This is an original work of fiction meant for entertainment purposes only.
The two students paused to eye another as they walked past the cafeteria just outside the west wing of their high school. The younger boy turned to his companion, and simply nodded as they continued their conversation as they left the older student behind them.
"So? What do you mean," the junior asked his friend.
"Well, just think about it," the sophomore told his companion as they passed the senior girl staring vacantly across the courtyard beside the school.
"About what," his indifferent companion yawned.
"Duh. The Defender! Think about it. Ever since Marcus Parkes disappeared…."
"Disappeared? I thought he was the weird Goth kid that killed himself over some chick."
The brunette sitting nearby on a concrete bench suddenly stiffened, and looked their way before returning her gaze to the grassy courtyard that bordered the school beyond the cafeteria. Douglas cringed, only then realizing who she was as he tugged at his friend's sleeve as he rushed on past, and out of her range of hearing.
"What now," Pete Rogers complained as Douglas sped his steps past the girl who now pointedly ignored them.
"Idjit," Doug hissed. "That was Sara Fletcher. That was Parkes' old girlfriend. He….disappeared right after they broke up. That was right before Defender stopped showing up, too. That was what I meant. The odds are just too close that….."
The boys were gone, but Sara didn't look up anyway.
Not even when her cell phone began to ring.
Just to be thorough, she glanced at the screen after pulling it out of her backpack, but just ignored it as she put it away after silencing it. The caller's name was both familiar, and unwelcome.
Davis Hines was almost as big a pest as the police chief of late. The local reporter was trying to use her apparent connection to the missing teen as some kind of hook he could sensationalize for his own purposes. Nor would the man take no for an answer.
He kept calling. Kept stalking her. Even her dad said she might as well just tell him her side, and be done with it.
She couldn't do that. Ever.
Not if what she suspected... No, knew, was true. And she knew it was. Because she was there. She saw more than even her father realized. Not that it helped. In fact, it didn't. She heard the final bell ring, and sighed heavily before pushing to her feet, and lifting her backpack to sling it over one shoulder.
Lately, she didn't worry about tardies. Or classes. Or…..anything.
It hardly mattered.
Sara had been dating Marcus. It started out slow. A favor for the vice principal to tutor a 'troubled' kid that showed promise. They got to know to each other. Got close. Then they started getting serious.
For seven months, they got to know each other pretty well. Until her dad realized how serious they were getting.
Ironically, it was the school faculty that ratted on them.
One of her teachers felt her seeing a boy from the proverbial wrong side of the tracks wasn't good for her. Her father agreed. That's when the pressure started. Finally, her father apparently confronted Marcus, and made him agree to stop seeing Sara for her own good. She had a promising future, or so he told Marcus, and no one wanted it compromised by dallying with a boy not likely to do more than spend his life flipping burgers. If that well.
Sara knew how proud Marcus could be. She knew he didn't like authority for authority's sake.
Yet he apparently agreed with her father, and even went so far as to disappear. Some said, killing himself, since his backpack, jacket, and shoes were all found at the Seaside Cliffs, with no trace of him found since.
Davis Hines put two and two together, and started sniffing for a story. Especially since, as Douglas Weems, the school gossip had stated, it seemed their local hero, the Defender, had vanished just about the same time.
She sighed, and remember the first time she had seen him, too.
He was a real mystery man that had appeared just over a year ago, his first showing at Sara's school where he shocked everyone by stopping gang bangers who were shooting up the local high school for whatever their reason. Soon after that, he was everywhere, conducting a city-wide crusade as the hero in a generic gray bodysuit proved virtually unstoppable as he faced down the worst the city's underworld could throw at him.
The hero had seemed to possess fantastic strength, could fly, and even had some kind of telekinetic power. Yet no one had been able to find him, or catch him in the year he had been active.
Until Marcus apparently vanished, and apparently the Defender with him.
She supposed that could make people wonder, but she knew Marcus. He was no hero. Just a sad kid that saw too much of the wrong side of life, and was hoping to make it out of that life. Instead, her dad, and the stupid school ensured he never had the chance.
God, she hated them all now. Hypocrites.
She barely noticed the last class of the day, and was relieved when it was over. She was even more relieved that Hines wasn't outside waiting to ambush her again when she ducked her usual ride home with the rest of the seniors she once called friends to walk alone.
She felt better being alone of late.
Only no one seemed to understand that. Then again, she had been slowly coming to the realization that no one really understood her. Not even her parents.
Davis Hines was not at school that day because he chose another tact.
He took the offered coffee, and stared at the still attractive woman across the table from him in the nicely appointed home, and smiled at her.
"So, tell me about Marcus," Davis asked not for the first time.
He had heard a lot of conflicting stories since chasing down the kid no one seemed to care was gone, possibly dead. Not even his father. The man had little good to say of his own son, and nothing good for anyone else, either. Marcus admittedly had a reputation as a borderline delinquent, barely staying one proverbial inch from juvie, and skating very thin ice at a school he skipped more often than not before he started seeing the Fletcher girl. After that, he had suddenly became a virtual model citizen, right up toward the end, even if no one truly bought his second-chance act.
What struck him most was that the Defender did indeed show up right about the time the kid started seeing Sara Fletcher, and then disappeared at the same time the Parkes kid allegedly took his swan dive into the sea.
He had two witnesses he needed to see to finish his final investigation for his piece, but he had to consider that Parkes was likely allegedly dead, and at the least missing. Meanwhile, Sara Fletcher still refused to even see him.
He had to wonder why.
He fixed his gaze on the statuesque brunette before him with his best smile, and waited for Dana Fletcher to answer.
"I think….he was a nice boy a heart," Sara's mother finally told him.
"I suppose you must have heard what happened," the woman said quietly.
"I've heard a lot of theories. Faked death, and even suicide," he stated baldly.
"He's dead. I know he is," Dana told him quietly.
"You sound far more certain than some I've talked with," he informed her.
"Whatever his faults, Mr. Hines. That boy was turning his life around, and he loved my daughter. I know he did. My husband might have hated that, but I know he loved her….. Well, more than anything. I could see that when he was around her. Enough that I know he let those busybodies talk him into giving her up. Enough that I know only death would have kept him away when she needed him."
"Mom," a soft voice cut her off as he tuned to see the slender brunette that already showed signs of her mother's beauty in her maturing features. "Please, just skip it, mom," she said, shooting a cold glare Davis' way. He doesn't care about me, or Marcus. He's that scandal chaser whose been trying to unmask the Defender all year. That's the only reason he's here now. He got some stupid idea we might know something."
Dana frowned at that.
"You have to admit it's likely more than coincidental that the first sighting was at your school, young lady. And you were one of the first to see him. Just as it is….telling that the Defender seemed to vanish the very same week Parkes….allegedly died."
"Apparently, you seem to have overlooked something," Dana told him with a troubled frown now.
"Marcus is dead. The Defender, by all reports, is invulnerable. So how could he have died?"
"I never said he did. In fact, if Marcus is….connected to him, then maybe he isn't dead. Maybe he simply….left."
Sara glared at him in earnest now, turned, and walked down the hall to her room.
They both stared after her, and then Dana sighed.
"Mr. Hines, what I'm about to tell you is off the record. Agreed."
He frowned, but nodded. At this point he still essentially had nothing. A few empty promises couldn't hurt if he was going to keep his story, and his search alive.
"This took place just about three months ago. On Sever's Point. What they call Seaside here, as you well know. Sara arrived just in time to see Marcus jump. She knew he usually went there when he was….feeling low, and when he didn't show at school that day, she went to see if he were there. She arrived in time to see him jump, and by the time she reached the cliff, he was...gone.
"I see. That wasn't in the police file," he remarked blandly.
"Not the open one," she agreed. "My daughter is still a minor, and she has gone through enough thanks to the busybodies in this town. So if you even think of publishing one word about her, Mr. Hines, bear in mind my uncle works for the DOJ, and I will have him sue you into obscurity so fast you won't even be a memory if you bother Sara again. Understand?"
Davis stared at the pretty woman with the nice curves again, and simply nodded.
Talk about maternal instincts. This mommy had claws, because the gleam in those green eyes suggested a lot more than lawsuits. And he knew she wasn't bluffing. He had already researched her family, and knew the uncle was no joke. He was a senior prosecutor in the upper echelons with a real hardcore rep. if his niece called him in, Davis would likely be in over his head.
"I'm really just looking for the truth, and only that, Mrs. Fletcher," he told her. "It just so happened that it seems to lead to those two kids."
"It's a big city," she told him bluntly. "Look elsewhere."
He nodded again as he stood up to leave.
"Thank you for your time," he told her as she pointedly walked him to the door.
As he walked out to his car, he paused at the door of the nondescript sedan his paper furnished to eye the innocuous suburb outside the moderately-sized, sprawling city. Nothing special here. Nothing special about the entire burg. So why was a first-class Cape like Defender even in their area when most of the Big Guns hung out in major cities, or even isolated mountaintops, according to rumor.
What was he missing?
Climbing into his car, he still had a feeling that the girl knew more than she was willing to say. That she, and the Parkes kid were in this one up to their proverbial knees. Still, if she saw the boy die. Or jump…. Then either the kid planned it to 'escape' his own heroic alter, or Defender really was someone else.
Damn, he swore to himself. He was starting to second-guess himself. No, he decided. Go with your gut. It was never wrong. And right now, he felt something was off about those two kids. Time to play tick, he mused as he drove off, and dig a little deeper.
Without pissing off Dana Fletcher, who might look like a bimbo, but obviously had serious chops.
His gut wasn't wrong about that either.
Still, one way or the other, he was going to find out the truth. About those kids, and especially the Defender. Because if the guy had not surfaced elsewhere despite rumored invites to the big leagues, then he had to still be out there. Still laying low. He was sure of it.
Lena Edwards yawned as the train stopped, and she headed for her station as the doors opened.
Even as four, gangly teens stepped inside.
"Where you going, chica," one of them grinned as he shoved her back inside the car before she could step off the train.
"I'm not looking for trouble," the twenty-something coed working two part-time jobs just to stay in college told him, stepping back with her hands up.
"We just looking to party, sweetie," another boy with broken, yellow teeth leered. "And you're our guest of honor," he chortled as the two others grabbed her, holding her as the first reached for her blouse still adorned with the diner's cheerful pin over one breast asking; 'How May I Help You?'
"No," she screamed, struggling in vain as the train's doors started to close.
Even as powerful hands flashed out, stopping the hydraulic panels, and pushing them back open.
"Release the woman," a voice like muted thunder rumbled as the woman's eyes fixed on the newcomer.
"You 'sposed to be somebody," the teen with broken teeth sneered arrogantly. "Everyone knows the real D-Man is gone," he mocked.
The lean, muscular figure in dark gray from head to foot didn't react to the knife that was suddenly produced, and waved before him.
He simply stated, "Then you shouldn't feel this," the masked man said, and simply pointed.
Even as he did, the teen was somehow flung the fill length of the car to slam into the closed doors at the far end hard enough to crack the tempered glass.
"He's real," the first teen shouted in sudden fear as the three bolted for the open doors as a faint alarm sounded as those doors weren't closing after he wrenched them open.
"Go home," the masked man in gray told Lena who shuddered at seeing all three thugs flung across the width of the car this time to end up somehow pinned in place.
Lena bolted from the car, the doors closing only after she was out, fleeing the platform as fast as she could run even as the train began to move, carrying the mysterious vigilante, and her attackers away. Even she had heard the claims the Defender had apparently vanished. Maybe even been killed. But if this weren't the same man, then there were a lot more superhuman heroes out there than anyone realized.
The next morning she heard the news that the Metro security team found four unconscious teens that had been badly beaten on the last commuter train to return to the station. All four were in the hospital, and would likely be there for weeks. She found it very hard to feel sorry for them.
Even as she sipped her coffee, getting ready for her first class, someone knocked on her door. She approached the door to her shared apartment warily, not living in a very good neighborhood because of her budget, and saw a stranger staring back through the peephole.
"Who is it," she demanded, one hand reaching for a baseball bat her roommate kept near the door for unruly visitors.
"Davis Hines, Ms. Edwards. I'm with the Sun Post. I'd like to speak with you concerning your reported assault."
She flushed, feeling that rush of fear again as she remembered running right into a cop, and stammering out her tale. By the time they had tracked the train, the teens were finished, and the mystery man gone.
"Ms. Edwards," the man called again.
"One minute," she said, keeping hold of the bat. Just in case.
To Be Continued…..