A Marriage Divided Can Sometimes Be Unusual, But This Takes The Cake...
|The back door had been blown in with the force of a powerful grenade, a clap of man-made thunder suddenly detonated within the confines of the house on Edenton Street. Now that the smoke was clearing up, Sally Jenkins saw that there were bits of shrapnel littering the hollow throat of the hall that led into the living room, which was a sharp turn to the right out of the kitchen.
Once harmless wall panels in an explosive instant had become horrifically lethal daggers, masses of which were now jutting out of the remaining walls and ceiling like mutant appendages. There was a gaping, mouth-like hole at the back of the house that had once been a door which had led into the laundry room, though it could hardly be called any such thing, now. The sheer force of the blast had blown out every window in the house simultaneously, and shards of broken glass glimmered up at the ceiling like idiot lenses. The entire house had shaken with the power of the explosion, and it was just now, almost a full minute after the explosion, that all was settling back into stillness again.
Lights in windows up and down Edenton Street suddenly flamed to life, their owners whisking back shutters and pulling up blinds to see what the matter was.
Sally had been blessed with very acute hearing, and now she heard above the raucous screams of several smoke detectors (Hah.) the piercing shriek of a little girl, shocked from her peaceful sleep by the re-ignition of a searing hate from the past. Perhaps a taste of the future to come.
“Alisha,” Sally muttered beneath her breath, and in a flash, she was in the ruined throat of the newly deadly hallway, going to her daughter with her arms outstretched, already making the fluid motions that came before lifting the girl to her chest; making the motions that came with protecting her.
That was when a cool, deadly voice called out to her.
Amid the broken glass and charred remains of her home’s center, Sally came to an instant stop. Her stop was so sudden and stiff that bits of broken glass squealed beneath her slipper-clad feet, digging into the cherry-wood floor. Sally could hear the excited breathing of two pairs of lungs. These sounds were very close, off to the left and in the kitchen, likely resting against the outer wall, in fact. Someone, a man, was hiding off to the left where the formerly graceful hall turned onto the entrance of the kitchen.
There were also muffled sounds coming from the direction the word “Stop” had come from. These sounds were no mystery to Sally. She’d heard these sounds before, in play. It was her daughter, Alisha, trying her very best to call out to her. It sounded as if something, likely a hand, was covering her mouth, blocking her words, or in this case, her screams.
“Now,” the silkily cool, very dangerous voice said, as clear as a newly risen moon, into the darkness and disarray. “I’ll ask you a grand total of three questions, Sally, and when I’m done asking these particular questions, why, honeybunch, you’re gonna answer them as pretty as you please.”
There was a pause in which there was silence enough to hear the frantic flailing of small arms and legs. There were more of those muffled screams, but the cool voice snapped, “Pipe down, Missy.” A sharp smacking sound followed these stern words.
The muffled screams died at once.
“If you try my patience by not answering the questions I ask you, this child will suffer for it. Then, when I’ve gotten my answers from you by force, you will suffer, too.”
There was the settling of that awful silence again, like a vulture upon the back of a dying animal, perhaps to weak to even struggle. This time there was naught but silence. Outside, from some dim distance to the east, police sirens droned erratically like escaped lunatics.
“Question one, ole Hoss,” the voice said, and it was this tone, more than anything else that had happened up to this point, that enraged Sally beyond nearly all reason or rationality. Amid the combined racket of the approaching police sirens, the sight of the wooden daggers sticking out of what remained of the walls and ceiling, and the sounds of squeaky glass shards singing songs in A-Flat tones beneath her slipper-clad feet, the bastard who held her daughter captive was smiling. The smile in his voice was too evident to be ignored.
“What’s your name?” the voice crooned above the sirens.
The silence returned, more cloying and terrifying than ever. Sally didn’t know what this lunatic was talking about. He knew her name; he’d known it very well for the past sixteen years, so the question had to be asked, "Why had he broken into her house at three in the morning on a calm summer’s wind, blowing in her back door with a sigh, knowing him, and taken her five year old daughter captive just to ask her a stupid question like, 'What’s your name?'"
“You know my name, Jimmy,” Sally responded. There followed a brief silence that was suddenly torn asunder by a cracking, splintering sound. This in turn was followed by a positively horrified flurry of those familiar muffled yelps. Sally winced and shuddered in her position flat against the ruined hall’s wall. Her daughter. The splintering sound had been the girl’s arm as Jimmy had snapped it in half like a rotten toothpick. The muffled yelpss were Alisha’s screams.
“You think I’m kidding you, Sal? I’ll snap this little bitch’s arms and legs into eighths if you test me, and you know it. At least, I thought you knew it. Whether you do or don’t aint my problem, though. Answer the question, or her other chubby little arm goes next.”
“I…I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Sally said in a panicked shriek, and now the voice around the corner was sniggering giddily. There was no doubt that he’d heard the tears and panic in her voice. The bastard was as sadistic as ever, if anything. His strength hadn’t fallen away, either.
“Your name, Sally?” the voice queried coldly.
Sally wondered what this madman could’ve been talking about, then, in a flash of scarlet cloth and blue sky, she knew.
“My name is PayDay, Jimmy. It’s PayDay. Now. Let my daughter go. I’m warning you.”
Another of those giddy laughs followed this, and this laugh was punctuated by another sharp crack. This in turn was followed by the familiar gaggle of muffled yelps. The other arm had gone as easy as saying so.
“I told you not to play with me, you high-riding bitch. Didn’t I tell you that? You wanna try for a broken leg, or maybe a set of collapsed ribs? Do you think I’m playing a game with you, Sally?”
“No. Don’t hurt my daughter anymore,” Sally said tearily.
“Second question. Where’ve you been for these past few years?”
Sally gave herself a moment to think of a decent answer to this, but this didn’t take long, for the answer to this question came to her with the dy snap of logic at the forefront of her mind.
“Away. Away from the life I fell into when I became…different. When I awoke with the ability to hop skyscrapers in a single goddamn bound. The day I became a Super-Hero.”
Silence. Then, “Good, now you get my drift. One last question, Sal,” the voice said, and now it was smiling harder than ever.
“What?” Sally asked, grinding her teeth fiercely as one thought raced through her mind, which was, “Why are the police taking so long?”
“You realize, Sal, my dear, that your best bet is to stop these little late-night forays into the land of heroics and glamour, don’t you? You realize that this would be best for Alisha?” the voice asked, and there was a hard, very serious edge in the voice that hadn’t been there before.
“Yes,” Sally moaned into the ruined hall, “Yes, I understand, damn you. Just leave Alisha out of this, for God’s sake. I understand.”
The silence came again, but this time it was shortest of all.
"Good,” the voice said, and in the space of the next second, Alisha was tossed into the hall on the floor like a rag-doll. She was now screaming without hindrance into the night. Just as Sally snatched her daughter up into the prison of her arms, the seriousness fell out of the man’s voice with one last statement.
“Good. Don’t forget that, PayDay. Pay on our daughter’s young life.”
There was the sharp whisk of what could’ve only been a cloak, and then the man, whomever he’d been, was gone.
As she dialed 911, despite the squad cars that were now at shrieking bloody murder at her doorstep, Sally thought of the past and its glories and failures. As she quieted the whimpering girl in her arms, she allowed a single tear to roll down her slack cheek as she thought of how lax law enforcement had become.
When she was a Super-Hero, it had never taken her this long to save the day.