It was just after midnight. He stood atop the tallest skyscraper in the city – his usual spot and a vantage point. He sniffed the night’s air and tasted the intoxicating mixture of happiness, pleasure, lust, fear, sweat, piss, danger and blood in it.
Every night, he stood there and waited. Waited for a sudden spike in fear or danger or blood in the air and then sprang into action. In the past fortnight, he had prevented an armed robbery at the Greek deli on 9th and Lisbon, Stopped a mugging under the Greenacres Bridge (Paramedics had to truss the muggers up before loading them into the ambulance), Prevented a passenger-filled bus from crashing into the Swirling Rapids and had rescued fifteen fully-drunk patrons from inside the Halo Pub which was ablaze.
He was the last of his kind – An enhanced individual. Few had died on the job, few more had died of old age or were disabled, but most of them had just quit. Given up on being Supers. The funny thing was most of the Super villains had just retired after depositing their loot in shady banks in tax-havens and were now living off the interest.
But not him. He knew that his job was not done. As long as he could taste one of fear, danger or blood in the night air, he couldn’t rest; he wouldn’t rest! Whether the city wanted him or not, he’d be there every night – waiting for evil to rear its head so that he could stomp it down. He was the city’s only hope, their only Superhero. He was Night Ghoul!
His thoughts were interrupted by a heightened taste of danger and fear in the air. It tasted like rust on his tongue. And then he heard her scream. He slipped his mask on and swooped into the cold air towards the sound.
Within seconds he spotted them – the five drunk bastards and the gorgeous girl in a severe state of undress between them. He took exactly five minutes to save her – ten seconds to disable them and four minutes and fifty seconds just to kick them as they screamed and moaned in pain. He knew that there were multiple broken bones, fifteen cracked ribs, a ruptured spleen, a detached retina and five severe concussions. He added one last kick to each of their groins and went to pick the shivering girl up.
He knew her. He saw her daily from his spot. Not the one at the top of the building. This was his other spot. Another vantage point which afforded him his one little pleasure of seeing her as she worked in the aforementioned Greek Deli. Obviously, she never saw him or knew that he was watching her.
‘Hey!’ He shook her face. ‘Can you hear me?’
She sprang on him and hugged him like there was no tomorrow. She was shivering from shock and fear; he ran his down her back and mouthed soothing sounds in her ear until she calmed down.
‘Thank you, Night Ghoul!’ She gasped, ‘I guess I owe you my life.’
‘Think nothing of it, Ma’am.’ He shrugged. ‘Are you okay?’
‘I’m much better now,’ she laughed nervously. He liked her laugh. He had always liked it. ‘How can I ever repay you?’
‘That’s alright, Ma’am! I’m glad you are okay.’
She placed her slender hands on his chest, ‘No, my hero! I want to thank you.’ She smiled seductively. He liked it. He had always liked it.
He sighed, ‘Alright then!’
‘What do you want?’ She purred. ‘You name it, you got it!’
‘Can you give me twenty bucks? I haven’t had a proper meal in the last couple of days?’
She laughed long and hard. She had tears in her eyes when she finished. ‘Oh my!’ She gasped. ‘You have a wicked sense of humour! Tell you what? I’m not going to give you twenty bucks. Instead I’m giving you my address. Pop in tomorrow evening and I’ll cook you a sumptuous dinner.’
She scribbled on a piece of paper and shoved it into his hand. Leaning in, she let her finger trail the outlines of his mask, lingering on his lips. With a smile and wave she was on her way.
The sun was almost up. He tore the piece of paper without opening it and let the pieces scatter in the air. He removed his costume and shoved it into his duffel bag. He wore the rags that he owned and walked back to his spot. The one outside the Greek deli. He sat down and placed the placard saying ‘Help! Homeless War Veteran’ next to him. He started counting the minutes. After exactly two hundred of them, She’d come – a smile on her lips, a spring in her steps and a look of utter disgust at the homeless hobo squatting outside the place she worked.