Paragon City Pulp - $.10




The Emerald Cloak: Reflections of Midnights Past
Chapter 1 - Sundays at Atlas Park

The cheers from the crowd came clear through the trees, sending the pigeons flying away from the park bench, the scattered seeds they were feeding on, and the two men sitting on the park bench throwing those seeds.

“Humph.”, the old man sneered, looking to City Hall in disdain as a figure dressed in red and blue, a large white star centered on his chest raced by. Right behind him, followed a small group of heroes bounding, leaping and flying from City Hall's steps. A look of disgust came across the old man’s face as he emptied out his bag of bird seed, upset with the pigeons having flown off. “They act like they own the place.”

“Come on Dad, lighten up.” The younger one said still holding on to his bag of seed.

“Things we’re different in my day you know.”

A smile crossed the younger man’s face. He shook his head as his father looked the heroes way. The lines in his face exposed him as a very, very old and bitter man in the last years of his life. His face just naturally melted into a sneer. For a long time, the young man felt as if his father could only frown and no longer had the facial muscles to smile. He watched the heroes charge off to battle himself, who knows who they were off to vanquish this time. Were the Fifth Column out on street corners again spreading their hate? Could the Vahz be creeping from the sewers once more? He pondered the question for a few mere seconds longer then he looked to his father’s face one more time and saw what he was sure, was jealousy. He hoped that when he was this old 40, maybe 50 years later, he wouldn't be this unhappy.

“Missing the good ole' days?”

Looking back to him the old man had lost his frown. The sneer wasn’t gone completely, yet his eyes sparkled as he sat silent for but a moment as if trying to remember. He looked past his son, as if he was talking to someone else far beyond him, “William boy, let me tell you something.” He leaned back and watched as a pack of children ran by him, all following the heroes. His hands trembled as they tightened around the top of his cane as he pointed the children’s and heroes way. “Back then that was the last thing we needed!”

William leaned back and got comfortable, pulling one knee up over the other, “What was?”

“Anybody knowing we even existed.” His eyes rolled back and a grunt came from his lips, "Now you can't even take a step without having some costumed hero bump into you." He raised his hand, holding it out, palm exposed, "City if heroes indeed." he sneered.

“You never wanted the fame, admiration, or acknowledgement?”

The old man shook his head, “Fame? It’s about doing right, son - not the popularity.” The cane began to shake, with the old man’s hand atop of it, and his voice trembled as he spoke. “I was more interested in saving lives and putting those behind bars who deserved it.”

“Honestly, you got more than you’re fair share of bulbs popping your way.”

“Humph.” He shifted how he sat and looked away from his son once more. “[censored]. It was part of the cover.”

Regret immediately came over William for what he had just said and he tried to think of something he could quickly say to get back in the good graces of his father. “You’re right. You did a lot of good.”

The old man’s head came only halfway back around. He stared forward and looked at one lone pigeon making its way back to the seed. “You know why?”

William shrugged and waved his hands up from the bench in submission, “No, why?”

“Because…” he whispered, “they never knew if we were real.” His eyes sparkled again. “We were like the boogeyman to those criminals. They only heard stories. Most of them would laugh it off. One or two would even listen.” A snort came from the old man, and William took it as laughter. “It was for the best, they went on doing what they were doing, because they never really believed in us back then. That’s how we got them, caught them off guard.”

William nodded, “But there were stories, I heard them.”

“Exactly, but everyone took them as just that, stories.”

“How do you think I found out about you being The Emera…?”

The old man began to gasp, “Would you keep your voice down.” He looked about for a second, “Suppose someone heard you?”

“No need, Dad. Everyone is gone from the park to see what Statesman and the Freedom Phalanx is doing down the block.” William cringed and knew he hit a nerve again and wished sometimes he thought more about what he said first, before saying it.

“That’s what got you in trouble boy, not thinking. It’s almost what got you killed that night too.” He said, tapping his son’s knee with his cane.

“Well, when your old man is the city’s most successful defense attorney and has meetings every night with Paragon City’s most notorious gangsters of the time, you tend to get curious.”

“Certainly taught me to check the car from that point on.”

William smiled and snickered softly.

The old man turned his head away once more, “Glad you think it’s funny boy, you almost caused the death of an innocent women that night.”

“That didn’t happen though.”

“Thanks to me.”

“Tell me the story.” William patted his father’s knee, “You know I love hearing it.”

“Why?” The old man asked looking at his son with a scrutinizing eye. “You were there. You know what happened.”

“Because, I love being the only one to know the story and hearing it from the man himself.”

Beneath the old mans lip’s, teeth flashed. Slowly, but surely, a smile was beginning to crack. “Then let me tell it to you from the beginning.”

“It doesn’t start with me being in the trunk?”

“Oh no.”, the old man said as he leaned back in the park bench, trying to get comfortable once again. “It starts way before that.”





--- comments are more then welcomed int his thread.



The Emerald Cloak: Reflections of Midnights Past
Chapter 2 - Every Dog Has His Day

Paragon City, 1929

“Not guilty!”, the heavy set man in the pin-striped suit said as he vigorously shook the hand of the man standing next to him. His smile was enormous and wide across his great face. A man once said about him that the last time he saw a mouth like that, he saw a fishhook in it and that fish was now hanging in the fish market down the street. That man was dead days later, executed in a barber shop, his body riddled with bullets. Whispers were that “Bulldog” Bobby Bowery waited outside in a sedan until the haircut was done, “So he could go to grave looking nice, y’know?”

“Not guilty!” the man repeated. His smile actually widening so far that it looked like two fish hooks were pulling from each of the corners of his mouth. Shaking his head from side to side and getting his hand heartily pumped from the mobster before him, all Michael Craig could do was act humble.

“Mr. Bowery, you’re an innocent man. All I did today was prove it.”

The Bulldog playfully slugged him in the shoulder, then turned towards the press as they closed in a tight circle around them at the defendant’s table. Burning filament, popping bulbs, and bright flashes filled the courtroom as the reporters began to bark out their questions. Only a handful of people left the courtroom as those two men became the center of the universe at that moment in Paragon City. Questions flew and the answers came quick and rapid from The Bulldog. Michael Craig stood tall and smiled next to his client. With each word he nodded and smiled in agreement. From the corner of his eye he could see Ms. Tougas being escorted away by the Paragon City Police, the star witness against The Bulldog in his murder trial. Her face was a mask of many sorts. Makeup streaked down her face, evidence of the harshness of Mr. Craig’s cross examination and the confusion he put her in. Since that moment, the tears came steadily from her eyes. Her lips now trembled, realizing that the man who had made her a widow with 2 young children was free. For a second, Michael Craig came in eye contact with one of the few reporters who followed her out.

“Is it true that you bought the jury, Mr. Bowery?” one reporter shouted above the crowd.

Before the Bulldog could respond Mr. Craig had snapped into action. “Excuse me?” he barked as he glared at the reporter in disgust and gently held the Bulldog by the shoulder. “My client was found innocent by a jury of his peers. Circumstantial evidence was shown as just that and the eyewitness account and testimony of Ms. Tougas was proven shaky at best by my cross examination and the simple display of fact.” Patting the Bulldog on the back, he continued, “For years I’ve been saying that the Paragon City Police Department is corrupt and that honest business men like Mr. Bowery have been their scapegoats!”

*** *** ***

William snickered softly as to not scare the pigeons who were slowly coming back as he fed them, “How were you able to say that with a straight face?”

“Years of practice by lying to your mother that I wasn’t down by the pool hall.” The old man quipped back.

“Funny thing is, Dad, you were right, the P.C.P.D. was corrupt.”

*** *** ***

His shoulders shifted uncomfortably and for a second, Mr. Bowery actually slackened his jowls and the look of pity came across his face as his defensive attorney, Michael Craig championed him.

“Now if you excuse me gentlemen, my client is tired and has had a very, very exhausting day persevering this trial.” Protectively, his arms came around the Bulldog as he escorted him out of the courtroom and through the halls of the Paragon City Courthouse. Reporters followed them, shouting questions still and Bobby Bowery continued forth, his lawyer right behind him shouting short replies back.

“There’s always tomorrow gentlemen.” Michael Craig said as they began their decent down the stairs of the courthouse. A sedan waited for them and two burly men opened the doors as they jumped in and pulled away.

Struggling to get comfortable the Bulldog turned in his seat. With the other two men, his bodyguards and his lawyer, Mr. Michael seated next to him, the sedan became rather uncomfortably small. From his coat the Bulldog pulled a cigar cutter and chopped the end off a cigar and quickly stabbed it into his mouth. He waved to one of his bodyguards and a briefcase appeared from his side, was placed into his lap and handed over to Mr. Michael.

“I won’t be offended if you counted it now, Mr. Craig.” The Bulldog said as he pulled a lighter and put it to his cigar.

“Not necessary.” he said with a motion of his hand, casually waving the comment off, then taking the briefcase and resting it in his lap.

“You were worth every penny.”

“I appreciate your confidence Mr. Bowery.”

The Bulldog chuckled and slapped the briefcase once with a flat hand, “Care to celebrate with me tonight, you worked damn hard for me, I’d like to show you my appreciation.”

He smiled then tapped the briefcase, “This is appreciation enough, Mr. Bowery.”

Laughing back, the Bulldog nodded, “I suppose it is, better yet anyways, I have some business to attend to before I have any celebrating to do tonight.”

The sedan slowed to a building and one of the burly men stepped out from the car and opened the door as Michael Craig exited the vehicle.

“The day is young Mr. Craig and the nights going to be extra long, you sure you don’t care to celebrate?”

Again he smiled and patted the briefcase, “Unfortunately Mr. Bowery I have to work to do.”

The Bulldog laughed as his henchman stepped back in the sedan and closed the door. He leaned out the window and his laughter become deeper, "Keep defending the innocent.” He bellowed as he waved, the black sedan sputtering away.

Michael Craig stood on the edge of the sidewalk and waved until the Bulldog was out of sight. Seconds later another sedan pulled around the corner and stopped in front of him… the front passenger door swung open and he leapt in as they speed off.

The driver looked to his passenger as he pulled off his coat and then pulled on a scarf and wrapped it around his neck, he then took his fedora off then replaced it with a newsboy cap. With each passing moment in the sedan, Michael Craig began less to look like the hot shot lawyer and more like a dockworker about to hit the bars and pool halls. His dress shirt with the fancy cuff links soon came off revealing a grayish undershirt.

“You think I’d learn to get changed in the back coach of the sedan by now, wouldn’t you?” he grunted as he struggled with his pants, kicking his dress shoes off.

The driver nodded as he turned the sedan down one alley, then down another. They were heading towards Michael Craig’s home. “They’re going to snuff her tonight.” he calmly said.

Michael stopped struggling with his pants. “Tonight? Already?”

The driver just nodded once more.

“That’s pretty dicey, the night he was acquitted?”

“Just remember, you’re the one who got him off.”

“I’m going to be the one to put him back in too.” He pulled the pants on and tossed the slacks into a duffle bag. “Besides, I got the money.” He patted the briefcase. “And we had to do this, to drag it out a little longer, to find out just who exactly is corrupt on the p.d.”

“Well laid plans and all y’know?”

“Maybe I’ll get lucky? Maybe this will all come together just right?” He pulled the belt tight on his pants and then sat for a few seconds in the seat, relaxing briefly. “I just hope nothing else goes wrong.”

The driver began to slow as they came to his home. “Nothing you haven’t dealt with before.” They stopped and he looked to Michael, a very different man from who entered the car. “Catch you at the docks tonight?”

“Of course.” he tipped his hat and grabbed the duffle bag and briefcase, “I think we’re going to need one more along for the party though.”

The driver pulled the door closed as he got out and Michael leaned in through the window. “I’ll get hold of Charlie, Michael.”

“Thanks.” Michael said.

“No sweat.”

“No, really.” His eyes fell to the ground. “Had she died and I let it happen, I don’t know…”

“She won’t, not if we’re there tonight.”

Michael smiled, “Thanks to you, Oswald.”

“Thanks to us all. We’re a team.” Oswald said, “I hear things, I tell you. You just do what has to be done, okay”

*** *** ***

“Do you miss Charlie and Oswald?” William asked.

“Almost as much as I miss your mother.”

William nodded and smiled, “A team, huh?”

“We were really 3 people. Sure, it was I who mostly got the credit for taking all the lumps and putting my neck on the line, but Oswald was our ears though. Anything, if it was said and out there, he heard it. He was better than reading the dailies”

“Charlie was the brains, huh?”

“Kept me from getting killed, no matter how stupid I was.”

William sat back and waited for his father to continue speaking. “That’s why you stopped, isn’t it?”

“When they…?” the words couldn’t come from his lips. He just looked ahead, then to the sky. He fought off the tears as best he could. How he held them in, he never knew. “It was over when they were gone, I just couldn’t do it alone.”

“That was a long time away from this though, wasn’t it?”

“You saw them at their best kid, remember it.”




The Emerald Cloak: Reflections of Midnights Past
Chapter 3 - Promises

“A boy needs his father.” The nanny said.

Michael did his best to shrug her comment off, although it irked him in the worst of ways. But, she was right. She would know best he thought to himself, after all, she was a woman. And that was why he hired her anyways, to take care of William. Setting the briefcase down on the end table in the foyer she stood behind him not letting up.

“Especially since he is without his mother.” she said looking down her nose at him.

Michael winced and groaned. That verbal shot hurt, a lot. With his back turned too, none the less. He stood up straight and set his hands on his hips as he turned around to face Ms. Denucci. He immediately regretted it. Over her long thin hawk like nose she stared at him with her dark beady eyes. He nearly felt like he was back in school again and had a sudden sense of fear rush him. “I’m sorry ma’am” he wanted to say and turn away and go mope in a corner.

Sighing he said, “Ms. Denucci, you understand that as a working professional, I do have long difficult hours. These long hours enable me to provide my boy with the best of care, which includes paying you.”

“And here you are about to go back out, and to the pool hall too from the looks of it I might add, rather than spend a few moments with your boy.” she retaliated, crossing her arms and taking a firmer stance on her feet.

“I just stepped in.”

“And before you step out, I insist on you seeing your boy at least to wish him goodnight.”

Knowingly Michael nodded. “You’re right, Ms. Denucci.”

She smiled at the victory and took his duffle bag of laundry, “Shall I have these washed and ironed and ready for tomorrow?”

“Yes, please.”

She turned and walked away as Michael rubbed his forehead in aggravation of himself. Maybe he should see William, just to make sure he was ok and say a word to him before he went to sleep?

*** *** ***

“Was she always that hard on you?”

The old man nodded and laughed. “Harder. You had it easy, son.”

“Says you.” William chuckled, “She rapped my knuckles quite a few times with a ruler.”

*** *** ***

Slowly Michael opened the door to William’s room and peered inside. A sliver of light came into his room and Michael opened the door a little wider, hoping that no creak would awake his son if he was already asleep. Across the darkness he could see the shape of his son turned the other way in his bed, blanket pulled far over his head. Michael’s eyes fell to the ground, he didn’t want to wake his son William, but he wanted so much to let him know that he was there. Best to let him sleep he thought to himself. Saying a quick prayer, he closed the door and made a promise to himself to spend all day with his son tomorrow at the park and cinema.

Turning away from the door and leaning up against it he let a thousand different thoughts fly through his mind. Putting his hands in his pockets, his fingers came around a cold, flat and round object. Smiling he pulled it out and flipped the cover open. The hands on the pocket watch said it was close to 8 p.m. He tilted the gold pocket watch so the light would catch it in just such a way and read the inscription quietly to himself. His lips just barely moving, “To Michael, Best Luck In Law. Your Love, Jennifer.” He snapped the cover shut and dropped it back in his pocket.

“Two promises I have to keep now.” he sighed.

*** *** ***

William stretched on the bench, “You were going to get him one way or the other, huh?

“Without a doubt.” The old man said, his fist tightening around his cane.

Groaning as he pulled his arms back in and setting his knee back up, William asked, “Why did you wait so long?”

The old man thought about it and really didn’t have an answer that satisfied him and was sure it wasn’t going to satisfy William. “I wanted it to be perfect.”


“Perfect.” The old man said as he nodded.

*** *** ***

He closed the trunk of the sedan, leaving the suitcase with his equipment square in the middle and laying flat then jumped in behind the wheel and pulled it out from the garage. Closing the garage door he was soon on his way to the docks where he was to meet up with Charlie and Oswald. The newsboy cap pulled tight over his eyes Michael tapped his thumbs on the wheel whistling a jazz tune as he was on his way. Behind him, without knowing lay William on the back cabin floor as still as he could be.

On the playground he heard all the talk about the gangsters. While playing stickball in the streets, they would all pass stories to one another. Between swinging at the ball and throwing themselves out they would taunt, threaten and tease to whack each other and send ‘em in the drink with concrete shoes.

“Ya’ better watch what ya’ say around Will!” one of them said teasingly.

“Why’s that?” another said.

His gum popped, “His dad works for them ya’ know.”

William felt uneasy and his cheeks flushed red. He had no clue about what they were all talking about. All he knew was that his father did something having to do with the law and just happened to be around the gangsters sometimes. “He does not.”, was all he could mumble.

“Yer’ next Vinny!” one of them teased as they playfully shoved him into another one of the kids.

They all laughed.

He heard the stories. He saw his dad in pictures sometimes with them in the newspaper. But he was sure his dad had nothing to do with them. His father wasn’t a gangster. Still though, all the stories he heard about the gangsters. He just had to see for himself. If he just sat quiet, and didn’t move a muscle, he might get lucky and catch a glimpse of one. Then he could tell them all what he saw the next day. He just hoped that it wouldn’t be telling them that his father was a gangster.




The Emerald Cloak: Reflections of Midnights Past
Chapter 4 - The Suit Makes the Man

The trunk of the sedan opened and Michael pulled the suitcase out and set it on some nearby crates.

“You won’t be needing that.”, a man in a bowler hat boastfully said.

“Uncle Charlie?” William whispered to himself as he poked his head out from over the backseat of the sedan. He could see three men gathered around the crate and suitcase and recognized one as his father, the other as Uncle Charlie and the third as a friend of his fathers that he knew as Oswald. William couldn’t understand what they were saying. In the back seat where he was, he could only hear a word or two clearly. Frustrated he looked out the front window of the sedan and saw down the alley many more warehouses and buildings of Patriot City’s docks. To the side he could see another sedan, the two parked side by side so as to block the alley.

“I got some fancy new threads for you.” Charlie said as he snapped Michael’s suitcase shut, “They’re in Oswald’s car.”

William spun his head around and saw Uncle Charlie grab the suitcase and start to turn towards the sedans. Quickly pulling his head down he stayed as still as possible, hoping that Uncle Charlie wouldn’t see him.

“You’re not going to believe this.” Charlie said as he looked back with a smile, pulling the trunk up from Oswald’s sedan. Tipping the bowler back on his head exposing his bright red hair, he pulled another, larger suitcase out.

“What’s he got?” Charlie asked.

Oswald shrugged, “I haven’t a clue.”, then folded his large muscular arms together, “But he wouldn’t stop yammering about it all the way here.”

“It’s dandy.” Charlie said, shutting the sedan’s trunk and moving back to the crate they were all gathered before.

Despite the cool temperature that night, William had sweat coming down his forehead. Afraid to so much as breath in fear that they would hear them, William’s face began to turn blue.

Michael looked down at the suitcase, “Well, you going to open it?”

Charlie leaned up against the suitcase and propped his arm up against it, holding up his chin.

Oswald shook his head, “Well?”

“I think I’ve outdone myself this time.”, Charlie said, his green eyes flashed of brilliance.

“Well, it’ll do Michael no good in the suitcase.”

William finally exhaled and quickly sucked in another gulp of air. He could hear them all chatting again and heard his father talking excitedly. Slowing his breathing, he started to gather up the nerve to look over the back seat of the sedan once more and out the window. His father stood before Oswald showing off a dark colored fedora. Uncle Charlie kept pointing under the hat and talking. Smiling, his father continued to nod as he set the hat aside and Uncle Charlie handed to him with a flourish what looked like a trench coat or was it a cape? William couldn’t see what all the fuss was about. A hat and trench coat? Or was it a cape? It looked a little like both.

“Like the color?”, Charlie asked.

Michael nodded, “You can barely tell it’s green, it almost looks all black.”

“The gold on the inside is a nice touch.”, Oswald said, “What about the rest?”

Charlie smacked his hand against the crate, “Glad ya’ said something! I almost forgot the mask!”

Reaching in the suitcase Charlie pulled out what looked like a short black stocking.

Michael looked it over as he took hold of it “That green too?” he asked as he moved it in the light.

He nodded, “Best of all, you can see right through it.”

“See out what?” Michael said, “There’s no holes for the eyes!”

“You numbskull.” Oswald exclaimed.

“No, no, no!” Charlie said as he snatched the mask away from Michael and pulled it straight down over his head. “It’s a special silk, that you can see right through, but no one can see your baby blues Michael.”

Michael held his hand up to his face, “Well, I’ll be.”, amusement in his voice.

Oswald’s eyes lit up, “Hey! Is that what those magician’s use when…”

“Yeah.”, Charlie quickly said, cutting him off.

Michael laughed, “You’ve outdone yourself this time, Charlie.”

“Swell job.”, Oswald replied.

“Thanke’.” Charlie said, tipping his hat.

A mask? William was hit with a sudden rush of emotion! Questions and thoughts began to fly through his mind. Why would his father be wearing a mask? Why would he not want anyone to see him? Uncle Charlie was there too and what did he have to do with all of this? Sinking back down in the seat he began to ask himself so many questions. Were his friends on the block right? Was his father working with the gangsters? Why else would he need the mask? Tears began to well up in his eyes and his lip began to quiver. “It’s not true.”, he quietly told himself over and over.

“They won’t know what hit them tonight.”, Oswald said as he patted Charlie on the back.

Michael smiled at them both, “Finally, after so many years.”

“We keep our promise to her tonight.”, Oswald said.

Charlie leaned back up against the crate, the smile quickly faded, “You know what happened so many years ago with that ‘Bulldog’ fella’, that wasn’t right. With your wife…”, he looked at Michael, “and your sister…” he looked at Oswald. “And he ran my garage out of business.”, Charlie said, spitting at the ground. “I had to start over as a simple bicycle shop when he torched my business.”

Michael’s eyes fell to the ground, “I blame myself for what happened to Jennifer.”

“Not your fault.”, Oswald patted Michael on the back, “You twos’ went out for a swell night.”

Charlie continued, “Yeah! How were you to know there was a hit at that fancy joint that night?”

Oswald did his best, “Besides, ‘Bulldog’ pulled the trigger, not you.”

“Yeah!”, Charlie exclaimed, “That heartless bum mowed down a whole restaurant just to get to one person.”

Michael shook his head, “Still.”

“Well, tonight he gets his.” Oswald said, slamming one fist into the other.

Charlie took hold of what looked like a large black handbag, “I got my bag of tricks.”, he said walking down the alley.

“And I’ll change.”, Michael said, “Time to get into the suit, and try out this new mask, cape and fedora.”

“Right behind you.” Oswald said as he followed Charlie into the darkness.

Charlie and his bag of tricks as he liked to call it was a huge part of the plan. Before Michael was to go in, they were to do some electrical work on the warehouse they were about to raid. Once Charlie was in place and okay, Oswald would then watch Michael’s back and Charlie would watch them all. The key was surprise Charlie told them all, as usual. “Like we always do.”, he said, “Go in, cut the lights, confuse them, do what we have to do, and get the hell out of there.” When the signal was given, Charlie would call the police and all three of them would be gone by the time they arrived. If everything went right.

Earlier in the day while at the pool hall Oswald overheard the conversations that lead them all here between a few of ‘Bulldog’s’ men. Not by chance mind you, Oswald owned the pool hall. Or that was the appearance that they allowed him to have. Years before they had leaned heavy on him for protection. Seeing a chance for something to come of it in the future, Michael gave him the money needed. Their “enterprise” as heroes allowed them to keep up payments. Soon enough, it was a hangout for the hoods and several well known mobsters’ lackeys.

Charlie had the place wired. In the back room, hidden away was a recording device. On all the overhead hanging lamps, Charlie had microphones. It was how he got the news. Occasionally he overheard things himself. On a rare chance, he might just be out and out told by one of the hoods what was going down. Oswald was even offered once to be part of the business by several guys. He politely declined, informing them he already had a business to run. He had hoped one day that his pool hall would be his again. Perhaps it would be, after tonight.

Charlie pulled a small hand sized mirror out from his bag and held it around the corner. “They’re here all right.” In it’s reflection he saw several men standing around a sedan just chatting away.

Oswald was glad the information he got was correct.

Charlie looked around, unsure of what to do. Looking up, he realized that he needed to be up on the roof of the warehouse. Against the wall he saw a stack of crates. Luckily enough, by a power box to surely what must be the warehouse itself. Just out of reach above the crates were a row of windows, a few actually open.

“We need to be up there” Charlie said, pointing to the windows.

Oswald nodded in reply, “I think I can get you up there, but me getting up there, that’s another story.”

Michael had pulled on the mask. It was light, and smooth to the touch and thankfully not only could he see out of it just fine, but he could breath through it without any trouble at all. He had his suit on. The vest was tightly buttoned and the trench coat was tight as well. Over his shoulders he could feel the draped cloak attached to the trench coat. Around his neck he kept the scarf. His fingers ran down the length of the cloak, the material was only slightly heavy, but he could feel it weighted on the sides, down near the edges. Funny how he thought of the cloak as almost a separate piece of the ensemble, even thought it was sewn into the trench coat. He shifted the sack on his side, which he would dump once inside the warehouse. He kept his hands inside it as he walked down the alley, his fingers wrapped around a grappling hook. He had hoped that Oswald and Charlie were in position, were ready. In just a minute, he would be entering the warehouse and it would all begin and end.




Well done. Looking forward to Chapter 5!



The Emerald Cloak: Reflections of Midnights Past
Chapter 5 - From The Shadows

William had argued with himself as he sat there in the backseat of the sedan. Stay? Go? He decided upon each at least a hundred times over. Earlier he saw Uncle Charlie leave with that Oswald guy, then just seconds ago watched as his father snuck down the same alley but then turned a different way. If they weren’t gangsters, then what were they? Making his decision, he opened the door of the sedan and stepped out. First he looked around, then closed the door and slowly tip toed over to the corner. Long shadows stretched before him and a mist rolled in from the docks and was slowly blanketing the warehouses. Several different paths were before him, but which did they take? William thought he saw his father go this way. That would be the safest way to go he assumed to himself. Sticking close to the walls and still walking on his tip toes, William wandered that way into the mist.

Michael was amazed, it was so cold that he could see his breath actually hang in the air. Radiant, it shattered the tiniest bits of light and sent them scattering into the darkness only to sink and disappear into the shadows. His heart slammed against his chest repeatedly. No matter how many times he had done this before, this time it was different. There was a chill in the air, he was sure of it, yet that was not what raised the hair on the back of his neck nor was it what sent chills down his spine. It was the evil that lurked below.

An unexpected hesitation came to him and he backed away from the window of the warehouse and tried to then compose himself. His mind raced with thoughts. For so long he thought about revenge against the man who made him a widower. It never occurred to him that when the moment finally arrived that he would be stricken with a great trepidation. Deeply inhaling he closed his eyes and thought of her for the moment. He blocked off all his senses as his hand went deep inside his vest pockets and laid upon the timepiece. It ticked. He felt it tick. He closed his eyes and dwelled silently on a night he would never forget

The flashes of the Tommy gun burst and he heard nothing. All he saw was himself and his son, William, slowly falling to the floor. Many people screamed, he knew it because he saw mouths falling open and faces twisting into screams of terror and fright. Yet he heard nothing. As he laid on the ground, other people began to fall with him. His hands where on his son, William, he felt his arm and as he looked up, he saw the flashes from the Tommy gun. Flash-Tick. Flash-Tick. Flash-Tick. Time slowed. Then he saw the men standing behind the guns. His hand clenched tighter around his dear wife Jennifer’s mink. He turned to tell her something then saw she wasn’t there. Her mink was in his grasp, but she wasn’t. He turned to look up and saw her paralyzed with fear in her eyes. His hand began to reach up to grab her and slowly his fingers grabbed her elbow then he saw her shake violently two times. Shudder-Tick. Shudder-Tick. Time crept. Her head tipped back and her eyes suddenly became glassy. Falling forward she slumped against the table. As he pulled her elbow, she gently listed to the side, but wouldn’t come down. His fingers struggled and once more grasped at her and clawed at her body. She finally fell towards them. They laughed. He couldn’t hear it, but he saw them all laughing. Their mouths hideously stretched into wretched smiles at the chaos they were causing. Her body rolled over as he pulled at her. A crimson color began to spread across the chest of her white blouse like a rose blooming open. In her eyes he saw darkness and a light slowly fading. Then something liquid and red fell from the table above onto her face. Drip-Tick. Time stopped. His own face seemed to melt as he looked at hers. Then he looked back towards the men with the guns. He carved their faces into the stone walls of his mind.

Opening his eyes, the surroundings of Paragon City’s docks once more jumped at him and filled his senses. The haze of the street lamps below glowed with a glaze. A stench of mulched paper and days old fish filled his nostrils. Shadows stretched across the huge walls of the warehouses. Waves slapped at the rotted wood of the docks. A sour taste filled his mouth. Faintly he could hear the bell of a buoy rocking in the waters. Then steps echoed and voices carried in the sheet metal valley and canyon of warehouses. He felt the pocket watch ticking again. “It’s time.”, he whispered to himself as he looked back to the window. He only hoped Charlie and Oswald were ready.

*** *** ***

His eyebrows arched as his father stopped telling the story, “We’re they?” William asked.

** *** ***

“What do ya’ mean you can’t jump this high?” Charlie asked as he looked down at Oswald.

Oswald held out his hand, “Want to try to pull me up?”

Charlie was already teetering on the edge of a very thin windowsill. After all the struggling, crawling and effort, he wasn’t about to fall down to have to go through it again. Tilting his bowler back he pondered it for a moment as Oswald stood below him, hands on hips and waiting.

“I’ll drop you a rope.”

“I have to hand over fist it?”, Oswald asked.

Charlie nodded then turned back to the window and peered inside. A stack of crates blocked his view of anything directly into the warehouse. Thankfully, the stacked row before it was lower, so he could step onto something. Oswald had helped Charlie reach the power box, which he rewired to go out with the flick of a switch he controlled. That wire stretched several yards from the power box to the ledge he was now on. Palming his hand against the upper half of the window Charlie gave it a gentle nudge and it tilted open without any sound. A smile cracked across his lips as he slid inside and set his bag of tricks down on the crate. Pulling the wire inside with him he took the switch from his bag and made sure the connections were still firm. The stacks in front of and to the right of him were two high, so no one could see him. One stack to the left was only one high and not so high so as he could climb onto, then to the other in front of him. The dust was thick though and Charlie was just hoping it wouldn’t tickle his sensitive nose. The plan called for him to be on the catwalk at the right time. He needed to see Michael or at least hear him. If anything should go wrong, they were the back up. The lights were to go out, they would make their exit, and beat a hasty retreat. You can always come back another day to fight after all. Michael was unbending though, no mistakes. This was going to be done and be done right.

The switch was ready, just in case and Charlie leaned out the window, noticed Oswald and gave him the thumbs up sign. Oswald flashed ‘thumbs up’ back and stood close to the warehouse, he eyes shifting back and forth looking for any movement. Finding a solid pipe running up the wall, Oswald took the rope, tied it solid and tossed it out the window. Grumbling, Oswald rubbed his hands together and grabbed at the rope and began to climb up the side of the warehouse wall. “Hurry up”, Charlie said, “We’re going to need that rope.”

Oswald grunted as he pulled himself up along the rope and sneered, “Hurry up, hurry up, hurry up… wasn’t for me yer’ scrawny pipsqueak ‘self wouldn’t be up there!”

Several lights hanging on cords lit the warehouse, but the brightest, the one without a cover was above Ms. Tougas as she sat there tied in the chair, a hood over her head. Encircled around her were six hoods holding Tommy guns all talking, laughing and cavorting amongst themselves. Closest to her was one hefty, squat man, “Bulldog” Bobby Bowery who was walking rings around her.

“Shame a dish like her had the bulge on you, eh, Bulldog?” one hood said.

“What’s really going to be a shame is how the coppers find her.” He stopped for a second and held his hands in the air, “Disgraced Dame witness pulls Dutch act.” A billow of smoke came from his mouth as he shifted his cigar from one side to the other. Laughing he said, “The newsies will be yelling that one for tomorrow’s late edition.” They all laughed as she helplessly struggled against her binding ties, a pitiful whimper leaking from under the hood.

“Back away from her… now!” he said as he stepped forward from the shadows.

“Who in the hell is this guy?”, one of the gangsters asked, pulling up his gun.

“I don’t know…”, "Bulldog" Bowery said. Hanging lights from above formed a backdrop against which he could see a silhouette of a cloaked shape as it stepped out from the darkness. From beneath the slight slouched rim of the hat he couldn’t see any features. No face! No mouth! No nose! No eyes! But behind the mask blue eyes burned red at him. “…but blow him down!”, "Bulldog" Bowery commanded, pointing at him with the cigar.

Tommy guns blazed to life, flashing in random patterns amongst the half dozen gangsters who had laid their fingers on the triggers. Gusts of lead came towards Michael as he took a step back, braced himself and yanked his trench coat’s cloak in front of him.

** *** ***

“Bulletproof cape?” William asked.

The old man nodded, “Of course, but it hurt like the dickens.” as he began to explain to William, how Charlie told him how it worked...

...Charlie brushed his hand over the material of the trench coat and cloak, “Now you can’t just keep your finger on the button see…” he held the switch in his fingers for a second and pointed at the red button. “The charge only lasts a few seconds and the batteries will only let you do this a few times.” Michael nodded as he looked at the cloak and switch taking in everything that Charlie was telling him...

Charlie was taken aback, “Hurt? What do you mean?”

The old man laughed, “Hurt like hell, boy. The trench coat had a battery pack and the cloak had several dozen wires sewed in. It was like a reverse elctro-magnet. Charged, it repelled bullets… but like Charlie said, it only worked a few times and the batteries were drained.” He snickered, “And it gave you a nasty shock.”

*** *** ***

After the last bullet ricocheted off, Michael waved his cloak off with a flourish. Under the mask he gnashed his teeth together from the pain. “I wish Charlie would find a way to fix that.”, he thought to himself. His hands then tightened on the rods inside the cloak. “Bean-shooters.”, he sneered at the gangsters who looked at him with bewildered expressions. He swung his arms up and waved the sides of the cloak in front of him, aiming the tips at the group of bewildered gangsters. Pffft! Pffft! Two marble sized pellets shot from both tips of the cloak. Sailing across the room, small fissures of smoke began wafting from the insides of the pellets. Landing at the feet of the thugs the balls spun and rolled on the hard concrete, discharging large clouds of smoke.

“He’s gassing us!”, one hood coughed.

*** *** ***

“He never did get it fixed right.” The old man said, “The bullet shield.”, he clarified himself, “Always shocked the hell out of you.”

William smiled as he nodded, then scratched at his chin and guessingly asked, “Those pellets, tear gas?”

The old man shook his head, “Not this time.” He rocked back and forth, pondering for the moment, and finally snapped back to reality, “Charlie didn’t cook those up ‘till later. At that point the pellets were only heavy duty smoke bombs. Charlie was real good at this gadget thing. You see, this siw hat was so exceptional about that cloak.”, Michael began to explain...

..."Just like the other cloak?" Michael asked as his fingertips lightly went over the trigger.

"Just like the other one." Charlie said, "But!" he exclaimed as he raised a finger, "You get more shots this time! I modified the barrels to hold 6 pellets each!"

*** *** ***

Michael marched up to the chair that Ms. Tougas was bound to. Click! Clack! Another two marble sized pellets fell and within seconds the immediate area around them was also covered with smoke. The smoke engulfed them in billowing clouds and Michael quickly set to work.

“I’m a friend.”, he whispered in her ear as he palmed a knife from his trench coat and quickly cut the ropes keeping her to the chair. The knot around her wrists he figured best stay on. Spinning her around, he quickly had her tied up in another rope that he had pulled from a sack in the back of his coat. What looked like a flare gun was then drawn and aimed straight up. In the barrel was a claw grapple hook and what looked like some pulleys hanging off to the side and two lengths of rope. His arm went straight up and aimed towards the roof. With a bright flash and a loud popping sound the hook launched and stuck itself to the roof above.

Charlie saw the flash as he just got done pulling Oswald up. “Aw cripes! There it is… that’s the signal!” He quickly turned and looked to the crates in frustration. “Oswald we gotta’ get to the catwalk quick!”

Without saying anything more Oswald had grabbed Charlie and tossed him up to the higher crate. Reaching into his bag of tricks Charlie had grabbed a fist full of pellets, which he then tossed towards the catwalk. They bounced then rolled, several of them falling off the catwalk and falling to the floor below, making the already hazy and smoky room even more dense with the cloudy blackness. By chance a few had actually stayed on the catwalk and soon provided them the ample cover they needed.

Charlie reached over and held a hand out for Oswald, quickly helping him up onto the crate, “The catwalk over there we need…”

“Already on it.”, Oswald said interrupting and pushing Charlie aside as he eyeballed the distance from one stack of crates to the other. He leapt and safely landed then saw the catwalk before him, closer than the previous jump he made. Another jump and he was on the catwalk, but this time it rattled and made too much noise, then shifted below him from his weight as he landed. Stumbling forward he reached his hands out and grabbed onto to anything he could, “Please God, just don’t let me fall.”, was the thought racing in his mind as he saw nothing but swirling vapors of black smoke below.

“They’re there.” Michael thought to himself as he began to pull on the rope, hoisting Ms. Tougas up to the catwalk. The pulleys were doubled and with minimal effort he had her quickly rising. Charlie had no doubt dropped more gas pellets, the smoke was even thicker than before. Still, time was of the essence and Michael had to get her out of there and now. He was venerable and any second they would mostly likely start blindly firing and be over the element of surprise that he had so briefly captured.

The gangsters had fearfully backed away from the smoke unsure of what it was. Bowery had ran behind them, in fear of his own life himself. Grabbing the hat from one of his flunkies he held it over his face. Coughing he smacked one from behind over the head, “Whats wrong with you ya’ big dummy… throw lead at him!”

William had peered around the corner where he thought he heard voices. Gathering the nerve he finally looked and saw no one there. Just crates and an open window to one warehouse. Then the familiar rat-a-tat-tat of the Tommy guns filled the canyons of the warehouses and echoed off the walls of the buildings like the sounds of firecrackers in a can.

“Machine guns!” William said aloud.