We spent the last two days hunting down Batman, which was a hilarious inversion of our usual job. Like usually we spend our days hunting down monsters that are hurting innocent people, not local heroes. And apparently this guy is a local hero.
He’s on local news like every other day. There’s a segment called Hero Watch where they show cell phone clips or security camera footage of this guy kicking ass. The city thinks about him as like… a sort of adorable mascot, despite the fact that this guy is genuinely taking out some nasty criminals. I’ve watched hours of people talking about being rescued by him at this point, sometimes from pretty ugly situations. Everything from robberies to domestic abuse.
Which is all cool and everything, but not really our thing — until I saw a clip of a car plowing into him full on and the car CRUMPLED on impact but he got right up and walked away. So he’s definitely… something. Like we don’t know exactly what, but he’s definitely something.
Tracking him down was shockingly easy.
First thing in the morning we called up Melinda Clohessey, the reporter who’s been following the story for the last six weeks. She was ready to meet us that exact morning, so we talked to her in a coffee shop for like half an hour. She was very friendly in a fast paced way, took notes on everything we said (we left out the part where we were also trying intervene in the robbery) and then cheerfully refused to answer any of our questions.
“All I can tell you is that the police have been very cooperative,” she said, and that was the end of the conversation.
So we went to the police. “Hi,” Neal said, leaning against the counter, swaggering. “Do you know who the masked vigilante is?”
I rolled my eyes.
But the officer behind the counter, a handsome, young beat cop, faltered. “No,” he said and Neal’s whole demeanor changed. He stood up straight.
“Is he working with you?”
“Listen, we’re not answering questions about that,” the cop said. His name tag said Officer Cooper.
“Does everyone here know who he is, or just you?” Neal asked.
“Sir —” Officer Cooper began, but Neal interrupted.
“Is he a cop?”
Poor Officer Cooper was clearly floundering. “Of course not,” he said and Neal laughed. “We’re not allowed to divulge anything we know about —”
“Is it you?” he asked.
“Sir, I’m going to have to ask you to leave,” Officer Cooper said. “Do you have anything you need or are you just here to disturb the peace?”
Julian had to push Neal out of the station with a hand on the back of his neck to extract us.
“You done?” Julian said outside the doors when Neal shrugged him off.
“That was him,” he said. “Officer Cooper was our super hero, I would bet pretty much anything on it.”
Julian sighed. “Yeah I believe you,” he said. “But probably shouting at him in the station isn’t going to help.”
So we waited and we watched the precinct and at the end of the day when Officer Cooper was leaving the station in street clothes, we followed him.
He lived in an apartment building right in the city, which was great because it meant I could walk to get food while the boys staked out the place.
Cooper didn’t reappear for hours. I fell asleep in the back of the car and didn’t wake up again until Neal and Julian both dropped their seats back on top of me.
“What’s going on?” I said.
Neal reached back and put his hand over my mouth. “He just walked by us,” he whispered. He pointed out the back window. “See?”
I turned over and watched as officer Cooper looked over his shoulder then crouched down behind a dumpster and when he came back up he was wearing a mask.
“Bingo,” Neal said and before Julian could stop him, he had opened the car door. “Officer Friendly!” he shouted and Officer Cooper looked around, saw who it was, and took off running. Neal took off after him.
Julian groaned and ran the opposite direction down the alley, leaving me alone in the dark.
I got back in the car and waited. Listen, ya girl isn’t fast, okay?
The Hawthornes came back some twenty minutes later, sweaty and out of breath. Julian was annoyed and doing little to pretend he wasn’t, but Neal was in high spirits, like a dog after a good run.
“You watched video of this guy chase down a bus and you thought you were going to catch him in a foot race?” Julian was saying when I got out of the car. Neal just climbed onto the hood and star fished out, panting.
“Oh come on, I didn’t know he’d run,” he said. “I just wanted him to know he was found out.”
“Well now he knows,” Julian said. Neal rolled his eyes. They were still quiet and on the verge of an argument when for the second time in three nights, a man in a mask appeared at the end of the alley.
Neal pushed up onto his elbows and smiled.
“Let’s get a cup of coffee,” he called.
“I can’t,” Officer Masked Hero called back. “I’m trying to find a murderer.”
“Give us twenty minutes,” Julian said.
“Come on Captain America,” Neal said. “Whatever you’ve got going on, we can help.”
Officer Cooper hesitated, then strode forward into the alley. He ducked down behind our car, pulled off his ski mask and stuffed it into the pockets of his track pants.
“Come on,” he said. “There’s a diner around the corner.”
So there we were, the four of us, crammed into a booth.
“So,” Neal said, leaning forward. “Super powers, huh?”
“Look, it’s not like that,” Cooper snapped. “I’m not a super soldier or whatever, I’m just… like this.”
“Did you make a wish?” Julian asked. “Come in contact with someone who owed you a favor? Touch anything you weren’t supposed to?”
Officer Cooper shook his head. “I’ve been like this since high school,” he said. “Nothing happened to me. This is just what I’m like.”
Julian glanced at Neal who nodded. (And now I know why! They do that silent, conference thing all the time and now I know it’s because Julian’s checking to see if they’re telling the truth!!)
“So you decided to start… going out at night?”
He got a bit shifty. “I guess,” he said.
“No, something happened,” Neal said. “Didn’t it officer?”
“Call me Jon,” he said. “And yeah, something happened, alright? Happy?”
“What happened?” Julian asked.
Jon shifted uncomfortably and was saved answering by the waitress bringing by our coffees.
“Anything to eat tonight Jon?” she said.
“No, thank you Deb, we’re okay. Just coffee.” Then he rounded back on us. “Look,” he said. “I don’t even know who you are, you can’t expect me to just tell you —”
“Our names are Neal and Julian Hawthorne,” Julian said. “This is our apprentice Shiloh. We specialize in the inexplicable. I promise, whatever you got, we’ve seen weirder.”
Jon snorted. “Oh you specialize in the inexplicable huh?” he sneered. “You hunt monsters? Like Big foot and shit?”
Neal smiled. “Sometimes.”
“Yeah, I’ve seen people like you. You go ahead and keep hunting for moth man, I’m rooting for you.”
“We found you didn’t we,” I pointed out.
Jon hesitated. “I don’t know how to explain any of this shit,” he said.
“That’s okay,” Julian said, so soothing.
“It started six weeks ago,” Jon finally sighed. “It was the weirdest case I’ve ever seen. None of the detectives or senior officers have ever seen anything like that before either. Just weird. There were three victims, young parents and their daughter. And they were… I mean they were bleached. Totally colorless. I don’t mean pale either, I mean colorless. Their eyes were white all the way to the pupil, their hair was white. It was the eeriest thing I’ve ever seen. And the coroner couldn’t find anything wrong with them either. No discernible cause of death.”
Neal and Julian exchanged a glance.
“Anything like that happen since?” Neal asked.
“Twice more,” Jon replied. “Same building.”
“Okay, we can help you deal with that,” Julian said. “Shouldn’t be any trouble.”
Jon blinked. “Just like that?”
“It sounds like wraiths,” Neal said. “Nothing too difficult to deal with, but very nasty if left unchecked. We can have them taken care of by the end of the week.”
Jon stared at us. “What the fuck is a wraith?”
“They’re a bit like moth man,” Neal said. “A little meaner.”
Our coffees came.
“I have been hunting for some sicko for weeks and you’re gonna tell me that you can handle it in the next three days,” Jon said.
Then Jon said, “Do you know what I am? Were you hunting for me?”
“No,” Julian assured him. “We were here for that robbery. There was a rumor that he was using magic.”
Jon laughed. “Yeah, they’ve been cropping up like that. You see it in the movies all the time right? Someone starts doing good in a mask, some asshole has to come along and do evil in a mask. It’s nothing I can’t handle. It’s those… things I’m worried about. Wraiths?”
“Wraiths,” Neal confirmed. “We’ll help you.”
Jon looked up, steel in his eyes.
“Teach me how to deal with them.”
The Hawthornes glanced at each other. Then Neal said, “Alright, yeah. If you’re sure.”
Just like that. JUST LIKE THAT. Do you know how long I had to pester them before they’d let me join a case? Fuckers.
(Yes, I am aware that I am an 18 year old, not a police officer with apparent super powers. No, I don’t think that matters)