by Martin Maenza
After about ten minutes, the Tattooed Man was able to drill through the tumbler mechanism of the safe. The lock popped, and the door pulled open with ease. The drill vanished from his hand.
“Let’s see what we have here,” he said as he rummaged inside the wall safe. There were some papers on top, along with some cash and other small boxes. He opened up the top of the sack and shoved it all in. “Might as well take it all and sort through it later.”
The sound of a gun click and a word spoken harshly in Greek got his attention. Abel Tarrant didn’t know the word, but he had a feeling it was something along the lines of freeze. He dropped the bag on the bed, raised his arms in the air, and turned slowly.
Nikos Petropoulos, wearing a wet bathing suit, stood at the foot of the bed. In his hand was a gun, no doubt loaded. In the doorway was a thin blond woman wearing nothing but a towel. A look of recognition hit Nikos’ face, and he spoke another word in Greek. A wicked smile crossed his face as he fingered the trigger.
Abel had a split-second before the young man fired the gun — plenty of time for his right hand to touch his left elbow, producing a shield. The Tattooed Man snatched the shield from the air just in time to block the shots from the gun. “You’re swimming without a lifeguard, guppy,” the villain said. “I’ve mixed it up with the likes of Green Lantern and Superman in the past. You definitely ain’t in their league.” In a moment, Nikos had spent the gun’s ammunition.
Nikos threw the gun aside and lunged forward in anger. The Tattooed Man easily evaded him and brought the shield down hard on the base of the Greek man’s skull. Nikos fell to the floor with a great thud. The villain snatched the string of the bag, leaped off the bed, and made for the doorway. The woman screamed and ran for the deck ahead of him.
Topside, he could see the woman was trying her best to keep her distance. She was talking loudly and fast in Greek. “It’s not my style to attack defenseless women,” the Tattooed Man said. “Best to make my exit.” He touched his arm, and a pair of wings sprung forth. They attached themselves to the man’s blue shirt and lifted him off into the night sky.
It was after midnight when Abel Tarrant returned to his rented room. After stepping inside, he tossed the small sack he had been carrying up on the top shelf of the closet. I’m ready to hit the bunk, he thought as he made his way over to the bed. He turned on the light near the bed and was surprised by what he saw. “Lydia!”
There before him lay the young dark-haired Greek woman, wearing nothing but a smile. “Surprise, my love,” she said. “I wanted to be here waiting when you returned.”
He smiled back at her and began to remove his blue shirt. “I’m certainly not too tired for a roll with you, darling,” he said. “That is what you had in mind, right?” He raised his eyebrow.
She smiled but held her hand up. “Of course, Abel,” she stated, “but I had something else in mind before that. I want you to give me my first.”
He slid up to her on the bed. “Your first what, eh?” he whispered in her ear.
Lydia Anastasios turned to him, her face pressed close to his. She reached out her long, slender finger and gently ran it down his right arm, tracing the colorful pictures. “Yes,” she said with a sultry whisper. “My first tattoo.”
Abel grinned. “I’ll get my kit.” He got up and went to the top dresser drawer, removing a small box. “You sure about this, baby?” he asked as he turned back to her.
Lydia stretched her naked body out on the bed. She didn’t need words to answer his question; the body language said it all.
The next afternoon, Abel Tarrant was on cloud nine as he walked along the waterfront. It was a beautiful day, the sun was shining, and a cool breeze was coming in from the sea. He took a deep breath, fully enjoying the smell of the Mediterranean.
Life can’t get better than this, he thought as he watched Lydia stop into a nearby produce market. I have a job that’s steady, a woman who loves me, and last night proved I can still rely on old tricks if I need to. I haven’t been this content in a long time.
Continuing down on his way to the docks, he stopped briefly to check himself in another shop window. Yes, sir, he thought, I can finally drop anchor and enjoy life for a while. He smiled at his own reflection and adjusted his white boating cap. This was a definite turning point in his life, and he planned to make it last.
He started to walk again when a voice from above called, “Not so fast, mister. You’re going the wrong way.” It was a voice Tarrant had heard many times over the recent years. “The jail is the other way!”
Abel Tarrant spun around just as a fist composed of emerald energy nailed him in the jaw. “Lantern?! How?”
Earth’s resident Green Lantern landed on the walkway. “You never were too bright, were you, Tarrant?” the masked Hal Jordan said. “Did you honestly think you could rob and kill the son of a Greek tycoon, blatantly using your telltale powers, and not expect it to make international news?”
“You’re the stupid one, Lantern,” Abel Tarrant laughed as he touched a picture on his right bicep. A spinning wheel of flame appeared to leap off his arm and began to grow larger. “One touch of my living tattoos, and you’re a fried fish!”
Green Lantern’s ring pulsed. The emerald energy formed into a scoop that rocketed toward the ocean, dunked under the surface, and flew back. “I’m smarter than you, it seems. Though I can’t use my ring directly against your tattoos, there is plenty of water at the oceanfront to snuff your flame.” The scoop dumped the water onto the flaming wheel, drenching it before it could reach its target. Steam rose into the air. “Not the best weapon to attack me with.”
The Tattooed Man smiled as he reached to his left forearm. “Perhaps, mate, but this might be more appropriate for the waterfront!” An anchor and chain expanded as it rocketed forth, wrapping around Green Lantern before he could react. The black iron chain bound the hero’s arms tightly, and the heavy anchor embedded into the ground.
“Typical move. I should have expected it,” Green Lantern admitted. “But this will only hold me until you run away far enough. When it vanishes, I’ll hunt you down again. You know you can’t run from justice forever.”
The Tattooed Man shook his head. “No more running for me, mate. My life’s finally on a new course, and I’m planning to keep sailing it for a long time to come.” He glanced down his arm, locating the perfect weapon. “Nope, this time it’ll be you who’s gonna be the loser — permanently!” He slowly reached for the tattoo of a gun.
The Tattooed Man touched the picture on his arm, and a .45 Magnum gun materialized in the air before him. He quickly snatched it as it became solid. “Say your prayers fast, Lantern! You’re about to be heading for Davy Jones’ Locker!” But when the villain took aim and fired, Green Lantern was already out of view. The bullet ricocheted off the empty space on the ground.
A giant emerald finger thumped the Tattooed Man from behind the head, causing him to drop the gun. “Still not thinking,” Green Lantern called from behind him. Tarrant scrambled for the gun, but an emerald broom whisked it away, sliding it into the water. “That never was your strong suit. You forgot that you can only generate one tattoo object at a time. When you went for the gun, the chains faded, and I was free.”
“Why, you…” Tarrant was about to say. Just then, an emerald straitjacket wrapped around him tightly, binding his arms around his back. He struggled but realized there was no way for him to touch any of the tattoos on his exposed arms. He was helpless.
“It’s over!” Green Lantern said. “You’re going back to jail where you belong. I guess you’ll never learn.” Emerald energy glowed around the hero and lifted him into the sky. A trail of energy from the ring towed behind, lifting the bound villain along as well.
Abel Tarrant glanced down as the port he had grown to know over the past few weeks became smaller and smaller. A tear formed in his eye, and he dropped his head to his chest. He’d blown it once more. And this time, more than any other, he felt a true loss — the loss of the love of a woman who cared for him. This was what hurt the most.
From the produce market across the way, Lydia Anastasios nearly dropped her basket of fresh fruit. The dark-haired woman rushed to the edge of the market and watched with both great sadness and anger as her lover, bound in emerald energy, was carried off into the sky by a costumed figure.
She quickly ran down the street, turned left at the second intersection, and ran up three more blocks. She entered the building where Abel Tarrant had been renting a room for the last month or so. Using her key, she opened the door to the small place.
Lydia grabbed a chair and moved it over to the closet. Stepping up, she pulled down the small sack from the top shelf. She opened the drawstring and verified that the money and other stolen goods were still all in the bag. Abel had revealed the contents of the bag to her earlier that morning, but he would not say where he had gotten it. The woman did not have all the answers yet, but she was starting to realize what had been going on.
She then went over to the top dresser drawer and opened it. Inside was the special tattoo kit that contained Abel’s needles and special ink. I now realize why this was so important to you, she thought.
Folding down the waistband of her patterned skirt, she glanced down at her waistline where Abel had done her very first tattoo. Her finger gently traced the outline of the red heart; recalling the time they had together helped ease her breaking heart. “I know you would want me to keep this safe, my love.” Lydia grabbed the kit and stuffed it into the top of the sack, pulling the drawstring tight and knotting it.
She hoisted the sack up onto her shoulders and closed the apartment door behind her. The young woman wiped the key in the folds of her skirt and dropped it on the floor. “One day, Abel,” she vowed to herself, “we will be together again. I will find you.”