[8FOLD] Template #3

Jamie Rosen jamie.rosen at sunlife.com
Sun Mar 26 09:17:30 PST 2006

.................................................  "I think in some
ways he
.................................................  was at war with
................................................. "But then, aren't we

"You lead a very eventful life, don't you, Mr. Kidman?" Detective
Steadman remarked as he entered the room. He was a short, stocky man
with a thick, mottled-grey mustache and a perpetually pinched look to
his face.

"I guess you could say that," Billy said.

The detective raised an eyebrow. "Death threats at your father's
funeral, lunatics collapsing in the middle of your store... I'd say
there's no guessing about it."

Billy shrugged.

"You're new in town, right?" Detective Steadman continued, still


He smiled. "Of course you are. I probably would have heard of you
before if you'd lived here long."

"I grew up here," Billy said defensively.

"Well, that makes one of us," the detective replied, offering him a
styrofoam cup. "Coffee?"

"No thanks."

"Smart man." He poured himself a cup and put the pot back down. "When
someone new comes to town and immediately starts experiencing these
sorts of dramatic events," he went on, "alarm bells start going off in
my head. Because it's been my experience that most of the time death
threats have some sort of motivation behind them. If you'll pardon my
saying so, Mr. Kidman."

"What are you saying, that I deserve to have someone want to kill me?"

"No. Only that I'm surprised you don't seem to have any idea why you've
been threatened." He took a seat opposite Billy and sipped on his
coffee, his already pinched face screwing up even more. "Nasty stuff,"
he grumbled.

Billy set his jaw. "Well, I don't."

Officer Steadman shrugged. "Fair enough. Now, let's go over the
sequence of events again."


Billy stepped out of the police station and into a mild winter day, the
brilliant sun melting the snow despite the sub-zero temperatures.
Adjusting his scarf and squinting in the light, he descended the front
stairs to the salted sidewalk.

"Mr. Kidman?"

Billy stopped and turned to the woman who had spoken his name. She was
a short, ruddy-faced woman with a lazy eye. "Yes?"

"I'm Dorothy Willingham," she said, extending her hand.

She had owned Myriad Books before him. "Oh, yes, of course!" he
replied, shaking her hand. "What a world we live in, eh? Where I could
buy a store from you and not ever have met you face to face until
today." She chuckled.

"Well, anyway," she went on, "I heard that you had some trouble earlier
today and, well... Grant is my brother, Mr. Kidman. I haven't seen him
in months. He comes and goes, lives in the wilderness or along the
highway or God knows where sometimes. Then he'd just show up at my
house, or along my walk home. He never came to the store before -- he
couldn't stand all the books -- and he's never... well, he's never done
anything like this. I'm sorry."

"I understand," Billy replied. "Is he all right?"

"He's in the hospital for now," she said, looking at the sidewalk.
"They'll probably put him away for a while..." She trailed off. "Do you
know why he was so upset? Did he say anything?"

Billy shook his head, then stopped. "He said something -- something
about redcoats? Like in the Revolutionary War?"

Dorothy frowned. "Redcoats?" She shook her head. "I should have known
not to expect anything that actually made sense. I guess that's the way
it is when... Look, do you want to go get a coffee? I'd like to talk to
you some more, but it's kinda cold out here."

"Sure, but--"

"There's a Timmy's just down the street there." She nodded past the
police station. "I'll treat you to a donut?"

This time he was the one who chuckled. "Sure."

The shop was half full. Most of the customers were older men and women,
alone or in couples. A pair of heavily made-up girls loitered at a
table near the back, probably cutting class, and a couple of uniformed
cops were polishing off sandwiches by the far window. Billy grabbed a
table while Dorothy placed an order at the counter. She came back with
two double-doubles and, as promised, a donut.

"Grant's never done anything like this before," she said after her
first taste of the coffee. "Nothing so... dramatic, I mean. Except
once. He always had a wonderful imagination growing up. He loved to
read -- we both did, that's why I opened the shop. But he could write,
too. Boy, could he write! All I could ever hope to do was read the
books, and maybe sell a few, but Grant... he could write two sentences
and have you ready to pay for the rest.

"Back then he was perfectly normal. Charming even. Right up until his
last year of high school. I don't know what happened, exactly; the
diagnoses kept changing. One minute we were at the library checking out
some books, and the next he was screaming and shouting and knocking the
books from the shelves, trying to rip them apart, tearing at them with
his teeth...

"They tried all sorts of treatments. Medication, therapy -- they even
talked about electroshock, but our parents drew the line there. They
locked him up for a while, and things seemed to be improving. He still
wasn't any good around books, or magazines or newspapers, but he
started writing again. It was darker. More disturbing. It didn't always
make sense. And he was more coherent. Eventually he put on a good
enough show that they let him out of the hospital -- and he vanished."
Billy felt a look of shock cross his face, and she must have noticed
it. "Not literally. He's not some sort of superhero or anything;
they're all in New York or Toronto or something. He just went away and
never told anybody where he was."

"But you said he came to visit you?"

She nodded. "He'd show up unnanounced on my front step, or surprise me
between the store and home. He never came in; I could see that even
just being that close made him antsy. But sometimes he'd ask for paper.
And he was always curious about the business. I think in some ways he
was at war with himself." She drank some more coffee. "But then, aren't
we all?"

Something on Dorothy beeped, and she pulled out a pager. "Damn," she
said. "I have to go. Look, I still live in town." She reached into her
purse and pulled out a business card. "Here's my number if you need to
get in touch with me -- about Grant, or the store, or just to talk. I'm
going to try to visit him tomorrow, if they'll allow visitors. And I'll
let him know I don't run Myriad anymore." She shut her purse and got up
from the table. "Thanks for letting me talk," she said. Then, halfway
out the door: "And don't forget the donut."

He looked down at the plate before him. Double chocolate glazed.

Maybe he'd save it for later.


The rest of the day was uneventful enough that Billy began to get
nervous about his date on Saturday. With no customers coming in, he
closed the shop early and went upstairs to take a shower and relax.

The bathroom filled quickly with steam from the hot water that beat
against his skin, and he had to stop earlier than he wanted to because
he was in danger of passing out. After towelling himself of slightly,
he went back into his bedroom and lay down on the bed for a moment,
only to wake up hours later with just a hint of moonlight trickling
into the apartment through the window above him. The building creaked
and popped as its wooden beams adjusted to the drop in temperature that
accompanied nightfall, and he found gooseflesh crawling across his skin
in spite of himself.

The phone was ringing.

It took him a moment to remember where it was in the dark, and on the
way he managed to stub his toe against the trunk he'd brought up from
the shop.

"Hello?" he answered, wincing as he put weight on his injured foot.
Only the hiss of the phone line met his ears. "Hello?" The line clicked
off and a dial tone replaced the silence at the other end.

Hairs stood up on the back of his neck. "Just a wrong number, that's
all," he said aloud, replacing the receiver on its cradle. Still, he
turned on the desk lamp, just to be certain.

The lamp bathed the apartment in an orange light, casting smudged
shadows against the eggshell walls. It brightened the room but did
little to lessen the anxiety that nestled in his throat and the pit of
his stomach. He booted up his computer and searched his music library
for something that would lighten his mood, or at least break the
silence that had gripped the world around him.

With the avant garde stylings of Oval clicking and whirring in the
background, he walked gingerly back to the wooden streamer trunk that
divided the room and crouched down to lift the heavy lid. Everything
was still arranged neatly, with his father's journal now at the top of
the pile. He picked it up, held it unopened before him for a few
seconds, then put it down again. He stood up and stretched his legs,
then sat on the edge of the bed, fingers interlaced, staring at the

*Do I want this?* he asked himself. [I saw Michael die yesterday...] He
ducked his head, ran his fingers through his hair. [It didn't matter
that he could lift a jeep...] *Do I have a choice?*

[The mine still tore him to pieces.]

Billy went back to the trunk, but this time placed the journal on the
floor beside the trunk and lifted the silver belt that lay beneath it.
It reflected the light in the room only dully, and had a pleasant heft
to it when he held it in his hands.

What had it felt like, he wondered, to wear the belt, the outfit? He
couldn't imagine the mask was very comfortable; once when he was young
he'd dressed up as the Lone Ranger for Hallowe'en, and even the simple
domino mask of his drugstore costume had itched and needed constant
readjustment as he went door to door for candy. To wear a full-fledged
cowl while duking it out with supervillains and Axis agents on the
battlefields of World War Two... He wondered if he could even
understand the man his father had truly been.

He moved the belt from hand to hand. Most of the weight was in the
front, which was thicker than the straps that would connect around the
belt. It looked something like a weightlifter's belt, but narrower, and
metallic. There was a temptation, he admitted to himself. Like playing
dress-up with his father's suits when he was a kid. It would be simple
enough: stand up, place the belt around his waist and connect the
clasps, and then...

Annoyed, he tossed the belt back into the trunk and closed the lid. And
then what? Dash out into the night to battle gangsters and pimps, spies
and saboteurs? Was that the life he wanted?

Was it even the life his father had wanted?

Billy sighed and looked at the journal that still sat beside the trunk.


|-February 16, 1939
| With the stormclouds of war on the horizon -- a war
|beyond even that in which my father fought, I fear -- I
|cannot find it in my heart to deny this unusual gift
|bequeathed upon me: this belt with such strange
|properties. Some cursory examination indicates that the
|claims made by my anonymous benefactor are correct, but
|give no clue as to the science behind the belt, or even
|the method of its operation. If I am to answer the call
|to duty I foresee, I cannot rely on trial and error.
| It is a madenning feeling, as though trying to remember
|a word that is "on the tip of your tongue", as it were:
|this sensation that the enigma with which I am
|confronted has a solution that is so simple it is easily
|overlooked. As a man of science, however, I trust that
|I shall unlock the answers presently.

The next entry was one that Billy had read already. The one following
that was written three weeks later.

|-March 17, 1939
| My further experiments seem to have proven my
|hypothesis: the belt draws its power from the wearer's
|memory. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that
|the belt draws its power from the wearer's memory and
|imagination; specifically, from texts that the wearer
|has read. In the past three weeks I have successfully
|emulated the swordsmanship of d'Artagnan, the detective
|insight of Sherlock Holmes, and the facility with the
|French language of Cyragno de Bergerac.
| I have also determined some of the limitations of this
|tool, as I have been unable to exceed the limits of the
|human body. In attempting to emulate the heroes of the
|"comic books" enjoyed by my cousin, I succeeded merely
|in straining my back and scuffing a perfecly fine pair
|of pants. So it would appear that this device can
|temporarily raise my abilities to the peaks of human
|achievement, but no further.
| I have yet to ascertain a guideline for the duration
|of these changes, although I am inclined to say the
|length could vary inverseley with the amount of change.

Billy put the journal aside once more, lay on his back, and closed his
eyes to think. He woke up the next morning in the exact same position.


True to her word, Rebecca arrived at the store at 7:30 sharp Saturday
evening. Billy was waiting for her, freshly showered and shaved and
acutely conscious of the fact that he actually had no idea where they
were going.

"So what's the name of the restaurant?" he asked as they began to walk.

"La Jetée," she replied. "I think it means... the pier?"

"It's a French restaurant?"

She shook her head. "No, it's... eclectic. The menu is different every

"I see."

The night air had cooled down again and he spent the walk with his
hands shoved in his coat pockets and his shoulders hunched up near his
ears, breath fogging steadily out of his mouth and occasionally
catching in a dry rasp in his throat. He looked primarily at the
snow-covered ground before him, but when he would occasionally look
over at Rebecca he could see that despite the weather she was walking
with almost perfect posture, her head up, her neck straight. He tried
to emulate her more than once, but each time soon found himself
slumping back down again to conserve his body heat.

She glanced at him and smiled apologetically. "It's only a few blocks
away, actually."

He laughed. "I guess Vancouver's spoiled me," he said. "It hardly ever
even snows there."

"It's been really cold this year." She looked up at the sky as they
walked, and he followed her gaze. With the way the clouds reflected the
street lights, even in a town the size of Rex Falls, it was almost as
bright as it would have been had the sky been clear and the stars been
visible. "I don't know what it is. Most days it feels like there's a
blizzard just around the corner."

They made small talk the rest of the way to the restaurant, and
continued on as they waited to place their order. When the food
arrived, Billy broached the subject of _The Philosophers of Uqbar_.

"I think I might have a lead on that book you've been looking for," he
said between mouthfuls of fettuccine.

She looked up from her chicken, her eyebrows raised. "Oh really?"

He nodded. "It's nothing firm," he said, "but I've been in touch with
someone who has an interest in the book as well. She seems to be the
only person I can find who's ever even actually *seen* a copy of it."
He swallowed some water. "Where did you come across this book anyway?
It seems awfully obscure."

"Oh, it's something my boss said I should look up," she said, focusing
on her meal again. "Did she say she had a copy?"

"No, but she's keeping her eyes peeled for it too, now, which can't
hurt -- it sounds like she gets around quite a bit." He chuckled. "Um,
not in the way that may sound..."

She laughed as well.

"Anyway," he went on, "it may take a while."

"That wouldn't surprise me." She had a forkful of chicken. "You don't
happen to have a phone number for her, do you?"

He shook his head. "She said that she was still sorting out her cell
phone for this area. She's from Argentina."

"Argentina?" Rebecca raised an eyebrow again. "Does this Argentinian
mystery woman have a name?"

"Does she ever. 'Miss Amelia de Fuerza Guerrera.'" Rebecca's brow
furrowed. "Is something wrong?"

She shook her head. "No, no. Just straining my old high school
Spanish," she explained. She finished off her chicken and lay her knife
and fork across her plate. "So, care for dessert?"


He walked Rebecca to her car and said goodnight, then walked the rest
of the way home by himself. As he rounded the corner, he saw someone
standing on the front step of his shop, as though waiting for him. He
slowed his pace and approached cautiously. The man on the front step
was in middle age and, although his body was obscured by the coat he
wore, appeared to be in considerably good shape.

"May I help you?" Billy asked.

"Mr. William Kidman?" the man asked.


"My name is Steve Green. Although you may know me better as Red Surge."
He showed Billy a badge identifying as a special agent of the Royal
Canadian Mounted Police. "May I come in?"

"Um..." Billy hesitated. "Oh, of course, Mr. Green." He dug around in
his pocket for his keys and let them both in.

In the apartment above the shop, they sat on chairs opposite one
another in the living room. "May I ask what your interest in me is, Mr.
Green?" Billy asked.

"Please, calle me Steve.

"Well, Mr. Kidman--"


Steve smiled. "Well, Billy, I knew your father. We were coworkers
together at the beginning of my career as Red Surge. This was after
your father had retired from... let's say, 'public life'. He was
working as a consultant for the RCMP on metahuman affairs."

"'Public life...'?"

"Your father's identity as Template was open to people such as myself,"
Steve went on. "It was classified government knowledge during the war,
and then when he came on as a consultant with us they thought it best
if we had some idea of his background, to know what qualified him for
that position."

"I had no idea."

"This was back in the early 70s -- like I said, at the beginning of my
career. He left a long time before you were born." Steve leaned forward
in his chair. "Actually, that brings me to the reason for my visit.

"When your father left our department, he was allowed to take with him
the belt that granted him his powers as Template. After all, he had
discovered it, he had learned how to use it, and he had done so to the
benefit of our nation and the world. Besides, with people like myself
and the Canadian Shield project coming into play, it was felt that the
belt was something we could afford to part with if it ensured
continuing good relations with one of our best resources."

"And now that he's dead, you want it back?"

This time it was Steve who hesitated. "Yes," he admitted. "But we're
not going to force you to give it to us."

"I'll think about it," Billy said.

Steve sat back in his chair again. "Fair enough," he said. "I'd imagine
this is all a lot to process at once. Just be careful, Billy. There are
some interested parties would not be so polite as to *ask*." He stood
up. "I suppose I'll be going now, unless you have any questions...?"

"I do, actually," Billy said. "My father retired almost forty years ago
-- why didn't he ever make a Mask Statement? Do you know? I thought
that was the sort of thing you guys did when you hung up the tights."

"Your father got his start in a very different era," Steve began.
"Four-colours were less common, and there was a war going on -- a war
that held to no code of honour, as your father learned firsthand. He
told me once that he thought the Mask Statement was a creature of the
wishful postwar naiveté that also gave birth to boat-sized Cadillacs
and _Leave it to Beaver_. The men he'd fought hadn't constructed
elaborate theme park-style death traps for him to escape; they'd lined
Jews up front to back to maximize the killing efficiency of a single
bullet. He'd seen mass graves and the showers at Auschwitz, the
Totmacher with its armour built from the bones of dead children. And he
wouldn't trust the safety of his family to a world that had birthed
such terrors. He trusted only in his wife, and in his government --
because he felt he had to."

"Then why..."

"Why did he fight?"

Billy nodded.

"Your father fought because he was a hero." He walked over to Billy's
window and opened it, letting in some of the cold air. "Some people
fight for the glory, or the adrenaline, or because they know nothing
else. But your father -- he fought because it had to be done. He fought
because there are some who cannot fight for themselves. And he fought
to make the world a better place -- not just for himself, or for his
family, but for everyone. I just wish there were more people like that
out there." He took a deep breath of the freezing night air. "Be in
touch." And with a crack and the scent of ozone, he vanished out the

Shivering, his breath turning to fog, Billy shut the window and went to
lock the door to his apartment. He then returned to ensure that the
lock on the window was done as well, and thought he saw something move
on the fire escape outside, but when he raised the window again there
was nothing there but the snow. Unnerved, he shut the window, latched
it, and drew the curtains tight.



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