Tonight we have a special post featuring the first installment in a 5-part series being written by Eric of Sinistral Scribblings. I have been reading his blog for most of this year and his talent for storytelling is incredible. I feel honored to be able to feature a story of his exclusively on my blog.
The first post of his I ever encountered talked about how his father influenced him as a writer, exposing him to The Hobbit and Dungeons and Dragons. His stories, such as the Linden Tree series, made me into a regular follower and commenter at his blog.
We’ve tossed around the idea of collaborating sometime on a superhero story, and I think that still could happen when both of our writing project lists clear up. Right now his story, Easy Money, is being made into a digital comic. How cool is that?
So when I started thinking about what to ask Eric to write for my blog I decided that a superhero story would be a great choice. After all, he created a superhero of his own back in June. I had no idea at the time that it would become a 5-part story. And now that I’ve read the first part, I want to read more.
Enjoy the first part and look for the next installment to be up in roughly a week.
CAN’T FOOL THE BLUES
Part One 1996
Gummed up, brain dead, and can’t decide
You can’t pray enough, you can’t hide
You can be cool, or you can cry
Do it wrong
Not at all
Or do it right
“Matt! Can you believe this! They’re putting us on the task force!”
Matthew Hannigan looked up from the report he was filling out. Any distraction from that was a welcome one. “I know, Jim,” Matt smiled. “We’ll get to work with them face to face. It’s pretty exciting.”
Jim was practically bouncing like a schoolboy with excitement, an amusing sight in an overweight, middle-aged man. “Do you think we’ll get to see Chuck?”
Matt frowned. “I don’t think so. Last I heard, he was off with the Blue Team, God knows where.”
“Oh, yeah,” Jim deflated. “They’re always off some place. I haven’t seen him in years.”
“Me neither,” Matt straightened his paperwork. “But hey, tomorrow’s gonna be one helluva day anyway, right?”
“Shit, yeah,” Jim was all smiles again. “Captain wants to see us in twenty, by the way. Gotta brief us.”
As Jim walked away, Lieutenant Matthew Hannigan, NYPD, looked out the window. It had been over thirty years since he spoke to one of them, and now he had the chance to work with them on a regular basis. A childhood dream come true.
“Sort of,” Matt whispered.
There was plenty of coffee and donuts in the briefing room as always. The Captain tended to insist on police tradition rather than keeping his officers in good shape. The room was full, every chair taken and those who arrived late stood lining the walls. Many who were there didn’t need to be, but gossip was everything and the new task force was something big. The room hummed with excitement.
Captain Coates, two hundred and fifty pounds of Brooklyn street tough, stood and waved for silence. The hum died, all eyes on Coates. He looked around the room, steely-blue eyes catching everything and demanding attention.
“Today,” he began in his thick Brooklyn accent, his eyes once again sweeping the room before they locked with Hannigan’s, “is one of the worst days of my life.”
The room erupted in shouts and Matt could now tell that the audience was divided into two camps. Those by the windows were shouting outrage at Coates’ statement while the on the opposite side of the room cries came in support of the Captain. Coates’ eyes never left Matt’s and held a “this is all your fault” look. Matt slid down in his chair.
“All right! Shut it!” the Captain shouted. The shouting continued, one man tried to jump onto the table. Coates slammed his fist down onto the hard wood. “I said, shut it!”
“If you blues can’t keep it together, you’re out. Now, shut your mouths or clear the room.” When nobody moved, Coates cleared his throat.
“The NYPD has been proudly serving and protecting this city for over a hundred and fifty years,” Coates stabbed the table with his finger at the number. “Thirty-three years ago that began to change. Thirty-three years ago, the NYPD stopped serving and protecting and started working as a cleaning crew.” Observers along the wall nodded their heads and muttered agreement.
“Captain, you know that’s…” Hannigan began.
“Quiet, Hannigan. You’re not innocent in this.” Matt stilled his tongue by drinking his coffee. “You know damned well that’s what’s been happening and you know damned well what this task force really means.”
“It’s an opportunity to work with them in an official capacity. To help them help us,” Jim offered.
Matt groaned when the Captain’s eyes bore down on his friend. “You watch too many movies, Sergeant. Or read too many comic books.” A couple of people chuckled from both sides of the room. Jim clamped his mouth shut.
“All right,” Coates glanced around the room as silence fell, “down to tacks.” He leveled his gaze on Matt. “Hannigan, the mayor wants you in charge of this farce. Morse, you’re with him.” Jim grinned from ear to ear at the official announcement while Matt just started back at the Captain. Wait for it, he thought. “Jones, you too,” Coates’ satisfied smile spoke volumes. Two for, one against, Matt thought. Coates is doing all he can to screw this up.
Still smiling, the Captain had moved on. “You will be meeting with a representative from each of the major groups, three in all. You have a number of goals to achieve, the chief of which is the financial one. They need to understand that the people of this city and state can no longer pay to repair and rebuild after a showdown. Federal support was exhausted years ago and state taxes are at an all-time high.” Nods and grumbles came from both sides of the room and even Matt couldn’t disagree with that
“Second,” Coates continued, “Areas in and around the city need to be established as a so-called ‘warzone’ where property damage and civilian casualties can be most minimized.”
Matt didn’t know how to work that one out. “Sir, how we are supposed to get them to agree to that? The ones they fight aren’t going to follow the rules.”
“Hannigan, just get them to agree to it and let them worry how to use the warzones. If they don’t comply,” Coates glanced at his supporters along the wall, “we send them the bill.”
The Captain grunted in satisfaction. “Third, they need to agree to get as many of their solo acts on board as soon as possible. I hear the web-slinger is in cahoots with two of the groups and the guy in Hell’s Kitchen should be easy to get. They need to round up the others.”
Matt shook his head. That was going to be next to impossible.
Coates noticed. “Just do it, Hannigan. Understand?”
Matt didn’t take his eyes from his hands. “Yes, Sir. Have they said who their liaisons are?”
Coates didn’t even look at his notes. “Yeah, Susan Storm, Henry Pym and, you’re gonna love this, Hannigan, James Howlett.”
Howlett? The Wolverine? Doomed before we even begin. Don’t any of the higher-ups know we need this to work for the good of everyone?
Two for, one against, just like us. There might be a chance.
“You meet at the Baxter Building, nine AM,” said Coates. “Dismissed.”
The sky is crying, can’t you see the tears roll down the street?
The sky is crying, can’t you see the tears roll down the street?
I’ve been looking for my baby
And I wonder, where can she be?
Elmore James’ raw voice broke through the quiet, dark air of the apartment. Matthew read the letter again. She had left him. He didn’t think it was ever going to happen with all the times she threatened it, but she finally had. All of her things were gone. All that was left of her was the note. He took a sip of his whiskey and read it again.
“Matt,” it began, “I can’t take this anymore. We have argued so much about you never being home. I’m a reporter and I know there is not one cop in the entire city who is ‘at work’ as much as you. You constantly deny there is another woman, but what else can it be? I have my suspicions on who it is and if I’m right, good luck with that.
“You’re a good man and a good cop, Matt, but I’m done being treated like a doormat. You are never home, you never talk to me and I’ve finally moved on. He’s there for me, he listens to me – he gives me what I need. Something you never did.
“I’d like to say good luck with your life, but unless one of us moves out of the city, our jobs pretty much guarantee we’ll see each other again. If it happens, I intend to be professional and I hope you will be too.”
Matt scoffed, threw the letter to the floor and downed the rest of his drink. This, on the eve of the most important day of his life, was too much. She had found someone new and knowing her, it was someone she could pump for information. God knew she tried it often enough with him.
He got up, turned the volume down on the stereo and poured another whiskey. Tomorrow he was going to meet The Invisible Girl, Ant-Man and Wolverine face to face to essentially make demands on people who could level the city without flexing a muscle. They wouldn’t, but it was a frightening thought. Here he was, girlfriend gone, getting drunk and most likely not going to sleep at all tonight.
He chuckled. Not a good formula for first impressions.
Making his way through the dark apartment to his bedroom, he found it lit only by the street lamp. Her dresser drawers were open and empty, her things cleaned off the top. He traced his fingers around the spots untouched by dust. That rectangle was where her jewelery box sat. The circle, her snow globe. He traced them all, seeing each item as it had lay. Sudden anger gripped him and he slammed the tumbler down then punched the drawers closed. Just as suddenly it left him and, breathing hard, he slowly fell to his knees. Tears came then and he couldn’t stop them.
He was aware enough to be somewhat baffled by how quickly his emotions were changing, but under it all was numbness. Too much, all at once. The task force, her leaving and the Other. He looked at the closet then. It was there waiting for him as it was every night. The Other. His mistress. Justice.
Crawling, he pried the folding door open with his fingertips. Fumbling in the dark, he pushed aside shoes, sneakers and an umbrella until he found the box. There was never another woman, Val. Only the Other.
He pulled the box to him, kneeling he opened it as if he was one of the bomb squad. It was too dark to see what was inside but he knew. All too well. Reaching in, he felt the coarse fabric, wrapped his fingers around it and lifted.
A passing car threw brilliant light into the room and Matt found himself staring into the black, empty eyes of Shadowed Justice.
“It’s too late, Val, I know,” he whispered, “but I’m burning this tonight.”
Lieutenant Matthew Hannigan, New York Police Department, put the cover back on the box and hid the costume of Shadowed Justice, the NYPD’s most wanted non-super vigilante.
*Lyric credits are “Ask DNA” by The Seatbelts and “The Sky Is Crying” by Elmore James.