Origin, Episode 9
People always talk about where they were when they first heard about The Correspondent. She came out of nowhere and tried to make a difference. Some saw her as a beacon of hope, others as a sign of how far down the slope we had come. I never paid attention to all of that. I was too busy. Too busy working to pay my bills, too busy trying to figure out life. I was seventeen when it started. I was The Correspondent. This is my story.
THE NEXT DAY WAS A FLURRY of activity. Dad spent most of the day drifting in and out of consciousness. Mom and I spent the day playing cards, watching daytime television, and avoiding talking about anything important. This was fine with me; I didn’t want to talk about decisions that had been made that may or may not have led to my dad being in a hospital.
The few times we did talk it was the halting talk of two people who had no idea what to say. I wanted my mom to be mad at me, or at least blame me a little, for what happened. Her anger would give my self blame meaning. Instead she just kept telling me that she was glad I was there, saying that I prevented something worse from happening.
After a weird lunch of hospital food and another awkward conversation, I volunteered to go check on the house and store. I was reluctant to leave my mom, but I needed to get out of there. Running a few errands was the perfect way to process what was going on. I was looking forward to going home and taking a shower, I had cleaned up at the hospital but standing under a hot stream of water sounded amazing.
My first stop was the store. I saw the crime scene tape across the front door and a hastily written note that said we were closed until further notice. I used my phone to call the police, explaining who I was and that I needed to get into the store to check on the safe and make sure everything was ok. They said someone would be by shortly to let me in.
I pulled the scooter around back and parked it. On my way up front I double checked that the back door was locked. It was. I only had to wait about fifteen minutes for an unmarked police car to show up. Detective Mendez got out of the car. He gave me a little smile, his eyes telling me that he knew the pain I was feeling.
“Ellie, right?” he asked, as I walked over to him.
“Yeah,” I said.
“They said you needed to get into the crime scene.”
“My mom wants me to make sure the money gets put away and that there is a sign on the door.”
“Just make sure you don’t touch too much. We are still pulling finger prints.”
He cut away the sticker that showed if the door had been opened. I took out my key and unlocked the door. Mendez pushed the door open, holding it for me. Walking into the store felt weird. I could see where the blood had dried, I saw the spray paint cans sitting where they had landed, and for a split second I could see everything happening again. I took a deep breath and headed towards the registers to put the drawers away.
Detective Mendez was surprisingly helpful. Our first meeting had been fueled by my fear of discovery so I hadn’t paid much attention to what he looked like. His face was lined with worry, this was a man who had seen a lot of bad and still tried to do good. I could respect that. His hair was dark brown, almost black and he had eyes that took in everything at once.
He helped me carry the drawers back to the safe, turning his back as I entered the combination. I almost started laughing when he did that, but I stopped myself. I knew that if I started to laugh tears wouldn’t be far behind. My first real interaction with the police and I didn’t want to become a blubbering mess.
Once I had the drawers away I went to the break room and grabbed my discarded clothes and helmet. Mendez didn’t say anything as I put them in my bag, he just watched. Mendez probably cataloged the fact that there were random clothes in the break room. Hopefully he wouldn’t think about it to hard. Secret identities are hard.
I printed out a sign in the office that said ‘Closed until further notice.” I taped it on the door and locked up. Mendez took a sticker out of his pocket and placed it over the one we cut to get in. He wrote his name and badge number on the sticker, I noted his badge number for future reference. I had finally worked up the courage to ask the question I had wanted to ask the whole time we were in the store.
“Who did this?” I asked.
“Honestly,” Mendez replied, “we don’t know. There have been a lot of robberies recently and this seems to be another one in the spree. We have an idea of what the leader looks like. In fact, I would love for you to come down to the station and take a look at sketch we have. We also have some grainy footage from the last robbery.”
“I can do that, if you think it will help.”
“It will. When can you come by?”
“Tomorrow, if everything is ok with my dad.”
“See you then,” he said, handing me a card.
He got in his car as I walked around the building. I climbed onto my scooter and, after putting on my helmet, I started the scooter and headed home. On the way my brain started trying to figure out what to do.
I couldn’t let The Rat get away with hurting my family and it looked like he was just getting more violent. Someone had to stop him. The police had their chance to find The Rat, now it was my turn. I would find The Rat and bring him to justice.
The house felt abandoned. Heading upstairs I collected my suit. I knew that I shouldn’t be planning anything, with my dad in the hospital, but I couldn’t help myself. I wanted to find The Rat and bring him to justice. Looking at my suit I saw that it was still covered in dried blood, my dad’s blood. That would have to be cleaned that up before I went anywhere.
Luckily Acme Hero Equip, Inc. had planned for this. All of their suits were one-hundred percent water proof and dishwasher safe, though the mask was top rack only. I placed the suit in the dishwasher and set it on a sanitizing cycle. I knew I had about thirty minutes before it would be done so I decided to do a little research on The Rat.
I got out my phone and accessed the criminal database. I was shocked to see that there was a new entry in my Rogues Gallery. It was a bad picture of The Rat. It listed the crimes he was known to commit as well as a couple of accomplices. I saw that one of them, known as Mouse, was the getaway driver. There was also a picture of a giant man that could only be the bruiser. Nothing was known about him other than he had been seen at the crime scenes.
Looking at the info, I added notes from my interactions with The Rat. I pushed the map button on the phone and a map came up with pins marking all of his crimes. They created concentric circles around the park. Looking at the map it was clear to me that The Rat’s base had to be near the park. I made a reminder in the phone to search the park for an indication of where The Rat might be hiding.
The dishwasher gave of a long beep, marking the end of the cycle, so I headed to the kitchen. Unloading the suit, I was glad to see that it was dry and clean throughout. The white on the suit seemed to glow as I carried it upstairs to my room. I put on the suit and was happy with how well it fit. I felt guilty putting the suit on since my dad was in the hospital but I knew I would need the suit if I was going to stop The Rat.
I put the mask on, booting up the web browser, and checked my email. There was an email from Zeb saying he had a report that The Correspondent was seen at the hardware store. I fired off a quick reply, telling him that I had been there and that The Rat had escaped. I also sent him a new picture of me in costume, figuring my clean suit looked better than the pictures on the site.
Hopping onto the Acme website I ordered a collapsible baton. I needed something that would give me the edge when going toe to toe with people bigger than me. The baton I ordered was eighteen inches but collapsed down to about six for storage. Matching is important so I paid a little extra to have the baton color matched to my uniform.
Taking off my mask, boots and gloves I got dressed. Knowing that I would be at the hospital for the foreseeable future I dressed accordingly. I put on a pair of yoga pants, a long sleeve shirt and sneakers. I packed a bag with toothbrushes for my mom and I to use at the hospital. I also grabbed my mom a couple changes of clothes. I grabbed my messenger bag and, after rolling them up, I put my gloves, boots and mask inside.
I called my mom before heading back to the hospital, to check in and to see if I could bring her something for dinner. My mom seemed happy to hear from me.
“How was the store?” she asked.
“It was fine, I met Detective Mendez,” I said, “He helped me get everything put away.”
“Did you remember to grab me some clothes?”
“I did. What sounds good for dinner?”
When my family does pizza there is only one option: Pepperoni, cashews and cream cheese. This heavenly pizza was made by a local pizza joint called Jimmy’s. Jimmy’s had been a part of my childhood as long as I could remember. They didn’t deliver, so you had to carryout, which was a pain when you drove a scooter, but this wasn’t my first pizza trip.
Normally I would order the pizza and then go pick it up, but I was feeling antsy. I took the scooter to Jimmy’s, ordered the pizza, and say on the bench and waited. Jimmy’s is a classic dive pizza restaurant, you could see the pizza oven and watch them make your pizza. Sitting on the bench I enjoyed the smells of fresh dough and pizza sauce.
“Did you hear that she was seen again?” someone was saying from the booths nearby.
“Who?” said someone else.
“That hero girl.”
I perked up. People were talking about me. Be cool, Ellie, be cool. I did my best to not show that I could hear them but tilted my head towards them to hear better.
“I can’t believe this is happening here. Why would someone dress like that?” said the second voice.
“I think it is cool”
“Yeah but is she good or bad?”
“I don’t know.”
Further eavesdropping was interrupted by my pizza being finished. I carried the pizza out to my scooter and strapped it to the carrier on the back. There was a fine line between securing the pizza and crushing it. Driving slowly, so as not to disturb the toppings, I headed back to the hospital. I parked the scooter at the front of the hospital and carried everything upstairs. My mom smiled as I entered the room and I saw that my dad was awake. He smiled at me and waved. Maybe everything would be ok.
The story of The Correspondent will continue weekly. The Correspondent: Origin is available now. If you enjoyed this story, please consider scrolling down and recommending it on Medium. Follow me on Medium or on Twitter for more posts like this. Want early access? Support me!
Dylan Reed has always been interested in a good story. Raised without a TV he spent a lot of time with books and loves reading. Dylan has been a professional entertainer, studied commercial diving, and loves random trivia. He brings all of this and more together in his stories.