Secret Files: Green Lantern
Times Past, 1935
Four years after he viciously beat a train robber, high school senior Alan Scott still regrets his actions on that day. But when he’s invited to visit that robber in prison, the future Green Lantern is completely unprepared to learn the consequences of his actions!
Alan Scott awoke to the sound of his own scream; the pain in his hand and leg was unbearable. He knew from experience that it was all in his mind and would soon fade. Off and on for the past four years, ever since the summer of ’31, he’d had the same reoccurring dream, and usually the visions he saw in his sleep would slip away along with the pain.
Reaching over, he turned on the electric lamp that stood on the little table beside his bed. He picked up his pocket-watch to check the time: five o’clock A.M.
He sat up, wiped the sleep from his eyes, and ran his fingers through his tangled blond hair. Reaching over, he turned the lamp off and began debating whether to go back to sleep.
Light appeared beneath his door, and he heard a floorboard creak as someone came down the hall. A soft tap sounded as his door slowly opened.
“Are you OK, sweetie?” his mother asked. “Was it the dream again?”
“Yes, Mom,” Alan replied, “to both questions.”
“Do you want to lie down and try to go back to sleep?”
He thought for a second. “No, ma’am. I think I’m going to go ahead and get dressed. I’ve got that test today, so I think I’ll study a little more.”
“Your father will be getting up in a little bit, so I’ll go ahead and get breakfast started,” the woman said. “How does a stack of flapjacks sound?”
“Delicious. I’ll get dressed and bring my books down to the kitchen.”
As his mother closed the door, Alan turned his lamp back on and began to get dressed.
“So, how did you do on the test?”
Alan turned at the sound of the sweetest voice he had ever heard. “Hi, Ginny.”
Despite the fact that she was only a sophomore, and he was a senior, Virginia Hart was, in his opinion, the cutest girl in school. She had long, dark brown hair that was as soft as silk; Alan knew this because he had once brushed a strand out of her face when her hands were full. Her dark brown eyes were soft as well. They were very easy, as Alan discovered, to get lost in.
“I think I passed it,” he said in answer to her question.
Ginny said, “I can’t believe you will be graduating in a few weeks.”
“Yeah, I know,” Alan said. “It seems like it was just yesterday that I first walked through the front doors of Capitol City High as a new freshman.”
Uh-oh, Alan thought, I’m starting to reminisce like some old fogey. I’d better change the subject. “So, uh, Ginny, could I walk you home after school?”
Alan was crestfallen. As he tried to think of a way to excuse himself, Virginia started laughing.
“You can’t walk me home, silly, because you drove to school this morning. I will let you give me a ride, though.”
Alan hoped he wasn’t blushing as he told her where he would meet her after school. She pretended not to notice as she told him she would see him later.
Three o’clock didn’t come fast enough for Alan, and the trip to Ginny’s house was much too quick.
Pulling up to the curb, he turned the engine off, walked around, and opened her door. When she climbed out, he took her books and carried them to the front door. Virginia’s mother met them there.
“Alan,” she said, “how nice to see you.”
“Thank you, Mrs. Hart,” he replied. “It is nice to see you again as well.”
“Mom,” Ginny said, “Alan was nice enough to give me a ride home. Wasn’t that sweet of him?”
“Yes, it was,” Mrs. Hart said, smiling. “Alan, would you like to join us for dinner?”
“I would love to, ma’am, but I have another test tomorrow to study for.”
Mrs. Hart wished him good luck, and Virginia promised him she would see him tomorrow. They watched him as he returned to his car and left.
“He’s such a nice young man,” Mrs. Hart said as she closed the door, but she suspected that her daughter already knew that by the look on her face.
Alan arrived home to find his mother waiting at the door. She wore a puzzled look and held something in her hand.
“Hi, Mom,” he said as he gave her a hug and a kiss on the cheek. “What’s the matter?”
“This telegram came for you,” she said. “It’s from the Colorado State Prison.”
Alan took the paper from his mother and began to read. As he did, the color began to drain out of his face. He plopped down into a chair beside the door and let the telegram fall from his hand.
“Honey, what’s wrong?” his mother asked as she knelt down and picked up the paper. “Are you OK?”
“He… he wants me to come to Colorado. Arrangements have already been made.”
“Who wants you to, dear?”
Although the name seemed hauntingly familiar, the woman couldn’t place it.
“The man from the train — the one I beat with the metal bar.”
Alan Scott stood looking at the front gate of the Colorado State Penitentiary while his father paid the cab driver. The young man felt like he had a swarm of butterflies racing around the inside of his stomach.
“Son, we can still turn around and go home,” his father said as he put a hand on Alan’s shoulder.
“I have to do this,” the younger man said.
As they approached the gate, an armed guard came out to meet them. “You must be the Scotts,” he said as he let them in. “We were surprised when we found out you were accepting Shifty’s invitation. Right this way.”
The guard led them into the prison and to the warden’s office. They had just passed a small group of inmates when Alan heard one call out.
“Hey, I bet dat’s da crippler.”
“Pay these mugs no mind, kid,” the guard said. “They’re just trying to rile you.”
Alan heard the name a couple more times before they reached their destination.
They were led into the warden’s office, where the man gave them a gracious welcome. “Come in, come in. Can I get you something to drink? No? How was your trip? Here, have a seat.”
“Our trip was fine,” Mr. Scott replied. “When can we see Malone?”
The warden was somewhat taken back by the man’s abruptness. He started to comment, but instead tried to look at the situation from Mr. Scott’s point of view. He glanced at Alan and realized that his father was trying to get this over as quickly as possible.
“I understand,” he said. “Come on, I’ll take you to him. Shifty is in the infirmary.”
If not for the bars on the windows and the guards at each end of the room, Alan would have thought the infirmary was just another hospital ward. There were surprisingly few patients here today, and the young man had no trouble picking out Shifty.
The man was seated on the other side of his bed. He seemed to be asleep, so Alan asked if this was a bad time. The warden assured him that everything was all right and led the two men over to the bed.
As Alan stepped around the corner of the bed, he saw that the man was seated in a wheelchair. Shifty glanced up.
“So, kid, how ya been?”
This was most definitely not the greeting Alan was expecting. “Uh, fine.”
“Myself,” Shifty said, “I seen better days. How was yer trip?”
“Look, Malone,” Mr. Scott interjected, “we didn’t fly all the way out here just for the pleasantries.”
Shifty ignored the man. “Warden, can I talk ta the kid privately?”
“Now, listen here,” Mr. Scott started to say before Alan cut him off.
“It’s OK, Dad. I don’t think there’s anything to worry about. I’ll be all right.”
“You can trust Shifty, Mr. Scott,” the warden reassured him. “Besides, they will never be out of the sight of the guards.”
Knowing his son could handle himself, Mr. Scott finally relented. “OK.” He looked Shifty square in the eye. “But if anything happens, you’ll need a coffin, not a bedpan.”
The warden led the man away.
“Ya got a pretty good old man, kid,” Shifty said. “If my old man gave two bits fer me growin’ up, I might not have ended up here.”
Alan wasn’t sure how to respond, so he didn’t say anything.
“Let’s go fer a walk,” Shifty said. “Since ya did this to me, ya get to push.”
The young man felt sick to his stomach at the man’s words but moved behind him and began to push the wheelchair.
“Ya know, kid, when they first stuck me in here, I wanted ta kill ya in the worst way.” Shifty heard Alan swallow. “Ya busted me up pretty good. My hand still aches up on rainy days.”
“I’m… I’m sorry,” Alan apologized.
“Yer sorry? Is that what ya think I got ya out here for? Ta apologize?” He began to laugh. “Kid, I was just ribbin’ ya about bein’ the cause for why I’m here. Oh, don’t get me wrong, when I first came ta the hospital ward, it was ta get patched for that beatin’ ya gave me, but that ain’t what kept me here.”
“I don’t understand,” Alan said. “Why am I here, if you’re not looking for an apology?”
“I’m gettin’ to that, kid.” Shifty coughed a couple of times before continuing. “Ya see, I got the cancer. The prison docs tell me that’s part of the reason I ain’t been able ta recover. Anyhow, the priest broke the news ta me that I ain’t got much time left.”
Despite what the man had done, Alan was actually starting to feel sorry for Malone.
“The priest told me I should think about gettin’ things in order, make sure I square things up with the people I’ve wronged. I invited that old conductor ta come see me, but his health is almost as bad as mine.”
The former porter and ex-conductor had kept in touch since they first met back in ’31, so the news of Pete’s health was not a surprise.
“I wrote him and told him that I was apologizin’ fer what I did, and he sent me a letter tellin’ me that he forgave me.” Shifty glanced back at the young man. “Don’t think I’m tellin’ ya this so you will forgive me, that’s somethin’ ya will have ta decide ta do on yer own. I deserved what I got, and sometimes ya gotta live with the consequences of what ya do.”
“I know,” Alan said softly. “I’ve had nightmares about what I did to you. I’ve replayed that night over and over in my head a thousand times.”
“Ya know, kid, ya actually did me a favor that night.”
“I ain’t never killed anybody. Oh, I’ve roughed ’em up pretty good, but never killed. If ya hadn’t’a stopped me that night, I’d have probably gotten the chair. In a way, I owe ya fer that.”
“Shifty… Mr. Malone.”
“I do forgive you.”
Shifty was quiet for a minute. When he finally spoke, he asked, “Are ya sure?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Kid… Alan, could I ask ya to do me one more favor?”
“What do you want me to do?”
“Yer about as close ta a man now as yer ever gonna be,” he said, “but when they actually start callin’ ya an adult, try ta be the kinda man yer old man is. Keep yer feet on the straight and narrow, and raise yer kids with a good heart. My ma died from a broken heart as a consequence of what my old man did. I’m dyin’ as a result of the things I’ve done. Promise me that ya will always think of the consequences.”
“I don’t know if I’ll always be able to keep that promise,” Alan said, “but I will do my best.”
“Ya know somethin’, kid? I think that one day yer gonna make yer old man proud.”
“And if I don’t, he’ll make sure that I suffer the consequences.”
The two men laughed.