by Erwin K. Roberts
©2020 by Robert E. Kennedy
The strap broke on the huge purse I carry for work. Without thinking I dumped the contents out on the kitchen table to sort, toss, and cram into the replacement. But, after six months, I had momentarily forgotten what lay on the bottom.
So there they sat on top of the pile of notebooks, electronic devices, and cosmetics. A pair of heavy knit, metal thread and carbon composite reinforced, definitely male, Kevlar trunks. On display right in front of the love of my life.
“Sweetheart,” he began with a quizzical smile, “are those something you forgot to give me for my birthday last spring?”
I swallowed hard. Did I dare try to bluff my way out of this? No, not a chance. Harry is a great guy, but he can read me like a book. Finally I said, “Actually, they belong to Dyno-Volt.”
“You’re not joking. Are you?”
“‘Fraid not, honey,” I replied. Then Harry put the analytical side of his brain to work.
“Judging by the amount of dust, food crumbs, and eyebrow pencil shavings clinging to them I’d say they’ve been in that purse for several months.”
“That’s right. Since back in June. I’ll tell the story, but on two conditions,” I said with a wink. “First, you never tell anybody, but anybody. And second, that you shave before we slip between the sheets tonight.”
“Done, and done, you secret keeping little minx. I’ll take my revenge in bed. Lots of it. Now, tell me why you carry a change of clothing for the hero who wears only a little more than Jim Anthony.”
Do you understand why I love Harry so much?
Do you remember, I began, when Dr. Disolvo was melting bank vault doors? Good! Well, I thought I’d found a pattern to his attacks. But my assignment editor didn’t agree with me. So I couldn’t get a camera crew. Hell, I couldn’t even pry a decent camera out of the man.
So I took the relevant (I hoped) day off. Bought one of those cheap new High Def cams that burns directly to a DVD. Then I hid out on the roof of a building across from the bank I was so sure would be Disolvo’s next target.
How’d I figure it out? It involved phases of the moon. And the bank’s relationship with the center of the earth and the sun. And my brother’s 3000 server-blade Linux super-computer to crunch numbers. Linus, that’s the computer, kicked out a six block target area. And, since Disolvo only attacked vaults below ground level, that eliminated every place except Boatman’s Bank on Prospect. Which put me on the roof of Metro Linen & Uniform across the street just before dawn. Linus said the attack should come about nine-thirty.
So I sat in a camping chair on the roof looking through the support struts of Metro’s huge sign. I figured that’d give me some cover. And maybe act like a Faraday Cage if Dr. Disolvo miscalculated like he’d done the previous month. That position also meant I couldn’t be seen from above. Which turned out to be important.
I’d cased the place the week before. I knew how many people worked inside. With the video camera ready to go, I took still cell phone pictures of everybody who went in. And when they went out. I’d set up a script that emailed each image to an account whose server was over five hundred miles away.
About nine-fifteen I saw Pete Lane, a suspected Disolvo associate, head into Boatman’s. He came out a few minutes later. He walked to the end of the block, then got out his cell phone. He disappeared around the next block’s corner still talking.
Three minutes later a car pulled out of one of the head-in parking spaces right in front of the bank. I started the video camera because a U-Haul truck was waiting to take the spot. A U-Haul just big enough to hold Disolvo’s egg shaped getaway flyer. Out of the truck came a big guy carrying a metal suitcase.
That’s when I knew it was going down. He wore a long raincoat and a Fedora! Who wears a Fedora these days? And a raincoat on a clear day in June?
Anyway, the guy vanished into the bank. A few seconds later my brother’s custom cell phone app squawks to tell me that the magnetic fields in the area are going nuts. Thirty seconds after that everybody runs out of the bank like their tails are on fire. And they keep going. I start to see weird colored lights pulsing inside the bank.
Two things happened at the same time then. The video camera dies. Electronics fried. My cell goes, too. As I start to pull put one of the disposable film cameras I brought along something goes thump right behind me.
I ’bout jumped out of my skin. I whip around. All I see different is a smallish paper bag on the roof that wasn’t there before. I spin back around just in time not to get a shot of Dyno-Volt landing in front of Boatman’s. I did manage a shot of his backside disappearing inside.
Am I sure it was Dyno-Volt. You bet, honey. Who else wears Man-In-The-Iron-Mask head gear, heavy rubber soled shoes with matching gauntlets, and electric blue trunks? And nothing else?
Nothing seemed to happen inside for a moment. So I reviewed what I knew about the man. Which wasn’t much. Some sort of electrical based powers. Could leap medium sized buildings. And showed a lot of skin. But why? He’s barely buff, much less muscular. But he certainly seemed to get the job done. And with not much collateral damage.
Then I began to hear crackling sounds from the bank. Then more flashes of multi-colored light lit up the bank windows. Then those same windows blew out. And things got quiet.
Two minutes later I got a great shot of Dyno-Volt dragging Dr. Disolvo onto the sidewalk. And another great picture as he tied Disolvo up with the metal pole of a street sign. Then he just stood there waiting.
I slid over to that mysterious paper bag. You’ve seen what I found. One pair of electric blue trunks with metal weave jock-strap built in. Anyway, I took a quick look, then headed back. With the sack in hand.
Dyno-Volt had not moved. He just stood there just watching Disolvo. I began to hear sirens. I saw him cock his head when he heard them too. He waited until the first two patrol cars hit their brakes. Then he jumped. In my direction.
He landed behind the sign more lightly than I expected. Then he began nervously searching the roof.
I stepped from behind a big air vent. “Looking for this?” I asked.
The first thing Dyno-Volt said got muffled by his helmet. But I think he used a four letter word or two. Then I watched him take a deep breath. With no shirt, that was hard not to notice.
“Who might you be?” he finally managed to say in a calm voice.
“Jennie Watkins, WHAM-TV. Would you care to make a statement?”
His shoulders sagged. “I’ll talk to you, off the record. But please toss me that bag first before we both get embarrassed.”
The bag was my only card. He could take it and jump into the next Zip Code. But somehow I didn’t think so. Maybe it was the disposable camera in my other hand. Or maybe not. Anyway I tossed the bag to him.
“Thank you,” he said. And I thought I detected a sigh of relief. “Excuse me a moment,” he continued as he stepped behind a four foot tall air-conditioning unit.
A moment later the light breeze blew the paper bag back into view. Not two seconds after electric blue chunks started to follow it. Shattering as they hit the roof.
“Tell me, Miss Watkins,” he said, as he seemed to be making adjustments to his wardrobe, “how did you happen to be here this morning?”
“I thought I’d found a pattern to Disolvo’s jobs.”
“Nice! That’s more than I was able to do,” he replied as more electric blue material moved into view. “I just got a tip. Less than an hour ago.”
I closed my open mouth to say, “What happened? Disolvo give you one below the belt?”
“Thank Tesla he didn’t. I’d probably have lost the lock on my energy reserve. He’d be dead. And the bank would be a bubbling lake of lava.”
With that he stepped back into full view. Bits of electric blue slid down his legs and swirled around him.
“That’s what scares me every time I go out. Losing control. Are you sure we’re off the record?”
“You have my word,” I replied. “Besides, Disolvo fried all my electronics before you even showed up. It’d be ‘He said. She said.’, if I did talk. My assignment editor won’t put out second hand information on mystery men. I think he’s afraid of what you just described.
“Now, may I ask, off the record, why you dropped off just trunks? And not a full outfit? Startled the bejesus out of my, by the way.”
“Sorry. But you think I like wearing this metal gong on my head? Or these three pound apiece clodhopper shoes? Not to mention the gauntlets? They protect my body from my own powers. You think I like acting like I think I look like Charles Atlas?”
That outburst took me by surprise. I think it showed. His body relaxed a bit. “So your uniform is dictated by your abilities?”
“Thanks for not calling it a costume,” he replied. “And you’re right. I started out using a heavy coverall. By the time I finished my first power test all the cotton thread in the seams vanished. I found myself wearing only an all synthetic athletic supporter. Go ahead. Its OK to laugh. I did.”
I’m glad I managed not to do more than chuckle a bit. I think he’d have shoved off if I’d giggled.
“So I went all synthetic,” he continued. “And that worked for testing. Then came my first fight with Striker’s Steel Commandos. Thank goodness that happened at night. I beat the machines. But as I headed after Striker himself I realized I was dangling. If you get my drift… Had to give up the pursuit.”
This time I managed only to nod solemnly.
“After twenty different tries, what you saw is the best I’ve come up with that will allow me to move my legs. They last through most fights. But here I had to disperse Disolvo’s energy in a confined area. I’ll be a sight tomorrow. You think I shave my chest? Just turning on my power vaporizes the hair on my exposed skin. I look like a Hobbit. Hair on my head and feet only. The power also destroys the oil on my skin. I can’t leave fingerprints or even trace DNA cells. When I use it like today I’ll shed like a snake and get so red I look like I live in a wind tunnel.
“That’s why I leave a set of trunks just outside the combat zone. You’re the first one to notice them.”
He paused. Maybe he thought he’d given away too much information.
Finally I found my voice again. “You have all these issues. But you still go up against the bad guys?”
“Somebody’s got to do it…”
We chatted for another couple of minutes. In the end I surprised myself by asking if I could help. He said he’d let me know.
A week later I got a package at work. It contained those trunks. And a note reading, “Please keep these handy for me. D.V.”
I haven’t seen him since. He’s been long gone when I’ve arrived after his battles. Any questions, sweetheart?
That night Harry used his own personal power to make me the most special woman in the world. I’ll take that over high voltage current. Anytime!