Micro Face: The Purple Dead
Patrolman McLaughlin pulled his coat closer together to protect against the cold as he made his clockwise round on his beat. It was a good beat, plenty of bars and gambling joints along the way where he could get a free pint and the dues to his chief. A policemans living had a lot of fringe benefits he discovered early on.
He walked in the corner pub swinging his club gaily.
"Hullo Jake, how about something to warm the heart," he called out.
Jake smiled, poured a pint and slid the glass to McLaughlin. He followed the pint with a thick envelope the dues to the chief, plus a little extra for McLaughlin. Yes, being a cop had some pretty good fringe benefits.
McLaughlin looked around the bar. Business was pretty good for being still early in the night. He was jostled by several people who were coming and going. There were several people drinking their beers. Missy was working a table in the corner and one of the young men seemed interested. No doubt, a game was going on in the back; one usually was on a Friday evening. One man eyed the officer uneasily. McLaughlin recognized him as a rowdy individual he had to club a month back to settle a row before it got started. McLaughlin smiled at the man and then tipped his hat with the end of his club. The man quickly became more interested in his own drink. McLaughlin was well respected by the people on his beat.
"Wheres Becky," asked McLaughlin. Becky was his favorite girl on the beat. Soft in all the right places and a natural talent as well.
"Already gone for the night. A high roller took a liking to her and they went to take in the fights."
Jake noticed McLaughlins quizzical look and added, "cock."
McLaughlin frowned. He cared nothing for watching chicken fights.
"Some people will bet on just about anything," he said. "But chickens were made to be on a plate beside some potatoes."
He quickly finished his drink, said his good-byes and left to continue his round. As he crossed the street he heard a call from somewhere far down the road.
McLaughlin strained his eyes but did not see anyone on the street. He took a few steps to continue on his way.
"Alright, whos out there?" he yelled in return.
He turned and walked towards the phantom voice. It was closer last time, he was sure of it. He had his club out and absently whopped it against his leg as he walked. No matter how hard he looked, he could see no one. He was in front of an alley when he heard a gentle chuckling that seemed to come from right beside him. He spun around. There was no one there!
"Who am I?" went the voice beside him.
"Maybe Im your conscience," it answered from down the alley.
"I AM your judgement, I am right here and I will be taking that envelope from you."
McLaughlin looked down the alley and saw a man walking towards him. A muscular figure in green tights and red boots and gloves. The oddest part of the mans apparel was his hood: a purplish gray affair that covered his face entirely. In place of eyes were lenses in tubes that stuck out a few inches, and in place of a mouth a triangular metal piece. The mans voice took on a hollow, almost metallic tone and seemed to come from everywhere but him.
"Im Micro Face. Surely, youve heard your pal Mighty Bill Wallace talk of me. Ive been smashing up his joints almost nightly. Or maybe you heard about that pair of mob killers I turned over to the police last month. I think I hate bad cops most of all, though. Give me that envelope."
"NOW!" his voice bellowed inches away from McLaughlin even though he was still a good six feet away.
"M-M-Micro Face," McLaughlin sputtered. He had heard of him. He had been making a name for himself as a real head-buster in the city, going after people that the cops couldnt or wouldnt go after. It was a rep that McLaughlin could respect and envy. However, as Micro Face came towards him, McLaughlin realized that the hero was now a threat. If he failed to deliver, his chief would have the money out his paycheck and he could easily be demoted to undesirable jobs or even undesirable precincts. What would he tell his wife Sarah, if they cant make rent this month?
More out of desperation than courage, McLaughlin brought up his club and, with a bellow, charged. And found himself colliding with a building. He turned around and was about to yell again when Micro Face delivered a hard punch to the jaw that knocked the man to his knees. He struggled to stand and Micro Face delivered another punch that laid the tough cop out.
Micro Face bent over the prone cop and quickly brought out two envelopes full of cash. A little more searching and he retrieved the small speaker that he had planted in the cops coat pocket back in the bar. About the size of a quarter, it was a wonderfully efficient little job, as long as the transmitter to the speaker was relatively close and more or less within line of sight. While Micro Faces hood allowed him to change and throw his voice with the best of them, it was little devices like these small speakers that really completed the illusions of his voice coming from out of nowhere. Rumors were already circulating among New Citys gangdom that he was a spook, or was invisible, or could ludicrously "cloud mens minds."
"Jimmy, you say the sweetest things."
Voices! Micro Face stepped next to the wall in the alley, concealing himself in its shadows. Crossing the street where he lured McLaughlin from were Missy and the guy she was chatting up in the bar. Micro Face had no interest in Missy. Jimmy on the other hand interested him very much. He had been in the bar because he was shadowing Mr. Jimmy Franklin until this cop showed up and distracted him.
Micro Face grabbed his clothes that he had stashed in the alley, and threw on his overcoat and hat. His lenses would allow him to follow them from a safe enough distance that no one need notice his outfit as long as he stayed in the shadows. It was risky, but in the bar he hadnt been able to get close enough to plant a transmitter on Jimmy. This was his best bet. He just hoped Jimmy and Missy were heading somewhere close by and wouldnt flag a cab.
Jimmy Franklin was a person finder for Mighty Bill Wallace. If Wallace needed a job to do, Jimmy could find the people to do it. This also made him valuable to crooks all over. If you needed a job, Jimmy could usually hunt one up for you. So, Jimmy tended to know almost everyone of any importance, who they worked for, where their loyalties lay and usually how much it would take to get them to switch. He knew who was getting out of prison when and who would never see the light of day again. The one thing Jimmy Franklin didnt know, and an important thing at that, was that for the past two weeks every conversation Jimmy had in his apartment in person or over the telephone was being listened to by Micro Face.
Sometime tonight Jimmy was to meet up with somebody new in order to set up a future meeting with Mighty Bill and other racketeers of the city and its surrounding counties. Micro Face wanted to find out who this new player was. He had spent the last month trying to smash these rackets and keep these guys off balance. Their getting organized would make his job all that much harder. Apparently, the meeting was for later in the evening if Jimmy had time for chatting up the women.
Micro Face followed Jimmy and Missy for about two blocks when the excitement started. A body crashed through an upper floor window in one of the tenement buildings and hit the street with a gushy thud. Another figure followed, only landing on her feet and screaming like a banshee. Her dress was in tatters, and her long gray hair marked her for a middle age or elder woman. But her muscles, she was easily the strongest looking woman Micro Face had ever seen. He inadvertently took a step back. Everyone else had taken off running in various directions and Micro Face realized he had lost Jimmy.
The woman leapt at Micro Face, and knocked him down. She picked him up off the ground and threw him onto the hood of an oncoming automobile. He rolled off the hood, but the driver crashed his car into a light post.
Micro Face achingly stood back up. The woman had lost interest with him and was beating up the corpse that preceded her out of the window. Micro Face ran and tackled her only to have her throw him off effortlessly. She then devoted all of her attention on him. She swung a wild punch that he ducked and then delivered his own. She responded with a backhanded slap that hit with the force of a heavyweight. He didnt think he could take many more like that. It was a strange dance. He blocked and dodged her blows and delivered the most damaging punches he could. Unfortunately, the blows did not seem to hurt her; she would just scream louder and press her attack. Finally a blow connected that knocked him completely down. She got on top of him and her hands closed around his neck. His hand reached down and loosed his knife from its sheath. He didnt want to do it, but he saw no other way he could subdue this monster. Up close he could see there were red splotches all over her skin and her eyes were completely bloodshot. Before he could bring his knife into play, her screaming ended in a gasp. Her body went rigid and her eyes rolled back into her head. She then just collapsed in an ungainly heap on top of him.
Micro Face got up and looked at her. The red splotches were beginning to turn purple. He had not seen many dead bodies but he was sure that this wasnt normal. He went over to the corpse she had been fighting. By the clothes, Micro Face gathered it was a man, probably her husband. You couldnt tell this from the body certainly. No wallet or id though. Something like this would get the attention of even this citys police, he thought. Time to get scarce.
Back in his moderate apartment, Micro Face removed his hood revealing the handsome features of Tom Woods. After changing, he took a look at his hood; it was all misshapen on one side.
"I was afraid of that. Her punch damaged the ear-piece."
Tom had a nice apartment, just a few streets over from his nightly wanderings. His job at the radio station paid well, and he had several patents that were beginning to pay off. Despite his spacious surroundings, his small dining room did double duty as a worktable. Instead of a cabinet holding dishes, his shelves consisted of wires, transistors, and other electronic equipment. The sole personal touch in the room was a photo in a simple frame sitting on the table. Anyone walking in would easily peg him as a bachelor.
He pulled back the material on the hood revealing a mess of broken pieces of electronics. With fine tools he began to work. As he worked, his mind wandered.
"Well, it seems as if Wallace may have to wait. That thing bears investigating. Seems familiar somehow. Hmmm. I have to find some way to dispose of that cops take as well. I had not really planned on becoming some modern Robin Hood."
He looked at the photo. It was of a young man resembling Tom in many ways.
"I know this sort of falls outside the promise I made to you brother. I hope Im doing right by you."
Someone was knocking on the door. Tom lifted his head groggily off the table and tried to collect his thoughts. He had fallen asleep while working again and morning light was coming through the windows.
"Come on Tom! Answer the door!" called out a womans voice.
Tom groaned. Priscilla Wilkerson. Childhood friend. Station owners daughter. Beautiful, smart, and a veritable force of nature. Ever since his brother died, she had made it her mission to get Tom to rejoin the human race. He took the hood he was working on and locked it into a cabinet drawer. He then opened the door.
"Pris, this is certainly a surprise," he said.
"Goodness, you sleep in your clothes again? Well, make yourself presentable, we have things to do today."
"Actually, I was hoping to go to the station today "
"Nonsense. You work way too much as is. Dont know why with your family, you dont need the money."
She took a glance around his apartment and/or laboratory and added, "or why you choose to live in this dump. Anyway, were getting you away from this science hocus-pocus stuff and you and I are going to have fun today."
"We are, are we? And just how do you propose we do that? Its a little early for a midnight swim in the family pool."
Priscilla blushed at the recollection. She pulled a cigarette out of her handbag, lit it and took a long drag.
"We were kids then. No. Its a beautiful day and I have daddys Auborn 852. You are taking me on a picnic in the country for starters. Then tonight, we are dancing the night away. So, go get yourself cleaned up."
With that, she practically pushed the protesting Tom down the hallway. While he was changing, she walked into his dining room slash laboratory. She ran a finger along the top of the cabinet, disturbing quite a fine layer of dust and tut-tutted to herself. When her eyes fell on the photograph, her veneer cracked and a sad look came into her eyes.
"Its for his own good, you know. He has to learn how to live again."
Tom liked Pris. Really, he did. It was just once she got an idea in her head, there was no stopping her. The day his brother was killed, Tom felt as if he died as well. He approached the mystery man business with the same discipline passion that he did everything else whether it be sports in his high school and prep school days, or the sciences in college. However, the happy go lucky guy that others saw and liked was gone. Even his new identity of Micro Face reflected the turmoil Tom felt. A hero with an expressionless face and mocking voice who kept to the shadows.
Yet, a few times during the weekend, Pris thought she caught Tom forgetting himself and actually enjoying the moment. Then hed catch himself and hed become the more sardonic self again. Her resolve only strengthened, and it was Monday before Tom could further pursue the mystery.
Which proved to be unfortunate for Patrolman McLaughlin. He withstood a severe dressing down by his superiors. As he feared, his pay was going to be docked until he paid back the exorbitant sum that he had lost. He knew some guys who did loans but he didnt care for that idea either. His best chance he thought was getting the money back from Micro Face.
On Saturday, his day off, McLaughlin was back in the neighborhood of his route. He had heard the reports of Micro Face fighting a woman not too far off. The woman didnt interest him; there were officers assigned to the so-called "purple dead." However, maybe someone saw something that could help in tracking Micro Face.
Early evening found McLaughlin back in the pub. His feet hurt and he found out nothing new. He found out quite a bit about the dead man and woman, Mr. and Mrs. Gorsky by name, but nothing that tied them in any way to Micro Face. In the confusion, no one saw where he came from or went to. Those that didnt witness the event felt Micro Face was a myth, something dreamed up either by the cops or the journalists in an attempt to sell more papers.
The person with the most info on Micro Face would be Mighty Bill thought McLaughlin. That was the person he needed to talk to. Arranging a meet would be difficult. Beat cops didnt have that kind of clout. Maybe if he dropped Micro Faces name, that would open some doors.
He stared at his empty glass a few minutes going over in his mind what he could say and whod be the best go-between. He looked up smiling.
"Hey, howabout another beer over here," he called out.
It was a very drunk McLaughlin that stumbled out of the bar later that night. At first he didnt notice the men that got out of the several cars parked along the curb; not until they congregated as a group and approached him. McLaughlin turned around and noticed a second group approaching from behind. Eight men total. McLaughlin was alarmed at first, then squinted his eyes.
"Harry, is that you?"
"Yeah, its me. Hate to do this, Peter, but a lesson needs to be sent."
McLaughlin began to feel the panic rise up again. Suddenly, his mind felt clear and he noticed everything at once. He noticed how many there were, that they were all cops, that they all had clubs out.
"But, Im gonna get the money back. Ive got a plan."
"Thats good, Peter. But we have our orders," spoke an older cop. "You know the deal."
McLaughlin turned and ran. However he misstepped off the curb and fell into the street. The cops fell upon him swinging their clubs. He cried out protests and tried to fight back; swinging wildly and trying to wrest clubs out of their tight grips. The cops didnt say a word and just hit him all that much harder. Finally, he curled up on the street taking most of the blows on his shoulders and back, and tears flowed freely down his cheeks.
He continued to lay there even after the cops silently left. His body hurt, there were gaps in his mouth that used to contain teeth, and he didnt think he could open his left eye. He heard approaching footsteps and he let out a groan. He rose to his hands and knees and let out a gasp as a pain that felt like lightening shot across his hands and up his arm. He collapsed back into the street. Apparently, couple of club whacks had broken some fingers as well.
The approaching person was walking faster until he reached McLaughlin.
"Whats this? Can you stand," came a male voice with clear modulation that reeked of education. On a better day McLaughlin would hate the man just for that.
"Here, here, let me help. Thats it, just lean on me. My God, man, you are a mess. Dont worry, though. I am a doctor. Ive got a car not too far. No, dont try to talk. Ill fix you up."
McLaughlin tried to protest, but talking was difficult. His mouth didnt quite work. He coughed and spit out blood. The man continued to talk pleasantly and then announced, "Well, heres my car."
McLaughlin tried to look at him. But, one eye was already swelling shut and the others vision was blurred from blood and tears. In such a bad shape, McLaughlin didnt feel the small additional pain of a needle penetrating his arm. And then he didnt feel anything at all