The Cast: Bad Guys (plentiful), Erich (Tiger), Myself (Praying Mantis), Richard (Shadow).
The fire raged all around us. Soon the warehouse and everything inside would be consumed, us included. “So, whadda we do now?”
That’s the kind of line I would love to write as a true moment of my experiences as a superhero. But, it’s not. That kind of thing is reserved for movies and top secret government agents whose’ life stories are never told. That being said, if you’re still up for a decent tale of a warehouse brawl, keep reading. Otherwise, feel free to peruse other categories of almostheroes.blog.
There are times when I struggle to understand what we had to be thinking at those times when we found ourselves just on the edge of really big problems. It didn’t happen often, but it did happen often enough that I wonder—now, as an adult—how we ever managed to survive our youth. We did some really stupid things. Now, when I say we, I am, of course, referring to myself and my buddies Erich and Richard, who would be two of the three would-be-superheroes of our fair little town.
Usually, the three of us would go out on patrol on Friday nights. It made everything easier. Especially the cover story: Dances, movies (at an actual theater—I know, I’m old), staying over at the friend’s house, night games at the park, or just whatever. But, sometimes… sometimes we would get a tip, or a hunch, and try a Saturday night event. Once, it actually paid off.
I struggle to recall how we had heard about the situation, but we betted on the intel being good—regardless of the source. What we knew was that on the coming Saturday night, something was getting moved. I know, real clear. Real trustworthy. Real helpful. But, we went anyway. Because, well… Because we really wanted to be helpful. Usually, our ability to be superheroes came down to dealing with Bill or hiding in some bushes to avoid the cops. Not really ‘superhero-y’.
But, on one Fall Saturday night Shadow, Tiger, and myself sat in the bushes (once more) to wait and watch for whatever—or whomever—would be happening that night. Hopefully, it would happen soon, it was getting late and there was a good chance I would end up grounded for that (I was). Well, it was too late to worry about that, figuratively and literally. “How long do we wait? I’m getting bored.” Was Tiger’s query.
It was a legitimate concern, I was also slightly bored, but, at the same time I was very eager for this thing to be real. Yet, I didn’t want to just sit around and wait either. Shadow was… Where was Shadow? The biggest problem with Shadow was that he looked too much like a shadow. I found him by almost stepping on him. Just by looking at him, I wasn’t even 100% sure he wasn’t asleep. He wasn’t. He was vigilant. He heard something: Cars. And, he let us know. In no time at all, three sedans pulled up.
From one sedan, three men and a woman got out. From the other two, three men each. “So, is that ten people? Am I counting ten? Whoo, boy. I hope I miscounted. Ten?!?” The nervousness I was feeling began to slip into my voice, apparently.
“This was your idea.” Tiger was not being very helpful.
“Yeah. But I didn’t know there was going to be ten of them.” What was this going to be all about?
It is said: Ask, and ye shall receive. We were about to receive.
“Well, let’s get this show on the road. I got places to be.” Came the order from what we could only assume was the leader.
“You heard him. Get started.” This from a blond guy from one of the other cars. In no time at all, bodies were moving about to unlock doors and switch on lights. One of those lights exposed Tiger and myself. We had picked a bad spot to ‘hide’ in.
“Baby, who are those crazy-looking people in those bizarre getups?” The woman was pointing and directing the boss-man’s attention toward us.
“Yeah, we’re crazy and bizarre. But, hey pal, we’re saner than your neighbors are.” Was my comeback, as I stood as tall as I could, chest puffed out—trying to appear impressive. I was not—impressive (apparently).
It was at this point where someone had to do something. Those bad guys had to either fight us or leave the warehouse, or we had to strike first and take them down. Sadly, this is where memory gets a little fuzzy. I have read that adrenaline can confuse memory. When you’re in an intense moment, you can think you see something that wasn’t, or remember a moment that didn’t. I’ll do the best I can.
A couple of the goons walked over, toward us, and informed us that our presence was not required, or maybe they said it was not desired. Regardless, one of them tried to grab my arm; I assume it was to help guide me away from the warehouse (I say warehouse, but it was really more like an extra-large garage). I went to free myself by rotating my arm around in order to break away from the big man’s grip, but, in doing so I hit him in the face. Well, the nose. I may have broken it. He did let go, and also cried out in pain. The blood flowed onto his rock-n-roll tee shirt. Oh boy…
“All right you two… That does it.” The second man came at Tiger, arms outstretched, fingers bent like claws, clearly intent on some ne’er-do-welling. Shadow moved out from his name-sake and, with his bo staff, struck the man’s fingers. You could hear the tremendous ‘THWACK’. I’m pretty sure something broke, and it wasn’t Shadow’s staff. “AAGGHHH!!!” The finger-man dropped to his knees. He never saw it coming—mostly because he didn’t see Shadow in the shadows (that costume worked so well).
The boss-man instructed the other six to “get us” and so we divided up and began to do what we each did best. Tiger with his claws and swords was visually intimidating. Who wants to fight a guy with claws and swords? Nobody, that’s who. Especially, when you weren’t prepared for that. How do you prepare for that? So, Tiger did more of an advance and growl sort of thing, brandishing his blades, while three of the guys slowly backed up and looked about for something to fight with.
Shadow had two guys on his heels in seconds. However, Shadow just ran into the nearby trees and shrubs (where we had just been hiding) and let those two goons run into trees, trip over bushes, and then he would pop out and whack them with his staff when they thought he was just a tree. Oh, the language. The way those fellows cursed would have made a sailor blush with shame.
That left me with just one. And, like the leap-before-I-look kind of person I was (am), I ran into the building to see what they were after. For some reason, I figured that whatever they were after would be out in the open. You know, like in the movies where the criminals open up the only crate in a warehouse and light subtly emanates from within to under-light their faces, exposing the illegal guns or whatever else might be in it. I thought it would be like that. It wasn’t. It was more like a storage locker. Cardboard boxes taped up and stacked along the walls. There were a couple old wooden boxes, shoved into the corner. There was even an old washing machine.
“Jimmy, just grab the jewels and let’s get out of here.” This was from the woman. It seemed like she was talking to the boss-man. Ah-ha! Jewel thieves. They’re jewel thieves! Cool…
“Not, so fast, Jimmy.” Having positioned myself near the doorway, I hurled my P.A.W. straight for Jimmy’s face. I had judged the distance, and was pretty sure it wouldn’t hit him. It didn’t, but the effect worked. Jimmy—assuming he was about to get hit in the face—ducked. The woman screamed. Well, more like shrieked. As the P.A.W. hit the end of its rope, it snapped back toward me but I was hit from behind by the guy that I had forgotten about.
Tiger and shadow were doing pretty good from what I could hear. The foliage sounds and swear words told me that Shadow was just fine. Tiger was now in a duel with a guy who had found a tire-iron and was just swinging like a wild man. That made the other two step back a bit. I would have too. Nobody wants to get hit by a tire-iron, especially if it’s from someone on your team. This still left Jimmy, the woman, and the guy that hit me.
“Is this a Halloween daycare? They’re just kids in costumes! How hard can it be to grab three kids? I want those jewels!” Jimmy was not happy. “Frank, grab that kid!” Jimmy pointed to me. Apparently, I was fighting Frank. “Joe, how’s your nose?”
“Still bleeding. But, my eyes stopped waterin’.” Joe was coming into the light, and the building.
“Joey, be a sweetie and find me the jewels. Jimmy I’m gettin’ in the car. You promised me this would be a quick stop. Promised me! And, you never said anything about weirdos in costumes.” The woman chastised Jimmy as she climbed into the car and slammed the door.
I had found my footing and was moving about the room in an attempt to knock out the one guy who was chasing me. While Joey, ‘the sweetie’ was tearing open boxes and throwing the contents all willy-nilly, Frank was currently playing Ring Around the Rosie with me, using the washing machine as the ‘Rosie’ that we were ‘ring’-ing around.
Every few ‘rings’ I would stop and try to heft the washing machine up so as to throw it at Frank. I know it sounds ridiculous. A teenager who can single handedly lift a washing machine? But, for those who haven’t been reading, I was in fantastic shape for my age. As a ballet dancer, I was used to lifting and tossing people over my head. In fact, in repairing my family’s washing machine, I had to haul another broken one from our garage, to the house, and I did it by just picking it up and walking it over. My point is, I knew I could lift it, but, I just needed like, two seconds to get a grip on its sides, lift it up, and then toss it at ol’ Frankie-boy. I just wasn’t getting those two seconds.
Frank was moments from gaining the upper hand on me, because I had become so fixated on the tossing of the washing machine that I wasn’t really trying to get the upper hand—any other way—on Frank. I was so distracted by the situation that I hadn’t even realized Frank was about to grab me. That’s when Tiger stepped in. Before I knew what was going on, Tiger had moved in, knocked both Frank and myself down, and had heaved the washer directly over his head. Frank was now on the ground, huddled in the fear and terror of being squished.
“Leave my friend alone.” Tiger was bold, serious, and clear of intent.
“We’re outta here. Joe has our stuff.” Jimmy was directing the others back to the cars. Joe was fleeing with something stashed under his arm. The jewels! NO! At the new instruction, Frank rolled out of Tiger’s attempted crushing and fled toward Jimmy. With all ten scumbags in their cars, the sedans drove off into the night. We had lost. We lost the fight (sort of?). We had lost the jewels (maybe?). We had lost the bad guys (if they actually were bad guys).
As the dust from the dirt road drifted about, our pathetic little trio stood there in the electric illumination of the warehouse. “So-o… What now?” I asked.
“We go home. Preferably, before the cops show up.” Was Shadow’s idea.
Made sense. We don’t know what our commotion may have stirred up. And, there were a few lights on that weren’t on before, from nearby houses. As we walked away, Tiger asked, “Um, “We’re saner than your neighbors are?” What was that all about?”
I could feel the smirk he was giving me, from underneath his mask, “What? Not Spider-Man-quip-y enough?”
“You are not Spider-Man.”
“Yeah, but I did come close for a bit.”
“But then, your backpack-spiderweb-extra-arm-thingy got you caught in a tree.”
“And, off the edge of the library.”
“Oh, and remember how you were suspended over the alley for an hour, until Shadow and I found you?”
“Okay. Alright. I get it. Stop stepping on me.” I joked.
“Um, you are named after a bug: Praying Mantis. Remember.” Laughed Tiger.
As we continued walking home, Shadow voiced his thought, “Hey, um… I was just wondering, how do we know that whatever it is those guys took wasn’t already theirs in the first place? What if that stuff did belong to them? We never did ask.”
“I don’t think I really like your attitude of ‘let’s be responsible crime fighters‘, Shadow. Geez.” The sarcasm was so thick you could feel it. No, that was the after-the-fight sweat.
“Well, that is something we’ll have to think about, in the future.” Tiger added methodically.
After that night we tried to make sure that if we spotted crime, that it really was crime, before we would step in.