This is what I get for trying to help.
There was a lesson here that I really should have learned by now.
Stupid, stupid Alexis.
Thomas was standing before me, hands in his pockets. He wore a crisp designer suit, light grey, dark blue tie. Typical of a lawyer of his caliber. His dark hair was clean cut, slicked back. He looked good.
But you shouldn’t be here.
I stood, unprepared to be standing in front of a family friend. I still held the pipe, the steel bent at my own power.
How much did he see?
He wasn’t moving, not reacting in any way. He simply looked.
Did he already have me figured out? Shit.
I was completely and totally screwed.
Thomas opened his mouth, slow, like he was thinking about what he was about to say.
“I see… so you’re…”
My fingers tightened around the pipe, the steel squishing slightly.
That’s enough. I’m out of here.
I was fast. He’d never see me leaving. Never mind the bottles, I’d have to leave them.
I backed up, twisting around to-
It wasn’t a yell, but a loud, yet even tone. Like I was being berated for doing something wrong.
The word, and who it came from, got the better of me, and I went still.
I repeated the word in a form of a question. “No?”
“I don’t have many acquaintances left in the SPD, but the ones I do have are on speed dial, and even without that, the entire department cannot wait to get their hands on you. I can have this whole block locked down before you can get off this street.”
I cursed under my breath. Shit. There was no way he was serious.
Thomas continued. “Or, you could come with me, and we can have a chat.”
“A, a chat?”
“Yes, I wasn’t anticipating to have you in front of me so soon. Perhaps I should consider myself lucky.”
And I definitely consider myself not.
“So, you can make this easy on yourself,” Thomas said. He eyes went down, to what was in my hands. “Drop that, if you could be so kind.”
He must have seen me bend the pipe with my own two hands, yet he was talking to me like I was any normal person. He really thought he had me.
Hell, he probably did.
I dropped the pipe, the metal clattering on cement. The corners of Thomas’s lips curled upward. He took his hand out of his pockets, and fixed his cuffs.
“Thank you. Now, I believe proper introductions are in order. I’m Thomas Thompson. And you must be The Bluemoon.”
The interior was dark. Thomas’s leg bumped into a pile of bricks that I managed to avoid. The bricks knocking onto the floor sounded throughout the empty space.
Thomas didn’t say anything or complain about it, but I had a feeling he wanted to. He was one to care about his appearances, keeping things tidy, and getting dirt on his expensive dress pants was one way to seriously soil his day. I remembered a time when I was younger, I had drawn in crayon on the walls of Katy’s room. He forced me to clean it off. My mom had approved of the punishment.
Today was an exception, apparently, so he said nothing.
We were on the top floor of the building Thomas’s car was parked in front of. The entire building was devoid of life, trash bags piled in corners of rooms and under stairs, graffiti and deep scratches marked the walls. Whatever this place used to be, it had been a long time since it served that purpose.
Thomas led the way into what looked to be the remnants of an office space. A filing cabinet was on its side, drawers open, contents spilled. Some light had creeped into the room through an open window and cracks in the wall, allowing Thomas to move around more confidently. The only other thing in this space was a round, wooden table, no chairs. He walked to the window, looking out.
“Feel free to sit wherever you can,” he invited, still admiring the view.
I could’ve rested on the table, but the surface was too dusty, and black splotches of something deterred me from even wanting to stand next to it.
“I’m good,” I said. I had to place the bottles by my feet. I’d feel less at ease, otherwise, holding them while we had this conversation.
Thomas turned to face me, his back to the window. A thin light outlined the upper half of his body.
“Then I’ll get started,” Thomas said. “There’s quite a lot that needs to be said.”
“Hold on, hold on, I want to stop you real fast,” I said, interrupting. I purposefully lowered the pitch of my voice, with the purpose of disguising myself further. “How can you even be sure I am who you think I am? I could just be a normal person with an abnormal grip strength. I could’ve been another car thief.”
Thomas lifted a finger, pointing. “First of all, no, a girl of your stature shouldn’t be able to do that. But more importantly, I called you by a specific moniker, and you responded in a manner that suggested you knew who that moniker would refer to. You moved without protest or confusion. Also, your height matches with what I saw on the news broadcast.”
He breathed in, before concluding with, “I could go on, but I do have other appointments, and I didn’t exactly have this in my itinerary. From what I can see, it’s much the same for you, too, so I’ll have to try to make this quick.”
I shifted my weight a slight fraction. I relented somewhat. “The least you could do is call me ‘Blank Face.’”
“Blank Face? Is that your official name?”
“It’s the one thing I got to choose for myself, from all of this.”
“No objections there. Blank Face it is,” Thomas said, seriously.
It was almost comedic, this current situation. I was in a rundown building with my best friend’s father, wearing a paper bag over my head. On the surface, it was kind of funny, but the reality of this was much more sobering. This could be the end of everything, before I had a chance to start.
I didn’t show it, but it took everything I had to not lose my cool. Was Thomas about to confront me about being Blank Face, The Bluemoon, the world’s first public superhuman?
What did he have to say?
“I said I wanted to have a chat,” Thomas started, “But really, I just wanted to give you a suggestion.”
I folded my arms. “A suggestion?”
Thomas nodded. “Whatever it is that you were doing, that day,” he said, “Keep doing it.”
That was awfully vague, I thought. What was he getting at?
“Keep doing what, exactly?”
“To put it in an idealistic way, keep being a hero.”
I had no reaction or gesture. I just waited for him to say more.
“I was in my office. My secretary had to drag me out to see it. It was like time had stopped. Everyone was glued to some screen, watching you.”
He pointed at me, but it felt like a punch to the gut.
“I, like everyone else, was amazed at what I saw. The kind of thing you only saw in movies, except in our own backyard.”
And it’d be a terrible flick, to boot.
“But, for the next few days, it was clear that I had seen something different. People were protesting, angry, at another’s existence. I was puzzled.”
He had to have a point, somewhere. Get to it, please.
Thomas asked, “You were trying to take on the gangs, too, weren’t you?”
I stared at him. “In that one, specific instance, you could say I was.”
“That’s promising,” Thomas said, “That says something about you, that others seem to be glossing over.”
I would’ve went to cross my arms, but I was still doing that. “And that is?”
“That you have these… capabilities, and you chose to do good with them.”
I put a hand up to stop him. “Whoa, whoa. And you seem to be placing a lot of confidence in someone you don’t know. I had a reason for doing what I did back then, and now I have seven billion reasons for never doing it again. I’m not a full-time hero.”
Thomas brought a hand to his chin, thinking. “Then I’m confused. Is stopping car thieves just a hobby of yours?”
I tried to defend myself, to argue. “Th-that was an exception. I just happened to be…” I trailed off.
“To be?” Thomas asked.
I murmured, “Swinging by.”
“What an interesting observation,” Thomas said, like he was lightly mocking me.
I had to clear my throat. “Whatever hopes you have pinned on me, whatever you think I am, don’t bother. I’m not so altruistic.”
Thomas frowned a little. “I didn’t mean to suggest that you go on a one-man crusade against the Cobras or the Crips, but rather, lend a helping hand to the little guy. Like me.”
“I am not you,” I said, meaning it both literally and figuratively.
Thomas lowered his chin, and a long exhale was drawn out of him. “I will say, I’m not terribly shocked, but it’s still sad to hear.”
Sad to hear. Why was he so interested in me? What was his stake in this?
I wanted get out of this situation, but I now had questions of my own. “Why do you care, anyways? Why have this ‘chat’ with me?”
Thomas didn’t take the time to formulate an answer, instead going right into it. “I’m a corporate lawyer, I deal with big businesses, but I like to keep an eye on the little guy, from time to time. I consult on criminal cases that pique my interest. Not as an official attorney on the case, but as a favor. A helping hand, if you will, holding a blade to stick into the belly of the city’s underground.”
“Okay,” I said, a little lost at the sudden change of topic. I was already aware of his reputation as a consulting attorney, garnering attention for being a Good Samaritan. Naturally, he should have attracted enemies, but, as far as I knew, that wasn’t the case.
Or maybe I was just ignorant on that front.
Before I could dwell on that any further, Thomas’s speech was a higher priority. I kept listening.
“After I watched you, how do I put it, take out Benny, I immediately called James Gomez, the police chief and an old buddy of mine, to see if they had anything on you. There was nothing, of course, but he did tell me about a certain report.”
I scrunched my face, my tongue pinched between my teeth, but the expression would be lost on Thomas.
“A warehouse of Irving Street. A stockpile of weapons that had the potential to seriously light the fuse that ran under the feet of all the gangs in the city. Pistols, semi-automatics, bombs. And plenty of them.”
The word ‘bomb’ stood out to me. I never got to look inside those crates, myself. It was that bad, according to Thomas, and I stepped right into the middle of it, without knowing the full consequences.
All the more reason to never do that again.
Thomas continued, “And you prevented The Chariot from doing anything with them. Good job.”
“Didn’t feel like a good job,” I said, truthfully. “That was messy, if anything.”
“If anything,” Thomas said back, “You brought a gang to its knees. Crippled it. That’s something I’ve wanted to accomplish for a long, long time. And, you prevented a gang war from breaking out. That is commendable work, as messy as you claim it was.”
“I’m not claiming anything! The entire world wants my head, the gangs, the police, they’re all after me. Tell me that isn’t a mess.”
Thomas answered me, calm, like my paranoia was completely unwarranted.
“They’re after an image of you. A false image. If they want you so bad, you should show them something good. That’s what I’m asking of you.”
My eyes met the floor, my arms went to my sides. “I can’t.”
You don’t understand.
I then sighed. There was more I wanted to say, but the words weren’t going to come. What he had asked of me, I didn’t want to do. Simple as that. I declined. I could go, now.
My phone vibrated, a reminder of the outside world. I got a text.
Thomas started up again before I could do anything, taking advantage of the silence in our conversation. Dang.
“The reason why I wanted to meet with you, and say my piece, was because of what I saw that day, and what was confirmed to me, right outside. You may deny it, but you want to help, you want to do good.”
“How can you be so sure?” I asked, dreading what the answer might be – because he already knew Blank Face’s true identity – but I didn’t like how he was speaking to me, with so much confidence and certainty. I wanted to stop him from having that impression of me, even at the cost of my own self-image.
Thomas’s reaction wasn’t subtle. He lifted his chin slightly, and loosened his shoulders. He grinned, and it was the unique kind of grin that I had seen before. I could see where she got it from.
“Just a feeling.”
He loosened his tie. There was no air conditioning in here, so it was humid, stuffy.
And, on the drop of a hat, Thomas switched his demeanor to something more impersonal. He walked away from the window, and towards me.
I stood my ground, ready for anything.
He approached me, and fished out a small slip of paper out of his pocket. He handed it to me.
I took it.
“Looks like I’m not going to win you over,” Thomas said. “I hope I do, one day. And if that day comes, that’s my card. You wouldn’t be doing this alone, you know. I have resources I can offer. I can help you, as much as you’d be helping this city.”
I put it in my back pocket, looking back at him, saying nothing. Thomas kept on speaking.
“The whole world is watching you, Blank Face, and first impressions matter. I’m not asking you to be anything super, I’m just asking you to try doing something decent. Think about it.”
I took a step away from him. “Does this mean I can go?”
Thomas puffed out a breath, but he didn’t sound exhausted or frustrated. “You’re not old enough to vote, I’m guessing, so there’s no need to give you that spiel. You’re free to go, thank you for your time.” Thomas turned around, facing a corner of the poorly lit room we were in.
“I’ll stay up here for ten minutes,” he said, his back to me. “You can go, take off that silly bag, and go about the rest of your day. You can trust that I won’t intrude upon your privacy.”
I took him at his word, picking back up my bottles, and turning to leave, but I had to check back to see if he was still facing the other way. He was.
“Go,” he reassured me, still looking away. “Notice that I never asked about your origin, or how you came to be, if you’re the only one or the first of many, because frankly, it matters not to me. It could be anyone under that mask, but my words would be the same.”
I had enough trust in him to know that he was telling the truth, and I had some relief to know that he didn’t care to know who I was. I left, getting out of the building. When I got back on the sidewalk, the wind blew my bangs away from my face, the bottles were back in the paper bag.
Was that a close call?
I couldn’t say for sure.
I certainly didn’t see it going down the way it did, though.
I barely did anything besides stand around and talk, but my chest was pounding like I had been traversing rooftops. Thomas was a good guy, cool too, in a ‘dorky dad’ kind of way, as evidenced by many of Katy’s birthday parties, and from general interaction over the years, but today was a first. That was probably the most I’d ever spoken to Thomas, one on one, in my entire life. He showed me a different side of him. Fighting the gangs, encouraging me to be a hero, he was serious in all of that. To join him in his ‘noble cause,’ I supposed.
It was a lot to take in, bewildering.
A part of me was also mad at him. At the bare minimum, he had to have gathered that I was just a teenager. Why would he have asked me to purposely risk my life on a regular basis? I already managed to do enough of that on my own, lately, but that was another issue, entirely.
He read me wrong, off the mark ever so slightly. I had my reasons for doing what I did, they weren’t entirely selfless. I’d save a friend, over the faceless masses. And I was fine with that, but sticking my neck out again like that would be suicide. No thank you.
Sorry to have disappointed you, Thomas.
I walked, returning to the shopping center. The woman and her dog were long gone.
I remembered that my phone had vibrated. I reached for it to check up on any updates.
A text. I read it.
That was what Katy was talking about, a few days ago. ‘Your welcome,’ my ass.
With this, my lazy weekend was out the window, leaving me with mixed feelings. Earlier this month, I would have been excited, ecstatic. Now, anxiety gripped me in its talons, ready to swallow me whole.