009 Innocent Blood.

Okay, so this how teenage social rejects spend Friday nights, Ed Fargo mused as he sat down in front of his TV, getting ready for a rousing marathon of mindless action movies. These channels must custom-make these stupid traps for guys like me—lonely with screwed up lives. It’s the epitome of total and complete humiliation. It’s up there with getting your pants ripped off in front of the girl of your dreams and mistaking Star Trek with Star Wars. Ed shuddered. It was enough to send one to a shrink or gut-first into a stainless steel butcher knife.

Ed sighed and flicked the channel. He suddenly wasn’t in the mood to watch Jean-Claude Van Damme kick some bad-guy ass. Gee, what could be more dismal than this? All the cool movies and TV shows are on, but there’s nothing to watch. Picky, picky. With another flick of his wrist, he discarded the remote, shutting the TV off in the process. There was no use. TV was hell.

Before Ed could sink into the abyss he called his stream of thought, a strange sound came from the open window in the room. Frowning, he slowly got to his feet, forgetting that he didn’t have his crutches and limped to the window.

Down below him outside, there was a clamor.

A little kid, a kid that would be no bigger than an elementary school student, was beating the crap out of two masked men David-and-Goliath style. It was so riveting that Ed found some morbid, twisted fascination in it.

Man, this sure beats Van Damme.

Before Ed could do a mental macho cheer to help the kid on (somewhat), he disappeared…into Ed’s apartment building, a quick blur of dark clothes and hair. His assailants clumped behind him, but then soon realized that the little kid had outrun them with his little I-think-I-can legs.

Hey how’d he do that?

Ed shrugged. He sighed and tried to forget it all. Besides, his life was riveting enough, with its ups and downs like a season finale episode of Dawson’s Creek.

Of course, the incessant, we’re-the-police-open-up-the-damn-door banging on his front door wasn’t helping much. As a matter of fact, with each pound his heart followed, thudding in his chest. In a strange way he felt repentant, as if watching those goons take a beating from a kid warranted him a just beating himself.

But hey, he wasn’t a part of this. He had nothing to do with this messed up kidnapping, or whatever. He’d answer the door and get on with his life, denying that he had any involvement with Superkid. It would make everything so much easier.

So he slid the chain into its groove in the door and opened the door so slowly that it creaked. In the tiny sliver of space he allowed for him and his new guest (using that term loosely) he saw two men, both wearing black clothes that were designed to blend in with the sometimes outlandish and colorful masses.

“Um, good evening,” Ed croaked. “Something you guys need?”

The first one spoke in a voice that reminded him of your run-of-the-mill, TV-fabricated thug. He even smelled of smoke, alcohol, and innocent blood. Ed was not surprised. He gave up being surprised on these things long ago. It was like opening a bag of your favorite Cool Ranch Doritos and finding only six chips inside, or reading a story on Jennifer Lopez and finding out she was engaged again. Not a big whoopdee-do. “We want to know if you’ve seen a little kid running around here. He’s about five years old.”

Ed shook his head vigorously. “No…I haven’t seen a kid around here that I don’t know.”

There was a pause. Ed, with his acute monocular vision, peered from one man to the next through the small crack. The statement seemed to be dawning on them, bit by bit. Aw look…the first one raised an eyebrow. No…the second one nodded. Wait…the first one shook his head. Hold it…they were turning to leave! Bingo! They believed it!

“Thanks for your time.” With that, they stomped away from his door. Nothing more. Not even a see-you-later or an I’ll-kick-your-ass-if-I-see-it-again. Ed closed the door, bolting it as if he was some panicky kid from Home Alone. Well, if he was that he’d at least have a few tricks up his sleeve.

Like the kid that was crouched in the corner of his living room, staring at him with innocent blue eyes.


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