Clement was on the news again. He had robbed another bank. I watched the report with unwavering focus as the camera panned past the side of the bank that had been completely destroyed. They estimated around $3,000 dollars were stolen. A picture of the masked culprit flying away was featured on the screen along with a phone number requesting any information on their identity or whereabouts.
As soon as the screen cut to a different story I pulled on my boots, yelled a quick goodbye to my mother, and shut the door behind me, pulling on my coat as I ran down the apartment stairs. I shouldered my way through the snow-narrowed streets of the city until I stopped in front of his apartment, jamming my finger into the buzzer and hoping he would answer.
"Hello?" Clement's voice echoed out of the little holes above the buttons. I sighed in relief and waved at the snowy camera just above that. He didn't hesitate to buzz me in. He was waiting for me in the doorway to his apartment, a goofy grin on his face. I figured that was a good sign.
"Hey Olive!" He stepped aside to let me in. I kicked off my boots and hung my jacket up. I kept glancing at him, looking for any cuts or bruises but thankfully didn't see any.
"Hey, can we talk?" I walked up the stairs to his room and closed the door behind him. I sat down at his desk while he stood by his bed. He was waiting for me to say something, but in the silence I saw his gaze kept wandering to the window.
"You promised me." He smiled at me. Was it supposed to be reassuring?
"I know, but you worry too much. Here." He pulled his costume out of his dresser drawer. He didn't even have a lock on it, anybody could walk in and find it with just a little looking. He handed it to me. "Not a scratch on it."
I rubbed the fabric between my fingers, feeling the smooth stretchy material. He used to hate this shade of blue.
"That's not the point!" I threw the costume back to him. "You promised me no more banks! The police had guns this time! You may be able to fly and punch through walls but that doesn't mean you're bullet proof!"
"It's not like I got hit, I'm too good at it."
"Just hear me out- "
"Why can't you just go back to saving people like you used to?!"
Clement looked down. I focused on the pulse that beat through my clenched hands. It kept me from backing down and immediately taking back what I had just said. He replied after a brief pause.
"It's not like it would make any more of a difference now than it did then. And don't pretend I wasn't dealing with guns before. Banks, I can do. Nobody really gets hurt. I'm still helping people who need the money." Clement went back to looking out the window while he talked and kept his gaze there until the sound of a car horn down below snapped him out of it. He walked over to the bathroom, costume in hand.
"Are you going out?" I stopped him.
"Yeah, I figured I could scope a couple of places out."
"Can you stay in tonight?"
"I'm not doing anything dangerous, just looking."
"Then you can go looking in your regular clothes." I said, motioning for him to give me his costume. He looked at my outstretched hand.
"Don't you trust me?"
"...Of course I do." I shook my head. I lowered my hand realizing it was stupid of me to think he would hand over his costume and reached for the door handle. "Just promise me you'll be at school tomorrow?"
The next morning, I arrived at school, but Clement never did. I called him multiple times throughout the day and always got his voice mail. I don't know why I expected anything different.
On my way home I tried to focus on my boots as they scraped and slid against the slush covered sidewalks. But in the distance, I could hear sirens fading in and out, a sound that until recently was just another part of the city's white noise. Now it was an alarm to remind me that I didn't know where my closest friend was.
I was standing at the corner a block away from my house waiting for the walk signal to change when my phone rang. It was Clement.
"Where the heck were you!?" I asked, the walk signal changed and I joined the crowd of people crossing the street.
"Are you home yet?"
"Don't change the subject!"
"Meet me on the roof." He hung up. I glared at my phone for a second before sliding it back into my pocket. His voice had seemed...off. Or was that just my imagination trying to create something to justify the worry I had felt all day? I picked up my pace. I kept glancing up at the sky, trying to catch a glimpse of him, but saw nothing. This is exactly why I didn't want him to leave last night. Was he hurt? Did he get caught? Did the police know who he was now?
The elevator wasn't coming fast enough.
I braced myself as I opened the door to the roof, not quite sure what to expect but expecting the worst nonetheless. My eyes quickly found Clement, who seemed to be okay besides the worried look on his face.
"What happened?" I asked, quickly walking over to him. "Are you okay?"
"Yes, I'm fine but-."
"Then what happened?"
"I need you to stay calm."
"What happened!?" He was quiet for a moment, I watched as he exhaled a white cloud of condensation before speaking.
"I was trying to escape the police this morning after robbing a bank... I flew off to avoid getting shot, but a girl was hit instead." I froze, Clement tried to fill my silence with his explanations. "It wasn't my fault, I was just trying to get away, I didn't know there was anyone behind me." His eyes glazed over. "I recognized her too, my friend used to tutor her... And the goddamn police shot her!"
I waited until he was done. By the end my nails cut into the palms of my hands and every muscle was shaking. How could he let this happen? I wanted to scream at him, tell him it was all his fault, but I didn't. I took a deep breath instead.
"How are you going to fix this?"
"Fix this?! I wasn't the one who fired the bullet!" I shook my head.
"Be the bigger person and make this right." After a moment's hesitation, Clement flew off, leaving me alone on the roof.
I can't say I remember the walk home. Part of me was expecting him to show up, fly down and tell me that everything was going to be okay, that he was going to fix it. Part of me wanted to say that it was okay, that I forgive him. Part of me knew that I was lying to myself.
The night was quiet as I laid in bed. No sirens, no alarms, just the white noise that the city was eternally producing. That didn't mean I wasn't worrying. It didn't mean that everything was fixed.
The next morning I sat on the sofa with my parents watching the morning news. The girls death was announced as a casualty of the confrontation between law enforcement and the masked culprit. She had died overnight and a large anonymous cash donation had been made to help cover her medical bill, which was now being given to support the grieving family. I got up and left the room, leaving my parents to talk about how sad the girl's death was.
How did Clement consider that making it right? Why did I think he knew how to make it right...he hasn't known how to make things right in a long time. Then again, I haven't known how to help him either. How could I have let this happen? Why didn't I stop him sooner? Put my foot down? A girl was dead now, because of me. My parents would move on, but could I? There was only one way to fix this. There had only ever been one way to fix this.
It didn't take me long to find the number that always accompanied Clement's pictures on the news.
It took me a lifetime to dial it.
A couple of days later, Clement was on the news again. Without the mask this time. I couldn't bring myself to look.