AUTHOR’S NOTE: This time we wrap up The Vocalist. Overall I found this a fun exercise (the rewriting of a story I’d originally written many years ago). Like the previous eight chapters in this tale, this current chapter underwent significant cuts, but also some crucial additions. Most likely, I’m going to revisit a couple of other tales I penned back in the day to see if they still have teeth or if they’d be best left to obscurity. Meanwhile…
OVER THE COURSE OF HIS four-and-a-half years of psychoanalysis, The Scallion’s therapist had formed a variety of conclusions about her patient. Mostly, she regarded him as a textbook narcissist with tendencies toward manic depressive disorder. Their relationship was not entirely dissimilar to most client/therapist relationships. Dr. Keri-Lynn Aberdeen listened patiently, jotting down the occasional note and gesturing nonchalantly, as The Scallion (in his civilian guise of Fitzgerald Schermerhorn), discussed his hopes, fears, dreams, failures, and ambitions both past and present.
Although Keri-Lynn was aware of Schermerhorn’s masked persona, she considered it a harmless role-playing fantasy. A strict Freudian, Keri-Lynn believed that Schermerhorn’s behavior centered around what she described as a “need to demonstrate a masculinity that is shrouded in fear and doubt,” and was “most likely due to feelings of sexual inadequacy and longing for his mother’s love.” Many of their visits were conducted, at Schermerhorn’s insistence, via telephone. Keri-Lynn concluded, accurately, that this was due in part to her client’s nervousness around the opposite sex. As such, she had on several occasions recommended Schermerhorn to a male colleague. However, Schermerhorn explained to Keri-Lynn that he felt a genuine rapport with her and believed his therapy to be working.
Several weeks into their sessions, Keri-Lynn had given Schermerhorn her home phone number, advising that he could use it only in an emergency. Schermerhorn phoned her residence on dozens of occasions in the ensuing weeks, asking such life-threatening questions as, “Does my costume project a subliminal air of femininity?” (to which she’d responded “possibly”) and “What does it mean when I dream that strange men are forcing me to eat hot dogs in the shower?” She’d answered this question with unflinching bluntness, largely because of the irritation she’d felt at being awoken in the middle of the night: “You’re trying to cleanse yourself through the consumption of the impurities of the world while simultaneously ingesting its impurities. Also, you’re probably a closet homosexual.” The response had been met with defiance and anger by Schermerhorn, who soon ripped the phone from his apartment wall. Schermerhorn had sent a bouquet of roses to Keri-Lynn the following day with a note asking that she forgive his “unexpected burst of uncharacteristic, albeit justified, anger.” Keri-Lynn, who had few steady clients due to a recent insurgence of licensed therapists within Combustible, continued to treat Schermerhorn though she passed the flowers along to residents at a nearby senior center.
After three years of continued sessions with Schermerhorn and repeated comments that she’d done all she could for him, Keri-Lynn realized that her client wasn’t going anywhere–a thought so depressing that she set upon herself the goal of either relocating her practice to another city or switching occupations within one-year’s time. Shortly thereafter, Keri-Lynn detected an abrupt shift in Schermerhorn’s personality. He’d often make remarks such as, “There is no Schermerhorn–there is only The Scallion, master of all things onion,” and “One day, the world will bow before my might.” The sessions were so emotionally exhausting that Keri-Lynn, herself, sought counseling.
Keri-Lynn’s therapist was named Brad Sitzman. She’d described Brad to a friend as textbook gorgeous. Brad was a snappy dresser whose wardrobe consisted entirely of designer clothes, which he secretly purchased at out-of-town estate sales and thrift shops. He was prone to sipping Knob Hill whiskey through a coffee stirrer; he spoke often of whiskey. Their relationship transcended from that of client/patient to knock-me-to-the-floor-and-have-your-way-with me sub/dom. Brad enjoyed the submissive lifestyle.
Meanwhile, Schermerhorn’s sessions with Keri-Lynn became fewer and fewer. He began speaking about a secret project that he promised would “make the populace rise from their arm-chair recliners and take notice.” Eventually, Schermerhorn ended his sessions with Keri-Lynn, though he retained her cell phone number and promised to phone her in the near future to discuss world domination and foot-long franks. In time, he was a distant, albeit bitter, memory. Keri-Lynn’s relationship with Brad continued both professionally and personally; their discussions of L. L. Bean anoraks and Bond-Age brand ball gags lasted long into the morning hours.
The November silence of Keri-Lynn’s apartment was broken at 11:45 p.m. She reached a weary arm across Brad’s sleeping body and snatched the vibrating cell phone from the nightstand. Pressing the phone to her right ear she heard a strange humming sound, electric.
“Hello?” she queried sleepily.
The caller spoke with quiet nervousness. “Dr. Aberdeen.”
“Mr. Schermerhorn, it’s late. What do you want?”
“We haven’t spoken in a very long time. Fitzgerald Schermerhorn is no more. There is only The Scallion,” the voice replied, with nervous conviction.
“As I told you during the many sessions we had together, The Scallion is merely a method of escape. When you dress up, it’s as if you’re adding a match to a mind as volatile as–”
“Spare me the psychobabble. I doubt I could afford the co-pay.”
“Are you okay, Fitzgerald? Are you having any thoughts of harming yourself or others?”
“I am experiencing a morality crisis the likes of which no one, I assure you, in the world has ever had to contend with. I am very in need your counsel.”
Keri-Lynn rubbed her tired eyes and sat up in bed. Her naked back pressed against its metal headboard, sending a chill through her body but also further rousing her from her sleep state. Brad continued to sleep, exhausted from an early evening pegging.
“I’m listening,” Keri-Lynn said, feeling somewhat morally obligated to help her former client, if only to convince him to phone 911.
Marcia sped along Combustible’s busy streets, trying desperately to reach her destination alive. The police would soon be arriving at her residence, apprehending the villain known as Mr. Black and Blue, who she’d securely bound with duct tape and wire. She hoped the police would also reach the villain’s mansion, where Trevor was being held captive. Before leaving her apartment she’d phoned Peter McMurphy, police captain of the twenty-third district and one of a handful of individuals privy to Trevor’s dual identity. She’d informed McMurphy of the dilemma and he’d promised to dispatch uniformed officers and EMT personnel to the scene.
“Why EMT?” she’d asked.
“You never know what’ll happen,” the veteran police captain had explained, a reply that terrified her.
She brought the Honda to 65 MPH across Central Avenue, aware that time was not her ally. The driver in Checkered Cab 8521, exhausted from another twelve-hour day, jumped the light at 86th Street, anxious to return home for a bit of rest. Marcia braked hard but was moving to fast. The Honda t-boned the cab doing 35 amid a symphony of metal on metal. A cacophony of glass shards rained down upon the street. Marcia was semi-conscious as the vehicles slowed to a halt. She tasted blood as she swallowed. Trevor, she realized, was on his own.
He’d solicited advice. Nothing more. Fitzgerald Schermerhorn wanted only to know what she, as a respected professional, thought he should do. To Keri-Lynn’s credit, she’d listened to him quietly and patiently given the hour of the evening, but lost all patience when he uttered the words “sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter.” She’d laughed the laugh of someone who’d heard quite enough, advised him to phone 911 for further help, and ended the call, blocking his number to prevent further phone contact.
The Scallion sat on the edge of the roof and stared at the mobile device. “Infernal audio tool!” he shouted, and hurled the phone into the darkness of the night.
Several feet distant The Vocalist, whose onion-induced tears had loosened the electrical tape by which his mouth was bound, finally managed to shake free the tape. Despite feeling dizzy from a recently consumed poison apple, he was free to act. The Scallion, lost in his own thoughts, failed to notice Trevor’s newfound semi-freedom (his arms and legs remained chair-bound).
Trevor rebelled against the dizziness and forged a quick plan of action. Quick C sharp to take out The Scallion’s equilibrium. A flat to disable the electrical device, followed by aD sharp minor and G combo to dissolve the fabric of his bindings. Four notes. Four quick actions. Easy peasy.
Trevor closed his eyes and inhaled deeply. He slowed his breathing and inhaled/exhaled thrice. His mind focused on the first note–C sharp. He rotated his head slowly counter-clockwise and relaxed the muscles of his neck . He heard the note in his mind–C sharp. Trevor opened his mouth and, mentally relaxing his vocal chords, unleashed the sound upon The Scallion.
Except . . . the note was inaudible. There was no sound.
The Scallion remained oblivious to the voiceless Trevor. His mind was focused fully on the sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter–his sub-atomic minimization particle disruption transmitter. His former analyst laughed at him. He knew that somewhere in Combustible she was comfortably resting. By morning’s light, her comfortable world be gone, replaced by a new reality. An alarm sounded on The Scallion’s weapon. The batteries were fully charged. It was ready to be fired. His gloved hand reached for the switch. He paused, remembering the reason why he’d phoned Dr. Contrada. His mind raced, and in seconds a decision was reached. The Scallion turned toward Trevor.
“I’ll not do this deed. No. Not today. Not ever, I suppose. I’m better than this.” The Scallion hit the kill switch and the engines of the glorified shrinking ray slowed and died. “When I act, it shall be in a manner befitting my name–The Scallion– and the world will bow down before my–”
The Scallion paused, at last noticing that Trevor’s mouth was no longer bound. He recoiled, anticipating an altercation, but none occurred.
“You . . . can’t attack me. Your voice. Something’s happened to your voice, hasn’t it?”
Trevor’s silence confirmed The Scallion’s suspicions. “The Vocalist has no voice! But you’ve freed yourself of the gag with which I’d bound you. Am I to understand that you ingested the poisoned apple?”
Trevor nodded ever so slightly.
“A noble sacrifice.”
“I had no choice. Had to stop you,” Trevor said, his voice barely a whisper.
“You failed. And now you are going to die.”
“Like I said, I had no choice.”
“The poison you ingested acts quickly, and the resulting death is extremely painful. It goes against my ethics, but I will shoot you if you’d prefer.”
As poison’s effects increased, daggers of pain shot through Trevor’s stomach. He would have fallen over if not chair bound. Instead, he dropped his head, teeth clenched in agony.
“I’ll be off then. Much planning to do. Much. . .”
The pain was immense and Trevor closed his eyes tightly. In that instant, he felt a rush of air and heard the sound of splintering bone.
Trevor opened his eyes and saw standing next to him a lean, tall female. Her breath rose and fell fast and heavy. She wore a black spandex top and matching shorts, red sneakers, and white ankle socks. Her jet black hair was cut short, her face partially masked by a red stylized “E” which she’d apparently applied using face paint. The Scallion lay unconscious against the wall edge of the rooftop; his body lay in a twisted position that, were he conscious, would have been extremely painful to hold. Trevor realized that his hands and legs were no longer bound. He stared at the mysterious young stranger and began to realize what she’d done. His vision grew hazy and his stomach burned as the poison’s effects escalated. From a distance he heard what he thought was the wailing of cats and his thoughts momentarily turned to his feline, Jones. He then thought of Marcia and wished he’d been able to say goodbye. The stranger addressed him, but her words were alphabet soup gibberish.
“Poisoned. Who are you?” he managed before falling from the chair. A momentarily blur and she was there, catching him before he fell to the roof. She sat him down gently on the rooftop. Such inexplicable speed.
“Help will be here soon. Police. Paramedics. I’ve been monitoring police reports. They’re coming.”
Trevor’s eyes were two crescent moons. His savor’s mouth continued to move, but her words weren’t getting through.
“I’m kind of new to this area; new to this whole scene.”
“You know, crime fighting. But I think I like it. I mean, I’m only 17, but it’s kind of, you know, cool.”
“I’m Electronica,” she said. “Like the music. For now, anyway. I should go. Police and I don’t quite see eye to eye. Maybe I’ll see you again. I could use some pointers.”
She vanished faster as if she’d never been there. Trevor wondered if he’d imagined the entire incident. But even through blurred vision he could still see The Scallion, unconscious. No dream. A shadow approached and Trevor wondered if death had come to claim him. He thought he heard his name being called, but the blackness carried him away before he could be certain.
They pumped his stomach and repaired the liver damage. Michael, his friend and physician, oversaw Trevor’s recovery which took less time than anyone expected. Two weeks later, during a breakfast of coffee, croissants, and eggs lightly scrambled, Trevor and Marcia began planning a summer vacation. They talked about San Francisco and Paris. Marcia had visited Paris in her youth and longed to return. They scoured travel magazines, dog earring various pages. Marcia grabbed the morning newspaper and glanced at the headline that read “Mysterious Masked Heroine ‘Electronica’ Foils Bank Robbery.”
“She’s at it again,” Marcia said.
Trevor stared at the headline and reached for the scissors, which rested on the bureau next to the breakfast table. He carefully clipped the article from the paper and placed it into a newly purchased scrapbook.
“She’s out to make a name for herself,” he said.
“Seems like. She’s made the front page nearly every day for the past week.”
There was a brief lapse in the discussion and Marcia turned her attention to the newspaper’s travel section.
“It’s gone now, you know,” Trevor said indifferently.
“You know. My ‘power.’ My Vocalist power.”
“Oh. I don’t know what to–that is, how do you feel about that? I mean, are you okay with it?”
“I think so. Actually, I feel like I can begin to live again. Normalcy, you know. It had become an obsession.”
“I wouldn’t say that. You were passionate. You wanted to help others.”
“I feel good knowing she’s out there–she’s young, but really good. I think she’ll do okay.”
“You miss it? The whole masked costume thing?”
“No. Yes. Maybe. I miss making the tapes–you know, the shower tapes.”
“Silly. There’s lots of other things to do in the shower,” Marcia said, smiling. “C’mon, I’ll show you.”
They left the kitchen and ascended the stairs. The travel section would keep.
# # #