The world is at a war and I get this invite to join a team calling themselves the Minutemen. I didn't have anything else to do at the time so I went. Found myself in the company of people who are doing the same line of work as me yet insist their motives for getting into the costume fighting work are not the same as mine or anyone else. So they want to fight crime and stand apart from the crowd of 'us' who are also fighting the 'good' fight against the 'evils' lurking among us.
How I would laugh at some of them quietly. It wasn't that I couldn't believe their motives. I just found their high ground talk as arrogant and self-serving.
Nite Owl is also a cop. So that means being law enforcement isn't satisfying enough for him.
You might ask how I spot him for a lawman. There are things about people that come through no matter what they do because you can't kid everyone all the time. Even with what he can do as a costume vigilante, he still tries to act by rules. All that stands between you and them is you. The things I do are what I do. I won't pretend it is right or admit it is wrong.
I have read about his publicized exploits just as he probably has read mine. We all like the limelight, the publicity, the attention, and of course occasionally we want things that don't come with being a costume. One which is a life outside these ridiculous outfits worn to fight whoever we fight from time to time. I suppose I felt a touch of envy when I see him occasionally partner off with Silk Spectre, but one thing did stand out from their partnership.
All above aboard for her, meaning she holds no romantic or sexual interest in him despite his obvious attraction to her.
What man could ignore his body when in the presence of a woman like she?
Men all across the nation probably still get off to her to this day, but then it is one thing to get off to her, it is another entirely to actually get her, that is if she ever lets you get close enough for physical intimacy. However not all men in the Minutemen swing that, but that's something I didn't catch onto until almost walking in on Hooded Justice and Captain Metropolis once. They from early on did often partner off, but it went way beyond working together. All the same they hid it well enough from everyone including most of the Minutemen save for me, Silk Spectre, and maybe Nite Owl.
Also I see the way Silhouette looks at Silk Spectre, but Silhouette eventually turns to other women such as the red headed nurse she kisses on V-J Day. Photographs aplenty are shot that day yet it would be one in particular that bothers people. It is the one of the nurse and Silhouette kissing fully on the lips. Everyone is on the streets celebrating Japan's surrender. People can't stop talking about or thinking about Silhouette kissing the nurse. They won't admit, but it is on their minds, you can count on it.
So instead of costing lives for America, the bombs that hit Hiroshima and Nagasaki made Japan rethink the war, but it also changes the game. Now everyone would have or want to have this weapon - humanity's end via the power of the atom. So renews the arms race and populations skyrocket. Surviving a war that kills millions made everyone hungry for intimacy, for creation, and maybe for some it is about living instead of killing. There are at least only two ways to get close to someone, which are having sex or murder them.
The distinction between the two gets blurry now and then. You don't necessary need to be in skin contact for killing, but for sex, for intimacy, you have to get closer than you like at first. The same in a way goes with killing even when you try to detach yourself from pulling the trigger. It always felt familiar to me, but that didn't mean I like or love it. It just meant I could work with it.
Locals that kept Japan busy until America could reorganize in the Pacific are not entirely happy with America after the war. What one could call a Cold War starts almost immediately after the war. Wartime allies become peacetime enemies. Nations with fading dreams of autonomy or empire would soon tangle with things they can't understand and there would again be blood on the land.
This move would have consequences, but then one war is over so nobody wants to contemplate who will provoke us next or who we will go after next. Deny human nature, repress human predilections, and act as if war is the only time where humans can act primal instead of proper. All of it is right here inside each and every single flipping one of us.
It is not about being better, it is about being human, but nobody agrees about humanity either. So when disagreements get out of hand then in bursts war and battlefields expose people for what they are. It matters not whether you are out there in the thick of it, arguing in dark conferences rooms, or rattling off from podiums while someone maybe looking to put a bullet in your skull. Human nature consumes us, makes us alive, and eventually kills us if we don't die first. Human nature is everything and everyone whether you think you are in it or not, you always are up against something, the fight is everywhere.
So even a team like the Minutemen succumbs to human nature, which in itself is a punch line for me. Nothing lasts forever, either from the inside or from the outside, something or someone, triggers self-destruct and with it everything falls apart because being better is the joke and the lie even I lived as a Minutemen was maybe this time I could get it right.
By get it right, I am talking about me and Sally yet to get her means taking on Silk Spectre.
My attraction to Silk Spectre, Sally, made me stay as long as I did, but all men put her on a pedestal, made her unattainable, and thought her a tease. She even got a likeness of her painted on a bomber, one of the two dropped on Japan or so I heard indirectly through the grapevine years later.
All men that swing her way lust after her. Few if any loved or understood her even when the Minutemen were still together. I could have feelings for her, but acting on them well anyone who read the Hollis Mason's tell all Under the Hood found out his version of what happened just before I was told in no uncertain terms to leave the Minutemen. Nothing sacred to Hollis Mason, but then none of us are paragons either. I wouldn't waste my time besides what's past is past or so I try to tell myself all the time, but memories from those days are keepsakes such as the scar that Silk Spectre, that Sally left on my face the first time.
It reflects back at me from any surface capable of making my eyes see my face so I wear it as a reminder of what kind of man I really am on the inside. Regrets are the only thing left to me besides these props and scars so all I can do is look back to moments where I really was good at something other than taking lives. Still the scar that runs down my left cheek trips memory intrusion so again back to the afternoon when I finally made my move, my punch line on the joke playing between me and Sally.
I slowly crack open the door to watch her undress. First the belt around her waist is undone. The others went ahead so we are alone for the moment.
Somewhere in my brain there should have been a red flag for how easy this was looking from the angle of sneaking up on her without her knowing it beforehand. No man can resist appeal of getting personal with a pin-up, but of course few men ever actually meet their idealized pin-up woman nor do they know that underneath it all she is still just another woman. There is nothing unique about her except that she remains yours for taking because women want to be taken by something or someone.
She loosens her choker and her really short yellow dress drops to the floor. It is only after she unfastens one of her garter straps that she shows she knows I am watching her. Her initial quietness makes me believe she's enjoying my staring at her undressing. Maybe that's my domination fixation, but what man really cares for the psychological babble when there is an almost naked woman within reach of him?
She looks away from me. Her repulsion at me trying to sneak up on her is pretense.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
She talks like I shouldn't be here. She's only lying to herself, not to me.
"You knew I was changing."
"Sure I did… come on baby."
I close the gap between our bodies and move my arms around her half naked body.
"I know what you need."
Her perfume is intoxicating. Her hair is lush in its redness. She is ripe for taking.
"You gotta have some reason for dressing in an outfit like this."
I have my reason so she must have one too. I thought I had it down at last. I start to kiss her bare shoulder. For a second she is motionless, until her hesitation persists.
"I said no, Eddie."
"No is spelled Y-E-S."
"No is spelled N-O."
She sharply pokes my chest. I push back with another advance. The next few seconds are instinctual for both of us. Hormones, desires, and personalities collide as she throws the first punch, which knocks me on my ass though she fails to recognize is she punches like a woman. Naturally that's obvious for me to be saying now or even thinking it then. Though even for a woman she could hit well especially if you did not expect her to do that to you.
I'll admit it hurt physically. She denies herself and all I need is her minus her inhibitions. If only I saw that after she hit me, she wore a look disgust, maybe at me, maybe for herself, but in the moment all I would do is play along so to speak.
Maybe I could have let her say more before punching her in the stomach, but so far she was dishonest. I have no justification for blaming my actions on her dishonesty. I never said I was any good for a woman and plenty of people, even me, know I can be a bad man. Within seconds she's on the floor, her face bleeds like mine, she hit me first so I hit back harder, I even kick her when she's at my feet, and after that I yank her upward. As a follow-up, I slam her face down against the pool table.
The balls roll in every direction away from her upper body as she lies, nearly, unmoving atop the table surface. She groans and whimpers yet she fights me no more. She trembles in fear and shivers from anticipation as if accepting that this is what she wants from me even though she'll repress it and hide it from others. I slowly stroke her back for a few seconds more before unbuckling my pants.
"You little bastard…"
That is my only warning before Hooded Justice starts knocking the crap out of me.
"You like this? This what makes you hot?"
All Hooded Justice could say is what. It is as if I finally put him on the spot about what he doesn't want others knowing about him though he recovers quicker than expected. He continues beating my brains out for awhile longer before telling me in short to get the hell out. I'm through with these pretentious and repressive types who the papers call costumed heroes. None of us are icons, but still people look to us to the things they can't or won't do for themselves. They forget we are as bloody human as they are, but then we are supposed to be better than human.
At first you might expect him trying to comfort a bleeding and bruised Sally except that's where he is flipping consistent with his pretentious moral high ground. He'll bleed me for 'taking advantage' of a woman yet he'll also tell her to clean up as to avoid unwanted talk. I'd call him a hypocrite because that's part of what he is plus he is the only one wore a full mask. Maybe that means something or maybe he likes the idea of being judge, jury, and executioner. I might have been laughing at that if my body didn't hurt so much from fighting Sally and taking the punches from the 'man' who calls himself Hooded Justice.
After that afternoon, they quietly told me to leave the team. It was the beginning of the end for the Minutemen. I still have a copy of the Minutemen group shot. I don't know why I keep it or who else does. Probably Hollis and Sally are the only ones besides me to keep this thing. Memories are one part yet they twist over the years. Pictures on the other hand act like total freeze frame for the lies that were lives way back when. The team would fall apart after I was gone. Not enough that we were good at fighting criminals.
Personal affairs are what broke the Minutemen. Never mix business with pleasure, but hell again I'm a hypocrite there by technicality as I took on Sally the first time while still wearing my Comedian get-up. At least I can admit despite my hypocrisy, it could mean something, but have no idea what.
In 1946, the team votes to eject Silhouette once what way she swings becomes too public to ignore any longer as some worry that it will damage the team's reputation. They never told Justice or Metropolis to leave because of their swings. Maybe someone found out about them eventually, but do such things have to matter so damn much?
Silhouette, Ursula, is murdered along with her lover in 1954. I think their murders were undeserving, but again everyone's got their own ideas about justice so somebody decides 'justice' needs to be dealt to Ursula for her swinging and to ensure there are no witnesses they kill her girlfriend. The scene is a stage, someone from Silhouette's or Ursula's past went after her in my opinion, but religion or society would definitely disagree with me.
There have been men and women swinging that 'way' since God knows when. You can't change what gets you hot and bothered, but still they'll try to 'drive' it out of you. Still can't change the fact that she's dead. Ursula is the first of my former 'teammates' to be taken down, but she wouldn't be the last either, literally or figuratively, all the same to me.
Early in 1947, Sally marries her agent Laurence Schexnayder. He's a provider, but that wouldn't be enough for Sally in the long run or so I told myself at first. He doesn't make her give up Silk Spectre, not immediately anyway, but he's not remotely like me when it comes to women. Maybe that's why she married him. Being good at something, doesn't make me right, but I didn't care much except maybe when it comes to Sally.
1947 would be a notorious year for other reasons, mostly political ones for some and deeply personal for others. Government starts to wonder if helping the Soviets during the war was still the smart thing to have done and assuredly I'd say yes because we didn't have many nations to have as allies. Still paranoia is a wonderfully predictable tendency because once the Nazis, the Japanese, and the Fascists were no longer the enemy… America went looking for a new one and sure as hell they found a new one in her wartime ally the Soviets. The way things went for territory carving after the war, it didn't surprise me, but as usual I roll with the times lest I become a target like what happen to Mothman after the HUAC got through with him. The man lost everything even the right to fight for his country, but that's McCarthy for you.
What counts for sanity I couldn't say. Especially given what happen to Mothman, to Byron, once his HUAC hearings are over with. They went after him due to past associations with suspected Communists. He is not alone on that as McCarthy got out of hand before long with the number of people who went through his 'committee'. Afterward Byron turns to the bottle and eventually seems to lose his mind. In 1962, he is committed to an asylum.
It is never one thing that breaks a person yet for Byron what didn't help him in the least is when Dollar Bill, when Bill, one of his closest friends is taken out by a lucky shot and a cape caught in a revolving door. None of us saw that one coming and so occasionally a punch line will take even me by surprise. Byron is eventually committed to an asylum 'for his own good' or so some would say in retrospect.
The war is only two years behind 'us' by then and two after that comes the disbanding of the Minutemen. By then only four were left of the original eight.
1948 is the year Sally comes back into my life. I didn't expect her to be back. She prefers aggression, domination, because being ogled after as a tease has limits. Schexnayder predictably wants her out of the Minutemen and Metropolis' disbanding the team seem to align with Schexnayder's plans for his wife. She looks like a woman who suddenly lost the fire in her life, the energy of using her body for something other than being a housewife, and it didn't look like Laurence could please her in the way she looks to find pleasure when it comes to a man. Maybe that's why she is looking for me even when I don't want to be found least of all by her.
The scar made to my face by her never properly heals, but then I thought I should wear a reminder of how idiotic I could be, especially with a woman like Sally Jupiter. She knows I'm still wrong for her and even I know it all too well as I trace the scar with my fingertips. This never keeps her from calling me from time to time or even writing me. She often sends me pose pictures with these letters. Nine years and still she's got the ways to make me burn deep.
I won't risk writing back to her because Laurence is liable to rip open letters with my name on it. Unless he reads all the mail even the stuff sent to her. Makes me wonder how she sends stuff out without him knowing who it is going to, especially when it is going to me. Eventually she'll give up trying to contact me, it is the smart thing a woman like her should do, sooner rather than later. Except the way she writes and the pictures she sends start saying to me she doesn't care about being smart or maybe even getting caught trying to reach me.
I tend to reside alone yet this planet ain't big enough for a man like me to hide from a woman like her. Then as suddenly as her calls and letters start they abruptly end so I think she's taken the hint.
One too many cold showers later I'm still looking at all the pictures she's sent to me of her. She sent these particular ones on purpose because she's got a case of what could have happen that afternoon in mind.
The kind of work I'm doing these days demands a low profile. Sally's still too public for my government spooks, but as long as I did nothing to jeopardize their penchant for super secrecy then they let me handle my affairs alone. At least the spooks could mind their own damn business most of the time.
Should have known she would not give up on finishing what I started nine years ago. Just one of few 'things' in life to surprise me is seeing Sally again in her Silk Spectre get up and a black trench coat.
She appears as I am in the midst of another one of these fights that I can't remember how it started, but she expertly knocks more than a few back by quick elbow jabs to the chest or by swift kicks to the one of few spots men really hate getting hit. I don't think details about that are necessary besides Sally knows how to use her costume as a distraction with these knuckleheads. I let her fight as many as she wants, only I keep the ones with weapons away from her, especially the ones with the guns. Never saw or heard of her fighting anyone with weapons. Not I don't think she could handle it, but weapons make unarmed versus armed entanglements very messy… very bloody.
The whole experience is like a constant adrenaline rush and maybe arousing to watch her knock the crap out of other guys. I see now why I if she was really on her game, she would have taken me down that afternoon instead of the other way around. Personally watching this is way hotter than any photograph she sent me in the past few months. Before long all that's covering the floor is a carpet of bloodied bar room brawlers and standing in the center are two very aroused people eager to strip away the costumes.
A man and a woman, the way we could be, if only just once, but the first time in my life I'm afraid, afraid of her submission, her willingness, this isn't the same Sally. Nine years have made her bolder, sexier, and more she ages more gracefully than me.
"What the hell are you doing here?"
For once I'm one resisting myself. So she's married to that workaholic former agent of hers. Should that matter? What would it for me?
"You knew I was avoiding you."
"Sure I did… come on honey."
I'm thinking too much for once. This must be like what she felt when I got her in a corner. Give in or fight back… not much to go on. Then she strokes the scar she left on me nine years past, she knows her mark well, how she could not.
"I know what you need."
She's the one saying that to me. It really is like having our roles in reverse. She wants to do it so I'm open to her. If she's messing with me, the joke's on me, but even if this is fake, I'm not about to knock the wind out of her for tricking me. Time for games is long past.
"You gotta have some reason for brawling like this."
Not exactly my words. Close enough to remind me.
She puts herself against me and my body won't reject her. My mind still can't wrap itself around how she's acting towards me right now. Maybe I thought it more fun when she fought me off and then gave into me. If only Hooded Justice had not found us like that. I can't change what happen yet can't let her get away from me again. Hesitation is not typical of me so what's the source. Is it her coming back to me after eight years or me being suspicious of her promiscuity?
Could be one, could be both.
She loosens my belt.
"You forgot no means yes."
"No, it still means no."
"Eight years… eight damn years… and now you don't need me?"
"I need you… but you are married now."
"You think marriage will stop me from sleeping with you?"
"If it was… you wouldn't be here."
"Then why are you refusing me?"
"I'm not… I just don't think we should do it here… like this…"
"I'm hot Eddie… so hot…just don't make me wait too long."
"I'll call you… "
"I'll be waiting…"
She walks out grinning knowingly. I held her off, but she knows she's won this round. If she's duping me then the joke is on me, but if not, I would know by the next time she's against me. Either way, I'm on the receiving of the joke this time yet maybe it is not a joke after all. At least maybe this one time, I'll get it right and the punch line will be the kind of funny I can live with. So I went on my way wandering the streets under a flurry of snowflakes and bought a snow globe.
Within it stands a castle frozen in time. I'd shake it to see the snowflakes fall in perfect symmetry. On cue the flakes in the globe would cease whereas the apparent real ones falling around me continue until they cease to fall too. I repeatedly shake it while thinking about finishing what remains undone between me and Sally. I'm not left much time to think as my phone rings.
"It is not a good idea to make a girl wait too long Eddie Blake."
"You know where to find me Sally Jupiter."
"That I do."
"Thought women only say I do at the altar."
"Not funny, but cute."
Sally arrives at my door in a strapless form fitting black dress. Then I look lower to see her legs clad in sheer black back seamed stockings. This could be the only night I see her dressing like this so better not waste it. I pull her through the doorway and she moves into my arms while using one her feels to push the door back into the doorway after she's through it. It is only so long before she lets me pin her against a smooth surface.
Before long her dress comes off revealing her familiar black undergarments and so I watch her unhook the garter straps. She asks me to undo her corset and happily I oblige. Her perfume is even more intoxicating than before. As her corset finally comes off, she purposely drops her underwear and resumes leaning against the smooth surface of the table. I undo my pants and fill her up as I was aiming to do eight years ago.
I slide out because she looks ready to do it face to face. Her stocking covered legs wrap around my waist after she turns around. I pull her hair pin out and so her locks drop to her shoulders and back. I work her over again. Nothing matters except us together for in the moment she loves me more than she hates me. If only it could stay way, but I suspect it won't last.
She eventually starts throwing up more and then one night she turns to me with tears in her eyes.
"Eddie… I'm pregnant."
Halfway through her pregnancy, she tells she's retiring as Silk Spectre for the baby and that she's going back to Laurence. I thought this day could come, just thought I'd be wrong about her leaving me. She'll sleep with a man like me yet want to raise a family with a guy like Laurence. Even after their divorce, I remain forbidden to see our kid… our daughter.
It is 1966. Again I found myself with an invite and an interest to join another team of costumes. This time around I'm an old timer and the others are the new blood. The guy who thinks himself the de facto leader calls himself Ozymandias. He possesses the wealth among other resources that don't requite government connections, but what else could you expect from Adrian Veidt, a mastermind in more ways than one. The others don't know just how dark Ozymandias can be if he thinks he needs to be. Still he thinks himself better than me, maybe he is, maybe he isn't, but the others trust whereas I don't trust him.
Side-by-side stands the new Nite Owl and his partner Rorschach. The new Owl is more covered up than old one ever was in terms of wardrobe. He's also got more gadgets on him than a Swiss Army knife. Probably a fan of the old one, it is a sign of popularity when kids try to imitate us so-called crime fighters on Halloween by dressing up for the part, which they often did for Nite Owl, Silk Spectre, Hooded Justice, and Captain Metropolis.
Nobody goes as Mothman, Dollar Bill, Silhouette, or the Comedian. For one cause or another, they are unpopular with the kids, Mothman because of the Reds, Dollar Bill for the revolving door cape snag, Silhouette for her promiscuity, and Comedian for Vietnam. Some of my Halloween notions are almost too plausible to ignore and others are pure bull. Either way, you can tell things about a society by who its kids dress up as on Halloween.
Rorschach reminds me of Hooded Justice because of the full face mask. The rest of his costume looks more like a Noir film detective. He looks more honest than Ozymandias. If this team went down like the Minutemen, he wouldn't fade away easily. The same couldn't be said for his buddy Nite Owl II, Dan Dreiberg. It also doesn't take much to notice this Nite Owl undressing the new Silk Spectre with his eyes. I couldn't blame for being a man and if she is receptive than wonderful for her. Otherwise, if he did make unwanted advances to her well she could fend him off.
She is after all her mother's daughter.
I didn't see it at first yet there are signs of her father in her too. Once more the Comedian stays with a team because of a Silk Spectre, because of my daughter. I didn't tell her my suspicions about her paternity nor did she show any signs that she knows either.
At this particular meeting, we are all waiting for Manhattan. He teleports in with his woman yet her presence doesn't keep Silk Spectre II from making eyes at him. I'm not the only one to notice the way she looks at him. The unattainable is always the one many go after because we believe too much in the fact that something or someone is unattainable, if it were attainable than we wouldn't bother as much if at all.
Ozymandias asks everyone to direct their attention to his map. I have seen it, I have read it, and in some cases gone through those areas.
"This is all bullshit."
"You know for a guy, who calls himself the Comedian, I can never tell when you're joking."
"Watchmen… that's the real joke."
So I'll give Ozymandias a free history lesson on costume teams.
"It didn't work 15 years ago, and it ain't gonna work now… because you wanna play cowboys and Indians."
Nite Owl II pipes in by saying agree on drinking at meetings, that makes me laugh a little, at least this one has a sense humor to me, unlike Hollis, so serious, never heard him even chuckle once. He reiterates how he and Rorschach have been fighting gangs and making headway. They fight gangs, I fought bank robbers, not much difference to me, but still appearance of headway or progress convinces them to believe they are doing something.
Rorschach chimes in next by insisting he's not in for the ink. I almost laugh considering that his mask has inkblots on it, but for once I held back as he said it is not about publicity hence no ink. I believe him. When I believe someone, I don't laugh, simple as that. The conversation tilts back to Ozymandias who goes to the pulpit by insisting we can save this world. Says it is doable with the right leadership and I say he thinks the right one is him.
"I mean, hell, you're the smartest man on the planet."
"It doesn't take a genius to see that world has problems."
"But it takes a room full of morons to think they're small enough for you to handle."
I look at them with a touch of déjà vu. My words are liable to offend them, it happen before, it'll happen again, and so now is the again. I talk about Moloch, a frequent foe to some here.
"You think catching him matters?"
Ozymandias holds me back and Nite Owl II puts his arm in front of Rorschach.
"Justice… Justice is coming to all of us. No matter what the fuck we do."
I move closer to the map and rattle off about mankind finally having the power to kill itself, when that happens Ozymandias will graduate from Genius of the Planet to Genius of the Cinder, not much difference to me. I set the map on fire with my lighter and walk away. Veidt looks crestfallen. The others look likely to be feeling similar intensities as I leave the room. I'll leave the team before they tell me to go, not looking to relive being kicked off a team due to something I said or did, once is enough.
Everyone splits off awhile except for me and Silk Spectre II. For the first time in years I am alone with my daughter whom I have only seen at a distance since her birth. This is the agreement I reluctantly made with Sally after she told she is going back to Laurence and that she is retiring from Silk Spectre. I let Sally go, thought she would come back again someday, but that time had come and gone .
I haven't been this close to my daughter since her being in the womb. It took me years to learn her name and it is now the first time I am about to say it to her. She turns around as if expecting me and I thought I saw her smiling at me after I took Ozymandias down a few notches by burning his map. She reminds me much of her mother with that smile and maybe she agrees with what I said to Ozymandias.
"Laurel… Laurel Jane?"
I lower my cigar to my side.
"You're Sally Jupiter's kid."
"You're the Comedian, right?"
She's confident, steady on her legs, and it is almost to believe I help make this woman who stands before me now so for once maybe being good at something meant actually being good.
"You were pretty cool in there."
"You know, your mom, she was one of all-time champion beauties."
She's enjoying the comparisons so far.
"You got her eyes, you know. You even have that same funny little mole."
I caress her cheek for only a moment until I hear a familiar voice yelling at me.
"Take your hands off her!"
"Hey doll, long time no see."
"Not long enough in my book, Eddie."
She's still overprotective after all these years.
"Get in the car."
I'd imagine Laurel isn't too happy being told what to do by her mother too often. I often did the same to mine, and even after she died I could never shake the habit of saying three words that few have ever heard me say aloud. Usually I say it only to myself.
"Are there no depths to which you won't sink?"
"Jesus Christ, Sally… can't a guy talk to his… you know, old friend's daughter?"
She doesn't believe me I can see it in her.
"I mean, what the hell do you think I am?"
Laurel … Laurie doesn't budge an inch so Sally repeats herself. I can out of the corner of my eye see her watching us intently. She wonders where the fire that set this off is, but she wouldn't hear it from me. I'm forbidden from going anywhere near her, that's the deal. Never went back on my word after all these years until recently. Curiosity shot my caution.
She's remembering that afternoon as she glares at me. I'm sure of it. She feels anything other than affection or love for me. She's not the same Sally that went looking for me in 1948. She's more like the Sally that left this scar on my face in 1940. She believes I haven't changed and I believe she is not the same woman that I made love to in 1948. She's remembering something else, something more recent or so it looks from where I'm standing.
"Magic… Dreams… That is what I had before. I was a hero, goddamnit!"
"It's not my fault that you got old. What do you have to complain about?"
Sally's not where she thought she would be or with whom she thought she would be with.
"Call your friend Eddie. Maybe he can give you a better life."
"It was a mistake… one time."
"Guy tries to rape you, and years later, you let him finish the job?"
Laurence the provider isn't doing what he does because he wants to or needs to. He does it out of obligation, maybe out of pity, but from things like this are greater tragedies made within a family.
"What? Were you drunk or just lonely?"
Laurence walks away from the open doorway unaware that Laurie is hearing everything though she would repress it later because nothing is forgotten. It is simply too traumatic for a little girl to deal with.
"Am I ever going to live this down?"
Laurie stands there too stunned for words as Sally notices her in the doorway.
"I know what you are, Edward Blake. I've known what you were for twenty-five years and don't you ever forget that."
"Sally, listen, I though we'd settled all that a long time ago."
"No, things like that don't ever get settled. Not completely… and they're not going to happen to my daughter."
She abrupt says goodbye. I'm at a loss for words realizing it looks like the joke's on me for thinking once again that maybe I could get it right this time instead I lose Sally. Then they drive away. She's holding back tears. Every time I think is the last time I'll see her except she keeps coming back into my life whether we want it or not, but never again.
Only this is not the last for me and Laurie.
So in Vietnam, I found myself working with the then new guy better known today as Doctor Manhattan. You might expect someone by that name to be saving lives, not taking lives, but even doctors learn decisions are not without sacrifices. The medical term is triage, which to me means, you can't save them all, so some will live and some die. Manhattan brought with him more than just the possibility of an American victory in Vietnam, his presence is a sign that America has him so nobody stands a chance against us or at least that's the implication that he represents.
I shoot and burn my way across the same grass that is blood red from all the fleeing guerrillas that Manhattan tore apart just by looking then gesturing at them. Many of them didn't see it coming and those that did try to run away. The runners didn't get far, but one got away without losing much except one of his legs. It is the kind of injury you might see if something blows a limb off, he doesn't want to die, but he's already bleeding to death just the same. Could have made it quick by shooting him instead I roast him alive with a flamethrower.
Nobody fought 'clean' in Vietnam, not me, not us, and certainly not them.
Would it have made a difference if we did?
I didn't know, I didn't care, at least not at the time.
Before long, the enemy decides it is better to surrender than continuing to fight because of Manhattan. So like the 1945 nukes, Manhattan's drop into Vietnam sent shockwaves by showing how indiscriminate a solitary living weapon could be on a battlefield where the only rule is survival against all odds. The 'enemies' surrender to Manhattan because he changes the future by being here. The 'allies' look at him as a god, as a weapon, as anything other than a human being despite the briefing on the 'accident' that remade him into the being we call Doctor Manhattan.
A scientist Jon Osterman gets stuck inside an Intrinsic Field Subtractor. Nobody is apparently able to release the locks on the door to the chamber. They left him in there to die because letting him out meant risking everyone else in the process - one man or the entire Gila Flats Facility, a tough call. His surviving that 'accident' brings another more subtle meaning to the phrase what doesn't kill us makes us stronger and in his case transformation into a superhuman with blue skin. He is the reason for the American victory in Vietnam, but it doesn't mean we have won in any sense of the word.
"Fireworks… you gotta be kidding me."
There is a parade going on in the streets while the rest of the country is still in shambles. There are explosions to accompany it, the kind you hear with firecrackers.
"You know, you'd think this goddamn country had had enough fireworks."
Manhattan sits alone. He is alone in more ways than one. Still he is the only one I can talk to without feeling like I'm wasting my time these days.
"If we'd lost here at Vietnam… I think it might have driven us crazy. You know, as a country. But we didn't, thanks to you."
I finish up the last sip from my drink before gesturing for another.
"You sound bitter."
It is almost as if he can see right through me or read minds. Whatever he did makes me defensive.
"Fuck, no. I think it's hilarious."
Then she walks in, this local woman I slept with, she's pregnant, now that the fighting is over, she expects more from me, but I have nothing to give her.
"Just what I fucking needed."
"The war is over now. We must talk about this baby."
"There's nothing to talk about. See, I'm leaving."
I prefer to leave or walk out first because in the long run it is better for everyone especially me.
"I'm gonna forget about you…and your horrible, sweaty, little piece-of- shit country."
She looks stunned, probably not use to someone being so direct or cursive, but again not my problem. I speak plainly though some might say it be crudely.
"Get the fuck out of here."
She's motionless before refusing my suggestion, which prompts me to repeat myself. I don't like having to repeat myself when women won't listen to me. Either she leaves or I sure as hell will. She stays so it means I'll be heading out before long.
Only one woman made it to the door first more than once. I just kept telling myself then that she would be back and she did come back several times for more than half a year until we both took notice of the bulge starting to show on her stomach. She like this woman is noticeably pregnant. The difference between is the past woman is Sally and the present one is a name I can't even pronounce correctly.
"You will remember."
I go back to the bar. She's furious, I could hear it in her voice, but I thought she would see sense. Though I should have not so easily forgotten what being spurned feels like in the heat of the moment.
"You will remember me and my country…"
I turn around as she swings at me with a broken bottle. The glass slash makes the scar bleed anew. It makes me angry so I pull my gun. She looks scared now, afraid to die, she wouldn't go, wouldn't listen, and the scene even causes the seemingly emotionless Manhattan to show concern for humanity. He raises his hand mere seconds after I point my gun at her.
I fire anyway even as I hear him shout my name again. Her body topples backwards into the table, it breaks under her weight, and so it leaves us standing over her corpse. His next statement is painfully obvious as he saw just as I did what I just did to her.
"That's right… and you know what?"
Our words are obvious even with us being witnesses.
"You watched me. You could have turned the gun into steam, melted the bullets into mercury…"
I could hear my voice starting to crack just slightly.
"…the bottle into goddamn snowflakes, but you didn't, did you?"
I could see this whole thing troubling him to the core. It didn't take his powers to know I hit a nerve.
In 1973, the government hosts a dinner in my honor.
"See those Post Reporters they found in that garage? Woodward and what's his name?"
"Bernstein. Yeah, I understand the underground papers are already yelling conspiracy."
"Well, Eddie… any opinions?"
Two more stiffs some would add to the list of people killed or murdered by the Comedian. I have done killing and murdering throughout the decades, but not everyone on that list is dead because of me. The chatter eventually drifts towards my hollow jest about not asking me where I was when JFK was shot. Behind the suits I'm 'talking' to I see Laurie approaching in a flowing black gown, she like her mother ages gracefully and again hard to believe I help make someone as beautiful as Laurie.
"Miss Juspeczyk, Good to see you."
I chomp on my cigar as I light it.
"Juspeczyk, what's that… grandmother's name? Didn't like Jupiter, huh?"
Notice she didn't take Schexnayder's name either, I doubt she thought much of him before or after the divorce. Without Laurence around, they always look as if they are better off without him, which regrettably says something to me as well. Says maybe they are better off without you too, but in recent years it is growing difficult to ignore things I thought I never feel. Things I feel because this woman in front of me is my daughter as much she is Sally's.
"What's my name to you?"
"Nothing… y'know, you're a pretty girl. I just gotta look at you, I see your mom. Y'know your mother, she was a peach…"
"Is that what you told her before you tried to rape her?"
I recoil while slowly feeling as if watching one of newest and fewest remaining fears playing out.
"Before you hit you hit her? Before you kicked her?"
Her voice grows increasingly angrier and for once in a long while I find myself without words. Everyone around us is waiting for me to counter her, to take her down a notch, to do something other than say nothing, but only one question comes to mind.
"Kid, are you sure you wanna take this all the way?"
She's tipsy, maybe even drunk, and very uninhibited. She'll say things she might not say otherwise so this makes her 'justice' for one of my oldest sins in life. Nothing can undo what I did to Sally back then, it was always a joke to believe or think otherwise, I see this as Laurie glares at me furiously and hatefully.
"Damn straight… damn straight I do!"
I'm not smiling now. I didn't feel like I ever would again, but maybe that's the punch line in this.
"I mean what kind of man are you, you have to take some woman, you have to force her to have sex against her will…"
I stutter the words only once and she splashes her drink in my face. I barely close my eyes in time. The stench of scotch is on me even while this is the soberest I have ever felt in all my life. For the longest time, people are staring at me even after Manhattan 'pops' away with Laurie. Eventually I leave to, if the government ever 'needs' me again, they know where to find me. If Sally didn't tell her first, then she read about it Hollis' damn book. Still she deserves to know, but somehow it wouldn't surprise me if she didn't want to hear it from me.
How could I justify what I did to Sally that afternoon to her of all the people in the world?
Whenever I got sent somewhere, I did what I always did in those situations, but when it ends I'm still left with the reality of my civilian life where the Comedian and Eddie Blake are now the same man. We are… I am the joke. The Comedian becomes a mercenary and, I, Eddie Blake a reclusive drunk.
In 1977, a police strikes leave the city without a working law enforcement force, I always wonder what Hollis must have thought of that, but again he probably didn't like it though not for the same reason as me. So without the police, there is only 'us vigilantes' left to handle the rioters. The only in the area of the riot at the time is Nite Owl II so he agrees to give me a lift in his Owlship. He feels and sounds like he's hoping for a peaceful resolution to these riots. My gut is telling me this will only end in blood. I wouldn't mind being wrong for a change.
Word on the street is that the rioters are opposed to 'us vigilantes' so we would be risking our lives and their backlash against us for even daring to show our faces.
As the Owlship hovers above street level, I can see the fires, the signs, and the rioters. It is like being in that helicopter again. Dan gets on the megaphone to make his olive branch message to the rioters.
"Attention citizens, we are trying to maintain order."
In the crowd, two men are lighting up a crude Molotov cocktail to throw at the Owlship.
"You must clear the streets until the police strike is over."
The flaming Molotov smashes against the Owlship's shatter proof windshield.
"If you could… there is no need for violence."
The rioters aren't going to listen to reason. I could see it, but Dan always looks for good even when things are at there worst. I have got nothing against optimism, but you can't dissuade a crowd of cynics with words Dan is my thought as I listen to him.
"We are trying to retain order on the streets until the police strike is over."
He repeats himself except louder, which only makes them angrier at least to my eyes.
"Crawl back until your holes before you get hurt… I got rubber bullets."
"You are not the law!"
"We want regular cops!"
"No more vigilantes!"
Someone throws something at me, feels like a can, I don't care anymore, and so I jump down.
"Goddamn it. All right… that's how you wanna do it?"
I'm practically taunting them after they went about rattling off at me.
"There's no need for violence."
Someone curses again. I cut loose on the crowd by first punching the cursing woman in the jaw. Another punch, a kick, an elbow, and a second kick, which causes the riot crowd to flee in every possible direction. I even shoot a few with the rubber bullets and launch a riot gas bomb. Nite Owl II drops down through the Owlship's underbelly hatch. He walks up behind me and I look back to him.
"Goddamn, I love working on American soil, Dan."
I start to reload my shotgun.
"Ain't had this much fun since Woodward and Bernstein."
"How long can we keep this up?"
His voice is cracking. He sounds down about the outcome. Natural reaction for an optimist, but for me this is the way I felt it going from the start of this 'dance'. My political connections kept me in the know about this bill that could and would outlaw 'us vigilantes'.
"Congress is pushing through some new bill that's gonna outlaw masks."
I can load a weapon and talk at the same time, a finely honed skill for my part.
"Our days are numbered."
It is probably better that he is wearing goggles right now. Otherwise I'd probably see the disappointment and the wetness in his eyes.
"Until then, it's like you always say: We're society's only protection."
"Are you kidding me?"
He's serious, always so serious, even at a time like this.
He tries to stop me from shooting a fleeing rioter. I tell him to keep his hands off me. He doesn't look like the physical type yet I take no chances given past experience.
"What the hell happened to us?"
I don't know if he's being ignorant or blind. Maybe it is a little of both.
"What happened to the American Dream?"
Then with a smile I deliver the punch line.
"It came true! You are looking at it."
Sally once said something similar to me.
A week ago, I broke into Edgar Jacobi's apartment. I'm nowhere near as subtle as Rorschach when it comes to breaking into places. He awakens at the sight of me. I'm not wearing my mask and he's scared as if thinking I'm here to finally rid myself of him, but I'm done with killing, nothing ever came from killing all these years.
The only living I have ever done comes from loving Sally and making Laurie. Both are lost to me so in a way I have been dying since the nights they both left me in a gutter of my own making.
"It's a joke… it's all a fucking joke."
I'm crying more than I ever cried in my entire life.
"You know I thought I knew how it was. I thought I knew how the world was."
This is also my first sincere confession of my sins.
"I've done some bad things...I did bad things to women. I shot kids. In 'Nam, you know."
I look at him after saying it was war. He recoils, but he's not scared of me now.
"This… I never did anything like this."
I sniffle, lost count of those already, but that doesn't matter.
"God, here I am… spilling my guts… to one of my archenemies."
The only friends I ever made usually turn out to be my enemies.
"But the truth is …you are closest thing I have got to a friend. What the fuck does that say?"
I get up and start to walk away back to the window I had come in through.
"Your name was on the list…"
If I can't save myself then maybe my warning to him will save others, maybe even save Sally and Laurie.
The last thing I say there is "Mother, forgive me."
This letter I have been trying to write to Laurie lies unfinished before me. I love her mother… I love her. I am man of flaws and habits. Nothing left for me to do or say to fix things between me and them.
The door bursts open from a single kick from a masked intruder.
"Only a matter of time I suppose."
A/N 1: Inspired by a friend's prompt for the Comedian. Did my best to stay in character as I did with Rorschach since this like the previous one is a 1st POV. Also my interpretation of him is based on what he is shown doing or saying.
A/N 2: Each character in Watchmen is habitual and flawed... none so much as Comedian according to some. I don't think I can explain him better than Dr. Manhattan did to Laurie - so that's how I came to think of him.