New Rourke Unmasked
Into the Middle of Things
Head First | Burnt My Bridges | Up Against It
The last time Springer had been inside a police station was a middle school field trip. Also, that instance did not involve being shuttled in under guard in the back of a SWAT van, then being escorted in through the back into an interrogation room, where she sat for an uncomfortable amount of time weighing the merits of her fight or flight response.
Guerra and Wellers entered the room. Wellers stood in the corner holding a closed laptop, while Guerra sat down across from Springer, laying a file in front of himself on the table.
"I’m going to take things slow." Guerra said calmly.
"Thank you?" Springer said nervously.
"You are new to this, so you might not know how everything works, especially the relationship between the city’s police and you capes."
"I know how the—"
Guerra put up a hand to stop her. "It’s a delicate relationship. This conversation is being recorded. We are going to go through this step by step."
"First, you realize that while the city allows certain activities of costume vigilantes, ultimately the police and the courts administer the law?"
"Yes." She knew that from time to time, superheroes were called in to help special situations, mainly when wrangling super-powered criminals that the police were ill-equipped to handle. It did not happen often, because of police regulations, and something to due with union rules. Other cities had gotten into trouble for relying on superheroes too much in the past. Citizens paid taxes that went to the police. If the police were not doing the job they were contracted to handle, things started to get messy. She’d read about a riot in the 80’s over it.
She had a sinking feeling that this was not one of those situations.
"Do you know who I am?"
"Yeah." Springer said slowly. "I’ve seen you in the papers, and a few times on the street. You’re Corporal Oscar Guerra. You used to be a superhero, but now you’re the city’s liaison to superheroes. And that’s Lieutenant Kendra Wellers. She used to be in hostage negotiation."
"Sergeant, actually." Wellers said. "But you’re right."
"Could you identify yourself?" Guerra asked.
"Er," Springer shirked, "do I have to take off my helmet?"
Guerra leaned back slightly to ease Springer’s tension. "For the moment, no."
"And what do you do?"
"I’m a superhero?"
"I mean, you have a power, right? What is it?"
"Oh! It’s…I call it tactile, telekinetic, repulsion blasts. When I’m touching something, I can push it away with a lot of force."
"That’s fine." Guerra paused. "Can you tell us where you were last night?"
"Was anyone with you?"
"Do you know a man by the name of Grinder Griswald?"
"I fought him once. It was months ago."
Guerra nodded to Wellers. She placed the laptop on the table and opened it so that Springer could see the screen. A black and white video played showing alleyway. The video flickered with static then came into focus. There was no audio, but it looked vaguely familiar. She saw Griswald run around the corner with a duffle bag over his shoulder. Then she saw herself pounce down, knocking him to the ground. She remembered this now. It was the day she met Akiva. She winced a little, watching the pounding she took, but she gave back just as good. The fight finished with Griswald on the ground, then she picked up the bag and looked inside. From there the video became too static filled to be watchable.
"Is that you?" Guerra asked.
"Yeah." Springer said.
"What happened next?"
"Yeah. What’s this all about? I stopped Grinder Griswald."
Guerra opened the file and slid some of the papers over to Springer. It was a coroner’s report. There were pictures of Griswald lying in the alley with several more wounds than she remembered giving him.
"Griswald was found dead in that alley. The coroner determined he died from massive blunt force trauma but couldn’t determine what kind of weapon was used. We had no leads until early this morning."
Guerra placed another set of pictures in front of Springer showing another man she immediately recognized.
"The time stamp on the video lines up with our time of death window. It was found on a disc in a floor safe in the mayor’s house this morning. The coroner has determined that the wounds on the mayor’s body match those on Griswald’s."
"I didn’t kill the mayor!" Springer shouted.
"Then what happened?"
"He was alive when I left!"
"So you were at the mayor’s house."
"No! No. I mean, Griswald was alive. I didn’t kill anybody! Ask Jerry!"
"Who’s Jerry?" Wellers asked.
"Jerry, shit…Jerry Delview, I think. He’s a detective."
"It’s, damn it, I don’t know." Springer’s muscles were tensing up, and her voice cracked. "He’s handled most of my police reports. Ask him!"
Guerra looked to Wellers. She shrugged slightly. Then to Springer he asked, "Why would Detective Delview know about this?"
"Because he was there!" Springer almost screeched. "He and some other cops were there when I left. Jerry told me that’s where I’d find Griswald."
"He told you Griswald would be in that alley?"
"Yeah, because of the bank robbery. Griswald had a bag full of money, and I jumped him there."
"Yes, the fucking bank robbery!"
Springer looked into the questioning faces of the two cops but didn’t see any indication of recognition. Her head was swimming, her heart was pounding, and it was finally dawning on her the amount of trouble she was in.
"There was a bank robbery." she said again meekly.
Wellers cleared her throat then said, "Okay, why don’t you start from the top and tell us what happened again?"
Springer hung her head. "I think I need a lawyer."
"Springer." Guerra said. "You understand what that means?"
"Yeah. I do."
"I’m going to need you to take off the helmet and identify yourself."
She reached up tentatively to unbuckle her helmet then paused. She thought about running. If she were fast enough she could knock the cops out and then…what? Fight her way out of a police station? She would be on the run; other heroes would come after her. She was being set up, but she had no idea by who, or how to clear her name. None of this made any sense. Why would anyone want to make it look like she killed Grinder Griswald or the mayor? Her only option was to throw herself before the mercy of the court and hope that they’d somehow believe her.
She removed her helmet, put her gloves inside, and set it on the table.
"My name is Elisabeth Raleigh."
Guerra stood up, walked around the table, and allowed Elisabeth to stand so that he could put the handcuffs on her. "Elisabeth Raliegh, you are under arrest for the murder of Mathew Griswald, also known as Grinder Griswald, and for the suspected murder of Mayor Charles Toleson."
* * *
A six by four by seven foot box with cement and titanium reinforced walls, one mesh-filled plastic sliding wall, LED light from outside, a cot with a thin mattress, a toilet, and twenty-four hour surveillance was the recipe for a NRPD holding cell reserved for that special class of criminal that could be defined as human weapons. This was explained to Elisabeth in stern detail when she was booked, as well as the cell’s ability to be electrified at the push of a button if she decided to get "uppity".
If this is holding, she wondered, what would prison be like?
"Not exactly the fifteen minutes of fame you were looking for is it?" Akiva said from outside the cell.
Elisabeth sat on the cot silently staring at the wall in front of her.
"Come on, Elisabeth. No quips? I’ve been here five minutes and you have yet to make a reference."
"The walls are too think for me to hear Gideon’s Trumpet" Elisabeth said without much enthusiasm.
"Yes, I suppose it is silent as the lambs in there."
Elisabeth gave Akiva an incredulous look.
"I’m sorry, that probably wasn’t appropriate."
"A part of me keeps expecting someone to pop up and say this is all a practical joke for my anniversary, but I guess that’s too much to hope for."
"It certainly does not look good."
"How much do you know?"
"A little." Akiva shifted her weight from one leg to the other. She had spent time talking to prisoners in cells before, but this was a novel experience. "There is only so much about the case that is being reported. Oscar told me what he could before he let me in to see you."
Elisabeth mumbled "Jerk."
Akiva stomped her foot. "Listen, shikseh, I’ve known Oscar Guerra for a long time. He’s a mensch. I’ve only met Sergeant Wellers on one or two occasions, but from my experience, and what I’ve heard from others, I would extend the same sentiment to her."
"Sure. Whatever." Elisabeth said and laid down on the cot to stare at the ceiling. You know, for variety.
"For what it’s worth I—"
"Don’t. Just don’t, Akiva. It’s sweet, but I don’t need platitudes right now."
"Then how about honesty? I do not know what happened to the mayor, but I know you, Elisabeth. I don’t believe for a second that you would intentionally kill Griswald. I will testify to that in court. And it is not a platitude when I say, I know what you are going though."
"Bullshit." Elisabeth said sitting up. "You know I’ve read just about every superhero biography there is, and you never went through anything like this."
"Feh. Because it is not something I like to talk about, let alone have bandied about in the tabloids. Very few people know, and while I’ve tried many, many times to forget, I can’t."
"Alright." Elisabeth swung her feet down hard onto the floor then went to stand by the plastic wall facing her friend. "I’m not going anywhere. Let’s see what you’ve got."
Akiva glared back at Elisabeth’s challenging stance then shook her head and huffed. "Do you remember how we were discussing the difference between ethics and morality at the party? How they are so hard to tell apart sometimes?"
Elisabeth crossed her arms. "Yeah."
"I don’t have that problem. Not any more. The two concepts are as distinct to me as oil and water."
While Akiva talked, her voice became colder, almost clinical. Her focus drifted as the memories came seeped back.
"It was June, 1958. In a small town in Manitoba there was a boy, about five-years-old. I don’t know his name. I never asked. His parents had died of a rapid cancer when he was four. No one really suspected anything until several months later, when his foster parents died. The neighbors became sick, plants died, animals avoided the place, and then the effects spread further. Before too long, anyone attempting to go to the boy’s neighborhood manifested symptoms; rash, disorientation, vomiting. The city was evacuated and quarantined while the government tried to determine what could be done. Then the quarantine line had to be pulled back. Again, and again. The government was reluctant to bomb the town, as only living matter seemed to be effected. Water that passed through was uncontaminated. There was no clear way to know where the boy was or how long the effect would last. By this point, my exploits had garnered quite a bit of press, so I was asked to help. My solution was…simple, elegant after a fashion, clean. The town is still there. It is thriving actually. I understand it is a very nice place to live these days. And I was handsomely rewarded for my service."
Akiva trailed off, staring into space. Unconsciously, her hands had come up and were softly stroking her belly. Over the past few weeks the first clear signs of her pregnancy had started to come in.
Elisabeth was still unclear what this had to do with her situation. Although she was reluctant to ask, she did anyway. "What did you do?"
"I walked into the town. It took the better part of a day, but I found the boy. He was dirty and scavenging food from other houses. By my estimation, I exposed him to a thousand years of time. Just to be safe."
Elisabeth stepped back from the wall. "You killed him."
"I did what I had to do." Akiva said, her full attention coming back to the present. She looked down at her hands, flipped them over, then folded them neatly behind her back. "I’ve done things in my life that I’m not proud of. This, I think, was the most…wrong. Afterwards, I had to consider many things about who I was, and what I wanted to be. But still, I know beyond the shadow of a doubt, that this was the correct thing to do.
"Now it’s your turn, Elisabeth, to bare the burden of your actions. This probably will not be the last. If there is anything I can teach you, it is that right and wrong are never going to be easy choices. And sometimes you will do what you must to get by. So do the correct thing."
Elisabeth stood there staring at her friend. At least, she thought they were friends, but she had never before felt afraid while standing in the same room. Akiva carried a lot of experience, and clearly had been forced to make many hard choices. In a sick sort of way, Elisabeth found that she agreed with what Akiva was saying.
"Akiva, I love you, but you are full of shit. I can’t even look at you right now. I’ll figure my own way out of this."
Akiva simply nodded and left.