By Jeffrey R. DeRego
The kid’s voice quiets a little as I bolt down the street into the heavy weekend traffic of Acushnet Avenue. High school kids cruise up and down and up long main street of the North End. I leap the stalled traffic and turn south. Street level is going to get me killed. I pause long enough to hear sirens erupt from all three police stations. I leap onto a low roofed gas station, a two-story house beside it, and a row of three-decker tenements beyond. Up, up and away.
I’m crossing the rooftops at full speed when I see the helicopter spotlights swinging over the side streets. The kid is wriggling and crying and he throws off my balance. I stumble twice and can’t catch my breath easily. We squeeze into the shadow behind a chimney for a minute. Blue lights flash on the street below. Sirens drown out my thundering heartbeat.
The kid’s eyes are blue, his skin coffee colored. I remember that the Police Chief is white, but his wife is Cape Verdean. “Don’t worry baby. I have you.”
The chopper sweeps low just north of me and I spring out, off the roof to the telephone pole, to the roof across the street. What do I do now? I can’t call 911. I can’t bring the kid back to his dad because I have no idea where he lives. I should have thought this through a little better.
My shoulder is bleeding hard, maybe the bullet didn’t just graze me? I clamp a hand down over it and hope it stops before I have to run again. I’m starting to get dizzy. The spotlight throws a bright oval on the roof across the street. They are so close the rotor wash kicks up dust and dead leaves all around me.
I turn east and I run like hell along the rooftops.
Step, step, step, jump! Repeat! I’ve cleared six blocks when the roofline runs out at Tarklin Hill Road. Cop cars scream back and forth. There’s an elementary school across the way, one of the old fashioned brick ones. Wires run from the phone pole to the roof of the building.
No one sees me cross the road. The kid is still screaming and here away from the traffic he’s going to draw plenty of attention.
I struggle up to the elementary school roof and kick in one of the skylights. I wait a few seconds for an alarm, but all’s quiet except for the baby.
Amber street lights filter in through the school’s tinted windows, still plenty dark, but I can see okay. The baby’s voice echoes off the brick walls and tile floor as I limp down to the first floor where the cafeteria should be. I push into the darkness and prop the swinging door so I have just enough light to rummage around.
Milk cartons in a cooler, chocolate and regular. Jackpot. I tear the carton open and tip the baby up so I am not cradling him anymore. My arm is numb and the adrenaline is starting to wear off so everything else throbs and aches. I put the carton to his lips and he quiets down. The kid sits upright with the milk held between his chubby fingers. I grab four more cartons and scoop the kid up again.
Since most kids manifest during their teen years it’s a good bet an elementary school principal doesn’t have a hotline to the Union in the office.
I sit on the cold vinyl couch in front of the principals office with the kid on my lap. He’s stopped crying now that he has some food in his stomach. He’ll be asleep soon. I ease onto the floor and lay him down on the couch cushions then rub his back until he burps. “What a day for you kid. Thank god you won’t remember it.”
I sit there in the dark silence. My head pounds and the milk sits in my stomach like a nest of really pissed off yellow jackets.
I crawl to the telephone. I’m running on autopilot by now and barely recognize the numbers I’m dialing. It rings twice.
“Our Lady of Mercy Home for Children, Father Rodriquez speaking —”
I can barely choke out the words. “This is Josie O’Reilly. I was a —”
“Josie! My God, it’s been at least five years! How are you?”
I burst into sobs and spill out everything of the last two days, then of the last six months. He gives me the Union recruitment hotline number and says he’ll pray for me.
I dial the 800 number with shaky fingers and wait seven rings before someone with a thick Indian accent answers. “Thank you for calling the Union of Superheroes Recruitment Line. I have tracked your callback number to Davoll School in New Bedford, MA. Is this Principal Fergundes?”
“Listen. I’m a Union member. I need to be patched through to Darksider, or anyone in Special Services —”
“I’m sorry ma’am. I am only authorized to speak with the principal —”
“Listen to me idiot! Put me through now. I’m a Union member and this is an emergency. I need a patch through to Special Services!”
The phone goes dead and I crumple to the floor.
A grumpy voice echoes out of the handset speaker a few seconds later “Who is this.”
“Listen to me. This is Crimson Nightshade. Darksider answer me you asshole —”
“I need evac. I’m at a school or something. Every cop in this city is after me and I have a kid in danger —”
“Trigger your beacon and I’ll dispatch —”
“I don’t have a goddamn beacon!”
“Okay, relax. Why are the police after you?”
Blue lights flood the office for a second. They’re spreading their search radius outwards. They’ll start checking big otherwise empty buildings like this one before long. I explain the contract talks, InterCity and the kidnapped baby. “The kid’s asleep now but he won’t be for long, and it’s still six hours until anyone even unlocks the door to this place. They’re going to find us — Are you there? Darksider?”
“Car is on the way.”
“Put the kid in the taxi. It’ll be at the back door to the gymnasium. The driver will take him to his father. Lay low, get back to your place and wait.”
“Are you freaking kidding? I’m in lingerie for chrissakes I can’t just walk home like this —”
He hangs up just as InterCity bashes the front door open. The kid wakes up screaming but I leave him behind and charge into the front hallway to face a phalanx of electrified riot shields.
Jeffrey DeRego was born in the seaside city of New Bedford, Massachusetts, one time home to both Fredrick Douglass and Herman Melville. A graduate of New England College in Henniker, New Hampshire, He now lives in Derry, New Hampshire, with his children Ian and Margaret and the memory of his beloved wife Cindy. His wildly popular Union Dues stories have appeared in audio format at Escape Pod, and Clonepod. His post award-winning post apocalyptic tales of Pleasant Hollow are available at Tales of The Zombie War. His novels, Escape Clause and Fleas, are available wherever books are sold.