed it without a second thought of attacking for a second time -- Jones was no genius, but he wasn't a fool. He knew when to quit.

"T-Bird and the others…" the dark man prompted. " Where are they? Shelby the Giant didn't know … he said you would."

No way! Jones argued silently. Shelby the Giant didn't get his name because he loved Jack and the Beanstalk … he was the baddest, toughest, meanest guy in all of Detroit, he wouldn't tell nobody nothing! Especially not some weirdo dressed like a mime on crack!

"Shelby wouldn't roll on me, man," Jones argued, shrinking away from the dark man like a beaten child.

"Oh, he told," the man replied, producing a pair of bloodstained wire cutters from one of his deep coat pockets. "It took three digits but he told."

Sweat began to rain from Jones' bald head as he stared fearfully at the blood on the cutters, trying to convince himself that it wasn't real, or if it was, it wasn't the big man's blood. But like his thoughts, his verbal response carried no conviction. "You lyin'…" he whimpered, barely able to speak.

The dark man's response turned Jones' blood cold. "I would have brought the fingers as documentation but he had to eat them also." He snapped the blades together, then opened them again.

"Oh man," Jones whimpered. "T-Bird kill me sure!!! He kill me sure if I told!!!" He found himself suddenly aware of a burning pain in his crotch as his abdominal muscles strained to hold in a flow of urine.

The dark man held the cutters in front of Jones' face, snapping them open and closed and waving them in a mocking agitated and impatient fashion, grinning his devil grin. "Fingers or toes?"

"OK! OK! OK!" he screamed before the dark man could make the choice for him, sinking to the ground as a dark, wet patch spread across his crotch, bringing a tic of amusement to flit across the dark man's face. "I ain't seen T-Bird or Tin-Tin in weeks, but Tom-Tom's down on Gratiot and ten. Top has a place at the Hotel Reno on Schaefer … Funboy in the country till the 27th…" Jones clutched the sides of his head with his hands. "You gonna kill me now?"

Satisfied, the dark man put away the wire cutters and brought his face down close to Jones' to stare right into the thief's eyes. "Why Mr. Jones, I already count you among the dead."

The man suddenly looked up, looking almost child-like. "Look! It's a full moon…"

Jones raised his eyes. The dark man was staring at a street lamp.

"That's a street light ghost man…"

The dark man didn't acknowledge his words; he appeared to have mentally drifted off into the past.

"It was a full moon that night too…" he said. His voice, which had betrayed no emotion up to that point, was filled with a cold-blooded anger.

"You a loon, man…"

The Dark man grabbed the sides of Jones' head, and Jones could feel how incredibly strong his grasp was. "Tell them I'm coming, Mr. Jones," he said, rage burning a hole right through him.

Slowly, he turned around and began walking away, cradling himself softly. Jones curled up on the sidewalk, and began crying to himself.

"Mr. Jones?" the dark man called. He could have killed him, had he wanted to. Perhaps he would have, had he not seen the change Jones had undertaken. Perhaps Jones alone was not beyond redemption.

"Y … yes, sir…"

"Are there spots in a leopard's eyes, also?"


Chapter Two

Shattered In The Head

He lay in his cold casket, surrounded by darkness and a wet, fetid smell. He felt the emptiness. It surrounded him, and it was inside him. He felt it invade him, felt it flow through his veins like cold, black blood. It made him feel both weak, and unnaturally strong.

From some deep recess in his brain came thoughts, involuntary but rational. He had returned. His soul had been dragged back into his body, and somehow he was alive once again. Instinctively, he lifted his arms.

Pain tore through them as the long-dead muscles screamed back to life, and for a second all he knew was the pain. The pain was everything. It obliterated the emptiness momentarily, and it felt as if it would obliterate him also.

Then it all stopped.

He lifted his head, and the pain returned. Every fibre in his being screamed in protest as some mysterious force breathed new, unwanted life into him, causing him to fall still, his head slamming into the soft padding beneath him. He had never known pain like it before. It eclipsed even the pain of his death.

He waited, unmoving and patient. After a while he noted he was breathing, although what he was breathing in the oxygen-starved casket remained a mystery to him. Once again, he raised his head, which came to an abrupt halt when it struck the underside of the lid, which he regarded with a frustrating annoyance. He still felt dazed, as if everything was some unreal dream.

Someone far away was talking, calling his name.

[Take your time, kid,] it said, invading his mind instead of his ears. [Let the dreams come. You are not ready yet.]

"Wh…" he tried to speak, but found his vocal cords barely responding. "What is…"

[What is happening to you?] the voice interrupted him. [As I said, let the dreams come, then make your choice.]

* * * * *

He found himself in an old steam-train carriage, staring out of the window but not focusing on what he saw as the scenery sped past.

Outside, quiet streets lined with nondescript houses passed by, cars by the dozen on busy roads, cows, sheep and horses grazing in fields, farmers ploughing and harvesting, a young family letting their dogs run and jump and frolic.

As the time passed he paid no attention to these sights.

The inside of the carriage was standard, if a little old-fashioned. Cushioned seats with food and drink-stained, cigarette-burnt, timeworn upholstery. The carriage itself, predominantly wooden and distinctly early-1900s in design, was decored in brown -- from the surprisingly thick carpet to the arched varnished ceiling. Setting apart from the visual surroundings, the air smelled distinctly modern, and of people.

He paid no attention to any of this, either.

A voice, professional, paid and bored, came over the train's PA system announcing that the next stop was approaching and any passengers due to depart should prepare to do so ... nobody moved, for there were no passengers to move on the entire train -- there was him, and him alone.

He did not acknowledge this, and had he known he was alone he would not consider it strange either.

The train approached a field containing an albino-white pony. The field was basically rectangular in shape, marked off by barbwire fences with the train tracks cutting through the middle. The pony galloped alongside the train, and he stared at it longingly, wishing he could be riding on its back. The pony's head turned towards him, it's face a perfect picture of feral innocence.

The train began to exit the field, and the pony was following. While there was nothing obstructing the path of the train, directly in the pony's path was the fence.

The pony had not seen it.

But he had.

He stared open-mouthed with fear as the pony continued it's deadly course, hoping for all he was worth that the pony would see the fence and stop.

Too late.

The pony ran headlong into the wire, and the steel barbs drew long red lines of pain into its flesh. As the pony struggled, more wires bound its neck, muzzle and legs like steel brambles, coiling the doomed creature like a thousand black snakes.

Blood flowed freely, the shrieking pony's legs buckled and it fells right into the wiry mess. It writhed in agony, wrapping itself in yet more of the deadly wire.

As the train passed the horrific sight, he stared back at it until it disappeared over the horizon. Only then did he hang his head in sorrow, tears flowing from his eyes.

A voice invaded his mind, as it had in the casket.

[You shouldn't have looked, boy…]

He looked up to find himself staring a big black bird in the eyes. A crow. It perched itself on the seat next to him and stared back with cold, intelligent eyes.

A conductor joined them, but he was not a train conductor.

The uniform he wore rested not on flesh, but on naked white bone.

He was a conductor of life and death.

"Tickets, please," the conductor asked, holding out his skeletal hand.



Chapter Three

White Heat

Still, so still, in the city tonight. Twelve o'clock, tick-tock, when all that is good slinks away like a beaten dog and the black, black shadows are alive with the dead, twisted poetry in broken English, flesh and blood and staring faces…

So grey and despairing, strong as steel but collapsed inside, The Crow laughs under a street light, a voodoo smile of one who died and still yet lives…

He makes his way home where he can be shapeless in the dark and paint his face in the colours of joy…

Tonight, Hell sends an angel bearing gifts…

* * * * *

In the city, in the ghetto, in a dead end street, in a forgotten house…

A shape, a man. He stares out an upstairs window, unmoving, yet seeing nothing, lifeless and sick, slumped in despair, he is listening to sounds, to voices. Voices that have been gone for a year, but still ring so loudly

He hears gunshots … a girl crying … sobbing and begging…

He could not help her but now he cannot remember why…

He hears men's voices, shouts, so evil and grim he hears their names: Tin-Tin, Funboy, T-Bird, Top Dollar and Tom-Tom. The sounds sink into his heart like ice and burn in his head with a heat so intense it glows white…

* * * * *

In another part of town, at another point in time, 67 year-old Bea Morris exited her local grocery store and began the short trek home to her apartment. Across the street from her two men were huddled around a third. Bea felt a wave of fear surge through her, but continued to walk instead of ducking back into the store. She felt sure that if she kept walking they would not bother her.

"Hey, Tin-Tin, we here jus' like ah said!" Said a short fat man wearing a woolly bobble hat, permanent grin, and a tee-shirt that barely reached his naval (leaving a majority of his flabby gut exposed for all to see). He gestured to his companion, who in stark comparison was stick-thin, wearing a cheap suede jacket with the arms ripped off, sporting an Errol Flynn-style moustache and smouldering cigarette. "Wait till ya see what Ratso's got, Tin!"

"What'cha got Ratso," said the man known in Detroit's underground as Tin-Tin. "More dirty pitchers?" He was an imposing figure who rarely went around wearing a shirt, and always wore his trademark bandanna.

The thin man with the Errol Flynn moustache handed him a gun. The name Ratso suited him well, for his scarred facial features were long and distinctly rat-like. "Thirty-eight…" he said. "Not traceable. Hot from the East Side."

"Nice huh, Tin-Tin!" the fat man with the permanent chubby grin said, patting the men on the back. His name too was apt, if not obvious: Fat Eddie.

"How much?" Tin-Tin asked, checking the weapon over. It was certainly better than the usual cheap shit Ratso tired to push on him.

"Hunnert bucks and I'm gone man…"

Tin-Tin nodded in agreement. "Let's see how it works."

"Sure," Ratso nodded in return. He had hoped to do the deal right there, right then, but if this particular customer wanted to test it out, he wasn't about to argue, lest he become the test target. "Let's go over to Cass an…"

Before Ratso could finish his suggestion, Tin-Tin raised the pistol and a loud gunshot rang out.

When he looked in the direction the shot went in, he cigarette fell from his lips and landed on the sidewalk. Across the street lay a spilt brown paper bag of groceries, a pair of old wireframe spectacles … and one dead old lady with a bullet in her neck.

"What you doin' man?!" Fat Eddie yelled, the grin finally banished from his round features. "Oh man, oh man! You nuts!"

Ratso stuck a bony finger in Tin-Tin's face and began to yell, quickly forgetting just who he was shouting at. "Damn you! You gonna bring the blues down on alla us!"

"Tin-Tin," Fat Eddie whined. "What'cho snuff that ol' lady fo', man?"

Ratso still continued to yell. "I come down here in good faith an' you pull this! You a fool! A fool!"

The next thing Ratso knew he was staring down the barrel of the gun he had been attempting to sell.

"'Member that bad pony you stuck me with?" Tin-Tin asked, his eyes burning with rage and insanity.

Ratso pulled his finger away and tried to talk his way out. "Hey ma…"

It was a single-syllable word, but Ratso began it with a whole head, and had it been possible for him to finish it, he would have with only half.

"You out, Ratso," Tin-Tin told him as his dead body crashed into the street.

Had Fat Eddie been any smarter, he would have turned on his heels and ran as soon as the first shot was fired.

But he had stayed and only now decided to run. His blubbery legs were carrying him as fast as they could, but even if he were an Olympic sprinter he wouldn't have been able to save his life now.

"You crazy! Man, you crazy!" he fired at Tin-Tin as he ran.

But Tin-Tin didn't fire opinions. He fired bullets.

"… An Top says you been rollin' in his district," he called after the runaway lard-pile. A third bullet overtook his words and tore a ragged, bloody in Fat Eddie's back. There was a loud crack as his skull impacted against the sidewalk.

It begins to rain, as if on cue … a last, desperate, futile attempt to wash sin from the city…

Bea was just pantomiming her life, counting days between pension checks and Valium refills. She'll be buried in the county cemetery and her prized cat Gabriel will be thrown in the street by an uncaring landlord.

Fat Eddie's brother overdosed on junk when Eddie was ten. He swore he'd never that direction, but when the city drops into the night, things oh so very, very wrong seem oh so right.

When Ratso was born in the ghetto, housing standards plummeted. If the city were of flesh, Ratso would be a boil.

Tin-Tin slipped into an alley, a cat through a side door, his soul so twisted with evil it could only have drifted off a Bosch painting.

It's a cold October night but Tin-Tin is flush with heat…

As he crept through the alley, the dim grey light of the moon illuminated a shape…

A man.

A man dressed all in black.

"Hello, Tin-Tin…" the man said, his arms buried in the pockets of a long trenchcoat. "Remember me?"

"No, I don't." Tin-Tin raised his weapon, inspecting the man's pale face. He was wearing some sort of makeup. "What are you all painted up for, boy?"

"A funeral march."

Tin-Tin took the man's words as a threat and reacted in the only way he knew how … to attack. He aimed to make the man's words his last. "Your own!" he yelled, firing the pistol high.

The bullet grazed the man in the side of his head, but he didn't react. A second shot rang out.

It wasn't one of Tin-Tin's.

A bullet tore a ragged chunk of crimson-spilt flesh from Tin-Tin's right forearm and his gun dropped to the ground, closely followed by Tin-Tin himself.

"Who are you?" Tin-Tin asked, holding his damaged arm up as the man walked over and crouched next to him.

But the man chose to answer in recitation.

"Rejoice to the full in the glory that is about to be yours!" he said, drawing a smoking pistol from his trenchcoat pocket and pressing it to Tin-Tin's chest. "And give thanks to the Lord God who has called you to his kingdom!"

"Man, I don't even know you!" Tin-Tin protested. This seemed to break through his assailant's reverie, but what he said was not something Tin-Tin wished to hear.

"A year ago … " he said, almost chanting what followed, each new word filling Tin-Tin with a sense of his own impending doom. "A cold October night … a broken down car on a dirt road … a man … a girl … madness … pain … and shadows … my god, the shadows!"

A look of fearful recognition etched itself onto Tin-Tin's face as he stared into the man's eyes.

He saw death.

But what the man saw in Tin-Tin's eyes was not the fear that had painted his face, but the absolute terror of his soul, a thousand times more evil than his face could express.


"You?! T-Bird said you was dead…"

"Am I not?"

"T-Bird done it!" Tin-Tin bellowed. "He had the gun!"

The dark man had a vacant look in his miss-matched eyes, as if he were somewhere far, far away.

"And the girl?" the dark man snapped, jamming the gun under Tin-Tin's jaw.

"Man, she was out cold by the time I got to her…" Tin-Tin lied. "We was all high it just happened…"

But the dark man had heard enough; his head bowed, he closed his eyes, and began to talk in a slow, faraway voice. "Your soul rots…"

"I got connections," Tin-Tin pleaded. "I kin fix you up…"

The dark man pulled the gun hammer with a faint click. "It festers…"

"Hey, hey!" Tin-Tin barked, trying to grab the attention of Dark man. "I'm talkin' to you, man! You can't…"

"But fear not…" As he spoke the top of Tin-Tin's head exploded outwards and upwards in a spectacularly gory display of blood and brains. "I have medicine!"


The dark man slowly rose to his feet and stared unemotionally at the slumped, lifeless body. The rain thundered down on top of him, washing Tin-Tin's blood from his body.

"May God grant you the mercy that I cannot."

* * * * *

He sat cross-legged and hunched on the bare floorboards, casting a dark silhouette in the squares of light streaming through the window behind him. Surrounding him, a dozen photographs of them in happier times … but most of just her alone.

He stared blankly out of the windows, and at the patterns created by the torrents of rainwater as they cascaded down the cold glass…

Staring past the wire and their razor-sharp, deadly barbs … he saw her. Dressed in a frilly white dress, her face veiled by her soft golden hair … she stood unmoving. The backdrop of dead trees a vivid contrast to her … her, a vision of life.

Until she turns her face to him.

Her face, barren of flesh … simply skull.

Lady Death…

The rain pounds, he lays motionless of the cold, cold earth. His eyes wide open and staring … and seeing.

The bullet holes in his head … are nothing.

The bloody tear leading a twisted path of pain from his ruined left eye to his right cheek … is nothing.

What he sees … is everything…

Standing next to him, a large black crow screams a voiceless order at him over and over…

[Don't look, Eric! Don't look!]

He ties a spent shell in his hair.

"Number one," he says.


Chapter Four


"Somebody blew his friggin' head off," reiterated an ugly, scar-faced man with a dirty black goatee beard. "And we thinks you should look into it…"

The man he was talking to was sitting at a table, leaning back on his chair a little as he worked. He was tall and had a thick white beard, which matched his long silvery hair. As if keeping in check with the colour scheme, the man was preparing packages of a fine white powder. He was Top Dollar.

"Are you dictating to me, Sanchez?" he asked the man who had addressed him. It was not wise to dictate to Top Dollar, and he was letting the other man know it.

"Naw, Top," interrupted Julio, a man dressed in an expensive designer suit and wearing sunglasses, his well-kept moustache making him look for all the world like a stereotypical Cuban drug dealer. He sat opposite at the table to Sanchez and to Top Dollar's right. "He's just sayin' it looks bad on you…"

Two other men were in the room; one sitting at the table, blowing circles of cigarette smoke into the already smoky atmosphere of the room, while the other leaned against the far wall, arms crossed, waiting impatiently for his boss to complete his business. Both me were little more than armed protection for their respective bosses, should Top Dollar decide to get out of line.

Sanchez was becoming impatient. One of his best foot soldiers had been found in an alleyway, executed with a single bullet to the head. "Looks like you ain't got no control," he added to the persuasion.

But Top Dollar was not easily persuaded. "You think I care if one of yur punks gets snuffed?" he asked, flicking his half-smoked cigarette across the table.

Sanchez tried to respond, but it had become clear Top Dollar had heard enough.

"Shut up!" the silver-haired drug lord roared. "This is my outfit … my dope … an' my neighbourhood…" he slammed his fist down on the table with each reminder of what was his. "My word is the law." He picked up his gun from the table and brandished it menacingly. "The floor is now open for opposing viewpoints…"

None came.

Top Dollar was about to resume packaging his drugs when Julio stood up and pointed to the window. "Hey!!! There's something moving out there!!!"

Top Dollar motioned for Sanchez to check the window. Distrustful, Sanchez walked to the window. It was a fifth-floor apartment. What the hell could get up this high that was worthy of their attention, he thought as he opened the window and put his head through.

He immediately found himself looking at a man dressed entirely in black, holding onto a rope attached to the roof of the building. Sanchez had barely noticed the black and white makeup the covered the man's face.

"Who the hell are you?!" he demanded.

"Santa Claus," the man replied, putting the barrel of a gun to Sanchez's head. A bullet ploughed into Sanchez's head, splattering blood into the room and onto the street far below. With cat-like agility, the dark man hurled Sanchez's limp body into the room and swung in after him. "And you've all been very bad this year…"

A second bullet struck Julio in the chest before the dark man even touched down on the table. Blood seeped through the fabric of his suit. "Blood…" Julio moaned in disbelief, staring at the crimson smear on his hands. "Bullet proof vest not work … blood…"

"Poor soul," the dark man said, amused, "one need not suffer so…"

A second bullet obliterated much of Julio's upper face.

Around him, all hell broke loose as Top Dollar and the two bodyguards struggled to find their weapons, which had fell from the table when Sanchez's body had come crashing back in.

"Where's my gun?!?" one of the bodyguards cried.

"This be mine, man!" the second replied, fighting off his counterpart to claim the precious weapon.

"No way, Sanchez be laying on yours…"

"That be a forty-four! That mine!"

"Shoot him!!" Top Dollar ordered, as the two bodyguards squabbled. "Somebody shoot him!!"

The second bodyguard finally claimed sole possession of his weapon and swung round to face their attacker. What might your name be, Mr. Forty-Four?" the dark man asked him candidly.

"They calls me Mad Jack," came the response, as the forty-four was raised. "Remember that!"

"Oh, a poet, Mad Jack! I shall remember that!" the dark man laughed as he fired a bullet solidly into Jack's chest, whose own shot strayed wide of the mark and struck the first bodyguard in the bicep.

"You mutha…" Top Dollar stuttered, battling his jangling nerves to aim his own weapon straight. He was swiftly felled with a back-heel kick to the face from the dark man, who was laughing like a child at a fairground.

"Drowning men…"

Top Dollar's gun skidded across the room, stopping within reach of the cowering first bodyguard who had taken refuge under the table. He crawled towards it, underneath a bottle of whiskey that was resting on the edge of the table, pouring its contents onto the floor. Yet another bullet shot rang out, shattering through the bottle, the table underneath it, and into the first bodyguard's head.

A familiar figure rose up from underneath the table, holding a forty-four-calibre pistol.

"Mad Jack!!" the dark man cried in delight. "You sport a vest also!? No honour among thieves?"

"I'm gonna cap you, man…" Jack groaned. His vest hadn't held up much better than Julio's The dark man stood before him, allowing him a free shot.

Jack raised his weapon…

He fired…

The bullet strayed high of the target and ricocheted off the nightshade of the room's single lightbulb.

"You've got to hit me first, Jack," he dark man said, all the humour and emotion drained from his voice. "Dow with the lambs, up with the lark," he sang. "Run to bed children, before it gets dark."

As methodically as Jack had been, the dark man aimed his weapon.

"When sorrows come, they come not single spies, but in battalions."

He drew back the hammer.

"I've allies in heaven, Jack, I've comrades in hell…"

He fired. Blood splattered onto an electric wall socket, sending sparks flying into the room. "Say hello for me…"

An eerie silence fell over the room.

All were slain…

Except one.

"Well, well, Top…" the dark man said conversationally, turning to face the man still sitting at his chair. "Looks like you're the only one still wasting good air." He began looking around the room, at the four fallen men who had tried so desperately to survive. "Around the sun we go," he sang, "the moon goes round the earth," he spun to face Top, his grasp around his gun almost vice-like. "We do not dies of death … we die of vertigo!"


"Do you remember?" he asked, grabbing the light and illuminating himself with it. "Look close, Top."

"Look pal, I don't know what this is all about…"

"A man and a girl…"

Top Dollar suddenly found himself in a mood for bargaining. Maybe he could buy his way out of this. "But if I done ya wrong I'll square it up…"

"There's five grand in the dresser over there." Top Dollar pointed across the room, but the dark man's gaze remained on him. "Take it an' go, we'll forget all about this…" He could see that had not tempted the dark man. "Man, take the dope, too. There's almost have a kee left … worth ten K easy…"

The dark man scooped up a handful of the drug, letting it sift through his fingers back onto the table. "You would barter your life with chemicals?" He swept the rest from the table in a powdery snowfall.

"You're an idiot!"

"A '71 Plymouth…" the dark man said, continuing with his list.

"I offer you fifteen grand and you act like it don't mean nothin'!"

"The girl … her name was Shelly…"

"You ain't even listenin'!"

"It started to rain…"

Suddenly it all became clear to Top: the guy was crazy! "Man you're a friggin' nut!" he yelled. If he could push him over the edge, he might have a way out of this! "You gonna shoot me? Come on!! Shoot!!"

No change.

"Do you remember?"

"Yeah, I remember the car an' the broad," maybe that would do it. "So what?"

It did it.

"So this…"

Another shot. A hole opened up in the area of Top's face where his left eye had been. Scarlet blood and black ocular fluid ran down his face and spilled from his chin.

"You can go to hell," Top grimaced.

"I've been waiting for a guide to take me by the hand," the dark man quoted, drawing back the hammer of the gun…

* * * * *

His second grisly task completed, the dark man opened the door of Top Dollar's apartment and left the carnage behind. He'd done a good deed. Four of those men had done nothing to him on that fateful night, but they were as guilty as Top himself.


Another cat rubbed up against his ankle, joining the others that had begun following him.

The city would be a better place without the likes of Sanchez, Mad Jack and their companions. And there was more to come.

Behind him a door opened; a frumpy middle-aged woman wearing a hairnet poked her head out and watched him approach the stairwell. Another innocent person who would be terrorised no longer by Top Dollar and his followers.

He turned to her and smiled.

"Evening ma'am," he said.


Chapter Five

In the city, where angels fear to hover and devils come to croon, the sex of the Night lets down her black narcotic hair under a yellow opium moon. Here a shadow of a shadow, an earthbound ghost shivers, not from the October chill, but in erotic pain. He says to his dead lover, "We should never have come here, with flesh so soft and hearts so unwise, but like tigers in the tall grass, like Christ in the garden of Gethsemane, we sucked in our fear and we came here. Now all the atrocities are replayed, like a late, late show, we came here but never should have stayed. Though we had Inertia and Radius and Depth, we took the last train with Velocity and passed our own deaths."

So, The Crow spirals down through a collapsed dream and the only sound he makes is...

Like A Concave Scream

Cross-legged in the house again ... but this time it is different.

The floor beneath him is no longer bare, but covered by a simple rug next to the dead fireplace, decorated by the presence of a triple-pronged candlestick, a bunch of roses, red wine...

Light no longer streams through the windows ... Night has writhed her seductive body across the sky, black as his hair, black as his clothes ... black as his heart and his soul ... the only traces of light from the three candles burning steadily.

He is not alone ... a small creature, as feral as himself, calls from within the cardboard box he holds in his hands.

He offers the box to the vacant space at the other end of the rug...

"I've a present for you, Shelly." The cat, not understanding it's new situation, replies in its feral, question-like innocence.



He sets the box down in front of the space where his dead lover would have sat.

Meow...? Meow...?

"His name's Gabriel," he says, resting back on his hands. "You always said you wanted a cat."




And worst of all ... Silence.

"Happy anniversary, Shelly."



The minutes pass like seconds, and the hours like minutes. But still he remains, unmoving. Candlelight long extinguished. The cat seeks attention ... and receives it.


Where the teeth of madness jump, jump dance and sing...

[Eric…] the crow called into his dream. [Hey, Eric … you don't want to see this again, boy. Let's go…]

Eric ignored the bird, and hugged Shelly's semi-naked figure close to him, surrendering himself to the responses of his mind. She was so perfect, so soft and gentle. How could it be she was gone?

"I love you," he heard himself say.

They kissed.

[Now here's where you smile…] the crow mocked, at the same moment as Eric and Shelly drew apart and smiled at each other.

[Now the eternal love part…]

"Forver?" she asked.

"Forver…" he replied.


He embraced her again.

[Never listen.]

A deafening explosion filled his mind, and he felt something warm and wet splatter his face. Shelly's limp body fell to the ground, the pulpy red mess that had been her head resting against his shoulder.

In front of him stood a cowboy, dressed in a full old-west sheriff's uniform.

His face was nothing more than a skull … a Skull Cowboy…

[Nice suit, eh kid?]

* * * * *

Eric screams and screams and pounds his head against the wall until phantom fire trucks race across his vision.

All he wants is pain.

Pain and hate.

Yes, hate.

But never fear. Fear is for the enemy.

Fear and bullets.


James O'Barr's












Chapter Six

Dead Souls

"No, no!!" Jimmy screamed as the two thugs pinned him against the basement wall of a burned-out tenement. "He was just buyin' a paper!"

"Quit yer cryin', retard," one of the thugs slapped him across the face and held a knife to his cheek. "We seen ya talkin' ta Peace Officah Davies." His lips split into a cruel smile. "Just cuz ya got the Downs Syndrum don't mean ya kin act stupid with us…"

"I does believe he's lyin', Skank," the second thug said, pulling a knife of his own. "I think he rolled us fer checkin'-in Greens Market…"

"No!" Jimmy pleaded. "No!" Officer Davies had bought a newspaper and asked him how Jimmy's mother was, after a car had knocked her down a few days before. Had she not been rushed to hospital so quickly, she would have died.

"We gonna hafta cut ya, retard." The second thug raised his knife and held it against Jimmy's throat.

"No! No! No! I didn't! I swear!"

Skank laughed. "I love it when they beg!" He drew the point of his knife across Jimmy's cheek, opening up a small cut.

"Please!" Tears flowed from Jimmy's eyes, dripping from the cold metal of Skank's blade. "He just bought a paper!! That was…"

Skank's knife flashed down and slipped into Jimmy's gut, cutting him of mid-sentence. Skank pushed hard, and the point of the knife struck the solid wall on the other side of Jimmy's body.

The second thug finished the job, cutting a deep gash in Jimmy's throat.

Jimmy's body slid down the wall, drawing a thick streak of blood on the plaster.

"You really get off on this, don'tcha?" the second thug asked as they wiped the blood from their knives.

"Yeh," Skank sniggered. "It gets muh blood pumpin'!"

"Kinda makes you lose your head, huh?"

No answer.

The second thug turned his head just in time to see Skank fall to the ground, blood spurting from the stump of his neck. His head lay several feet away.

"What that..? Jesus!! Oh … Jesus!!"

"Hello Tom-Tom."

A man dressed all in black stood across the room. In his hands he held an oriental samurai sword. His eyes, surrounded by heavy black makeup, bugged insanely.

"What the hell is this?!" Tom-Tom exclaimed, reaching behind his back and grasping the butt of the pistol tucked into the back of his jeans.

"Go for the gun, Thomas," the man growled, remaining as still as a mime. Tom-Tom wrapped his hand around the butt and placed his finger on the trigger, but he didn't draw. For several moments the two men stood unmoving, like two gunfighters of the old west. Tom-Tom flinched his arm, aiming to take the man out in two or three shots before he could even get close.

That wasn't the dark man's intention.

"Bedtime!! Lights out!" With one swift, graceful movement, Eric swung the lethal blade in an arc, slicing through the cord attaching the only light in use to the ceiling, plunging both men into darkness.

"Come on!!" Tom-Tom panicked, firing shot after shot blindly in the direction that he had last seen Eric, each muzzle flash briefly illuminating the room with a ghostly light for a split-second at a time, allowing him to see his attacker. "I'll play your game!!"

"Now I lay me down to sleep…" Eric sang the old prayer. Tom-Tom's response was to fire another shot in his direction.


I got him, Tom-Tom assured himself. I know I got him…

There was a faint crunch as the remnants of the shattered lightbulb were crushed underfoot. "I pray the lord my soul to keep…"

"Oh God!!" Tom-Tom fired the last of his bullets in the direction of the voice, calling out the names of deities he didn't believe in. "Jesus Christ!!"

"Jesus Christ…" Eric mused. "Jesus Christ walks into a hotel … he hands the innkeeper three nails and asks…" Eric circled his prey silent by foot, taunting him with the original bad-taste joke. "Can you put me up for the night?"

Frozen by fear, Tom-Tom listened, not even attempting to reload his weapon.

"Watch your step Tom-Tom," Eric warned.

Tom-Tom didn't hear the swish of the sword; his feet suddenly felt cold, and he tumbled to the ground, slamming into the wall and slumping next to Jimmy's body.

He heard the clunk, clunk of Eric's approaching footsteps, and then the room lit up as Eric switched on the second light. Tom-Tom looked at the ground in front of him, and he didn't like what he saw. "Those are my boots over there," he whined, weak from the loss of blood that was pouring out of the stumps just below his knees.

Eric jammed the sword into the ceiling and crouched next to Tom-Tom, staring uncompassionately at his doomed foe. "Tom-Tom," he said. "A year ago you helped kill a man and a woman. There was no money, but you took the ring she had on." He saw the recognition in Tom-Tom's eyes, but continued nevertheless. "Do you remember?"

"A ring?" Tom-Tom muttered. There was no pain, but his thoughts were becoming hazy. "A ring … yeah a man and a woman … you're him, aren't you?!"

"I am."

Tom-Tom's eyes widened with fear, as if there was something more Eric could do to him. "But I saw you die…"

"As you see your own death before you now?"

"T-Bird was on top of her … she was screaming and crying…" Tom-Tom wheezed, his breathing came in short little gasps. "I wanted her to shut up … I kicked her … she screamed and screamed … and I kept on kickin' her until her face was all bloody…"

Eric sat motionless throughout, staring grimly at the far wall trying to block out the mental pictures Tom-Tom was painting. Tears welled in his eyes.

"An' then T-Bird shot her … he shot her in the head an' blood splashed all over my pants…" It was becoming almost impossible to breathe … to even keeps his eyes open. Eric stood up and stared down at him, and Tom-Tom stared back with a pleading, almost child-like expression. "My feet are cold … can I have my boots?"

"You'll be asleep in a minute Tom-Tom," Eric assured him. "Where is the ring?"

Tom-Tom's mind had blanked. He fought to remember. It was so hard! All he could think about was sleeping, but finally he managed to direct the man to a pawn shop down on Gratiot. "I'm cold…" he whispered. "Can I go ta sleep now?"

Eric nodded. "Sleep now," he whispered in return. As he left, he turned in time to see Tom-Tom's head slump as he drifted into infinity.

"How wonderful is Death. Death and his brother Sleep."


Chapter Seven


Eric approached Gideon's pawn shop cautiously, his eyes searching every alleyway, every window. He had no idea what he would do once inside the shop, but he was sure he wouldn't like any intervention from an outside party.

He stood at the door and stared through the grimy glass, watching with some bitterness as the filthy little fat man inside counted his dirty money. This man had bought Shelly's ring, without even caring where it had come from or how it had come into the possession of the scum who had sold it to him.

He raised his arm and slowly knocked three times on the glass. The rotund little parasite of a man barely raised his head. "Hey, piss off!!!" he growled. "Can't ya see I'm closed, idiot?"

Eric knocked three more times.

"Don't ya hear so well, dirtbag? I'm closed!!"

Eric stepped back a pace, and perhaps Gideon thought he was leaving, but then again perhaps not. Accompanied by a thunderous explosion, he shattered the glass and wrenched the metal frame from its hinges with one punch. Brushing the shards of glass from himself, Eric stepped through and made his intentions clear to the greasy little man blustering behind the counter.

"Mr. Gideon, I believe you have something of mine. I'm looking for a girl's ring…"

"You're looking for a coroner, pal…"

Eric ignored the gun Gideon had raised, and continued describing the item that he desired. "It's an engagement ring…"

"I'm countin' to three an' then I'm gonna blow your head all over the wall," Gideon warned. "One."

Eric felt impatience taking over. "Mr. Gideon, you are not paying attention."


"Three," Eric finished for him, batting the gun out of his hand, snatching up a knife from the display shelf and driving it down through Gideon's other hand, pinning it to the counter. Gideon tried to scream, but no sound came forth from his open mouth.

All other distractions out of the way, and Gideon's attention gained, Eric resumed with his demand. "T-Bird sold you the ring one year ago."

"One moment please…" uttered Gideon, weakly. He reached below the counter and pulled out a large gasoline box filled close to the brim with assorted valuable: rings, watches, necklaces, bracelets... "Almossst every … everything T-Bird brought me's in here…

"My God…" Eric gasped, staring in disbelief at the vast amount of goods. So many things that had passed through T-Bird's possession. How many people died for that to happen? How many lives destroyed? Eric crossed his legs and sank to the ground, looking down at the box of lost souls. "Shelly … Shelly…" One by one he picked out the rings, discarding each he found. Above him Gideon struggled to yank the knife free of the counter and of the flesh of his hand, cursing the foulest, most blasphemous obscenities as he did.

Eric stared at the little gold circle he held in his hand. It was a simple gold band, but was more precious to him than his own life … if 'life' was the correct term to use. He cupped it in his hand, feeling its shape through the soft leather of his black glove.

"Look what I got for ya here, punk," Gideon hissed, holding another gun in his good hand.

His first gun lay by Eric's feet.

"Why Mr. Gideon," Eric accosted him like a small child. "You've completely forgotten about your Walther…"

Within seconds Eric had scooped up the gun and riddled the parasitic man with its contents. Blood oozed from five holes in a perfect line up his body, beginning just above his navel and ending at his forehead.

"So much for the single bullet theory…" Eric said, straightening his legs and lifting himself to a vertical position. Eric searched the shop, leaving Gideon slumped behind the counter. Perhaps there were other things he could use. "Why, Mr. Gideon, I see you have a large cache of assault weapons," he exclaimed playfully, discovering enough firepower to hold off an entire SWAT team. "All quite legal of course," he said in a 'your secret's safe with me' tone of voice. "Any objections to my borrowing, say, a dozen or so?"

Gideon was beyond answering.

"I didn't think so…" Eric smirked. He was starting to enjoy himself. "And is that a kerosene heater I smell?"

Working quickly, Eric piled weapon after weapon into a sports bag, and spread a gallon tank of kerosene all around the shop, leaving on of Gideon's lit cigarettes as a makeshift time fuse.

So busy with his task, Eric didn't notice the young police officer enter the shop and raise his gun to him. "Freeze!!" the officer ordered nervously, trying to hold his gun steady.

"Go away boy," Eric told him picking up the bag of weapons. "You want none of this."

"My God!!" the young officer gasped, noticing Gideon's bloody body for the first time. "What happened to him?!"

"Lead poisoning," Eric smirked again. He'd always wanted to say that.

"You're … under arrest," the officer said, backing off as Eric approached him.

"Look at me, boy … put your gun away. Bullets don't stop me … knives don't hurt me … look…" The young officer's gaze had drifted, deliberately trying to avoid Eric's huge, imposing frame. "Look at me!!!" Eric barked at him. "I am pilot terror, I am foetal distress, I am the random chromosome … I am complete and total madness … I am fear…"

The young officer had nearly retreated out of the shop. "Please…" he whimpered. "Put down the weapons…"

Eric read the nametag on the young officer's jacket pocket. "Officer Albrecht, I am going through that doorway … I will not hurt you but I am leaving." He bowed his head until the barrel of Albrecht's gun was pressed against the top of his forehead. "So, shoot if you will…

"Good God, man! My gun could go off!!" Albrecht told him, completely out of his depth to deal with the situation. "Oh, damn," he groaned, and lowered the gun. "What should I say happened here?"

"Tell Sergeant Hook The Crow sends his regards," Eric said, passing Albrecht as he stepped aside, before adding ominously: "And that it ends tomorrow night."

Not knowing what else to do, Albrecht nodded and turned to venture deeper into the shop, ignoring the noxious fumes of the spilled kerosene the drifted from somewhere in the rear of the building.

"Also, Albrecht," Eric called back. "I've set a bomb in the back room. You have about two minutes left … I've already phoned the fire department."

"Bomb?!" Albrecht wailed in disbelief, but Eric was already several metres away.

"Have a nice life, son," he said, turning a corner and disappearing from sight.

Albrecht turned and stared at the dead body. He felt a hot alkaline rush in his throat and doubled over, spewing the remnants of his supper onto the shop floor, before rushing out.

* * * * *

"Captain Hook?" the voice on the other end of the telephone line asked, before realising his mistake and starting again.

Hook was in no mood for jokes. "Dammit! You guys know I hate that!" he yelled back down the line.

"Sorry, sir," the voice apologised. It was jumpy and leaden with fear. "This is Albrecht … I just transferred in about three…"

"I know. I know…" Hook muttered impatiently. Damn rookies -- always calling in stuff that didn't matter. "What do you want Allbright?"

"Albrecht, sir…" the voice corrected him. "Umm … well … something … er…" Albrecht stuttered, unsure of what to say.

"Get on with it man!" Hook urged him. He didn't have all night to spend chatting to rookies. He had the murders of Top Dollar and half of his gang to worry about.

"Someone called The Crow sends his regards, sir."

What?! The Crow…

"The Crow? … Big guy -- 6-5? Jet black hair? Real creepy lookin'?" Hook rattled off the description, fumbling for the witness report from the Top Dollar case.

"Yes sir … he says it'll be over tomorrow night…"

"Christ! Jesus Christ!! … Where are you? What are those sirens?!"

"Umm … Gideon's Pawn … Giddy's dead … The Crow just torched the place … fire department got here just in time to see the place gutted."

Hook grunted. Although he was doing them a favour in the long run by taking out Top Dollar and his cronies, The Crow was causing them plenty of short-term headaches. And now it seemed he'd turned his attention to innocents. "And you have Mr. Crow in custody, right Allbright?"

Albrecht hesitated. "No sir … I let him … he left…"

Hook thumped his fist down on his desk so hard his coffee mug fell over. "What?!" That was just great. Damned rookies. "Jesus … Allbright, go on home, I'll send the lab guys over."

Hook hung up the telephone and began massaging his head as if rubbing away a headache. Tomorrow night … it was gonna be a very busy night for all of them.

After a while he walked over to his filing cabinet and opened the drawer marked C-D, and leafed through it until he found the file marked 'CURTIS, ERIC', and pulled it out. The word 'HOMICIDE' was printed in big, bold letters across the front.

He flicked through it for several seconds, staring at the familiar face in the photographs, albeit minus the makeup reported by the witnesses and, undoubtedly, as Albrecht would report in the morning.

He sighed and casually dropped the file into the wastebasket.

"Perhaps God has some wisdom after all…"

"Thank you, sir…"

* * * * *

Eric prowled through the night like some supernatural predator, the weight of the weapons he carried seemingly absent. But in the back of his mind, his conscience was slowly shrinking. Gideon was largely innocent. He hadn't deserved to die … however worthless his life actually was. He could have taken what he needed without killing him.

But he didn't really care any more. All that mattered was revenge … vengeance … he had to avenge Shelly! And he knew who was next…

"Rise and shine Funboy," he hissed into the night. "I've some serious gifts for you…"