Blue Lightning (Part 3)

Blue Lightning looked about the room. He crossed his arms and grunted to himself. 

“You know, you must have saved this city a dozen times,” said Sheperd. “You’ve put more criminals behind bars than the entire police force. These past fifteen years we would have been lost without you. We’re all grateful. I sure know I am.” He stroked his chin in thought. “But… well, you’ve been at this a long time. Jeez, when I first met you, I was one of the fittest guys on the force. Now look at me.” He slapped his hands on his belly and chuckled. “Time is a real bastard, huh?” 

Blue Lightning’s gaze dropped a little. 

“Back in the day,” said Sheperd, “you would have stormed in here and knocked these guys out with your bare hands.” He looked at the sheets covering the dead bodies, then turned to Blue Lightning. “O’Malley said you threw a grenade in here.” 

Blue Lightning shifted his feet. “These thugs forfeited any claim to mercy when they chose to break the law and put citizens at risk.” 

“I get it,” said Sheperd. “I’m not saying they deserved mercy, I’m just saying a grenade was… excessive. I mean, you killed four of them, and from what I’ve been told, only two of them were armed.” 

“You think I should have negotiated, is that it?” said Blue Lightning. 

“No,” said Sheperd, with a calm shake of his head. “But you need another option in between doing nothing and blasting people with shrapnel. Law enforcement has changed. The streets are safer now. Thanks to you, all the most dangerous criminals are either behind bars or dead—Doctor Mayhem, the Hag, Nightmare Man. Compared to those villains, the Ringmaster is small-time.” 

“But still,” said Blue Lightning, “any criminal activity is a blight on this city, and we must—” 

“You know what my biggest problem is right now?” said Sheperd. “It’s not the Ringmaster. It’s not any wannabe supervillain. And this jewellery store robbery, this is the least of my worries. My biggest problem right now is public relations. For this city’s police force to function effectively, citizens need to be able to trust us. It used to be that way, when you and I first started out, but it’s not like that anymore.” He looked around the room. “Ten years ago, the press would have reported this as, Blue Lightning Thwarts Robbery. You know what tomorrow’s headline is going to say? Vigilante Police Associate Kills Unarmed Black Man.” 

“What?” said Blue Lightning. “I didn’t… I mean… I killed four men. Only one was black, and I didn’t even know what race they were until afterward—the lights were out, and they were wearing balaclavas!” 

“Yeah well, the papers aren’t gonna bother with those details. They want controversy. And I’m the one who’s going to have to answer their questions. I’m the one who’s going to have to explain why a few insured diamonds were worth more than the life of these saints.” 

“Saints? Chief, these men were criminals.” 

“That’s not what the papers will say!” yelled Sheperd. 

Blue Lightning was taken aback. 

“Look,” said Sheperd, rubbing his brow, “the city has been lucky to have a hero like you, but you’re not the warrior you once were, and times have changed. Honestly—” he glanced up at Blue Lightning “nowadays your crime fighting is causing more trouble than it’s worth.” 

Blue Lightning’s eyes widened. He stepped forward. “I’ve risked my life for this city,” he said, thumping a finger to his chest. “I’ve saved countless lives, I’ve brought down maniacal villains.” There was a slight tremor to his voice. “Damn it, if it wasn’t for me, this city would be buried under twenty feet of poisoned slime right now. But hey—” he tossed up his hands “—if my help is no longer wanted…” 

Chief Sheperd looked down at the floor. He slipped his hands into his pockets. He nudged a piece of broken wood with his shoe.

Blue Lightning looked at the chief, and then his shoulders dropped. “Oh.” 

“I’m sorry,” said Sheperd. 

The fearsome superhero stared blankly. “Maybe,” he said, the authority drained from his voice, “if I change my crime fighting style… adapt…” 

Sheperd shook his head. 

Blue Lightning’s eyes darted to Sheperd. “The mayor! Her life is in danger—I could help you take down the Ringmaster.” 

Chief Sheperd cleared his throat. “We’ve uh, we’ve got two undercover officers working close to the Ringmaster. We know everything he has planned. He won’t get anywhere near the mayor.” 


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