Chapter 12

 

The air was cool and it felt good. Michael walked onto the rooftop, staring up into the nighttime sky. He was happy he had insisted on creating a private garden. Living in the penthouse was pleasant and he enjoyed the luxuries of the full-service building, but there were moments he missed the outdoors and the simple existence of trees and grass. He had found an amazing company that had managed to transform the gray slate into a lush get-away. From certain points in the garden, it was possible to forget you were twenty-nine stories up.

Michael moved to the edge of the roof. A tall cast iron railing was attached to the faux brick ledge. He leaned heavily against the bars, peering down onto the street. It was late and there was little activity below, and it only heightened his sense of loneliness.

For years, he had struggled with the mysteries of his past. His father had never been forthcoming with information, giving him only bits and pieces, and challenging Michael to fill in the rest. But no matter how hard he tried to remember that day in Switzerland, he always drew a blank, only recalling the moments when he awoke from the coma a week later. Now, with the details given to him, he hoped to trigger something, perhaps bring up a faded memory.

Nothing came.

Closing his eyes, Michael screamed. He squeezed the bars, the sharp corners of the metal digging into his hands. He focused on the physical pain, hoping to drown out the emotional.

The scar on his upper arm started to prickle. Since he was a child, he had been told the wound was from shrapnel. Now, he realized it was actually a bullet wound. He also realized that despite his negative feelings towards his aunt, she had been the one who had saved his life. He had often wondered how he had managed to survive a blast that had killed his whole family. Given his injuries, it was probable Maggie hadn’t made it out of the chateau in time, but she had taken him far enough away from the center of the explosion that he was able to live. She had survived too, at least for a little while. Long enough to have her baby.

My sister.

Michael struggled again, hoping to bring up something, anything.

Nothing came.

“Why can’t I remember?” he screamed.

Memories flooded forward, not of Switzerland, but of another time not too long ago.

I knew your father...

 

<<< “Good session, Michael.” Jerry Cammer tossed his duffel bag to him.”Your upper-body strength is coming along nicely. Another two weeks and we’ll be able to move on to your lower body and stamina.”

“Awesome. I know I’ve never felt better.” Michael pulled his keys from the outer pocket. “Listen, remember that I’m going away. I can’t do Wednesday, but I’ll be here next Friday.”

“Already have it down in my book. I’ll see you then.”

Michael slung the bag over his shoulder and headed for the exit. He had joined several gyms over the past few years and had gone through a slew of personal trainers, but none had managed to fit him until he had met Cammer. The man focused on mind, body, and spirit, something that allowed him to progress in ways he never had before.

Heading out through the back of the building, Michael stopped as he noticed a pile of broken plastic and twisted metal on the ground. The security camera was destroyed, the lens hanging by a sole wire. Panicked, he hurried to his car.

The Porsche was there, undamaged, and Michael let out a sigh of relief. Looking around the lot, he noticed that most of the spots were filled, but three or four were vacant. “I wonder whose car they took.” Dropping his bag into the trunk, he was about to call the front desk when a voice spoke behind him.

“Michael Bruce?”

He glanced up to see an older man dressed in a button-down shirt and knitted vest. Silver-rimmed glasses framed his face.

“Yes?”

“You probably don’t remember me. I knew you when you were a little boy.”

Michael studied the man’s face for a moment, trying to recall if he had seen him before. “No, I’m sorry. I don’t.”

“That’s okay. It was a long time ago. I knew your father.”

“Really? You knew my father?”

The man moved closer, fumbling in his pocket. “I actually have a picture if you’d like to see?”

An odd feeling had just begun to hit him when the man pulled out a small canister, spraying mist into his face. Michael coughed as he felt his mind slipping. “What did you do to me?”

Reaching under the car, the man grabbed something—a large, crudely sewn bag.

The CEO sank to his knees as a canvas sack was thrown over his head. He tried to scream, but found his lungs heavy and full. He felt himself being lifted and tossed into the trunk. Fighting against the chemical, he managed to get one arm out from underneath the bag, pushing up on the lid to keep it from closing.

“You are strong,” the mysterious man said. “That’ll come in handy.”

There was the sound of the spray can again, the mist floating through the porous bag. “No,” he whispered, unconciousness overcoming him.

 

Michael opened his eyes, his vision still blurry. Squinting, he could tell he was in a large room that looked like a school gym, but the equipment along the walls was of the martial arts variety. He wanted to rub his eyes to see better, but when he tried to move his arms he realized his hands were bound behind his back.

Glancing around, he noticed another chair a few feet from him. Several feet beyond that was a man adjusting a wing chun dummy. It was the same man who had approached him in the parking lot... the same man who kidnapped him.

“You know, you’re not going to get away with this. People are going to notice I’m missing.”

The man turned, his eyebrows high. “You’re awake.”

“The police are bound to be here soon.”

A smirk on his face, the man shook his head. “You were planning to go on a solo hiking trip. You were set to be gone five days. No one is going to miss you for at least that long.”

Anxiety gripped Michael and he sucked in a ragged breath.

Taking short steps towards him, the man continued. “I was deliberate when I chose this time to grab you. You’re quite predictable. Only took a few weeks of studying your habits to know when the best time was to strike. Routine may be comfortable, but it makes you an easy target.”

The anxiety quickly turned to panic and he began to struggle against the ropes. “Let me out of here.”

“I’m sorry, but I can’t do that just yet.”

There was something about the kidnapper’s demeanor. He was an older man, in his mid to late fifties. His hair was black with a fair amount of gray peppered in. Despite his age, his physique was impressive and his muscle definition could be made out under his loose polo.

“What do you want from me?” Michael demanded. “If you want money, I can get you anything you want. A million, ten million.”

Something flashed across the man’s face, an expression that confused Michael. He expected the kidnapper to be happy or even smug, but instead his face twisted in anger. “I don’t want your money.” The man began to pace. “I had money once. A lot of money. I could have all the money in the world now and it wouldn’t change the things that happened.”

Michael was more confused than ever. “You said you knew my father. Was that a lie?”

The man turned to face him, his gaze hard. “I am your father.”

Any fear Michael felt was replace by anger. “Fuck you! Don’t pull this Darth Vader crap on me. Who the hell are you and what the hell do you want?”

“I’m your father, Michael.” The man suddenly seemed uneasy, agitated. He gripped the back of the chair and leaned heavily on it. “I know that’s going to be hard to believe, but it’s the truth.”

“I know my father, you look nothing like him.”

“That’s because my face was blasted off in the explosion. It took six months of surgeries for them to reconstruct it.”

The story was ludicrous. Michael fought against the ropes again.

“I knew you wouldn’t believe me.”

“If you’re my father, where the hell have you been all of this time?”

“In the desert, hiding.” He began to pace again. “I never planned to come back. I thought I would be there forever.”

“Oh yeah, so why did you come back?”

“Because it became too dangerous to stay away... for the both of us.” Shaking his head, the man sat down, facing him. “I knew you wouldn’t believe me. I wouldn’t believe me if I was in your shoes. But that can’t stop us. I’m your father and I need to prove it to you. Ask me a question.”

By this point, Michael was convinced the man was crazy, but he realized if he wanted to get out alive, he would have to play along. “All right. What’s my birthday?”

“April 29th.”

“What was my brother’s middle name?”

“Adam.”

Michael tried to come up with a trickier one. “What did you buy my mom for your tenth anniversary.”

“A silver Cadillac.”

“How many horses did we own when I was a kid?”

“Three.”

Michael’s lip jutted to the side. He’d thought the last two would be difficult, but the man had gotten them right. “Just because you know those things doesn’t make you my father. A lot of things have been written about me over the years, you could have found out all of that by doing a little digging.”

“True,” the man acknowledged with a nod. “So ask me something nobody would know.”

“All right. When I was young, I had a stuffed bear. It was my favorite thing ever. I lost it on a camping trip and was devastated. What was the name of the bear and where did I lose it?”

The kidnapper’s brow furrowed in confusion. “What the heck are you talking about? It wasn’t a bear, it was a stuffed turtle, and its name was Henry. And we never went camping. We had gone to a restaurant for dinner and you left it behind.” The man laughed. “You were crying so hard when we got home and noticed it was gone, your mother made me drive all the way back to the restaurant to get it.”

Michael felt the blood rush from his face, his fingers going numb.

A smirk cornered the man’s mouth as realization dawned. “So, did I pass the test?”

“How did you know that?” Michael stammered.

Rising, the man crossed the distance between them. “Because I’m your father.”

 

The man stood at the stove, stirring a pot of bubbling liquid. “I hope you don’t mind spaghetti. I know pasta was one of your favorite things as a kid.”

“Still is,” he said, fumbling with a paper napkin.

It had been several hours since Michael had awoken in the strange building. After the initial Q & A, his kidnapper had offered to release him if he promised not to try to escape. As much as the idea of running was appealing, Michael realized the man was smart. He wouldn’t be inclined to let him go unless he knew the escape routes were secure. For the time being, playing along was the safest thing to do.

Though that was only part of the reason he was being cooperative. Despite his physical differences, there was something familiar about the man. He was charming, articulate, and his knowledge of Michael’s youth was astounding. Even though it seemed incredible, if there was a chance the man actually could be Matthew Bruce, Michael wanted to know. He had to learn more, just to be sure.

“Why did you pick the name Ulysses David?”

“I actually went under the name James Butler after the accident. I changed it when I went to work for Khouri.” The man moved the pot to the sink, draining the water. “Ulysses was my favorite character from mythology. He was lost, adrift at sea for years. He never thought he would make it home. I felt akin to that. The ‘David’ part was after my brother. He’s one of the reasons both you and I are alive.”

Michael strained, trying to remember anything about his uncle. He drew a blank.

Ulysses handed him a steaming plate. “Your mother used to make the most amazing pesto sauce. I’ve tried so many different versions over the years, trying to find one that comes close, but I never have. So, I hope you’re okay with tomato sauce.”

“It’s fine. Though I do admit, I love a good pesto sauce.”

“You didn’t always.” Yule twirled the pasta around his fork. “You hated pesto when you were a kid. Sally always had to open a jar of red sauce for you.”

Michael stared into the spaghetti, hoping to keep his expression neutral. He knew the man was deliberately saying things to prove who he was, but the fact of the matter was that it was downright eerie to hear them. “So, how many people knew you were the Black Torrent?”

“Very few actually. Part of the reason the Superhero Protection Act was created was to shield the fact I was working for the government. Even people within the program didn’t know exactly who I was. Family-wise, your mother knew, her parents, and my brother and sister-in-law. Unfortunately, that’s the reason they were targeted.”

Poking at his food, Michael sighed. “I don’t know what to think. A part of me feels like you could be my father. Another part of me thinks you’re just an insane old man... and a very good liar.” He pushed the plate away, unable to look at food any longer. “There’s one other thing you still haven’t told me.”

“And that is?”

“You were away all this time. Why did you come back?”

The man was silent for a few moments, his expression serious. “Six months ago I was in London with Barir. I ran into an operative I had worked with back in the day. He told me that they were resurrecting the Black Torrent project. Apparently, they’d been toying with the idea for while, but they finally managed to get it off the ground. When I did this, my training lasted just shy of a year. I can only assume they’re going to act soon.”

“So what are you planning to do?”

“Michael, the Black Torrent became Gale’s hero. I never planned that. They set out for me to be a soldier for the government, but I ended up being a fighter for the people. The military was right, I was able to do things that no one else could. I was able to protect the innocent and give the city hope. The Black Torrent grew beyond me, he became a legend. I realized if they resurrected him, brought him back, it would be a bastardized version, the way they originally intended him to be—a rogue working for the powers-that-be, saving a few people here and there just for show. I couldn’t allow that to happen.”

Michael’s jaw hardened.

“All these years, I’ve watched you. I watched you play football in college, and saw how close you came to making the draft. I saw you climb Everest. I sat in the shadows, proud of every accomplishment. I saw you grow, your power, your skill. I realized you could do it. With some training, you could take over where I left off.”

Michael rose, his eyes wide. “What are you saying?”

“You need to become the Black Torrent.”

 

Rays of sunlight streamed through the window, falling across the bed. Michael’s head rested on the pillow, his arm stretched across his eyes. For the hundredth time, he replayed the events of his abduction in his head. Once Yule had finished telling him everything, he had made it clear that he didn’t plan to keep him. He told him that he wanted him to go home and think it over. Of course, Michael reminded him that there was nothing stopping him from simply going to the police with the information. Yule had seemed concerned, but said he would trust Michael to make the right decision.

He hadn’t gone to the police.

The woman in the bed next to him stirred, her eyes opening. She turned over and glanced at the clock. “6:30. How long have you been up?”

“I don’t know if I ever went to sleep.”

Carrie’s eyebrows furrowed and she propped up on her elbow to face him. “You haven’t been yourself since you decided to cancel your camping trip. Are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” he said, rising from the bed.

The woman followed him into the living room. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you. You’ve been moody and irritable for days. Something happened and you’re not telling me.”

“Nothing happened.”

“Then what’s wrong?”

“Nothing... everything. I don’t know.” Michael grabbed his head, rubbing his fingertips against his temples. “I just don’t know what I’m doing, what I want to do with my life.”

The woman sucked in a breath. “Are you having second thoughts about me moving in?”

“No, no.” He moved to his girlfriend’s side. “I like having you here, honestly, I do. It’s just...”

“What?”

“What if I told you I wanted to do something dangerous, something that I could die doing.”

“What, like swimming with sharks?”

Michael laughed. “Not quite, but, something like that. Like becoming a firefighter, but much more risky, much more dangerous.”

“I don’t know. I love you. I’d support you.”

He stared at her, his eyes intense. “But could you handle it?”

Carrie shook her head, worry in her eyes. “Why are you asking this?”

Glancing out the window, Michael stared down at the city below. “Because I’m not sure I could handle it.”

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

It was 5:30 when Michael finally made it out of the office. He had hoped to get out at noon, but a power outage at one of the resort properties had caused a major incident. It was not an issue a CEO would normally handle, except when the President of Mexico was one of the guests. He’d been on the phone all afternoon, finally resolving the matter late in the day.

Michael exited the elevator into the private garage. Standing next to his car was Ulysses David.

“So, gonna throw another bag over my head and shove me in the trunk again?” .

“What, you didn’t like that?” the man commented with a half smile.

“Not the best way to greet someone.”

“Where I come from that’s actually a common greeting.” Folding his hands in front of himself, Yule’s expression became more serious. “It’s been a while.”

Michael glanced down, avoiding his gaze.

“Did you get everything you needed from your detective friend?”

The question was enough to put Michael on edge. “How did you know about that?”

“He started poking around about my studio and word of it got back to me.”

“I didn’t really doubt you,” Michael said, turning to lean against the trunk of the car. “But I had to be sure.”

“I’m not angry,” Yule assured. “In fact, I probably would’ve been upset if you had only taken me on my word.” The man moved next to his son. “I’ve tried not to bother you, to give you space so you wouldn’t feel pressured. But I have to know what you’re going to do.”

“I need more time.”

“It’s been six weeks.”

“I know, but it’s not like deciding to switch office space or something. Do you know what you’re asking me to do?”

“I know better than anyone.” The man’s eyes narrowed. “Michael, they could move into action any time. We can’t play around.”

The CEO didn’t know what to say. He realized he should just tell the man that he wasn’t going to do it, yet he couldn’t bring himself to. Not yet, at least. “I need another week or two, to sort some things out.”

With a sigh, Yule turned, heading back towards his car.

Away for twenty years, and he still can put me on a guilt trip.

“Just two more weeks,” he called out to the man. “I promise.”

 

*          *          *          *          *

 

The computer beeped, an error box popping up. Michael clicked the mouse, cursing as a series of new windows opened. “Ah, c’mon,” he groaned. Finally managing to close the program, he leaned back in the chair. “Stupid virus.”

In the living room, Carrie called, her voice excited. “Michael, you have to come and see this.”

Michael rose and hurried into the front room. On the television, emergency vehicles and police cars crowded around a building. Spotlights shone upwards, fixed on a struggling figure hanging from a rope.

“Jerico Jones had been wanted by the police for years. A seasoned criminal, he was suspected in the recent spree of liquor store robberies which have left three injured and one person dead. Police found Jones hanging from the top of Charlotte Cathedral earlier this evening. The details of his apprehension are still under investigation. However, numerous eyewitnesses report seeing a caped figure capture the wanted felon.”

The screen switched to a black man, gesturing wildly. “I saw him, I saw him. He came out of the shadows. He jumped on him, man. The guy had a knife and cut him, he was bleeding. But he didn’t care. He took him out. It was him, man, I’m sure of it. It was the Black Torrent.”

Michael’s eyes widened. “That son of a bitch.” Grabbing his coat from the couch, he headed for the door.

“Where are you going?” Carrie asked.

“To take some karate lessons.”

 

Michael made it to the martial arts studio in twenty minutes. He shifted the car into park, jumping from the vehicle before the engine had a chance to idle down. He moved to the back of the building and pounded on the door. It took a few moments, but a shaky voice called from behind. “Who is it?”

“Your son.”

The door opened. Yule was shirtless, his muscle mass rivaling that of a man half his age. A rag was wrapped around his arm and there was a large puddle of blood on the floor. Returning to his chair, he removed the dressing to reveal a stab wound. Grabbing the needle and thread, he continued to stitch it closed. “It’s not that deep, but it must have caught an artery.”

Rushing to the training area, Michael returned with more towels. “Why the hell did you do that?” he asked as he mopped up the floor.

“Because, I had to let them see Torrent. I had to let them know he was back. I couldn’t wait for you any longer.”

“You’re gonna get yourself killed.”

“It wouldn’t be the first time.” Pulling the last stitch through, Yule tied it off crudely, cutting the thread with his teeth.

Michael grabbed the scissors from the table and trimmed the line properly. “You scared me,” he admitted. “I didn’t relish the thought of your death a second time.”

With a weak smile, Yule leaned back in the chair. “I’ve lost a lot of blood. I’m going to need to get some fluids in me. There’s orange juice in the refrigerator.”

Michael fixed the man a glass. “Dad, you can’t do this,” he chided, realizing it was the first time he’d called him that. “What are you going to do if I say ‘no’?”

“I’m going to have to do it myself.” He rubbed his hand behind his neck. “I was rusty. I made a lot of mistakes, but I can deal with them. I just need to get focused again.”

“Stop it,” he ordered. “Don’t talk that way, okay? I don’t want you to have to do that. But... I’m scared. Scared to death. I have so many things I wanted to do in my life, so many plans. I was thinking of asking my girlfriend to marry me. This is going to change everything. I can’t just jump into it.”

“I know. And I’m okay with it. But you have to understand, if you don’t do it, someone else has to.” Yule drank down the juice. “The die’s been cast, Michael. There’s no turning back. You or me, the Black Torrent has returned.”

 

A small bell rang as Michael stepped into the shop. On the door, etched in gold lettering, was the name: Through The Looking Glass Antiques.

The shop was small and dimly lit, and the smell of old paper filled the air. Dark wooden shelves lined the walls, filled with books, tableware, and a variety of other antiques. In the center of the room was a woman. She was dressed in black tailored pants and a button-down shirt, and could easily have stepped out of the 1920s. Looking up from her ledger, she removed her glasses. “May I help you?”

Reaching into his lapel, he pulled out a piece of paper. “I’m looking for Bobbie Glass.”

“Mister Bruce,” the woman said. “I recognized you when you walked in the door. I’m Roberta Glass. Nice to meet you.”

Michael smiled and gripped the woman’s hand. “I’m sorry I’m late. I kinda got lost finding the place. I didn’t realize there were shops tucked back in this part of the city.”

“Back in the gold rush period, Gale was a stopping point for many pioneers. This particular area held a lot of shops and hotels. Of course, most of it is gone now, but there’s a few blocks which have been preserved by the city for its historical value.”

“Well, this building is amazing. The architecture is beautiful. I’d love a tour sometime.”

“I can arrange that,” the shopkeeper said with a smile. “But right now you have business to attend to. Follow me.”

The woman led him to the back of the store. “It’s a good thing you called me when you did. Since all the commotion the other night, I’ve gotten two dozen calls from reporters wanting to come look at the archive. It’s going to be booked up for the next few weeks.” Glass motioned him into a tiny reading room. On the table were several boxes, a collection of albums, and a statue. Michael ran his finger over the large figurine. It was a perfect replica of the Black Torrent.

“There were only 200 of those made in the world. They were a limited mint from a maker in Spain. From my investigation, only about a hundred and 20 are still in existence.”

Michael had gone in search of anything he could find about his father’s alter-ego. He had managed to track down several newspaper articles at a local library, but it wasn’t of much significance. The librarian there had been helpful though. She had mentioned there was a historian on the Black Torrent located in Gale, and even called Glass herself to arrange for a meeting. Having heard about Glass’s impressive collection, Michael was eager to finally have a look through it.

“How long have you been gathering this stuff?”

“I started about ten years ago. I remembered the Black Torrent from when I was a child. I think I was like a lot of kids back then, dreaming of becoming a superhero. When I got into the antique business, I decided I wanted to find out as much as I could about my childhood idol. Most of the stuff I’ve managed to locate in this area. But I’ve travelled as far as Australia for some pieces.”

Michael sifted through the box, a blast of color catching his attention. He pulled out a comic book and flipped through the pages, stopping on a section where Torrent was battling a villain named Phanthro. “I had no idea they made one of these about the Black Torrent.”

“It was a limited run, but it was quite popular. I’ve only managed to find eight of the twelve issues in good condition.” Glass pulled a few more books out of the box, then turned towards the door. “Feel free to take as much time as you need. I can’t make photocopies because of the delicacy of the paper, but if you want to take digital pictures, that’s fine.”

“Thank you.”

Michael seated himself and started to go through the stack. There were several albums full of newspaper clippings containing hundreds of stories of the Black Torrent’s exploits. During his five year reign, crime in Gale had plummeted to all-time lows. He was hailed as a hero by the city and a parade had been thrown in his honor. Unfortunately, the guest of honor had been too secretive to appear himself.

Three hours passed quickly. Michael found himself enthralled examining all the works that had been created to commemorate the superhero. He had never heard much about Torrent, aside from some passing mentions in school. It was almost unbelievable to read what he had accomplished... and realize that it was his father. The one thing that gripped him the most was a small journal a local magazine had published, written by a boy whose mother had been saved from a burglar by Torrent. The child spoke about a life of poverty and despair, and how the simple act of meeting the crimefighter had given him hope for the future.

The door to the room opened and Michael turned his head to avoid the woman catching sight of his tear-filled eyes.

“I made some tea for myself and thought you might like some as well.” Glass brought in a platter, placing a cup in front of him.

“Thank you,” Michael said as he took a sip of the hot Earl Grey. “Did you ever see the Black Torrent in person?”

“No. I wish I had. Of course, in a childhood fantasy, I imagined him saving me from a bad guy. But honestly, if I could have just met him once and shaken his hand, it would have been amazing.” Roberta gathered some of the items and replaced them in the box. “But I suppose my dream could come true someday now. That is, if the Black Torrent is truly back.”

Michael stared at the statue, then smiled at the woman. “I hope you get your wish.”

 

The young CEO sat on the hood of his car, staring out over the lake. He grabbed a piece of bread and threw it towards a group of pigeons. The birds scurried forward, pecking at the crumbs.

It was half past one when Yule finally made it there. He looked harried and hurried over to the car. “Sorry I’m late. Damn kid karate-chopped another student and sent him to the hospital. Thank goodness for liability insurance.” He sat down beside him. “You said you wanted to talk to me?”

Tossing the rest of the bread onto the ground, Michael turned to face his father. “What will it take?”

Staring out at the horizon, Yule’s jaw hardened. “Training. Intense training. You’d have to go out a few times now, for show. But then we’d put you through a strenuous program: combat and defense. You’d have to learn to be a soldier... and a detective. It would take months, maybe years.”

Michael sucked in a breath, holding it for a moment. “If I do this, you’re going to be with me, right? We’re going to do this together?”

“I promise.”

“Then I’m in.”

“Thank you.” Yule stood and pulled his son close.

Though the hug was awkward, Michael leaned into it and was surprised how good it made him feel. Finally pulling away, the younger Bruce looked back at the lake. “I’m going to need a costume.”

“I’ll start working on that right away.”

“Don’t tell me you sew?”

“Sure I sew. I had twenty years with nothing to do in the desert. I learned a lot of things.”

“Get outta here,” Michael said in disbelief.

“You have a tailor, right?”

“Yeah?”

“Man or woman?”

Letting out a laugh, Michael nodded. “Touche, Dad. Touche.”

Placing his hand on his son’s shoulder, Yule motioned to his car. “C’mon. Let me take you out to lunch. I know this great place that has mediocre pesto.” >>>

 

Ravenswood had first checked the Control Center. Given how late it was and the fact that the Torrent suit was still there, he figured Michael hadn’t left the building. Poking around the various places his friend could have gone to, he finally made his way to the private rooftop. Michael was there, sitting on the ground against the railing wall. He’d been so hurt and angry when he had left, Ravenswood expected to find him near suicide. Instead, there was a small smile on his face which widened when he caught site of the private eye. Ravenswood took a seat next to him.

“Did you know that during my dad’s time as Black Torrent, there was a fifty percent increase in applications to the Police Academy? The majority of recruits said they did it because they were encouraged by Torrent.”

“I didn’t know that.”

Michael smiled wider, pulling his knees to his chest. “He’s the reason I became Black Torrent.”

That much he did know. “Michael, you can’t hold any of this against your father. That was a lifetime ago. People change.” He shifted, glancing at an airplane flying overhead. “And you certainly can’t hold it against Sara. She didn’t have a choice who her parents were or how her birth came about. At least you know who your family is. She doesn’t even have that.”

Michael nodded, his face flushing slightly. “It’s probably a good idea I didn’t go hitting on the Dark Flame then, huh?”

Ravenswood gasped. “I knew you had a thing for her.” He thought about it a little harder. “Man, that would have been a tragedy. But tell me one thing. Sara looks nothing like Dark Flame. How’s it her?”

“Funky red wig, elevated boots, and blue contacts,” Michael explained. “Also, she spent a number of years in England, thus the accent.”

Ravenswood sat for a moment, mentally piecing it all together. “Well, I’ll be damned. I would have never guessed.”

“And you’re supposed to be the detective.”

Rolling his eyes, he stood up. Michael followed.

“I was pretty emotional back there. I don’t really hate my dad. This is just a lot to take in. I guess I need time to process it all.”

“Well, I know how to get your mind off of it for a little while.”

“How’s that?”

“It’s only midnight. We still have enough time to pay our good friend Rufus a visit. We may finally get the goods to nail Bling once and for all.”

“That would make me feel better.”

“Me too! And I don’t even have a tragic childhood to make up for!”

With a laugh, Michael headed for the door. “C’mon, let’s go get suited up.”