Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. 2 Corinthians 11:14-15
This verse of the Bible echoes through his mind as Andrew Curtis leaves the afternoon Bible study held by the Campus Christian Fellowship at Pacific Southwest University. He walks along the concrete pathway along with a huge portion of the student body. Like most people with a functioning mind, he notices the Valentine's Day decorations on the brick buildings of the campus. Fraternities and sororities put up huge banners advertising Valentine's Day parties.
"Hi there," says a young man with a shaved head wearing a PSU sweater.
"Hi, Melvin," says Andrew.
"So where are you headed off to?" asks Melvin Jenkins, Andrew's longtime friend.
"Uh, I'm gonna go work out in the gym."
"You've been doing that a lot," says Sandy Brewster, a woman with long blond hair. She wears a white sweater and blue Levi's jeans
"I try to keep busy."
"We'll see you later," says Melvin. "Got to get to class."
Andrew continues walking to the student parking lot, hauling his Jansport backpack which is full of books. He takes another look at the Valentine's Day decorations. Feelings of grief surface.
This will be his first Valentine's Day without Darlene. He bows his head down.
He then takes in his breath. He has a future in this world. He must stay focused.
Later that afternoon, Andrew comes out of the gym, stepping on the sidewalk on Hope Street in downtown Los Angeles. He had been going to this gym since last year. He makes sure he spends at least an hour training whenever he has the time.
He cheks his Motorola cellular phone for voice messages. He finds one message, and then dials the number.
"Hello?" asks a female voice.
"Hi, Rachel," says Andrew.
"What's up?" akss Rachel Hayes, a young woman whom Andrew started a few months ago.
"I was wondering what we should do for Valentine's Day?"
"Well, during the evening I have to go to work?"
"We're filiming a movie scene in Castaic."
"That far away?" Castaic is a small town about forty miles northwest of Los Angeles.
"We'll probably be shooting all night."
"I'm looking forward to going to the country club tomorrow."
"I would so love for you to go."
"See you later, babe."
Andrew wipes some sweat off his brow with a white towel. He is lucky to have found someone so soon after what happened last year.
He looks up at the sky above Los Angeles as it gets dark. Some of the street lights even turn on.
It is time for another crusade.
ooooooooooooo That evening, a group of people gather near a Ford Econovan at a small parking lot serving the Our Lady of Charity Home for Children, an orphanage located on Franklin Avenue in the Hollywood neighborhood of Los Angeles. Father Dominic Dicenzo, the headmaster of the orphnage looks around.
"Is he coming here again?" asks Paco, a young man with slick black hair who is volunterring for tonight.
"I gave him a call," replies the priest. "He said he would ride with us.
"I haven't heard anything on the news about a super villain attack here," replies Bob.
Suddenly he appears. A man in a black outfit, with his face concealed by a black hood. A white cross is on the front of the sweatshirt.
"Hello there," says Father Dominic Dicenzo.
"Just stopping by to see if I can help," replies the Crusader, vigilante super hero.
"Nice to see you too," says Paco, one of the volunteers. Paco recalls his first encounter with the super hero, back when he participated in a carjacking ring last fall.
Paco starts the engine of the van and drives out to the streets. The main cross streets are brightly lit not only from the street lights, but from colorful neon signs on businesses located right next to the street. Many people walk along the sidewalks at night to shop or just sightsee. Hidden in the shadows of these bright lights is a population of street children, either abandoned by their families or fleeing the horrors of their homes. It is these street children that the people inside this van seek out. Father Dominic had been doing this for years. He ands his people had rescued fsome children off the streets, some of whom ended up with loving adoptive families. Sadly, others returned to the street.
The Crusader looks out through the window of the van. He had done this a couple of times before. Knowing his background, he could have easily ended up on the streets, scrounging a bare existence.
"As the van drives along Vine Street, they hear a knock on the door.
"Help me!" a voice yells out. "Someone help me!"
The Econovan's door is slid open.
"I don't see anyone," says Paco.
Paco releases the brake pedal and the van continues a few more feet. Then comes more knocking. He slams the brakes.
"Somebody help me!" yells the voice.
"I'll go check it out," says the Crusader.
He leaps out onto the sidewalk. For an instant he wonders if the super villain Siphon had broken out of prison and is using this as a ploy to drain his super powers as he did last month.
There are still a few people walking along the sidewalk, decorated with star-shaped plaques bearing the names of people. The super hero wonders who had called for help.
"I'm gonna teach you a lesson, you stupid bitch!" someone yells.
The Crusaderruns to the source of the noise. It is an alley.
In between the two walls of the alley, he sees a man beating up on a small girl.
"You'd better behave this time," says the man, who is really big. He throws her into the back seat of a blue Oldsmobile which is parked in the alley.
the Crusader leaps into action delivering a steel-toed kick to the man. He then holds the man up by the shirt.
"What the fuck is going on here?" he demands. "Answer!"
"None of your business punk!" yells the man, a mean look on his face.
The Crusader delivers a powerful slap and the man falls to the ground. He stands above the man.
"Please, please stop!" he yells. "Don't hurt me. Just let me go."
"No," replies the super hero. "I'll be turning you over to the police."
"Don't do that," asks a voice.
"Why not?" asks the Crusader.
"I don't want to get involved with the police."
"He should at least be brought before a judge."
"Were you with the people in the van?" she asks.
"Yeah," replies the Crusader.
"I want to come with you."
"Okay. You can call me the Crusader. What is your name?"
"Call me Sweet Box. That is what my man calls me."
The Crusader looks at the man he had fought, who is now getting up. He pushes the man down with his foot. "I suggest you leave L.A. and change careers," he says. "If I catch you again...."
The Crusader escorts Sweet ox out of the alley onto the sidewalk. The white Econovan is still parked next to the curb.
"Who's that?" asks Father Dominic.
"Call me Sweet Box," says the girl.
"Your parents didn't name you that."
"my man did."
"We should take her somewhere to eat," says the Crusader. "Just the three of us."
As the others continue their search for homeless children, Father Dominic, the Crusader, and the girl calling herself Sweet Box sit inside an In-N-Out restaraunt. The brightly-lit place has white table tops, white tiles, and white walls, whiter than the singer Michael Jackson. The employees, clad in their white outfits, are surprised to see a man in a black costume in here. One of them had even asked if he had his own toy like many of the other super heroes based in Los Angeles.
"Let me introduce myself," says the priest. "Father Dominic Dicenzo, headmadter for the Our Lady of Charity Home for Children. We take care of abandoned and orphaned children. We're registered with the L.A. County Child Welfare Agency."
"Can I stay with you?" asjks Sweet Box.
"For tonight," replies Father Dominic. "We need to find out your real name. We'll have to report you to child welfare services and the police."
"I can't go to the police. They'll turn me over to him."
"So you ran away from home," says the Crusader.
"Yes, I did."
The Crusader removes something from his throat. "Tell us about it."
Sweet Box's ears perk up. The costumed man's voice had changed. "What was that?" she asks.
"A voice alteration patch," says the super hero. "I use it to hide my identity to keep others from hearing my real voice. Tell us how old you are."
"Listen," says the Crusader in a gentle tone. "You can trust us."
"My dad left when I was three. It was my mom and me being alone for a while. Then she got remarrried to a guy named Aaron. When I was twelve, when I was twelve I remember him turning on the lights in my room. I told him I wanted to go to sleep. He said ...he said he wanted to fuck me. I was so shocked. I told him this wasn't funny. It wasn't. He slapped me...he...he pushed my gown up...and he...he raped me." Tears flow down her cheeks.
"When did you run away?" asks the Crusader.
"A year ago. I couldn't handle it. I was out on the streets, trying to look for food out of the garbage. Then this guy came and told me he could offer me a place to stay. I then started fucking other guys for money. I was often beaten. I felt trapped."
"You don't have to go out there again. Why didn't you report him to the police? Your stepdad?"
"Aaron's a cop."
The Crusader and Father Dominic glance at each other.
"By law I am required to report all of those we take into the shelter," says Father Dominic. "If you file a formal police complaint, you won't be sent back to your mom and stepdad. You can stay with us long term."
"Aaron's a cop. They'll just send me back to him. I can't go back. I'd rather be living on the streets."
"Listen, I have a friend who's a detective," says Father Dominic. "He is Lieutenant Donald Drake. He works this division. I've known him for many years; I trust him and so can you."
"Okay, but I want you to bring him to me. I don't want Aaron to see me."
The three of them leave and head back to Our Lady of Charity.
The Crusader enters Father Dominic's office in Our Lady of Charity Home for Children. The office is small, with a desk, Hon steel filing cabinets in the corners, wooden bookcases on the side walls, and a crucifx in the back wall. The super hero pulls back his hood, revealing the face of Andrew Curtis, Pacific Southwest University student.
"Do you think Miss Sweet Box is telling the truth?" asks Andrew.
"I don't know," says Father Dominic. "We've had cases where runaways lied about sexual abuse by their parents."
"And yet, the fact that she did not want to go back home after being rescued from her pimp indicates that she's telling the truth. Of course, proving it to a jury might be difficult. Evidence of rape would be long gone. And her stepdad's a cop. The D.A. might not even press charges if it is just her word against his. And yet if she is returned home, she may run away and head back into the streets."
"You have the details down, don't you Andrew?"
"I study criminal law."
"I pray to the LORD that she will know the right decision."
Andrew rteturns to his apartment late at night. His roommate Paul Stokes knows about the volunteer work, though not about the Crusader.
He lies down on his bed, knowing what happened to Sweet Box could have happened to him easily. He contemplates the evil that men can do. He recalls the evil that changed his life just last fall.