“Come on, aren’t you ready to duel?” the Crusader asks, brandishing his sword and pointing it in my direction.
“No, absolutely not,” I say, glancing at my groceries and wondering if I might have to abandon them if this maniac charges at me and I need to make a run for it.
“But you made comments about my status as a hero and protector,” he says. “Isn’t that the type of conduct of heroes who wish to duel?”
“No, no, I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to suggest anything. I was just asking stupid questions. No duels, please.”
“Oh, alright then.” He puts his sword away, just like that, and then folds his arms. “Forgive me for misinterpreting your statements.”
“What did you think I said?” I ask, still eying my groceries just in case. That’s like forty dollars of food and drink in those two bags. It’d really make me hurt if I lost them, otherwise I’d probably already have left (such is the life of the working poor).
“I believed that your challenges to my legitimacy were a form of ‘talking tough.’ Banter traded between heroes. That’s how heroes in stories always begin before they engage in a good old fashioned friendly duel.”
Friendly duel… What a man this Crusader is.
“I think we should stay away from each other,” I say. “Let’s not mess with each other’s ‘turf,’ if that’s what you want to call it.”
“Nonsense. Heroes are supposed to work together!” he exclaims. “It’s said in our very code that we will accept help whenever prudent.”
“‘Our very code.’ What?”
“I must confess, I need to be getting on with my nightly patrol,” the Crusader says. “There are many crimes that are being committed tonight, as on all nights, and each one we stop is another point for the goodness of Atlanta. If you are not serious enough about your duties that you will waste your evening on the trifles of groceries, then we may want to stay away from each other indeed. Good evening and good-bye.”
“Goodbye,” I repeat, giving a tiny, confused wave as the armor-wearing man departs.
Wow, just wow.
I pick up my grocery bags and continue on home.
If I’m “not serious enough” about being a hero, he says. I’m the kid who defeated Donald Blyth! I’ve done enough hero work to last a lifetime.
I mean, I’m doing enough. Yeah, people are being murdered, drug addicts are being abused, teenagers roam the streets hungry, and there’s general misery around all the time. But that’s not things one person can fix by themself. Stopping one crime won’t solve the bigger issue at hand, which is the root causes of these crimes. Drugs are a problem because not enough is done to help addicts recover. Homeless teens are a problem because not enough is done to prevent homelessness on a community level. It’s much bigger problems that won’t be fixed unless Atlanta itself is fixed. And that’s what the cases I solve try to do.
Well, maybe everything I do can be viewed the same way… The Social Media Killer’s hacks showed the corruption that has taken root in nearly every facet of the city, but stopping Mayor Epstein didn’t stop any of that. Stopping Blyth didn’t stop any of that. The systematic issues can only be fixed by changing the system itself.
So… I guess I’m no better than the Crusader, in a way. Just on a bigger scale.
I’m not a fixer. Just a balancer.
So if I were truly serious about making the city better again, I guess I’d run for political office and try to get sweeping bills passed? Seems like the only path. That or join a revolutionary group. Run off to Athens and be part of the Great Experiment. Something like that.
Just… I don’t know. I’m a vigilante, just like the Crusader. I’m clearly not an idiot like him, but am I really better?
I feel the self-doubt creeping in. Better just stop thinking about this and think about that amazing can of curry I’m gonna heat up the moment I get in my apartment, and about the amazing victory over Mighty Slammer I’m gonna get in a few days when I figure out the whole case.