by Starsky Hutch 76
It was one disaster after the next, after that: an earthquake in Japan, a tidal wave in the Pacific Islands, a broken dam in the Netherlands, and a guerilla raid in Africa. Superwoman wondered how Superman managed to juggle a personal life, a career, and his time as a hero. Physically, she knew she wasn’t tired, but she felt weary nonetheless. She’d had to witness far too much suffering in one day. And it had started out so pleasantly.
As she flew back into Metropolis, she saw the glare of police lights and flew toward the spot where they appeared to becoming from. As she approached, a sick feeling grew in the pit of her stomach as she realized she had been there before. As she slowly descended toward the gathered crowd, she saw Tim. His eyes were red-rimmed, as if he had done a great deal of crying and didn’t have it in him to shed any more tears. He was holding the hand of a woman who had to be his mother. Like everyone else, he was watching as a stretcher bearing a small, covered form was being loaded onto an ambulance.
“Drive-by,” a police officer told her.
“Drive-by?” she asked in confusion.
“Drive-by shooting. You know… gang initiation. They have to kill somebody to get in, so they just drive by and shoot somebody. Usually a rival gang member… or a white guy.”
She scanned the sheet with her x-ray vision and confirmed what she already knew. “But Lamar was black.”
“Where were you?!” a voice suddenly called out. Kristin turned and saw a black woman not much older than her looking at her with tear-filled, accusing eyes. “Where were you? Why weren’t you here to keep this from happening?! Why didn’t you keep them from killing my baby?”
“I would have… if I’d known,” Superwoman said, tears starting to come to her own eyes. “There was a monsoon in the Caribbean–”
“Well, while you were making the world safe for tourism, there was a kid here who could’ve used your help,” the cop said. Others in the crowd picked up on the policeman’s chiding and began booing her as well, as if they had needed somewhere to focus on their rage. Tim’s tear-stained face, the accusing eyes of Lamar’s mother, and the booing of the crowd were all too much for her to bear, and she retreated to the skies.
He was just a child. What kind of world had she made her home? What kind of world?
After a quick scan of his x-ray vision to see who was on the other side, Clark Kent opened his door and gestured for her to come in. “Hello, Kristin,” he said, shutting the door behind her. “What brings you…?” He stopped short as tears filled her eyes, and her lower lip began to quiver. “Come here,” he said, opening his arms.
Kristin threw herself into his strong arms and began to sob. “Oh, God, Clark.” Her sobs became long, heart-wrenching wails of grief that filled the room. Her body shook as she cried. As Clark stroked her hair comfortingly as he remembered when a young Superboy cried similarly into the shoulder of Martha Kent. He wanted to be able to tell Kristin that it would be all right, but it never did get any easier. The hardest lesson of all was that the good guys didn’t always win.
Later that night, Lamar’s mother opened the door to her apartment and let out a startled gasp as she saw a very tired-looking Superwoman standing in her doorway. “Mrs. Hallen, may I come in?”
“Um… sure,” she said, stepping back from the door.
Mrs. Hallen led Superwoman into her apartment and showed her to her kitchen table. “I was just about to have some coffee. Join me for a cup? You look like you could use some.” Mrs. Hallen placed a cup in front of Superwoman. “So what’s on your mind?”
“I — I’m so sorry for what happened,” Superwoman said miserably. “If only I’d gotten back sooner. I’ve been over and over it in my mind…” She brought her hand up to her head and slid back her cowl. “I was just fooling myself. I have no business wearing this costume. This symbol. I’m no hero.”
Mrs. Hallen let out a gasp at the sight of the freckled face revealed before her, looking for all the world like an ordinary girl, one who was normally probably the cute and perky type when she wasn’t carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders.
“I’m the one who should be sorry,” the grieving mother said. “I had no right to blame you for what had happened. It wasn’t your fault in any way, shape, or form. You were in another part of the world when it happened. If anything, you brought Lamar some happiness on his last day.”
“Superman would’ve found a way to be here,” Kristin said.
“Well, he wasn’t here neither, was he?” Lamar’s mother said. “I guess even he can’t be two places at once. Follow me. I want to show you something.” She took Kristin by the arm and led her to another room of the apartment. It was Lamar’s room.
She pointed to one wall decorated with pictures of the first Supergirl that he had cut out of magazines. “A lot of his school friends wondered why he was so nuts over a girl super-hero. It all started with this.” She pointed to a picture of a slightly younger Lamar standing with her. “The dog she’s holding was Lamar’s. It had run out in front of a bus. She managed to swoop down and save him before it was hit. Since that time, she was his favorite hero. He’d write letters to her via the Daily Planet while all his classmates were writing Superman. And when she’d actually write back, it thrilled him more than even a letter from Santa could, since he’d actually met her. He cried all night when he found out she’d died this summer.”
She turned and pointed to a different wall. “Now look over here.” On the wall was the picture she had made with Lamar and Tim. There were already a few pictures from Newstime and other magazines of her on the wall next to it. “You were his new hero.”
“Me?” Superwoman asked.
“Yes, you. Do you know exactly how Lamar died?” his mother asked.
“A drive-by. Part of a… gang initiation,” Superwoman said, quoting the police officer who had arrived on the scene.
“Lamar wasn’t the target. Wrong color. It was his friend, Tim. But Lamar pushed him out of the way and got shot because he was trying to save him. I can’t blame you for not being here because you were saving other people any more than I could blame Lamar for dying because he was trying to do the right thing and save a friend. That’s what he was like. I think he might have been inspired by Supergirl’s sacrifice for her cousin. Maybe even the sacrifice you and that new Supergirl were prepared to make for him.”
A single tear rolled down Kristin’s cheek as she pictured the brave little boy trying to save his best friend. The same best friend he had fought with only a few hours earlier.
Lamar’s mother reached over and pulled Kristin’s mask back into place. “So you see, this talk of you quitting just won’t do. You meant a lot to my boy. I doubt very seriously he could be at rest if he thought he had made you give up. You keep going, you hear?”
“I will,” Superwoman said hoarsely.
The two women said their goodbyes on the stairway of the apartment building and hugged. As Superwoman took to the sky, she knew that, good or bad, she was in this for the long run. She wasn’t just doing it for herself anymore. She just hoped young Tim Drake proved to be worthy of the sacrifice Lamar had made for him.
“Hey, kid, you believe in ghosts?” the old cemetery worker said to the young man working beside him.
“If I did, would I be working here?” the young man said to the old groundskeeper as he pulled up a patch of weeds. “What is this? Harass the new guy? Of course I don’t believe in ghosts!”
“That’s too bad, kid, because your whole world is gonna get thrown outta whack today,” the old man laughed. “See that grave ahead of us?” he said, pointing to an ornate gravestone. “Something’s going to happen in just one minute.”
“Yeah, right,” the young man laughed. “You’re just trying to freak me out.”
Suddenly, there was a gust of wind that stirred up a patch of leaves in front of them. When it settled, a large bouquet of flowers was resting in front of the grave.
“What the–?!” the young man exclaimed. “You were telling the truth!”
“Told you,” the old man chuckled. “That’s been going on as long as I can remember. Exact same date. Exact same time. It’s been going on since I started working here when I was your age. And every year, flowers have appeared there. All different kinds: roses, carnations, and orchids. You name it. Beautiful arrangements. A gust of wind, and then flowers appear.”
“Who is in that grave?” the young man said.
“Nobody special,” the old man said. “No one famous, anyway. Just some kid. Wish I knew what the story was with him. Obviously, he meant a lot to somebody.”