As Felicio leapt into the all-concealing night he was stopped in his tracks by the niggling feeling that he’d forgotten something important. He wracked his brains, trying to think what it could be and then eventually he clicked his fingers as it came to him. In his haste he had forgotten to tell the criminals his name. A good deed was its own reward certainly, but it was important to him that his heroics were attributed to the proper source. He had dreams that his reputation would spread and he didn’t want to be known by the wrong name. Still, there was nothing he could do about it; he simply had to make sure that he remembered next time. The grim city beckoned and he disappeared into the shadows, ready to find more criminals to subdue.
Meanwhile Detective Alan Lang arrived at the crime scene. He didn’t usually take such an interest in petty robberies, but when he learned that a costumed fighter had been responsible for apprehending the thieves he was intrigued. He towered over the criminals, his unforgiving square jaw made them quiver. Without saying a word to them he moved on to speak with the shopkeeper, who hadn’t been given a chance to change from his nightwear into more suitable clothing. Alan had to stifle a laugh as he questioned the man, who seemed to have no qualms with showing his portly figure to the world.
“It’s like I told the officer, I heard a noise so I came downstairs. It’s not the first time I’ve been burgled, but when I turned on the lights this guy in a costume was standing there. I didn’t know if he was a criminal or not, but then I saw the other two on the floor. Then he said ‘you’re welcome’ and left,” he said in a thick accent.
Alan jotted a couple of things down in his notebook.
“You didn’t notice any claws or other weapons?”
“Okay, thank you.”
“Claws sir?” One of the officers asked.
“Just a hunch. I’m heading back to the station. Let me know if these two remember anything important.”
He wasn’t prone to assumptions but it was a strange coincidence that shortly after a man was attacked by an assailant who struck with claws, a costumed crusader entered the scene. It was just another headache for Detective Lang. The last thing he needed was an unstable element performing amateur heroics. Sooner or later this vigilante would get himself into serious trouble and it would be left to the police to clean up his mess. Sometimes he wondered what would possess anyone to dress up in a mask and wander the streets at night, why not just join the police force? ‘At least they don’t have to do paperwork,’ he thought, and allowed himself to enjoy a wry smile.
Meanwhile Felicio was enjoying a successful night. He hadn’t realised how common crime was in his city and it was astonishing to him that so many people turned to illegal endeavours, but he had led a sheltered life and in some ways his soul was still that of a child, wide-eyed and naive.
All of them pleaded for mercy and only a few fought back. He wasn’t used to such strenuous physical activity but he soon relished it. The sinews in his strong body were taut and the muscles primed for action. None of his enemies were a match for his physical prowess. On a few occasions he unsheathed his claws, providing Detective Lang with the proof that his suspicions were correct – the costumed vigilante and the person who attacked the man in the park were one and the same. Throughout the night Felicio learned some subtleties of crime-fighting. For example, most of the people he encountered were unable to withstand his powerful blows so he had to pull his punches to keep from injuring them too severely.
Energy surged through his body and in truth he wished the night could go on forever, he felt more alive in one night as Felicio than he had in a lifetime of being Peter. However, time was ticking away and soon the moon’s shine would disappear from sight. He heard one cry for help and decided that it would be the last one for the night.
Like a trained athlete he sprinted away from the town centre to the source of the cry. It came from a backstreet in a side alley, and either the people in the houses were asleep and didn’t hear the cry for help or they chose to ignore it but the fearless Felicio made it his promise never to allow a cry of help go unanswered. He surveyed the scene and saw a number of men crowding around a helpless woman. One of them had her pinned up against the wall. She was writhing, trying to twist her head away from his ardent lips but he was too strong and his body held her prisoner. They others stood in the background laughing, waiting for their turn.
She viciously bit his neck and drew blood. He staggered back, shocked when he felt the wound and saw the scarlet stains on his fingers. Suddenly the laughter stopped and the air became tense. Felicio readied himself for action. The leader walked up to the girl again, a savage brutality flashed in his eyes while hers were filled with terror. She screamed yet again but it was cut short by a swift blow across her cheek, causing her teeth to rattle in her jaws and her head to clatter into the wood panelling behind her. Felicio chose that moment to enter the fray.
Like a demon he seemed to appear from nowhere, landing amongst them and causing the more superstitious of them to think he was an avenging creature from some netherworld. But the leader stood tall and they drew strength from their numbers.
“Leave her alone,” Felicio said in his most defiant tone.
“Or what? You should be scared, look at us.” He spread his arms out wide, gesturing to his comrades. Felicio did look at them, and even though he wore a mask they could tell it was a look of utter disdain.
“Sure you scare me, woman beaters always scare me,” he said derisively, quoting from one of his favourite films. At that they piled upon him, a swarming mass of fists seeking to pummel him into submission. But they couldn’t comprehend the sheer power that coursed through Felicio’s body. A great roar bellowed from his mighty chest as if to crack the very air that surrounded them. Summoning his great strength he leapt up, knocking them all back. They tried to pile on him once again but he was too fast and nimble, agile limbs dodged their cumbersome blows and he struck with a force they had never known. One by one they were knocked back and blow after blow their herd thinned. The weak-minded cowardly lot soon left to nurse their wounds but the leader remained determined until the end. Felicio had hoped that he would simply run off into the night and be too afraid to do anything like this again but evidently he wanted to prove himself the stronger man.
With a steely resolve he rained blow after blow towards Felicio but the fast-moving hero dodged every one, only increasing his opponent’s rage. Eventually Felicio knew he had to take drastic action and as his attacker launched into another furious attack Felicio let slip his claws and slashed them across the man’s face. He cried in pain and collapsed to the ground, cradling his face with his hands. Forever he would bear the mark of Felicio.
The girl was trembling. Felicio walked over to her. She had fallen to her knees and was attempting to stifle tears. She was pretty, although in the course of the ordeal her make-up had been smeared over her face.
“D-don’t hurt me,” she stammered, her soft words like snowflakes in the cold night air.
“I’m here to save you. I’m Felicio.”
She rose, sniffing and wiping her eyes.
“I’m Vicky. Will you um, will you walk me home?”
“Of course, if it makes you feel safe,” he offered, gratified that she seemed okay.
It was an odd sight to see them walking along the street and it was odd for Felicio to be walking along the street with her. Even though he wore the mask of the brave Felicio, some elements of Peter’s personality were difficult to hide, but he gradually filled the night air with conversation.
“Do you want to tell me what happened?”
“I was clubbing with a few friends and I started dancing with this guy, you know how it is, and things got pretty hot so he suggested we go somewhere more private. I was a bit caught up in the moment so I agreed then he bought me here and then…well, my hero came to rescue me.”
She linked arms with him and he wasn’t sure how to respond, but he thought it ill-mannered to refuse her, especially after the ordeal she had just been through.
“Don’t worry it’s all over now.”
“Yeah…,” she laughed.
“What’s so funny?”
“I know I shouldn’t go home with strangers, and I haven’t even seen your face but I feel safer with you than I have with anyone else.”
She rested her head one his shoulder and he swelled with pride. They carried on walking until they reached her door. He was about to call it a night when she invited him in, he declined at first but she insisted and he found it hard to resist. It was a small apartment and very messy, which she didn’t seem to be ashamed of. They sat down on the red sofa, Felicio was tense and uncomfortable.
“Why do you wear the mask?”
“I’d…prefer not to discuss it.”
She pouted and made a thoughtful noise but it didn’t seem to deter her from asking more questions. She pried into Felicio’s nature, and he rebuffed every question but she slid across the sofa and before it she was right next to him. Leaning into him she whispered into his ear while her hand trickled down his forearm.
“Let’s go to my room…you can leave the mask on.”
He froze and he could feel the sweat bubbling under his mask. A situation such as this had never occurred to him and he was completely unprepared. He rose, flustered, and managed to mutter out an apology and an excuse to leave. Her pride was wounded but she sensed in him a willingness that was untapped, and she made it her secret mission to seduce the hero. As he backed away she approached him again.
“At least let me thank you properly for saving me,” she said, her words dripping with playful lust. She wrapped her arms around his neck and pushed herself into him, and he found himself falling into her warmth. It was a nice sensation, to be held by another person, it was something that was dearly absent from his life and he had always craved. But as the sweet scene of her fragrance lingered in the air something seemed wrong. He broke off the embrace and left the apartment, once again disappearing into the night.
He had led a lonely life and like his experience of heroism, he had only known love through an idealised and fantastical view. In his mind he had formed an idea that love was supposed to grip you in a passionate frenzy, as if your whole soul and body were on fire and every nerve and cell of your body was irrevocably drawn to one person above all others. He had often heard people compare love to a thunderbolt, and, to him at least, that seemed the loftiest pursuit and that was the kind of love he wanted, for anything else seemed to be a poor substitute. How could anyone want to settle for anything less than being taken over by an unbridled desire?
Love was something which struck in an instant and then bloomed, as if the whole season of spring occurred in a fraction of a second. Vicky simply didn’t inspire that feeling in Felicio, although she certainly was attractive. However, the sad truth was that he didn’t feel worthy of that kind of love, or any kind really. She wanted Felicio, and he was sure that if he had taken off his mask and she had seen his young face she would have instantly ushered him out. On reflection he thought it was perhaps wrong of him to scorn her so callously, but matters of the heart were something which Felicio should shun, for they could only distract him from his true purpose. Peter would have to carry the burden of those confusing feelings.
The following day Peter awoke feeling proud of his accomplishments the previous night. He was eager for the day to pass swiftly so he could resume his crime-fighting activities. When he arrived at college he soon sought Stephanie out and, once they were out of earshot of anyone else, he gushed about his heroic exploits. She listened intently, feeling a vicarious rise of excitement as he described each flurry of punches in glorious detail, his words spilling out in a fast torrent as his quick mind replayed the incidents of the night before.
“I have something you’d like to see,” she said with a grin, pulling out a newspaper from her bag. She unfolded it and opened up to one of the inner pages. The headline read:
“Mysterious Masked Man Stops a Spree of Crimes”
His eyes eagerly read every word and he beamed as he did so. The article made a point of not condoning his actions but they seemed to have a positive attitude about his presence. Accompanying the article was a blurry photo, and his reputation was soon spread across town. He asked Stephanie if he could keep the paper and she gladly agreed. It pleased her to see her friend so happy, but she also had other matters on her mind.
“Have you thought any more about your uni application? We’ve got that meeting tomorrow.”
He was fazed by her question but the smile didn’t leave his face.
“Oh uh, yeah I did actually, I have a few ideas.”
Then he excused himself, saying he had to find a book in the library. She knew it to be a lie though. Any time the conversation turned towards his future he avoided the subject entirely. However, his mind was scheming with machinations. For so long he had had no idea what he wanted to be but now he knew for sure. It may not have been a career path as such, but the thrill of the previous night was addictive and while he was prowling the streets he felt peace and a sense of completeness.
His thoughts were disrupted by the pattering of feet. He turned to find a slim girl approaching. She stopped suddenly and rarely looked up at him, but on the few occasions she did he saw that she had eyes which shone like Emeralds. She continually brushed the long black hair out of her face, a nervous habit with which she had been afflicted most of her life.
“I um, you don’t know me,” she awkwardly began, “uh, I’m Emma. I just, I just wanted to say that it’s um, I think it’s great what you’re doing.” She looked up at him and smiled a sweet, childlike smile before flitting away, as if she were being pushed along by the wind.
Peter was in shock, and he was shaken to his core. Suddenly the world seemed a lot smaller, and it felt as though a thousand eyes were watching him. He clutched the newspaper in his hand, it fluttered in the wind and kept hitting his hand but he didn’t notice. He was sure he’d never seen that girl before and yet she knew his deepest secret. He had an urge to run after her and confront her but something deep down told him it wasn’t the best course of action. Even though he had only met her for a few moments she seemed very fragile, and he sensed it had taken her a great deal of courage to approach him. However, he vowed to track her down in the coming days and find out the mystery of this girl called Emma.