Blue Lightning appeared lost. Sheperd picked up a chair from the floor, brushed it off and set it next to the hero. “Here,” said Sheperd. “Sit down, take a minute.”
Blue Lightning stared at the floor.
“Hmm? Oh, yeah, sure.” He sat down.
A silent minute passed, and then Blue Lightning sniffed. He lifted his hand to his eye to wipe away a tear; Chief Sheperd turned away and pretended to examine a piece of debris on the floor. The superhero’s electrified glove buzzed and zapped as it made contact with the water welling in the corner of his eye. “Ow!” he said.
Police officers stood around outside. Detective O’Malley looked in through a window and caught Chief Sheperd’s eye. O’Malley held up his wrist and tapped his watch. Sheperd nodded. O’Malley flipped up the collar on his jacket then blew into his hands and rubbed them together for warmth. Sheperd thought for a moment and then turned to Blue Lightning. “Listen,” he said. “The uh, the mayor mentioned the idea of… of having a statue made—to honour your years of service to the city.”
Blue Lightning looked up at him.
“Yeah,” said Sheperd. “She wants to have a big unveiling ceremony, make a real day of it. You deserve it. What do you think?”
Blue Lightning smiled. “Sure,” he said, in a softer voice than usual. “That would be nice.”
“Great,” said Sheperd. He put his hand on the hero’s mountainous shoulder. “You just let us know when you’re ready and we’ll do it.”
“How about Monday?” said Blue Lightning.
“Monday?” said Sheperd. “Um… that’s only a few days away.”
“Oh. Right,” said Blue Lightning. His head hung low.
“Hey, you know what?” said Sheperd. “Monday will be great. Let’s do it Monday.”
The hero’s head lifted. “Thanks Chief.”
Sheperd turned and looked at the officers gathered outside the jewellery store entrance. He turned back to Blue Lightning. “In the meantime,” he said, “why don’t you take some R and R? You’ve sure earned it. The police can finish up here. There’s probably still a fair bit to go—collecting evidence, getting these bodies to the morgue—you know the drill.”
Blue Lightning looked toward the entrance and saw the office waiting. He sniffed, wiped his eyes on his sleeve and stood up. “Yes, of course.” He cleared his throat, and the deep, gravelly tone returned to his voice. “I’ll let this city’s finest get back to their work.” He stood with his shoulders back and took a deep breath. “This is it then, I guess.”
Sheperd extended his hand. “It’s been an honour protecting this city alongside you.”
Blue Lightning looked at Sheperd’s hand, and then looked him in the eye. He pressed a button on the small control pad on his forearm, deactivating the electric charge from his gloves. He took Sheperd’s hand and shook it.
Sheperd chuckled. “You’ve still got a hell of a grip.”
The two men nodded, and then Blue Lightning stepped past the chief and headed for the door. Halfway there, he stopped and turned back. “Oh, here,” he said, removing his utility belt, “I won’t need this anymore, but in the fight against crime, you might find it useful.” He handed the belt to Sheperd. “You’ve got a taser here,” he said, pointing out the belt’s items. “Grappling hook, thunderbolt grenades—press once here to stun, twice to kill—smoke bomb, chloroform spray, flash grenade, mini remote mines—that’s the detonator—stand well back. Really, it’s a big blast zone, so stand right back. The rest are standard issue.”
Sheperd held the belt with both hands. He nodded. “Thanks, Blue Lightning.”
Blue Lightning thumped his hand down affectionately yet painfully on Sheperd’s shoulder, then turned and exited the building. Outside, the crowd of police officers parted and watched the hero leave, his cape flapping in the breeze.
Detective O’Malley entered the store and came over to Sheperd. “How did it go?”
Sheperd blew a long sigh. “Better than I thought it would.”
“You want me to bring everyone back in?”
“Not yet,” said Sheperd. “First, I want you to—”
A monstrous roar drowned out all other sounds. Broken glass trembled on the floor. From a side street, Blue Lightning’s highly weaponised armoured car crept out toward Main Street. The left indicator blinked three times, and then the vehicle turned out onto the road, lit up with a flash and screamed away into the night like a fighter jet, flames raging from the exhaust. Within seconds, the thunderous engine faded into the distance, leaving a wake of squealing car alarms and angry residents yelling from their apartment windows. O’Malley turned to Sheperd. “Sorry Chief, what were you saying?”
Sheperd handed him the utility belt. “Get the bomb squad down here. No one else comes into the store until every gadget on that belt has been disarmed.” He headed for the door.
O’Malley stared at the belt a moment, then turned to Sheperd. “Where are you going?”
“I have to call the mayor,” said Sheperd, “to let her know she needs a statue of Blue Lightning by Monday.”
© 2023 MILES VENISON ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
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