It's like Bridget Jones' Diary, but with a super-powered vigilante.

October 31, 2004

Best. Halloween. Ever.

You're probably wondering what happened to the rest of the Hungry Ghost zombies.

Right after The Kiss we hear gunshots outside of the Asian Art Museum.

"Manute!" she says. I guess that's her chauffer's name.

"Shit, the zombies! I forgot!"

She's still weak from her battle with the lama, so I carry her downstairs and out to the blood-splattered loading bay. I hear sirens in the distance.

Manute is standing next to Hydrangea's town car holding a smoking pistol. Six zombies sprawl at the big Samoan's feet, each with a single gunshot in their head. Man, who needs a kung fu master chauffer when you can have a crack shot chauffer with a big fucking gun?

"Good shooting, Kato!" I say. Hydrangea hits me.

Manute rolls his eyes and gestures to the car. "Put her in the car, wanker," he says in a British accent. "Coppers are coming."

In seconds we're peeling out of the loading bay backwards - Manute flips a bootlegger reverse and whips the car around, and we race out the back way into the windy October night as screaming cop cars pour in the main entrance. We're safe. I'm covered in blood and gore, but we're safe.

An hour later, Hydrangea steps out of my shower, wrapped in a towel. She glides into my bedroom and crawls into my bed like a cat. Her pale body glows in the candle light. We kiss again, and then we make the sweet, sweet love.

She's amazing. We have sex for like, hours. I learn more from one night with Hydrangea about sex than I did in my entire adolescence. She's got this whole tantric sex thing going on - I feel like Sting.

Eventually she falls asleep on my chest, smiling. I lay awake and replay the events of the past few days in my mind over and over. It's Halloween, my favorite time of year. This has been the best Halloween ever.

Ever.


Wrathful and victorious teacher of evil, part two

(This is part two of my Halloween adventure. I would suggest reading part one first.)

Hydrangea waits patiently for me to finish throwing up. Nearby, the headless body of the zombie cop is still twitching. His head is around here somewhere.

“Gaagh,” I manage, spitting.

“Are you okay?” Hydrangea says.

I straighten myself, try to recapture some dignity.

“Sorry,” I say. “I think it’s that salmon I ate.”

We hear them coming before we see them; moaning, gargling, knocking shit over, stumbling around in the dark inside the Museum. Then they burst out of the loading bay door: a pack of ravenous ghouls. There’s about a dozen of them, all with that same hungry glazed look, all with the same reaching, tearing claws.

“Stand back!” she says.

Hydrangea gestures with her gloved arms and right before her in mid-air, a glowing Asian symbol appears. She shouts something like “Shoyeee cham!” and just unleashes Hell.

A howling wave of concussive force blasts out of the glowing symbol, pulverizing the throng of advancing zombies. They splatter like they’re made out of fragile bags of blood.

My ears pop.

The air smells of ozone.

The glowing symbol fades.

The entire loading bay is now awash in blood and unrecognizable organic matter. There are only a few recognizably human parts. I would throw up if it would help.

“What the fuck was that? I didn’t know you could do that? What the fuck was that?”

“It’s a lost discipline; sound as a weapon.”

From inside the Museum we hear an unearthly bellowing.

“Come,” she says. “Yungtun-Trogyal knows we are here.”

We pick our way through puddles of blood and mounds of brain and gut and enter the Museum. It’s dark in here on this lower level.

“Shasti,” she says, and a ball of light appears in front of us, floating like Tinkerbell.

“Neat!” I say, then instantly feel stupid.

Hydrangea whispers something in Tibetan to Tinkerbell and it speeds off down a black hallway.

“It will seek out the lama,” she says.

We hear more bellowing from deeper inside the museum, and what sounds suspiciously like zombies. Hydrangea is staring off into space; I imagine that she’s controlling or watching Tinkerbell gliding through the Museum.

“Anything?” I ask. She shushes me.

More screaming, howling. It sounds like more ghouls coming this way.

“Come on,” I say.

The zombie noises – moaning, bumping into shit – are getting louder. Then I see them, lurching and shambling down the hallway towards us: another dozen ravenous ghouls. Has this Yungtun guy been saving up all these ghouls for Halloween or something?

“Heidi!” I say. She’s still staring into space.

The Hungry Ghost zombies pour forward, hissing and groaning.

“Come on, hurry up! I see dead people!” Sorry, I was under a lot of stress. I can't be funny 100% of the time.

Her eyes snap open and she looks at me. She’s beautiful, fierce. “He’s above us, on the main floor! I must destroy him! Hold them off!”

Hydrangea spins and runs outside, leaving me to face the zombie horde.

Luckily, I still have my tire iron.

Killing zombies is like anything; once you do it once, it keeps getting easier. I swat the lead zombie (a groundskeeper with a big chunk missing from his neck) in the head. The combination of tire iron and super strength makes quick work of his head, leaving me with a headless body that sprays blood all over my armor. Great.

A couple more zombies stumble forward, clawing at me. I kick one back into the advancing mob and backhand the other with the tire iron. Another one down.

I swing, and another one loses a head. Then another. One of the zombies grabs me around the waist and starts gnawing at my armor. I drive the tire iron down into its head. It lets go.

And at one point, in this gory vignette that would make Conan the Barbarian sick, at one point I think to myself, It’s Halloween and I’m killing the undead. This is so awesome.

Then I hear Hydrangea scream and it stops being fun.

The Asian Art Museum is a monolithic post modern structure made of enduring stone; there is no way I could hear her scream if she were upstairs, particularly in the middle of a zombie orgy of death. It must be the dorje.

The other day she gave me a dorje, a Tibetan charm or amulet or something ( see post Hydrangea 10/28). She said it could be used to communicate with her. I had forgotten that I had it in my utility belt, along with the phurba, the ritual dagger…

A zombie claws at my face. There are still six of these guys, in between me and her.

I bust a textbook roundhouse kick on this zombie and kick his head clean off. Wow, that works.

I bull my way through the rest of the zombies and run down the corridor they just came from. I can hear them behind me, roaring and groaning. Fuck ‘em, I’ll come back and behead them later.

I switch to night vision on my goggles as I run down the hall. There’s got to be a stairway or something…

I hear her scream again, then a roar like a lion.

“Fuck!” Where are the fucking stairs in this fucking place?

I find a broad staircase of white stone leading up. A sign says EXHIBITS. I take the stairs six at a time and skid to a halt on the slick marble of the main floor. It’s dark, except for the eerie green glow of the exit signs. How am I going to find her? This place is huge.

I shouldn’t have worried. A huge flash of fiery light bursts from the Himalayan Culture exhibit to my left. I charge in, bloody tire iron in hand.

“Heidi!” I scream.

Hydrangea lies motionless on the floor of a large exhibit room full of prayer wheels and masks and rugs. On the other side of the room a skinny shirtless white guy with glasses sits in the lotus position. Some kind of energy vortex spins on the wall behind him like a black hole. The 21st century model of Yungtun-Trogyal, I assume. And between the skinny guy and Hydrangea –

--a giant red Tibetan demon, floating in mid-air.

She’s dead, I know it. He’s killed her.

The Tibetan demon turns towards me. It’s like a big evil genie; the demon’s lower body disappears in a column of red smoke. The top half looks solid enough – red leathery skin stretched over a muscular frame. It has big bulging eyes, gleaming tusks, and crazy black hair. It has a necklace of human skulls.

“Kharabi sahandru!” the demon says in a deep voice.

A giant flaming scimitar materializes in the demon’s hands.

The white guy is still in the lotus position, eyes closed. The weird vortex of dark matter behind him still spins. What did she say the guy’s name was? The host body for the lama?

The demon is coming now, raising his fiery blade.

“Kharaaabiii!”

I leap out of the way as the blade comes down with a mighty cymbal crash. Sparks fly.

Edwin? Albert? What’s his name?

The demon swipes at me again. I roll out of the way. From my utility belt I pull out my phurba, the ugly little knife that cost me five hundred fucking dollars. Hydrangea said it was a fake, made in Bali, but right now, I’ll take what I can get.

Albert. Albert Meers, that’s his name.

Roaring, the demon spits fire like a dragon. Direct hit. What feels like hot lava splashes over my chest. I can see nothing but fire.

Fuck this. On fire, I charge towards Albert Meers, a.k.a. Yungtun-Trogyal, the wrathful and victorious teacher of evil, towards the fucker that killed Heidi.

I yell, “Albert Meers!”

His eyes open. For a second, he looks surprised, confused, like he’s waking from a dream.

I ram the fake phurba right in his chest.

“Nnnyyyaaa!”

Albert Meers, insurance agent from Omaha, NE screams as he looks down at the cheap Balinese trinket imbedded I his sternum. He screams as blue fire suddenly engulfs him. He screams as his features burn away and in his place, screaming, is Yungtun-Trogyal, the Tibetan sorcerer, awash in fire. The evil old man howls in pain.

Behind me, the Tibetan demon blows away as if it’s made of smoke.

Yungtun-Trogyal reaches for me with skeletal hands, burning. Just for good measure I brain him with the tire iron.

The fire goes out as the wizard flops to the floor, headless. The spinning dark vortex winks out of existence.

I drop the tire iron with a clatter and run over to Hydrangea. She’s not moving.

“Heidi!” I grab her, shake her gently. I should take a first aid course because I’m pretty sure that’s not what you’re supposed to do to injured people.

“Heidi!”

She coughs and her eyes flutter open behind the domino mask.

“Wh-what--?” she manages.

“It’s okay,” I say. “It’s okay, everything’s okay.”

She smiles weakly as she surveys the scene.

“You saved me,” she says, in her Katherine Hepburn voice.

“Yeah.”

Hydrangea gently grabs the back of my neck with a gloved hand and pulls me close. She smells good.

“I like it when you call me Heidi,” she says softly.

We kiss for a long time.

Wrathful and victorious teacher of evil, part one

(Again, to show mercy I've broken this post into two parts. This would be part one of my Halloween adventure.)

It’s a little after one AM when we pull up to the Asian Art Museum in Hydrangea’s Lincoln town car. The wind has picked up. The moonlit shadows of swaying branches dance across the post modern fa├žade of the museum. The giant foo dog statues that guard the entrance seem to stare at us as through the tinted windows.

“This is the place?” I ask. It looks spooky enough. And hey, it is the Asian Art Museum. If you were a reincarnated evil lama, where would you hang out?

“Yes,” Hydrangea says. She’s sitting next to me in her tight satin dress and opera gloves. I can feel her body heat through my Marauder armor. Well, no I can’t, but you know what I mean. “This is the building I saw in my dream.”

“Right, your dream. I hope there’s nothing from my dreams here. If I see a Chihuahua with spider legs, I’m fucking out of here.”

She looks at me from behind her domino mask. “Are you nervous?”

I give her a pshaw laugh and say, “Nervous? I’m psyched, I’m happy to be here. Bring on the Hungry Ghosts I say.”

“Pull around back,” she says through the tinted screen to the driver, and we move.

The driver is a big Samoan dude with braided hair in a black suit with a skinny tie. He could be a Bond villain. I don’t think I’ve heard him say a word.

“What’s up with your driver, is he like, your Kato or something?”

She looks at me blankly.

“Kato. The Green Hornet’s chauffer. He’s a kung fu master.”

“I don’t think I’ve ever met him.”

“Who?” I ask.

“The Green Hornet.”

“No, it’s an old TV show about a crime fighter guy.”

“Oh,” she says. Then, almost apologetically: “I was raised by monks.”

We pull around back and find a police car by the loading bay. The car’s flashing blue and red lights are going, but there are no cops around.

“I sense danger,” she says.

“I’m all about danger, lady.” I really say that.

I open the car door and step out into the crisp October night. Kato turns off the car engine, and it’s suddenly quiet except for the hissing of the wind in the trees.

Nobody in the cop car. The shotgun is gone. The radio squawks softly.

Hydrangea steps out of the town car, holds her hand up as if she’s testing the air.

I walk towards the loading dock at the back of the museum, which is lit by a single glaring halogen. A side door on the loading platform swings open in the breeze. Inside, it’s dark.

I hop up on the platform.

Dead leaves scuttle like crabs across the concrete, scuttling over spent shotgun shells and pools of blood.

I remember thinking, That looks like blood and then I heard a snarl and the dead cop jumps on me, teeth gnashing.

It’s a fucking zombie! The dead cop clumsily grabs at me, bloody teeth snapping at my neck. His eyes roll around in the sockets, unfocused but seeing. Hydrangea shouts, “Look out!” Helpful.

He’s strong, but I’ve got mid-range super strength. I bat him off me and he bounces off the loading dock wall.

“Jesus!” I say, checking my face for scratches. “That’s a fucking zombie!”

Hydrangea runs up. “It’s a ghoul, a corpse possessed by a Hungry Ghost.”

The dead cop springs to his feet with a howl and lurches forward, clawing.

“How do I kill it?” I ask. I’ve got a good six inches on the zombie, so I just hold on to his head and let him flail at me. Colin used to do this to me when we were kids.

“Sever or destroy the head,” she says.

Kill the brain, kill the ghoul? Okay…” I look around for something, a head-severing implement. “Umm, I don’t really have anything…”

“Just rip it’s head off, you’re strong,” she says. The dead cop is still snarling and clawing at me and making weird gargling noises. He sounds like the Hamburglar, or a tauntaun.

“Gaaah, I don’t think I can do that.”

“Oh, for the love of…” Hydrangea stalks off. The dead cop is swatting at my arm now, trying to bite my wrist. I just tighten my grip on his head.

Once when we were kids my Uncle Steve took us bird hunting on vacation. Our mom just absolutely hated guns and the thought of shooting a living animal was just inconceivable to her, so of course Colin and I were psyched. But when I got out there in the field, I couldn’t do it. Couldn’t bring myself to shoot. It seemed like a good idea until I got out there and actually had to shoot the grouse or whatever it was.

It’s kind of like that with the dead cop. I could crush his head like a grapefruit, or just rip it clean off, but I… I can’t.

Hydrangea reappears holding a tire iron.

“Here.”

She gives me the tire iron. I look at the scrabbling, spitting, gnashing creature at the end of my arm…

…and I knock his head right fucking off.

The head bounces like a soccer ball around the loading dock, trailing gore. Spurting blood, the headless body collapses, twitching.

I look at the tire iron in my hand, it’s dripping with blood. I feel dizzy.

“You okay?”

“I’m all right. It’s my first decapitation.”

Then I puke.

Double date with density

Hydrangea and I went hunting for evil lamas and ravenous ghouls last night, but not before having dinner with my brother and Serenity at Flying Fish, a really pricey "Pacific Rim cuisine" restaurant.

I'm buying. Meeting Hydrangea has had an averse effect on my checking account; first a five hundred dollar phurba from Bali, now dinner for four at Flying Fish. I wouldn't mind if she weren't so goddam smug about the whole thing.

She looks great though; she's wearing a low cut black Anne Klein dress with matching boots and a beaded black cardigan. She gives me a little peck on the cheek when I pick her up at the Metropolitan.

"This is going to be fun," she says in her Katherine Hepburn voice. "Shall I call you Doug?"

"Please God no. Can't you just call me Mackenzie? Everybody else does."

"Your girlfriend doesn't."

"I don't have a girlfriend," I say.

"You do tonight, Doug."

"Connor. Please."

"Okay. Connor. I like that," she says with a grin. I feel like she can read my mind, which sucks.

"Are you doing this just to torture me?"

"Not at all, Mr Mackenzie," she says, lying. "I'm just hungry."

When I introduce her as "Heidi" to Colin and Serenity at the restaurant, she steps on my foot with her high-heeled boots. Gosh, I completely forgot that she doesn't like being called Heidi.

We order drinks and appetizers. Hydrangea and Serenity instantly bond and start talking about weddings, Wicca, astrology, ear candles, and Montessori schools. Colin and I have a parallel conversation about football, Saabs, and martial arts movies.

When "Heidi" excuses herself to use the little girl's room, Serenity leans over the table, smiling.

"Doug, she is so sweet," she says. "Why didn't you tell us about her?"

"Yeah, she's really cool," Colin says. "What's wrong with her?"

"What's that supposed to mean?"

"I mean, why is she with you?" he says, laughing. Ha ha.

Over desert (they make the best creme brulee) I learn that Colin and Serenity are trying to get pregnant, but haven't had much luck yet. They're going to go see a fertility specialist in New Avalon when they get back. I didn't know that. I guess I never asked.

"You know, I have an herbal treatment that might work," Hydrangea says, and starts writing down a recipe for some kind of nettle tea for Serenity.

When dinner's over we go our separate ways; I tell them that we have a Halloween party that we have to make an appearance at. Serenity and Hydrangea share a big hug and exchange phone numbers and Colin is all smiles.

Arm in arm we walk to the Saab. "Thank you for dinner," she says. "They're very nice, you know, your brother and sister-in-law."

"Yeah, they're allright."

"She just wants to get along with you."

"Who? Serenity? We get along okay."

She doesn't say anything. "Hey are you cold? You want my coat?"

"I'm fine," she says. "I don't get cold."

I think about the satin cocktail dress outfit she wears in her alter-ego. "How do you stay warm, anyway? Magic?"

She smiles. "It's a Tibetan discipline called tumo. I generate psychic heat through meditation."

Of course she does.

We reach the car. "So. Are you ready to do battle with ravenous ghouls?"

"Fuck yeah I am."

"Then let's go to work. I know where Yungtun-Trogyal is."


October 30, 2004

A bunch of unresolved emotional shit

After breakfast (organic French toast and fruit salad with shade grown coffee) I take Colin and Serenity shopping for a wedding present. Sure, the bride and groom are Wiccan, but they still registered for gifts at the Bon Marche. Smart hippies.

Colin and I end up in a pub while Serenity shops.

“You know, you could try being a little nice to her,” Colin says.

“What are you talking about? Have you seen my fridge? It’s stocked with organic food. Have I not been accommodating? I think I’ve been very accommodating.”

“Yeah, but you’re very passive aggressive about it, like you want her to feel guilty that you bought all that stuff,” he says, which is totally true.

“That’s totally not true,” I say.

“Whatever. Just because you have a bunch of unresolved emotional shit with Mom, don’t take it out on Serenity.”

We drink our beers in silence for a minute.

“Are we going out to dinner tonight?” he says. “Because we’ve got the wedding tomorrow, and we’re leaving on Monday.”

Shit, I’ve got to meet Hydrangea at 6. “Uhh, gosh Colin, I don’t know…”

He gets that look, that same you-broke-my-Shogun-Warrior look that he’s had for decades.

“I’ll tell you what; let me make a phone call.”

I duck away and call the Metropolitan Hotel on my cell and ask for Hydrangea’s room.

“You want to what?” she says. She sounds pissed.

“Reschedule. Listen, my brother and his wife are in town…”

“Yes, I know, Mr Mackenzie, you mentioned that. I wonder if your priorities are in order, because thwarting a Hungry Ghost invasion is not high on your list of things to do.”

“Look, I just have to have dinner with them. I’ll be done by eight, eight-thirty.”

She sighs. “Allright, I’m coming with you.”

“I beg your pardon?” I say.

“I’ll be your date. Pick me up at 6 PM in the lobby.”

“What? Wait.”

“Pick a nice restaurant,” she says and hangs up.

Shit. I return to the table, all smiles.

“Okay, we’re on for dinner. You can meet my new girlfriend.”

Colin arches an eyebrow. “You never mentioned a girl. What’s her name?”

“Heidi.”

A non-exploding envelope

I show up on top of the Masonic Temple at midnight, but Hydrangea isn't there. Instead, I find a small envelope floating in mid-air. It's just hovering there, about five feet off the roof. For a fleeting moment I consider the possibility that this might be a trap, then I grab the envelope. I'm going to get killed someday because of decisions like this.

The envelope doesn't blow up or turn into a viper. Inside is a card that smells like Hydrangea. It reads:

That was very rude of you to leave me in the coffee shop like that.
Tonight I will search for YT on the Astral Plane. Meet me tomorrow at 6 PM. Room 924 at the M.
Don't be late.

Hunh. Somebody's a little sensitive.

I patrol around Old Town for an hour, mostly for the exercise, then call it a night. When I get home Colin and Treehugger are still asleep in the guest room. It smells like patchouli in here.


October 29, 2004

Irritating Serenity

I have to write this on my desktop in the kitchen because my brother and Cher are staying here and I can't use the command console in the goddamn Secret Chamber. What a hassle.

Colin and his woman flew in from New Avalon earlier tonight; I picked them up at ECX after coffee with Hydrangea (who I have to meet in about an hour to hunt for evil lamas). As usual, our meeting was a little awkward. I haven't seen him in like, six months, and we don't talk on the phone much, so it's always a little weird. We used to be close when we were kids, but after Mom died we kind of drifted apart.

His wife, Serenity, never has liked me much. We don't have a lot of common ground - I'm a vain, materialistic consumer and participant in pop culture, whereas she is at one with the earth and feels sad that I have such a shallow life. She's a walking Joni Mitchell song. She's a teacher in a private school for rich hippies. Mom would have loved her, but they never met.

They're in town for a wedding on Sunday. Yes, a wedding on Halloween. I had to ask, who has their wedding on Halloween?

"They're Wiccans," Serenity says as we drive back to my pad in the Saab.

"Oh," I say. "Okay."

"What?" she says, as if my "okay" has some other meaning. She's picking a fight. I feel Colin tense in the passenger seat next to me.

"Nothing," I say. "That's great."

"But you were going to say something," she says.

"No, I wasn't," I say, then switch gears. "You guys hungry? We can pick something up."

They're not hungry. We drive in silence for a minute.

"I wasn't going to say anything," I say finally. "I've got nothing against Wiccans."

"Here we go..." Serenity says.

"I don't! I played D&D when I was a kid, didn't I Colin?"

"Leave me out of this," he says.

"I did," I say. I should shut up, but I can't. "I can dig all that elf and fairy shit."

"Elf and fairy shit?" she says, growing irate.

"Christ, Doug..." Colin says.*

"Sorry! Sorry. Forget I said anything."

We drive in silence some more.

"Hey, you guys want to listen to NPR?" I say.

They hate me.

(*Yes, my full name is Douglas Connor Mackenzie. Feel free to insert your Bob & Dog Mackenzie joke here.)


"Can I see your phurba?"

Multi-colored prayer flags flutter outside Ngopa, a dim, incense choked shop in one of Chinatown’s many brick side streets. I push open the creaking door and enter with a jingle of bells, squinting in the Nag Champa murk.

“Hello? You still open?"

It’s a little after five and the evening mists are drawing in on Evergreen City and the lights are going on. I decided to stop by on my way home. You can never fucking find parking in Chinatown.

Ngopa is crammed with rolls and stacks of carpets, bronze Buddhas, and leering wooden demon masks. An old Asian man in a sweater vest and bifocals shuffles out from the back room, muttering and cleaning his glasses. He waves away a strand of incense smoke and peers at me as if from a great distance.

“Busy today, busy today,” he says. “You want to buy rug?”

“No, actually I was looking for something a little more exotic.”

He puts his glasses on, sizing me up. “Ahh. Exotic I got.”

“My girlfriend, she’s really into Tibetan Buddhism. I’d like a unique gift. I’m looking for a phurba.”

The old man’s eyebrows arch in surprise. “Phurba? One minute.”

The old man disappears in back, and after a few minutes of rummaging around he comes back with this thing in his hands. He lays it down on a glass counter.

Phurba. Very powerful ritual item.”

“This is it?” I ask. It’s a scrawny triangular blade with a rough black wooden handle and a tuft of stringy hair. It’s unattractive.

Phurba. Yes. You are the second person looking for phurba today.”

I look up. “Is that right? Was there a woman in here earlier?”

“Yes. Pretty flower. Beautiful aura. You want to buy phurba?”

“Sure.”

“Five hundred dollar.”


Fucking phurba. I leave Ngopa in a huff with the ugly knife wrapped in plain brown paper. Five hundred dollars. Unbelievable. This thing better slice, julienne, and kill demons.

A woman waits for me at the head of the alley, leaning against a black Lincoln town car. As I draw near I catch her scent.

“Good evening, Mr Mackenzie,” she says.

Hydrangea is dressed in civilian gear: a ¾ length black wool coat with dark jeans and heels. Her collar is flipped up against the chill and her black hair is pulled into a low pony tail. She has pearl earrings and isn’t wearing a lot of makeup. I notice these things.

I’m a little surprised and pissed that she knows my real name, so I say something I think will irritate her. “Heidi,” I say in greeting, and she scowls.

“Don’t call me that.”

“Hey, you know my name. I gotta call you something.”

She ignores my comment and points at my package. “What’s that?”

“A little something,” I say. “So, we keep running into each other. Must be kismet.”

She says, “Is that a phurba? Did you buy a phurba from that man?” She seems to find that funny.

“I feel like we’re having parallel conversations here.”

“Can I see your phurba?” She’s making fun of me. She really does sound like Katherine Hepburn.

“Not on the second date,” I say and walk past her.

“Where are you going?” she says.

“Away. You’re bugging me.”

“Don’t be a child,” she says.

I keep walking.

I take a left, heading away from where I parked the Saab. I don’t want her to see me getting in the car. In short order her town car pulls up next to me on the street. The driver is just a shadowy figure behind tinted glass. The back window rolls down.

“Mr. Mackenzie,” she says. I ignore her. “Mr. Mackenzie, your car is parked in the other direction.”

D’oh! Has she been tracking me? Goddamn it, she gave me that dorje thing, it’s probably like a mystical GPS or something! I try not to act disturbed.

“I’m going to get some lo mein. Don’t you have a ballroom dance contest or something?” Lame. That’s the best diss I could come up with?

“Really, you are like a child. Get in the car.” The car stops. “Please.”

I stop and look at her. She’s gorgeous.


Ten minutes later we’re in a Starbucks and I’m bringing her a chai latte. Yes, even in Chinatown they have Starbucks.

“I apologize for making fun of your phurba,” she says, blowing on her hot drink.

“Wouldn’t be the first time. It’s fake, isn’t it?”

Hydrangea has taken off her coat – she’s wearing a sheer white blouse over a white camisole. It’s tough to look her in the eye. I’m a pig.

“In one sense, yes. It’s not authentic, if that’s what you mean. That one was made in Bali.”

I look at the parcel wrapped in brown paper on the table. “You haven’t even looked at it.”

She smiles knowingly. Women that think they know everything are irritating. Women that do know everything are even more irritating.

We compare notes. I tell her that I haven’t heard any “word on the street” about her man Yungtun-Trogyal, which is totally true. I’ve got to get some informers or something. My trip to the zoo was also a bust.

She visited the city morgue and Bayview Hospital last night in “astral form” and discovered that three bodies were missing; all burn victims from a house fire. She figures that Yungtun jacked the bodies and will use them as hosts for the Hungry Ghosts to “incarnate.” We just need to find this Yungtun dude before he uses these three host bodies to set off a full-on Hungry Ghost Apocalypse. That sounds kind of like a TV dinner: Hungry Ghost Apocalypse with Gravy!

“I’m unclear on this whole portal thing,” I say. “If this Wang Chung guy opened the portal last night during the eclipse, why aren’t there Hungry Ghosts running around?”

She sips her chai. “The portal is very small – only one Hungry Ghost can pass through it at a time. But the sprits of that realm are greedy, they will incarnate if presented with an appropriate host.”

“Like freshly dead people?”

“Yes. I suspect that Yungtun-Trogyal is using the stolen corpses as vessels for the Hungry Ghosts, which turns them into ravenous ghouls. These ghouls will attack the living, infecting anyone they bite or scratch. The infected victim becomes the host for another Hungry Ghost, and so on, until your city is overrun by the undead.”

“That would be no good,” I say. Sometimes I say stupid things. “Who is this guy, anyway?”

“Yungtun-Trogyal literally means ‘wrathful and victorious teacher of evil.’ He was the first teacher of the great Tibetan lama Milarepa, who later turned from his master’s dark teachings and walked the true path of enlightenment.”

“So he’s sort of like the Buddhist Darth Vader,” I say.

She either doesn’t get the reference or chooses to ignore it. “Yungtun-Trogyal is an ancient spirit, powerful and evil, who recently incarnated in the body of Albert Meers, an insurance agent from Omaha who dabbled in the occult. I’ve been tracking him for months in the Astral Realm.”

She talks a little bit about the tenets of Tibetan Buddhism and my attention wanders a little. My eyes drift down her blouse to her bosom, gently rising with each breath…

“Mr. Mackenzie? Are you listening?”

“Huh? Yeah, I was just thinking about the Hungry Ghost Apocalypse. What’s our move tonight?”

“Well, I thought we’d --“

“Oh, shit!” I exclaim. Colin! His flight comes in to ECX in half an hour.

She’s startled by my outburst. “What? What is it?”

“I’ve got to pick up my brother and his wife from the airport!”

“But –"

“Listen, I’ll meet you on the same roof top at midnight, okay?”

“But --"

“Gotta go! Shit!”

I run out, leaving her puzzled and alone in Starbucks.

October 28, 2004

I want bugs

You know what I want? Bugs. As in: surveillance gear, listening devices.

Recent events have led me to believe that in order to function more effectively as a Scourge of Evil I need to improve my intelligence gathering methods. I don't have any informers like Huggy Bear, so I think I should start with bugs. Oooh, and GPS tracking devices, maybe in the shape of the VM logo. You know, like Spider-Man's tracer things. That would be cool.

Maybe My Guy can hook me up with some of those KOMA bugs, like the one I found the ninja planting in the InterBionics building (see post The KOMA probe, 10/1). I send him an email via the usual encrypted process asking for a "surveillance starter kit." I should also order some more Marauderangs from him.


Zoo No Go

The zoo was a bust, nothing suspicious at all. I had to hide from a security guard in a fucking bush. I don’t even know what I was looking for – a Tibetan lama carrying a goat over one shoulder? I was beginning to resent Hydrangea, pushing me around. It’s my city; shouldn’t she be checking the fucking zoo?

Grumpy, I went home and did some research online in the Secret Chamber and ate some leftover teriyaki. I learned a little about the Hungry Ghost realm and Tibetan Buddhism in general, which is a lot different than regular straight-up Buddhism. It’s sort of an amalgam between Buddhism and Tibetan animism; lots of demons and shit.

I also learned about the phurba, a ritual dart or knife used in ceremonies to kill demons in effigy. There’s a place in Chinatown called Ngopa that sells “Tibetan carpets and artifacts.” Maybe I’ll check that out and pick up a phurba. It seems like the thing to do.

I feel kind of lame about not having any contacts like a proper urban avenger. I need to beef up the intelligence gathering aspect of my crime fighting.

Hydrangea

The lunar eclipse is fucking beautiful.

A big swollen harvest moon rises over the city early in the night when I start my patrol. A dark mist slowly creeps across the moon, dyeing it crimson. It hangs over me in the clear dark sky as I leap across the rooftops of Old Town. I’m listening to Dead Can Dance on the audio system, getting the whole vibe going.

I skid to a halt on a slick tile roof when I spot the figure on top of the Masonic Temple, a shadow among the gargoyles and chimneys. Wombat?

A couple of huge leaps and a rebound lands me on top of the Temple, where I find that the shadowy figure is definitely not Wombat.

She pops into a defensive stance – a beautiful raven-haired woman in a black satin dress.

“Oh,” I say. “Hi.” Smooth.

The woman stays in her stance. Her eyes are narrow with suspicion behind a black domino mask.

I look at her, not sure what to do. What’s the protocol here?

“We’re not going to fight or anything, are we?” I smile.

She relaxes her fighting stance. I don’t recognize the style. “I don’t know,” she says. “I haven’t decided yet.” She sounds like Katherine Hepburn.

Doesn’t look like Katherine Hepburn, though. She’s a lush, ivory skinned woman poured into a tight strapless black satin evening dress. Her arms are sheathed in matching opera gloves, and two daring slits in her dress reveal shapely stockinged legs. Violet satin flowers adorn the dress. A black domino mask and lipstick caps off the ensemble. Her scent drifts to me on the fall breeze – she smells like, like…

Hydrangea,” she says. “My name is Hydrangea.” I've never heard of her.

“Hi. I’m the Velvet Marauder.” Damn, I just now realize how stupid my name sounds.

“I know. Wombat said I could find you here.”

Thank you, Wombat.

“Uh… what can I do for you?” I say. I’m intensely aware of her beautiful, fragrant scent, and the swell of her bosom against the satin dress.

“I’m hunting the reincarnated soul of an evil lama named Yungtun-Trogyal, who I believe intends to open a portal in your city to a hellish dimension called the Realm of Hungry Ghosts.” She says it so matter-of-fact that she could be talking about her dry cleaning.

“Sure, okay,” I say, hoping to convey the impression that I’m used to shit like this.

She looks up at the bloody moon. “The eclipse – tonight he will perform the portal ceremony. Tonight he will sacrifice to the zhidags, and they will tear open the fabric between worlds. The portal will grow and the Hungry Ghosts will enter the Human Realm. The Hungry Ghosts infect anyone they bite, multiplying, invading. Evergreen City will become a wasteland of ravenous ghouls.”

“That sounds bad,” I say cheerfully. Ravenous ghouls? That sounds awesome.

She shoots me a look. I get the impression she’s measuring me, appraising me. “Wombat said that you know this city, that you could help me. Will you? Can you?”

I don’t like her tone. “Hey, this is my city," I say. "I have a strict zero tolerance policy on ravenous ghouls. What kind of help do you need?”

Hydrangea seems to make up her mind about something, then says, “Yungtun-Trogyal will use recently deceased bodies as vessels for the Hungry Ghosts once the sacrifice is complete. We need to check places like hospitals, morgues, cemeteries.”

“Okay.” This is getting better and better. Cemeteries and Hungry Ghosts. It’s like a Scooby-Doo episode.

“I thought you could check your underworld sources, see if there’s been any unusual activities, particularly in the Chinese community.”

“Right, I’ll um, check my sources.” Hopefully I sound totally convincing. What sources? I hadn't even heard about the Brain Frogs.

She goes on. “Tonight we should focus on trying to stop the sacrifice.”

“Got it.” Human sacrifice. This is good stuff.

“I’ll check the cemeteries, you check the zoo,” she says.

“I’m sorry, what? The zoo?”

She nods. “Yungtun-Troygal must sacrifice a goat, yak, or other horned, cloven foot beast to the zhidags, the demons who guard the portal between the Realms.”

“Oh. Right. No human sacrifice?” I’m sure I sound bummed.

“Tibetan mysticism doesn’t require human sacrifice, Marauder.”

“Right.”

She hands me a little bronze brooch, shaped like a figure eight. “This is a dorje. Think of me when you hold the dorje and we will be able to communicate. Summon me if you find anything interesting.”

I take the brooch. “We’re not teaming up, checking out cemeteries and stuff…?”

She smiles, not unkindly. “Let’s rendezvous tomorrow night here and compare notes.”

Her fragrance nearly overwhelms me, then is washed away by a great blast of wind. Hydrangea rises up off her feet and into the air. Her dress swirls around her legs tantalizingly.

“Don’t let anything bite you,” she says, which is good advice, really.

Then she lifts off, levitating away and into the night with a rush of crisp autumn air.

I’m left on top of the Temple, alone except for the lingering scent of Hydrangea.

Man. She is hot.

October 27, 2004

Margo Update

Margo is wearing a black cardigan with a pink embroidered flower on the breast over a pink shirt and jeans. She strides by me in the hall with her cell phone and Odwalla, pauses in her phone conversation to say, “Hey, you" and then she’s gone.

Corine tells me she's working on something big, some new project. They might have pulled her off Delphi altogether. Maybe it's the QuantumWorks thing I heard about.

I realize I haven’t done a Margo Update in a while. Is that because I haven’t seen her or for some other reason?

You know what would be awesome? A legitimate battle with the supernatural on Halloween. Like a vampire or a witch or something. That would rule. This is my third Halloween, and so far, nothing that goes bump in the night. I'd pay good money to fight zombies or something, anything.

Speaking of zombies, Elfquest and my brother are coming into town Friday night. I've got to think of a good way to ditch them on Halloween so I can patrol.

Oooh, full-on lunar eclipse tonight. Patrol for me.

October 24, 2004

Lord of the Golf

Once again, I kicked JC's ass golfing yesterday. Emerald Greens (corny name) is a beautfiul course perched on a plateau that overlooks the Bay. It's JC's favorite. I prefer Shetfield, but whatever.

I was robbed of complete victory by a thunderstorm rolling in from the ocean. We're on the tenth hole when lightning strikes the head of the Bay.

"Okay, time to split," JC says.

"Duuude," I whine.

"Lightning bad," he says in that caveman voice he does. "Grog holding metal stick. Bad." He cracks me up, but then, my standards are low.

"Okay, Grog."

What can I say? Any reasonable, non-invulnerable person would stop golfing, so I have to leave with him. Besides, I can't kill my best friend just because I want to win.

As we reach the club house I look back at the approaching storm; seething dark clouds, heavy with rain. The wind picks up. I can smell bad weather coming. Smells like... trouble. I better suit up and patrol tonight.

Man, I am corny. "Smells like... trouble." What a tool.

And no, I don't want to hear any comments about the ethics of superhuman golfing. I kicked JC's ass at golf before The Accident, I kick his ass at golf after The Accident. I shall always kick his ass at golf.

It is written.

October 22, 2004

Media Coverage

There was a little blurb on KLUB's 11 PM news last night about me:

Reporter Todd Gregory stands in front of the flattened Cabriolet in the rain.
TODD GREGORY
Witnesses claim that they spotted the Velvet Marauder in a running battle across the rooftops of Old Town with an unknown opponent in a furry suit. And if this ruined car is any indication --
Todd Gregory gestures behind him at the flattened car.
-- it was a savage battle indeed.
Cut to: Gum-snapping woman with vacant stare.
GUM-SNAPPING WOMAN
I was all, 'Oh my God' and they were all 'Aaaah' and they fell right on to that there car and I was all, 'Oh my God...'
Back to Todd Gregory, holding his ear, looking stern.
TODD GREGORY
It's unclear by witness descriptions who exactly the Marauder was fighting. Was this a rematch between the vigilante and the mysteriour Bear Man? Evergreen police were unwilling to speculate, but one thing is clear: the tranquility of Old Town was shattered by a super-powered clash of titans.

Titan. I'm a titan.

I'm all for media coverage, but I feel a little sheepish about getting props for what was essentially super-horseplay. I feel bad about the car, too. I'm a good guy, I'm supposed to protect people's cars, not flatten them.


October 21, 2004

Wombat Part Two

(continued from part one)

“What are you doing in town, Wombat?”

“Hunting,” he says.

I can still hear the car alarm of the flattened Cabriolet in the distance.

“Man, I feel bad about that car,” I say.

“Pfeh, their insurance will cover it.”

“I thought you were possessed, man. Brain Frogs or something.”

Wombat laughs. “Dr Quark banished all the Brain Frogs to another dimension. Didn’t you hear?”

“Must have missed that memo.”

I never hear about shit like that, I’m totally out of the loop. I have to read SuperPeople like the rest of you just to get info. There should be a superhero trade journal or something.

“Next time I’m going to make the Brain Frog noise and freak your shit out!” The guy won’t stand still.

“Man, have you tried decaf? Or Ritalin? You’re like that Croc Hunter dude, you never calm down.”

“I have energy, dude! Energy!” He takes a swipe at me, which I block easily.

“Can we have an adult conversation, Wombat?”

“Probably not. Hey, listen, maybe you can help me. I’m looking for somebody, guy named Edward Thomas James.”

“Sounds like a presidential assassin. Who is he?”

“You don’t know? You fought him a couple weeks ago. Guy in a bear suit.”

“Oh, Yiff? You mean Yiff.” [see post Yiff Part One, 10/4]

Wombat looks at me for a second, then cracks up. “Yiff? You call him that? That’s really funny, I didn’t think normal people knew what ‘yiffy’ meant.”

“I look like a normal person to you?” I gesture at my body armor and velvet top-coat.

“Good point. I fought Edward – Yiff – last year in San Francisco, during the Gay Rights Parade. Guy in a panda suit?”

“Right, I read about that. Same guy, huh? What’s his deal? How do you know his name?”

“I have my sources. He posts on a couple of the message boards I frequent online, so I tracked him down that way. He’s a furry, you know – he’s into the whole furry scene. Dude’s fucking crazy – gets off on violence, but only when he’s dressed up in a furry outfit. And he likes the drugs.”

“Yeah, he seemed really whacked out when I fought him. Plus, he tried to hump me.”

Wombat laughs. “That’s the guy!”

“Well, last I saw him he was on fire, doing a belly-flop on to some rocks in the Bay. Cops never found his body.”

“Yeah, I was hoping that you might have heard something from your sources about him.”

Sources? What sources? “Uhh, no,” I say. “Streets have been pretty quiet lately. I think he’s gone underground.”

“Okay,” Wombat says. “It was worth a shot.”

I don’t want to tell Wombat that I don’t have any sources, like a proper urban vigilante. I don’t regularly shake down pimps and dealers for the “word on the street” or anything. I’m embarrassed to say this, but I’m not really into the whole investigative aspect of crimefighting. I just patrol.

“Listen,” Wombat says, handing me a card. “Here’s an email address, drop me a line if you hear anything. We can meet on the top of that building, the Mason’s Lodge.”

“Got it. Hey, wait a second... message board... Are you a furry, Wombat? You like that kind of stuff?”

Wombat gives me an inscrutable look. I think he might be blushing. “No,” he says lamely.

“You are!” I cry, laughing. “You’re a fucking furry! You find anthropomorphic animals sexually exciting! Don’t you? Wombat – I can’t believe I didn’t put this together before!”

“Shut up, Marauder!” I dodge another swipe of his big paw.

“Furry furry furry!” I laugh.

“Dude, I will kick your ass,” he says.

“Hey man, I say fly that freak flag."

“All right, I’m going now.” Wombat heads for the edge of the roof.

“So do you like, watch that Disney Robin Hood cartoon, the one with the foxes and touch yourself –“

“Fuck you, Marauder.” He drops off the edge of the building, leaving me laughing hysterically on the roof, clutching my sides.

Too fucking funny.

Wombat Part One

(This is a long post, so I'm breaking it up into two parts)

I finally ran into Wombat last night. Literally.

It’s about midnight, and I’m doing my usual patrol circuit through Old Town, enjoying the crisp fall air and the fact that I can leap an entire city block. I decide to swing by the InterBionics construction site, just in case there’s another ninja skulking around. You never know. I’m beginning to think I have a better chance of seeing Bigfoot than I do of seeing that ninja again.

Anyway, I’m running along the roof of the Masonic Temple building when from out of nowhere, fucking Wombat attacks me.

With a scream he launches himself off the peaked roof of the Temple, 250 pounds of fluffy aggression. I spin in time to catch a glimpse of Wombat’s maniacal grin before he slams into me and carries me off the edge into the night.

We’re free falling and he’s laughing. A warehouse rooftop rushes us to meet us.

“Jesus, Wombat--!”

We land hard on the roof. That was a fifty foot drop. I feel the air leave my lungs.

Wombat pops up, all smiles, and cocks a big gloved fist for a punch. Enough of this: I kick him in the head and he rolls off me.

Unsteadily I rise to my feet. My ribs hurt. “What the fuck’s the matter with you?”

Wombat shakes off the kick, and with a berserker yell he launches himself at me.

“Hey, time out!” I say. Too late. He tackles me and we both tumble off the warehouse. Another fifty foot drop.

Wombat is pretty boisterous to begin with, so this behavior isn’t out of context, but you never know, he could be possessed or mind controlled or some shit. It happens all the time.

This time we land on a car, somebody’s red VW Cabriolet. CRASH! Our combined weight and velocity just fucking pancake the roof of the car, blowing the windows out. The car alarm starts wailing.

“Oh shit!” he says, laughing. We’ve destroyed the car.

“Get the fuck off of me!”

Wombat untangles himself from the wreckage, laughing. He tries to help me up but I slap his hand away.

“What’s wrong with you?” I shout over the car alarm.

“Sorry,” he says sheepishly. “I was just roughhousing.”

We both look at the mortally wounded Cabriolet, which is whooping in agony. It is just fucking ruined. It suddenly strikes me as funny, and I have to laugh.

“Dude, let’s get the hell out of here,” he yells, laughing. We split.

Later, on a quiet rooftop, we pause. The car alarm is now a distant plaintive sound of a dying animal, echoing through the urban jungle.

Wombat is still giggling about the car. “That was funny,” he says. “Who put that car there?”

Wombat is a hyper little guy, always bouncing from one foot to another and smacking his fists together, sort of like Burt Ward’s Robin from the old Batman TV series. I remember watching that as a kid and thinking, “Man, don’t they have any pills they could give Robin to calm him down?” Wombat has that same eager, aggressive, A.D.D. vibe.

Why he created the brand Wombat is a mystery to me. Why Wombat?

As alt.animals.wombat tells us:

1. What is a wombat?

The wombat is a cute-looking furry creature which is native to Australia.

To be more specific, wombats are a family of species of the marsupial
order, and there are actually three species within the wombat family. The wombat digs burrows, is mainly nocturnal, and mainly eats grasses.

Wombats do not appear clever or agile (for instance they prefer to barge through any obstacle rather than figure out a way round it) and this has made them an object of derision in Australia where "you wombat" is an accusation of clumsiness or stupidity. In fact, however, although they are extremely stubborn, wombats have proportionally the largest brain of all the marsupials and in captivity are easily house-trained and recognize their pet name when it is spoken.


Wombat does not conform to the Western superhero archetype.

He is a squat little American dude, a good two inches shorter and twenty pounds heavier than me. He wears a suit of body armor covered in a fine brown fur (fake rabbit fur treated with fireproof material) and a helmet/cowl that tapers into a snubby little nose. His stupid grin is the only part of his face visible. Wombat has big furry mittens that hide spring-loaded spades that pop out of his wrist – sort of like Wolverine, but with shovel blades instead of adamantium claws. Instead of a utility belt Wombat has a utility pouch, a marsupial pocket full of gadgets and weaponry. My Guy makes Wombat’s armor and weaponry. As a matter of fact, Wombat introduced me to My Guy when I was first starting out in the hero game.

Wombat’s powers are similar to mine: mid-range super strength, tough skin, dense bones, super-leaping, etc. Wombat has “seismic sense,” a radar based on ground vibrations. He can dig like a motherfucker with those spades of his, too.

Wombat’s okay in my book.

We fought side-by-side during the Villain’s Revolt and he helped me track down Trog last fall. He seems to genuinely enjoy the superhero gig, and he’s not a classist dickhead like some of the superhero elite you run into. He’s a little crazy, but that’s part of his charm.

“What are you doing in town, Wombat?”

(continued)

October 20, 2004

October 18, 2004

Vogue

I went on an early patrol tonight. The city was still busy, noisy, filled with traffic. I stayed away from the office buildings of Midtown and bounced around Queen’s Row. There’s an old water tower on top of the Empress that I like to hang out on and, you know, watch over the city I was sworn to protect and shit. Anyway, I hop up on the water tower – my cleats and spiked gloves dig into the old wood – and strike a (hopefully) characteristic pose.

The view from my water tower is fantastic – out over the steaming city, beyond the Bay, the Pacific shines like molten silver. The twilight sky is pale blue. The sun is a dying glow over the horizon. A chill breeze lifts autumn leaves off the elm trees in Queen’s Row and scatters them into the air like flocks of orange birds. I love this time of year.

Back to striking poses, or “vogueing” as I like to call it. I can’t speak for other urban super-vigilantes, but I practice the poses. You have to have a couple kick-ass poses dialed in – there might be cameras or something. Everybody does it. I’ve watched the Midnight Rambler tapes, and that dude has got serious vogueing skills. I don’t know if it’s a conscious thing with him or just a natural reflection of his bad-assness, but he wrote the book on urban superhero poses. I’ll admit it, Pose #2 Monkey Boxing is a direct rip off from a pose the Rambler struck during his fight with Marko Koresh.

That’s right, I actually name and number my poses. What? It helps me keep track of them! You probably think that’s really geeky don’t you? It’s all part of the brand. One photograph in the Inquisitor of me in a bad-ass pose is all it takes to form a lasting perception of the Velvet Marauder. Think about it.

Anyway, I have practiced my vogueing long and hard in the gym and now have five solid poses in my repertoire. I perched atop the water tower in Pose #1 Vigilant Dragon, my default relaxed-yet-alert pose, and I watched the October sunset and the lights of my city come up all around me.

October 16, 2004

Patrol Report

Boring patrol last night. Broke up a fight between two homeless guys. No sign of Wombat, Yiff, Kestrel, Judo Boys, Jet Pack Mafia, or ninja. Yawn.

It rained. We're heading into the wet season(s) here in Evergreen City. I guess I can't complain because the rain keeps everything nice and green, but it gets a little old after a while. The thing I hate is the days when it's just overcast and grey and looks like it's going to rain, but never does. That's bullshit; it should just rain or not.

Anyway, I shouldn't complain - I could live in Chicago or some place where they have real seasons. I went to school in Illinois for a year, and vowed that I would never complain about Northwest weather again. In Chicago, it gets so hot and so cold that it kills people. Here, we just get a little wet.

October 14, 2004

Why you no post, Marauder?

Wow, sorry I haven't posted much this week. Work has been hellishly busy.

A couple of quick notes:

  • My brother and Elfquest are coming to stay with me next weekend, which is Halloween. Time to do a sweep for incriminating material like porn and Marauderangs. Well, mostly porn.
  • Margo seems subdued and downbeat this week, compared to her usual self. She has a nice new blouse, though. Very MTM.
  • KLUB TV reported a Wombat sighting in Old Town. I wonder what he's doing in EC? I'll have to see if I can find him on patrol.
  • The Times had a nice op-ed piece about me - "Civic Spirit Embodied by Crimefighter." Score.

More later.


October 11, 2004

Fun Info: The Black Budget

Okay, at the risk of seeming unethical, I'll explain the Black Budget.

The reader may wonder where I get the money to outfit my crimefighting activities. I'll be honest, it's fucking expensive, but that's the price you pay to play. As Big Daddy Kane and Ice T tell us, pimpin ain't easy.

Expenses:

I've got my nightstalker armor, which is periodically trashed and upgraded by My Guy. [ see post My Costume is Fucked Up, 8/27]

I've got my custom gym in the barn/garage, which I periodically trash with my own mid-range super strength. [see post My Gym, 8/28]

I've got the Secret Chamber, with all the kit. Sure, it's modest compared to The Weather Center or Striker Mountain, but that don't mean it's cheap. [see post The Batcave II, 9/7]

So how do I do it? How do I pay for all this shit?

I pull in a decent salary as a soulless middle-management suck-up at my nameless corporation, but that's not going to do it. I got a hefty settlement two years ago for The Accident, but a lot of that is tied up in mutual funds and shit. Besides, all of that money is above the board and taxable, and if you've got a secret identity, you've got to worry about The Taxman* as much as supervillains. You won't read that in comics, kids.

I use The Black Budget to finance my superheroics. Wombat introduced me to Numbers, his accountant, a former mob bookkeeper who went into the witness relocation program. Numbers is a wizard at keeping expenses off the books, and had some really good advice which I will not go into here. Plus, he does my regular taxes every year. Did you know that if you work in marketing like me you can write off the cost of a flat screen plasma TV? Well, you can if Numbers is your accountant. Score!

Without going into too much detail, here it is. Back when I first started my nocturnal second career, I intervened in a gunbattle down at the docks between some Triad bangers and the Russian mob. I pulled a wounded Russian dude out of the back of a burning limo, and the guy had a briefcase chained to his wrist. I dragged this guy to safety as the limo blows up, and he died puking blood in my arms - first time I had ever seen somebody die.

I busted the chain easily and popped open the briefcase.

You guessed it: one metric buttload of money.

Now I don't know what you would do in a situation like that, but I took the money. We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars! I rationalize it in two ways: 1) It's dirty money 2) I'm going to use it to do some good, fight some crime.

To my knowledge, the Russians wrote off the money, assuming it had burned in the limo. They've never come looking for it anyway.

Thanks to Numbers, the money is squirreled away in some off-shore accounts collecting interest and I keep some in the house - and that's my Black Budget.

What do you think? Does that make me a bad guy? Or just pragmatic?

*Not the Midnight Rambler villain. I'm referring to the figurative Taxman, like in the Beatles song.

October 10, 2004

Hung over

Not feeling good today. You'd think with my super-physiology I wouldn't get hangovers, but you'd be wrong. Of course, I drank enough gin to kill 3 normal men.

I hosed the pee out the spare uniform in my backyard. Humiliating.

Shit, I forgot to call my brother. I'll call him tonight.

Gatorade and leftover phad thai are the only thing that can save me now.

October 09, 2004

Drinking + patrol = disaster

By the time everybody starts to leave the work party I am loaded. Margo and Evil Val Kilmer are still bowling, but he looks bored. Margo's competitive nature is apparently enhanced by alcohol; she just wants to BOWL she announces repeatedly.

Time for me to split.

Fred Schneider staggers off towards his loft with a drunken, "Ta ta!" I flag a cab down for Corine, who has been trying to keep pace with me and Fred Schneider. I've got a superhuman metabolism and Fred Schneider is a professional martini drinker, and Corine's just this little thing, so she's drunk. I put her in the cab and pay the driver. She looks up at me, and for a second she sends out that "kiss me" vibe, but I could be wrong. Maybe she's had so many drinks that I look like David Boreanaz. Anyway, I close the door and she's off.

I stagger back to the Saab. Wait a second, where am I going? I can't drive, I'm tanked.

Then it hits me.

My spare armor is in the trunk - I should go on patrol! What a great idea! I'm too drunk to drive, but fighting crime - no problem!

I forget all about Margo and Evil Val Kilmer when I start putting on the suit in the back seat. And no, I'm not going to call him Brett Eastman. He's Evil Val Kilmer.

In a few minutes I'm bounding heavily across the rooftops of Queen's Row. It's funny, every time I jump I make a loud grunting noise. I wonder if I do that when I'm sober? I always thought of myself as catlike and graceful, but I'm pounding around making water buffalo noises. I have to pee.

Then I see Margo and Evil Val Kilmer walking out of the Greyhound. Oooh, I should follow them. Maybe they'll get mugged and I can save them! That would be awesome.

I can't believe they don't hear me as I'm scrambling around on the rooftops of all these old brownstones in the Row, keeping pace with them. Between all the grunting and the shingles I kick off into the night, I make quite a racket. I stop on the corner of a rooftop and look down at them, zooming in with my goggle optics. Still have to pee.

They're walking back to a car, I suppose. Margo's leaning on him, smiling sleepily. She has one arm locked with his, listening to him talk. It's a chilly night, and the steam from her breath floats around her head like a halo. Every once in a while she looks up at him, and the look on her face, the glow - she should be looking up at me. At me, not E.V.K. Boy, I gotta pee.

I sway a little bit - the binocular goggles can really fuck up your equilibrium - and I feel my center of gravity dangerously shift. It's a three story drop to pain and humiliation.

I lurch back away from the edge, get caught up in some wires, and fall on my ass. I try to rise, but I get tangled in the wiring. I have to get up, I want to see what kind of car this pud drives. My head swims. Gin is evil.

One of the reasons I like my current, upgraded costume is that it has a detachable codpiece that makes it easy to pee. This is a crucial and often overlooked feature that is often missing in suits of full body armor, which should be designed with more than just the user's protection in mind. The old version of the armor did not have this functionality, so that's the one I use as a spare. That's the one I'm wearing tonight. Now.

I'm suddenly gripped by the urgency of the situation. My bladder is dangerously swollen and heavy with gin and tonic water. I need to piss bad!

I look around on the rooftop. I'm just going to have to go up here. I start unbuckling my utility belt.

I'm not going to make it.

"Fuck!" My fingers are suddenly thick - I can't get the buckle open.

The utility belt pops off, and then I reach around back, undo the velcro seam along my spine, and start to unzip --

I pee in my uniform.

I fucking pee in my uniform.

"No, no, no!" I cry.

Hot acidic urine gushes down my legs, soaking into the poly underlayer of the suit. The warmth crawls down towards my boots. I collapse back on the roof, groaning. "Fuuuuck!"

This isn't right. God has given me these powers, these wonderful abilities with one hand, and with the other hand he gives me a humping superfreak in a bear suit [see post Yiff Part One, 10/4/04] and a costume full of my own pee and no Margo! That ain't right!

I howl in drunken outrage at the cosmic injustice of it all. I roar into the night, filling Evergreen City with my rage. I roar like an exiled lion.

"Whyyy?!!!"

I have got to be the first superhero ever - ever - who has pissed himself.


October 08, 2004

Evil Val Kilmer Must Die

I don’t know why I go to things like the Company party. I don’t like parties and holidays. Generally I think of festivities as a time to reflect upon the utter lack of a meaningful relationship in my life and how I’m going to die alone and stuff like that. Except Halloween, I like Halloween.

The Company rented out the Greyhound, a big club on Queen’s Row in the renovated bus station. It has a cavernous pool hall; a bar with expensive, crappy food; and a small bowling alley. They gave out three drink tickets to everybody and had a couple tables full of food.

I got a gin & tonic and some breaded calamari and hung out with Fred Schneider making catty comments about our co-workers’ outfits and spouses. Isn’t that what you do at work parties?

One gin & tonic led to four gin & tonics, and Fred Schneider and I were starting to get a little buzzed. Fred Schneider is really funny and mean when he gets drunk. Corine dragged us over to a pool table and made us play against her and a girl from AP whose name escapes me. While we’re playing Margo walks in with Evil Val Kilmer.

She looks great in Capri pants and a red blouse, and her hair is flipped back and held in place with a Gwen Stacy hairband. Evil Val Kilmer looks great, too, the fucker. He’s wearing a black polished cotton shirt with an asymmetrical white stripe running down – you know what? Who cares what he was wearing?

Margo hugs Gail and gets pulled into the bowling area while a waitress is magnetically drawn to Evil Val Kilmer to take his drink order. It’s like Dracula, he just kind of lifts his chin a little and she coasts over. He moves with a certain intention, like a fighter or a dancer. I’m not being gay, I’m just sizing up the competition. Hey, you know, he’s pretty fit – he could be a supervillain. Seriously, shit like that happens all the time.

“There’s your luv-aaah,” Fred Schneider says in a sing-song as he takes a shot, sounding exactly like Fred Schneider. He’s talking about Margo, not Evil Val Kilmer.

Corine notices this, arches an eyebrow. Corine notices a lot of things.

I drink some more and play some more pool. Gail introduces me to her husband, who thanks me for saving her life. I’m a little tipsy so I just smile and nod a lot.

Leaving Fred Schneider in the middle of a detailed deconstruction of Dragon Lady’s work wardrobe and its lack of both variety and aesthetics, I head up to the bar for another Tanqueray and tonic.

Evil Val Kilmer slides up next to me, orders a vodka martini and a cosmo. I’ll bet the cosmo is for him. We look at each other, do the nod thing.

Margo just scored a strike and is elated, pantomiming pulling a train whistle. “Whooo whooo! Pain train’s comin!” she yells. She’s a little tipsy as well.

I laugh. “She’s something,” I say.

“Margo? Yeah, she’s something all right,” Evil Val Kilmer says.

We watch her clapping as somebody records her score. She’s pointing at her bowling opponents, taunting them.

“Lot of spirit, anyway,” Evil Val Kilmer says. I don’t like his tone of voice. He changes gears, holds out his hand. “I’m Brett, by the way. Brett Eastman. You must be Mackenzie. Margo’s told me about you.”

I shake his hand without crushing it.

“Boy, nothing bad I hope.” I fake laugh.

“No, she thinks highly of you,” he says, and leaves unspoken “…but I don’t know why.” I’m kind of blown away by the idea that she could ever think about me when I wasn’t there.

“What do you do, Brett?”

“I’m in pharmaceuticals,” he says, sipping his martini.

Pharmaceuticals. Don't you hate him? I do. He’s probably involved in illegal drug testing that creates giant rat-men, or working on a super soldier serum. It’s always something like that.

“Brett!” Margo calls. “You’re up!”

“My lady beckons,” he says dryly. “Nice meeting you.”

“Yeah,” I say.

Margo waves at me, smiling. “Mackenzie! Come bowl! Bowl with us!”

I smile, wave her off. “Carpal tunnel,” I yell, pointing at my wrist. She scowls in a parody of irritation.

She thinks highly of me.

I down my drink and order another, watching her shimmy in victory after another strike.

Dyna-mite!

I realized that I'm Winking Guy. I'm the person in your office who winks when he passes you in the hall or makes a little gun pow-pow motion at you. I'm the guy who adopts cheesy affectations in an ironic manner: "I'm so not cheesy that I act cheesy."

This epiphany came to me today at work when Wookie dropped something off at my desk and I said, "Dyna-mite," winked at her, and gave her a little finger/gun thing. She gave me a strained smile and walked off. Jesus, I am that guy.

October 07, 2004

Colin callin'

My brother Colin called, left a message. He's coming out to Evergreen City with his wife Moonbeam* in a few weeks. Hasn't talked to me in a while, just touching base, etc. I hope he doesn't want to crash here, that would crimp my crimefighting style.

I'd call him back, but it's late and there's what, a two hour time difference between us and New Avalon? I'll call him tomorrow.

*Not really her name. Her name is Serenity, which is a very pretty name - if you're in a cult or something.

"That must have hurt."

I'm back at work. My story is that I was laid low by a combo flu / sinus infection, which helps explain my red, swollen ear.

Dragon Lady stops by and makes uncomfortable small talk, tries to act like she cares about my well-being. 5 points to her for remembering my name. Corine comes by and makes cooing noises and winces at the sight of my ear. She says, "That must have hurt."

I don't think anything of it until she leaves, but she said, "That must have hurt." What does that mean? If somebody told you that they had a swollen ear from a sinus infection (however probable or improbable that may be) you would say "that must hurt." By saying, "that must have hurt" it implies that my swollen ear was a result of some injury. You see what I'm saying?

Does Corine know? She saw me leap about twenty feet to take out Todd when he went postal [see post He Goes Postal, 9/14/04] but she's never said anything about it, really. Am I being paranoid? I'm a super-powered illegal vigilante with a secret identity, does the normal standard for paranoia apply to me?

God, I forgot. The Company party is this Friday night at this pool hall/bowling alley/bar in Queen's Row. I better go to that. I wonder if Margo is going.




October 06, 2004

Media Coverage

This has been a great week for me as far as P.R. goes.

Both newspapers had good coverage - the Inquisitor had a color picture of me in mid-air with the burning cop car in the background, and the Times headline screamed: "SUPER-BRAWL IN WATERFRONT PARK" with a sub-headline that said "Marauder saves cop from rampaging bear man." It's pretty good stuff, I come out looking like a stud. Here's a bit from the Inquisitor article:


Lieutenant William Connors of the ECFD was quick to credit the Velvet Marauder for saving Johnson [the cop].

"I know as city employees we're not supposed to comment on unsanctioned parahumans, but if he hadn't been there, I think things might have turned out different. That guy took some hits for us and killed that bear freak, so he's okay in my book."

Firefighter Todd Wilkens agrees. "He's got a lot of heart. He may look kind of, you know, flamboyant, but Marauder took care of business tonight."


Flamboyant? What the hell is that supposed to mean? I can't catch a break, I swear to God.

Anyway, the newspaper coverage is good. It's all going in the scrapbook. Yes, I keep a scrapbook, and no, I'm not vain. It's for my memoirs.

I Tivo'd all the local news channels for coverage of the fight - all except the Fox station, because they suck. KORN and KLUB had the best footage, but KARP 7 had a helicopter overhead, so they got good footage of Yiff plummeting into the bay, on fire. And yes, that's really the name of the station - KARP 7.

KORN definitely has the best footage - the shot of me slamming into their van, then looking up at the camera - you can hear Yiff barking in the background - and I hit them with the Marauder Smile and say: "Hey, how you guys doing? Nice night, huh?" I gotta say, that played really well, and I'm glad I had the presence of mind while getting molested by a guy in a bear suit to say something like that. Really helps reinforce the brand, you know, the swashbuckler archetype.

As usual Leslie Milton does a recap, backlight by police cars, blond hair flying in the rotor wash of the helicopters. Those glasses of hers are sexy. "Doctors at Bayview Hospital list Officer Johnson in serious but stable condition, and though police spokesman are hesitant to endorse the activities of any vigilante, they do acknowledge that the Velvet Marauder was instrumental in saving Officer Johnson's life and ending the rampage of the um, the bear suit guy. Looks like Evergreen City's nocturnal guardian can put another notch in the win column."

That last bit didn't make sense. Another notch in the win column? What does that mean? It doesn't matter, it's positive exposure. It's all about the brand. And right now, the brand is looking good.

I'm a hero. The TV says so.


"Something viral"

I call in sick again. I talk to Corine, Dragon Lady's assistant.

"Yeah, I'm going to work from home today," I say. "I feel like ass. Something viral."

"Gosh, you sound awful," Corine says.

I sound awful because I'm talking to her upside down. Here's a tip: if you have to call in sick, don't try to "act" sick or cough or ham it up. Just turn yourself upside down on your couch or something and talk normally. You sound different enough that it will be misinterpreted as illness.

Corine says she'll tell Dragon Lady and wishes me a speedy recovery. She's sweet.

Great, another day off to nurse my wounds. I can't go to work looking like this; my ear has swollen to twice it's normal size and I've got a black eye. My shoulder is fucked up - I think I better go see a chiropractor.

October 05, 2004

YIFF Epilogue

At the south end of the Bay, near the shipyards, where black oily water laps against the rocky shoreline, a sodden figure claws its way on to land.

Yiff crawls up on the slick rocks, dripping wet. His bear costume is blackened and burnt past the point of recognition - the friendly bear grin is melted and his doll eyes are missing; only black sockets remain. He makes a guttural wounded animal noise, then vomits sea water out of a hole in his bear head.

He looks back across the Bay at Waterfront Park, which sparkles with light from the cop cars and fire trucks. Helicopters drift up the coastline like dragonflies, searching the dark water with beams of light. He looks at this all and he growls... and he hates.

(At least, that's how I picture the scene. The cops didn't find his body, and I mean, come on - you know he's not dead, right? You know I'm going to have to fight that sick humpy furry wierdo again.)

YIFF Part Two

(This is part two of my dignity-robbing battle with Yiff, the furry supervillain. You may want to check out part one first.)

So I’m trying to catch my breath and clear my head when I notice the cop car on the other side of Waterfront Park is burning. I’d let it burn except there’s a cop trapped underneath it, and as a superhero I have to do something about shit like that.

Okay, pull it together. Assess the situation: Yiff is still walking around in circles retching and holding his throat where I zapped him with a Ramblerang, so I figure I’ve got a few seconds of leeway. There are cops with guns and bullhorns on the edge of the park, wisely hiding behind cars. Helicopters thrum overhead. The KORN 4 news van has been joined by a crew from KLUB – there’s that weasel reporter Jim Crain with his windbreaker. I hate that guy. A fire truck and ambulance are rolling up, lights flashing. The cop under the car is yelling for help.

Do I rescue the cop or press the attack?

I need some elbow room, so I rip up a park bench – the bolts that anchor it to the plaza pop easily – and I smack Yiff with it. Pow! He flies back about twenty yards into the Bon Marche, crashing into one of their display windows, bowling over mannequins dressed in the latest fall fashion.

That was satisfying. Really, if you ever get a chance to hit somebody with a park bench, you should. Only hit bad guys, kids.

I run over to the burning cop car which is smashed at a crazy angle against a building at the edge of the plaza. The exposed undercarriage is on fire – the gas tanks are going to go. Trapped under the car, a bloody ECPD officer. Gasoline pools around him on the concrete. It’s a bad scene.

Throwing a glance over my shoulder, I see Yiff thrashing around in the Bon Marche window display. What’s he doing? A couple of firefighters are running up. One’s got a backboard, the other’s got a fire extinguisher. They both have moustaches. What is it with firefighters and moustaches? I heard that it’s to keep snot from dripping into their mouths when they’re fighting a fire. That’s what I hear.

Sorry, back to the scene.

One of the firefighters bends down and starts talking to the cop, checking him out, while the second one shoots the car with extinguisher. I stand there like an idiot, not knowing what to do. Do I pull the car off him?

Yiff is making dolphin sounds, tearing apart the mannequins. What a freak.

The firefighter’s extinguisher runs out of juice, and the car is still on fire. Jesus, is that all those things have in them?

Yiff is humping a headless mannequin in a turtleneck sweater. It’s only a matter of time before he turns his attention back my way.

“Guys, do you want me to pull this car off him or what?”

The firefighter with the useless extinguisher looks kind of startled. “You can do that?”

Doesn’t this guy read the papers? I make an exasperated 13 year old girl noise. “Yeah, dude, I’m the fucking Velvet Marauder.”

He looks to his buddy to make the call. “Will?”

Will looks up from the cop, who looks bad, bleeding from his nose. “Yeah, lift it straight up off him, okay? Straight up.”

I grab the undercarriage, which is sizzling hot. I can hear Yiff screaming behind me somewhere. “Okay, clear back, clear back!”

The cop car groans and creaks as I lift it. My gauntlets crumple the undercarriage, digging into the hot steel. I lift it straight up, using my legs. It’s fucking heavy, and awkward as hell.

When I figure I’ve cleared the cop I take a couple steps back. Whoosh – I hear it burst into flames. Time to get rid of it.

I pivot, stagger forward a few steps, and throw the cop car about twenty feet. It crashes into a big cement planter. The gas tank finally goes, and the entire car is engulfed in flames. The red and blue cop lights are still flashing.

Through the heat waves and the oily smoke I see Yiff on the other side of the park, stepping down out of the Bon Marche display window with a mannequin arm in his hand. He looks around with his big bear head and his glossy black eyes. Looking for something to hump, no doubt.

The firefighters are working on transferring the fallen cop to the backboard. A couple more paramedics are running forward, hunched low like they were in a war zone. They kind of are I guess. I catch a glimpse of white bone sticking through a red tear in the cop’s leg. Damn, that’s for real.

Okay, where is Yiff? I lost him in the smoke. I trot forward into the park, scanning for him…

…and that’s when I get hit by the car. Yiff picks up a Toyota Prius parked at the edge of the park and throws it at me.

I clearly recall thinking that I like the Prius, I’m all for alternate fuel sources and low emissions and the environment and shit like that. You kind of have to be in Evergreen City, or they throw you out. Anyway, I think to myself, “I like those, but I wish they came in different colors.” And then the car hits me.

Now, it’s not a big car, the Prius, so I don’t want to make a big deal out of it. It’s not like he threw a Ford Explorer at me or anything. So, no, it’s not a big car, but let me just say that getting hit with a car- any car – hurts like a bitch.

The car hits me and I fold like a map. I collapse under its weight – the hood lands on my face – and just get smeared across the plaza until I run into a big cement planter.

I pass out, I’m sure. The Prius is sort of a woman’s car, don’t you think? The colors, the design, even the name – sounds like an energy bar. It’s a feminine brand. I think Toyota should do a hybrid car in safety yellow, with black rubber bumpers. Sort of a mini-Tonka car. I’d buy one of those.

That’s what I think about in my dream state with this hybrid car on top of me.

Yiff makes weird keening noises as he approaches. He grabs the Prius and flips it off of me with a grunt.

I look up and see this big freaky superhuman guy in a dirty bear costume looming over me, panting. I do the first thing that comes to mind: I kick him in the crotch.

The impact lifts Yiff off his feet. He lands a few yards away, doubled over, caterwauling like a wounded yak.

“Okay, weirdo,” I say as I rise to my feet, shaky. I’m worried I have a concussion, and my shoulder doesn’t feel right, but my whole body is sort of numb and tingly so I can’t tell if I’m hurt bad or not. I step forward and grab Yiff by an ear. “Time to –“

Yiff backhands me. I fly back about sixty feet and skid right into the side of the KORN news van, narrowly missing the camera guy.

I look up at the blinding lights of the news camera. I grin up into the lens. “Hey, how you guys doing? Nice night, huh?” Smooth, huh? That will play well.

Yiff is howling. He’s picked up the Prius again and is holding it over his head. Gasoline is dripping down on him. He’s looking around for somewhere to throw it. The firefighters are carrying the cop out of the park on the backboard, moving as fast as they dare go. Yiff spots them.

“Hey!” I yell. I fire off a Ramblerang. Miss. “Hey, freakshow! Over here!”

Yiff turns.

The KORN cameraman is not psyched about this. “Hey man, what are you doing?”

I ignore him. “Hey, Huggy Bear! What’s going on? Is it pon farr or something?” God, I’m a geek. The firefighters are almost out of range.

The cameraman is still filming, but he’s edging away from me. “Shut up, dude! Can’t you see he’s got a car?”

“I guess somebody forgot to spay or neuter their giant bear, huh? Why don’t you put the hybrid automobile down and we’ll go find you one of those big FAO Schwartz teddy bears and you can hump that, okay?”

Yiff screams and throws the car. I go flat and feel it rush over my head, then it slams into the news van like a meteor. Don’t worry, the cameraman got out of the way. The firefighters clear the cop off the battlefield.

I’m up on my feet. “Missed!”

The KORN van is demolished, completely caved in with the Prius sticking out of it, smoking. I feel bad for a second – I’ll bet there’s a lot of expensive gear in that van. You know what, though? They voluntarily came here, they knew the risks. Besides, every company has superhuman insurance these days.

Yiff charges, head down. I jump directly up – about fifteen feet – and he plows under me and into the wrecked van. Crunch.

The trunk of the Prius has popped open and I spot a couple highway flares. On an impulse I grab them.

With an inhuman sound, Yiff tears free of the van. He whirls around, insane with rage. He spots me. Lunges.

Tomoe nage, the circle throw, is a judo move in which the defender grabs the attacker’s arm and lapel (or fur), falling back, while using a leg to catapult the attacker over you. I call it the Captain Kirk throw, because in damn near every episode of classic Star Trek where he got in a fight, Kirk was always busting some tomoe nage on somebody, flipping them through the air. I use tomoe nage on Yiff, and throw him clear across Waterfront Park. He lands near the promenade, crashing against the cement guard rail.

Press the attack. I sprint across the plaza, lighting one of the road flares. You saw that coming didn’t you? Using a bench as a springboard I launch myself into the air, into a high arc that brings me down right on Yiff.

I stab him in the chest with the burning flare. His gas-soaked teddy bear outfit goes up like a torch.

He doesn’t scream. He just bats me aside with another backhand. Smack! I hit another concrete planter. Who put all these fucking planters in the park anyway? Whatever happened to open space, why do we have to clutter our parks with these things? I mean, they hurt.

Yiff is just standing there, burning. He looks around, as if he’s dazed. Looks at one of his burning paws.

I stand up. He sees me, staggers toward me, fire rolling off of him. He smells like gas and piss. I kick him.

Yiff reels back over the cement guard rail, burning and smoking, crashing into the Bay forty feet below.

I run to the edge of the promenade. Yiff is floating face down in the waves. He landed on barely submerged rocks along the shore. I guess I better go get him.

Footsteps run up behind me. Cops, and a camera crew. They all run to the guard rail and look over.

One of the cops looks over at me. “You better get out of here,” he says, not unkindly.

I’m panting, dazed, hurt. It takes a second to register. Every cop in Evergreen City is advancing across the Park. Right. Time to go.

With what I hope seems like a jaunty salute, I trot off. I can hear the reporters calling after me. Some cop yells “freeze.” I jump up on to a roof and I’m gone.

About ten minutes later the pain kicks in. I barely make it to my car.


October 04, 2004

YIFF Part One

I know this probably goes without saying, but having a car land on you hurts - even if it is a small one.

Last night I’m on patrol in midtown, listening to Ministry in one ear and the police scanner in the other. It’s a nice fall night – the moon’s rising, the air smells crisp and clean. Not much going on.

No word yet on the manhunt for Exploder – I don’t know what I expect, to just stumble across him on patrol? He’s out of the state if he’s smart.

Commotion on the scanner: I turn down Psalm 69 to hear a cop screaming for back-up, something about his car getting flipped over. He’s on 3rd, near Waterfront Park, which is only three blocks from me. Then I hear gunshots.

Game on. I turn off the audio and head for the park – I can hear sirens all around me honing in on the park. I leap up on top of a mid-rise office building and run across to the other side to get a look at the scene.

I don’t know whether to laugh or what. There’s a guy in a fuzzy bear outfit tossing a hot dog stand across the park.

It’s chaos. This bear guy is fucking shit up. A cop car is overturned, smashed up against a wall at the edge of the park. People are running, screaming. A car alarm is going off somewhere. Somebody’s mini-van is burning. The hot dog vendor guy is screaming, swearing.

I zoom in on the bear guy with my goggles. He’s lurching around like he’s drunk or high. Occasionally he swings at the air, like he’s swatting a bee. And yes, he’s wearing a bear costume. It looks like what’s his name, Kody, the mascot for the Kodiaks. It’s a light brown costume with a dark belly and a stubby tail. He’s got a big oval bear head fixed in a permanent stupid grin. Lifeless black eyes glisten in the mini-van fire. He looks shabby, dirty.

“Creepy,” I say.

Ignoring the cop on the bullhorn down the street yelling at him, the bear guy starts heading for the overturned cop car. ECPD cars are splayed all over the road at the edge of the park, lights pulsing. I hear news helicopters overhead – or is that the Sheriff’s chopper? They’ll have SWAT here soon.

I spot the KORN news van. The camera crew is setting up. Good news.

Just as I’m about to leap off the roof down into the park, I see the cop. He’s trapped under his overturned car – I can just see his arm and head. Gasoline pools nearby. I think the bear guy see the cop, too.

“Hey!” I shout. “Hey fuckhead! Up here!”

I’m too far away, the bear doesn’t notice me. And I thought they had good hearing.

I fire a Ramblerang at him. The spinning projectile launches from my gauntlet, arcs through the air…

…and misses! God, I suck.

The Ramblerang prangs into the undercarriage of the police car. The bear turns. Well, at least I got his attention.

The helicopters are pounding overhead and the news crew is filming. That’s my cue. I jump down, bounce off the top of a light pole, pull off a somersault and land lightly on the ground. Now that’s what you call an entrance.

I point at him with a gloved hand. "Hey. Yogi."

The bear guy looks at me blankly from across the plaza.

“I like your outfit, man. Very yiffy. Are you like, a mascot or something?”

I should explain about Waterfront Park, in case you’ve never been there. I’ll bet you’ve seen it on TV – every movie filmed here has a scene shot here. That one Meg Ryan movie, where she falls in love with the leprechaun? They had a scene in Waterfront Park. What the hell was the name of that movie? Anyway, the park. It’s a big plaza set right on the edge of Pier 63 on the edge of the midtown shopping district. It’s surrounded by clubs and restaurants and shops and has a nice promenade overlooking the water where you can walk and look at the sunset with your leprechaun lover.

Back to the bear guy, who we will now call Yiff. He just looks at me with those doll eyes, feet spread wide apart. It looks like he’s panting under that suit – I bet it’s hot. Is he high or what?

“Tell you what, why don’t we call it a night. I’ll get you a nice picnic basket or something.”

He starts walking towards me. Staggers, actually. Like Frankenstein. Good, at least he’s not after the cop.

“Dude, you should wash that outfit.”

He’s getting closer.

“You ever try Woolite?”

And then he just decks me.

I saw it coming but, I don’t know, I just didn’t move for some reason. It just seemed so stupid, this guy in a fuzzy suit. He clocks me with a roundhouse punch that spins me off into an alder tree. The tree snaps, and I nearly snap as well.

Damn! Yiff’s strong.

I get to my feet. My ears are buzzing. It feels like ants are crawling all over the side of my face where he hit me. That smarts.

“Okay, Yiff. Lucky sho—“

Suddenly the bear guy grabs me in a, um, bear hug. One second I’m trying to shake off the punch and the next second I’m wrapped in stinky wool. We both topple over.

Yiff’s on top of me, and he’s making weird barking noises. I can feel that he’s got tons of padding on his costume to give him that cute bear silhouette, but under it he’s got arms like steel cables. He squeezes me and kind of hops at the same time, forcing the air out of my lungs.

The last breath I get I smell him. Yiff smells like a wet sweater and piss. No, wait. He smells like a wet sweater and coffee piss, that particular tangy scent you get in your urine when you drink too much coffee. He smells like that.

Now I’m hoping that the KORN team isn’t filming this, because I feel sort of like I’m getting molested here. Yiff is squeezing and hopping and making this barky noise –

--that’s when I realize he’s humping me. He’s fucking humping my leg!

“Oh, hell no!” I cry out. I struggle and heave until he rolls off of me. He’s still got hold of my waist, still smells like coffee pee. I wrench one arm free and punch him, a sharp jab right in his face.

No good. My fist practically bounces off his big bear head.

He’s looking at me with those creepy black eyes. He sounds like a seal now. A horny seal.

“Perv--!” I manage as he squeezes tighter, bucking. Something pops. I hope it’s the armor and not me.

Enough of this. I’m comfortable with my sexuality and shit, but I’m not going to let some dude in a bear suit dry hump me on network television. I jam my fist against his neck, where his big bear head meets his fuzzy bear costume, and I fire a Ramblerang point blank, right into his fucking neck.

Yiff lets go and reels back, clutching his neck. I can hear him wheezing.

I’d say something witty but I can barely breathe myself. Little motes of light dance in front of my eyes and my ribcage feels like broken chopsticks.

Over the sound of the helicopters, over the sound of the sirens and the cops screaming on the bullhorn, over the sound of that goddamn car alarm – can somebody shut that fucking thing off? – over the sound of the blood pumping in my ears, I hear somebody yelling for help.

I look up, trying to focus. I think that freak cracked a rib…

The trapped cop is yelling, waving at me. I squint, ears ringing. What’s he saying?

It’s probably something about the cop car on top of him catching on fire.

Continued…

(Sorry to break it up like that, but it’s for your own good. Nobody wants to scroll through a huge post. SPOILER: I don’t die.)