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19. Alley

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Davy heard muttering behind him. He turned and saw The Unabridged Biography of Abraham Lincoln tied up in a corner, wide-eyed and muttering to himself. Davy remembered Steve. He turned and ran in the direction he heard Steve shouting from. He reached a door that opened into an alleyway. He looked in both directions. It was getting late and Davy had a difficult time seeing anything. There was no sign of Steve.

Davy slumped down against the outer wall of the bus station. He didn’t exactly remember ever asking Steve to come with him on this quest, but now that he was gone, Davy felt somewhat lost. And if Steve ended up dead at the hands of an angry librarian–one of Steve’s least favorite kinds of people–Davy didn’t think he would ever be able to forgive himself. Or at least it would be very hard.

Davy saw a faint light coming from the building in on the opposite side of the alley. He stood up a walked closer. There was a fire escape going up the side of the building. Resting on one of the higher platforms was a phone. It’s flashlight was on. Davy squinted as he looked over the phone. It was Steve’s cell phone.

That was a relief. If he could find Steve’s phone, maybe Davy could eventually get to Steve.

The problem was that the ladder to the fire escape had been raised. Davy tried to reach for it to pull it down, but it was just out of reach. He looked around. There was a dumpster a couple of feet away from where the ladder would drop. It was also missing its cover. Davy sighed. Reluctantly, he climbed up the open dumpster, placing his feet on the outer edges. With one hand on the wall of the building, Davy reached for the ladder.

Again it was just out of reach. Davy leaned even further towards the ladder. He could barely touch it with the tip of his fingers. He tried to lean just a little bit further. Instead, he lost his balance and fell into the dumpster. Davy groaned as he put his hands on the edge of the dumpster. He was about to climb out, but stopped when the hooded figure from the bus station swooped into the alley a few feet in front of him.

What did they call it in there, Davy thought to himself. The Night Retcher or something? Davy slowly sunk back into the dumpster, his eyes barely peeking over the side.

Though the Night Retcher was facing away from him, Davy could make out a few more details in thanks to the moonlight. Davy could see it was wearing a dark purple hood with a draping, matching purple cape. The figure wasn’t particularly tall, maybe only about five and a half feet. The Night Retcher extended its arms to its side. In contrast to the tendrils he saw in the bus station, Davy thought its hands looked fairly human. Davy watched as the hands reached up to the hood and pulled it down.

Under the hood was a young woman, not too far from Davy’s age. She had scraggly, dark blonde, bob-length hair. What stood out to Davy though, was her pale gray skin, which suggested that despite her appearance, she wasn’t exactly human.

She triumphantly raised her arms into the air. “And the Night Retcher saves the day again!” she whisper-shouted to herself, excitedly. “The citizens are enthralled!”

Davy watched as the Night Retcher began running in a circle with her arms in the air and making whooshing noises. He was unsure how to respond to this. He saw the terror she invoked from the thugs in the bus station, but it seemed almost possible that he could ask her for help. If anyone could help him find Steve, a superhero wasn’t a bad way to go.

Davy tried to carefully and quietly climb out of the dumpster. Naturally, he lost his balance and fell on his face. He kick the dumpster several times on his way down, making a loud clatter that rang through the alley.

His face on the ground, Davy saw the Night Retcher jump in shock then immediately shrink down to a hooded lump on the ground. At the same time What looked like a mass of chitinous legs came out from under the hood as she scuttled around the alley. After a few seconds, the mass seemed to calm itself and recomposed back into its previous human form.

She looked around and saw Davy getting to his feet.

“Hey,” she said. “I didn’t see you there.”

“Oh. Sorry,” Davy replied. “I was in the dumpster.” He pointed to the dumpster behind him.

This didn’t seem to faze the Night Retcher. “That makes sense,” she said in a way that sounded like it really did make sense to her.

Davy wasn’t sure how to proceed. “Well, uh, thank you. For the bus station. A guy dressed like Abraham Lincoln was about to shoot me.”

The Night Retcher beamed at Davy’s gratitude. “Glad to help, citizen!” she answered in what sounded like a rehearsed heroic cadence. “You shouldn’t be afraid when the Night Retcher is around.”

“I appreciate it. A lot,” Davy replied. “I was wondering though, if you could help me with something else?”

The Night Retcher moved forward in anticipation.    “What’s the problem?” she asked. Her voice shifted to a dramatic growl. “Injustice?”

“Sort of,” Davy answered. “Librarians stole my friend.”

The Night Retcher stroked her chin and looked down in contemplation. “Yes, this does seem to fit the Librarian’s MO,” she said to herself.

“Do you think you can help?” Davy asked.

The Night Retcher looked back at him. “Sure, no problem,” she said enthusiastically in a more natural tone. “Do you have any leads?”

“Actually, I saw my friend’s phone on the fire escape back there. I think maybe–“

Davy saw the Night Retcher’s left arm whip out behind him like an elastic bandanas return a split second later with Steve’s phone in hand.

The Night Retcher grinned. “Is this it?” she asked.

“Yeah, that’s it,” he said, still somewhat shocked at the Night Retcher’s display. “So is that your superpower then? Stretching or something like that?”

“Sort of,” she replied, handing over Steve’s phone. “I guess you could say I can change my body parts around. She lifted up her arms to her sides as they seemed to instantly morph into a gaggle of tentacles. After a second she effortlessly turned them back into arms.

Davy was impressed. “So why do they call you the Night Retcher?” he asked.

She laughed. “Oh, ’cause I suck bad guys into my mouth then I spit them out. She opened her mouth wide, her head expanded like putty. Davy saw a maw several feet wide, with the same rows and rows of teeth from the bus station. In the center of her mouth, Davy could see her tongue had transformed into the tendrils he had also seen earlier.

After another second, her head returned to normal. She put her hands on her hips and grinned again. “Pretty cool, huh?”

Davy smiled back and nodded, which made Davy feel weird, because he didn’t smile often. He then looked at Steve’s phone. Now that he had it, he realized it probably wouldn’t help much. Steve probably locked it, and Davy didn’t know the passcode. Still, he had to do something.

“So, I’m thinking that if my friend’s phone was on the fire escape, that probably means the Librarian took him to the roof. Can you help me see if there’s anything up there?”

“Absolutely!” the Night Retcher answered. Her left arm morphed into a large tentacle. “Just let me grasp hold of you and I can get us up there in a flash!”

Davy was hesitant at the prospect of tentacle-based travel. “Thanks, but I think I’ll just take the fire escape,” he said.

The Night Retcher shrugged. “You sure?” she said. “I’ll get you up there, in like no time at all.” Her right arm also morphed into a tentacle.

Davy took a step back. “Thanks, but I really don’t mind.” He climbed back into the dumpster, and managed to grab the ladder, pulling it to the ground.

The Night Retcher was unfazed. “Suit yourself,” she said, smiling. She turned towards the building, leaned back, and launched her tentacle arms to the roof. She then promptly zipped into the air making it to the top of he building in a matter of seconds.

Davy began climbing the fire escape. He climbed a flight of steps, turned around the landing, then walked up the mist flight. And so on. Several stories up, Davy began to realize that walking up a full building’s worth of stairs is actually exhausting. It really would have been easier if he had gone up with the Night Retcher. But he had already committed himself to his decision, as stupid as it was.

The Night Retcher swooped past Davy from the roof towards the ground.

“You made it up yet?” she asked as she passed.

Davy leaned over the rail of the landing. “Almost!” he shouted towards the ground.

The Night Retcher shot her arms to the roof again and zoomed up past Davy back to the top of the building.

“So what brings you to Heaven’s Head anyway?” she asked as she passed Davy.

“A possum lady sent me on a quest to save the world, and a circus man and his ghost wife told me to come here.”

The Night Retcher swooped back towards the ground again. “Sounds reasonable,” she said as she passed.

Davy finally reached the roof. The Night Retcher flew up from behind him, flipped in the air several times, and landed on her feet facing Davy. As she landed, she seemed to flatten before bouncing up in the air again slightly, as if she were made of gelatin.

“Not bad,” Davy said.

The Night Retcher smiled and bowed. They spread out and began to search the roof for traces of Steve.

“So you’re on a quest to save the world?” the Night Retcher asked while peering under a ventilation shaft. “How did that lead you here again?”

“Right, so I’ve gotta collect a bunch of artifacts and then this little kid will use their power to stop the forces of evil, I guess,” Davy answered. “I got a magic sack already. And I guess I have this golf club.” He pulled the golf club out of his backpack. ” But we’re still on the fence about whether it’s really an artifact.”

The Night Retcher looked up from behind an air conditioning unit. “That does look like a golf club,” she said.

Davy put the golf club away. “Anyway, I was told the next artifact would be in Heaven’s Head and that I would recognize it once I saw it. But then my friend got kidnapped, so I guess the artifact is on hold for now.”

The Night Retcher leapt out from the other end of the roof back to Davy. She was holding a straw hat. “Does this mean anything to you?” she asked.

Davy nodded. “Yeah, it belonged to one of the Librarian’s thugs,” he said. “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. That was his name.”

The Night Retcher looked at the hat and laughed. “That’s a stupid name.” She then looked back to Davy. “By the way, I never asked your name.”

“Oh right, I’m Davy,” Davy said, holding out his hand.

The Night Retcher grabbed his hand and shook it. “Nice to meet you,” she replied. “My name’s Olivia. Olivia St. Bartholomew.”

“Aren’t you supposed to keep your real name secret?” Davy asked.

“Pssh, why would I do that?” Olivia answered.

“I don’t know,” Davy replied. “Wouldn’t bad guys go after you loved ones and stuff like that?”

“Has that happened to another superhero that you know?” Olivia asked.

Davy remembered he didn’t know any other superheroes. “No,” he conceded.

Olivia looked back down at the hat. “Okay, well, I can take this back tithe lab is n my super-secret lair. There’s gotta be some way this will point us to where the Librarian took your friend. You can come with me if you want.”

Davy was glad to hear this. “Sounds good to me,” he said.

“Great!” the Night Retcher replied. “I think we’re going to make a great team.”


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