The Vocalist – Chapter 2

AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is the second chapter of a story I originally penned in 2001. Significant changes were necessary to bring this tale to a publishable state. Nearly 600 words have been cut from this chapter, bringing the total cuts for chapters one and two to over 1,500 words. Passages have been reworked to include dialogue and inconsistencies have been addressed. The end result is, I believe, a stronger tale than what once was. I also renamed one of the main characters. Names are important. Just ask your parents.

FOLLOWING A MORNING VISIT WITH his friend and doctor, Trevor December opted to take a sick day. This newfound freedom enabled him to spend the morning at a pond at Dingle’s Quarry located twelve miles outside Combustible’s city limits. The peace and serenity ushered in a state of relaxation denied him during his evening crime-fighting escapades. The lake was a safe haven, a place where noise, pollution, and crime simply did not exist. It was his sanctuary, and Trevor enjoyed every quiet moment as he listened to the wind blowing gently through the tall oaks surrounding the lake, the splash of water as striped bass swam against the water’s crystal surface. He inhaled the fresh air, the smell of distant pine a gentle contrast to the factory smoke of Combustible’s many industrial complexes. Trevor absorbed it all and denied the analytical part of his mind that longed to think about both friends and adversaries. The time to address those situations would come later, but now, one with nature, Trevor felt truly at ease.

When she finally pulled into the driveway, Marcia’s first inclination was drink, swallow, repeat. The workday had been a trifecta of disappointment and pain. She was responsible for overseeing the school’s autumn fundraising campaign; a lofty task that involved training a dozen volunteers in the not-so-easy art of soliciting phone pledges from alumni. Marcia had been able to recruit only four volunteers and, as such, was faced with the impossible task of contacting 35,750 graduates in the six-week period before winter break and the impending capital fundraising campaign commencing on its heels.
Impatiently she’d carried 20 boxes filled with direct-market mailers from the mail room to her office over the lunch hour rather than waiting for the mail room staff to return from lunch and do the heavy lifting. Mid-way through the task she felt a snapping sensation in her lumbar spine, followed by intense pain.
Lastly, the evening commute was hampered by a jackknifed tractor-trailer that had spilled 5,000 gallons of crude oil, resulting in the closure of the north- and southbound expressway.
Closing the front door behind her, Marcia envisioned a relaxing evening in a hot bathtub with a small stack of New Yorkers and a bottle of chardonnay by her side. She turned, somewhat startled, upon seeing Trevor standing before her with a mixed bouquet of red and white roses.
“What kept you?” he asked.

By evening’s end, the agony of Marcia’s afternoon had become but a dim, fast-fading memory. Trevor had surprised her with flowers, champagne, dinner, candles, and a back rub with fragrant oils that had more than soothed her aching spine. Afterward, the couple had made love and showered together. As the clock approached the midnight hour, they talked of life and their place in the world—the kind of abstract conversations in which lovers sometimes engage before drifting off to sleep. There was no mention of crime fighting. No talk of villains and their super-powers or schemes for attaining world domination. Their only words were of each other. Let the criminals of the world be met by someone else this evening. Trevor tried hard to ignore the tiny voice in his head that repeatedly told him there was no one else. With effort, he pushed away the voice. This evening belonged to Marcia alone.

The following morning Trevor awoke first, even before Jones the Cat. The sky was morning gray as he walked Dog around the block.
“Last night wasn’t bad,” he said. “I could get used to that. An evening alone with Marcia—without distraction, without compromise. The Vocalist didn’t venture out last night, yet here we are—the world survived.”
Dog sniffed around and then urinated upon a nearby flower bed, confirming the world’s existence.
“The Scallion and Mr. Black and Blue can wait until the weekend.”
Dog spun around in a mad circle and spontaneously defecated upon the sidewalk. Trevor reached down to retrieve the waste with a plastic bag, a latex surgeon’s glove on his right hand.
“Whether you believe in intelligent design or not, I think we can both agree that dogs were exempt.”
Dog paid no mind to his self-proclaimed master, and continued to sniff the ground in a highly excited, Dog-like fashion. Trevor stood up, and felt a razor of pain shoot through him like an unexpected needle prick.
“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he told Dog. “Two days of rest. I’ll be one-hundred percent by the weekend.”
Trevor and Dog returned home. Trevor showered, then prepared a light breakfast of coffee, toast, fruit, and yogurt and brought a tray to Marcia who was only beginning to stir.
“This is lovely,” Marcia said, smiling. “Last night, too.”

As he often did during his morning commute, Trevor listened to his recorded “shower monologues” from the week. Trevor recognized that his memory wasn’t great, so the monologues were an easy device for keeping details fresh in his mind. He quickly realized that he knew virtually nothing of The Scallion’s plans, and even less about Mr. Black and Blue. Without warning, Trevor felt a tinge of guilt for having stayed in last night.
He’d fought The Scallion before, and had been victorious. But Trevor knew that his Vocalist abilities were failing; he doubted that The Scallion was undergoing a similar crisis of power. Mr. Black and Blue was the x-factor Trevor didn’t want to think about.
As he continued the morning drive, passing the Bailey Building at 67th Street and Allegheny. Had he the ability to see through walls, track a man by the sound of a heartbeat, or identify an individual by the unique scent of cologne on skin, Trevor might have detected the presence of Fitzgerald Schermerhorn, who resided on the twelfth floor of the run-down, albeit historic, tenement building designed and built by wealthy industrialist Thomas Bailey. But Trevor’s super-power was derived from a unique abnormality of the vocal chords, so the walls kept their secrets.

Fitzgerald Schermerhorn, dressed in a spotless undershirt, red and white striped boxer shorts, and ankle socks stood anxiously next to an ironing board, atop which lay a section of a large cotton-polyester, custom-tailored cape. Try as he might, Fitzgerald could never quite iron the garment to his liking. The cape, which historically offered protection against the elements had, in contemporary society, become synonymous with justice—the pursuit of, or the escape from. Fitzgerald, as The Scallion, sought the latter. To Fitzgerald, the cape represented distinction from his fellow apartment dwellers. It elevated his otherwise unimpressive statute. Furthermore, its presence demanded a method specific speech pattern– an inflated narrative imitative of the works of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby that Fitzgerald had worked tirelessly to master. Fitzgerald modeled his mannerisms after Victor Von Doom, Lee and Kirby’s villainous monarch of fabled Latveria, right down to the cape.
Yet for all its symbolism Fitzgerald was unable to properly press the garment properly. The steam iron continued to defy his wishes until Fitzgerald’s patience abruptly expired.
“Ineffectual tool! Were you a living thing I would smite you down upon the Earth!”
The steam iron responded with a quiet, snakelike hiss, emitting puffs of smoke into the air. The picture on the TV screen–a small, fifteen-year-old Sanyo–suddenly began jumping erratically and the set’s audio likewise fluctuated. Fitzgerald, who had been enjoying an MTV biography on Fleetwood Mac, placed the iron upright on the ironing board and pounced upon the television set. His fists savagely beat down upon its plastic frame like a bully attacking an innocent.
“Electronic tool of the suppressed!” he screamed. “You are more worthless than the newspaper upon which Lonnie defecates!” Lonnie, Fitzgerald’s ten-year-old South American parrot, sat silently on the perch within his 3’ x 5’ metal cage. The pounding of Fitzgerald’s fists became more than the aged Sanyo appliance could bear; the picture faded to gray then to black. A fluff of smoke escaped from the back of the TV’s vents. Sudden silence filled the room as Fitzgerald’s rage ceased at the realization of his actions. The silence was broken as the sound of escaping steam grew louder and louder upon Fitzgerald’s ill-shaped ears. The sound continued in intensity, like a tire slashed by a knife. Fitzgerald turned to discover that in attacking the TV, he’d inadvertently stepped onto the hand-iron’s electrical cord, knocking the upright iron face down onto the ironing board and directly onto his cape. Too late, he quickly removed the hot iron, burning two fingers on his right hand, and cursing as only men of power and delusions of grandeur are capable of cursing.
Fitzgerald turned in Lonnie’s direction.
“Blast and Hell’s inferno! The entire world would appear to be testing my patience this day. But mine is an unlimited resolve.” The parrot mimicked no reply.
“Were my reflexes but a trifle slower my cape would have been damaged beyond all use!”
But the cape had been damaged; his power totem bore a triangular-shaped impression. There was no undoing the imperfection, but it was low enough on the cape to be mostly unnoticed. Mostly.
Disgusted, Fitzgerald erupted with a cacophony of obscenities that were met by a repetitive thumping from the apartment directly above his and a muffled threat that referenced the police. Fitzgerald stared up at the dirty ceiling and said in small voice, “One day. I will destroy you, my tenement-dwelling toady.” He retrieved from himself for a moment–stepped outside The Scallion persona which had become his sole identity–and assessed the squalor in which he was living. His goals as The Scallion weren’t lofty–he merely wished to exist in a comfortable lifestyle, a lifestyle that he would gain through acts of super-villainy. Yet, in his three years as The Scallion he’d abandoned his job as a claims adjuster, been forced to relocate from a comfortable trinity to a one-bedroom apartment in the seedy side Combustible, lost all social contacts including family and close friends, and had been celibate though not by choice. In three years he’d amassed nothing because his was a career without focus.
“Why, Lonnie? All my schemes. They were grand in scope. So dastardly no other person on earth could imagine them. On paper, they’ve always seemed so promising. Maybe I’m aiming too high.”
“Too high. Too high,” Lonnie suddenly answered.
“You think so too? Remember when I attempted to construct a plutonium-based argyle time-displacement ring only to discover that argyle and plutonium combined were lethal to the touch? I have to dream, don’t I? I just need something magnificent—something to make the world take notice.”
Fitzgerald stepped across the room and retrieved a mid-sized suitcase from beneath a corner table.
“I’ve got the experimental isotopes, and with Mr. Black and Blue’s underground connections will soon have the finances needed to see this newest idea through to the end. Our black and blue friend has no idea that once I’ve finished using him, he’ll be cast him aside like a pair of unnecessary training wheels.”
“Unnecessary. Unnecessary,” Lonnie chirped, the white plumage upon his neck expanding and contracting.
“Precisely,” Fitzgerald smiled, tucking both iron and board into a nearby closet. He donned the familiar green, white, and black Scallion garb in preparation for an upcoming rendezvous with his short-term ally.

NEXT: World domination and a slice of pizza.

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