Allies and Enemies: Part Four

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Curveball, by Christopher B. Wright
Crossfire Safehouse

David spends the first few minutes throwing up on the floor. It’s not the same floor—the cheap vinyl tiles of the diner have been replaced with cool, slightly grimy concrete.

“Are you OK?” Manuel sounds worried.

“No,” David says, and takes a deep, ragged breath.

“Sorry the trip was so rough. I’m not used to pushing around that much mass.”

David nods wordlessly as he tries to pull himself together.

Allies and Enemies: Part Three

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Curveball, by Christopher B. Wright
South Bronx, Morrisania

David sits in a window booth in a small, run-down diner, trying to eat a cold cut without throwing up. It’s not that the food is bad; he can’t tell if it is or not. Everything tastes like cardboard. The problem is that his doctors warned him he needed to stay in the hospital to recover, and his body is sparing no effort to tell him that they were right.

It’s mid-afternoon. There aren’t too many people in the diner, but the ones who are stare at him furtively when they think he doesn’t notice. He looks a mess: his entire face is a splotchy pattern of bruises, his hair is greasy and unwashed, he hasn’t shaved in days, his hands won’t stop shaking, and he can’t focus on anything for more than a few seconds without his vision blurring. His cane, a simple metal crook with a rubber tip at the end, sits on the table in front of him because he can’t get it to lean properly—he keeps knocking it over, and when he has to bend down to pick it up his ribs hurt like hell.

The good news is he doesn’t look like a cop. It’s not good to look like a cop in Morrisania—the cops in the local precinct have a reputation for corruption, not entirely undeserved, and they aren’t very welcome. Morrisania has become, unofficially, one of the safest towns in New York… and the people who keep it that way consider the local police part of the problem.

David grew up in the South Bronx, and moved back after he got out of the service and joined the NYPD. It’s changed a lot over the years—it’s a far cry from the desperate, arson-scarred, crime-ridden wasteland it was in the 70s—but it’s still not entirely safe. There are still dangerous parts, areas where people just don’t go if they can help it. For a long time, Morrisania was one of those areas. When he was a kid Morrisania was one of the “bad places” that you stayed away from at all costs.

It still has one of the highest crime rates in the city, but statistics can be deceptive. Vigilante justice is illegal, and it doesn’t matter to the city if it comes from armed citizens taking the law into their own hands or masked metahumans doing the same thing. The two groups who keep Morrisania safe are, technically, criminals. Anything they do to keep the peace is, statistically, criminal activity. But if the crime statistics were broken down, Morrisania would look very different: “Gang activity” is high, “destruction of property” is high… and every other type of crime is very, very low.

Allies and Enemies: Part Two

Submitted by Christopher Wright on
Curveball, by Christopher B. Wright
Bronx-Lebanon Hospital

David wakes up because someone keeps shining a light in his eyes. He doesn’t like it. He turns his head, mumbling a protest, and sluggishly raises one arm to push the light away. Immediately he feels a sharp pain in his side. He drops his arm and sucks in air through his teeth.

He hears laughter—a low, soft, chuckle—then a woman says “well, that’s a good sign.”

He’s in a hospital. He knows he’s in a hospital because the sheets on his bed feel too thin and the walls are salmon pink. He closes his eyes for a second, opens them again, and the blur clears up enough for him to see that he’s in a private recovery room. A doctor leans over him, her mouth turned up slightly into an amused smile, as she tucks a light pen into a shirt pocket. “Good afternoon, Lieutenant.”

David shakes his head. “Retired.” His voice is hoarse. He coughs lightly and clears his throat.

The doctor raises an eyebrow. “You’re a little young for retirement, aren’t you?”

David shrugs. “Yeah.”