Went on patrol last night.
I bounce around the rooftops of Chinatown and Old Town for a while, stop by the Interbionics Building to check for ninja (no luck) then head over to Queen's Row.
I'm starting to feel like myself again, pulling myself out of the unmanly depression that I sunk into when Hydrangea left. I'm young, I'm handsome, and I’m super-powered - what's there to complain about? I'm the fucking Velvet Marauder. Life's good. Right?
Anyway, I hit Queen's Row at about midnight, hoping for some action. I spring from rooftop to rooftop, listening to the Crystal Method album "Legion of Boom" on the com-suite. Good patrol music. Velvet Marauder says check it out.
I skid to a stop on the same rooftop where I had my, um, accident last month. (see post Drinking + patrol = disaster, 10/9) I survey Queen's Row, which is full of the usual weekend revelers, hipsters on X, and frat boys spilling into and out of the dozens of clubs and bars on the Row. I love Evergreen City because even when the weather turns shitty, people still go out and go dancing and get shit-faced.
What's this? Something going on in an alleyway next to that jazz club. I switch the goggles to infrared and zoom in.
A mugging! Some old guy getting pushed around by a couple punks. I almost cheer. It's been months - months! - since I've stopped a proper mugging. I was starting to get worried; when I went into the urban vigilante business I thought I'd be stopping a mugging every night. Sadly, I'm in the wrong town for that. I need to move to Turbine City or Chicago for that kind of pervasive street crime. I've come to grips with the depressing lack of muggings in my city, but it's still something I long for.
I turn off the Crystal Method. Game on. I leap off the roof clear across Queen's Row and into the alley, rebound off a fire escape and land on top of big dumpster with a loud clang right next to the muggers, scaring the shit out of them. I pop into Pose #1 Vigilant Dragon, my default bad-ass pose.
They're street kids; two grubby white boys in hoodies with the hollowed cheekbones and sunken eyes of junkies. They've got an old man up against the wet brick of the alley and are rifling through his pockets. The old guy has an Abe Lincoln beard and he's swaying - he's either hurt or drunk. If he's hurt I'm gonna kick the shit out of these guys.
The punks jump back, startled by my sudden entrance and no doubt awed by the Vigilant Dragon pose.
We all stare at each other for a second. The old man slumps to the ground with a groan.
I stab a gloved finger at one of the punks, who's holding the old guy's wallet. "Lose the wallet or lose your teeth," I growl. Pretty butch, huh? I've practiced that line in front of a mirror.
They run for it. Stupidly, the guy with the wallet doesn't drop it. Fine with me.
I give them a two-second head start before I go after them. I launch off the dumpster and over their heads, landing in front of them.
I clothesline one of the punks with an extended arm - he runs full speed into the crook of my elbow and ends up flat on his back, gasping for air.
The guy with the wallet runs past me, scared shitless, screaming like a girl. I spin and launch a Marauderang from my gauntlet. It catches him in the ankle and he falls face first, bouncing off the wet brick. Ouch.
Casual-like, I walk up to the prostate punk and roll him over with my boot. He's crying. Blood and snot bubble out of his broken nose. Can't be more than seventeen. I kneel down and pick up the old man's wallet.
"Stay put," I say in my best menacing tone.
I check out the old man with the Abe Lincoln beard, who seems okay. It looks like they just pushed him around. He's drunk and, yes, he's pissed himself. I can relate.
"I'm fine, I'm fine," he mumbles. "My wallet..."
I give him his wallet back then walk back to the punks. Lifting them up by the nape of their necks, I shake them a little to get their attention.
"You're lucky he's not hurt. I see you fuckers down here trying to jack people again, I'm going to hurt you. Bad. Now go clean yourselves up. Read a book or something."
With one last shake for good measure I let them go. They stumble down the alley. Punks.
"Can you -- can you help me up?" the old man says.
I gently pull him to his feet, make sure his wallet is in his pocket. Jesus, what's this guy been drinking? He smells like my Uncle Joe at Christmas.
"You okay, sir?"
"Just need to catch my breath... Goddamn kids. Goddamn punk kids."
"Tell me about it," I say. "Look, I'm going to call an ambulance, get you checked out."
"No, no, I'm fine. I'm not hurt, I'm okay, not hurt."
Man, he smells. What's the protocol here? I can't just leave him in this alley.
"What's your name, sir?"
"Gus," he says.
"Hi, Gus. I'm the Velvet Marauder. You live around here?"
He nods. "On Sixth and Pryor." That's like ten blocks away. He can't walk home. I pull my Nokia out of the utility belt and call a cab.
I gently help Gus to the end of the alley and wait for the cab. In a boozy soliloquy I learn that he was out drinking with his woman and he got in a fight with her and started drinking gin and he should never drink gin and he's got a Chihuahua at home named Scooby and it was his woman's but now it loves him so much that it's pretty much his dog now and oh how he loves Scooby and then the cab comes thank God.
After stuffing Gus in the backseat I hand the driver, a jaded East African guy, a twenty and give him the address. Yeah, I carry cash in my utility belt.
"Wait, mister. Hold it," the driver says. He doesn't even comment on my crime fighting garb. "I cannot take this man. Look at him, he is very drunk."
Gus is flopped over in the back seat, muttering about Scooby, smelling like pee.
"He's not that bad. Just drop him off."
"No way," the guy says. "What am I going to do, kick him out on the curb? Carry him?" He pushes the twenty back at me.
I sigh. "All right. Christ."
Pushing Gus over, I hop in the back seat. In a few minutes I'm hauling him out the cab in front of the Pryor Estates, an old brick apartment building that you would say had "character" if you were being charitable. I know this place; I fought one of the Jet Pack Mafia on the roof during the Villain's Revolt.
"I really appreciate this," Gus says, then burps.
"Don't mention it. What floor are we on?"
"Nine. Oh, the elevators are out for maintenance."
To save time I just throw his pee-soaked drunken septuagenarian ass over my shoulder and run up the stairs. Mercifully he does not vomit. I guarantee you this kind of shit only happens to me. You will never in a million years see Silver Striker helping drunks home.
His apartment is sweltering hot and smells of socks. I help him into the living room, which is dimly lit by a table lamp, and ease him into a tattered recliner chair. I turn the heat down.
I look around. The place is shabby, stained. There's a dusty cuckoo clock on the wall next to old family pictures of children and sunshine. On the TV there's a photo of him on a sailboat, grinning, happy. An ancient looking Chihuahua lies curled up on the couch - it can't be bothered to move or bark at me. Dishes are piled in the sink. Soft snoring comes from the bedroom in back. Gus's woman.
"Will you get me something to drink?" Gus calls from his chair.
I pick up a dirty tumbler of scotch and melted ice from a side table and rinse it off in the sink. Setting the water at his side, I ask him, "You sure you're feeling all right, Gus?"
"Yeah. I'm fine." He's already drifting into sleep.
"Okay, I turned the heat down a little. You take care now, Gus."
"Thanks," Gus murmurs. "Thanks, Midnight Rambler."
I cannot catch a fucking break.