Robert R. McCammon's "Night Calls the Green Falcon" (Part 10/10)

Night Calls the Green Falcon
by Robert R. McCammon

10
Nightmare Netherworld

The sea surged into the cab, and the vehicle angled down into the depths.

The Fliptop Killer screamed. The Green Falcon smashed him in the face with a blow that burst his nose, and then the sea came between them, rising rapidly towards the roof as the cab continued to sink.

The last bubbles of air exploded from the cab. One headlight still burned, pointing toward the bottom, and for a few seconds the instrument panel glowed with weird phosphorescence. And then the lights shorted out, and darkness claimed all.

The Green Falcon released his prey. Already his lungs strained for a breath, but still the cab was sinking. One of the killer's thrashing legs hit his skull, a hand tearing at his tunic. The Green Falcon didn't know which way was up and which was down; the cab was rotating as it descended, like an out-of-control aircraft falling through a nightmare netherworld. The Green Falcon searched for an open window but found only the windshield's glass. He slammed his fist against it, but it would take more strength than he had to break it.

...Cut, he thought. Panic flared inside him, almost tore loose the last of the air in his lungs. CUT! But there was no director here, and he had to play this scene out to its end. He twisted and turned, seeking a way out. His cape was snagged around something—the gearshift, he thought it was. He ripped the cape off and let it fall, and then he pulled his cowl and mask off and it drifted past him like another face. His lungs heaved, bubbles coming out of his nostrils. And then his flailing hands found a window's edge; as he pushed himself through, the Fliptop Killer's fingers closed on his arm.

The Green Falcon grasped the man's shirt and pulled him through the window too.

Somewhere below the surface, he lost his grip on the Fliptop Killer. His torn tunic split along the seams, and left him. He kicked toward the top with the legs that had won a gold medal in his junior-year swim meet, and as his lungs began to convulse his head broke the surface. He shuddered, drawing in the night air.

People were shouting at him from the pier's splintered rail. A wave caught him, washed him forward. The rough surface of a barnacled piling all but ripped the green tights off his legs. Another wave tossed him, and a third. The fourth crashed foam over him, and then a young arm got him around the neck and he was being guided to the beach.

A moment later, his knees touched sand. A wave cast him onto shore and took his last tatters of his Green Falcon costume back with it to the sea.

He was turned over. Somebody trying to squeeze water out of him. He said, "I'm all right," in a husky voice, and he heard somebody else shout, "The other one washed up over here!"

Cray sat up. "Is he alive?" he asked the tan face. "Is he alive?"

"Yeah," the boy answered. "He's alive."

"Good. Don't let him go," Cray snorted seaweed out of his nostrils. "He's the Fliptop Killer."

The boy stared at him. Then shouted to his friend, "Sit on that dude till the cops get here, man!"

It wasn't long before the first police car came. The two officers hurried down to where Cray sat at the edge of the land and one of them bent down and asked his name.

"Cray Fli..." He stopped. A piece of green cloth washed up beside him, was pulled back again just as quickly. "Cray Boomershine," he answered. And then he told them the rest of it.

"This guy got the Fliptop!" one of the kids nearby called to his friend, and somebody else repeated it and it went up and down the beach. People crowded around, gawking at the old man who sat in his pajamas on the sand.

The second police car came, and the third one brought a black go-go dancer and a kid with a question mark on his scalp and a bandage around his shoulder. They pushed through the crowd, and Gracie called out, "WHERE IS HE? WHERE'S THE GREEN FAL—"

She stopped, because the old man standing between two policemen was smiling at her. He said, "Hello, Gracie. It's all over."

She came toward him. Didn't speak for a moment. Her hand rose up, and her fingers picked seaweed out of his hair. "Lord have mercy," she said. "You look like a wet dog."

"You got that sucker, didn't you?" Ques watched the cops taking the Fliptop, in handcuffs, to one of the cars.

"We got him," Cray said.

A TV news truck was pulling onto the beach. A red-haired woman with a microphone and a guy carrying a video camera and power pack got out, hurrying towards the center of the crowd. "No questions," a policeman told her, but she was right there in Cray's face before she could be restrained. The camera's lights shone on him, Gracie, and Ques. "What happened here? Is it true that the Fliptop Killer was caught tonight?"

"No questions!" the policeman repeated, but Gracie's teeth flashed as she grinned for the camera.

"What's your name?" the woman persisted. She thrust the microphone up to Cray's lips.

"Hey, Lady!" Ques said. The microphone went to him. "Don't you recognize the GREEN FALCON?!"

The newswoman was too stunned to reply, and before she could find another question, a policeman herded her and the cameraman away.

"We're going to the station and clear all this mess away," the officer who had hold of Cray's elbow said. "All three of you. Move it!"

They started up the beach, the crowd following and the newswoman trying to get at them again. Gracie and Ques got into one of the police cars, but Cray paused. The night air smelled sweet, like victory. The night had called, and the Green Falcon had answered. What would happen to him, Gracie, and Ques from this moment on, he didn't know. But of one thing he was certain: they had done right.

He got into the police car, and realized he still wore his green boots. he thought that maybe—just maybe—they still had places to go.

The police car carried them away and the TV news truck followed.

On the beach, the crowd milled around for a while. Who was he? somebody asked. The Green Falcon? Did he used to be somebody? Yeah, a long time ago. I think I saw him on a rerun. He lives in Beverly Hills now, went into real estate and made about ten million bucks, but he still plays the Green Falcon on the side.

Oh, yeah, somebody else said. I heard that too.

And at the edge of the ocean a green mask and cowl washed up from the foam, started to slip back into the waves again.

A little boy picked it up. He and his Dad had come to fish on the pier this morning, before the sun came up and the big ones went back to depths. He had seen the cab go over the edge, and the sight of this mask made his heart beat harder.

It was a thing worth keeping.

He put it on. It was wet and heavy, but it made the world look different, kind of.

He ran back to his Dad, his brown legs pumping in the sand, and for a moment he felt as if he could fly.

THE END


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Copyright © 1988 by Robert R. McCammon. All rights reserved. This story first appeared in the anthology Silver Scream, edited by David J. Schow and published by Dark Harvest in 1988. Reprinted with permission of the author.
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