(This is Part One of my battle with the the ECPD Paracrime Unit.)
Early patrol tonight.
Some impulse sends me out just after sundown. I start in the South End, warming up by hopping around the dilapidated warehouses of the industrial district before heading into Chinatown to start my patrol proper.
No music for me this evening; I just listen to the scanner and keep my eyes open. I move deliberately through the clotheslines and hissing rooftop vents of Chinatown, keeping clear of any windows or exposed areas where I might be spotted. It’s still early; the streets are crowded with the end-of-day exodus. Every few minutes I pause and scan my surroundings with the different settings on my goggles.
My hope is that if I vary my schedule and patrol routes and just keep my eyes open, I might be able to spot Capt. Sledge’s Paracrime Unit before they spot me. Call me paranoid, but I think they’ve been staking out my usual haunts in hopes of capturing me. I haven’t seen anybody, it’s just a feeling I get. And really, how paranoid is too paranoid if you’re in my line of work? I mean, there’s no harm in taking precautions, right?
Have you ever been alone in your house or apartment at night and you hear a noise or something? Suddenly, a shadow of irrational fear falls over you. Maybe somebody’s hiding in your house – a burglar or an escaped convict or something. They could be in the hall closet. I mean, probably not, right? But the possibility exists. It happens. People get murdered in their own home all the time. There’s that noise again. Shit. What if it’s Michael Myers, waiting in your pantry with an ice pick? The only way to ease your mind is to grab a baseball bat or a knife and begin a systematic sweep of the house, looking in all the closets, under the beds. Only then can you relax. You have dispelled your irrational fear with rational thought, by proving to yourself that no threat exists. Michael Myers isn’t hiding in your pantry, silly.
Okay, my point with that whole thing is that my precautions are sort of like searching the house for intruders with a baseball bat, only my house is the size of Evergreen City, and my fears are a little more tangible than Michael Myers. I’m afraid of cops.
Seriously, this paranoia is starting to take the fun out of patrol for me. It’s starting to feel like work, and that sucks.
I crouch in the shadow of a dripping A/C vent on the roof of the Pang Building, taking a breather. I eat a Clif Bar and drinking some Gatorade from the little Nalgene water bottle I keep on my utility belt. The smell of roasting chicken floats up from a restaurant below me, and my stomach grumbles. I slowly surf through the frequencies on my scanner, listening for anything unusual.
Then I hear it: Channel 57.
A soft voice on the radio says, “…Panda 5 in position.”
Then silence. Maybe it’s nothing; some truckers or ship traffic in the Bay. Maybe –
“Panda 6 online,” says a woman’s voice.
“Panda 2 in position,” somebody mutters.
The woman’s voice again: “Panda 6 calling Panda 4, come back.”
“Panda 4, come back.”
I move to the edge of the roof and peer out at the high rises of Midtown, glistening beyond the steaming rooftops of Chinatown. Toggling to the binocular setting on my goggles, I slowly scan the roofs of the smaller buildings. Nothing.
A man’s voice breaks the silence. He sounds out of breath. “Yeah, this is Panda 4. We can’t get access to our roost; the frickin’ door’s locked.”
Silence again. I keep searching.
The woman’s voice returns. “Panda 4, breach it. We’ll send the Masons a bill.”
Gotcha. Whoever Panda 4 is, they’re in the Masonic Temple, a big old brick building on the edge of Midtown. It’s my usual rendezvous spot with Wombat, and it’s the place where I first met Hydrangea. I should have guessed they’d stake it out.
I rise, ready to bounce over to Midtown and… and… and do what exactly? Beat up a bunch of cops? I sit back down, suddenly not sure what to do. If I approach via rooftop, chances are good that Panda 4 and all his Panda Buddies will spot me a quarter mile away. Despite their cute call signs, I have a feeling they're not fucking around. And even if I do make it to the Mason’s Temple without being seen, what then? Just beat the shit out of a bunch of SWAT guys? To what end?
“Shit,” I say to myself, as I often do. What do I do? I’ll bet the Midnight Rambler never has problems like this. He’d have a plan all doped out, and a back-up plan, and a back-up plan for his back-up plan. I need to think strategically here. What would a professional superhero do in this scenario? What would the Rambler do?
He’d go non-linear on their ass.
Finishing off my Gatorade, I hop over the edge of the building and down into a filthy wet alley. I walk out on to Occidental and flag down a passing cab, ignoring the stares of the passerby.
It’s time for a little reconnaissance-by-fire.