There, on the floor, in the dark, was the body.
The Cast: April (the body), Erich (Tiger), Myself (Praying Mantis).
If you have spent any time reading this blog, first let me say, “Thank you.” Second, you should know—if you don’t by now—I was a teenage superhero. Well, me and a few friends. And as such, we would conceal ourselves in the cloak of darkness (and our costumes) that is the night and patrol our fair city (a quaint little farming town) to keep it safe from crime and criminal scum (of which there was almost none). And, if I have to say so myself (because I do), we did a pretty good job of it (and if by ‘good’ you mean that we didn’t commit any crimes, then sure, ‘good’ is reasonably accurate).
Whatever the case, however you wish to measure it, on a regular basis my buddies and I made sincere efforts to try and help the citizens of our community. This is one of those ‘A for effort’ situations, maybe. Or like, earning a trophy for just showing up. Wow… I need to stop overthinking this, this way…
Okay, so without the three of us (sometimes four or five), our burg would have fallen into the vile clutches of crime, chaos, and despair. Our city desperately needed a hero, and it got one (usually two, sometimes three, occasionally four, and once five). All that kept evil at bay was just the few of us that were willing to don cape and cowls (no. no capes) to defend the good from the bad. It was us, and us alone, that allowed the righteous to sleep soundly at night. It was us that risked it all, up to, and including our lives, to maintain the safety and sanity that our city deserved. But, only on Friday nights, the occasional Saturdays, some holidays, and summers were a free-for-all. That’s the way it was. That’s right. That’s the way it was. None of you were there, so you can’t really argue otherwise.
Once again, another Friday night patrol. Tiger and I were making our rounds through the dark and sinister pathways of our sleepy, yet seedy, borough. It was during this time that we stumbled upon an open door. Normally, an open door would not be all that abnormal. Since, well, you know, that’s how people usually get in and out of their homes. However, when it’s 11:30 at night, no lights are on (inside, porch, or otherwise), and the door is only slightly ajar, it’s suspicious.
“Dude, their door is open.”
“I can see that.”
“Should we check it out?”
So, we checked it out. We were careful in our approach as we did not wish to accidentally activate any motion sensors and create a situation that shouldn’t be—it’s happened before. Once we were close enough to the house and had not activated any alarms or lights (that we knew of), we stealthily moved closer toward the door. Because the door was surrounded by a small porch with walls, we were extra careful. Even though that pocket of space was dark enough to hide a person—or persons—we were still able to see the open door as soft, low levels of ambient light were escaping the egress. Everything about this practically screamed “CRIME SCENE!” but, how were we to know for certain? That’s why we went for a closer look.
The door was open just enough that it simply may not have been closed properly in the first place and possibly slipped, or blew, open. It also may not have been securely closed after a quick robbery. Or it could have been left open at the beginning of a robbery. I know it’s wrong, but, our collective first thoughts were, “I hope it’s a robbery. And that they’re still in there.”
“Yeah, then we can get ‘em on their way out.”
“Yeah, we’ll actually get to be superheroes.”
“Dude. We are superheroes. We have the costumes.”
“Okay, fine. We’ll actually get to be effective superheroes.”
“Shhh… Do you see that?” It was at this that I noticed to what Tiger was directing my attention toward: The body. Just inside the room that the front door allowed access to, was what appeared to be a female body, wearing jeans and a tee-shirt, laying on her side, on the floor.
In even more whispered tones than before, we continued, “Is that a…?”
“Is she alright? Can you tell if she’s breathing?” In my mind, this just went from a burglary to a homicide and headlines. “I can’t see very well. The room is so dark.”
“Same here. I don’t see any blood.” That’s a good sign, usually. The figure’s back was toward us. Her legs were in a bent position. And here arms were in front of here (we couldn’t see them so that’s what we figured).
“What do we do? Should we go inside?”
“We should check on her. If she’s hurt we gotta do something.”
“What if the bad guys are still inside?”
“You know this is the right thing to do. We need to see if she’s hurt.
I don’t hear anything. I’m gonna open the door just a little bit more and see if I can see any more of her.”
“Bad idea.” Who said that?!?
“You take one step into this house and I’m calling the cops.” The voice came from within the room. From somewhere, someone, we couldn’t see.
Both Tiger and I were frozen in our tracks. Whoever it was, they had not only been watching us, but they also had gotten the drop on us. We were caught red-handed trying to catch the crooks, red-handed. This whole endeavor was suddenly like a bobsled with a rocket engine on a an icy slope, that had been coated with axle grease, on a 180° incline. Not good—maybe fun to watch, but just not to be a part of.
“Well, did you come here to stare at my butt, or were you hoping I might be naked?” Came the voice again.
“What?” “No!” “Who… where are you?” Tiger and I both whispered out.
“You mean you’re this close and you still can’t see me? What are you, blind?” Then the body rolled onto its back. It was her. The body. She had been the one talking to us. She was now on her feet and walking toward us. “Well, do you see me now?”
“We saw you before but, we didn’t know it was you talking.” I pointed out.
“I was the only one in the room,” came the rapid response.
“But, we didn’t know it was you,” Tiger returned.
“Who else would it have been?” She was fast.
“Robbers?” I had her now. Let the game begin, check.
“Robbers? In Manti? Seriously?” She had us, check.
“Your door was open,” check.
“It’s my door. I can do what I want with it,” check.
“We were trying to see if you were safe. We were looking for robbers,” check.
“Sure you were. You two look more like robbers, or rather just a couple of perverts hoping to find a naked woman. …Wearing your masks and dark clothes. Maybe I should still call the cops?” Checkmate.
We were not doing well, yet she wasn’t afraid or backing down. I was starting to both be annoyed by her and like her at the same time. Here were two intimidating vigilantes, on her very doorstep. Still, she was unflinching in her position about who and what she was, as well as her right to do what she wanted to do in her own home.
“Take off your masks. Who are you?” She calmly asked. However, there was an undertone of demand that was hard to miss—or even ignore. We couldn’t do it. This was our way of keeping our secret identities a secret. Nobody could know.
“No.” I was not going to allow us to be discovered.
“Do it, or I’m calling the cops,” more demands, from her.
I was ready for this. I was ready to call her bluff. By the time she would have reached her phone, called the police, and their arrival, Tiger and I would have been long gone. “Go ahead,” I was about to say…
“Fine,” and Tiger took off his mask.
“She’s got us,” Tiger just shrugged his shoulders and accepted the situation.
“Besides, who am I gonna tell?” This was spoken as she folded her arms under her chest and leaned against her door frame.
It was like the two of them had rehearsed this! No. No. No. No… I must be dreaming…
As I was mentally spiraling out of control, I heard Tiger introduce us to the late-night mystery girl. He told her our names!!! Au-ug-ghhh…!
“Oh, I know you… But, I don’t know you. I’m April.
So, really, what are you guys up to? Are you looking to steal stuff or are you just a couple of peeping toms?” There was now a playful smile on her lips. She was loving this. And, honestly, I think we were too. Tiger and I were nestled in that small pocket of space around the main door, while April stood inches from us. The three of us, now conspirators of something yet to be settled upon. She was an attractive gal, a year or so older than us, friendly, and yet she had a take-no-prisoners edge to her that was proving to be both fun and nerve-wracking.
Hours would pass. It was time for her to get back inside. April had explained that she sometimes had trouble sleeping, so, she would come downstairs and lay on her front room floor with the door open (fresh air—even in winter). She was bold enough to invite us to stop by on a regular basis—”…just don’t expect [her] to be in anything too revealing, or naked.” If the front door was open, that was our clue that she was there. She would also turn the porch light off for us, then all we had to do was just whisper her name. This new arrangement would occur often, for a few years. Sometimes we would stop by—as ourselves—just to say hello.
We had made a new ally that night. She never gave away our secret and treated us with respect—despite how ridiculous our premise of hero-ing may have been. In addition, she promised to let us know if she ever heard of anything alarming—she never did (it was Manti). Contacting her was always simple, she had an open door policy.