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New Fiction: The Green Scorpion (Part III)

October 5, 2001

Continuing the tale of the Green Scorpion and the Metropolitan Man.

He was walking out the door of his air-conditioned apartment when the phone began to ring. The moon was full, the evening quite seasonably hot, and the air sticky. Out there—in the city—awaited his prey. He’d wasted valuable time earlier in the evening readying himself mentally and physically. The interview at F.I.S.H. had gone poorly. A child with a handful of quarters stood a better chance at winning the “big” prize at the arcade than Ray stood of being inducted into F.I.S.H. Yet, F.I.S.H. induction seemed to no longer matter. His meeting with The Swallow and the other F.I.S.H. sticks had left a stale taste in his mouth, like tuna on mayo left baking in the sun. She was out there—The Green Scorpion. Of that he was certain. He’d seen the tattoo—the elaborate tattoo and its number 13. He’d been to her apartment and had seen the Degas hanging on the wall. She called herself Janine, which he knew was a lie. Her name was of no significance to Ray. He’d stumbled upon the most elusive super-criminal in the United States, and he was determined to apprehend her. At which point he would return to the guppies at F.I.S.H., who had dismissed his story as so much seaweed, and utter the proverbial “told ya so.” Ray realized that he wouldn’t need to play with F.I.S.H. after he’d brought down the Scorpion. That solitary action would make his reputation known. It would solidify his place in the crime-fighting community, and he was certain it would either attract corporate sponsorship or the attention of other super-hero agencies in the country, most notably, The Los Angeles Super-Hero Syndicate, which had been the runner-up in Ray’s search for team membership. But before these grandiose dreams could be made reality, he had to catch a Green Scorpion by its hot little tail. The phone continued to chime out and he debated for a moment whether to answer its summons. On the eighth ring he answered, assuming the call must be urgent to warrant such persistence on behalf of the caller.

Twenty minutes later Ray headed out into the summer evening once again. The call from his mother had, as usual, stirred his emotions. She spoke at length about her friends and acquaintances who Ray, of course, did not know. She talked of her friends at the senior citizen center, and talked about the world economy (which, based on stories she’d watched on Larry King Live and the local news, was “lousy”), and she talked about the food at the VFW pig roast which had been good, but “not as good as last year.” Ray’s mom had lived alone for the past eight years following the death of her spouse. Ray thought his mom had coped amazingly well considering that his dad had more or less managed the household during the entire marriage. In the 12 years since he’d moved out of his parents’ home, Ray and his mom spoke weekly via phone. He visited two or three times per year; they lived only two states apart from each other, but work and life typically kept him from visiting more often--though he often felt guilty about it. As she usually did, mom had ended the call with what Ray considered her momly catch phrase: “Don’t forget, if you ever want to move back you’re always welcome.” She’d been saying this since the day he’d moved out. He’d smile politely through the phone and say, “My life is here,” but he was certain she didn’t believe him. And had she known about his Metropolitan Man alter-ego, she would most likely have had him committed.

At 10:05 p.m. Ray stood atop the roof of a five-story brownstone, adjacent to the apartment building in which the Green Scorpion so foolishly resided. He was 25-yards distant, and his vantage point was immaculate. Were his virtues not so pure, he might easily be snapping photographs for www.voyeurism.com. The lights in the apartment were out, meaning that she was out, meaning that she would be returning--sooner or later. And he would be there. A slight breeze brought a bit of a reprieve to Ray who felt overheated. He’d driven from his suburban apartment into the city and had parked his Honda Civic on the top story of a lot close to Kelley Street. From there he’d discreetly changed (which, anyone whose ever been in a Honda Civic would realize is no small task) from his “day” clothes into the black and red garb of the Metropolitan Man. The costume was a mish-mash of materials and fabrics—cotton and polyester with black leather boots purchased from a military surplus store. He wore a wide belt upon which was attached a variety of items he could utilize in his war against crime. One might actually call the accessory a “utility belt” did the phrase not reek of cliché. He wore black leather gloves that he’d purchased during a winter sale as Sears. The gloves had been lined with imitation fur which he’d ripped out with an X-acto knife after realizing that the padding: 1. made his hands extremely hot and sweaty, 2. severely lessened the impact of a right cross on an opponent’s face, and 3. triggered an allergic reaction that left his palms covered in bliters. Atop his head Ray wore a leather cap similar to those worn by bomber pilots of the 1940s. Leather chin straps hung on either side of his ears. Twin letter M’s had been stitched into the front center of the cap in red—his own idea. A pair of blue goggles masked his eyes--somewhat. He carried a haversack that contained a variety of items including bottled water, saltines, Doublemint gum, binoculars, a 35-mm camera, a standard-sized flashlight and an “Itty-Bitty Book Light,” and a copy of A Confederacy of Dunces. Ray had learned that stake-outs often require hours of patience, and it helped to have reading material on hand to keep from growing weary. The humorous adventures of John Kennedy Toole’s Ignatius J. Reilly were required reading for such evenings of solitude. Ray made himself comfortable—as comfortable as a grown man can be sitting upon a tarred rooftop on a hot summer night wardrobed from head to toe-and bit into a cracker.

The glowing clock upon city hall’s 120-year-old tower chimed 1:00 a.m. To his right sat an empty water bottle and a discarded saltine wrapper. His mouth felt dry. The wind had dissipated over an hour ago and he’d since not caught so much as a flurry of a breeze. He was perspiring...again.

At 2:25 a.m., Ray was awoken by a slightly familiar voice.
“Long time no see.”
The greeting was followed by sharp and sudden pain as a leather boot kicked violently into his rib cage. He rolled with the blow, but had no time to recover. Firm hands lifted him from the ground and just as suddenly slapped him back down. He looked up, adjusting his goggles, which had become twisted upon his face, and stared into her eyes. He cursed himself for having drifted off to sleep. The disadvantage he now faced was overwhelming. She stood above him like a lion tamer, and he, the cowardly lion, was clearly no match. Her physical condition was perfect and was accentuated by her wardrobe--a sleeveless black leather jumpsuit and green leather gloves which extended past her elbows. Her footwear consisted of black leather boots with green laces; the tips of the boots were studded, as Ray’s ribs—could they talk—would attest. Her eyes were obscured with a green lace mask.
“You need to go, now,” she said, without emotion.
He thought about what he was doing here—on this rooftop; at 2:25 in the morning; dressed in leather, cotton, and polyester; feeling tired, sweaty, thirsty, and now physically hurt; and wondered if he couldn’t phone his mom and see if she could talk to the guys with the butterfly nets.
“You’re a foolish, foolish man,” she said, and ran past Ray. She leaped off of the brownstone and into the air where she hovered. She turned toward Ray and said from the distance, “I won’t warn you again.”
Ray, the Charlottesque cobwebs now firmly shaken from his slightly bruised body, stood up and looked toward her with conviction. “You won’t need to,” he said, and began sprinting toward her with cheetah speed.

It was a desperate gambit but one he felt compelled to take, and in that moment Ray Jenesew was gone, replaced by the Metropolitan Man. A crime fighter who could do many things--who could battle and defeat masked villains of all sorts, who could stop criminals the police might otherwise never catch, who could think and outthink criminal masterminds. Yes, the Metropolitan Man could do many things; however, he could not fly. He leapt from the roof of the brownstone, knowing that should he fall he would certainly perish, and grabbed hold of the Green Scorpion’s legs; she seemed as taken aback by Ray’s actions as did Ray. The two tumbled and twirled downward like a gymnastics duo that had ingested an LSD milkshake just prior to their performance. The sound of shattered glass reverberated through the stillness of the night. They’d crashed into an apartment on the opposite side of the street upon which their brief rooftop battle had occurred. Ray lay on the apartment floor and struggled to remain conscious. His cap and goggles had fallen off and he realized small shards of glass had impacted with his face and head. He tried to remove the glass pieces, but discovered, painfully, that there were bits of glass also embedded into his gloves. He stood up, carefully removed the gloves, and attended to the glass that had cut his face. The Green Scorpion had been momentarily forgotten, but her presence was quickly brought back to memory. A faint “click” was audible as light unexpectedly filled the apartment. She stood at the light switch, obviously uninjured, and said, “You’re not a very smart man, Ray.” She paused, and added, “Catch.”
She tossed an object in his direction. Instinctively he held out a hand and caught it--a kitchen steak knife.
“Girls shouldn’t play with knifes,” he managed, realizing the stupidity of his attempt to be droll, and let the knife drop to the floor.
“Ha. Yeah. How about another game of catch.”
“No thanks.”
“It wasn’t a question,” she replied, and threw the contents of a glass at him. He had but a moment to ascertain its liquid contents—blood. It blinded him for but an instant; yet, in his heart he knew that an instant was all she’d need. As his hands wiped aside the blood from his face, the metal bookcase at his back came a' tum-tum-tumbling down atop him. As he slipped into unconsciousness he heard her remark, quite pleasantly, “By the way, my name really is Janine.” It all faded to black, moments before the boys in blue arrived at the front door.

NEXT: The conclusion of The Green Scorpion!

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