The Cast: Bill (a troublemaker), Erich (Tiger), Myself (Praying Mantis), Richard (Shadow), Unremembered Kid (Bill’s friend who I just couldn’t remember).
Author’s Note: One of my favorite Batman: The Animated Series episodes is entitled P.O.V. because you get to see the story unfold while narrated from three unique perspectives of the same adventure. One is from the rookie cop who is in complete awe of the Batman. The second if from Montoya, a seasoned cop with a grounded, realistic perspective. The third is from Harvey Bullock, a man who does not like Batman, at all. These different outlooks make for a very delightful story. So, I am doing that here. Erich, Richard, and I all remember different parts of this story. And we all remember it just a little different. So, over the next three weeks, you will be entertained by each of our personal recollections of one of the most harrowing nights we ever had as superheroes in our little town. Enjoy.
It began like any other night, but ended like no other.
Often, Friday nights were the nights that patrols took place. Spending the night at a friend’s house was a reasonable excuse and staying out late wasn’t questioned. So that’s what we usually did. This particular Friday Erich was staying at Richard’s home—they had plans to ride Richard’s motorbike the next day—and I just snuck out of my house via The Sewer.
To do this, I would simply tell my mother that I was going to watch a movie because the t.v. provided a good cover. I would find an old movie and just let it play. This way, when my mother would sneak a listen to see if I was still down below she would hear the movie and my reactions. She would hear me because I also had a dual tape-deck cassette player that could provide about three hours of my noises—laughter, coughing, whatever—to add to the realism (thank you Ferris Bueller).
Sneaking out is an art. My mother knew that my older sister and I would do it but could never figure out how we got back inside after she had locked us out. Because in order to get back in we would have to knock on the door, proof that we had been out late. If she asked how we did it, she would have to give up her secrets as to what she did. She could never do that. Oddly enough, years ago, my sister and I were discussing this very topic and we discovered that we had both used the exact same method of reentry. I had known she was doing it because I noticed the signs and helped her cover her tracks. ‘Cause I’m a good brother.
Sorry, I’m way off-topic. Earlier in the day Richard (Shadow), Erich (Tiger) and I (Praying Mantis) had made plans to meet and begin our rounds to protect our city. We met at a prearranged location to begin our patrol and out we ventured to find, and fight, crime. We found none. This was perhaps the most boring night of patrol we had ever had. Even if there was no crime, we usually found something fun to fill our time. Not even a single distraction. Our enthusiasm and mood were rapidly declining. It was then that we found a car. And danger.
Richard spotted a car sitting in a driveway that looked very cool. So Richard and I walked over to it. Just to look. Erich warned us that we should be careful. Careful? Careful of what? There was nobody around. Or so we thought.
“Don’t even think about touching it.” Came the command from the blackest of shadows enveloping the nearby porch. Someone was there. “And get away from my car.” It was Bill. Bill was a fellow student from high school, and he hated us. Erich in particular. If you could have a nemesis in high school, Bill was as close as it got for Erich.
“I said, get away from my car!” Was the command once again. As both Richard and I turned around we saw Bill emerge from the nothingness of the porch that cloaked him. Crud.
“We’re not doing anything. So back off.” I told Bill. Then Shadow, Tiger, and I just walked away.
We had only walked a few blocks when the headlights of a car began to head toward us from down the street. Tiger and I bolted for the darkness of the shadows. But Shadow remained standing in the middle of the street. It was like he was challenging the car or something. Erich and I beckoned him to join us, but he just stood there. As the car approached, it didn’t slow down as perhaps Shadow had expected it to. No, it seemed to speed up. At the last moment, Tiger and I leapt out to render aid. However, at that same moment, Shadow darted out of the way as the car screeched to a halt right where he had been standing.
The three of us were about to bolt when I saw Shadow slip and fall just off to my left. He must not have spotted the loose gravel. When he fell, he fell hard. I watched him slide for what seemed like three feet, all on his knees and bare hands. Ooww! That’s going to leave a mark! The driver side car door opened and out came Bill with a weapon ready to fight. Bill came for the wounded and what he—I can only assume—thought were the easier targets (Shadow and myself). As I moved toward Shadow to find out if he could stand and/or fight, I glanced about and noticed that Tiger was nowhere to be found.
Earlier that evening we had decided that if anything were to go wrong the three of us would fall back to The Sewer, so I figured he had already begun to go that way. As Shadow began to pick himself up, I prepared to do battle. I had recently installed armored plates into my arm gauntlets. They were small shields so that I could deflect attacks rained down from blunt weapons or swords. Tonight was going to be their official field test. Oh boy. I hope these work.
“Bill.” Off to my right came the deep growl of a challenge that could not be ignored.
I turned around to find Tiger with his swords drawn, crouched in a combat stance, ready to fight. I knew he was going to buy me the time I needed to tend to Shadow and get him away to safety. Then Shadow stood and told me he was fine. I told him to go and that I would get Tiger. We were all going to be just fine that night.
Bill was dangerous in that he was willing to cross lines that your average decent citizen would never dare. Bill, however, was not a decent citizen (and last I heard, the state had had its hands in trying to correct that deviant behavior—multiple times). In addition to that, he appeared to be intoxicated. Not a good combination. Sober, he was stupid. Drunk, he was dangerous. This might get bad. Also, it looked like there might be another person in the car. So I stood by, as backup/support. Really, I just wanted to see Bill get a beating.
Bill had a long metal stick-thing. It might have been a sword or something else. He kept swinging it about. Ohhh. It’s a golf club. Those things can still do some damage. I know because I tested one until it broke. They can take a serious beating, as well as give one.
Bill swung hard and fast. Tiger did a ducking-block maneuver, and because a golf club has a sort of flexibility to the shaft, it not only was blocked by Tiger’s sword, it had also hit him in the head. Oh no. Someone’s gonna die.
“Come at me, Bill!” His voice was gravley and hard. And even though Tiger was hunched over I saw him swell in size. Kind of like Bruce Banner becoming The Incredible Hulk—but smaller and not nearly as green. I had never seen Erich that angry, before or since. Even with his back toward me, I saw it. Even through Tiger’s mask Bill saw it, and quickly became terrified for his life. I could easily see that from my vantage point, as Bill had been facing me.
But, Bill had to hold onto his bravado, “Get the gun!” This instruction was given to whoever it was that had been sitting in the car. Well, then. We’re in it now.
As mentioned before, Bill was stupid. And drunk Bill was dangerous. It appeared that the little hamster inside his head had jumped out of its wheel and had left Bill to his own devices. Bill might be bluffing. But he also was just stupid enough that he might actually have a gun. And stupid enough to use it. Thus, Tiger and I took off—in separate directions. As per our plan.
As the smallest member of our little band, I guess I appeared to be the easiest target because they came right after me. It’s hard to outrun a car. It’s hard to hide when headlights are illuminating your every move. Eventually, I reached two homes that had two rows of trees between them. Like a tree-fence. I figured I would run around the first house, jump through the trees and then get away. I reached the trees and hit a snag in my plan. A wall. I hit a wall.
They were not two houses, it was one house, shaped like an ‘H’ with trees on either side of the crossbar. I was about to run out when the car drove up onto the lawn and blocked my escape. I crumpled myself into a shape to match the tree trunk and all the prickly branches. The trees where the type of trees farmers use as windbreaks for their fields, so I had some cover.
“Come on out. We can see you.” Was Bill’s invitation. No way! Maybe they really don’t see me. Maybe they’re bluffing? A car door opened and closed.
“Come out or we’ll shoot.” Was the next set of instruction. Um, no.
I heard footsteps. Suddenly, two hands burst through the trees, one on each side of me, and then they began to feel around—for me.
“Come on, he’s not there. Let’s get the other two. They’re getting away.” Called the passenger. Bill’s hands retreated, he got back in the car and then drove off. I quickly moved for the safety of The Sewer and awaited my compatriots’ arrival. They never came.
The next day I sought out Erich and Richard so that I could learn about what had happened after we separated. As it turned out, TIger had met up with Shadow and made their way back to Richard’s house. They thought about my escape the same way I had thought of theirs. That everyone could hold their own and would be safe. All part of being a superhero. Additionally, they met Bill and his friend later that night.
After safely arriving at Richard’s home, and having changed out of costume, they had decided to head to the local all-night gas station to get a big bag of licorice and some sodas. Also, they decided to walk the motorbike there and fill it with gasoline for Saturday’s ride. As they walked along Bill found, and challenged them. He had caught Tiger and Shadow, he had the upper hand, and was going to get revenge (for something he felt he was owed—what that was, I don’t know).
“I have you now.” Said Bill.
“What?” “What are you talking about?” Were the replies.
Bill explained how earlier, he had encountered the two of them, and me, in our costumed identities and finally had proof that it was us.
“Show me your hands,” Bill demanded of Richard. He had seen him slide on the gravel, just as I did. Richard willingly complied. As Richard held out his hands Bill saw no mark. “That’s not possible!” Bill was angry. “Fine. Well I know I hit you in the head with my golf club.” He snarled at Erich. “There’s going to be a bruise from that!” Erich showed Bill his head. No mark. “No. NO! I know it was you!” Bill was livid.
“We have no idea what you’re talking about Bill.” And with that, Erich and Richard walk away from a very angry and confused Bill and his friend.
See, when Shadow fell to the ground his hands fell upon his bo-staff and it rolled along, underneath his hands, keeping them from getting scraped up. His knees, however, were shredded, but Richard had changed pants, so they couldn’t be seen.
As for the blow to Erich’s head, that never occurred. Bill had hit Tiger, but it had been more to his arm and shoulder. So no visible bruise—not until a few days later anyway. Bill had come so very close. But not close enough.
Belief comes from understanding and building on events so that one develops trust in a certain outcome. Knowledge comes after removing all doubt. Evidences support knowledge. So when I say that Bill believed he knew our secret identities, I mean just that. He believed. Now, he wasn’t wrong mind you. But he never did know.
Next week: Drunk Bill. —Erich’s Experience