The Shadow of a Fear

Reads: 160  | Likes: 0  | Shelves: 0  | Comments: 2

More Details
Status: Finished  |  Genre: Science Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
A psuedo-sequel to "Fear in the Shadows" (http://www.booksie.com/science_fiction/short_story/bburruss/fear-in-the-shadows) by my friend BBurruss.

A superhero of days gone by is haunted by memories, questioning whether the past really is behind him.

Submitted: December 04, 2011

A A A | A A A

Submitted: December 04, 2011

A A A

A A A


* a pseudo-sequel to Fear in the Shadows by BBurruss *

 

The knock at the door freed the chief from his filling-out-paperwork trance. He looked up to see the lieutenant behind the blinds. Great, he thought as his bit down on his cigarette, the guy whose mind is more clouded than this room. He immediately felt guilty for thinking such a thing; this man was a good friend, and they'd known each other for years. Still, as much as he hated his paperwork, he knew he'd hate this conversation even more.

With a heaving sigh, he waved in the man at the door.

“I thought you were going to give up smoking, Chief” the lieutenant said as he entered. The man was so colossal that the chief was always surprise he fit through the doorway as easily as he did. It was fascinating how the lieutenant's stature was contrasted with the optimistic and congenial attitude he used to have. The chief's lips formed a smile upon the memory, but his eyes turned sad as he acknowledge that that's all it was now: a memory.

The chief snuffed his cigarette. “I know, I know. I'll give it up next week.”

“Right, that's what you said a week ago. That's also what you said a decade ago.”

“Yeah, yeah. It's not like it really matters, though; this city'll kill me before the cigarettes will.”

“Not if I can help it” the lieutenant responded, his tone suddenly grave.

Well, that's just the segue I needed, the chief thought sarcastically. Darn it, this is going to be miserable. Better jump right to the point.

“You can't.” The lieutenant's surprise at such a remark was evident, but before he could reply, the chief continued. “You can't stop all the crime in the city. You can't put away all the big bads that ever existed. You can't guarantee the safety of every single man, woman, and child who walks these streets. And you especially can't do it while looking for a man who doesn't exist.”

The man on the other side of the desk opened his mouth to respond, but the Chief raised his hand to stop him. The two sat in silence for a few moments.

“Listen, Lieutenant. You're not the hero you used to be. I know that's hard to hear, but it's the truth, alright? You can't handle your work properly, you ...”

I've taken every case you've given me” the lieutenant interrupted, wounded. The chief tried to resume, but it was the lieutenant who went on. “I know you're worried that my ...” he looked out the door. Too many people were around. “... my special case is getting in the way, but I told you: I'm doing that on my own time so it doesn't interfere.”

“Right, right, but tell me this, then: do you sleep, huh?” No answer. “When was the last time you went to a bar or a party or something? You should get out and take it easy once in a while.”

“I don't have time to ...”

Make time!” the chief cut in. An expletive followed. “You can't go on like this. You're ... you're falling apart. You haven't been the same since that kidnapping all those years ago; I don't know how you let that psycho get to you. Heck, you haven't been the same since this the first psycho – since you put him behind bars.” There wasn't much of a change then, but the chief knew the lieutenant well enough to see that something was different behind those hazel eyes. It wasn't until that second lunatic came along that the lieutenant's demeanor changed. Thank God there hadn't been a third.

At least, he was convinced that there wasn't a third. The lieutenant disagreed, ... perhaps; the chief wasn't sure, to be honest, what was really going through his pal's mind. He considered the lieutenant's suspect to be a fictional third madman, but the way the lieutenant spoke of him … it was as if this suspect was the first psychopath all over again.

Look, look. You've been on this, uh, special case for fourteen months now. A case, I must add, that was closed six weeks after it was opened. I know you're convinced that there is something bigger, that we've missed something, that there is some mastermind behind it all, but you've made no progress since last I checked. At some point, you've got to call it quits. This line of duty … well, … your line of duty is wearing you down. You don't have much left to give, and I hate seeing you like this.”

The other man was silent, his eyes to the floor.

The chief had lost track of the number of times he had sighed in the past five minutes, but he made it one more as he stood up to lock the door and close the blinds.

“Do you still put on that mask? Still patrol?” the chief inquired, still standing. He was speaking softer and more slowly than he had been a minute ago.

The lieutenant looked up. He looked like he wanted to say something, but evidently, he couldn't find the words to say.

The chief cursed again. “Take a couple weeks off. You need to change how you're doing things, and it's going to start with you resting from all this. And don't put on that cape and cowl neither.”

After a long minute, the lieutenant opened his mouth. “It's a mask … not a cowl.”

The chief glared in response.

“Okay. Yeah, you're right, Chief. I just … I just need to ...”

“Right. Right, then in a couple weeks, we'll discuss where to go from here.”

The lieutenant stared off into nothingness. Then with a monotone voice, he echoed, “Where to go from here ...”

 

* * * * *

 

Only three more days. No, it's two now. Two, right? Yeah, I think it's two. He wasn't thinking any better than he had been before he left the precinct. The difference was that over the past several years too much had been going through his mind, while over these past couple of weeks too little was going through his mind.

He took another sip from the glass in his hand.

Only two more days. Then, I'll be back on the force, and … He might have been slow at that moment, but not slow enough to fool himself. … and then right back out after Chief and I talk about 'my future'. Chief was out at the end of the year anyway, and the new chief wouldn't really know him. He wouldn't know.

“How am I supposed to save them now?” he mumbled. The last of his allies would soon leave him, and his resources were dwindling.

There was still darkness in this world. Darkness and hatred and filth and fear. It was only a matter of time until the next attack. Only a matter of time, because he was still out there. The hero knew that he must be out there somewhere, despite all the evidence to the contrary. There was no doubt in his mind – until this week.

What if the chief is right? What if, well, … everyone is right? Have I just been fooling myself this whole time? Maybe I'm just chasing after ghosts. Maybe there is no more danger. Maybe he really is gone.

He set the whiskey glass down on the end-table next to a picture frame – a frame that caught his eye. Inside the frame stood a gorgeous brunette with gentle skin and eyes deeper than the ocean. Through the glass, she gazed back at the large man with an angelic smile in her lips. She was gone. That was the one thing he knew for sure. She was gone, and she was never coming back.

The lieutenant, who had been leaning back on his couch, stood up and walked toward the window. He stepped on a number of papers and folders on the way, but there was no path that allowed otherwise. The boxes of files and the bottles that accompanied them outnumbered the dust bunnies in the room. There was hardly any furniture left in the whole apartment, and all decorations had long since vanished. In the wall next to the window was a hole roughly the size of his fist. It wasn't the only one.

Through the window he looked down over skid row, dimly light by the setting sun. “There it is, hero.” he said to himself. “This is what you've been fighting for.”

Too quickly was his head filled yet again with far too many muddled thoughts. I need some air, he decided, and made for the door.

He paused when his hand touched the nob. Deep breath, hold, release. Another. One more. No, he couldn't do it, couldn't leave home without it. He turned back to the couch and picked up the duffel bag beside it. Now he was ready to go.

He walked down the stairs, stepped out of his apartment, and onto the street. He passed by one familiar building after another, and eventually his mind freed up enough to wander.

A sudden scream brought him back to reality. He couldn't remember what he had just been thinking about or how he got to wherever he was now, but it didn't matter. Someone needed his help. He bolted down the closest alley, ducked out of sight, and zipped open his duffel bag.

 

* * * * *

 

“Shut it!” the shady man ordered as he shoved the lady up against the brick wall. “No one's comin' ta get you outta this.” The alley was too dark for anyone to see what was happening anyway.

“Ow!” she cried with her face smushed against the wall

A second man held his gun up to her cheek. “What's the matter? We scratch up that pretty face of yours?”

The first man, who had just taken her coat off of her, threw it aside aside, freeing up both of his hands. He then pressed those hands against her. Harshly.

She let out a half-whimper half-moan. “Quit yer whinin'” the first man said. His right hand left her back and moved toward his belt.

Unexpectedly, he heard his partner speak with a bit of alarm in his voice. “Hey!” The gun was removed from the woman's cheek. “Stay out of this, man! Just walk away and ...” A whack sound interrupted him, followed by a thud.

The first man – who had been keeping his eyes on the woman – quickly turned to see what went wrong. For a brief second, he saw a dark figure behind the fist that was flying strait at his head. His eyes filled with both recognition and panic, and then there was darkness.

When he opened his eyes again, he was on the ground, and the woman was gone. His partner was coming to at that same moment, and the dark figure was looming over him. The first man reached for his interior coat pocket as he sat up.

The masked man grabbed his arm and pinned him to the ground. “Don't even think about it!”

“Fine. You take it, then.”

The vigilante reached for the same pocket and removed a badge. “FBI?” He was clearly confused. “No … no, you … you were pressing her against the wall, you had your hands all over her, you were reaching for ...”

“My cuffs,” the agent finished, “after I searched her.”

His partner started mumbling curses. Meanwhile, the avenger just knelt there motionlessly.

“We'd been trackin' her for a while. She's a known fugitive an' a threat to this nation. Finally got her … had her.”

Both agents stood up. The second wiped the blood from his lip as he glared at the masked man for a couple seconds. He then continued his curses as he walked out of the alley.

The first agent yelled an explicative of his own while he kicked the coat on the ground. He breathed heavily for a few seconds, then picked up the woman's coat and started to follow his partner.

“I'm sorry,” the vigilante said. The agent turned to face him. “I thought you … I mean it looked like … I can help you bring her down.”

“You've done enough. Just stay outta our way.”

Seeing that the city's old guardian was upset gave the agent pause. After a sigh, he said, “Look, we all 'preciate whacha did back in the day. Really, we do. But we ain't got loonies all over the place no more - blowing up evr'thang, killin' people left an' right. We don't need ya anymore.”

“... don't need me anymore,” came the hollow echo.

“Yeah ...” The agent tried to think of something else to say, but failed. Slowly he turned and walk out of the ally. He didn't hear any noise behind him, so he wasn't sure if the vigilante was capable of making stealthy exits … or if he was still standing there, unmoved.

The second agent was waiting at the car around the corner, having just called in their status. “Can you believe that guy?”

The first agent intended to match his partner's attitude, but as a series of files and newspaper headlines sifted through his memory, he heard himself say something else. “Yeah. He was a hero, after all.”


© Copyright 2017 Theodore Raven. All rights reserved.

Add Your Comments:

Comments

More Science Fiction Short Stories