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Taking On Bedlam: A Tattered Man Story

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John landed beside Sally and walked up. She was sitting outside the diner, a cigarette in her hand. 

She was in her mid-fifties, wearing an old stained jacket over a server’s uniform. She was somewhat heavyset, with graying hair and pale skin. Still, her gray eyes were still sharp, and she was clever when it counted. She glanced up at John. John Smith, aka the Tattered Man, was not a tall man. However, towered over her. 


Sally handed him a bag with a sandwich, a bottle of soda, and a bag of chips. He tried to pay him, but she turned him down.


A few months prior, John had scared off a pair of would-be robbers and broken their guns. They ran off in a tear, and Sally had given him free food on occasion, since.

“Thank you.” John said, sincerely. He knew from experience that you give everyone the same base respect. Sally was a good person, and she didn’t have to give him anything. 

Sally’s Diner was not a star restaurant, but it was a fine little place to eat. Sally kept it clean, and her cooking was decent enough for what it was. John liked her diner for more than just food, however.


People saw old Sally as little more than wallpaper, and they let all sorts of juicy details slip.  Neither mentioned it, but Sally had slipped a little note into the wrapping of his sandwich. She had an amazing memory, and passed any info John could use along.  John turned to leave and sort out the night’s activities.


“Hey, do you think you’re gonna make Bedlam a better place like this?” She asked.


John turned back. “No.”


“Why bother?”


“I can’t fix Bedlam, but I can make a difference.” 


Sally nodded. “Alright. Maybe one day one of them big supers from over in Freedom City will come help wash this place clean.”


“I doubt it. Thank you again.” John vanished back into the shadows, away from the light outside Sally’s Diner. 


He slipped into an alley and bounded up the walls before he landed on the roof. The sandwich was turkey, swiss and mayo. He devoured it, having not eaten much that day. His powers made him tougher than most people, so he could live longer without food. Didn’t do much to stop him from getting hungry.


He read the note. There was a deal going down in one of the warehouses. A few guns for some cash. He couldn’t make Bedlam a better place by himself, but he wasn’t about to let them make it worse.


He finished his dinner and stretched. The sale was in an hour or two, which gave him plenty of time to scout ahead. 


When he got to the warehouse, it was obvious that something was going down. There were four cars parked outside the warehouse, two of them were idling with just drivers in them. 

He considered disabling the vehicles, but he couldn’t risk the people inside getting warned. Instead, if anyone escaped he’d simply have to catch them before they got too far. 

It took little effort to climb up the side of the warehouse and peer into the windows to see the deal below.

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His enhanced hearing allowed him to hear everything. They had about ten guns, ready for sale. He’d gotten there just in time. He pried one of the windows open, and let himself drop to the rafters that held the lights. 

All in all, there were twelve men. Two men, presumably the buyer and the seller, stood near a table with a bag and a couple of wooden crates, he assumed they contained the guns. The men seemed to have five each, all standing a distance away. They were the guards and thugs, here to make sure the deal went smoothly. 

None of the men below seemed to notice when he pulled the cord out from the first light, or the second one. By the fourth they were trying to figure out what was wrong. As far as they could tell, it might be a power failure. He was too far up and it was too dark in the rafters for any of them to see him. All they saw was the light in the building slowly going out as he disconnected each one. He left the last one, right above his targets. Then, he dropped. 


He landed on the table where the cash and guns had been placed and shattered it with his impact. He was completely unharmed and stood up slowly to stare the buyer straight in the eye. He knew this wasn’t the best tactic, but they needed to know that they had something to fear. 


The man reached for his gun, but John kicked him hard in the chest, sending him crumpling to the ground. He had seconds before the rest of them would draw their guns and fire on him. 


He picked one of the men out in the shadows, and leaped towards him. He blocked his head with his arms in case the man got a shot off, landed into a crouch, and knocked him off his feet with a vicious uppercut. Two of the twelve were down. 


He ran quickly towards the next man and kicked him in the side of the head. He heard a shot go off, then another. They had no idea where he was, they were just panicking. 


He spotted the third man’s rifle and whipped it across the room at one of the men on the other side of the light. It hit him square in the chest and sent him sprawling. 


He ran towards the next man, who managed to level his rifle at him. John hopped to the left in mid stride, then the right before he reached him, nailing the man with a straight punch to the nose. 


He whipped around, tattered coat spinning as he turned to the sixth man. This one just stared in horror as John approached. John kicked him in the gut and sent him crumpling to the floor. 


The seventh man, who was right by the sixth, raised his hands as if to block a punch. Instead, John grabbed him by his arm and threw him over his shoulder at the eighth man. 


The ninth man drew his pistol and had him dead to rights. John ducked low and charged in. He managed to shoot John in the shoulder before John tackled him, lifted him, and threw him hard on the concrete floor.


The final three men broke out into a run. John bolted after them. He reached the tenth man only a few feet away, grabbed him by the back of his coat, and threw him hard to the floor. The eleventh man almost made it to the door.


John jumped into the air, landed in front of him, and kicked him hard in the chest, sending him sprawling back into the warehouse.


Only the seller remained. 

Edited by Thunder King
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John knew one of the two vehicles had this man’s driver. If he let him get there, he would drive off. Just as the man got to his car, John landed on the hood of the car and stared him dead in the eye.


“What the hell do you want, freak?” He stammered.


Without even looking away from the seller, John shattered the windshield with his bare hand and knocked the driver out cold.  John stepped off the car and walked toward the seller, malice in his eyes. 


“Look, man, I got money, take it. It’s inside. Lemme just get out of here, and…” HIs courage failed him, and he turned to run.


He ran straight into John. Though he was the taller of the two, he did nothing to budge John. 

John snatched the man by his chin and lifted him clear into the air with as much effort as he might a jug of milk. “You like guns.” He said walking forward, the man dangling helplessly in his hand.


“You’ve seen this city, man, it’s a hellhole.”


“People like you make it worse.” 


“What do you want from me, man…I’m just a middleman, I just…”


John reached into his coat and pulled from it a sawed-off shotgun. He leveled it at the seller’s head. “Have you ever been shot?”


“N-no, no man, I…”


“I have. This is a twelve gauge, sawed-off, double barreled shotgun. Now, I’ve never seen one of these fired so closely before, so I don’t know what it’s going to do.”  The man began shaking in raw terror as John leveled the shotgun directly at his face, touching the tip of the barrel against his nose. Suddenly, his hand jerked to the side, and John fired both barrels into the wall behind the seller’s head, with the barrel inches from his right ear.


“I’d like to imagine you are the most afraid you’ve ever been in your life.” John said, letting the man collapse to the ground. He held one hand up to his ear in pain. The man was a stuttering mess.


John gripped the shotgun in both hands and, after some effort, bent the barrel to the point of uselessness. 


“You will remember tonight.” John said. “You will remember the night I had your life in my hands. If I could do that to hard wood and steel, imagine what I could have done to your bones.” He sneered down at the shaking man, and walked away.


He turned towards the warehouse where he saw the other driver stare in amazement.


The driver took off driving, and John let him go. Let him tell everyone he knew what he saw here tonight, what the Tattered Man could do.


John found the guns and broke each one with his bare hands. He gathered up the ammo to dispose of somewhere. Last, he took up the cash.  The life of a vigilante crime fighter gave John few money making opportunities, and he wasn’t above taking ill-gotten gains to feed, house and clothe himself. Most of the cash would be slipped into the coffers of trustworthy charities throughout the city. He didn’t bother surrendering any of it to the cops. He had two old scars on the back of his head that told him how fruitless that would be.


John returned to his motel room. He stopped by the office and paid for the next month before settling into bed, falling to sleep just before dawn.


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