As Flora continued to ponder the situation inside the corner store, she kept a close eye on the robber. Because of the police’s presence in front of the store, he appeared extremely unstable and on the border of hysteria. That wasn’t a good combination, especially when he was holding the young female cashier hostage with a gun in a robbery attempt gone awry. Flora feared for the safety of the young lady, and though she didn’t know her by name, she had seen her numerous times in the store during her frequent visits to the market.
I need to somehow get him away from her so I can disarm him. Hopefully the police will refrain from charging in or upsetting an already delicate situation, thought the young heroine as she flew closer to the register, still hiding behind the shelves and canned goods in her five-inch-tall form.
Meanwhile, outside the front of the store, the four police officers who had responded to the silent alarm were assessing the situation. A pair of them had gone to the side and the back of the building and had noticed that the side delivery door was slightly opened.
“I think that’s how he got in after the store was closed,” Officer Smith told his fellow officers. “If the rest of you can distract him, perhaps I can sneak in through there and apprehend the crook without any gunshots or bloodshed. The others nodded in agreement, and as Officer Smith snuck to the side of the store, Officer Jackson spoke again into the bullhorn.
“We are willing to listen to your demands,” said Officer Jackson. “However, you need to let any people you’re holding inside the store go. No harm will come to you, I promise you!” The officers outside weren’t sure how many people were inside the store, let alone a mystical pixie who was still unknown to everyone in Fawcett City.
The crook grabbed the cashier by the arm and glanced out the front window, where the officers and two squad cars were parked. He showed them the young lady and the gun as he waved it in the air.
“She’s not going anywhere! She’s my ticket to freedom, and if you don’t back off now, you’ll regret it!” yelled back the criminal.
Suddenly, a loud alarm bell went off as Officer Smith, who was attempting to sneak in the side door, set off the alarm via a hidden sensor, inadvertently tipping off the robber, who spun around, pointed his gun, and fired.
“Oh, my God!” whispered Flora. Flying at top speed, she projected an invisible shield in front of the startled officer and prayed it would be strong enough to deflect the bullet. As the bullet ricocheted off from it, she used another mystical blast to push the officer out the door and out of harm’s way, then pulled the door closed and turned the lock magically so that no one else could go in or out the door.
Angered by what had just occurred, the robber fired another shot into the ceiling of the store. The young cashier yelped at the sound of the shot, then started to cry as the robber yelled back at the police outside. “Do something like that again, and you’ll regret it! I swear!”
Officer Smith rejoined his fellow officers. “Sorry, Jackson. There was a doorbell that went off when I opened the door, and… and…” His words trailed off.
“And what, Smith?” asked a puzzled Officer Jackson.
“I’m not sure. He had me dead to rights, but it looked like the bullet stopped in front of me. Next thing I know, it felt like something pushed me out the door, and then I heard the deadbolt click after that. Strange, but that’s what happened. I know that’s impossible, yet…”
“In a town with super-heroes and villains and all sorts of weird things that tend to go on, that seems to be the norm in Fawcett City,” said Officer Jackson. “As far as we know, it’s the male crook, a female employee of the store, and if we’re lucky, someone or something else inside the store is waiting to make their move either for or against us. In any event, I think it’s time we called for a little back-up. I’ll call the police commissioner and have the phone line disconnected so he can’t call for help, and we’ll go from there.” As Officer Jackson grabbed the radio to call, a small group of curious bystanders began to form as the remaining three officers began crowd control efforts to keep them back from the situation.
Inside the store, Flora continued to hide behind a stack of canned goods just across the register where the robber was holding the woman hostage.
That could’ve been disastrous for everyone! thought the pixie. The robber with the gun is definitely unstable, so any chance for this ending peacefully is very unlikely. I might bide some time and pick out the safest possible moment to keep the young woman safe from harm and take the criminal into custody so that he cannot harm anyone else.
Meanwhile, down the street at Big Willie’s BBQ Restaurant, the owner’s son was just cleaning up the tables and floors after another busy day. Willie B, who had been named after his famous father, William Batson, noticed a group of people walking up the street toward the corner market. Curious, he poked his head out the front door and asked one of the passersby, “Hey, brother! What’s the buzz going on?”
The man stopped for a moment. “There’s something going on at the market. Heard there was a robbery gone wrong or something like that. Not sure, but I’m going to see what’s going on!” Then the man turned and joined the growing crowd of people walking down the street.
I know the manager of that store. I hope she wasn’t hurt or anything bad! thought Willie. After pushing the chairs under the tables, he carried a tub of dishes and silverware to the back of the kitchen. Setting them down, he knocked on the office door and opened it to see his father doing the daily paperwork at his desk.
“Pops, something heavy is going down at the market. Gonna catch the scene. Be back in a bit!”
Willie’s father nodded. “Go ahead, son, and if there’s something bad going on, come back. It’s not a time to be a hero, OK?”
As Willie put on his jacket and headed out into the cool evening, he smirked and thought to himself, If you only knew, pops… if you only knew. In mere moments, he was joining a small but growing crowd in the parking lot of the corner market, where barricades had already been put into place to keep the gawkers from getting any closer. Hearing bits and pieces of conversation from a few people in the crowd and from the police on the scene, Willie found that there was a robber who had taken a woman hostage inside the store.
I know the police have everything under control for now, but I suppose it wouldn’t hurt for a little super-help. Willie walked briskly around a corner building, away from the situation. Then, assuring himself that there was no one else in the area, he shouted out a single word.
The magic lightning struck the teenage boy, and within the cloud of smoke, an amazing transformation took place. After the smoke cleared, there now stood a young man a few inches taller, more muscular, and dressed in red with a bright yellow lightning emblem on his chest: Cool Marvel.
Flying up to the top of the market building from the rear, the darkening skies masking his appearance, Cool Marvel checked around.
Living here all my life, I know the layout of the store. A few years back, the store owner sealed off the rooftop door access when there was a break-in from the top long ago. Marvel spotted the door and, after quietly tearing it off its hinges, noticed that the opening had been bricked up.
Not good. Only way is to smash through it, but that’d make way too much noise. I gotta come up with another idea. I don’t have x-ray vision like that Superman character from the comics, but my hearing’s awful good! Cool Marvel laid down on the rooftop and put his ear to it. He heard breathing and small conversation from a male and a female, whom he recognized as the store cashier he knew well. However, for some reason he heard a third heartbeat that was very faint.
Is there someone else in there with them? So why can I barely detect him or her? I best be ready, ’cause I have a feeling something’s going down, and soon.
Down in the store, Flora had concluded that the only way to get the upper hand and regain control of the situation was to somehow get the female hostage away from the robber. After composing herself for a moment and taking a deep breath, Flora shrank down even more from her five-inch height to a mere inch and flew quietly next to the register where there was a telephone. A faint glow came from her hands as she touched the phone, and suddenly it began to ring, which startled the two.
Cautiously, the crook picked up the phone and stuttered, “H-h-hello?”
“This is Detective Flo of the Fawcett City Police Department. To whom am I speaking?”
“D-Dave — David Chance! Damn! I wasn’t suppose to give you my name!”
“No worries, David. We already knew who you were.” This was an obvious lie. “Please tell me what’s going on, and what are your demands?” Flora hoped to catch him off-guard with the conversation long enough to end the stand-off.
“Ya gotta understand, officer — I needed the money. I lost my job a few weeks back, and my family’s in trouble. They’re going to take my house away. Nobody would give me a loan, and I figured if I robbed this place and got the money, when I got back on my feet, I’d pay them back! Honest! Ya gotta believe me!” David began to raise his voice as tears began rolling down his cheeks. “It wasn’t… suppose… to turn out… like this…” His voice trailed off as Flora paused and thought to herself.
Poor guy. While I do feel sorry for him, the fact is that he has a gun and took a hostage, and despite his best intent, he could’ve injured or killed that officer earlier. He looks desperate. She went back to talking to him.
“OK, I understand your problem. Here’s what I need you to do. Give yourself up, and I promise no harm will come to you.”
David spoke almost immediately. “I don’t wanna go to jail! Promise me no jail!” His voice began to rise with his demand.
Up on the rooftop, Cool Marvel was listening in what sounded like a one-sided conversation, despite his super-hearing. “Strange. This ain’t exactly police protocol, if I’m not mistaken. I’m betting that other person in the store has something to do with this. I best be on my guard!”
Out in front of the store, another squad car pulled up as well as an unmarked vehicle. Police Commissioner Brian Butler stepped out of it, walking over to the original responding officers, Smith and Jackson.
“Commish! Didn’t mean to get you out here on this,” said Officer Smith. “You have more important things to worry about. We have the situation under control.”
“I was already in the area, and besides, the safety and welfare of all of Fawcett City’s citizens is my concern, no matter how big or small the crisis is,” shot back Brian. While the other arriving officers pushed back the crowd and took different positions around the store, the former Mister Scarlet happened to glance up on the roof and noticed a cape flapping from a bent-down figure, his identity concealed by the night. But he had an idea who it was.
Definitely a Marvel up there, but here nobody knows that, thought Brian. I know from past break-ins that the roof entrance has been bricked up, so he must be waiting for his chance. He turned around to Officer Jackson.
“All we can do is sit here and wait. Has he made any demands yet?”
“None, Commissioner,” answered Jackson. “Though from the look of things, he seems to be talking with someone on the phone. Take a look, Commissioner!” The officer handed Brian a pair of binoculars.
“Hmmm… you’re right. Wonder who it could be.”
“Don’t know, Commissioner, but I can tell you one thing — we had the phone company shut the line off until we could get a negotiator on a private direct line to talk to the robber about what his demands were, so…”
Brian finished the officer’s sentence. “So, the phone shouldn’t even be working. Oh, boy… are we dealing with a sane person? Be prepared for anything!”
Within the store, the robber named Dave had asked the disguised Flora if he could avoid going to jail. After a moment’s hesitation, Flo said to him, “I’ll do my best, but there’s no guarantee. Please, let’s end this peacefully.” But it seemed her words were in vain, as Dave began to shake uncontrollably.
“I won’t go to jail! No!” He looked at the female store hostage as she began to cry and beg for mercy. Just as he slammed down the phone receiver, he turned toward her. Flora knew the time for hiding had come to an end.
“Now or never!” She darted out in front of David and then grew from her one-inch size to her five-inch size. David stared in disbelief, as if his eyes betrayed their senses.
“You can’t be real! No!”
Before he could react, Flora’s fists glowed with magical energy and zapped his eyes, causing him to scream. “I’m as real as they come, loser!” The woman who was being held hostage ran hysterically toward the front window doors, not pausing for a second. Flora looked over.
She’s going to run right through the glass doors! thought Flora. She’ll be hurt badly. Flying at top speed, Flora shot off twin energy blasts, shattering the windows a second before the woman would have run into the glass. The woman ran though them, shattered glass sparkling around her like a Hollywood special effect. Almost immediately outside, everyone ran for cover as the officers ducked behind their vehicles and drew their revolvers.
Brian Butler noticed it wasn’t the crook. “It’s the store manager that was taken hostage! Don’t fire! Hurry and get to the front of the store!”
As the chaotic scene was taking place outside the store, Flora turned back to the robber, whose vision was clearing up, though he still couldn’t believe what was flying in front of him — a five-inch-tall fairy.
“Please surrender, and nobody gets hurt — especially you!” demanded Flora. Dave was shaking with fear, unsure what to do in such an unexpected circumstance.
Suddenly, the ceiling caved in, and Cool Marvel came crashing through.
“Got to fly!” Flora gasped, then took advantage of the distraction by shrinking to a smaller size and flying away undetected out of the very hole that Cool Marvel had just made crashing through the ceiling. Marvel saw the robber shaking with fear as he dropped his gun on the floor, then fainted.
Scant seconds later, Commissioner Butler and two officers came through with guns drawn and watched as the hero picked up the unconscious crook and handed him over to the officers.
“Looks like you came and saved the day, Cool Marvel,” said Brian Butler. And as the police commissioner looked around at the scene of the crime, Cool could only say one thing.
Ten minutes later, Flora flew in through back window of her apartment and grew back to human size.
“That was too close!” she said to herself. “Only that crook saw me. Poor David Chance. I do hope he gets the help he and his family really do need. Guess my secret’s safe for another day. I’ll watch the news to see what’s going on with the scene, then head on to bed.”
However, before Florence Fair could turn on the television, there was a knock at the front door. When Flo opened it up, there stood Willie B.
“Willie, what brings you over here tonight?” asked the young lady.
“There was a robbery at that store we always go to earlier tonight. Wanted to see if you were OK, and…” Willie hesitated, then concluded what he was going to say. “…if you had anything to do with what went on there.”