Hey, Arnold was created by Craig Bartlett and belongs to Viacom Inc. No infringement on their property is implied nor is inferred.
I don't infringe on Chevy Chase, or any of his knee and back ruining pratfalls done on the early years of Saturday Night Live.
The name "Buddy Saltzmann" comes from, in part, the title of an instrumental by The Maxwell Implosion called "Buddy Saltzmann's Hideout" located on the album "Small Circle of Friends". No infringement on their property is implied, nor should be inferred.
The Beach Boys song "Help Me, Rhonda" was written by Brian Wilson and Mike Love. No infringement on their property is implied, nor should be inferred.
Fibber McGee and Molly was a first a Vaudeville act, then a radio show performed by in the mid 1930's-1940's broadcasted by the National Broadcasting Company Incorporated, and then ending as a television show in 1959. No infringement on their property is implied, nor should be inferred.
The title of this story is from the song "Boogie Nights" by Heatwave.
Something about running the night at all hours made him reminiscent.
This magical evening was no different, and he reflected on the fact that well before what had happened to him, he had always craved a life of reckless adventure just like this one.
Pausing to study his surroundings and make sure he hadn't been detected, now that he was actually living his childhood fantasy to the hilt, even he had take a step back and examine the state of his mental health for doing so.
Andy said that he wanted to be Monkeyman until the day he died, and meant it, but as brave and unselfish as he was, the fact remained that he was getting older, and due to the injuries he had acquired during his tenure as the defender of the weak and downtrodden, he was aged beyond his years.
His body could not have taken much more punishment, his aunt and uncle were worried about him, and truth told, if Andy had kept up the pace that he did back then, he would have most likely granted his own wish.
Even so, Hillwood still needed someone to even the odds in favor of those that could not, so he decided to pay Andy back for saving his life, by taking up his benevolent charge in his stead in the attempt of doing some good in the world.
At least that was how the first Monkeyman's inheritor justified his undiagnosed, but unmistakable case of incurable insanity.
A couple of years ago, around Christmastime, he went to Gerald Johannsen, desperately trying to look like he really didn't have a particularly good reason to be asking the whereabouts of a salvage recovery technician in a bowler hat, otherwise known as the junkman Fuzzy Slippers.
For either security reasons, or a desire to add to his legendary repertoire of fictitious material, the keeper of the tales of Hillwood City asked why he wanted to know where Mr. Slippers was, simultaneously looking at him as if he had taken leave of his senses.
Of course, the man standing on the rooftop across from Holly's Chocolates had been accustomed to that for what seemed like forever. Often dismissed as imprudence, his madness truly did have a method.
At least most of the time.
Always good at thinking on his feet, he made up a barely plausible excuse, citing that he wanted to know where he could find a good deal on a used motorcycle, heard that the mysterious Fuzzy Slippers was the man to talk to, and nothing more. He hated to lie, but he could not possibly divulge his true motivations for seeking out the secretive personage either. He knew that when he got down to the work he needed to do, he had to leave as small a trail as possible so it would be difficult for the authorities to follow him.
With reservations, in the end Gerald did come through for him, helping to open the door to his fate. Even though the mysterious searcher didn't know him that well, and despite the fact that he did not look it, the somewhat bogus palmist Zamboni Jones had his fingers on the rapid pulse of Hillwood City like a twisted doctor.
After reaching the approval of Mr. Jones with both his charm, and a bribe of puffed cheese curls, through the intricate weavings of assurances, and recommendations, the shadowy figure finally met the character known as Fuzzy Slippers. Mr. Slippers however was shocked when asked to go a step beyond for the young man in a poorly made black hood, and to please tell him where he could find a young woman named Bridget, whose legend preceded her in that she was an "equipment specialist".
Bridget, rightfully guarded about trusting strangers, as her own activities were questionably legal at best, had told Mr. Slippers to be cautious about people who asked for information that would lead to her.
Fuzzy was going to refuse to tell him the location of the secretive woman, but the young man told him why he needed to see Bridget, what he needed her for, and literally got on his knees beseeching the Hillwood legend to help him meet his end.
Most likely, because he was so pathetic acting, Fuzzy Slippers made a grudging concession, and agreed to talk to Bridget on his behalf, and someone would get back to him. As Mr. Slippers asked him to cease his somewhat foolish theatrics and to get off his knees, he cautioned him to not get his hopes up because even though Bridget knew Andy well, still, she seldom made time for the insane, and to not delude himself, because his plans were nothing short of crazy.
For him to say something was crazy was saying something, but ultimately, when it came down to it, Mr. Slippers realized that it wasn't everyday that one met the heir apparent to the mantle of guardian of the weak and downtrodden of Hillwood City.
Weeks went by without any further contact, and just as he was ready to give up hope, taped to the outside of his small apartment window, five stories up with no fire escape, he found a note with a time and destination sealed inside an envelope, written with purple ink on a piece of lavender colored paper.
When he finally met the young woman with a dark past, she looked him up, down, and then focused on his black pillowcase turned ridiculous disguise. With ego crushing jest, Bridget laughed at him, right in his covered face actually, and told him to go home to his mother.
That hurt him terribly, but Bridget could not have possibly known.
After he asked her to help him achieve his end, Bridget recited a litany of excuses to dissuade him from the course he had undertaken in the case file, and paper coffee cup strewn cathedral she loosely called an office.
She said he was not trained, but he said he was willing to learn.
She argued that he was not physically strong, but he said he could lift weights.
She declared that she did not have time to play den mother to a foolish novice, and he retorted with the excellent argument that even she had to start somewhere.
She assured him that he could not even best her in a fight, and in an irrational moment of foolish deliberation that was his ultimate salvation, the young man challenged Bridget to one, right there in her office.
The fight began well enough, for her, but as his liberal ass kicking spilled into the command center where her soldiers monitored what Bridget conservatively called "her town", the fierce woman told him to give up and go home before she really hurt; and shamed him even more.
He said no, and kept getting back up for more, never attacking Bridget, while unsuccessfully defending himself. As her booted foot met his chest, face, legs, arms, and almost everywhere else, he wisely told her between merciless kicks, and vicious punches that he needed her guidance.
She quit punching him for a moment, and gave him the strangest look when he said that was the reason why he had sought her out. He told Bridget that he intended to go forward with his plans with, or without her help, and asked the altruistic woman if she, in good conscience, could allow him to commit suicide by doing such.
Seeing that the young man was neither possessed of pride, or a need to call attention to himself, which would have been disastrous for him, Bridget took pity; and stopped beating the daylights out of him.
Bridget sent him home with welts, bruises, a questionably loose tooth, and the pattern of the cheap fabric his home made cowl burned onto his face with the half assurance of, "I'll think about it."
In time, after some more observation in his private life that he had no idea Bridget had been looking into, by way of kidnapping, the young man was invited back her secret command center.
As it turns out, after clandestine observation of his day-to-day activities, Bridget was actually impressed with him, and the determined woman took on the task of training the inexperienced young man herself.
When he died, the avenger knew hell would hold no surprises for him, because he had been there and back it seemed over the time it took Bridget to train him.
Weeks of lifting heavy weights, running, learning the martial arts, swinging off the ends of ropes, and training with anything that he could use as a possible weapon drained him of his energy, and at times made him lose faith in himself. Whenever his will faltered, and he was tempted to quit, it was Bridget who brought him back to the seed of the idea that made him seek her out in the first place, and restored his faith in not only his mission, but himself as well.
In time, his savior became his friend, confidant, and protector; and he was sorely in need of the trinity she provided, as it had been too long a time since he had that stability in his life.
It took nearly an entire year for him to become physically ready, and when he met his leader's physical specifications, Bridget's team began teaching him how to hack into computers, and to use the tools, as well as the communication equipment they did.
Bridget's agents burned maps detailing every street, dead end, and alleyway into his mind so that he would never become lost, and would have alternate routes for escape if he needed them. Added to that valuable information, facts about police procedures, tactics, management hierarchy, and the justice system in general were drilled into him so that he would know how it worked. To round out his education, the rudiments of emergency first aid were taught to him so that he could help others, but most likely himself, when injured, with whatever was on hand.
While training, he still managed to hold down a job, and go to school at the same time. Shocking him, he had actually been able to juggle the minutia of his life with no one being the wiser, so aside from the occasional wound, limp, or black eye he explained away to friends; he did so quite well.
When injuries did occur, to hear him tell it, he fell down more flights of stairs than Chevy Chase, and he made love to the edges of doors with his nose. When he jokingly complained of his wounds to Bridget, and proudly displayed his battle scars to her, she seriously cautioned him that his injuries were dire warnings to heed, signifying he allowed his guard down much too frequently. If he was being tagged in fights often, he was either not as attentive as he should be, or far too lenient to those he engaged.
Despite the rough treatment his chosen life gave him though, it was much easier than he thought to keep the truth of his seductive nighttime adventures secret, and only he; and Bridget knew his identity.
He had been patrolling Hillwood for a year or so on a relatively short leash, but now that he had proven his trustworthiness, this was his first official night out alone with minimal surveillance, but with full backup if he needed it.
Now, it was so glorious, the liberation that his hard work had earned!
So proud of himself, and how far he had come, the newest incarnation of the Monkeyman felt like a newly licensed teenager out on his first drive alone, except that he could get shot, stabbed, or fall off of something really high and die in a broken, crushed heap of agony on hot asphalt.
All optimism aside, Monkeyman had managed to not do any of the above, yet, but the whole evening hadn't passed without injury however, as he had tripped over some protuberate conduits firmly rooted on a rooftop, and scuffed his knees through his clothes a couple of hours ago.
It wasn't bad, and it barely hurt, but he felt stupid, because it was the first thing he was supposed to have learned not to do. Except for that tiny hiccup though, at least he had been successful in tracking down the kids who had been stealing the bicycles from the racks of public school number one hundred eighteen. His backup had already called police with the anonymous information as to where to find both the stolen goods; and the people responsible, so officially, the Monkeyman's part in the endeavor was at an end.
By design, no one would ever know about his role in the evening's adventure, but the secretive man knew that he had helped make many kids happy with his involvement, and that was reward enough for him.
The tenderhearted avenger just hated that relatively young kids were going to get into trouble for what they had done. He wasn't making excuses for their actions, and yes, what they did wasn't right, but they weren't dangerous or violent; just dumb, greedy teenagers looking to make a fast buck on the black market.
In spite of this, just as Bridget had said many times before during training, practice runs, and simply in passing; justice was not for any one person of their organization to meet out or spare. Due process and the court system were to be the hands that leveled justice at all times, and the Monkeyman was merely the agent to see to it that happened in some cases.
Besides, as the resourceful woman told him, apprehending those young people, and they all having a mild taste of the system now, would perhaps keep them from doing worse things later in life, when the eyes of the law were far less flexible when it came to the misdemeanors of adults.
The vigilante disagreed to some extent with his mentor however, and was of a mind to be a little more merciful, giving them only a good talking to with a bit of a scare, but ultimately he followed the directives of Bridget to the letter. When he began this endeavor, he made a promise to his supplier to be impartial, and not question her methods as he made his rounds throughout the city.
Putting the questions of the evening behind him, and feeling as if he had earned a break, Monkeyman savored a few moments of peace reflecting on his fellow man, and patiently waited for the bright spot in an otherwise grey life to appear.
So much nicer than the stench of raw sewage radiating from the docks, his senses were now blissfully occupied by the delicious odors of baking cookies, chocolate, and hot dogs steaming in the cart on the sidewalk below, carried on the shoulders of the warm night air to the rooftop for him to enjoy.
Across the way, vendors peddled their wares, parents walked with their children, and lovers held hands flirting in the time honored fashion, and as he watched boyfriends and girlfriends steal kisses, and longing looks; he was happy for them, but felt a little envious too, for he knew he was missing out on something grand himself.
He hadn't ever been on a date in his whole life, and wondered what it would be like to have someone special on a regular basis. The avenger had to admit that when his training was complete, he liked his new body; and it appeared that girls paid him a lot more attention, but in the end they seemed repulsed by what he felt was his glaring physical flaw.
Surely the right woman, a good woman could look past that though.
However, he didn't kid himself, he knew he wasn't the best-looking thing on two legs, and admittedly, he was strange, but he thought that he was a good man, and had a quirky sense of humor that wasn't nearly as inappropriate as it once was.
Monkeyman wished he could add not being a felon to the list of his redeeming qualities, but no one living in this world was perfect, and by no means was he an exception to the rule, but none of it mattered anyway.
Even though he truly was lonely, he knew he shouldn't be bemoaning not having female companionship, because he didn't have time for that drama-laden adventure anyway.
Of course, the shadowy figure had just lied, because he was there to indulge in a guilty pleasure that he had relished every Thursday night that summer on the sly, and when she made her presence known, Monkeyman's heart pounded as she walked closer.
Looks were not everything, and he didn't know how she did it, but somehow she had gotten even more beautiful if such a thing were possible.
They had a lot in common, he and the sneaky young woman he had been watching for a couple of weeks; and over that scant duration of time, he had fallen irretrievably in love with her.
Her parents may not know exactly what she was doing out at State College during her summer break when she could be partying and doing her nails, but he certainly did, and his heart leapt for joy at her silent rebellion to their will.
After a background search, Monkeyman found that the young woman spent the majority of her time in New Jersey, the garden state, attending Princeton University studying law. It had been a good while since he had seen her, but still, after all the time that had past, she was a welcome sight just the same.
The mysterious man reached down, peeled back his glove-covered wrist, and checked the time. He didn't have long until he had to get a report in on his location for safety, and consider moving on, but he had just a few more minutes, so he erred on the side of self-interest, and waited a little longer.
If anything, Rhonda Wellington Lloyd was a creature of habit, and didn't disappoint him that night either as she confidently strolled down the sidewalk of her old neighborhood after her class toting a wooden French easel splattered with bright paint, and a designer canvas bag slung over her shoulder full of art supplies.
As she stepped into the ringing door of Holly's Chocolates, and the fluorescent lights illuminated her, it astounded him that Miss Lloyd would dare be seen sporting paint stained hands and arms in public, let alone a red, but rainbow splattered Caprini sweater; with of all delightfully shameful things, a large trendy hole clean through the stomach of it.
The smiling man knelt on the rooftop, hunkered down, and watched Miss Lloyd agonize through the shop window needlessly for a few minutes as she studied the tempting rainbow of creamy confections behind protective glass in the sweet smelling store.
A foregone conclusion, just as she did every other time, she chose the white hazelnut truffle with Irish crème filling and a small cup of coffee with two creams, no sugar. Bathed in cool darkness, the spellbound man watched as Rhonda paid the five-dollar fine for such a rich indulgence with seven dollars, and insisted that her server keep the change after tax.
Just as interesting to watch as some animal in the wild might be, Monkeyman observed Rhonda intently as she stepped out of the store, and then took a seat under a green and white umbrella festooned table. As Monkeyman frowned, the sneaking woman then took a surreptitious glance around, reached into her bag, grabbed a few small paintings that were in it, and then threw them in the garbage can beside her with a look of regret.
It was so wonderful watching Miss Lloyd take those toddling steps towards true freedom that summer, so as a result, it broke his heart to see her toss away works that rivaled anything he had seen in books and hanging in museums as if they were nothing.
The dark figure realized that he was, yes, biased to her talents, but hell, even Rembrandt had to start somewhere, and the lovely woman across from him was truly naturally gifted.
In the space of a few weeks, violent blobs of angry red, seething yellow, fearful browns, and hesitant greens had turned into recognizable representations of things that someone might actually want to eat if they were real, so Rhonda's paintings had improved over the time he had been watching her. All favoritism aside, he would do well to cobble enough attention together to draw a straight line, so Monkeyman hoped with all his heart that someday Rhonda would have to courage to not hide her true abilities anymore, pursue her artistic talent openly, and that he would have the honor of seeing her do it.
For now though, he sadly watched her hide the beauty she replicated, which was mostly in the form of multi-colored bottles, or fake fruit in a basket still-life exercises.
Her sad business taken care of, the divine beauty indulged in two of her guilty pleasures. The first was the chocolate she bought, and watching this woman dine was a sheer joy.
Her ritual never changing, Miss Lloyd would never reach into her bag, and simply gobble down the truffle in one or two bites as most people did.
First, she would take the candy out of the bag after she had spread out her second guilty pleasure, the latest issue of Vague magazine, which happened to have, of all people, a picture of the first girl who ever kissed him of her own free will featured on the front cover, with gold Olympic medals hanging from her neck.
Looking through his binoculars, and finding it so ironic it was comical, Rhonda was focused on an article about some fashion show in Europe wearing a sweater that normally she wouldn't be caught dead in, but her anonymity afforded her the sinful luxury tonight.
As she read for a few moments, her eyes never lost sight of the sweet indulgence she purchased for herself.
When she had denied her desire for as long as she could endure, she slowly took the confection into her slender fingers, held it to her nose, and inhaled the delicious cocktail of the scents of cocoa, melded with creamy liqueur, vanilla, and the oils of the nut flesh contained within.
Giving into her instinctual craving for the taste of sweet in excruciating increments, Rhonda bit into the very top of the truffle, and Monkeyman swore that he could almost hear the chocolate snap under the delicate pressure of her perfect teeth. She then placed the candy down daintily, and continued to read her magazine; all the while savoring small, teasing bites of the candy over the course of a few minutes.
Reserved, Rhonda knew how to control herself, so she made such an achingly tiny morsel to begin with, last for what seemed an eternity until the sweet release of eating the last piece of chocolate beckoned, and finally, even her restraint was overwhelmed as she popped the rest of the candy into her mouth.
As Monkeyman fell from his crouch onto his knees, Ms. Lloyd lightly licked her lips, and then sucked her sticky index finger and thumb free of their light coating of semi-solid liquid. Leaning back in her chair, Rhonda looked up at the stars with a satisfied smile as her palate basked in the complicated afterglow of vanilla, cocoa, and something he also had an intoxicating context for; living a double life with no one being the wiser.
Getting away with that was more delicious than the rich chocolate that the two of them had just enjoyed, and added a delicious undertone of risk, and even danger to both their lives.
Afterwards, Rhonda observed her surroundings for a while, eventually taking out a sketchbook to make thumbnails for future disposable treasures as she sipped her warm coffee. After a glance at her wristwatch, she casually gathered her things, threw away her empty truffle bag and cup; scooted the chair back under the umbrella-decorated table, and left for her car to go home.
As his fair lady walked to her destination, the man followed while placing his index finger to his ear to make his report, "It's nine, and I'm headed towards the south side."
The female voice on the receiving end asked jokingly, "So, how is Miss Lloyd this evening?"
Though the fabric on his body was designed to keep his body warm or cool depending on the environment outside, he felt his face grow hot and red under his cowl. "I don't know what you're talking about." He answered with discomfort, "I'm on patrol."
A different wisecracking voice with a buttery, northeastern cracked lobster accent responded, "Uh huh, and you're patrolling Miss Rhonda straight to her car, aren't ya'?"
Then the black vigilante begged her emphatically, "Please, don't tell Bridget."
Another all too familiar female voice responded, "I don't care that you make sure she's safe for goodness sakes! I'm glad that you do." With a tittering giggle that was light, and deceptively girlish, Bridget wondered, "Everyone here knows you have a thing for our elusive Ms. Lloyd, so why don't you just jump on down there, tell her you're in love with her, and get it over with?"
"By golly that'll make her night, alright." The man said sarcastically as he groaned and dangled off a rusty fire escape by his fingertips. As he did, he was treated to a roomful of giggling female voices trying to convince him to confess his love to Rhonda right there on the spot, and that was the craziest thing he had ever heard of in his life.
Then the man sighed harshly as Bridget started singing the title of a Beach Boys song both loudly and badly, with everyone else joining in.
Only he could have found a roomful of women who could turn a simple evening of illicit crime fighting into an impromptu tea party full of jokes at his expense.
Being the only man drifting in a sea of women, beholden to the fact that his freedom; and life depended on them, he felt it wise to accept their benign abuse in stride.
He responded as he strained to pull himself up onto another rooftop, "Bridget, I'm wearing spandex and a mask. I look like a villain out of a cartoon, not Mr. Right." With a tone that was nothing less than defeated, Monkeyman added, "The woman doesn't even know I exist."
Before she or any of the others could retort, Monkeyman could hear sirens, and air horns in the distance, and they decidedly turned the ridiculous conversation over his love life back to the realm of serious. "Can someone get me a location on those emergency vehicles, please?"
A soft, but serious voice came over the earpiece, "Nineteen thirty five Gilmore Street, it's an apartment fire, five stories high, and built before building code changes. You need to be careful about personnel, and really stake it out too, five police cruisers are already there to block the road, and more are en route for crowd control and to clear routes for ambulances."
From a rooftop across the road, he watched Rhonda with great impatience as she got out her car keys, liesurely pressing the buttons to her remote that opened the trunk, unlocked the doors, and made the ragtop go down.
After pulling off her sweater, then hiding that and her painting equipment in the back of the car, the achingly slow woman opened the door to her silver convertible.
Just as she was getting in, Rhonda thought she saw in her peripheral vision, something black sprinting across the roof of the building adjacent to her.
Ms. Lloyd shook her head, dismissed the phantom as her new contact lenses, got in the car, and began her short drive home.
A hovering helicopter made smoke waft from the adjacent building over to the top of the building he was standing on as it choked him and stung his already burning eyes. As he ducked to hide from an equally burning searchlight, the radiant heat of orange red spiked flames reminded him of the horrible night he barely survived as the painful memory of his failure, and burning flesh seared his mind.
As he thought in a world of his own, both frightened and hiding, the heat coming from next door made him perspire without movement as he scanned the pavement; and barricades that the police and fire department had put up.
Then, as he looked down onto the street below, there was a man and woman screaming as firemen and police officers fought to hold them back from the burning arms of the flames that consumed the building he was looking across at. He unclipped a device from his belt, and pointed it at the struggling couple as a small amplification dish erupted; then heard the horribly good reason for distress.
With an urgent tone, he touched his ear and yelled, "Bridget, there's a kid in the building!"
Without a thought for his safety any longer, but before his support team could give him instructions, Monkeyman ran to the other side of the roof he was standing on. With a running start, and a last hard push from the edge of the roof that sent him over an unforgiving height, the brave fool prayed inertia would carry him to the other side, knowing better than to beg safely.
On the ground, a white haired man who had seen too much tragedy in one form or another over the past thirty years pointed upwards. "Shit a brick!" Screaming in anger as the black figure cut the air with his body, he exclaimed, "It's that goddamn nut job again!"
Before the grizzled, white haired officer could curse the sheer audacity of the Monkeyman once more, a change in pressure blew out the blackening windows on the lower levels allowing bright yellow flame to sprint up the sides of the brick building. Heat drove people not wearing turnout gear back towards the safety of a snorkel truck and barriers.
Upwards, fortune favored the black avenger, and he landed with a roll on the hot roof that he could jettison himself upwards from into a run, only to jump down onto a fire escape that had flames licking three stories below it. Feeling like a thin hamburger sizzling on a red-hot grill, and that he was not in enough danger as it was, he forced his foot through an unbroken window, and leapt into a smoking apartment that felt like an oven operating during its cleaning cycle.
Outside, on the ground, the grey haired sergeant took one last drag from a half finished cigarette dangling loosely from his grimacing mouth, irreverently flicked it to the ground, and then crushed it under his thick leather heeled shoe. As he watched the flames devour yet another floor and grow larger with each second, with true concern for Monkeyman's well being, the policeman pointed towards the flaming building, and the billowing smoke issuing forth from it. "That dumbass is gonna' get himself killed in there!"
A subordinate police officer ran over to the older man and asked, "Should we send someone in there after him, Sir?"
The fire chief answered for him, "I'm not sending anyone in there to die! The floors on each level are burning and weakening, eventually they're going to collapse, God only knows when, and when they all go, the whole damn building is going to go down with them. We need to get all these people and the equipment away to a safer place; and focus the water on the adjacent buildings so they don't catch too."
"Well, this isn't good." Monkeyman said to himself in a calm manner despite the understatement of his condition as he heard the whistling pops of burning wood, heavy things falling through floors below him, and felt the helpless building move with a life of its own. The rising heat under his feet burned them, and the unforgiving bellow of the growing inferno below, along with breaking glass, almost blocked out the panicked voice coming over on the earpiece.
The voice asked, "Can you hear me? Come back? Where in the hell are you? Your tracker isn't working!"
The man yelled, "I'm in the burning building."
Calmly, Bridget vomited at the top of her lungs, "WHAT?"
Monkeyman disregarded the Bridget's yelling voice, began flinging doors open after checking the doorknobs for heat, and ransacked rooms in near panic looking for a hidden child. As he did, he yelled for any occupants to come to him.
After a search of two more upper floors, Monkeyman still had not found evidence of a child yet, and he was running out of time because the flames had already engulfed the last floor he had searched.
He touched the earpiece as sweat poured out of his skin. Black, animal like smoke made his throat burn, his eyes tear more, and as he raggedly coughed in vain he yelled, "I can't find anyone."
Bridget then said, "Radio chatter says a child is still not accounted for. You're looking for a little girl." Then she shouted the good idea of, "Closets! Did you check closets? Kids will hide from fire in closets!"
Monkeyman went back through every closet in every apartment he could safely inspect. In his hurried searches though avalanches of private property that would have made Fibber McGee envious, he found bowling balls, board games, out of style clothing that the fashionable Rhonda Wellington Lloyd would have joyfully fed the growing flames with, and the ultimate irony, a fire extinguisher that wasn't charged.
He threw the metal canister to the floor, and took a quick glance around the room he had just finished turning upside down in frustration. Another fruitless search over, Monkeyman ran out into the hallway; and what greeted his eyes horrified him.
The lacquer on the hardwood floors was bubbling like soup, and then it began to scorch, and smoke, almost ready to catch aflame from the rising heat from the floors below.
Even though he was trying to be the paragon of hero, Monkeyman had to think that even his cape bedecked predecessor in a moment of duress was bound to have muttered, "Oh, shit!" when facing situations like this one.
As he made his way to the last apartment, Bridget was screaming, "There's a building stability issue, the fire channels are saying the building is going to collapse, get out of there now!"
"I can't!" He disobeyed.
Bridget screamed, "Get out now! Get out, get out, get out!"
Hot, sweaty, and yeah, scared shitless, Monkeyman thoughtlessly responded as he dashed hot embers away from his body in a panic, "Please will you quit your nagging, Woman?"
About to get burnt to a crisp in a burning building or not, Bridget let him have an earful about suffrage, equality of the sexes, and her rights given by God, who coincidentially, was a woman, to not take crap out of any man.
As Monkeyman chose to disregard what little he could of Bridget's strictures on what she saw as his chauvinism he touched his ear and apologized, "I'm sorry!" The man pleaded for mercy as the irate woman continued. "I said I was sorry, and may I please add that this isn't helping!"
The desperately annoyed vigilante went into the last apartment, and if no one were in there, that was it, he would have to leave because he had checked everywhere else that he could get back to.
As he rummaged through a closet full of girls' clothing, and not finding any trace of a living soul, he was about to leave until his eye caught toys sitting on the floor in a pile next to a wooden chest. Monkeyman opened it, and to his relief, found curled up inside in a tight ball, a tiny little girl who couldn't have been any older than four years old holding a solid white kitten in her tight arms.
As he watched flames crawl up the side of the building, and the resultant light from them make the white walls of the child's room glow with a sinister, flickering orange light blown by a helicopter hovering near, the little girl's kitten mewed; and she said, "It's hotty in here, Mister."
The hurried man rifled through his equipment, and found a neatly folded protective foil wrap developed for smokejumpers, adapted for his usage. Being scared enough for the both of them, but not wanting to frighten the child, Monkeyman responded calmly, "I know it's hot, Sweetheart." As if he were having a pleasant conversation about the weather as opposed to the fact that they were dangerously close to death, with a deceptively chipper voice Monkeyman noted, "I don't like this at all; wouldn't you like to get out of here?"
The little girl choked in fear with tears in her eyes, "I want my mommy and daddy."
The kind man said with a gentle voice as calmly as he could as he both watched, and felt time running out as he tried to quickly unfold the uncooperative protective silver covering. "I know you do, and I'm going to take you to them." Hoping to distract her, Monkeyman asked, "Say, that's a pretty little kitty you've got there." He stroked the tiny white feline with a couple of fingers, trying desperately not to rush the process of gaining the child's trust. "What's its name?"
The little girl responded, "Puppy."
Despite the fact that they both were about to suffer complete conflagration the man had to chuckle, but then declared with urgency as the burning wood below them whistled and cracked, "Okay, listen. I know you're scared, but I'm going to cover you and Puppy in this magic blanket, and before you know it you'll be back with your mommy and daddy outside, okay?"
The little girl shook her head no, clutched the already stifled kitten closer to her person, and informed, "I'm not supposed to go anywhere with a stranger."
The frustrated man was tempted to snatch her up against her will, but he couldn't deal with a struggling child, and carrying her weight in the poor air quality conditions he was in now was going to be a difficult enough proposition to begin with.
As the man heard the crumbling noise of structurally failing floors beneath them, and the flames rushing ever closer to consume everything on the floor they were standing on, including them, Monkeyman removed his cowl. His face revealed; the kind man smiled at the girl, the same time holding his gloved hand out for her to shake. "My name is Buddy, Buddy Saltzmann, what's yours?"
The little girl said, "Dawn." As he wiped her tear laden eyes with his gloved hand, she shook his other with her tiny hand.
Buddy smiled. "Well, Dawn, now that we are properly introduced, would you like to go somewhere nice that won't be so hot and smoky?" The little girl nodded as he covered her body in the silver cover, and made sure her lower extremities were protected as he gathered her in the most secure arm hold he could without crushing the mewing cat she held.
"We're gonna' get out of here now, and I want you to hold on really tight to Puppy, okay?" He asked in a reassuring manner, and then warned, "I'm going to cover up your face now, and when we take it off, we'll be somewhere nicer. Don't be scared." The girl nodded as the man covered the girl's face, and ran out into the hall pulling his cowl back over his face. He crooked his neck so that his ear would touch his shoulder, and yelled, "I found her, and I'm on my way to the roof, I heard a chopper overhead, see if you can get them to meet me there!"
The heat was nearly unbearable as he groped the walls of that hellish hallway for a way out, the struggling man wondered if he was going to have to put the child on the floor, and drag her behind him on his stomach as the heat and smoke began to grow more thick and dangerous. Luckily, finding another apartment facing the north where the fire escapes were, Monkeyman put the girl over his shoulder, kicked out a window, and stepped out onto it. When he did, the heat from the grates, fed by the fire below them, began to melt the thick soles of his boots. The metal steps a mere two flights down were a dull glowing red color. Not so sure that the escape was safe to walk on, but being screwed either way, he took his chances; and ran quickly up the two flights of searing grates to hear the salvation of chopper blades breaking the sound barrier overhead as he stepped onto the roof.
Even though his face was covered, he still had to fling a hand to his eyes to protect them from the white-hot search light that focused on him, and his priceless foil wrapped acquaintances.
As fire broke through a corner of the roof of the building, the man in black ran to the middle of it, and waited for the helicopter to lower enough to allow him to pass the child to a police officer tethered to the inside of the vehicle with his feet resting on the landing skids.
It was difficult for the pilot to negotiate the thermal updrafts of the fire, and every time the child was almost in the safe arms of the tethered officer, thermal updrafts pushed the helicopter away, but the pilot maneuvered it back just in time.
As flames burst through the roof, the officer jumped onto it secured by a harness with his arms outstretched to take the child to safety. "Here!" The selfless masked man yelled over the din of the whipping helicopter blades and the roaring fire, "Take her!"
"What about you?" The helmeted police officer hesitated, "You need to get out of here too!"
"There's no time!" The mysterious figure simply pointed at the growing flames shooting through the roof and screamed, "JUST GO!"
As the winch pulled the officer, Dawn, and her kitten to safety, the man in black watched in fear as the west corner of the roof began to crumble, and he ran towards the only corner untouched by flame.
As its crew pulled the child, and officer inside the hovering vehicle and the chopper flew away to safety, the men on board could only watch in horror as the building began to collapse while dust, flames, embers, and smoke shrouded the empty area.
Safely inside the helicopter, the little girl looked around when the helmeted officer took the protective cover away from her face and asked, "Where's Buddy?"
As he looked at billowing smoke and dust accentuated by the light of the flicking flames, and knowing there was no way for anyone to survive something like that, the officer replied quietly, "I don't know."
As a relieved mother and father wept at the safe return of their only precious daughter, the old police sergeant watched from a safe distance as the rest of the building fell to the ground. Only then did the angry flames of the inferno begin to die down from the cold water of fire hoses.
The worried sergeant had been in communication with the helicopter crew that rescued the little girl through the entire operation; and told him that the idiot on the roof fell down through the building as the roof collapsed.
Although he didn't have any real proof, he knew that he was bound to be the same individual who had been running around town leaving muggers tied to lampposts, and turning in stolen wallets, purses, and other much larger misappropriated property anonymously.
Although it wasn't legal for him to do any of those things, and there were warrants out for his arrest, the old sergeant couldn't help but feel sorry that the man in black was probably dead now, burnt to an unrecognizable crisp in the rubble of the now smoldering building.
He deserved a hell of a better than that.
In respect for a brave man who had sacrificed his own life to save an innocent one, the sergeant removed his hat, and looked down in silence for a moment.
After saying a silent prayer for the lost soul, in the corner of his eye, the white haired man saw a glimpse of black creeping on the rooftop next to him. Before the coarse old cop could indulge in any illusions of doubt, or tricks of the eye, the mysterious figure took off in a sprint, jumped to the adjacent building, identifying himself with the fearful cry of, "MONKEYMAN!"
The old man put his black, silver badge decorated cap back on with an odd feeling of relief, shook his white haired head, took out a cigarette, lit it, took a long drag, and smiled as if he were giving a wedding toast.
Disguised in civilian friendly attire, but reeking of smoke, a young man with a roguish smile sat in front of Holly's Chocolates.
He really didn't have the money to spare, but he splurged the seven dollars, tip included, for a small cup of black coffee with enough sugar in it to give a hummingbird diabetes; and a white hazelnut truffle with Irish crème filling that he gobbled down whole in one muffled bite.
With his mouth still full, he took a sip from his small cup, placed his hot drink down on the black wrought iron table with an open umbrella over it. As he paused to reflect on his evening, he admired some lovely artwork that he had just acquired to place in his private collection from an up and coming artistic genius.
He would have to wash sticky coffee off of them when he got home, but he considered his fleeting few minutes of digging through the garbage can beside him for the canvases as a wise investment in the arts, despite the fact that a few people had turned up their noses at him for doing it.
Even though no one knew who the burgeoning young artist was now, the speculative aficionado knew it was a safe bet that she would not be an unknown for long.
As a couple walking past him exchanged a heartfelt 'I love you', the man smiled with no feeling of envy as he raised his cup to the sky in a toast to those he loved and missed; then placed it to his lips with a feeling of peace as police chatter came over his earpiece.
Someone might need him again that night, perhaps not, but he knew that he really had found his true place in the world at last, and wanted to do it until the day he died.