- SJF – Chapter 1
- SJF – Chapter 2
- SJF – Chapter 3
- SJF – Chapter 4
- SJF – Chapter 5
- SJF – Chapter 6
- SJF – Chapter 7
- SJF – Chapter 8
- SJF – Chapter 9
- SJF – Chapter 10
- SJF – Chapter 11
- SJF – Chapter 12
- SJF – Chapter 13
- SJF – Chapter 14
- SJF – Chapter 15
- SJF – Chapter 16
- SJF – Chapter 17
- SJF – Chapter 18
- SJF – Chapter 19
- SJF – Chapter 20
- SJF – Chapter 21
- SJF – Chapter 22
- SJF – Chapter 23
- SJF – Chapter 24
- SJF – Chapter 25
Technically he was still a minor, but that wouldn’t matter. He already had two strikes. Had already done time. And this was much more serious—backpack full of eXXeLL, running away from the scene of the crime. And of course, he had beaten up a cop.
I wonder if I’ll be charged with resisting arrest or assaulting a cop—or both. I’m screwed either way.
He didn’t know how long he’d been in the interrogation room. From where he sat, Darius couldn’t see the clock on the wall. All he could do was listen to the tick, tick, tick, sound of the second hand as it moved. He figured it must have ticked at least 7,200 times. That’s how many times it would tick in two hours, and he knew that he had been in the interrogation room at least two hours. At least it felt like two hours.
I hope time doesn’t move this slowly in prison.
A sign on the wall read “No Smoking,” yet the interrogation room smelled of stale cigarettes. Maybe smoking wasn’t allowed in the room, but it had been at one point, and the stink still lingered like a ghost. It mixed with another smell—more powerful and foul than the cigarettes that had been smoked years ago.
Darius couldn’t figure out what it was. And then he realized it was him. He stunk of body odor mixed with the residual funk of No Man’s Land. Somehow, the way he smelled made a bad situation worse.
Four other people were in the dingy interrogation room that stunk of cigarettes and sweat. The room seemed big to Darius—at least big enough to fit the small table where he sat, and the four others who were in the room.
Two of the people were the detectives who had taken Darius into custody. One of the detectives called the other one Bob; but Detective Bob never used his partner’s name. To Darius he was Detective No Name.
Detective Bob talked more than Detective No Name, who reminded Darius of a cop Clint Eastwood played in these movies he watched with his father. Darius’s father loved Eastwood movies—“Dirty Harry,” “Magnum Force,” “Sudden Impact”—and so did Darius. That didn’t mean he liked being in the same room with a detective doing his best Clint Eastwood impersonation.
An older woman sat between Detective Bob and Detective No Name. Darius had never seen Edith O’Malley looking so old or disappointed. He could see her fighting back the tears, which only made Darius feel worse. He wanted to tell her that everything was going to be fine, but they both knew better than that.
Edith had been Darius’s caseworker ever since his parents were killed in The Attack when he was nine years old. Almost eight years later, she remained the most consistent person in his life—the only consistent person in his life.
The Attack had been brutal. Thousands of people of all ages and walks of life were killed, leaving behind thousands more to grieve. Only a few dozen kids like Darius were orphaned in The Attack, especially surprising considering the number of casualties. The newspaper even did a story on them, called “Orphans of the Attack,” but Darius wasn’t included in that article. It had been the sons and daughters of people who mattered—doctors and lawyers and people like that. Over the years he wondered if that was why nobody other than Edith cared about him.
At first Darius stayed with his only living relative, his father’s older brother, Kenny. Darius’s father and Uncle Kenny were never that close, but there was no other family. In the weeks and months following The Attack, Uncle Kenny paid close attention to all the news relating to death benefits awarded to families who had lost someone. “We gonna get paid offa this,” Uncle Kenny would say with a big grin. And every time Darius would grow to hate him more and more. It got to the point where a fire of rage and resentment burned in Darius’s gut every time he looked at his uncle, which only got worse every time Kenny talked about “gettin’ paid.”
It took almost a year for Darius to start getting the settlement that came in the form of twelve monthly checks. Before the checks started coming, while the government worked with insurance companies to develop a compensation package for the families of victims, Uncle Kenny would say, “If that money don’t come soon, you know you gotta go.” And when the checks finally came, Kenny would wave the envelope in Darius’s face and say, “This is all your worthless ass is good for.”
For a year, Uncle Kenny cashed the checks, spending most of it on booze, dope and gambling, while complaining that Darius’s parents weren’t worth much. He’d get drunk, swear at Darius, and once in a while put out his cigarettes on his nephew.
One night, Kenny didn’t come home. Two days later, Edith O’Malley showed up at Kenny’s apartment with a police officer. “Your Uncle Kenny has been arrested,” she told Darius. “You’re going to be placed in a foster home.”
The first two or three foster homes weren’t much better than staying with his uncle. Darius hated Kenny, but at least his uncle acknowledged his existence—even if it was only to smack him around or put out his cigarette butts on Darius’s arm. His foster families were strangers who went back and forth between ignoring him and treating him like dirt. None of them cared that Darius lost his parents in The Attack.
By the time he moved to his fifth foster home—just before his fifteenth birthday—Darius knew that it was him against the world. Edith O’Malley was the only one who showed any caring or understanding. “I know this has been a difficult time, but you need to try and fit in at this home,” she said every time he went to live with a new family.
Darius didn’t see Edith O’Malley that often, but she always came by on his birthday with a card and a present, no matter where he lived. Edith O’Malley was the only person to remember or acknowledge Darius’s birthday since the death of his parents, making her the closest thing to family he had. He’d never thought about her that way before, until he sat across from her in the interrogation room at the police station, with her fighting back the tears of disappointment. He knew his mother would not be able to do the same.
If Janae Logan were alive, sitting between Detective Bob and Detective No Name, she would be crying her eyes out to see her son in that interrogation room.
Thinking about his mother just made Darius feel worse—as if that were possible. He tried to push his mother out of his mind, but he couldn’t do it. His parents were hardwired in his brain, even after being dead all these years.
“Darius, do you know how much trouble you’ve gotten yourself into?” asked Edith O’Malley.
“Yes, ma’am,” replied Darius in a quiet whisper. Years of hard living and abuse had not taken away the lessons his parents had given him in how to be respectful. Sure, he’d been busted with a backpack full of Adrenaccelerate and been in a fight with a cop, but that wasn’t going to stop him from showing some respect where respect was due. In a weird way, it brought Darius some sense of comfort, fleeting though it may have been. He knew he had screwed up. He knew he was going to prison. But part of the decent person his parents raised him to be still remained.
“I don’t think you do know,” said Detective No Name. He hadn’t said a word since putting the handcuffs on Darius and placing him in the back of an unmarked police car. “This isn’t shoplifting or boosting car stereos.”
Detective No Name didn’t take his eyes off Darius. An open folder sat on the table in front of him, and Detective No Name quietly tapped his finger on papers inside. The detective’s tapping finger and his wannabe Clint Eastwood stare spoke to Darius without saying a word.
Edith glanced down at the file containing Darius’s criminal record. When she looked back up, the tears she’d been fighting back flowed freely. “How would your parents feel if they could see you sitting here like this?” asked Edith.
My parents are dead.
And then, even though he didn’t want to, Darius wondered how his parents would feel if they could see him sitting in the interrogation room. They wouldn’t be pleased.
Until he was nine, Darius had been the only child of Dwayne and Janae Logan. The most beautiful woman Darius had ever seen, his mother gave birth to his baby brother two days before The Attack.
Darius’s father dropped him off at school, and then went to pick up Janae and Dwayne Jr. from the hospital. And then came The Attack, and the world ended. In all of the chaos and confusion that followed, he wondered if his parents were all right.
The first parents started showing up to pick up their children within a few minutes of The Attack, while the city was still being torn apart. They rushed off, fleeing the city in hopes of avoiding the slaughter. In some cases it was other relatives who showed up at the Langston Hughes Elementary School, but it seemed like someone came to pick up every boy and girl who went to that school—except for Darius.
Up to that day, Darius never thought things like “What if my parents died?” But by the time it was dark, and everyone else had been picked up by a parent or a grandparent or a neighbor, Darius knew that his mother and father and baby brother were dead. He just knew it.
He tried not to spend too much time thinking about the family he’d lost, because it filled him with emotions he couldn’t control—an explosive mix of sadness and anger that got him into too much trouble over the years. Gradually the sadness became less and less, until it was just a dull ache that Darius lived with and barely noticed most of the time. The anger, on the other hand, never left. He felt it whenever it flared up. And it flared up often.
But sitting in the interrogation room, with the clock ticking loudly behind him, the sadness that Darius lived with, to the point he hardly noticed it anymore, suddenly crashed over him like a massive wave. He’d squandered everything his parents had done for him and dishonored their memory. “They’d be upset,” said Darius, his voice filled with shame over what he had become and profound sadness over the all he had lost.
“What is he being charged with?” asked Edith O’Malley.
“He was carrying Adrenaccelerate,” said Detective Bob. “That’s a violation of Homeland Security and considered an act of terrorism. And that’s for starters. There’s resisting arrest. Assaulting an officer.”
Edith looked away from Darius, her eyes fixed on the silently tapping finger of Detective No Name. She let out a sigh that reminded Darius of the sad sigh his mother would make whenever he did something wrong. Only he had never done anything this wrong when his mother was alive. But his mother was dead. So were his father and baby brother. He had been alone for a long time, and as the files under Detective No Name’s tapping finger clearly showed, Darius Logan did what he needed to survive.
Darius knew it didn’t matter that he barely knew the guys he was with, that he’d never sold drugs before, never done drugs, or that he was still a minor. None of it mattered.
All that matters is the fact you got caught, he said to himself. This is all on you, and you’re gonna have to carry it yourself.
“Young man, haven’t we met before?” asked the booming voice of the only person in the room yet to speak.
This was the person who intimidated Darius the most—the person that left him feeling small and worthless, causing him to stare down at his hands nearly the entire time he sat in the interrogation room. This was the person that caught him when the fire escape tore away from the side of building, rescuing him from the inevitable death that would have followed a six-story fall.
He never said a word to Darius. But Darius knew who it was. As if getting caught by the cops wasn’t bad enough, he’d been caught by Him.
The lights in the interrogation room weren’t that good—long fluorescent bulbs, one of which was burned out, and one that would flicker from time to time—making it difficult to see Him. He stood in the far corner of the room, hidden by shadows—as if he had been trying to hide, to not call attention to his presence. But try as he might, Darius could not ignore Him.
“I’m good with faces,” said the man, moving out of the shadows.
Darius tried not to look at him, but couldn’t help himself. It looked like the man floated across the room instead of walking. “And you look very familiar. Do I know you?”
“Yes, sir,” said Darius.
The man stood nearly seven feet tall, his head almost scraping against the ceiling of the room. His wide, muscular build made him equal to two men, and though Darius was intimidated, he could not help but look up from his hands and stare at Captain Freedom, the greatest superhero in the world.