Cecil looked in the mirror, trying to see his back. Felt them. Tiny nubs, protruding between his shoulder blades. Couldn’t quite see them yet. Soon. He kept telling himself. Soon, they would grow. He wouldn’t have to take elevators, or rusted fire escape stairs, when the nubs grew into wings. He could fly out a window; land without a scratch. Someday soon, he knew, his wings would sprout. Until then, the cape would have to do. Very small leaps. Last year, he broke a leg, while chasing a purse snatcher on the subway stairs. Cecil landed on the criminals back. He had to limp away from the scene, in agony, so his secret identity would not be revealed. Then he went to the doctors, and had his leg set in a cast for the summer. He had to stay inside and watch Crime T.V., local news, and re-runs of Superman movies. He vowed to heal himself. A new villain was out there . The news had been covering the story. The villain abducted victims, killing them in perverse ways. The killer always left a mark at the crime scene. Through Cecil’s painful summer in a cast, the villain killed. Cecil stewed in the cast, itching to get out. And now the cast was finally off. Cecil was determined to find this deranged serial killer. At last count, the lives of eight women were erased.
At the first crime scene the killer’s mark was not noticed by the police. Later the mark was found in photographs. At every crime scene thereafter, the mark was found. The seventh victim was killed using this distinct mark. The mark was a claw laceration, like that of a bear, or a large cat. It was embedded deeply enough to leave splintered lines in whatever the killer chose to claw the mark into. A car was used in murder number five. The police called the killer, “The Claw of Death,” Cecil called the killer “Dagger.” as far as Cecil was concerned, he would not rest until he stopped this madman from killing.
Cecil dressed in his superhero identity. A pair of black bicyclist tights with lightening bolts streaking down the sides of the legs. A pair of black and white Nikes, (the ones that pump up) and a black shirt with a capital I on the front, in silver, surrounded by a shield of honor in dark grey. The shield was Kevlar reinforced. The cape was black with silver streaks of lightening. His accessory belt, full of small compartments, full of smaller gadgets, each had a purpose only superhero’s could fathom. Unless you were James Bond. Last was his facial disguise, comprised of a pair of shop goggles tinted with a mirror coating.
Cecil looked at Captain Imagine in the mirror, soon the wings would replace the cape. And as the gypsy woman down on Seventh Avenue told him five years ago, he would, “fly above humanity, as his own entity.” If she only knew about his tender budding wings. Until the wings grew, he decided to keep flying to a minimum. He couldn’t afford anymore broken legs.
He walked to his apartments front door, shut the light off, locked his door. Unknown to him, for the last time as Captain Imagine. He put the apartment key around his neck on a lanyard, shoving it beneath his shirt. The chain felt alive against his skin, almost supernatural. He rounded the bend in the corridor, passed an old man stooped over a walker.
“Morning Hershel.” Captain Imagine said to the old man.
“Mornin’ Cap’n,” Hershel chuckled, “how’s the leg?”
“Fine, Hershel. I’m going to fight crime.”
“You get ‘em boy! Kick shum ass.” Hershel said, almost losing his dentures in the process.
A tall blonde was in the elevator. Long legs, beautiful skin. “Good morning Captain Imagine. Ooh, look, I have a run in my stocking.” She pointed down her long leg to a small run, down near her shapely calf.
“Why yes, Mary, you do. Hmmm, well, you look very nice anyhow.”
“Ooh, thank you Captain. Good luck fighting crime today.” She tittered.
“Thanks Mary. Good luck being a secretary today.”
The doors opened to the first floor lobby. Strangers passed by on the street, pointing through the lobby’s glass, laughing at him. All the regulars knew his name. knew he was a good fellow at heart, just a little…different.
He headed down the street at a jog. Herbert said he had some information that could help to catch Dagger, as Cecil called the serial killer. The police called the killer the claw of death. Herbert was Captain Imagine’s sole support in a crusade against crime. The police could only do so much, they were outnumbered, had their hands full. Captain Imagine caught the crumbs that slipped through the system. The system didn’t mind. He even had a commendation for his bravery, hanging on his wall at home. He wanted Dagger. He would do his best to put the killer behind bars. No more crumbs, if cake was available.
Just thinking of someone killing women for sport made Captain Imagine’s blood boil. It wasn’t right. There were so many freaks out on the streets, it was almost impossible to tell who was who, he thought as he brushed his cape over his shoulder and began to speed walk. At his age, jogging was taking a toll, plus he had too much pizza last night.
Herbert opened the automatic garage door. His laboratory.
“What have you got for me? Do you know where he’s planning on striking next? An address, a name, what?”
“Easy Cap.” Herbert said, and walked to the office at the back of his garage/laboratory.
He sat in front of a bank of monitors, ham radios, printers, a computer, various tangled wires connected everything. A crammed note board covered a wall, with graphs and charts. A map full of tacks hung nearby, eight tacks to be precise.
“Cap, I have clues, gossip, hints, at where this lunatic is going to hunt next. But who really knows.” Herbert took a breath, filling his frail sun depleted body. “I have, however – based on graphs and charts, and a map full of tacks, and a psychological profile of this… ‘Claw of Death,’ – found a pattern. One that should have been obvious to the police. Which is why it’s a weak long shot. But I haven’t heard anyone else mention it, so it may be a vital key. Just maybe, he will be caught red handed. Or red clawed.”
“What’s your theory? What have you figured out, Herbert? Whatever it is, it’s worth investigating. No one else has the answers.” Captain Imagine was curious to find out what Herbert knew, based on maps, graphs, and charts.
“Based on the sites of the murders, Cap, there’s nothing in common, or so it would seem. It looks like a random pattern, as you can see by the placement of the tacks.” Herbert pointed at the tacks using a laser pointer. The tacks were not equidistant to one another. “There are no comparisons to street names, numbers, the victims are all women. That’s the only noticeable constant. The murders are on foggy evenings, right at dusk. The police know that. The clue I managed to utilize, is one the police don’t know yet.”
“What is it, Herbert?” Captain Imagine interrupted.
“If you look at the map you wont see it. It’s not on the map. Each murder has been committed within a half mile radius of a zoo. Not the same zoos, different zoos, always at least within a half mile radius. Cap, you have no idea how much research I invested to figure that out. And that’s not all.”
“Well, hurry up, what else?”
“I thought about what the killer may have in common with the zoo, or what the victims have in common. And what the claw represents. None of it made any sense. I began typing in signs of the zodiac, to see if they were significant in any way. Nothing worked out, so I thought, maybe that odd pattern has something to do with the stars. So I checked the computer for matching Zodiac patterns. Guess what I found?”
“Stop teasing me Herbert, and tell me what you found.”
“The pattern matches a constellation. The constellation of the Lioness. Cap, if I’m correct about this, Dagger, I think I may know who it is.”
“How can you possibly know that? Why didn’t you tell me?”
“I called as soon as the hunch presented itself. I put two and two together this morning, and it adds up. Tonight will be a foggy night. A night where the Lioness cannot be seen. The last star on the constellation, the last tack in the map, is to occur tonight. We need to stop it.”
“Lets try again, shall we Herbert? You know where, when, and I’m sure you told me who. So who ?”
“There’s a woman who works for the zoo, with the lions. Donna Platt. Six years ago, she was attacked by one of the zoo’s lioness, while tending to an injured cub. It took her arm, mangled her face and chest also. They amputated what was left of the arm. They couldn’t help the rest of her disfigurement. I think she feels cheated, bet she owns a brace with a five fingered claw. A custom built job. I assume she’s jealous of the looks of other women, and she imagines that if she kills the nine stars of the Lioness Constellation, she will have fulfilled her revenge. This will be her last killing.”
“What if your wrong Herbert?”
“At least we tried. At least, we tried to save an innocent life. There’s only one sure way to find out. Within a half mile radius, she could kill without our ever catching her. Especially in the fog. That’s where the real detective work pays off. I know exactly where she will kill tonight. You’ll be there before she is.”
“How do you know where she’ll be?”
“Because, you’ll be there first, Miss Imagine.”
“Yes Cap. We dress you up as a woman. Boom! Instant victim.”
“She’ll know I’m a guy. I’m a guy Herbert.” Captain Imagine looked down to where it was obvious that he was a guy.
“Remember, it will be foggy.”
“Are you sure about this?”
“Ninety nine percent Cap.”
Captain Imagine brushed his long red hair around his face, to help conceal his mannish square jaw. The pumps were killing him, he missed his pump up Nike’s. He didn’t feel very agile, not with heels, or the dress Herbert filched from his mothers closet.
Now he knew how out of place Mary felt in the elevator this morning, due to a slight run in her stocking. Here he was, in a dress, stockings, heels, a purse, a wig, and about a pound of makeup on his face. Mary had such good looks, a run would never be noticed. Imagine was butt ugly, would have no problem walking to Latham Street park without being mugged.
The park was six tenths of a mile from Sherburne Zoo, and was where Herbert said the next tack would be placed. Captain Imagine worked his way – painfully – to the park. Herbert had explained that Donna Platt was a redhead, she would associate with Imagine’s red wig, and would make her…him…the last victim.
Captain Imagine reached down to scratch his groin through the soft yellow fabric of the dress. Stopped himself in mid scratch. He noticed a child with a handful of balloons looking at him with a mean look. Imagine waved to the child. The child shook his head and said, “your ugly lady.”
The child’s mother slapped his hand and scolded him. “Milton! You apologize to the nice la…” She stopped short, saw Imagine’s face, “apologize Milton. M-maam I’m sorry for Milton.’
They scrambled off. The woman clutching Milton’s hand.
Imagine walked to the place where Herbert told him to lurk. He sat on a park bench. He adjusted himself to look like a woman, after he realized his legs were spread like a mans. He brushed the wig down a little with his hands, to lure the killer in. It was getting near primetime, Imagine calculated, as he saw the fog begin to rise in places near the fields and trees. He looked around – to ensure no one was watching – then touched his left breast. The left one was softer than the right one. They both looked similar.
At a distance he saw a bum wobbling his way. The bum waltzed past, dragging behind him a pervasive odor, and clutching a brown bag that resembled a bottle. He staggered into the fog, and it swallowed him and his smell.
The park lights began to come on, with darkness on the verge. Imagine wished he had his web belt, full of little surprises in the pockets. Herbert said it wouldn’t look good over a bright yellow dress. So he filled the bra cups, his wig, his purse and his right shoe, with weapons. Not ordinary weapons.
Less than ten minutes after the park lights came on, Captain Imagine thought he heard a scratching noise behind him. Then it was quiet. He turned around, only fog. He waited for another sound. None were heard.
Then he heard a metallic tink. Instinctively, he reached into his left bra cup with his right hand. He stood up and turned. Looked into the fog. Nothing. No, wait. It looked like a shadow in the fog. Probably nothing. Maybe the stumbling bum.
Then the form cut through the fog, launched itself over the park bench, knocked Captain Imagine backwards over his high heels. Both bodies rolled across the sidewalk and onto the grass. His attacker hissed at him, freaked him out. He swung upward and caught the attackers chin with a glancing blow, as the figure rolled atop him. The punch knocked the attacker back, but caused no damage. A cold claw of steel came down at his face. He moved his head quickly, but not quick enough. The claw smashed down into the ground, slicing a gash in his cheek on the way. Blood gushed from the lacerations. The claw was stuck in the hard soil.
The attacker reached over with her free hand, to loose her claw from the earth. While she was doing so, Imagine reached into his left breast. He punctured the balloon with his fingertips, and sifted up a hand of Imagine Dust from the pile on his chest. He threw a handful into the assailants face. He heard a screech of pain, as the woman was blinded. She yanked her hand free of the ground and rolled off of Imagine.
Imagine rolled also. He got tangled in his purse and dress, and couldn’t get up in time. The killer got to her knees, to her feet, steel claw swinging blind, crimson mud dripping from it. Her other hand rubbed at the salt, cayenne, and sand mixture from her half closed streaming eyes. She saw that Imagine was having it tough getting untangled from the dress. She booted him in the nose with a solid grunt for emphasis. She watched him flop over onto his back, hands clutching his ruptured nose. Blood leaked copiously. She stumbled closer. Kicked him in the ribs repeatedly. He rolled into fetal position, as the killer regained strength, kicking him harder.
Imagine sucked it up, took the pain, rolled over and over, far enough away for the killer not to reach him. He saw the killers eyes were red in the foggy haze. He reached into his right bra-cup and pulled out the Derringer, ripping the tape from his chest, pulling out hair in the process.
He spun as she charged him. A growl showed her teeth. Her face a chainsaw mess of welts and valleys. A claw slashed at him. He fired. She howled in pain, fell hard onto the concrete sidewalk. Her hands went to her face. To her red screaming eyes. That was her mistake. She forgot about her claw, lanced her cheek and right eye. Unworldly shrieks of pain punctured the fog. Her body jerked wildly, as the pine scented furniture cleaner bit in, blinding her in even more agony.
Captain Imagine leaped to his feet, shrugged off his heels, located his purse. He pulled out the walkie-talkie. “Herbert! Herbert, are you there? I got her. I got her. Quick, call the cops. You were right.”
“I knew it.” Herbert said proudly.
“The cops will be there soon. And so will I.”
By the time the police arrived, Imagine removed the claw from Donna Platt’s wrist. He Chinese handcuffed her to his left thumb. With his right hand he administered first aid to her punctured right eye.
They took her away in an ambulance. They took Captain Imagine in his wig and dress for questioning. Captain Rodrigues sat across the interrogation table from Captain Imagine.
“Those boob’s you got, Cecil, one’s leaking sand all over the place. Are you wearing women’s underwear?”
“Boxers, Rodrigues. Give me a break.” Captain Imagine answered.
“Look, uh, Cecil. You and your buddy Herbert. Your gonna get a lot of attention for this. And uh, well, were all proud of you. In fact, remember when you tried out for the force, got disqualified? A technicality?”
“Because I’m an inch short of meeting the requirements.”
“So, stand up, over here, against the tape on the wall.”
Captain Imagine went to the wall, turned his back to the tape. Rodrigues looked, squinted, shook his head. “Okay. Go ahead, sit back down, Cecil.” Rodrigues invited.
“Your tall enough now Cecil. You should re-apply. Like right now, I’ll vouch for your height. It’s a lot of hard work – being a cop – but I believe you can do it.
“Are you serious Rodrigues?”
“ Captain Rodrigues. And we always need people for undercover work. And you fit the bill.”
Cecil smiled. Clicked his heels on the floor. Maybe he wouldn’t need wings after all.