It would have been an understatement to say that I was going through a hard time. Even though there was a lot of stuff broken around me when she found me, Aunt May didn't chew me out. Rather, she just held me until I cried myself out. Those wouldn't be my last tears, however – not by a long shot.
Uncle Ben died because he walked into a convenience store about a minute before a man in rolled in and robbed it. What made it worse was that, according to the guy manning the register that night, the guy shot him when he already got all of the money out of the register. My uncle didn't even try to intervene. So that basically told me that whoever shot him was a tool. I was sad, angry, upset, anguished… I was just a wreck, basically.
For days after that, I went through a whole cycle. I would wake up in the morning, believing that the whole horrible day was just one screwed up nightmare. Then it would slowly sink in that it wasn't. So, I'd spend the majority of my day in my room just staring up at the ceiling through teary eyes, only leaving the room to grab something to eat or use the bathroom. And I was doing a lot of the former, which I chalked up as a result of me being depressed (though, for some reason, I wasn't gaining any weight). It had gotten so bad that my aunt withdrew me from school for the rest of the semester (along with Anya, who wasn't faring much better than I was, if at all).
And if that wasn't bad enough, Harry swung by to try and cheer me up. That wouldn't have been bad in and of its self. However, that's when he dropped a bombshell. He couldn't bail out Carl. Apparently, Carl had been missing since the day after my uncle was slain. No one knew what happened to him because the authorities were being rather tightlipped about it. So, he left the money with me – all forty grand of it. When he left, I thought about just burning all of it. Not only did my uncle get killed and Gwen was no longer around, I put someone in the hospital for naught. Fortunately, I came to my senses and just hid the money in some shoeboxes in my closet.
It took me some days to get some semblance of emotional stability. And that was only because Anya started to share a bed with me at night and cry into my shoulder until she fell asleep. It was weird to me, at first. She hadn't slept in the same bed with me since we were way younger, and even then, she did so to comfort me when I was still struggling with losing my parents. But I grew used to it, understanding that she wanted comfort and consolation. So, I gave her as much comfort and consolation a big brother could, given the situation.
However, that wasn't enough for me to try and pull myself out of my funk. I didn't just want comfort and emotional stability. I wanted closure. I wanted whoever responsible for my uncle's death to be punished. During my better days, I wanted him in the slammer. On my worse days, I wanted… Well, I'll just leave that to your imagination. Either way, there was nothing I could do about it.
Or, so I thought.
As you can probably see, I'm not one for naming chapters. But, if there was one I would give this chapter, it'd be "The Beginning of the Transition". Because the events I'm about to tell you about made up the point when I started to become the superhero I told you I was.
One day, I was at home, staring a hole into my ceiling as I reached the stage of grief where I didn't feel compelled to cry, but still felt like crap on a stick. And that was when I heard the phone ring. Sighing to myself, I pulled myself up off of my bed and made my way downstairs. I didn't really move that fast. By the time I reached the bottom of the stairs, I heard the default message of our answering machine. It just made me frown as I went into the kitchen. It used to be my uncle's voice that would be heard whenever a call was missed.
Can you tell I was still upset?
Well, I leaned up against the kitchen counter and waited for the person on the other line to speak. That person turned out to be my aunt.
"Hi Cephas. It's your aunt. Listen, I don't know if you were aware of this, but Mr. Stacy stopped by last night." At that, I scoffed. Of course I didn't know. I had my head so for up my rectum, I was making conversation with my colon. "Well, he left his briefcase in the den. The briefcase has stuff regarding… you know." I cocked an eyebrow. 'You know'? I started to wonder if this meant that George Stacy was the detective on murder of my uncle. "Anyway, he's going to be by around 12 o'clock. If you would kindly have it ready for him, I'd greatly appreciate it. I'll see you and Anya tonight. Bye."
Once the message ended, I looked up at the clock in the kitchen.
Deciding to get through with it, I made my way over to the den. It didn't take that long to find the briefcase. It was one of those black rectangular suitcases with the old combination locks on each side of it. It stood out against the side of the cream colored sofa. I walked over to it and picked it up by the handle. I sat down on the sofa and laid it on the coffee table. I stared down at it, wondering to myself what was in it, and if it had to do anything with the case. For the most part, I was trying my best to keep myself grounded, so I didn't think I was some kind of invincible action hero and end up doing something that would get me shot dead.
However, curiosity was eating at me. I just wanted to know who they think the killer was.
"Are you going to open it?"
My head shot upward and to the left, seeing Anya look at me. I blinked a couple of times, forgetting that she was in the house. I inwardly sighed. Maybe my staring contest with my colon wasn't quite over.
"I… I don't think it would be right," I said before I looked back down at the briefcase. I then started to get a feeling in my chest. I knew my words were true. It would be wrong for me to open up this briefcase. But that wasn't the reason I was hesitating. Even before Anya made her presence felt, I felt my sense of right and wrong lose to my desire for closure. The only thing holding me back was the fact that the briefcase was most likely locked. If I wanted to, I could have ripped the thing open as easily as a fully grown man could open the prongs for a three-ring binder. But I really didn't want to take time to explain to my aunt and to Mr. Stacy why the briefcase looked like a Pokémon burst out of it.
I was just about to leave the briefcase alone and leave the room altogether when Anya took a seat next to me. I raised an eyebrow as she took hold of it, slid it in front of her, and lifted the front of it. She eyed the locks for a few moments.
"What are you doing?" I asked.
"I'm taking a look at the numbers shown and memorizing them, just in case Gwen's dad is OCD to the point where he knows that's not how he left the dials," she replied nonchalantly.
I wasn't quite sure that OCD really worked that way.
"And why are you doing that?"
"Because I want to move the dials back where they were when we're done looking through what's inside. I wouldn't want to tip him off that his briefcase was opened." I opened up my mouth to say something, but Anya lifted up her finger. "Look, Cephas, I know what I'm doing is wrong, but I just want to know who to look out for if I'm out and about. If I get busted, I'll take all the blame. Okay?" I looked at for a few moments. I then nodded, knowing full well that my moral code was going to take an L on the issue. I knew it was wrong, but I wanted to know more.
So, I watched as she put her ear to the case and turned the dials. I was a bit impressed and disturbed about how easily she was able to find the right combination on the first try. My eyebrows rose as she laid it down and opened the case.
"…How did you…?"
"I used to do it all the time back in the orphanage," Anya said. "It is how I made sure that I was going to the right people." I looked at her for a few moments. I then shook my head before looking down at the contents of the briefcase. As expected, there was a file in there, along with some other stuff. So, I pulled the briefcase in front of me and picked up the in my hand. As I did this, Anya leaned against my right side. Sighing, I opened up the file and flipped through the papers in there. At first, all I saw was the description and pictures of the crime scene. I felt my stomach churn when I saw the picture of my uncle underneath a white sheet.
Anya squeezed my bicep. Without even looking at her, I flipped through the pictures, taking the scene out of her sight. However, I stopped when I saw the picture of the main suspect.
My eyes went wide. I remembered the face like it was yesterday, all the way down to the scar. Even to this day, I could see it. It was the man who robbed the Walgreens that Harry and I stopped at when I won the Bonesaw challenge. I looked off to the side of the moment, pressing my tongue against my cheek. Inside of my head, I was being taken to task by the cruel mistress named Hindsight. I felt the anguish in chest build up, realizing that if I had actually tried to stop the guy, my uncle would have probably been alive. I shook my head as I started to face my head back towards the picture of the guy. I flipped through, trying to get a name for the man.
Dennis Carradine was his name. And apparently, he had a fondness for armed robberies. He was a low level crook, affiliated with The Skulls, a gang who apparently held their turf in the warehouse district next o Lockhart Stadium.
"Cephas," Anya said. I turned towards her, eyebrow raised. "What are you thinking?"
"I'm just thinking that I'm glad I know the name of the guy who most likely did it," I said. It was a lie. Well, maybe not a lie, per se. But it wasn't the whole truth. I was thinking of ways to get to this guy. Maybe it wasn't fair for me to believe it then, but I felt responsible for my uncle's death. There was a small part of me trying to tell myself to calm down, that it would have been stupid to go after a man armed with a gun, and that there was no way I could have known that this guy would of capped my uncle a couple of days later. But, like I said, Hindsight is a cruel mistress. Her voice drowned out the voice of reason.
I stood up and looked down at Anya. "Can you put everything back in its place?" I asked. She nodded. "Okay, do that. I'm going back to my room for a little bit."I tried to say that as nonchalantly as possible. And then I did go to my room. But as I reached the stairs, I yelled out. "Knock on my door when Mr. Stacy gets here."
Once I reached my room, I closed the door behind me and went straight for my cell, which was resting on my nightstand, connected to its charger. I picked it up and checked it for messages. Seeing none, I went through my contacts and scrolled down until Harry's name was highlighted. I then went about sending him a text.
"Harry, free 2 text?"
I waited for a couple minutes. During that wait, I returned to my bed and laid my back on the mattress. My wait was rewarded when the phone vibrated in my hand.
"Ceph', what's up?"
I pressed my tongue on the inside of my cheek as my thumb went to work.
"Hey, remember when u 4got your mom's bday, and u sent me 2 buy a gift at the last minute? And u said u owe me 1?"
Less than a minute later, Harry replied. "Cashin' in that favor? -_-."
I sighed. "Yes. But, this is something major. I'll be owin' u 2 favors. Maybe even 3."
Even though I wasn't in class with him, I could practically visualize the look on his face. His eyebrows were furrowed up. His head was tilted. And his mouth was just ajar enough for his upper teeth to be shown.
"I'll swing by ur house at 6."
I nodded before I texted him back. "I'll cya then."
As my aunt said, Mr. Stacy stopped by around 12 to pick up his briefcase. Fortunately for me, he was in a hurry, only sparing a minute to see how Anya and I were holding up. After he left, I thought about just going up to my room to wait until Harry arrived, but I decided to just stay in the den and just watch some TV.
And that was when I figured out that I had another power to add to my list.
As I watched some random show on television, I started to get a weird feeling in my wrists. I tried to ignore it at first, but I couldn't take my mind off of it. Eventually, I went to the bathroom to take a look at them. Once I was in there, I looked over my wrists, finding that there was a bump on each of them, right below my palms. I looked down at them, finding it weird. I then focused on my right wrists, touching the bump with the index and middle fingers of my right left hand. I ran the fingers back and forth, finding the sensation rather… ticklish. I scoffed as I pulled my fingers my fingers way. I then did a double take. As I was pulling my fingers a way, a strands of what looked like silk was being pulled out of the bump.
"What the heck?" I whispered. Once again, I started to wonder what more that spider did to me. I kept my eyes on the bump. All the while, I balled up and unravel my fist, just trying to see if this bump was doing anything to really hurt my wrist. After that was done, I made more unique formations with my hand, finally performing the American Sign Language sign for I love you.
And that's when I shot a strand of the silky stuff at the ceiling. I looked up, seeing where it hit. And there it was – one thick strand hanging from the center of a web. I blinked a few times and watched it.
"Did that just happen?" I said to myself. I looked down at left wrist. With a tilt of my head, I brought my left hand out and did the ASL sign for love again. And sure enough, I was shooting out silk again. I lowered my hand and looked back and forth at the webbing I discharged. I didn't know how to feel, really. A part of me wanted to say that it was cool. I had no idea what I could with it, but… it was cool. On the other hand, I was afraid of how much more I was going to change. Was I going grow four more limbs? Will I wake up with six more eyes?
I took some time to clean off the webbing, which proved harder than it looked. I couldn't even remove the one on the shower wall without breaking a small piece of the tile. It was really sticky stuff. After tossing it into the toilet, I flushed them. I didn't want Anya to worry that I was going to change into some kind of a freak.
Eventually, six o'clock rolled around, and Harry was in the driveway a few minutes later. After grabbing a couple of cans of Coke, we both sat in the backyard, looking at the pool. At first, we were shooting the breeze. Well, Harry was mostly shooting the breeze while I listened. He and Jessica stuck together, being a duo of sorts. I tried not to be down on myself, but I couldn't help but a feel a bit guilty. Even if Jessica was technically my big sis, I still felt as if I should be looking out for her along with Harry, especially since Carl went missing.
"So," Harry said. "What kind of favor are you asking of me that you'll be owing me three of four favors?"
"…I know who killed my uncle," I said. Harry blinked a couple of times.
"You do?" I nodded. "But… how? They haven't even been releasing details to the public yet."
"Gwen's dad left his briefcase earlier today. He stopped by around noon, but Anya was able to crack it open like she was some expert safecracker." I was exaggerating, of course, but I was still surprised that she was able to do that.
"Are you serious?" Harry asked in disbelief
"As a heart attack," I replied. "Anyway we looked through and got a name and a face. We even know the gang he's affiliated with – The Skulls, to be exact." Harry narrowed his eyes. He then stood up and shook his head.
"Nope," he said shortly as he walked towards the glass sliding doors.
"What?" I asked, feigning ignorance. I knew that he already pieced together what I wanted to do.
"Don't 'what' me!" Harry said, turning back towards me. I stood up and looked at him. "You want to take this guy down, don't you?"
"…Well…" Before I could try to continue my sentence, Harry was instantly in my face.
"Cephas Parker… No! No! No, no, no! No!" He sighed incredulously. "Are you out your ever-loving mind?! I'm not going to let you get yourself hurt, or worse!"
"You weren't thinking about me getting hurt when you asked me to go up against Bonesaw!"
"Bonesaw wasn't trying to kill you. A gangbanger will be! And I don't know if you noticed this or not, but gangbangers rarely roll around alone. You think Anya was a wreck before? Imagine how much of a wreck she will when she turns on the news and found out that her brother's going to be buried right next dad." Harry shook his head again. "Don't do this, Ceph. Let the police do their job."
"I can't, Harry. I have to handle this one."
"Handle? Cephas, what is with you?! I'd probably expect this kind of crap from Anya, but not from you! You're smarter than this! Why are you so adamant about this?!"
"BECAUSE I'M THE ONE RESPONSIBLE!" I yelled out. Harry eyes went wide. "Look, man, I'm the reason that guy popped Uncle Ben. When we stopped at Walgreens on our way back, that same guy was holding up the cashier. If I had taken that guy down when I saw him, Uncle would still be alive now."
"Cephas…" Harry said slowly. "You can't honestly…" He trailed off. "Look man…"
"Harry," I said shortly. I knew what he was going to say. He was going to say that I shouldn't feel responsible for what happened, that I couldn't have known. I wasn't in the mood to hear any of that. My own voice of reason wasn't getting headway with me. Harry sure wasn't going to help dissuade my decision. "I already decided. I'm doing this with you or I'm doing this by myself, but I would much rather it be the former than the latter."
Harry looked back at me. I felt a little bad. I knew I put him in a tough bind. He didn't want any part of what I wanted to do. And had he said no, I wouldn't have held it against him. What I had planned was dangerous. It was so stupidly dangerous that had either Harry or I got seriously hurt, it would have been another thing I'd want to clock my past self in the face for. On the flipside, Harry was like my brother. He'd want to come to make sure that I didn't get myself killed.
He finally let out a defeated sigh as he looked off to the side. "Am I really this stupid?" he said, as if he was asking some invisible being that knew him. He looked back at me.
"Fine – what's the plan?"