Wilbur wasn’t sure how long he’d been in the shower for – he lost track at two hours. The adrenaline high had long since crashed down and the alcohol had flushed from his system. That wasn’t the first time he’d been in serious danger before, but no one had actively tried to murder him. He felt the bruise on his chest again with pruny fingers. If that round had hit his neck…
Fritz pounded the bathroom door. “You can’t hide in there forever, dude.” He’d gone to question him about his missing defibrillator gloves, and it didn’t take him long to piece things together.
Wilbur groaned. “Says who?”
Reluctantly, he got dressed and went outside. Fritz was waiting with folded arms.
“What the hell were you thinking, Willie?”
“I wasn’t.” He pointedly avoided eye contact as he made his way to his office chair.
“Obviously! That was Skinnyman! You’re lucky he didn’t turn you inside out like a used sock!”
“You’re the one who made me feel bad about Ryan’s sister.”
“I didn’t think you’d run into his lair and pick a fight with him! You could have just fired a professional. Or, you know, called the cops? You could have died Wilbur. What would have become of the company then? Jumping in there thinking you’re some goddamn superhero…”
Wilbur pounded the desk. “Alright, I get it already! It was probably pretty stupid of me, but you know what? I’m tired of being treated like a goddamn child, or immature spoiled brat. Sorry for wanting to do something important for once.”
Fritz, now sullen, just shook his head. “Jesus, you just haven’t been the same since your parents passed. What do you think they’d feel if they saw you like this?”
“Man.” Wilbur inhaled deeply and jabbed a finger. “Don’t even go there.”
Someone knocked on the door, a welcome distraction.
“Hey boss? A police detective is here to see you.”
A police detective? The man in the suit?
With trepidation Wilbur said “Let him in.”
Between the detective’s clean new suit and eerily calm demeanor, there was no obvious sign of him having been a captive of Skinnyman’s a few hours prior.
“Wilbur, my name is Detective Jefferson Higgins. But you can call me Jeff. I owe you my life. The least I could do is tell my co-workers I couldn’t get a good look at your face.”
Wilbur and Fritz sighed in unison.
“That’s good,” Wilbur said. “You uh, you seem well. What were you doing in there anyways?”
“Gonna be riding the desk a few weeks,” he replied with a bit of a frown. “Investigating the Skinnyman kidnappings, of course. It’s not a case most of the office wants to touch.”
He stuck his hands in his jacket pockets before retrieving his business card, sliding it across the desk.
“Skinnyman is gonna want your head on a pike. For your sake Wilbur, stay low, I’ll handle it from here. But if anything comes up, don’t hesitate to give me a call. Good night now.”
Wilbur stuck his hand up. “Hold up. Aren’t you going to ask me what was I thinking?”
Jeff laughed. “You don’t read the news a lot, do you Mr. Scholz? There’s a lot of crazy reasons people do the hero thing.”
As Jeff left, Wilbur gave the card a once over. Then he turned to Fritz. “Good night now.”
“Alright, alright.” Fritz threw his hands up. “I guess we’ll talk later.”
“Come on, come on… whoa!”
Wilbur tumbled over the chain link fence and onto his face. Ouch. They made it look so much easier in the movies. Fortunately, he was wearing his mask.
Yeah, he knew he shouldn’t have. He’d tried to talk himself out of going out again, to put the cape shit to bed, but it didn’t work. It wouldn’t work so long as Skinnyman was still out there, or those thousands of other criminals that were endlessly victimizing people. What else was he supposed to be doing on a Friday night, getting hammered again? This was way more exciting, and less likely to have him vomiting over the toilet.
Thursday had seen him up til two in the morning ordering the rest of his ‘costume’, if one would call it that. He’d be swapping out the hoodie for a kevlar-lined leather jacket, black with red accents. A red tee shirt would disguise a lightweight bulletproof vest – couldn’t be safe enough, right? He’d also ordered black jeans and black and red sneakers, the former of which were, of course, kevlar-lined. Bless the internet.
His unceremonious entrance into the Cauldron was fitting. While it hadn’t been written off by the local government like Olympic City had, it was still a fairly rough neighborhood, with a fair bit of drug dealing and prostitution. Sooner or later someone would act up, and when they did, he’d be there.
Wilbur climbed up the roof of a Chinese restaurant, crouched by a ventilation shaft, and watched the traffic. Most of it in this area was by foot, and mostly in groups. That’s why it didn’t take him long to become suspicious of a man in a hoodie approaching another man who had been smoking on the street corner. Wilbur gripped the roof’s edge and leaned in to listen.
“Yo man, I’m uh, sorry to ask, but can I bum a cig?”
“Sure, I bought an extra pack.”
Dammit. He slunk back and sat up against the AC. A group of kids passed by, intoxicated and laughing, but not doing anything suspicious. Some jackass rolled by with his subwoofers so loud all the nearby windows were rattling. Wilbur threw his hands to his ears, tapping with his foot until the driver was gone.
Wilbur poked his head over the ledge. Some old asian guy, probably the manager, was standing in the alley.
“Why you on my roof? Get down from there before I call cops!”
Wilbur stuck his finger out. “Actually, sir, I’m just keeping an eye out for criminals. It’s community service you know.”
“Oh, you’re that electro guy from the news?” Had the details of Jeff’s rescue leaked already? “Well unless you plan on powering my restaurant, you’re trespassing. Get down.”
He grumbled under his breath the whole way, but complied, sliding down the ladder and skulking down the alley. The area was surprisingly devoid of people, other than a few taking out trash. He paced for a good while, sticking to the shadows until he found a guy struggling with a car door in a parking lot. In his hands was something that didn’t look like keys, and didn’t appear to be working.
“Goddammit it all.” He pocketed the device and picked up a metal rod, thrusting the sharp end forward. The thief reached in and unlocked the door.
Finally! Wilbur charged his glove, vaulted the hood, and pounded the thief’s chest with a fistful of lightning. The thief dropped like a sack of potatoes. Wilbur put his hands on his hips, laughing.
“Ulgh…” The thief assumed a fetal position, grasping his stomach. “Who the hell are you?” he wheezed. “Captain Goodwill?”
“Very funny.” Shit, what was he supposed to do now? He supposed he had to call the cops. Before he could reach for his phone, several squad cars rolled up. Half a dozen officers jumped out, hands over their sidearms.
“You there, in the mask! Hands where we can see them!”
“Whoa!” Wilbur did as he was told. “Everything’s cool here officers, I was just showing butterfingers the error of his ways.”
“Very funny. You got some form of identification?”
The cops looked at each other. One officer leaned towards another and said in a hushed tone, “Shit, since when did we have vigilantes in town? What are we supposed to do?”
The other officer shrugged and leaned out.
“You just interrupted a sting. We’re going to have to take you down to the station.”
“I see.” He pointed frantically behind them. “Hey, what’s that?!”
They turned to check, and he shot a bolt of electricity into the streetlight. He dashed to the nearest ladder, climbed it and began to building hop. Either they didn’t feel he was a priority or they didn’t feel the effort of a chase was worth it, because no one pursued. He jumped as many roofs as he could manage, until he was out of sight, but he was starting to get tuckered out, so he parked himself and caught his breath.
This… This is not going very well, he thought. A sudden frustration gripped him. What am I doing wrong? Why do I feel like a colossal fucking idiot? He wanted to just sit down for a while, but oh right, that was trespassing. He slid down the ladder and decided to call it a night.