He shows his ID to the security guard and enters. He goes to the locker room. Within minutes, he changes from his street clothes to the black outfit with the white cross on the front and back.
He then leaves the locker room and goes to the ring. Stepping over the ropes, he stands on the mat. He sees people getting to their seats, and sees the camera crews doing a last-minute checkup on their equipment as Big Mike yells at them to hurry up.
He imagines himself wearing a black tuxedo, Darlene wearing a white wedding dress, saying their vows. It had only been last night that they got engaged.
A man wearing a spandex outfit with red, white, and blue stripes steps over the ropes.
"You must be the Patriot," says the Crusader.
"Hello," he says, with a bright smile showing his teeth. "Well, we'd better get ready for our match." He places his mouthpiece in his mouth.
Andrew does the same, fitting the mouthpiece into his mouth. He can feel the heat from the bright lights overhead.
"In this corner is one of our best fighters, the Patriot!" shouts the emcee. The Patriot stands as the crowd cheers. "and in this corner, is one of our newcomers, who has made quite an impression in his last few appearances, the Crusader." The Crusader stands as the crowd cheers. "Now, the match will last until one of them lands outside the ring or one of them stays down on the mat for more than ten seconds, or one of them strikes the other on the ground. Other than that, it's no holds barred!" The two fighters face each other in a fighting stance, their fists up to protect their face. "Ready? Fight!"
The Crusader moves in towards the Patriot. He delivers a powerful right roundhouse kick, piviting his left foot to deliver the full power.
Suddenly the Crusader feels himself flying. He instinctively grabs on to something. He finds himself hanging from the ropes surrounding the ring. He quickly scrambles over the ropes to get on to the mat.
"That was a close one," says the emcee. "The Crusader almost fell out of the ring! But beating him won't be easy."
The Crusader puts his fists up and faces the Patriot. The Patriot throws a few jabs, which the Crusader nimbly dodges. The Crusader returns with a few of his jabs, and the Patriot nimbly dodges. This goes on for a few seconds.
"It looks like our two opponents are trying to hit each other, but they keep dodging out of the way. It's going so fast."
The Crusader is impressed with the Patriot's skills. He wonders if the Patriot had takenh those radioactive steroids.
The Patriot throws an uppercut, and the Crusader dodges out of the way.
But then the Patriot delivers a hammerfist, hitting the Crusader in the right side of the face with such force that he hits the mat!
"One," counts the emcee as the Crusader swiftly gets back up.
"You're good," the Crusader says to the Patriot. He wonders if the Patriot has super strength, or if his own strengfth is fading. And if his strength is fading, is this match the only thing he will lose? He might die right here.
There is no time to dwell on such things. It is time for him to get aggressive. He starts in with a swift kick that connects to the Patriot's abdomen. He then throws a jab to the face, which the Patriot redirects with a motion of his hand. The Crusader sees a pinch going his way, so he ducks.
He sees an opening. Immediately he dlievers a powerful cross to the abdomen. The Crusader winces, and he continues with a jab-cross combination. The Patriot falls.
"One," says the emcee. "Two."
The Patriot springs up. "I'm not that easy to put down," he says, getting into his fighting stance.
At this rate, thinks Andrew, it will be next year by the time this is through. He suddenyl sees the Patriot's left foot going in for a kick. He sidesteps to the left, and then delivers a jab to the face. The Patriot responds in kind, and soon the two are exchancing blows.
Then the Patriot grabs the Crusader's left bicep and left shoulder. The Crusader starts feeling a knee being jabbed into his stomach. The first knee drove the breath out of him and is followed by two more knees. Finally, the Crusader blocks the knee with his hands and then pushes the Patriot away.
The Crusader assesses the Patriot. the Patriot must weigh about two hundred thirty pounds. He must have a lot of momentum with his punches.
The Crusader delivers a jab to the face and suddenly backs away. He kicks the Patriot in the abdomne and backs away. Backs away to the ropes.
The Patriot moves in, standing in his fighting stance, looking for an opening.
This is it.
The Patriot delivers a swift kick. Suddenly, he feels his leg being grabbed.
Then the Crusader swings the Patriot's leg over hi with all his might. The Patriot flies over the ropes and lands clear outside the mat! The crowd looks in astonishment.
"And the winner by ringout is...the Crusader!" yells the emcee.
The Crusader, Andrew Curtis, raises his arms and turns around to look at the crowd gathered to watch this fight, to watch him win.
"Congratulations," says the Patriot, having gotten back on to the mat and extending his hand.
"You seem to be okay," says the Crusader.
"I'm a humble person by heart."
"Hey Crusader!" yells Big Mike. "that was a mighty fine performance!"
"Thanks," says the Crusader. "Thank you for giving me this opportunity."
"I told you it would work out for you. So, you planning to treat your girl tonight?"
"Uh, she's working tonight. she's in a band and she has a concert." The Crusader faces the Patriot. "So, where did you learn how to fight like that. You are very good."
"Well," says the Patriot, "I was in the Marine Corps, and then I became a boxer before signing up with Big Mike here."
"I took karate lessons when I was a kid, and then I decided to try this."
The Crusader steps out of the ring. Many people take pictures of him. His fans in the stands cheer.
The Crusader goes to his locker in the locker room. It is time to go back to being Andrew Curtis, criminal jsutice major at Pacific Southwest University and the man Darlene Garland will one day marry.
He enters the combination and opens the locker containing his street clothes and Nike gym bag.
As he pulls on the fabric of his costume to begin the change, he hears footsteps, footsteps of someone running.
He turns and notices a man with blond hair on his head combed into a pompadour, and a green Starter jacket, running in his direction.
"Stop him! Stop him!" a male voice yells.
The Crusader looks and sees an obese security guard chasing after the man. He decides to stand by and watch.
The feeling man in the Starter jacket looks at the costumed man as he passes him. The security guard, being out of shape, can not catch up to him. The Crusader sees the security guard go to the door at the end.
The security guard turns around, panting because he is out of breath. He looks at the costumed fighter who was in the ring minutes ago.
"Why didn't you do anything?" he asks. "You could have stopped him. have tripped him....Or slowed him down."
"And you could have paid a visit to Jenny Craig," the Crusader snaps back. "My job is to go out to that ring and fight and please my fans. Your job is security. It's not my fault that you're out of shape and can't do your job. I don't need to be told off by people who don't want to admit that it's their fault when they fuck up."
The security guard leaves the locker room. The Crusader removes his outfit to change back into his normal identity.
Minutes later, Andrew sits in the plastic seat on the RTD bus. He looks at his fellow passengers as well as the traffic traveling alongside the bus. It is evening now, and the cars, trucks, vans, and buses have their headlights on.
With the money he has made, he can afford to buy a car. Of course, with the cost of parking in certain parts of Los Angeles, it may sometimes be cheaper just to take the bus.
He imagines his life ahead, living with Darlene and doing errands with Darlene and attending social events with Darlene. He is too familiar with adversity in life, having grown up in a Roman Catholic orphanage. With Darlene at his side, there is no obstacle that would seem insurmountable.
Finally, after a transfer or two, Andrew gets off the bus and heads for his apartment. He rings the doorbell to Darlene's apartment.
Her roommate Sandy answers the door. "Hi, Andrew," she says. "If you're looking for Darlene, she hasn't come back. You can stay and wait for her."
"I'll just wait for her in my place," he replies. "And if she just wants to go straight to bed, I can see her the next morning."
"By the way, she told me you two got engaged. I want to say congratulations. You'll invite me to the wedding, won't you?"
"Uh, sure we will."
"When are you tying the knot?"
"We haven't even told her parents yet. I think we'll wait until we tell them before we decide on a date. She has a large family, you know, esepcially since her grandpa remarried about three years ago and so she has all these new uncles and aunts and cousins. Goodbye. I guess I'll see you later."
Andrew closes the door. He then walks up the concrete steps and goes back to his own apartment. He sees his roommate Paul in the living room, watching some show on the Sony color television.
"I still can't believe you're gonna marry that girl," says Paul.
"Well, friend, believe it," replies Andrew. "It doesn't surprise me. I mean, no man can be fit to be with her for life except me."
"She's a great girl."
"Don't I know that. I'd better go study."
Andrew goes to his bedroom and sits on his desk to look over his textbook and notes for his Critical Reading and Writing class. After all, even though he is now enaged, he still has his studies to do. He spends the next hour or so poring over notes, his General Electric clock radio playing music from KIIS-FM.
Looking at the clock radio's digital readout, he figures Darlene must be playing with the Misfits right about now. He then studies his material for his Statistics for Criminal Justice Administrators class.He pores over various statistics concerning criminal justice matters. As he pores over the material, he wonders if he even needs to go to law school. His newfound abilities can give him the opportunity to be a full-time athlete. He knows that Shaquille O' Neal makes a higher salary than any lawyer in Los Angeles.
Finally, he gets tired and decides to call it a night. It is 11:00 PM. Darlene may be home, if so she may have gone to sleep already. Andrew dresses in his pajamas and brushes his teeth in the small bathroom with Aqua Fresh toothpaste. He finally goes to his room. It is then that he notices lights outside. Red and blue lights. He looks outside, and sees a police car. He sees several police cars, and he figures out the police are here, in his apartment.
He puts on slippers, wondering if one of the tenants was busted for marijuana or cocaine possession, since he knows of several neighbors who used such substances. He gets out and goes to the courtyard, where there are several police officers in uniform, as well as plainclothes people who are apparently with the police.
He figures that hese are too many cops for a drug bust, unless someone was running a meth lab in the apartment complex. He sees the door to the laundry room, open with yellow plastic tape across the doorway.
"What happened here?" asks Andrew.
"Do you live here?" asks the police officer.
"Yeah, I rent an apartment on the second level."
"This is a murder investigation. A woman called the station and reported seeing a dead body in the laundry room. We believe she was attacked in the room as she was doing her laundry and killed there."
"Who was it?" asks Andrew.
Then he sees a woman with long blond hair turn her head, revealing herself to be Sandy. Tears puffed her face.
Suddenly, a creeping feeling vomes over Andrew's soul. He tries to look into the laundry room. The view of whoever was killed in there is obstructed by photographers and detectives and police officers.
"I'd like to see who it is," says Andrew.
His request is answered when paramedics carry the body out viua a stretcher. Andrew looks at the form on the stretcher. It is definitely female, with shoulder-length reddish brown hair coming from the head.
He looks at the face.
"Darlene," he says in horror. He suddenly feels weak, weaker than he ever felt before. "My God." He takes a closer look. there are bruises on her face and her blue bouse was torn open at the front; it is clear she had been assaulted. "Who did this?"
"Excuse me," says a brown-haired woman in a suit. "Detective Anna Marquez, LAPD." She shows her badge. "What is your name and how do you know the victim?"
"I'm Andrew Curtis. I had been her boyfriend for five years, ever since our sophomore year in high school. I ...I asked her to marry me last night and she accepted. Oh God, this has to be a nightmare. This can't be happening."
"Where were you this night?"
"I came home from work. I went to her apartment to see her. Her roommate Sandy said she hadn't come home yet. I went up to my apartment to do some studying. When I was about to go to sleep, I saw the police cars outside. Maybe I am dreaming. Maybe I'll wake up and speak to her and..."
Detective Marquez looks at the body as it is being loaded into the ambulance.. She runs up to it to take a closer look. She then walks to the young man whom she had just questioned. "Did you get her an engagement ring?"
"Yes...yes," replies Andrew, his hands trembling. "I got her this beautiful ring. It had her name engraved on it. It cost three thousand dollars."
"We have a lead!" shouts Detective Marquez. "Our perpetrator stole the victim's engagement ring, and her name is engraved on it. He might try to pawn it up. We need to stake out every twenty-four hour pawn shop within twenty-four miles!"
Andrew is now lying on the couch in Darlene's apartment. The lights are off and it is dark. His senses are more acute. He can sense traces of her in here. The room still smells as if she was still here. He knows that nearby is the dining table he was sitting at when he proposed to her just last night.
He wonders if he will wake up the next morning in his own bed and figure out this is just a dream.
The lights turn on. "Hello," a man's voice say. Andrew gets up and sees a police officer.
"What's up?" he asks. "Did you catch him?"
"Detective Marquez's hunch was right," says the police officer. "Our guy did try to pawn the engagement ring at a pawn shop"
"Is he in jail? Was he shot to death trying to escape?"
"Uh, no. When he spotted the police coming for him, he fled and got into a car. We chased him though, and he's holed iup in a warehouse on Alameda in the industrial district."
"What's going on?" asks Sandy.
"We have the guy who killed your roommate cornered, and we will get him. I'd better be going."
Andrew turns on the television; it is tuned to KTTV. There is a Special Report on.
"...we are in the Industrial Distrcict of downtown Los Angeles," says a Fox 11 News reporter. "Police have cordoned off the area. Once again, if you are just joining us, a man suspected of murdering a woman in her apartment building has been chased through the streets. he crashed his getaway car into a street light, and he fled into this warehouse here. He may have a hostage."
Andrew watches intently. The shock he felt when he saw Darlene on the stretcher fades away. It is replaced by rage. Rage at the fact that the only person he ever loved, the first person to ever love him, the person he wanted to spend the rest of his life with his gone. His rage focuses on the man, the man whose brutal act put an end to the life of a sweet, gentle woman with high hopes and dreams. The man who in a few minutes destroyed his own hopes and dreams and plans for the future. He clenches both hands into fists.
He goes and grabs the keys to Darlene's car. He then goes into his apartment, gets dressed, and takes along the Nike gym bag containing his costume. With determination as hard as steel, he walks to the garage and opens the shutter. He unlocks the driver's side door of the Oldsmobile station wagon. He throws the gym bag inside, landing below the front passenger seat. He then sits down on the driver's seat and closes the door. He fastens his seat belt and adjusts the mirrors.
He places the ignition key into the ignition keyhole. He turns the ignition system on, and then sends power to the starter. Electrical current turns the starter motor, which rotates the engine. The gasoline-air mixture combusts in may little explosions, driving the pistons in the cylinders. Andrew then moves the gear shift lever from park to reverse, and then releases the emergency brake. He backs the car out and turns the steeering wheel. Then he moves the gearshift lever to drive and in minutes he is driving through the streets of Los Angeles.
Driving south on Alameda Street in downtown Los Angeles, Andrew spots police cars parked, their lights flashing. A helicopter flies overhead.
"No doubt about it," says Andrew. "That's the place." He parks on a side street and gets out, taking the Nike gym bag with him. Going into an alley behind a metal plating shop, he unzips the gym bag and removes his black costume. Within minutes he is changed into the Crusader, clad in a black costume with a white corss on the front and back and a black hood over his head. He walks until he can see the warehouse where the police have their suspect.
"It's showtime," he says.
Detective Anna Marquez looks at the warehouse. "Are we even sure he's in there?" she asks.
"Yeah," replies a SWAT lieutenant. "We have all the exits being watched. He's still in there."
"This is the LAPD!" shouts a voice from the police helicopter. "You are completely surrounded! come out with your hands up!"
The Crusader hears this as he approaches the warehouse. The police have the place surrounded, but they are not going in.
He suddenly starts running as fast as he can. When he is a few feet from the warehouse, he uses his powerful legs to propel him up. He catches the edge of the roof and steps over.
He looks and sees the police helicopter overhead. The spotlight is not on him yet. He knows he must hurry, or else police snipers might shoot him, thinking he is the murder suspect.
He checks the roof. A grate! Using his strength, he breaks it off. He leaps in just before the spotlight from the helicopter shines on the rooftop.
It is dark inside, and there are shadowy shapes on boxes. The murderer can be anywhere in here. He stays silent and focuses.
He hears footsteps. He walks to where the footsteps are.
"Who's there?' a male voice asks. "I have a gun."
"Give yourself up," says the Crusader.
"I'll kill you if I have to."
The Crusader sees him; a shadowy figure backed up against the wall. He immediately lunges forward and delivers a powerful front kick. The man collapses, clutching his stomach.
"You bastard!" he ye;lls in pure rage, kicking him again.
The suspect tries to get up, but he then feels something slam into his ankle-and hears a crunching sound. He yells in pain. Soon, he feels the pain in his other ankle. "Please!" he yells.
"There's something going on in there," says Detective Marquez. "We'd better go in."
The Crusader slams his foot on the suspect's right wrist with full force, shattering the very bones. "You murderer! You killed her! You took her away from me! I loved her!"
"I didn't mean to kill her," pleads the suspect. "She was pretty and ...and I just wanted a quick fuck. She hit me, and I lost my temper....when I was done, she wasn't breathing." He then feels a foot braced against his neck.
The Crusader feels the murderer's neck below his right foot. He bends his right knee, preparing for the strike that will shatter the vertebrae and leave this man paralyzed.
"Stop right there!" another voice yells. The Crusader sees police officers shining flashlights on him.
He then takes a look at the suspect. He notices the blond hair combed into a pompadour. He looks at the face.
"Oh my God," he says, trembling.
He had seen this face before, back at the Grand Olympic Auditorium. this man, the man who murdered Darlene Garland, was the man who was fleeing that security guard in the locker room.
"Why didn't you do anything?" he remembners the security guard asking. "You could have stopped him. have tripped him....Or slowed him down."
"And you could have paid a visit to Jenny Craig," he remembers saying to the security guard. "My job is to go out to that ring and fight and please my fans. Your job is security. It's not my fault that you're out of shape and can't do your job. I don't need to be told off by people who don't want to admit that it's their fault when they fuck up."
"Hands on your head!" yells a police officer, pointing a Remington M1100 at him.
The Crusader responds by knocking the police officers down and running away. Being faster than the others, he is able to lose the police.
Detective Marquez watches as Los Angeles Fire Department paramedics carry the suspect out on a stretcher. She had heard his arms and legs were broken. The suspect clearly fit the description given to her by one of the tenants, who had claimed to see a man he never saw before leaving the apartment, on this very night.
She goes to the ambulance. "Is he conscious?" asks the detective.
"Yeah," replies the paramedic.
"You are under arrest for the rape and murder of Darlene Garland," she says to the blond-haired man lying down on the stretcher. "You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law. If you can not afford an attorney, one will be provided for you."
The population of derelicts and outcasts living below the Sixth Street Bridge on the bed of the Los Angeles River is joined by a man in a black costume.
Andrew Curtis looks at the dark skies. Over and over again, the sight of the man fleeing from the security guard, the sight of Darlene's dead body on the stretcher, the sight of the man lying down on the warehouse plays over and over again like a videotape on loop.
He stood by and did nothing. He let him get away. He let him get away to kill Darlene.
There is no light in his life.
There is no hope.
There is no love.
There is no reason to live.