The Cast: Erich (Tiger), Myself (Praying Mantis), The Gang (a group of unknown, potential hooligans), The Girl (still unknown).
And so, there I was, sitting alone in a bush, encircled by an unknown number of enemies. All I had to do was blow the whistle. Just blow the whistle and help would come. Or would it?
There is a saying that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Which, essentially translates to: What you know you have is better than what you might get. Or, why take a chance?
For many, this is a good way to live. You know what you have, are content with it, and life is good. For others, life is all about the risk. Let the one bird go and attempt to catch the two birds, or end with none at all. For me, it’s situational. And, I think that’s the way it is for most people. Some things are worth risking, others, no way. Not even a competition.
To explain why I was in that bush, and surrounded, you need to know some things first. One of those things is that I was a superhero (more wanna-be than anything, but still…). Another thing, I wan’t professionally trained. Everything I knew about being a superhero I learned from comic books, television (1970’s and ‘80s television—so you know it was top notch*), and movies (Adam West’s or Michael Keaton’s Batman). Nowadays, you can buy books that teach you this stuff. I have one entitled: The Batman Handbook : The Ultimate Training Manual. It’s full of all kinds of practical information. The title may be laughable, but, if you want to be a superhero, you gotta read—which may explain why you, dear reader, are here. Thank you.
Anyway, I also had to read a lot. I did what I could to learn from the best detectives, like Sherlock Holmes. Yes, he’s fictional, but many great modern detectives have solved seemingly-impossible cases using his methodology, so… I’m just sayin’. So yeah, I grabbed every bit of insight I could, from any source I could. I would test out the theories and either be successful, or not. At this time, I choose not to disclose what the ratio of success to failures was. And, no, not because it may come off as embarrassing. But because I don’t know. I didn’t keep track. If it worked, I kept it. If it didn’t, I didn’t. There, are you happy now?
Where were we? Oh, yes. I was telling you about why I was in a bush. Okay, so on another boring Friday night of patrol, Tiger and myself (Praying Mantis) were wandering about almost aimlessly (we had regular spots we would check on—we learned that from Batman: the Animated Series) when we heard voices nearby. So, naturally, we had to investigate. Maybe tonight won’t be so boring?
The chosen avenue of our approach allowed us to remain in shadow, and if we did that, we would also be undetected. Simple.
Our current location was a large back lot behind a series of buildings mentioned in previous stories (the bank break-in). This also provided us with a quick-escape route, if needed. You see, The Crick was nearby, along with a couple of secreted micro-rafts.
The micro-rafts were a set of six, empty, plastic two-(and three)-liter soda bottles. These bottles were sealed and set in such a manner that they could hold just one person. That person could either tuck-up into the fetal position on top of the micro-raft, or just sort-of ‘plop’ onto the top. Either way, this location of The Crick was the start of the underground section, which meant that there was little to no debris, and a strong current. In an emergency, all we had to do was jump into The Crick, grab a stashed micro-raft, and we’d be gone. We’d be wet, but we’d be gone. So, no worries.
As Tiger and I began to maneuver our way toward the voices, we tried to figure out who they might be. They did sound familiar. Winding our way about the darkness, we found ourselves nearing the edge of our blanket of stealth. Any closer, and we might risk being seen. Then Tiger whispered, “I have an idea.” He did. And it was pretty good.
Tiger was going to double back, move Eastward around the block and approach the group from that side. By moving this way he could be in shadow longer, as to get closer. Our view was obstructed by a couple things: Distance, and the combination of the streetlight creating hard, dark shadows on their faces, and the light flares that the chain-link fence (it was between us and them) was generating, made it next to impossible to discern who they were. Not even our super-secret-spy scopes were helping much (seriously, hard shadows on their faces).
Sitting alone in the dark is something I don’t mind doing—usually I would just go to sleep (I have narcolepsy). This time however, this time, I was rapidly growing impatient. Tiger couldn’t have been gone more than a minute (a full 60 seconds), but it seemed like half an hour. Meanwhile, the group appeared to be getting ready to move on. If they were, I wanted to know more about them: Where they were going and why. So, I moved forward—without thinking.
In my eagerness to close the gap between us, I revealed my position to the group across the street. I had accidentally stepped out of the shadows. I had not payed enough attention. I had not expected them to even be paying attention to their surroundings. But they were. They were, and I knew it because I heard, “Hey! It’s one of them!” They were pointing and moving toward me. Oh! They’re running!
I had two choices: The first was to jump into The Crick and use a micro-raft. But then Tiger might get caught by the group in his attempts to find me. The other option was to try to find a spot to duck into so that I can assess the situation. See how many there were and find out what they were going to do. The best option I came to—in that split-second—was option two. And then I saw ‘The Girl’.
I have no idea who she was, or where she came from. I don’t know how I missed her as I had drawn closer to the mob. But there she was leaning against an old bit of junk. I knew she was a her because of her silhouette. It was unmistakable. I wanted to find out who she was and why she hadn’t said anything, but there was no time for introductions. I slowed ever-so-slightly as I ran past and left her with a, “Hey, there.” while that gang of would-be thugs was closing the gap between me and them.
Knowing the area as well as I did, I figured that if I could just get around the nearby corner I could hop into a bush and wait it out. So, that’s what I did. Near those bushes were a couple alleyways that lead onto Main Street, and I hoped that the group would assume I had gone one of those ways.
I had run to the far side of the bush to jump into it. Hoping that any (ANY) movement that I caused would be missed by the mob. It worked. I crouched in the center of that bush. Controlling every. single. breath. I had to breath easy, or I would be found out. I HAD to.
There I was, surrounded. I could hear them milling about me. Divulging their half-thought out plans. One of them began to reach into the foliage to discover me. Alright, here it is. And I began to create my own half-thought out plans. I was pretty sure I could take out at least two to three of them from sheer surprise. And then just fight. I knew how to work a group. I could buy time until Tiger’s return. OR… Or I could blow the whistle. I could blow the whistle and Tiger would be there—if he was close enough to hear it. He would have to hear it for the signal to work. And if he did, how long before he would arrive? That was one flaw in our whistle-signal.
The hands got closer. And closer.
“What are you doing?”
“He’s in here. He couldn’t have gone anywhere else.”
“Idiot! If he were in there, we’d hear him breathing. Think about it.”
The hands retreated. My carefully controlled breathing worked and the mob moved on. I waited, still unsure of what was to happen next. Time slowly passed. My racing heart had returned to a casual stroll. I was about to climb out when I heard the steps. Great. I can’t catch a break. Now what? Then, out of nowhere I heard the soft, subtle, attempted peeps of a sound I was not expecting to hear: It was Tiger’s whistle. He was trying to find me but not call attention to his position either. Well done.
I leapt out of the shrub to a Tiger with his claws out and swords drawn. He was trying to find me, but he was ready if anything unwanted found him.
As it turns out, I had foiled his recon somethin’ awful. Just as he had approached the cluster of criminals (well they could have been), I had drawn them off (but he didn’t know that it was me—but he suspected). As a result, Tiger had had to turn back and make his way through the shadows in an attempt to find me and be sure I was safe. By the time he had found me, the group had moved on.
Since I wasn’t in the shrubbery, the gang decided to search elsewhere to find both me and Tiger. They knew where there was one, there had to be the other. They had supposed that if I were not to be found in the immediate area, then the both of us had to be somewhere nearby, and had run off in an attempt to trap us both. Yeah, that failed. They never found us again—that night.
There is another saying that seems to be a little appropriate here: ‘On the lam’ which refers to running away. Usually applied to escaped convicts fleeing from justice. This is what I believe that gaggle of idiocy had thought Tiger and I had done, that we gone ‘on the lam’ from them.
While Erich, nor I, were birds, and neither had ran away (I had strategically relocated); I believe a blending of the two sayings describes the ending of this tale best. And so, the moral of the story is this: A boy in the bush is worth two on the lam.