8FOLD/ACRA: The Green Knight Annual # 1
milos_parker at yahoo.com
Mon Jun 12 23:43:37 PDT 2006
EIGHTFOLD COMICS PRESENTS
GREEN KNIGHT ANNUAL # 1
BY TOM RUSSELL
PART I: Churches.
Martin Rock is wearing the only suit he owns this
crisp Sunday mourning, and he is embarrassed by its
shabby condition, especially when compared to the line
of well-dressed socialites that stand patient and
unmoving before the entrance to the church. Ray
taught him many things, and among these was how to
study people, scoping out potential threats through
the details of their clothing, posture, facial
expression, body language (looking for a telling
incongruity); now, Martin does it not because he
thinks any of these inbred scions of old money poses
any threat to Ray's funeral, but because it is now a
habit: it's only as he studies the line of people he
eyes with such righteous anger and envious poverty
that he notices that they're not moving at all.
Martin's eyes dart towards the entrance, and he
sees a huge, hideous lump of man standing in the
doorway. There's a woman at the front of the line
(large, busty, leaning forward as she implores him
with frantic hands and outstretched fingers) saying
something, but he consults a clipboard and gives a
mute, almost imperceptible shake of his head. The
woman gives up and walks away.
The line advances as one, gingerly goose-stepping;
the lump remains unmoving and slowly, but surely, the
line disperses, having been barred entrance.
Martin takes his place at the back of the line.
The former caboose, a "lovable" dunce who thinks his
moustache is charming and sophisticated rather than
creepy-sweaty, cocks the back of his head towards the
new addition and, sizing him up out of the corner of
his eye without ever looking above his moth-worn
collar and utilitarian black tie, turns back with a
snort intended to be subtle.
The lump remains in place, and eventually only
Martin is left.
"A private funeral," the lump says.
"I'm a close friend."
The lump sighs and brings the clipboard to his
face. He looks at Martin expectantly.
"Rock. Martin Rock."
The lump gazes over the list and stares at Martin
coldly as he lowers his clipboard. Martin does not
plead with him, but remains just as cold and unmoving.
The lump does not want a staring contest, and so he
adds, with a cool touch of sympathy: "Family only."
"But I am family."
The lump bends his head forwards just enough so
that the top of his eyes are visible, peering over his
dark sunglasses. With sweaty, pursed lips, he allows
his perpetual flat line of a mouth to mutate into
something approximating a smile. He looks at Martin's
black skin and sucks his teeth.
Martin turns colder. "Ask Anders. I was the one
who cleaned Ray up. Ask him."
The lump swivels towards the interior of the
church, and it's a little startling to see him move so
much and so quickly. With a swing of his arm, he got
the attention of the guard who was posted at the other
door (Martin could see now that some of the same
people who had been in his line were trying to talk
their way in from the other side). That guard swings
his arm towards someone inside, and after a moment,
the lump gives a nod. He swivels back to Martin, his
face having regained its stoic composure.
After another moment, Martin sees Anders (a suit to
put all others to shame), his hair slicked back and
his dandruff banished (the suit is black and
spotless). "Hello, Mr. Rock."
"I'm sorry, Mr. Rock," says Anders, covering his
mouth awkwardly with his white, white hand. "But it's
Martin arrives at Cradle Manor for the reading of
the will. He's still wearing his suit from yesterday.
He has already resolved not to mention the episode at
the church, but he's perfectly happy using his ratty
old suit as a reminder, as a weapon.
He finds Anders in the study, sitting alone and
staring at the bed where his father had died. "Do you
need help moving the bed back upstairs?" Martin
"No," says Anders. "I'll have some staff on hand
starting tomorrow, and I'm sure one of them will see
"When did he let them go?"
"Oh, it was about three years back," says Anders.
"I couldn't understand why at the time. But looking
back... now that I know he's the Green Knight..."
"Things make more sense?"
"Not really," admits Anders. "But. At least
there's a reason."
"He was pretty paranoid the last few years," says
"Was it justified?"
"What do you mean?"
"How far do you people go to protect your
"I dunno, Anders. Some go farther than others, I
suppose. Like I said, your dad wasn't well the last
"Is that why you stopped being his sidekick?"
"That was part of it. But mostly it had to do with
myself. With defining who I was, separate from Ray.
Being my own man. Do you understand...?"
"Yeah, I do," says Anders cryptically. Martin
waits for him to elaborate, but Anders moves on to
something else. "Before the man gets here to read the
"He's running late?"
"No, I asked you here early," explains Anders. "So
that we have time to discuss... certain matters..."
Martin nods. The Green Knight was unlikely to come
up in the will.
"I take it my father wants, wanted you to take on
"He said as much."
Anders shrugs. "I don't have any use for it,
really. So you can have it. Take whatever equipment
belongs to the Green Knight. You're entitled to it."
"Thank you, Anders," says Martin. "I know this
might sound strange, but I wouldn't feel comfortable
continuing your father's work without your blessing."
"That's all you get, though," says Anders curtly.
Martin does not like the cryptic tone in Anders's
"In his will, my father left you approximately two
billion dollars. Not to mention the house. My
"I'm not going to kick you out or anything,
Anders," says Martin quickly. "Though the Knight's
Den would be an effective base of operations."
"He left most of his money to charity," Anders
continues. "I have a trust fund. It's about four
million dollars. That's all."
"I don't need all that money, Anders..."
"And you're not going to get it. Any of it. When
the lawyer arrives, you are to renounce the will."
Martin finds himself smiling as a matter of reflex.
"You will renounce the will," says Anders with
steel in his voice. "Or I will tell every paper-- and
every gangster-- with ears just who wears the mask
without a name."
A chill runs through Martin's body.
Anders smiles, self-satisfied. "Just how far will
you people go, to protect your identities?"
"God, you're being childish." Martin's muscles,
tight with anger, suddenly unclench. "Fine. If
that's the way you want it, fine. Do I still get the
stuff for the Green Knight?"
"The Green Knight wasn't my father."
"I'll take that as a yes, then. I'll come by later
tonight to grab the stuff." Martin lets loose a long,
deep sigh. "God. You remind me so much of your
mother right now."
Anders bristles at the mention of his mother;
before Ray died, he had inadvertently told Anders that
Martin and she had had an affair.
"You had my parents, Mr. Rock," says Anders
desperately. "At least let me have their things!"
Ever since he broke apart from Ray, Martin's modus
operandi had been frugal and uncluttered. There were
a number of former villain hide-outs he used in lieu
of his own, often hidden within existing buildings
which unknowingly footed the bill for the utilities.
He took care of his basic expenses-- the few bits of
equipment he did keep on hand, extra thread and
needles for fixing torn costumes, theatrical make-up
for disguises, Laundromat fees, and food-- by working
a number of left-of-the-law under-the-table odd-jobs.
But once Ray was diagnosed with cancer-- once
Martin came back to take care of his old mentor and
help him die-- he stopped taking the jobs. Ray needed
him, which meant that his supply of cash had slowly
dwindled in the interim.
And so, with a sense of stunted shock, Martin
counted out the last few bills in his possession so
that he could rent a moving truck. He did this with a
subtle sense of dread and futility: one of his
hide-outs had been compromised by a villain, and it
was likely that the others weren't safe anymore,
either. [*-- GREEN KNIGHT # 5 & 6.]
And even if they were, their success depended on
Martin being unassuming and unnoticed. Unloading a
moving truck could hardly be considered keeping a low
profile. Someone was bound to see him and wonder
where all the stuff was going. Hard to sneak past
security and access hidden floors with boxes under
your arms. And what then?
Martin was out of money and had no place to go.
Within an hour, he would have a truck full of
highly-secretive cargo with nowhere to unload it to.
Basically, he was screwed.
This is crazy!, he thought. But he was sure he
would think of something. He always did. He was
resourceful and quick on his feet. He would make it
By the time he reaches Cradle Manor in the truck,
Martin's frustration has become anger, and he turns
that anger towards Ray's son. Despite his promise to
himself not to bring up the funeral, he does.
"That was a shitty thing you did yesterday."
Anders is curt. "This is the last time you will
ever set foot in my house. I never want to see you
again, Mr. Rock. Or the Green Knight." He shoves his
hands deep and quick into his pockets, a deliberate
motion that unintentionally undercuts the severity of
It takes Martin over two hours to box up all of
Ray's equipment. The only thing missing is the suit
itself; it was destroyed the first, last, and only
time Martin wore it, in battle with the Psychopomp.
[*-- GREEN KNIGHT # 6.]
That's fine with Martin, actually: the costume had
been too bulky, too mechanized and efficient. On the
one hand, it had saved his life that night; on the
other, it felt like he was living in Ray's body.
He's pleased to discover that there are several
yards and shades of green fabric at his disposal.
Just as Martin is midway through loading the truck,
Anders informs him that he's going to bed. Martin
wants to say something, wants to tell Anders that he's
sorry things didn't work out better between them, or,
hell, even that he understands why Anders made this
decision, even if he strongly disagreed with it
himself. But he is silent.
Martin looks over the Knight's Den, to see if
there's anything he's missed. There's a huge painting
that hangs along the wall, a reproduction of the
famous medieval illumination of "Sir Gawain and the
Green Knight". On the other side, there is a
passage-way leading from Cradle Manor to the caves two
miles west. Out of respect for this last of Ray's
secrets, because it is too big to fit in the truck,
and also because Martin never liked it much in the
first place (he always wondered why Ray had chosen a
mantle most famous for its severed head), he leaves it
There's also an old grapple gun, the one that had
misfired and took some chunks of Ray's leg with it.
The redesigned models never misfired, and didn't have
the ill-advised razor-sharp edges.
He considers keeping it out of nostalgia's sake,
but Martin never had much use for nostalgia, if only
because his own past is so darkened by the shadow of
"I'm of much more use in the here and now," he
And there's that question again: well, what now?
Briefly and somewhat idly, he considers operating
out of the rented moving truck. The first objection
to this is that the company will be looking for the
truck and put a trace on the plates. But he knows how
to fix that.
The second (and he feels guilty that it did not
occur to him before the plates) is that it's wrong,
it's dishonest. Well, so was the squatting.
Martin knows that it's the Ray inside him that says
that, and of course, it's easy for Ray to denounce
Martin's methods since Ray had billions to fall back
He remembers when he was Ray's sidekick, when he
was the Acro-Bat, how they'd occasionally meet wannabe
heroes, ambitious and hungry kids with moth-worn
make-shift costumes. He remembers laughing at them.
They weren't legitimate, they weren't real heroes.
They hadn't "made" it.
And Martin had? He just lucked into it, really,
and as he got older (and wiser) the realization dawned
on him that there were many among the wannabes who had
worked harder, and deserved Martin's prestiged
position more. But life isn't about what
opportunities come your way. It's about what you do
with them. He just got lucky, and once he realized
that, he never forgot it.
But back then, he was cocky and felt entitled.
Felt like he was better than the rest of them, and
better than where he had come from. He turned his
back on his side of town, the bad side, the hungry
angry poor side. On the ones who weren't so lucky.
That was part of why he broke with Ray in the
first place: to get back to his roots, to try and make
a difference for his Jolt City instead of trying to
live in Ray's.
Martin turns the truck around and heads for the
rotting side of Jolt City. Of course. It was never
in any doubt: he'll start here, where he began, where
he's spent the last ten years fighting an anonymous
These cold and hungry people (his cold and hungry
people), they don't need a warrior, a soldier, a
nightmare in spandex. They need a hero.
A knight in shining armour to inspire them, to
truly inspire them in the ways that matter. It's easy
for people like Ray, like Anders, like Ree: it's easy
for the rich people, for the white faces in their
white houses to write a few checks and sponsor a few
scholarships. That kind of inspiration is
(Not that Martin was too proud not to take it when
He's one of them, he was born in poverty and
squalor, and it didn't warp him into a statistic or a
stereotype. He's seen violence and been its victim,
and thirty years later he still feels sickly in public
rest-rooms. But that didn't make him into a rapist or
He doesn't claim that he has more moral fiber than
anyone else, or that he was born with more will power.
Someone with a strong will, it's easy for them: they
press on, it's in their programming. But for someone
without that preternatural will power, someone who is
prone to weakness, it's hard, damn hard. And that
makes the accomplishment all the more stunning. That
makes the pursuit of self-control all the more
That's what it truly means to be a man. He wants
to show the hopeless and hungry, angry young men what
real pride is, and real manhood. He resolves, as
daunting as that task may be, to be that man, that
source of inspiration.
Of course, this is all well-and-good once he's
established himself. But it doesn't address his
current situation: penniless, homeless, in a rented
van filled with the Green Knight's gear. And every
minute he spends driving around, thinking about the
day after tomorrow, is another minute wasted. He has
to do something. He has to find a place to live
(without money?) and operate from and he has to find
it before dawn. Otherwise, moving all these boxes is
going to attract unwanted attention.
But what is he going to do? Just knock on doors in
the middle of the night and hope one of them accepts a
boarder with a moving truck full of boxes he insists
on moving himself? Who is going to be that trusting
in Martin's Jolt City?
"No one, that's who. Every single one is going to
turn you away, Marty" -- he calls himself Marty when
he is alone, and has never permitted anyone else to
take such liberties-- "every single one."
That's when he sees the church, and reads the
blocky capital letters on the lighted signboard.
God turns no one away.
Martin can hear Ray in his brain: what the hell do
you think you're doing, Martin? Martin grins, smugly,
and answers wistfully. "Improvising."
The church door is locked, of course. It would be
very, very easy for him to pick the lock, and he could
calculate at least three other ways to get in
requiring varying levels of agility. But no. This is
a church, and he respects it. He knocks on the door
and waits. Then he knocks again. When it becomes
apparent that there will be no answer, he starts down
the stairs and back towards the rented van.
That's when his eyes, keenly trained by decades of
nights on patrol, pick up the faintest hint of light
dancing just in the corner of his retinas, registered
the same way an animal (a tiger, a magnificent hunter)
registers a sudden movement. Martin turns around as a
matter of instinct and sees that the light is pouring
from a small house on the grounds a short distance
from the church.
"Of course! You big dummy! The manse!" Martin had
trained himself out of the habit of talking to
himself, a habit that Ray had actually and insanely
encouraged, during his stint as a lone crime fighter;
ever since that cold, snowy night that he donned Ray's
suit (the night before Ray died, the last time he ever
saw him), it had been creeping back up.
Martin walks towards the manse at the same time
that its occupant walks towards him (the sharp lullaby
of bare feet through wet grass).
The minister is straight and angular, but instead
of long strides he waddles, his legs flying as fast as
they can. As he gets closer, he calls out to Martin:
"Can I help you?"
They come to a stop; though the minister is out of
breath from his speed, he covered far less ground than
Martin did. Martin can see now that the minister is
white, roughly thirty-five, clean-shaven,
well-groomed, bright and cheery for three in the
"Hello. I'm Pastor Riddle. Were you knocking at
"Yes. Uh, Martin. Martin... Rock." He considered
lying, but could not think of a convincing lie. He
awkwardly offers the minister his hand, and the man
gladly and vigorously shakes it.
"Did you need some help?"
What now, Martin? What are you going to say to
him? You didn't plan it out this far. You didn't
plan at all, which has been your problem all along.
If you had planned, then you would have some money,
you would have a legitimate hideout. You've been
improvising, just grifting on by, for ten years
straight. And now you're paying the price.
"Uh, yeah, I... it's... complex."
The minister stares at Martin and gives a nods.
"Why don't you come on inside, and we'll talk."
The manse is very well-kept, very meticulous: at
first, Martin thinks that the minister is married, but
realizes after taking into account the lack of a ring
and of feminine niceties (flowers, curtains,
table-cloths) that it is so well-kept simply because
the arrangements are Spartan; Riddle offers him some
tea as he readies a white, spotless, but wholly
utilitarian pot, but Martin turns him down.
"You just look a little tired," Riddle says. "I
thought it might give you some pep."
"I'm tired because it's three in the morning. I'm
surprised to see you up, Father. Uh, Pastor. Sir."
"Roy," offers the minister.
"Roy," says Martin with a nod. Roy Riddle. Great.
Every time he's ever met someone with alliterative
initials, it's always been trouble. Always. "So,
what's keeping you up so late, Roy? Guilty
Riddle seems nonplussed, and Martin apologizes
readily. "I was doing some reading," Riddle says as
he lights the stove. "I find I do my best reading
when it's quiet and dark. Sit down."
"Uh, you only have one chair at the table."
"I'll stand," says Riddle. He bends at the knees a
few times, as wide awake as ever. "Standing's good for
the springs. So. Martin. How can I help you?"
"Well, like I said," says Martin, "it's difficult
"Guilty conscience?" asks Riddle.
Martin blinks. "Well, uh. I have one. But that's
not why I'm here."
"But you're embarrassed to tell me, to get to the
"Well, if we've got to go about it round-about,"
says Riddle, "then let's get on with it. Why don't
you tell me about your guilty conscience, then?"
This doesn't exactly thrill Martin, but he's
actually more comfortable talking about his sins than
about his secrets. "I killed a man. About seven
years ago." He looks up at Roy Riddle with hollow,
Riddle doesn't move back or try to run away. He
doesn't move forward, either.
Martin continues. "He was a rapist. There was a
girl in the alleyway, and he had a gun. I snuck up
behind him, and I snapped his neck." This is the
first time he's ever told anyone about it.
"You saved the girl's life," says Riddle. He takes
a step closer to Martin.
"I didn't have to kill him. That kind of force
"You reacted," says Riddle. "Heat of the moment.
And you did it to protect another human being. You
feel guilty about it because you're a good man. And
you did it for the same reason. To help another."
"No. I did it out of revenge."
"You knew the man."
"Then what do you mean?"
"I..." No. Martin's not going to tell him. He
didn't come here for psychobabble. "It doesn't
matter. I didn't have to kill him. I had training.
I was a... a soldier."
The tea kettle starts to whistle. Riddle turns off
the stove and grabs a tea-bag and sets his kitchen
"You were trained to kill. You used that training
to prevent a horrible crime."
"It's a thing that happens far too often. I hear
about it regularly. Sometimes a girl will come to me
to confess, like she's done something wrong. It
breaks my heart every time."
"I had other training," says Martin, and within the
same breath he blurts it out, the adrenaline curling
his naked lips into an awkward smile: "I was the
"The, uh... Green Knight's Acro-Bat?"
"I take it from your expression, Martin, that this
is the subject that you came here to discuss?"
Riddle picks up on the trepidation etched in the
cool lines of Martin's brow. "You're with friends,
"Friends?" says Martin quizzically. "I gathered
you lived alone."
"There's me, and there's God," says Riddle.
"I haven't been to church in years."
"Doesn't matter. He's God and he loves you. And
he wants to help you, Martin. All you have to do is
"I haven't been the Acro-Bat for years," Martin
begins. "Me and the Knight had a falling out.
Recently he... retired. I'm not going to tell you who
"And I'll never ask, just as I'll never tell anyone
who you are."
"He passed the mantle onto me. But. I don't have
a hideout. I don't even have a home."
The timer goes off. Riddle pours himself a cup of
tea, adding milk. Martin watches with a mixture of
melancholy and bemusement as Riddle stirs the tea
vigorously with his long, silver spoon. That's how
Ree used to do it; he hadn't had a cup of tea, near as
he could recall, since Ree passed the year before
"Things happen for a reason, Martin," says Riddle
finally as he leans up against his wall and sips his
tea. "Let me enjoy my tea and then we'll get you
Riddle grins, and Martin feels something in his
stomach as his own mantra twists and grinds within:
beware, beware, beware! people with alliterative
It's been several years since Martin was last in a
church, and he has a feeling deep down in his bones
that God's going to strike him dead in a matter of
seconds. Riddle is prescient and assures Martin
before they go in: "God is love, my friend. Never
He pops on the lights and dips his fingers gingerly
into the holy water, touching his forehead and bowing
as he makes the sign of the cross. Martin follows his
head, more from memory than from spirit.
Roy Riddle leads him down the aisle-way, and as he
passes the pews, Martin feels a strange feeling
welling up in him, a feeling he hasn't felt in years
if he's felt it at all. It is a quivering, pulsing
peace that starts in his belly and vibrates like a
spring, sending shock waves through out his muscles.
His eyes dart to the stained glass tableaus, dark and
yet still resplendent even when illuminated by a pale,
puny sliver of mid-night moon.
He sees the Holy Virgin startled by an angel, both
of them so beautiful and pure that if not for their
body language, there would really be no way to tell
them apart. He sees the radioactive Christ, emanating
rays and stripes of sun, his bloodied palms
outstretched, and there below his feet there is a
ribbon, at once flowing whimsy and staid glass, and
the words, HE IS RISEN!
On the other side, there are darker stories being
told: here, Adam is cast out of Eden, followed by Eve,
demure and blameless in her genuine anguish; and
there, amidst bombastic clouds and prone, weeping
women, the spear jabbed into his side as his eyes roll
back and his fingers, his twitching fingers still open
and imploring: here, the Christ is killed and killed
willingly so that Roy Riddle can tell Martin that he
And that is the feeling, as palpable for the brief
and overwhelming moment as any battle or tender
caress: Martin Rock stands in the church and is
forgiven. His senses slowly flood back to him, and he
becomes aware of the wood underneath his fingertips;
he's standing mid-way down the aisle, touching a pew,
and now he sinks to his knees and he feels Ree's
whisper in God's divine grace.
Riddle touches him on the shoulder. "Remember that
forgiveness and redemption are two different things,"
he says with authority. "Only God can grant
forgiveness. And only you can redeem yourself."
Martin gives him his hand, and Riddle helps Martin
to his feet. They stop before the giant wooden cross
that oversees the pulpit, and they genuflect while
making the sign of the cross. Martin means it with
all his heart.
Roy Riddle leads him into the basement, land of
such decadent pleasures as bingo and ice cream
socials, and briskly leads him across the room to a
large cactus. "It's very heavy," says Riddle. "A
Martin bends down and helps Riddle lift it up. To
his surprise, a chunk of tiling comes up with it.
They set the cactus down, and that's when Martin sees
"You'll have to leave the cactus overhang a
little," cautions Riddle. "It'll make it easier to
slide the tile back into place and close it up behind
you. Remarkably, it's much, much easier to lift the
tile up from inside. Never quite figured it out just
yet myself. Well. Don't just stand there gawking.
Let's go get your stuff!"
The room was about eleven feet squared. Not huge,
but large enough to store the Green Knight equipment
and to house Martin. There was a twin-size bed that
looked like it hadn't been slept on in fifty years.
It didn't matter; Martin hadn't slept in a real,
honest-to-God bed in at least ten.
"Walls are completely soundproof," says Roy Riddle,
"so you'll have total privacy and secrecy. There's a
bathroom adjacent, and while that does cause a little
noise, there's a legend that the Church has a phantom
toilet." He grins. "I come down here from time to
time, just to keep the legend current."
"So, are you going to tell me what this place is?"
"I think," begins Riddle, placing special emphasis
on the word, "though you can't quote me on this, but I
think it belonged to Pharos."
Pharos. One of the original Seven Wonders. Jolt
City's first costumed hero, way back in the thirties,
up until he disappeared around forty-eight.
"At least, from the evidence I've gathered," says
Riddle. "He's something of a pet project of mine. I
was always more of a Midnite Man fan, to be brutally
honest, but since he made everything public, there's
no real mystery, is there? I love a good mystery, and
the Good Lord has seen fit to grant me one with which
to occupy my spare time." He smiles, somewhat
irrelevantly: "Thanks, Big Guy. I've managed to
narrow Pharos's secret identity down to three
candidates, though it's highly unlikely I'll ever get
any conclusive proof. But. That keeps things
interesting. At any rate, he's not using it now."
"Does anyone else know about this place?" says
Martin. Squatting in other people's hideouts is what
got him into this jam in the first place.
"Just the Landlord," says Riddle, pointing upwards.
"And He says it's quite alright. Well, I'll let you
rest up and get settled in. What time do you feel
"No thanks. I'm going to find a job tomorrow, and
I'll pay for my own food. Until I have enough for an
apartment, I'll give you a little money for letting me
stay here, so I'm paying my own way."
"Martin. You're the Green Knight, and before that,
the Acro-Bat. You save lives for a living. If you
ask me, you're paid in full well in advance."
"I'm going to pay my own way," says Martin.
Martin sleeps till nine. He wants to hit the
rental place by ten, relinquishing control of the
vehicle a full two hours ahead of time; this should
give him ample time to look for, and hopefully secure,
The job has to be able to support him, and ideally
it should involve a lot of work in the field, going to
and fro places, so that Martin's unexplained absences
can remain unexamined when the Green Knight is needed.
A tricky thing, but not an impossible one. He's
spent most of the last ten years living off of odd
jobs, some of which fit these requirements; now he
desires a measure of stability.
The girl at the rental place is twenty-five, and
pretty for her age. (Even when he was nineteen,
Martin's attention was always focused on older women.)
She smiles at him and giggles. Martin flirts back,
not because he's interested in her, but because he
feels he should stay in practice. His life as a
soldier has been a solitary and celibate one. He's
not looking for a wife or girlfriend (he considers it
unfair to keep secrets from them, and unfair to burden
them with secrets), but should he start dating
casually, he'll need his romantic repartee as
finely-honed as his arms and legs. If you don't keep
something up to date, Ray had told him, it's dead to
The girl heads into the back and tells Martin it'll
just be a moment. He smiles to himself and pivots
towards the rest of the room, looking it over. It's
at that moment that he sees a line of police cars
rushing down the road. Six turn at the first corner,
and three of those cars pull into the parking lot at
the front; Martin knows that the other three are
pulling into the back. More cars pile in at the
front, from the other corner.
Martin turns around and sees that the girl has a
gun. "Hands up and behind your head."
He raises his hands above his head. The door opens
and two cops rush in, padding Martin down. The girl
keeps the gun pointed at Martin's face until the other
two cops slam him into the wall. They wrench his arms
behind his back and slap on the handcuffs.
"Martin Rock," says the lady cop, "you are under
arrest for the murder of Anders Cradle."
"Look, Mr. Rock. This is the way it all plays out:
"At five o' clock yesterday evening, you rented a
truck. We have the receipt.
"At eleven last night, you came to the Cradle
Estate. We have video tape, and it's clearly the
license plate of the rented car.
"You left at one-thirty. Twenty minutes later,
stately Cradle Manor explodes and burns to the ground.
"There is no record of Anders having left the
place, and no record of anyone else coming in after
you left. You were there for nearly three hours.
Long enough, I think, to plant a bomb."
"No," says Martin. "Long enough to pack up some
stuff Anders gave me."
"It's none of your business."
"It could be your alibi," says the cop. "Produce
"Habeas corpus," says Martin.
"We'll find the body," says the cop.
Martin feels a pang. He didn't like the kid, but
the thought of his body, dead and charred, is too
much. "Look. I didn't do it. You have no real
evidence against me. You don't even have motive."
The cop smiles smugly; Martin gets the feeling that
this cop likes to be smug. Between his two prime
fingers, the cop daintily picks up a document Martin
immediately recognizes as Ray's will.
"I've got a feeling, Martin, that you didn't really
want to denounce the will."
The other cop, long silent during the proceedings
thus far, speaks up. "You sure you don't want a
lawyer, Mr. Rock?" Great. Just as smug as the other
"If I did do it," Martin says, his eyes and voice
adding the silent and parenthetical 'but I didn't',
"and I did have a motive, this one wouldn't be it.
This idea of yours is pretty screwy if you look at it.
Blowing up the house and killing Anders wouldn't
negate the fact that I renounced the will, and I'd
still stand to collect nothing. What would it benefit
me to do what you've said I did?"
"Revenge," says the cop.
Martin shakes his head and moves on to the
offensive. Do this carefully, Martin. Say enough to
get defend yourself but don't leave yourself open,
keep your secrets because they are your best weapon.
"I was close to his parents, to Ray and Ree. I would
never take the life of their son."
The cop scoffs. "What, did she have you over for
"As a matter of fact, yes. And dinner."
"Just Ray. And Ree," says Martin. "You can't ask
them, of course. I doubt Anders would remember me."
"We can't ask him, either," says the cop sharply.
The other cop breaks in. "You'll have to excuse my
partner if he doesn't believe your story. I mean,
after all, the Cradles were the crème de la crème of
Jolt City, the top-dollar top-dogs. And you, you're
from the, uh, the dark side of town." He grins again.
Martin wants to knock his teeth out; he won't strike
a police officer: he has respect for the law, even
when it's condescending and racist towards him.
The talky officer breaks in again. "You've been
MIA for ten years, Martin. No taxes, no W-2s, no
place of residence or forwarding address, not even a
library card. Just, poof. Dropped off the face of
the earth. If anyone cared about you, they would have
declared you legally dead.
"And then, when Ray Cradle dies, poof! You appear,
like magic. You like magic, Joe?"
The other cop shakes his head. "Nah. It's all a
bunch of lies."
"A bunch of lies," says the cop. "You appear, and,
even though no one knows who you are, you're in the
"Well, as you can see, I've got nothing to show for
it," says Martin.
"Yeah. That's the funny thing. See, if I was
standing to inherit billions of dollars, I wouldn't
have given it up without a bit of fight. But as soon
as the lawyer finished, you renounced the will so that
everything reverted to Anders. So, the way I figure
it, Anders must have had something pretty bad on you
for you to give it up like that. Maybe there's a
reason you've been missing for ten years."
Martin drinks some of the rusty water and swallows,
hard and deliberate. The talky cop stops talking, and
"You have no body. I don't think you have a
weapon, either, because if you had found some kind of
bomb, you would have brought it up. All you've got is
some shitty speculation as to a motive, speculation I
find both asinine and insulting."
The talky cop stops smiling. He throws a glance
towards the two-way glass and two uniformed officers
come through the door. "Take this tough guy to his
cell. See if he cracks."
Martin spends the night in jail, alone in his cell.
He knows he can break out of this place if he has to.
He decides to wait and see what the bail hearing has
to bring. It doesn't go well.
Though the public defender argues, as only a public
defender can, that the case has no merit and is based
only on circumstantial evidence, the judge declares
The prosecutor is grizzled, flippant, and
self-righteous. He's also a good man, as clean as
they come. If he had any skeletons in his closest,
Martin would have found out about them during the last
ten years. Martin finds himself a little queasy at
the idea that he's disappointed in this; on the one
hand, he would have liked the leverage, but on the
other, he is ashamed to be desiring corruption from
Martin talks before the prosecutor can make an
offer, and before his own public defender can advise
him not to say anything. "You want a confession, Mr.
Fisk. You have no body, no weapon, no concrete
evidence and so you need a confession."
"So?" says the prosecutor.
"So, I suggest you find the man who actually did
this, and get him to confess."
"Then I guess we have nothing to say to one
another," says the prosecutor. He exits.
Another night in jail, and he's sure his name has
been all over the news. Roy Riddle must have seen it
by now. Martin gets antsy, can't stop fidgeting,
can't stop sweating: he only gets this way when he
knows he's made a mistake. He shouldn't have told
Riddle. Riddle's bound to tell the police about the
equipment. Police will put two and two together.
Then Ray's secret will be spoilt along with Martin's.
In a dream, Ray appears, a bloated head floating
through the air, somewhat translucent but all the more
real for it. You betrayed me, Martin, he says. You
slept with my wife and you took my body and you told
my secrets. The dream ends with an explosion, and it
occurs to Martin that maybe he is responsible for it
after all. Ray was getting more paranoid these last
few years. Maybe he was anticipating someone breaking
into the Knight's Den, and he booby-trapped it. When
Martin made off with all the stuff, the place went up
in the flames soon after.
The prosecutor's assistant comes in the morning to
tell him the good news, such as it is. "There were
three more explosions last night, same M.O. Which
means you are no longer formerly charged with the
"Was anyone hurt?"
"No, no one." The assistant seems intrigued by
Martin's concern, as if some clue has been stumbled
upon. "I would suggest that you stay in Jolt City.
We may still need you for questioning."
Which means, you're not out of the woods yet,
Marty. But. Now that you're out and about, you can
finally get to the bottom of this.
Martin stops at a paper box and deposits a quarter.
A passerby recognizes him and gives him considerable
berth. "Great," says Martin. "From anonymous to
infamous. It'll be real easy getting a job now."
The paper confirms that, for all four explosions,
no cause had yet been determined. (Still, this meant
that his theory about Ray was unfounded, which put
Martin in the clear.) The paper also lists the
addresses of last night's three explosions.
Two of them used to be Martin's hideouts. And he
has a funny feeling about the third...
A quick jaunt across town jogs his memory. It
looks different now, of course, having been burnt to
the ground: but Martin could never forget the site of
their first battle with the Psychopomp.
Riddle opens the door and smiles. "Hello, Martin."
"I didn't do it," says Martin.
"I didn't think you did," says Riddle.
Martin had been hoping he would say that, but it
still surprises him; he's a bit taken back and also a
bit curious. "Why?"
"Hmm," says Riddle, squatting his face with
contemplation. "I'm not really sure. I guess I just
took a leap of faith." He smiles, smugly: he must
like to make corny, ironic comments like that.
(People with alliterative initials!) But the smugness
doesn't bother Martin, coming from Roy.
Martin closes the manse door behind him. "Thank
you for not telling."
Riddle just nods. "So, any idea who's behind
"No, and that's what scares me." Martin explains
about the three targets hit last night, and how two of
them relate to him.
"Could it be a coincidence?"
"Not this many, not all four. I'd say it was the
Psychopomp, but he's still in custody. Besides,
arson's not his style."
"How is the Cradle house related to the rest?" says
Martin stares at him, hard, trying to size up the
sincerity and meaning of Riddle's puzzled expression.
This is not a stupid man. He knows that the only
evidence linking Martin to the Cradle estate was the
rented moving truck, and he knows what was in that
truck. Martin's not sure if Roy is playing dumb in
order to allow Martin to confess the original Green
Knight's true identity, or if he's playing dumb to
show Martin that he's not going to press the issue.
Martin's not sure which, and so elides it
all-together, focusing on the more pressing issue at
"These attacks are focused on me. Which means that
someone knows who I am."
PART II. The Return of the Green Knight.
If he's going to get to the bottom of this, he
needs to get a look, with his own eyes, at the
evidence used to arrest him: the security tape, for
starters. But they're not going to hand the tape over
to Martin Rock, not when he's five hours out of prison
and still under investigation. "Unfortunately,"
Martin tells Riddle, "the Green Knight costume got
destroyed last month. The D. A. would hand it over to
the Knight without a second thought. Which means... I
better get started sewing." He sighs. "I hate
"I'd offer to help," says Riddle, "but I'm terrible
at it. But, on second thought: you just sew yourself
up a mask. I'll take care of the rest. Trust me."
The mask has to be different than Ray's, for it
serves a different purpose. Ray's mask was designed,
at least initially, to inspire fear in his enemies: a
faceless smooth green avenger, grim and surreal. Even
after he became a bit friendlier (now with sidekick!
twice as cuddly!) he kept the mask a blank and eerie
slate for his own protection.
The purpose of Martin's mask will not be to conceal
or frighten, but to inspire. To show what a man
should be. To show what a man can be.
Martin cuts two large eye-holes, large enough so
that the skin under his eyes is plainly visible.
"You've got to be kidding me, Roy."
"Try it on."
"Oh, Jesus Christ..."
Riddle clears his throat sternly.
"Sorry. Fine. I'll go try it on."
"I repeat: you've got to be kidding me."
"Put the mask on, then take a look in the mirror."
"Put it on."
Martin pulls on his quickly-assembled mask, tucking
the edges in underneath the dark green turtleneck
sweater that Riddle has provided. With his bright
green insulated gloves, he self-consciously smoothes
out the wrinkles of the heavy and loose green corduroy
"You look great," says Riddle.
"I look like a Martian-American novelist from New
England." He tugs at the heavy roll of fabric about
his neck and feels confined. "But. It will have to
Ray's belt burnt up with the rest of the costume,
which means Martin can only bring the equipment he can
fit in his pockets. He grabs the electric torch and
the grapple; he briefly considers the gas pellets, but
without anywhere to store a gas mask, there's too much
of a chance that they'll be a liability. Over the
past couple days, Martin has had this image of going
back into action, loaded for bear.
"Life's disappointing, isn't it?" Ree used to say
that. She comes floating back to him at the strangest
Nine P. M.
The courthouse is closed, of course, though there's
still a light on three stories up in the District
Attorney's office. Martin fires his grapple with an
unusual amount of enthusiasm, and he remembers the
times that he and Ray did this, often in broad
"Let's just go through the door," Martin would say.
"Just walk in, in full costume. Just sign in at the
desk and wait five or six minutes until he's ready to
see us, like normal people."
Now? If he was given the option to do otherwise,
Martin would still prefer to fire his grapple-gun,
climb up the side of the building, and knock on the
Jack Fisk turns towards the sound and gasps; Martin
waves cheekily. Fisk hesitates for a brief moment
before he walks across the room, dark ambered poison
glass cradled with sturdy and expert whimsy, and opens
the window with his free hand. He takes a liberal sip
of his glass and stares Martin right in the eyes, to
let him know that he's sloshed enough not to be
"The Green Knight...?" he says, hopefully, his
voice betraying his fearsome sobriety.
"I'm between tailors," Martin says, testily. "I'm
sure you heard about my battle with the Psychopomp?"
He had been a bit worried about this, about his voice:
for much of the last ten years, he hadn't spoken much
in costume, and so a change in vocal timber was quite
unnecessary. He's relieved, however, to find that his
voice naturally slips into a more mysterious and
"Yes. We're trying to prosecute him under the new
Supervillain Act they passed last summer."
"Um..." Play it cool, Martin. Try not to give it
away. Make it seem like you're the same person. "I
thought they passed more than one last year. Which
"The only one that's applicable," says Fisk. "It
negates the insanity plea in repeat offenders. Since
much insane behaviour qualifies as social norms for
their social group, one could argue that they're all
insane and thus free from prosecution, or that none of
them are." He takes another sip. "The Senate agreed
with the latter. Which means we can... we will seek
the death penalty." He downs the rest of his drink in
a single swig. "I suppose you don't approve."
Martin is brusque. "That's a discussion for
another time. I came here because of the Cradle...
murder." It causes Martin considerable discomfort to
realize this is the first time since his arrest that
he's realized that Anders may be dead. He didn't
really know or care about the kid, but shouldn't he
feel at least a little something for him? "I'd like
to get a look at the security tape."
"You must have heard, then," says Fisk as he heads
over to his desk.
"That the attacks are focused on you."
Martin feels something sticky and paralyzing in his
throat, a heavy dread sliding down his esophagus. The
only way to defeat fear is to overcome it; he moves
toward Fisk, towards that fear.
"Though why they singled out the Cradle boy, I have
no idea," says Fisk. He thrusts a sheet of paper at
Martin. "Here. Got this in the afternoon."
Martin accepts it with his thick green gloves.
Though the lighting is dim, he doesn't have to squint
to make it out. The entire eight-by-eleven sheet
carries only a fleeting message: 10 PM BOOM! GREEN
NIGHT. However, the words barely fit on the page.
"I didn't think it was you, of course," says Fisk.
"I know how to spell my name," says Martin.
"We got a letter last night, as well," says Fisk.
It reads, MIDNIGHT, BOOM! GREEN NIGHT. Its
message is cramped in the middle of the page.
"Doesn't have much range, does he?" says Martin.
"What's got me, and the police commissioner,
worried, is the increase in font size. What does that
mean? Is it going to be a larger explosion?"
"No," says Martin. "He's telling us where it's
going to be."
Martin consults Fisk's clock. Digital. Feh. "I
haven't much time. Mind if I use your car?"
"Let me guess, you're between mechanics, as well?"
Underneath his mask, Martin opens his mouth to make
a retort. With none forthcoming, he opts for, "Your
Fisk hands Martin the keys and explains that the
car is in the east parking structure, basement level.
Martin heads out the window, sliding down his rope.
It's only when he starts the car, of course, that
he thinks of a good come-back.
Fisk has called the police (though Martin doesn't
know it), and explained that the Green Knight is back,
and driving his car, allowing the hero to exceed the
speed limit without fear of reprisal.
Sometimes, Ray would refuse such special treatment,
and insist on driving the speed limit anyway. But he
never did that when it counted.
When lives were at stake.
With ten minutes to spare before the explosion, the
Green Knight dismounts his metallic blue steed and
heads into the only place in Jot City where this
afternoon's warning could have been created: the Giant
It all started with Rhodes, another founding member
of the Seven Wonders who, in his civilian identity,
was also a popular and prolific dime novelist known
for his quirky and punchy prose style. Once he had
found himself standing sixty feet in height, however,
it became much harder to use a typewriter.
And that is when the world's first Giant Typewriter
was constructed. What began as a specialty soon
aroused public curiosity, and they became a common
oddity, a novelty, like a Ferris wheel. Most people
couldn't press a single key, even using all their body
The possibility that Martin could find himself
facing a sixty-foot giant was a little terrifying,
especially when armed with a grapple gun and torch.
What was he going to do, climb him and flash it in his
It might be more practical to stab him with the
gigantic red pen, he muses darkly. A plaque informs
all interested parties that it took three editors to
use the pen, as they walked from word to word,
circling and striking with Herculean effort. Martin's
not interested in the logistics of giant manuscript
What he's looking for is something that's out of
place. Gazing from one gigantic typewriter to the
next, his eye scanning across one of the aged
two-story envelopes, upon which is fixed a five foot
stamp (a nice gesture, but completely unnecessary: the
government provided free postage to both the Seven
Wonders and the Veterans Squad), Martin feels out of
his element: the only thing that's out of place here
is any shred of normalcy; only thing out of place is
Martin. "Hmm. Maybe I'm the bomb."
Got to do this smarter. This guy knows what he's
doing. Every one of his bombs has completely
decimated the building, so obviously he knows where to
put it, where the bomb will do the most damage
structurally. And Martin knows this too: it was
something Ray taught him early on in his training. It
would be easier with a blueprint or layout. But
there's only six minutes to boom time, and Martin
doesn't have that luxury.
"Functioning giant typewriters weigh anywhere from
eight to twelve tons," a plaque informs him. That has
to put a lot of stress on the floor. Martin doubts
that a structural weak-point is going to be around any
of the typewriters. He finds a corner of the building
that's conspicuously farther away from any
typewriters, and nearly smacks himself on the head
when he sees the sign, This Wing Closed to Public.
That was it: that was the thing that's out of
place. He slips underneath the cord with perfect
grace, and uses his torch to illuminate the darkened
passage-way. The walls are bare but clean; the tile
floor is immaculate. No renovations are underway, no
safety hazards are visible to Martin's eye. That's
when it occurs to him: all the other signs and plaques
were written in giant type. But not this one.
This one is a trap.
Martin whirls around and begins running back
towards the museum proper. He comes to a dead-stop
when his torch falls upon a human form. The man is
too far away to make out his features.
"Sir," says Martin, "there is a bomb somewhere in
this building. It is imperative that you leave."
"So," says the man, unmoving. "Looks like you're
back from the dead." Martin can see the whites of the
man's teeth, of his smile. "Ray."
The man holds up a weird sort of pistol and fires;
a ball of energy comes streaking towards Martin. He
throws his weight towards the nearest wall, just
barely dodging it. He turns his head. The ball is
continuing on its way, picking up speed and
snowballing in size.
Laughter. He turns back; the man is running.
"That's why there's no traces of any bomb," Martin
realizes. He gets back to his feet and runs down the
corridor. When he's within several feet of the rope
and sign, he throws his weight forward and springs off
his hands, sailing feet-first over the rope and
landing in the museum proper. He heads out the door.
It's only once he's gotten back to Fisk's car that
he stops to catch his breath. And it's at that moment
that the museum bursts into flames, orange dancing
against the black-black sky and a hesitant sliver of
No sign of white-teeth.
Martin's seen a weapon like this before; the design
is clearly Rockhopper. With a sickening feeling in
his stomach, he drives to the old Rockhopper hideout,
the one from which the Psychopomp stole the Fear Ray.
[*-- see GREEN KNIGHT # 6.]
He slips into the secret passage, and bobs his
torch-light over the shelves. Empty. Every last one
of them. This does not bode well. If this bomber,
this Green Night (he knows Ray's name!) is the same
person who ransacked Rockhopper's inventions, then he
Martin has a grapple and an electric torch.
Fisk calls SecureCentre the next day, to arrange
for the Green Knight to see the Cradle security tapes.
Martin signs a few autographs (he had forgotten that
part of it!... hard to hold the pen with his big,
insulated gloves) and is quickly shown to a monitor
If no one was seen entering or exiting the estate
between the time Martin left and the explosion, then
it must have been someone before him. He watches the
day's tape on fast-forward, mindful of the time-frames
noted by the police. He stops, briefly, to watch
himself walk in through the gates, wearing his suit,
for the reading of the will; the next fifteen minutes
are abridged until a taxi cab pulls up with the
attorney and heads in through the gates; the cab exits
a moment later; fifteen more minutes till Martin
leaves by foot; half an hour, another cab pulls up to
the gate and the attorney leaves; something doesn't
feel right. Martin pulls the dial back, flashing to
the attorney's entrance.
"Holy shit. There are two passengers in that
He can't quite make out the shapes. When he
shuttles forward, the cabbie exits. There are no
passengers to be found.
Fisk introduces the Green Knight to the detective
working the case. "We have our boys down in imaging
working on it," says the detective. "Should we hear
anything, we'll get in contact with you right away."
"Um," says Fisk, "how do we do that, incidentally?
Do you have a secured phone line, or some kind of
"I defaulted on my cell phone bill," says Martin
dryly. "But I'll check in every hour. Do you have
the name of the cabbie?"
"Ain't you supposed to be a white guy?" the cabbie
Oh, this is going to be great.
"I don't mean nothing by it," says the cabbie. "I
just didn't figure on you being black, is all.
Nothing wrong with that. We got a couple of black
"That's swell," says Martin. "Do you remember the
fare to the Cradle estate?"
"Yeah, some attorney," says the cabbie. "For
reading the will or somethin'."
"What about the other man?"
"What other man?"
"The other man in the cab," says Martin. "Your
other fare. We have it on tape."
"I don't know what you're talking about, Mr.
Knight," says the cabbie, his voice cracking a little.
"Please. I don't know what you're talking about."
"The police will be wanting to question you," says
Martin. "Maybe you'll know what they're talking
The detective isn't optimistic. "He's not
cracking. Now he's even denying taking the attorney."
"How is that possible?" says Martin. "We have him
on tape, there must be some record of his fare."
"He was off-duty most of the day," says the
detective. "We verified that it was his cab, and it
wasn't in use by any other cabbie. Imaging has
identified him as a sixty percent match to the cabbie
in the tape."
"Anything on the second passenger yet?"
"Anyone talk to the attorney yet? Maybe he
remembers the other passenger." Martin smiles under
his mask, grimly. "Or maybe he's going to deny ever
being there, either."
"He was there alright. Doesn't remember the other
passenger, though. It's strange. He must know what
something like this might do to his career. I don't
see why he'd risk all he's got for this."
"He's well-off, then?"
"Oh, yeah. We've been through his financial
papers," says the detective. "Just in case he might
have been an accomplice. He's got two big houses
uptown, a masseuse for his wife and an apartment for
his mistress-- ah, his 'just good friend'-- kids are
in private school, driven by one of four chauffeured
limousines..." The detective stops dead in his
tracks. "Funny, a guy like that taking a cab." He
picks up a phone and dials.
"Lenny here. I want you to go through the cabbie's
things, too, try and see if there's something the two
of them have in common. Some kind of link." He hangs
up the phone and turns back towards the Green Knight.
"We might have a conspiracy on... our hands..."
The detective discovers that he is talking to empty
air. "Son of a bitch," he says. "How do they do
Martin had forgotten how much fun it was to do that
Roy Riddle has purchased a tool belt for Martin,
and presents it over a light lunch. "It's not exactly
what you had before, but it'll allow you to carry more
"Thanks," says Martin. "I'll repay you as soon as
"Don't worry about it," says Riddle.
"I won't be able to carry the gas capsules without
a mask, just in case they go off inside the belt,"
says Martin. He's quick to add: "That's not a hint,
by the way. Don't go buying me a gas mask."
"Actually, I've thought of something for that,"
says Riddle. "Why not store them in this?"
He hands Martin an empty Tic-Tac container. Martin
rubs the bridge of his nose. "I must be the
shittiest-looking superhero ever."
"Language," says Riddle.
"The attorney's had the good sense to disappear,"
says the detective. "And we can't find any connection
between the attorney and the cabbie, other than the
same insurance company. Nothing of any utility."
The Green Knight is welcomed into the State Farm
office like a perspective and wealthy son-in-law; the
insurance agent lays out a dowry of medical records
like a delicate dining set. Martin scans over them,
quickly and efficiently, and finds the one thing they
have in common: a psychiatrist, one Dr. Melvin
Tightly. He thanks the agent with a nod and heads for
"We do offer good rates on heroes," says the agent,
quickly. "Totally anonymous, for your protection.
Even heroes-- especially heroes-- need coverage."
"I like to live dangerously," says Martin. There
will be no wedding this night.
Martin does not tell the police about his lead;
they'd have a lot of trouble trying to get ahold of
the records or a warrant, anyway. The Green Knight
acts outside the law, and has no problem breaking into
the deserted office through the window.
The first thing he notices are three photos on the
desk, all of the same man, all with white-teeth
smiles. Well. Dr. Tightly's certainly not lacking
self-esteem, is he?
Martin lifts his mask up to his nose and tries (in
vain) to loosen the heavy quilted collar of the
turtleneck before placing his electric torch between
his lips. It takes him two minutes to pick the locks
on the filing cabinets; it should have taken less than
The cabbie's at the start of the alphabet; the
attorney's near the finish. Martin opens both drawers
and pulls out both files. Ensuring that the blinds
are shut, he turns on the desk light and sets to work.
Martin never really learned to read for pleasure;
he was always more of an athletic child, more concern
with external and physical deeds than interior states
or intellectual pursuits. When he became the
Acro-Bat, Ray taught him to speed-read. He trained
Martin to scan for telling words. He taught him how
to analyze hand-writing, to detect in the jumbled
curves of letters a moment of excitement or agitation.
The cabbie was cheating on his wife. The attorney
was, as well, but his wife had a lover besides.
Martin sucks his teeth in disgust. Rich people.
The attorney is also molesting his children.
Martin feels an angry sickness in his stomach, and
he starts to tear up. He coils his fists and
breathes, deep and tumultuously, until the anger
The bastard. The sick freak.
Martin feels cold steel against his bare forehead,
and it takes him a moment to realize that he still has
his mask on, that there's no gun there, that he's
still here alone. Alone with his memories. Alone
with his pain.
"You can do this, Marty," he says quietly. "You're
not a kid anymore. It was nearly thirty years ago.
Deal with it another time."
But he knows he won't. He always avoids thinking
about it until times like these, when it fills him up
with rage and confusion, when it cripples him.
"You can't be crippled right now," he says to
himself, a little louder. "You got to get this guy.
Stop this guy. You're the Knight now, and that comes
first. You want to be a symbol, you want to inspire
people, then you can't climb inside yourself.
"You have to stop him, Martin."
He takes a deep breath, and looks at the file with
cold and scientific eyes. It's the only way he can
prevent himself from breaking down again. He has to
move past it, has to keep on moving.
Wait. This does not fall under privilege. Tightly
is still obligated to turn this information over to
the police. Not only does he have a legal obligation,
but also a moral one.
Both the cabbie and the lawyer have something to
hide. Blackmail. That's why they won't name him,
that's why they'll face perjury charges or worse. The
attorney might go to jail for a little while, he might
lose his license, but that's a whole lot better than
rotting there, like he deserves, outed as a monster.
The cabbie might serve his sentence, but he won't lose
Maybe with this info out on the table, they might
be more inclined to talk. He resolves to take the
files to the police: though they wouldn't have gotten
ahold of the files through a legal search, evidence
given by a private citizen (even one with a mask)
can't be dismissed out of hand.
And, this little break-in also yielded enough
evidence to convince Martin that Melvin Tightly is the
man he's looking for. He'll start at Tightly's
residence and see what he can find there.
He snuffs out the desk light and tucks the files
under his arm. He opens the blinds and the window,
and prepares to float down on his grapple to the
ground. That's when he realizes he left the filing
cabinets open. He walks back into the room.
In the L-Z cabinet, he spots a file: Rockhopper,
Armand. So that's how he got ahold of Rockhopper's
gadgets, that's how he knew where the old hideout was.
He scans the other names on the file folders, and
recognizes a couple of other ex-villains whose
hideouts Martin had utilized. Hideouts which had been
In the A-K cabinet, he recognizes another name, and
his heart skips a beat.
With a shaking, quivering hand, Martin pulls the
file out and sets it on the table. He snaps the desk
light back on, unmindful of the open window.
Ray Cradle is the Green Knight, it says.
There's no mention of Martin Rock in the file, no
mention of the Acro-Bat. There's not much information
about the Green Knight, for that matter; just that she
was unhappy and neglected. That she took a lover.
(That was Martin: never named in the file, but
Martin looks at the date on the file; Ree started
seeing Tightly in 2004. The last year of her life, as
she was dying from cancer. Ray never told her, never
confessed his other identity, never trusted her. She
was bitter, and she was angry, and though Martin came
to visit when Ray wasn't in, it was never enough: she
She lashed out. She told Tightly her husband's
secret in their first session. The secret was what
had ruined their marriage. Ree had told Martin more
than once that she would have been more than happy to
be the Green Knight's wife, and tend to his wounds.
But Ray kept her out of the loop, Ray didn't trust
her. Ray didn't trust his own wife, and so she
Martin had trusted her, though. Martin had told
her who he was, the first night that they had made
love. Ree said she had known all along, but it meant
the world to her that he had told her, that he had
confessed, that he had trusted her.
And Ree rewarded that trust; Ree kept his secrets.
But if Tightly didn't know who Martin was, and if
he knew the original Green Knight was dead, then what
was the point of it all, what was the aim of these
attacks? They didn't make sense; there was nothing
benefiting Tightly from these crimes. "Maybe he went
over the deep end," Martin muses aloud. "Maybe..."
Maybe he got it out of Anders before he blew up
Cradle Manor. Or maybe he sat and watched undetected
as Martin unloaded the Knight's Den. If he had been
in the house all that time...
But wait. Why didn't Martin see him when the
attorney came in? Maybe he waited outside the house
until after Martin had left the first time.
A lot of maybes. A lot of reasons for doubt.
Martin doesn't like it.
The Green Knight descends on his grapple, and
touches the ground, three files tucked beneath his
He sees the flames for about a mile before he
reaches the site where Tightly's house once stood.
"Can't make it easy for me, can you?" Martin asks
of the thick night.
He turns the two files into the police.
"What about that one?" says the cop, pointing to
the one still tucked under Martin's armpit.
Martin tries to come up with something witty and
mysterious to say, but finds himself again coming up
He turns crisply and heads home.
Saturday evening, and the cops have good (if
unsurprising) news: both the cabbie and the attorney
have remembered Dr. Tightly being in the cab.
Martin's muscles become hard knots. "You didn't give
him a plea deal?" he asks Fisk.
"I don't make deals with rapists," Fisk says
flatly. "No. He's going to go away for a long time
for what he's done."
"Then why is he going to finger Tightly?" says
"Never underestimate a man's capacity for
pettiness," says Fisk. "If he's going down, he wants
to take Tightly down with him. Apparently, Tightly
has a lot of dirt on a lot of patients."
"So, he was blackmailing them."
"Not for money, no."
"Banking checks out?"
"Yeah. And he's not living beyond his means.
Occasionally he seems to ask people for favours, and
if they don't..." Fisk lets his voice trail off
deliberately. "But that seems to be very rare. From
what the attorney said, he mostly just likes lording
it over people. Playing chess with their emotions."
"He's sick," says the Green Knight in judgment.
"But it still doesn't explain why. Why the bombings,
why now? What's his motive?"
"Your guess is as good as mine," says Fisk. The
phone rings. The conversation is brief and played out
with terse and even syllables. "They found another
note in police headquarters, in the mail-box..."
"He wants a billion dollars for the safe return of
"Well. There's the motive."
PART III. A Desperate Duel.
The letter bears no distinguishing marks;
twelve-point characters from a fading ribbon adorn
"And as the knight is green
so will I make good my word
a billion dollar$ or else
the boy dies
and many, many more
big boom at midnite
The Green Night."
Enclosed with the letter is a photo of Anders,
dirty and bruised but very much alive. Since in the
time Martin has known him, Anders has never had so
much as a scratch or a hair out of place (the stupid
kid wouldn't even clean up his father, probably for
fear of getting blood on his hands), the Green Knight
knows that it is a current photograph. Anders is
alive, at least until twelve.
The detective is dour. "We've got less than three
hours to comply with his demands, but there's no
instructions on how to do so."
"That's to give us less time to try and figure it
out," says Fisk. "We have the money ready, he calls
at the last minute, it's harder for us to mobilize."
"This letter is real peculiar," says Lenny. "It's
like he's trying to tell us something."
"He is," says Martin. "In the first line, he's
calling me out."
"Well, I got that much," responds the detective
Martin doesn't explain, of course, that it contains
a double meaning; not only is it addressed to the
Green Knight, but also to the Knight that is green:
the knight that is new, the knight that is raw and
still groping towards his predecessor's efficiency.
But this does tip off Martin that the letter is
meant to be read as full of double meanings. "He
spells 'night' three different ways," says Martin.
"One is to address me. One is to address himself.
"Midnight," says Lenny.
"All three have something in common."
Martin exhales. "They're four-colours. They're
"The Midnite Man," says Lenny.
"The other explosions were all in hideouts for
four-colours. Except the typewriter factory, which is
the odd man out."
"And the Cradle place," says Fisk.
"Right," says Martin deliberately. He has to be
more careful; almost gave it away there. "But that
one was central to his plan; the people of this city--
especially the rich people-- very much want Anders
Cradle to be kept alive."
Lenny dials his phone and gets ahold of the
research department. "Detective Rossi here," he says.
"The Midnite Man made a mask statement before he
retired. Find out where his hideout was. Chances
are, it'll be occupied. We need to evacuate and
search the building immediately. Look for any signs
of suspect Melvin Tightly."
"You won't find him there," says Martin. He's
looking at the photograph, at Anders tied by his hands
to a jagged piece of metal, and for the first time, he
sees the painting in the background. The medieval
painting of the Green Knight.
"You know where he is?" says Fisk.
The painting Martin left behind on Monday night.
That's why the camera never picked up on Anders and
Tightly leaving before the explosion; that's why there
was no trace of any body. They were deep inside the
reinforced fall-out shelter cum hideout deep beneath
The Knight's Den.
Anders is alive. Is that because Tightly kept him
alive, or because Anders had something to give
Tightly, a secret, a name: Martin's secret, Martin's
He shakes it from his head. Not important now.
At quarter past ten, the Green Knight arrives at
the remains of stately Cradle Manor. He carefully
treads through the rubble, wanding his electric torch
back-and-forth and as discreetly as possible, eyes
wide open for any sign of trouble. He gets to where
the west wing once stood, and contemplates how to
breach the accumulated rubble. If he had some kind of
explosive, he could blast his way down. But that
wouldn't exactly be discreet, would it? And besides,
he didn't have the explosives.
"Don't waste time considering options you don't
have," he reminds himself. "Work with what you've
got. Work smarter. Not harder."
In order for Tightly to converse to and fro the
Knight's Den and his targets, there must be a clear
Of course. The caves.
The Green Knight reaches the entrance to the caves.
He considers stopping in order to catch his breath.
He's in good shape, but it's been a long time since he
ran two miles in under fifteen minutes.
He continues running.
The caves can be treacherous; he should slow down,
bobbing his torch respectively to avoid snakes, bumps
in the ground, and possible pitfalls. It's been over
ten years since he was in the caves.
But he keeps running, he keeps the torch darting
along, an epileptic dot of light giving him barely
enough time to leap over the holes where the ground
has eroded away.
He keeps running.
At eleven o' clock, he sees another light in the
darkness ahead of him, slowly and cautiously bobbing
to and fro. Melvin Tightly.
Though his ribs ache and his head is light, he runs
twice as fast now, spurned on by the physical reality
of his torch's doppelganger. He gives chase, and
suddenly the other light is getting smaller, harder to
see. Tightly is running from him, back to the
He knows better than to fire the explosion gun in
here, Martin thinks as he pushes himself harder,
faster. He'd have nowhere to go, and it'd kill us
Even once he gets to the Knight's Den, it would
cause a cave-in and Tightly would be stuck
under-ground in an airless room. Which means that
Martin will have the advantage.
It's time to press it...!
Light suddenly pools into the caverns, and is gone
as quick as it came; gone, too, is the light from
Tightly's torch. Martin's ten seconds away from the
entrance to the Den himself. Ten seconds in which
Tightly will be preparing for him, expecting him to
push against the painting and slip down into the room,
ripe for the clobbering.
"Sorry, Ray," says Martin as he leaps towards the
He throws his body forwards and come crashing
through the canvas, bursting through the Green
Knight's severed head. Tightly was waiting for him, a
lead pipe in hand, ready to bludgeon Martin; he
screams in surprise as he sees Martin descending from
above. He starts to raise the pipe, but Martin falls
upon him before it can be of any use. Tightly hits
the ground with a thud and, using the momentum, Martin
somersaults ten feet away.
He whirls around quickly, his eyes taking snap-shot
glances of the gutted Den. He spots Anders in one of
the corners, and the boy's eyes are open: he's safe.
That's the important thing. Now that that's out of
Tightly is back on his feet, running towards Martin
with the pipe in both hands, over his head. Martin
holds steady, he's going to let Tightly come to him
and then kick him away. That's when he'll take the
offensive. But when Tightly comes within a few feet
of Martin, he stops dead and flings the pipe from his
Martin reacts a split-second too late, and the pipe
hits him in the face before he can bring his arms up.
He stumbles backwards. He should have leaped out of
the way, should have dodged it instead of blocking;
Ray had a big body, Ray could take punishment.
Martin's an acrobat.
He gets back to his feet, his body tense and ready
to strike. Tightly stands a few feet away, waiting
for Martin to make a move. They stand and stare like
animals, taking heaving and uncivilized breaths,
waiting wearily, bug-eyed, both with so much at stake.
Whatever move he makes, Tightly is going to be ready
for it. Unless Martin surprises him again.
Martin kicks the piece of pipe away with a swift
movement of his foot. Predictably, Tightly's eyes
dart towards the pipe. A moment's confusion: Martin
makes his move.
He leaps through the air and towards Tightly.
Tightly turns back but not quickly enough to react.
Martin is upon him, his fists flying, hitting Tightly
in the stomach and the chest, trying to get him to
Tightly's smart: he doesn't run backwards, but
rather sideways, towards the nearest wall. If Martin
gets him flat on his back, Martin would have the
Martin realizes this, and begins to punch
downwards, hoping to drive Tightly into the dusty
pavement. Tightly kicks himself away, rolling with
the punch, landing with a thud against the wall.
Martin tries to undermine Tightly's confidence.
"You're cornered, Tightly. It's over. Nowhere to
They stop again, taking heaving breaths, their
muscles agitated and ready, waiting for the other to
make his move, staring one another down.
Tightly's ploy is good in theory; standing up, at
least he has a chance to defend himself. But up
against the wall, Tightly won't be able to escape
Martin's punches. Martin has a feeling that Tightly
can take even less punishment than he can.
I've got to keep him up against the wall, thinks
Martin. If I make the first move towards him, he'll
run and I don't know which direction he'll go. I'll
have to switch gears at high speed, and there's a
chance he might get to another portion of the room, or
worse, to Anders.
I've got to keep him up against the wall. If he
makes the first move, then I'll know what direction
he's moving in and can put all my momentum towards
Suddenly: Tightly leaps towards Martin, clawing.
Martin wasn't expecting that; it's a stupid move on
Tightly's part. Martin drives himself towards his
opponent, pinning him up against the wall and keeping
him there. He drums Tightly's stomach and face
unrelentingly with his sweating, glove-covered fists.
Tightly keeps squirming, trying to make contact.
Martin keeps his body tight and behind his fists, so
there's nowhere for Tightly to attack. "Fall down,"
says Martin. "It's over. Fall down!"
Tightly swings his arm way out sideways, grabbing
at Martin's mask. He begins to pull.
Martin immediately stops punching, pulling the mask
back down before it even slips out of the turtleneck.
Tightly keeps pulling at it, clawing at it. Martin
swats Tightly's hand away and, acting stupidly as a
matter of instinct, propels himself backwards, putting
distance once more between he and his opponent.
Tightly makes a dash for it, running towards
Anders. Shit. Now he's got him by the balls.
But no. He doesn't stop over by Anders, he's not
playing the hostage card. He keeps running, past
Martin, towards the other side of the room.
Martin turns around and gives chase.
Tightly doesn't know who he is. If he did, he
wouldn't have went for Martin's mask. Anders didn't
sell him out.
It's now that Martin sees what he should have noted
in the first place: a haphazard pile of weapons
Tightly had appropriated from Rockhopper. Tightly
certainly never forgot about it.
He reaches into the pile, and Martin stops in his
tracks, on the defensive. Tightly's not stupid enough
to use the explosion ray, is he?
He's sweating, hyper-ventilating, bleeding: a
desperate man. Tightly doesn't even look at what he's
pulled out of the pile. Martin smiles underneath his
mask. It's not one of Rockhopper's weapons.
It's one of Ray's.
The grapple gun.
Martin runs towards Tightly, and hopes to God that
the damn thing still misfires.
He gets his answer when Tightly pulls the trigger.
The grapple remains in the gun, causing a
tremendous back-fire; the gun drops to the floor, and
only now does the grapple propel itself upwards, its
sharp teeth ripping through Tightly's arm.
He gives a scream of pain. That's when the grapple
line becomes taut and reels itself back in, lodging
the hooks in the arm and pulling Tightly brutally to
the floor. Another scream.
Martin walks over to Tightly, cool and collected.
He grabs the man by the collar, and pulls him away
from the weapons.
He's crying, mumbling. "I'll tell," he says.
"I'll tell them all that Ray Cradle was the Green
"Ray Cradle's dead, Tightly," says Martin, hoisting
the little man into the air. "I'm the Green Knight."
He tosses Tightly to the ground. He lands with a
thud, falling silent and unconscious.
Martin jogs over to Anders. "Are you alright?"
"Yeah. I didn't tell him."
"He..." Anders coughs; it's dry and harsh. "He
didn't let me eat. But I didn't tell him."
Martin just nods and unties him.
The Green Knight drags the mad bomber with one
hand; in the other, he carries the explosion gun that
will be used to convict him. Anders handles the
Once they reach the cave's entrance, they stop for
"Blow it up," says Anders.
"The cave. Otherwise, they'll find my father's
Martin nods and drags Tightly a safe distance from
the cave; Anders follows. Martin fires the gun, and
the cave explodes.
"Well, that will get the police here, at any rate,"
says Martin. "You do need some medical attention."
"Don't you have a cell phone or something?"
"I don't even have a costume," says Martin.
"You should get a cell phone."
"Thanks. I'll take it into consideration."
Before the police arrive, Anders asks to meet
Martin tomorrow. Martin agrees.
Lenny explains that they had gotten a call just
before eleven, detailing Tightly's ransom
instructions. Tightly had been on his way out when
Martin found him in the cave.
The Green Knight explains that they battled within
the caves, and that Anders pulled him out after
Tightly blew the place up.
"He's a mad man," says Lenny.
Martin meets Anders outside of the church. "I see
you've got a new suit."
Anders smirks. "You still got a shitty one."
"Come on. Mass is about to start."
Roy Riddle proves less compelling and more
officious when giving sermons; Martin finds this
disappointing, but reckons that Sunday noon mass is
not a time or place to be personable.
After mass, Martin introduces Anders to Riddle: he
mistakenly calls the pastor Ray, but neither Riddle
nor Anders corrects him.
"I'm going to show him around the basement," Martin
Riddle smiles knowingly and, once the two have
started down the stairs, side-steps over to the door,
barring curious parties from entering.
Anders helps Martin lift the cactus, and they
descend the hidden staircase.
"Welcome to my swinging bachelor pad," Martin
deadpans. Then, more seriously: "I want you to know
that I trust you, Anders. That was very brave of
Anders shrugs. "We had an agreement. You
renounced the will, I kept your secret. You didn't
renege on me, I wasn't about to do the same to you."
"Spoken like your father."
"Hmm. So, what happens now? He's going to tell
them, you know."
"A lot of people have been accused of being the
Green Knight," says Martin. "But none of it sticks.
And, as far as the world knows, the current Green
Knight has always been the Green Knight."
"But you're slimmer than my dad is."
"Green Knight's also been out of action for much of
the last four months. Ample time to slim down.
Besides, he has no evidence. I returned your mother's
file last night-- sans any mention of the Green
"That's all fine and dandy, then," says Anders
"What's up?" says Martin.
"My mother," says Anders. "It looks like my father
was right about not telling her, after all."
"If he had told her, none of this would have
happened," says Martin. "If he had trusted her. He
didn't, and so she let her anger get the better of
her. It was hard for her, Anders, that last year.
She had been hoping for so long that your dad would
come clean. And when he didn't...
"When it looked like she was going to go to her
grave with a husband who had such contempt for her...
"I wouldn't have done what she did, but I
understand it. I understand what anger can do to you.
Maybe one day, you will, too."
Anders's eyes fall upon the turtleneck and corduroy
pants. "I don't really care much for your world," he
says, quietly. "I didn't before, and having been part
of it for the past week, I can't say I'd recommend
"Things are different when you're on the other side
of it," says Martin. "It's two different worlds,
between being a victim and being a, uh, a hero, I
guess." Martin feels embarrassed.
"It's the right word," says Anders. "And I wish
you luck with it. Me, I don't want to be either. Not
a victim or a hero."
"What do you want, then?"
"I dunno. I guess I'll find out next September."
"You'll be starting college."
Rich people. "That's great, Anders."
"It should give them ample time to rebuild my
"It's January now. What are you going to do in the
"Europe, maybe. Stay at the house in Italy."
"I hear Europe's nice," says Martin half-heartedly.
The only time he'd ever been out of the U. S., was
when he was in Iraq. And that wasn't exactly a
They have a small lunch at Roy's manse, and Anders
bids Martin farewell. Martin and Roy watch him leave
in his limousine.
"So," says Roy. "What next?"
"Next? Next, I start sewing."
(C) COPYRIGHT 2006 TOM RUSSELL.
Director of MILOS, LIFE AND TIMES OF A DREAMER
Limited autographed dvds now on sale, directly from the filmmaker
"In the beginning, Milos seems to have no clue how to relate
to anyone. He is quizzical, leaving the viewer questioning
-- Ryan M. Niemiec, co-author of MOVIES AND MENTAL ILLNESS
"If a comic book, book, movie or novel is not somebody's fantasy
then who wrote it and to whom does it appeal to? In order for a
shared universe to have a widespread appeal, it has to appeal on
a primal level. If somebody says superhero comics are just 'wish
fulfillment' then he needs to explain what is entertainment that
doesn't satisfy our wishes and what satisfaction at all you can get
from it." -- Dr. Martin Phipps
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