“Just a couple of things.” I say. “My Time as a Soldier of Theosophy by Bessant, An Account of Eldritch Realms by Carter, recent things like that.”
It’s not totally a lie. I have ordered those books.
“Sounds to me like a good haul.” Philip says. “Can't’ go wrong with Carter! All those weird worlds he astral-travels through...thrilling!”
“Shall I wait for you in the library sah?” George Douglas asks.
George doesn’t remember much about his parents before the tenement fire took them, but he remembered their love, and he remembered how they told him to always say “yes ma’am” and “yes sir”--or in his thick accent, yes mahm and yes sah.
“Yes.” I reply. “I’ll be there soon. I just have a question to conclude with Mr. Tyro here.”
“Don’t let me keep you.” Philip says. “I know I’ve talked your ear off but a man as elusive and seldom-seen as yourself shouldn’t be hogged by me. I’m sure the other guests are wondering about the mysterious Lee Walker--and good lord, just look at the time!” Philip glances at a Victorian clock on the wall.
“Have we really been talking that long?” He asks.
“Apparently so.” I answer. “But before you leave, I have just one more question to ask you Philip” I quickly turn to George. “Wait for me in the library George. I’ll be along shortly.”
“Oh, and thanks again kid.” Philip raises his glass of dead gangster rum to George. “You brought the drinks just when I felt like celebrating.”
George looks at me, flashes a knowing smile, and leaves to the library. He always gets excited about potential agents. He thinks of them as additions to the clubhouse.
“So that question...let me guess, “What is the Trespasser?”” Philp asks.
“Well well well. I think we’ve chased that rabbit quite enough for one evening. Warrior. Soldier. Superhero. Vampire. I think we should rest our heads and come back to that subject later. After all, I don’t think we’ll ever be able to exhaust the topic of the Trespasser between the two of us.”
“I’ll make it quick.” I say. “I just have one idea I want to run past you. I think I know what we can call the Trespasser.”
“You’ve figured it out eh?”
I figured it out a long, long time ago. I figured it out sometime between Shanghai and tearing Mal Gideon to pieces with my bare hands.
“Yes.” I reply. “He’s a hunter.”
“A hunter…” Philip strokes his chin. “Ah...that’s a term I haven’t considered at all…”
“I’ll walk you through it. The psychological challenge of duty--or as you call it, the challenge of death, comes from a superhuman encountering the enormity of his powers. He must confront his potential for violence and in this confrontation form a code of duty--a warrior code. But we can safely say that the Trespasser is not a warrior. There’s not a warrior culture in the present or antiquity that would have him. It’s not that he kills. All warriors kill. It’s how he kills.”
Philip gives a grave nod. “Yes. That’s a good way to put it--It’s not that he kills, it’s how he kills. A samurai would cut off your head. What he does--what he’s done--is worse.”
“Mal Gideon is the best example of that.”
“Yeah. Mal deserved to die, don’t get me wrong. The abolition of the death penalty is another bit of social medling I hold against Gold Star. But Mal didn’t deserve to be flayed alive and tossed into the sea. God no. No one deserves that--not the Devil and not Mal Gideon. When it goes that far, it's not justice...just bloodlust.”
What I did to Mal Gideon was evil rendered onto evil not for the sake of justice but the sake of pain. As much as possible, I inflicted pain, and it was not near enough for my rage.
I labored to keep Mal Gideon alive. For hours, I labored to fill his life with an almost mythological level of agony. He did not die when I tossed his fragmented body into the sea. They found water in his lungs when pulled his body out of the harbor. Even when I had tired of him he suffered from freezing water and salt in his wounds.
And it was still not near enough for my rage.
Because of what I did, Detective Rose pulled a gun on me the next time we talked. Herbert Goldman quit my network of agents. Arthur Gideon left, and then came back.
But I don’t regret what I did. I can’t regret what I did. If he was brought back to life I would do the same to him--and possibly worse.
My life, from the moment I was reborn in poison-filled no-man’s land, has been ruled by emotion. Intellect guides the Trespasser, but it does not command him. Intellectually, I know what I did was wrong. But emotionally nothing felt more right.
It was all a matter of pain. Mal Gideon hurt me. He hurt me more than fire, more than bullets, more than anything--and I needed to hurt him back. And I did. I hurt him until all the confidence, charisma, and courage that characterized the crime lord was in a puddle of fluids beneath him. I hurt him until he was just a man--a man in pain.
I wish I could say it was vengeance for what Mal did to Doc. But it wasn’t. Doc’s murder was the cataylst and on some level of my mind the justification for my actions. But it wasn’t vengeance. Doc would never have wanted me to go that far. It was just pain--selfish pain. Mal Gideon had wounded the tiger, and the tiger played with Mal Gideon until there was nothing left moving to attract the tiger’s interest.
Doc, I pray that one day your spirit can forgive me for being such a horrible friend.
You were the most intelligent man I have ever known--more intelligent than even Dr. Stone. I’m sorry you wasted your talents helping on this old ghoul. If you had joined Dr. Stone’s agents, or the Fishermen, or the White Hats, you would probably be alive today. But my sins against you go further than failing to protect you from Mal Gideon’s men. I have wasted your talents on a crusade of bloodlust. You, one of the greatest minds of your generation, and I used you to make weapons. I have linked your death to Mal Gideon. Your passing is forever linked in history to that man and the violence I committed against him. You didn’t deserve that. Your death should have been all your own and I selfishly took that from you. And your son Jason--he has more than forgiven me. He seeks to follow in your footsteps--and I have let him. I fear that this may be my greatest sin against you.
It does little to absolve my sins, but I promise that no one will ever know that you were involved with the Trespasser. The world will only ever know you as Dr. Jack Smith, brilliant metallurgist and one of Wonder Materials’ chief scientists. They will only ever know of your death as what I disguised it as--an attempt by Mal Gideon to intimidate Wonder Materials into compliance.
One day, everyone might learn everything about me and my agents. Perhaps I’ll be killed and the newspapers will take pictures of my corpse and Lorna and Ram and all the rest will be brought in by Rose to explain to the courts and papers. Perhaps one of my agents will betray my secret. Perhaps a superhero will take me down--Blue Defender or Dr. Stone likely. Maybe I’ll just get old and crawl off to a dark place to lie down and die and all my secrets will stay locked underneath Childe manor for generations until someone breaks into my pit it like the tomb of King Tut or creche of Ibis the Invincible. All my tools and trophies will be put on display in a well-lit museum with paintings and pictures of all my enemies and agents--all the people of my life learned by children in the daylight
But you won’t be there.
You will only be remembered as a good man who made rhecite prosthetics.
I wish I could do more for you Doc. You deserved more--so much more.
When I first came to Mainline, I came with Ram. Then Lorna found me. Then Doc found me. They were my first three agents, and the only agents I have ever completely opened my heart to. I have kept a distance between myself and the rest of my agents following Doc’s death.
Like Lorna, Doc sought me out. He stood on the roof of a building one night holding a blinking light to the sky. When I spotted it during my nightly patrol, I lept to the roof. I expected to find a hitman with far too much confidence in his ability or an informant with a briefcase full of mysteries and an agenda. But instead I found a small, shriveled man offering me a strange metal gauntlet that reflected all the star-drowning lights of Mainline City on its silvery skin.
Confused, I thought there had to be some kind of double-cross or angle. But I knew enough guilty men to know an innocent one when I saw him. I saw no danger in Doc’s earnest eyes--only virtue. In a life as dark as mine, virtue burns like a flame against the night.
He was afraid of me--most men, good or evil, are--and rightfully so. He shook like a leaf in the wind. But he worked up the courage to explain to me that he was a metallurgist working for Wonder Materials and that he wanted to help me. I asked him what exactly he wanted to help me do and he answered: kill people, wicked people--people that deserved to die.
His frankness told me that he had seen great evil go unpunished--evil great enough to drive a good man to aid a monster like me just for the chance to punish that evil.
Doc explained to me that he had been close to Mainline all his life. He was born when it was just a scattering of houses and farms called Forgetown named so because, according to local legend, the town’s forge was larger than the rest of the town put together. Forgestown was a good place to live. It was a poor coal mining town where the men broke their backs striking the earth and died with lungs coated in soot, but Forgetown’s community spirit made it a place where crime was unknown. There were no homicides. There were no gangsters. Forgetown was not Mainline--not yet. But as Doc got older, his life would be changed by global events far beyond his control.
I could relate. It was not the Great War in the Air that changed Doc’s life, but something that almost changed the world on that level--George Sekowsky’s discovery of gaeitie and rhecite.