Lost & Found

Episode 1 of Relativity

by Michelle and James Lehmann

Chapter 1

 

The light above the vanity flickered, throwing the room into a series of shadows. Babs Stone tapped the plastic casing with her finger, hoping to jiggle the bulb back into place. The room fell into complete darkness. A moment later, the light snapped back on, shining bright and steady. The prostitute leaned back towards the mirror.

Pulling up her chin, she checked her throat carefully. While she didn’t have a policy against rough stuff, she didn’t like when her clients left marks. It made it difficult when picking up another john, not to mention she simply didn’t like bruising on her neck. Satisfied, she tousled her long platinum blonde hair, then twisted open a cylinder of Fire Engine Red. As she touched up her lipstick, she could hear shuffling and smiled at the thought of the man in the other room.

While she had several regulars, Babs liked Denny the best. He was always clean and smelled nice. More than that, he always called her Barbara. From the time she was a young girl, even her parents had called her “Babs.” It started out as a joke after her father had commented she was being scatterbrained. But the name soon stuck and followed her into adulthood. When she had first introduced herself to Denny, he had asked what her real name was. To her surprise, he announced he liked it better and never called her anything else.

Of course it was ironic that after that first trick, Babs never used Denny’s real name. She made it a policy to use a fake name with all her customers, a practice she’d taken up after sitting at a bar one night and discussing her work with a fellow prostitute. By a strange coincidence, the wife of one of her regulars happened to be there and overheard the conversation. Even though she had never mentioned anything but the man’s first name, the woman had heard enough to know it was her husband. Her client was furious and had nearly beaten her to death before the cops arrived. From that moment on, the use of an alias was something she insisted on.

When she finally made it out of the washroom, Denny was dressed and sitting on the small sofa. He pointed the remote at the television and flipped through a half-dozen channels, stopping at an old black and white war movie.

“You still have a half an hour on the clock,” she reminded.

“I know. Come watch some t.v. with me.”

Babs settled on the couch beside her client, laying her head on his shoulder. That was another thing she liked about Denny. A lot of the time he wanted to do normal things, like watch television or go get lunch. There was no doubt he enjoyed the physical side of their visits, but he also made it clear he liked her company, too.

“I used to watch war movies with my grampa when I was a kid,” she said with a smile.

“My grampa only watched fishing shows. Boring as hell.” He flipped the channel, surfing through a children’s educational program, a game show, and a Spanish-language soap opera. The screen then flickered to an image of a masked man being lowered from a tall building.

“In a strange turn of events, the Carnival Kid had to be rescued from the top of the Gale Financial Building this afternoon after a colossal media stunt went terribly wrong.” The view switched to the street, focusing on a perfectly coiffed female reporter. “The criminal had boasted he was going to commit a crime so big it would make headline news on every channel. It’s unclear exactly what the masked man planned to do, but whatever it was required him to scale to the top of the thirty-story building. What he didn’t anticipate was today’s higher-than-normal winds, or the fact that his costume would catch on the building’s ornate architecture.”

The criminal was dressed in a garish red ringmaster’s costume and a latex clown mask. Even though Kid was in a compromised position, the image caused Babs to shudder.

“Idiot,” Denny said. “These thugs are morons. It’s a wonder they ever pull off anything.”

“Fortunately,” the reporter continued, “The Black Torrent was able to rescue the criminal mastermind and bring him down to safety.”

Babs had never had a formal run-in with the Black Torrent, though she knew several prostitutes who had. The closest she’d come was during a sting a few months earlier. Something had rubbed her the wrong way about the new group of men who had wandered onto the strip that night. She had chosen to hang back in the shadows, and it had been a good thing. It wasn’t long before the police had swarmed in, along with the crimefighter. From her hiding place, she had gotten a decent look at the man. In the flesh, he was much more handsome and his physique was amazing. And when he spoke, it was a deep, husky sound. She was sure it was deliberate, to hide his real voice, but it was sexy all the same. Being so close to the hero had been an incredible turn-on and Babs had fantasized for days afterwards what might have happened had she allowed him to catch her.

The screen flickered again, the shot focusing on Gale City’s main crimefighter. Unlike the Carnival Kid’s costume, Torrent was dressed in black, a symbol of a cloud, lightning, and rain emblazoned across his chest. The reporter sprinted into view, running to keep up with the man.

“Torrent, what do you think of the irony of the Carnie Kid’s claim that he would end up on the evening news?”

The crimefighter stopped for a moment, his stoic demeanor never wavering. “Caveat qui desiderat.”

The scene switched back to the studio. The two anchors glanced at each other, perplexed by the hero’s answer. Forcing a smile, the female of the team looked back into the camera, shuffling the papers in front of her. “Gotta love that Black Torrent. In other news, the mayoral race is heating up once again.”

Denny switched the television off, his gaze dropping to the floor.

“That was an odd thing to say. What do you think it meant?” Babs asked.

“It’s Latin. It means ‘Let he who wishes beware.’ Essentially, be careful what you wish for, you may get it.”

“Oh, wow. How did you know that? Did you study it in school or something? I took one year of French and don’t remember a thing.”

“No, I don’t speak Latin. But I had a friend in school who did.” Denny’s eyes narrowed. “He was a smart guy. Smartest guy I ever knew. He was always doing that, spouting off these little quips in Latin.”

Babs ran her fingers through Denny’s reddish-orange hair. “Gosh, wouldn’t that be funny if your friend was the Black Torrent?”

“Yeah, real funny.” A smile cornered Denny’s lips. “My friend... the Black Torrent.”