Belle of the Ball, Chapter Twenty Six

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Chapter Twenty Six

They say human history is a study of choices, of man overcoming his baser instincts and struggling towards civilization. I’m not sure I can believe that as every time we get to a point where we start calling ourselves civilized, something comes along to drag us back into the barbarism of previous selves. We look at the Ancient Greeks and how civilized the culture that gave us democracy was, but then we have to realize this was a society that condoned slavery, rape and a host of unsavory ‘cultural norms’ that would turn our ‘modern’ stomachs.

Let us not forget the Peloponnesian Wars, either.

Time and history marches on and we find ourselves admiring the Romans, who gift us with everything from indoor plumbing to the modern paved road. Rome, of course, isn’t really founded until the defeat of Sabine and the debauchery that followed, immortalized in numerous art forms under the innocent title The Rape of the Sabine Women.

Don’t even get me started on the blood sports and death as public entertainment.

And so history marches on, for every advance an act of unspeakable cruelty; one step forward, two back. For every Sir Isaac Newton there always seem to be two Napoleons; for every Einstein a Hitler and a Mussolini. No, we aren’t as civilized as we purport ourselves to be, not by a long measure.

These days, I find myself buying into Destiny and Fate far more than I do choice.

There are those who say I am myself, an agent of destiny, upper or lower case you can take your pick. I can and have done things perhaps no mere mortal man was meant to experience. I have, they would tell you, been a champion of free will over fate, of history over Destiny.

Having met Destiny and been on fairly familiar terms with her, I don’t know that I believe that. I don’t know that I can ever believe that. Not when I have seen and done things…but I’m getting ahead of myself; ahead of my place in this narrative and, perhaps, ahead of myself in regret. There are times perhaps I miss the young, naive girl I was.

To be free, is to look at the world and see only the good.

There was a time I lived my life that way, and I miss the girl I was who saw the world that way. Now she exists only in my memory and in the pages of this narrative and the world could use her. I could use another look through her eyes.

Now, back to the task at hand, I think. Where was I? Ah, yes, I remember.

The Chattahoochee National Recreation Area is a sprawling bit of wilderness about fifteen miles square that straddles both banks of the Chattahoochee River, just North West of I-285. It’s some of the most expensive real-estate in Georgia and for the most part it’s completely wild, save for some gravel or dirt trails for biking, hiking or otherwise just taking in the sights, the odd picnic table and every couple of miles a pair of out houses to answer that other call of the wild.

My press-ganged rescue party stuck close to Soldier Boy who had let us know his name was Jim as we made our way up a gravel road wide enough for a pair of Semi’s to make use of that lead into the primary green space of the park, a large field with the concession stand. There were thousands of places somebody could set up an ambush in so I stayed out front and tried to make myself a bullet magnet.

I rounded the blind curve that gave me a much better field of view first and as there was no immediate danger I gestured for my good Samaritans to stay close and risked a little bit of my mind to drift. Ginnevia? Please Ginnevia, tell me you can hear me.

Suddenly I wasn’t alone in my mind and I had to fight through a stereoscopic view of the trail again and her bedroom which was a fantastic mess. What? She managed; her mental tone groggy and thick with sleep. Her eyes fell on someone next to her and I got the briefest impression of long red hair before her eyes flew across the room. It’s not what you think… she started before I cut her off while keeping as much of my consciousness out of hers as I dared.

Hun, that doesn’t matter now, Ah’ve got a real situation and Ah need help.

The stereo vision sharpened down to just the trail as more of her mind came to me and she was able to edit things. What’s going on? Why are you so angry and afraid?

Ah’m at the Chattahoochee Recreation Area, I thought to her, more than a bit surprised my mental ‘voice’ carried the thickened accent my regular one did. Ah’ve got three shot, one of them a cop and Ah don’t know how many more down this trail. Ah need help.

Sovereign and Eagle are at the base, as well as Spirit Wolf and Valkyrie. Gimme two minutes to get dressed and I’ll be there as fast as a thought.

Knowing that help was coming, whoever it was was a comforting thought as we caught sight of our first additions to Dr Reed’s troubles. There was an over turned baby buggy and a woman in jogging clothes behind it. I darted forward finding the buggy on its side and no sign of its former occupant. I was frantically looking about when I heard one of my Samaritans by the jogger exclaim, “Oh my God!” followed hard on the heels of someone being violently ill.

I spun about, looking for trouble but found only Jim carefully returning the jogger to her previous position, his face white. “We can’t help her,” he announced as he patted the shoulder of the other man who was retching into the grass.

“What?” I asked, starting to move in his direction which brought up his hand to stop me.

“She’s gone,” he said a bit more forcefully. “Pistol to the back of the head I’d guess. It’s not pretty.”

I swallowed as I found I couldn’t take my eyes from her unnaturally still form. This was my first real experience with death and to realize that woman, who I’d never met and would never know was only a few feet away made me ashamed; ashamed of my pettiness in my mornings flight, and ashamed of myself for somehow not being here sooner so that I might have saved her. “Does anyone see the baby?” I finally got my dry mouth to say.

“Someone’s coming,” one of the men responded, pointing back down the trail.

“Head’s up,” cautioned Jim as I streaked off to confront this new threat. It was man in a jogging suit, blood streaming from his left shoulder he was ineffectually trying to staunch.

“He shot me!” he muttered as I arrived and made sure his hands were free. Our eyes met and I realized this was another victim, not our shooter trying to be clever. “He’s got a baby…”

I picked up the Jogger and flew him back to Jim and the others. “We’ll get you to safety, sir. Just don’t panic. Has he shot anyone else back there?” Jogger shook his head as Jim took up the rear as we retreated back down the trail to the parking lot. That journey, to go in the other direction than some innocent in need was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do.

“Jim, can ya’ll keep us covered here?” I asked the soldier when we reached the gate between the parking lot and the trail. He only nodded and took up a sentry position as my posse and I finished the short trip to the staging area the ambulances had set up.

Our cop reserves had increased to another two cruisers with a pair of gents who were looking more than a little put out at our innocent until proven guilty suspect. “Doc, Ah got another patient for you,” I hollered as I gently handed him off to the EMTs, before turning back to the officers. “Boys, Ah’ve got a friendly with Charlie 13’s shot gun at the gate that away.”

Doc Reed was in his element as he comforted his patients without the benefit of that white coat. You’d think it would be a hard sell in a track suit, but he had most of them smiling around the grimaces of pain as he bounced between them with the ease of Hawkeye from M.A.S.H. Our eyes met as I finished my report to the sergeant of, “We’ll need the Coroner at some point. There’s one beyond help further up the trail.”

“Any sign of the perp?” asked the sergeant.

I shook my head as I forced my eyes back to meet his. “Ah haven’t gone looking, but he can’t be far yet. More to the point, Ah’ll have a mentalist and a teleporter here shortly. Then Ah’m going to take him apart. That son of a bitch executed a mother with a newborn.”

“Belle…” the sergeant started hesitantly after a hasty glance to his patrolman.

I drew myself up to my full height and stared at him with my arms crossed. Whatever the sergeant was thinking of saying he thought the better of decided to go and direct some traffic. The patrolman watched his Sergeant leave, caught my eye and decided to go help Jim at the gate.

I’ll admit I was seeing the world through a red haze of rage, clinching my fists as I imagined Darren Miller’s head inside them, popping like an over ripe grape. The sound of Ginnevia’s teleport was music to my ears, no matter who was with her. “Where is Darren Miller?” I demanded of the two mentalists.

Mortagain closed her eyes to cast her mind out in search of my victim, but Sovereign’s face pulled into a frown as he caught my eye and stepped around her. “You’re not getting within three feet of him in this state,” he ordered.

Geoffrey’s eagle beaked helmet obscured his face as it darted between us while he put two and two together. “Belle,” he said softly as he stepped forward and put a hand on my shoulder. “I’ve been where you are now, believe me. As much as you want to hurt this asshole, believe me when I tell you it will only make things worse.”

I began to feel the anger drain away from me as, for some reason, my mind was filled with images of Cavalry, good times we’d shared, intimate moments we’d had, the feeling of being one with him. Before it could completely rob me of my anger, I balled a fist and struck Sovereign as hard as I dared. His eyes rolled back in his head as he was caught off guard by my sudden action and he fell over, out cold.

Geoffrey however, already having his hand on me, kept me off balance and used a judo maneuver to force my arm up behind my back. “What the fuck…?!” he demanded, one hand still subconsciously slapping a power inhibitor on the hand he had control of.

As my invulnerability left me tears leapt to my eyes and how much pain the Eagle had me in, but in the back of my mind, Yagimura-sensei’s calm voice whispered the commands to my muscles. I wrapped my foot around the Eagles’ leg and shoved backward with all my might. He wasn’t prepared for the sudden reversal and my foot acted as a perfect fulcrum to cost him the rest of his balance and he toppled over backwards.

A spinning hop kept me from getting tangled up in his flaying limbs as he fell and brought me around to face him. My foot snaked out and stomped down with all my weight on the cup I knew he’d be wearing. And while the cup protected the Graham family jewels, it could only distribute all 138 pounds of me around them, still the most sensitive part of his body.

His howl of pain arched up into the falsetto range as he curled into a ball out of reflex. “Any body else want to try and fuck with me?” I shouted to the stunned crowd. I took a step back to be out of Geoffrey’s reach as I told him, “Your new buddy was fucking with mah head, that’s why he got his little red wagon fixed.”

The Eagle was able to get up to his knees now, his eyes flashing with anger as he looked up, gasping for breath. “Ya’ll were just reflex,” I admitted. “Sorry.”

My hands got my keys from my utility belt and opened the inhibitor which I tossed back to him. As my strength returned, the Eagle weighted his options and returned the cuffs to their keeper on his belt. “You going to keep your cool, or do I need to find out what else Yagimura-sensei taught you?”

The smile that pulled at the corners of my lips was probably pretty feral. “Ya’ll will find Ah’m full of surprises.”

“I’m coming to realize that,” grunted the Eagle as he finally got fully back to his feet. “I suppose it was foolish of me to think that you’d just fold like a busted flush with your strength gone.”

“Some mistakes you only get to make once,” I told him as one of the EMTs dared to check on Sovereign. “He gonna live?”

“He’ll be hating life in a little while,” the tech remarked as he rolled the former villain over onto his side, “and he’ll have a beauty of a black eye in a couple of days, but that should be the extent of it.” He looked up at me as he stood. “Just for the record, I’m in the don’t-want-to-fuck-with-you camp.”

“Look, Belle, your first fan,” muttered Geoffrey as he dusted off his costume. “Mortagain, you have a bead on our target?”

“I’m on him,” she told us. The American Eagle and I traded glances.

“You and Belle go bring him in,” he ordered, his eyes never leaving mine. “He has a date with a judge and we should make sure he’s on time.”

Mortagain’s hand gripped my shoulder and suddenly we were somewhere else.

* * *

We had arrived at one of the more secluded trails that snaked throughout the woods that made up the National Wildlife Area. Darren was just rounding a corner and still a little dumb struck by our appearance. That gave me the time to get myself between him and Mortagain as he obviously wasn’t done racking up crimes today. The pistol flashed in my direction and roared.

I felt what you might take to be a fly landing on you as the bullet stuck my left breast and flattened itself before dropping harmlessly at my feet. Were I not who I was, I would probably have a fatal wound. “Let’s add another charge of attempted murder on a police officer and aggravated assault on same to your list,” I told him with a cold smile.

There was a moment of panic in is eyes as the pistol found a new target in the infant in his arms that was wailing. “Come any closer and…” he started.

“And what?” I demanded. “You’ll hurt the only reason you’re still drawing breath? That would be what they call a mistake in this business, sport.” I reached down by the edge of the trail and picked up a rock about the size of his head. “Ya’ll already figured out you can’t hurt me. Now Ah’m going to show you what Ah’ll do to you if you hurt that baby…” I trailed off as the rock was pulverized in my grip. The dust settled back to the forest floor as I locked my gaze on his terrified eyes.

“Let me tell how this is going to go, sugah. There’s the easy way where you put down that pistol, gently hand mah friend that baby and meekly come along to go be bubba’s cell bitch for the next twenty to forever. And then there’s the hard way where you hurt that infant and Ah amuse mah self for the next ten days or so pulling you apart limb from limb.”

“They won’t let you…” he started.

“And how will ‘they’ stop me?” I demanded again. “Ah have you out here all by mah self and mah friend the teleporter.” His eyes darted to Mortagain behind me which gave me just the diversion I’d been hoping for.

A large part of the rock was still in my fist which I hurled straight at the pistol in his hand. At the same moment, Mortagain vanished and re-appeared next to him, just as the rock landed. Her telekinesis made sure the rock forced the pistol into his chin with a fair amount of force. He dropped the infant which Mortagain neatly caught and vanished once more; leaving me alone with the creep.

My flight picked me up and I began to hover forward. “Well, there goes your little master plan,” I chuckled. “What’s it going to be, Darren? You going to be Bubba’s bitch, or mine?”

I must admit when he smiled that wasn’t what I was expecting. This was confirmed when he snapped, “Neither!”

Before I could react the pistol was against his temple and it barked once more.

* * *

When this kind of thing happens on TV there’s a break to a commercial and when they come back your perp is neatly in a body bag and being wheeled off to where ever it is they take bodies. In the real world I was left alone in the woods with a corpse that would definitely be the centerpiece of a closed casket funeral for what felt like eternity.

Did you know that when you die your body lets go number one and two?

Between that smell and the sight of the late Darren Miller’ brains all over the forest here abouts made me glad I had not had breakfast. As it was, I had an attack of the dry heaves before I could force my eyes to look somewhere else. That was when the vicious little voice in the back of my head started to remind me that not every bad guy danced to Stan Lee’s playbook.

Honestly I wasn’t thinking of myself or how this would look when the boss would show up, but with my emotions going everywhere over what I’d seen and that poor baby who was robbed of its mother was more than my rational mind could deal with. I sank down to a boulder on the side of the trail and balled my eyes out.

To this day, I’m not entirely sure who I was crying for most, that child robbed of one of it’s parents or the fact that we were both robbed of what vengeance the State could offer up by having Darren Miller rot down in Milledgeville. I came down from this emotional low by the feeling of the Eagles’ gauntleted hand on my shoulder. “Belle, give me your arm,” he ordered me softly.

I held up arm obediently and let him put the inhibitor cuff back on. I sniffed mightily as I tried to clear my sinuses enough to breathe and regretted the return of my sense of smell. “Am Ah under arrest?” I managed around the sobs.

“Walk with me,” was all he said as we went further down the trail away from the body and the EMTs that Mortagain had brought with her. Finally we had a bit of privacy whereupon he halted and took off his helmet so we could talk face to face. “You want to tell me what happened?”

“It was going great,” I managed as I gasped and tried to get control of myself. “We got the baby away from him and yeah, Ah was talking shit, about him going to be bubba’s cell bitch and the next thing Ah know his brains are everywhere. Ah…Ah thought Ah shouldn’t rush him with the gun in his hand as it might go off while Ah’m trying to take it away from him. Ah was…Ah wanted to make him hurt for what he’d done, but Ah was going to bring him in, Geoffrey, honest Ah was.”

He sighed. “I know you were, Belle, and I wish this was up to me. But you know there’ll be an investigation from Internal Affairs. Until that inquiry is complete I have to put you on suspension. I’m going to have Mortagain take you back to HQ where you’re to get into your civilian ID and go home. I’m not going to confiscate your keys, but you’re to keep this on until you’re instructed otherwise, or you happen across some situation where you are forced to intervene to save the life of another. Try not to find one of those, alright?”

I nodded as I got my emotions a little better under control. He sighed again as he held out his hand. “Badge,” he demanded flatly. I unclipped the shield from my utility belt and surrendered it. “If you’re up to it, write up your report on this before you go home. Otherwise get it to my desk by Friday.”

“Yes sir,” I mumbled.

“Belle,” he said, pulling my chin up to meet his eyes. “Good work, alright? This is just pro forma, and I want you to know I believe you. Don’t cry for that scumbag. He got off easy here, but if there’s any justice, he’s already burning.”

“Ah never figured you for the religious type.”

He smiled an odd smile and shrugged as he put his helmet on once more as he walked the short distance back to the crowd of CSI techs that were meticulously cataloging Mr. Miller’s last seconds on Earth. Mortagain joined me at Geoffrey’s direction and as quick as a thought I was back where this day’s adventure had begun.

* * *

Thus began my second suspension with the Stone Mountain Irregulars. I dutifully sat at my desk and typed about four sentences over five hours before I realized I was wasting everyone’s time. Back in jeans and a sweater I climbed into the Belle Mobile and headed home. Or at least that had been my conscious decision. My unconscious mind had other ideas and before I realized what I’d done I found myself pulling into my favorite parking space at Ed’s apartment.

I sat for a moment letting the car idle under me before I gave up and shut it off. Geoffrey hadn’t said which of the three places I considered home to go to and here was as good as anywhere. All I knew was I didn’t want to be alone any longer than I had to be and while Ed was in class now, he’d be along before too much time went by.

Climbing out of the car, it had been my intention to go upstairs, watch some mindless television and eventually prepare some kind of meal in expectation of my lover’s return home. Have you ever noticed that very few things actually go the way you plan for them to?

Now, Ed lives in this quiet little apartment complex (no I won’t tell you where) a short drive from both HQ and my apartment. That alone was enough merit for it in my book, but there were some nice amenities and the neighbors liked the fact a super hero was in the complex incase the untoward should happen.

Unlike my town home, Ed’s place was a one level on the ground floor, which I supposed saved on the floor of the upper level. Don’t get me wrong, I love my baby, but he’s not exactly a light weight and it would be rather awkward to drop in on the downstairs neighbor for dinner, literally. Come to think of it, I wasn’t entirely sure why Geoffrey had felt I’d need a town home when he went looking for my place, but I could afford it so I guess it doesn’t matter.

Ed had long since made me a key to his place and I, of course, had returned the favor so I wasn’t using the key from the emergency safe to let myself in. However, I was suddenly struck by the feeling of things being out of place when I opened the door, so I paused in the doorway, trying to pin things down.

It wasn’t that the place was ransacked, that would have made things easy. If memory served, everything was in its place as I stepped in and slowly closed the door, a part of me wondering if I should remove the power inhibitor I was wearing. It was one of those movie moments where you’re certain something bad was about to happen but you didn’t know from what angle the bad guy would leap out.

I had just about convinced myself to remove the bracelet and go looking for more trouble to get into when, from Ed’s kitchen, the last person in the world I expected stepped out, steaming cup of coffee in hand.

“Hello, Jennifer,” she greeted warmly as she held up the cup in her hand. “The coffee is fresh; may I get you a cup?”

“What are you doing here?” was all I could manage to demand, more than a little dumbstruck at the position I found myself in.

“Waiting for you,” she answered as if it was the most natural thing in the world. “Coffee?”

I laid my purse down on the little table Ed had built to hold it by the door to better look my unexpected hostess in the eye. “Sure,” I managed finally. “Coffee would be great.” She disappeared back into the kitchen, prompting me to follow her.

“Cream and sugar, right?” she asked me with a smile, already stirring the mixture. “I suppose a little small talk about your day is out of the question?” The expression on my face must have answered her for me. “Well, I was hoping, but it doesn’t matter.”

“Ah ask you again, what are you doing here?”

“First, I’m here to apologize to you for a grievous wrong that was committed against you,” she said sadly. “But, we’ll get to that. I’m sure you have a pile of questions first.”

“That’s putting it mildly!”

“Jennifer, my dear, I’m afraid you have quite a tough road ahead of you and I’m here to try and prepare you for it.” Of all the things I might have thought my future mother in law might have said that certainly wasn’t one of them.

Of course, I didn’t expect Sarah Filby to ‘waiting’ for me in my boyfriend’s apartment with cryptic messages about my future either. This was certain to be interesting…

* * *

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Oh My!

Belle is having quiet the day isn't she? Any law enforcement officer would be having a bad time given what happened. After all she is in a lot a ways a rookie cop despite what she gone though so far. Just thinking about what possible powers her mother in law has and what she could tell Belle. Well this certainly a cliff hanger!
Great work EE!
grover

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Plan? Ain't got no Plan!
"Beyond Thunder Dome"

Belle 26

great chapter. wonder whats going to happen next?

Love this story

First person narrative of this caliber is difficult, lovely job and a great realization of the world of super-heroes who are also human.

I like that the villain was just an ordinary person, too. Plotwise, that is. The character was scum.

Thanks,
Erin