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I Fell Down

“Listen to me when I talk to you!”

That was the last thing Stevie heard before his father’s fist struck the side of his face. He stumbled backwards until he slammed into the bookshelf. Hardcovers rained down on him as he fell on the hardwood floor.

“I’m sorry!” Stevie pleaded with him. But as usual, his father showed his son no mercy. He immediately picked him up by his shirt collar and dangled the small boy infront of his face.

“The next time I come home and find this house a mess, I’ll make sure you won’t be able to walk straight for a week! Do you understand me?!”

Stevie nodded feverishly. He knew the more frightened he acted, the quicker the episode would be over. Gabe set the boy down and went back to the kitchen to finish his drink at the counter.

“Get ready for school. I don’t raise no ass-dumb kids in my family.”

Stevie went to the bathroom and looked in the mirror. He carefully running his fingers over his swelling eye.

‘How am I going to hide this one.’

The beatings were nothing more than a ritual between Steven Hughes and his father, Gabriel. After his mother died, his father became frustrated and violent. The only way he knew to raise his twelve year old son was by force. Stevie knew the man loved him, but he also knew that if he didn’t find away to stop his father, something serious would happen to him.

He stared at his reflection in the mirror. But the only thing he saw the a frightened little boy staring back at him– a boy who lived constantly in fear.


Later in class, Stevie’s mind began to wonder. His imagination would take over. His teacher’s monotone lecture would be replaced by the sounds of blaring sirens and gunshots. Everyday just before school ended, his thoughts would drift and become caught up in an epic tale of cops and robbers. He would picture himself an invincible crime detective.

Stevie Hughes: Famous Private Detective!

In that day’s episode, he pit himself against the infamous ‘Mr. Tiger claw’, the crime boss with fingernails of steel. He proved to be Stevie’s toughest foe to date. They fought a long and tedious ten minute battle, but the detective proved to be the better man.

“Stevie?” he heard someone call him. “Stevie!”

“Yes, Mr. Johnson?” Stevie said innocently.

“I won’t even bother asking you the question again, because it’s apparent you haven’t been paying attention. I want you to see me after school…”

At 3:05pm, The fifth grade class filed out into the hall. Mr. Johnson watched Stevie intensely until the classroom doors slammed shut. He slowly removed his glasses and stood up from his desk.

Stevie braced himself for the worst.

“I want to know what’s going on with you.” Mr. Johnson said, kneeling beside his desk. “Your grades have been dropping, you don’t turn in half of your homework. What’s changed since the beginning of the school year?”

“Nothing’s changed, Sir.” Stevie replied. “It’s just…. I don’t know.”

“That’s not an answer, Son.” Mr. Johnson stood up. “I told you before if this happened again, I would call your father.”

“No!” Stevie’s heart jumped. “I’ll do better! I just…. I just need another chance!”

They stared at each other for a moment.

“How’d you get those bruises on your face?” the teacher asked. Stevie quickly cluched his face and answered the way his father taught him to.

“I..I fell down.. on the steps at home.”

“You know if there’s something going on at home that you want to tell me about…”

“No, sir! I just…fell down the steps. I’m real clumbsy.”

“O.K. I won’t tell your father….on two conditions. You’re going to do extra credit work for the rest of the year, and you’re going to keep your mind on your studies. Do I make myself clear, young man?”

Stevie didn’t leave school until late. He had to take the usual shortcuts home to beat his father from work. Mr. Johnson had come down hard on him this time. He didn’t know how he was going to keep this from his father, especially since he gets slapped around for any little thing.

He quickly pushed those horrible thoughts out of his mind and replace them with the epic battle he had with the infamous ‘Mr. Tiger Claw’. He pictured himself jumping and dodging the arch-villain’s attack. His steel talons slashing with blinding fury. But he was no match for Stevie.

“You’re no match for me!” he shouted jumping off the curve and stumbling into the street. He wasn’t paying attention to the large van, which had just turned the corner. The driver honked his horn and slammed on the brakes. Stevie was startled back to reality, but the van was too fast. He turned just in time to see the driver’s horrified expression as the van’s impact threw Stevie clear across the street.

He landed on Ms. Wilson’s front lawn. He could tell because he use to climb the orange tree he was now laying under. But the tree became blurry. He tried to sit up but a sharp pain shot through his spine. Stevie could hear garbled voices talking at him, but all he could see now was black…

At first everything was still dark.

Stevie heard himself gasping for breath. There was the sound of a woman crying in the distance. He was laying face down, now. He pushed upward and braced himself for the pain in his spine, but now it was all in the back of his head. He felt the back of his skull and knew from all those detective movies that it must be blood. He opened his eyes and saw blurred color’s around him.

“Daddy?” Stevie called out. He pulled himself up until was leaning against a sink.

How’d I get in a bathroom? he thought. He looked around as his vision began to clear. And as he looked into the mirror beside him, he realized it was another face staring back at him.

A grown up face!?

The door to the bathroom flung open. A woman carrying a very large gun walked in. She was wearing an evening dress, but it was covered with mud.

She smiled and pointed the gun at Stevie. “Well, well, well. You are a hard one to kill, aren’t you Mr. Collinsworth!”

Stevie raised his hands. “Who?”

Detective Collinsworth, At Your Service

“Knuckles!” the seductress called out.

In a matter of seconds, a large henchman with no neck appeared behind her. “It seems the detective is more wiry than you first thought!”

“I….uh……I…” Knuckles stuttered, trying to find an excuse. “He wasn’t movin’ after I hit ‘em, so I thought….”

“I DON’T PAY YOU TO THINK!” the lady cried out. “Now, since you can’t do the job correctly, it looks like I’ll have to do my own dirty work. Take him out front.”

“Yes, Maddam!” Knuckles replied. He grabbed the back of Stevie’s bloodied collar with his massive hand and dragged him into the next room.

The living room was small, yet elegant in appearance. Champagne glasses and empty food platters cluttered the large dining table, and the room had a hint of perfume. The faint sounds of Duke Ellington played in the background. A painting of Chicago hung over the fireplace, and the wood below had burned to red hot ashes.

Knuckles tossed Stevie in the corner, but almost stumbled over the small White Tiger floor rug in front of him.

Stevie tumbled onto the hard wood floor and into the corner. He felt disoriented again.

“Tie him up.” he heard the Maddam order. His hands and arms were quickly bound, and then he was sat upright.

“I don’t mean to be rude lady, but who the hell are you?!” Stevie exclaimed. He struggled to loosen his hands, but it was no use.

“Please Mr. Collinsworth. I don’t feel like playing games, anymore.” she said sliding a cigarette from her handbag. Knuckles quickly grabbed a Zippo from his pocket and lit it.

“First you knock off three of my favorite men, then you make us chase you through that dreadful muddy field, and now you don’t have the courtesy to stay dead when we kill you. Honestly, you’re starting to become very annoying.”

Stevie is the first to hear the rumbling in the distance. It grows louder until a large subway train roars passed the window. The lights dim slightly and the living room trembles violently. The half full champagne glass waddle across the table until they reach the edge. The train disappears from the window and fades into the distance.

“Please…” Stevie said. “…I don’t know what’s happening. One minute I’m walking home from school, and next I’m in that bathroom, and….”

The woman sighs. “Mr. Collinsworth. This is getting very tiresome. But since I’m a fair woman, I’ll give you one more chance.”

She walked over to him and gracefully knelt until they are face to face. “All you have to do is tell me where you hid the money, and maybe I’ll set you free.”

“Please, I don’t know where…”

She slapped in a fit of anger. “Knuckles. Bring in the girl. It’s time to leave.”

The henchman left the room , and the Maddam quickly stood up and went into the bathroom.

The front door opened again and Knuckles reappeared dragging an unconscious woman in an dropped her in the corner.

Stevie gazed on the red-haired woman and thought she was the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen. He wanted to wake her to find out who she was, but he had to focus his attention on the other lady who had just returned from the bathroom.

She had slipped out of her muddied evening dress and into a black jump suit. Knuckles grabbed her fur coat from the couch and draped it over her shoulders.

“Please, lady! I honestly don’t know what’s happening!” Stevie said. “All I remember is waking up in the bathroom. Honest!”

The Maddam reached for another cigarette. Knuckles immediately lit it.

“So you want me to believe Knuckle’s blow to your head has done something to your memory, huh? O.K., I’ll play along.” she replied with a seductive grin. She nodded toward Knuckles and pointed to the bedroom. The henchman left the room.

“O.K., Mr. Collinsworth. I am known affectionately as Maddam Q. I’m in the business of…..repossession; preferably lost and stolen items.”

She leaned against the white-leather couch and picked up a Champaign glass. “A week ago, you intercepted my… employer’s precious shipment of whiskey. According to him, you destroyed several crates of his alcohol with a baseball bat and stole eighty-thousand dollars in cash from the driver. He’s hired me to recover his money.”

She gently sipped the Champaign until the glass was empty. “I whipped up this little party to bring you to me. And when you wouldn’t cooperate, Knuckles was suppose to take care of you. Unfortunately, he’s not the brightest person in the world, so I have to kill you myself.”

Knuckles reappeared from the bedroom carrying a large bundle of dynamite. He set it on the floor near the dinning table and stretched the unusually long fuse across the room to the front door.

“You won’t get away with this, Maddam Q!” Stevie said. He knew it was a stupid thing to say, but it was the only thing he could think of.

The Maddam laughed. “I’m afraid there’s nothing you can do, Mr. Collinsworth. After lighting the fuse, we’ll have just enough time to exit the building and drive away before you’re assistant are blown to bits.”

She walked to the front door. “Good-bye, Mr. Collinsworth. You were a good adversary. Unfortunately, not good enough.” She nodded to Knuckles and made a dramatic exit from the room.

Stevie started to squirm feverishly. He knew his only chance was to wrestle his hands free.

He looked up and saw Knuckles strike a match. The henchman smiled as he knelt and lit the end of the fuse. It sparked to life and started to burn across the floor toward the mound of explosives. Knuckles laughed and slammed the door shut.

Stevie heard Maddam Q’s car drive off, but he was hysterical watching the fuse grow shorter and shorter. He turned to the gorgeous redhead who was still unconscious.

“WAKE UP!” he shouted at her over and over.

She didn’t move.

The fuse’s spark rounded the couch and passed by the end table.

Stevie frantically scooted along the waxed floor. He had to intercept the burning fuse and somehow put it out.

It burned passed the end table and onto the White Tiger throw rug.

He turned back at the woman. “HEY! WAKE UP!! WAKE UP!!”

She still didn’t move.

It climbed over the Tiger’s head and onto the wooden floor, passing by Stevie’s legs.

He held his breath and raised his bound feet to reach for the burning fuse. His shoes barely scraped the end of it. As the spark passed closely, Stevie stomp in it, repeatedly rubbing his soles along the fat string.

The spark reached his left shoe and then disappeared.

He exhaled with a slight grin.

The redhead softly moaned. Her head shifted from one side to the other.

At least she wasn’t dead.

“Now you wake up, huh?” he whispered, still gasping for breath.

He slowly lifted his feet to study the fuse. At first, it looked like it was smoldering. But then Stevie saw the tiny cloud of smoke ignite into a spark again.

“NO, NO, NO!!!” He screamed in panic. The fuse flared to life again and continued it’s journey. Stevie was caught off guard, and it was moving too fast for him to catch it.

He knew he didn’t have time to reach to door.

The spark would pass by the dinning table and then have a direct path to the dynamite.

He turned to the woman again. “GODDAMNIT, WAKE UP!!!!” She rolled her head slightly and moaned again, but he knew it wasn’t going to be enough.

Without warning, the lights in the living room began to dim. That’s when Stevie heard the faint rumble in the distance.

The spark moved under the dinning table…

The train’s roar started to shake the house again. He turned to see it race pass the window.

The furniture went into convulsions. The Champaign glass tipped over and fell to the floor.

The sparked fuse appeared from under the table…

The glasses shattered on the wood surface. The remaining champagne splashed over the explosives and the fuse.

Stevie turned to see the spark reach the dynamite. He squeezed his eyes shut and waited for the big bang.

But there wasn’t one.

He squinted over at the explosives. The wasn’t any fuse left. Only a thin line of smoke rose from the dynamite.

“Oh Jesus, thank you!” he cried out. His body went limp from emotional exhaustion.

It took him a half an hour to wrestle out of the ropes. His wrists and ankles were bloody from being bound so tightly.

He grabbed the dynamite sticks and carried them to the bathroom. He dropped them in the toilet and shut the lid.

Better safe than sorry…

He went the mirror and decided to get a look at his new face. He was a lot older; maybe thirty-ish. He had a baby-like face with a serious five oclock shadow.

He grab the woman and brought her into the bedroom. He gently laid her on the bed and tried to revive her. She frowned and moan when he touch her head. He assumed she received the same treatment he got at first.

She mumbled a few words and then began to open her eyes. She blinked and then focused on Stevie’s face.

“Welcome to the land of the living.” he said. “I thought you were dead, lady.”

“Boss……” she whispered. Her words were hard to decipher. “….saw……Boss.”

Stevie figured she was talking about the man Maddam Q was working for. He hated the fact that this was all new to him. He fantasized about scenarios like this, but at that moment there wasn’t anything fun about it.

“You saw him? Who is he?” Stevie asked.

“Don’t……know…….who. Just……saw…..fingernails. Steel…….fingernails…….” She let out one last moan and then fell silent.

Stevie rose to his feet. A fine cCollinsworth ran down his back. He knew who The Boss was. He had faced him too many times before.

But that was make believe.

“Yeah… I guess. Stevie replied as he poured Gloria another glass of wine. “I don’t understand. I use to read D.t. Paul Collinsworth comic books. But I don’t remember this story.” He walked around and ran his hands along the walls. “This is so real. Something must’ve happened when…” Stevie tried to go back in his mind and retrace his actions before he revived. “Something happened… But a can’t remember…”

“Gees, Boss. You’re giving me the willies.” After Gloria had awaken from their ordeal a ten minutes bofore, they exchanged information about the current situation.

She and Detective Collinsworth had been invited to the party by a ‘secret admirer’. When they arrived, they were ambushed and interrogated. Unfortunately, the villains got everything they needed out of Gloria.

“I told ‘em that you had a hide-out somewhere on the north side and that Knuckles guy put my lights out!” she said sipping her wine. “Next thing I know, I’m here….with you.”

The plot was all too familiar. Stevie had lived it time and time again in the Mystery Detective Series comic books. Every story found Paul Collinsworth in the middle of some type of mystery and the super detective had to use his wits to survive.

Out of the 37 episodes Stevie had engaged in, he had come across Mr. Tiger Claw over a dozen times. He was Chicago’s most notorious crime boss. His influence spanned the entire east coast of the Northern continent and the local authorities were helpless against him. Only the brains and brawn of Paul Collinsworth could stop him. Stevie had to follow the basic principles of the other other stories. The story would end when Paul solved the crime, and in this case, all he had to do was find out what actually happened to Mr. Tiger Claw’s money.

“Did you hear them say anything else?” Stevie asked.

“That ‘Q’ lady has a meeting with her partners at midnight. She said it was at ‘The Big Room’”.

“Then that’s where I’m going.” Stevie said heading for the living room. He stopped in the bedroom doorway. “Uh, do I have a car?”

“Of course you do!” Gloria climbed out of bed and followed him. “But…you don’t know where ‘The Big Room’ is, do ya?”

“Of course I do. The only place a stereotypical gangster villainess would meet her partners at the stroke of midnight.”

“We’ll I’m stayin’ here.” Gloria said pouting.

“Uh, I don’t think so. I need you to come with me.”

“Why, Coll?

“”I don’t think I know how to drive…”

The warehouse at Pier 13 was exactly how Stevie pictured it. The dimly lit boardwalk was barely visible through the thick fog rolling in from the harbor. Three cars were parked in the shadows. One of them was a large, white luxury model. Stevie knew it had to be Madam Q’s

“How are you gonna deal with them all by your lonsome, Boss?” Gloria asked with concern.

“Don’t worry. I just need to know what they know about the money. That’s the only way we’re gonna be able to find it before them.”

“But how ya gonna get in. They gotta have hired muscle walkin’ around everywhere!”

Stevie reached into his pocket and pulled out his Paul Collinsworth Special revolver (which he aquired from his former foe: “Arkus, The Mad Martian from Dementia-7″ in comic issue #41. But that’s another story…).

“If my memory serves me correctly, the bad guys always meet in the warehouse at a tiny, lit table to talk business. There’s always a backdoor they forget to lock, and a pile of crates to hide behind.”

He grabbed his hat from the back seat. “I need you go find the cops and bring him here.”

“Gotcha! I can get ‘em, Boss!”

Stevie climbed out of the car and disappeared into the fog. He watched Gloria make a U-turn and drive off into the distance.

The backdoor was unlocked, just as he had thought. He quietly slipped in through the shadows and crouched behind three wooden crates. He peeked over the top crate and watched four criminals sitting at a card table, plotting their next scheme.

They were all there, just like Stevie remembered from Mystery Detective Comics #219 (the anniversary issue). Poker Face: the man who could stare you to death! Pixie Stick: so skinny, no jail cell could hold him! Ghost: the albino hitman from Jersey’s southside. And at the head of the table; the infamous Maddam Q.

“Why did you blow ‘em up! He was the only one who knew where the money was!?!” Ghost yelled pacing the floor.

“Because……he was dangerous, rude and very uncooperative. And we got everything we needed from the redhead.”

The Maddam reached into her briefcase and pulled out a manila envelope. “We searched Collinsworth’s office and found this piece of paper in the girl’s desk. It’s the combination to his safe.” The criminals crammed around the paper with anticipation.

“But we don’t know where the safe is!” Pixie said stroking his five o’clock shadow. “Mr. Claw gave us twenty-four hours to find his money, and now it’s almost up!”

“Ah shut up, Skinnyman!” Poker Face mumbled through his chiseled stare. A deck of cards shuffled through his fingers with lightning speed. “Da Maddam always has a plan.”

“That’s right, boys. I do have a plan. A plan that’s gonna make us all rich.”

Stevie wiped his sweaty palms on his khaki pants. All he needed was to hear where the money was hidden and he would be able to leave.

“When we ruffed up the girl, she let it slip that Collinsworth had a little hide-a-way on the north side. Someplace he called ‘The Shack’. If there was anyplace he’d hide the money, it would be there!”

Stevie smiled. That was all the information he needed. Recalling Mystery Detective Comics #6, his favorite issue, ‘The Shack’ was the old abandoned steel factory on fifth street.

He started to make his exit, but the back door slowly began to creep open. Stevie retreated back into the shadows and watched Knuckles, Maddam Q’s henchman quickly walk toward the gathering of super criminals.

“Boss! Something’s gone wrong!” he said reaching the table.

“What have you done this time!” Maddam Q angrily shouted rising out of her seat.

“I just got a call from Vinnie the Stooly! He was walking by the old apartment, and…..and……”

“And what, you idiot!?!”

“And it’s still there! There wasn’t no explosion!”

Maddam Q slammed her fists on the table. “Curse that Collinsworth! Somehow he got away, AGAIN!”

Poker Face’s poker face was broken. “That means he’s on the loose again. As far as we know, he could be running with the money right now!”

“Not exactly, my impulsive Poker Face.” a voice call out from the darkness.

Stevie’s heart jumped. It was a stranger’s voice, but very familiar. It was calm and collective, but still represented the most dangerous criminal of them all.

“Detective Collinsworth isn’t the type to take the money and run. He would prefer to enter his enemy’s camp and catch them off guard.”

The voice surrounded Stevie. He tried to control his panic, but his rapid breathing was gonna give him away soon.

He caught movement in the shadows in front of him. The figure was silhouetted in the darkness, except for the hand that reached for the table.

The steel finger-talons sparkling in the lamp’s light.

“Mr. Tiger Claw!” Maddam Q said startled. “We…I didn’t expect you to come so soon.” She nervously slid the manila envelope into his grasp.

He examined the combination. “Always expect the unexpected with Tiger Claw, my dear.”

Stevie felt trapped. He couldn’t see his arch-villains eyes, but he knew they were looking at him. He slowly backed away from the crates and headed for the door. In his fit of nervousness, his foot got caught in a mesh of wires. He stumbled backwards onto his crates. They fell apart to reveal his hiding place. Stevie looked up to see the criminals staring at him in shock.

“What the… how in the hell did he find us!” Maddam Q exclaimed backing up into the shadows.

“Never underestimate your enemy, my dear. Especially when he’s been trained by the best.” Tiger Claw replied.

Stevie rose to his feet and pulled out his piece. He could hear footsteps approaching from outside.

He was trapped….again.

“Don’t move, people!” Stevie said raising his Paul Collinsworth Special revolver at them. “I ain’t afraid to use this!” Once again, the cheesy crime drama clichés seem to run from his mouth. “Now, before this gets ugly, I’ll take that combination, Tiger Claw.”

The gangster placed the envelope on the table. Stevie quickly grabbed it and stepped away.

The back door flung open and three goons ran in.

“Don’t move or your boss gets it!” Stevie yelled.

“Do as the detective says, boys.” Maddam Q said. The men complied.

“Now, we’re all gonna stay here until the cops get here.” Stevie said.

“So we meet again, Mr. Collinsworth!” Tiger Claw said from the shadows.

“Yeah, but this is the last time!” Another cliche rose from his throat. “This is The Big Easy and your going down!”

Good one.

There was a faint siren ringing in Stevie’e ears, but he didn’t recognize it as a police siren. It was almost hypnotic.

“Step out of the dark, Tiger Claw. Let’s get a good look at you!”

“As you wish.” the villain said. When he appeared in the light, Stevie’s mouth dropped. Now he understood why the voice sounded familiar, and why it frightened him. It was a voice which haunted him in reality. The voice of a someone he could never seem to escape.

“Daddy!?!” Stevie whispered.

Charge ‘em up! a voice inside Stevie’s head called out. He jumped from being startled.

We’re gonna need to move ‘em quick!

“Who was that?” he asked. The villains in front of him just stared in confusion.

“What was what?” The Madam asked.

“That voice!” he exclaimed.

Everybody step back! the voice called out again.

“You had to have heard that!” Stevie voice was uneasy.


Stevie’s body sprang into convulsions. He quickly went limp and toppled to the warehouse floor. His fingers flopped around like fish out of water.

We’re gonna have to hit ‘em again. the voice said


The shock hit him again and his body contorted in pain. His legs twisted and kicked his gun out of reached.

As the seizures calmed, Stevie was able to see Maddam Q reach down and pick up his gun. He wanted to try and stop her, but his body was useless. Whatever hit him, left him for a sitting duck.

He began to lose consciousness.

The last thing he could remember was Mr. Tiger Claw standing over him and laughing in sarcastic victory.

He heard the sirens come toward him from the distance. His chest ached and his body was still slightly twitching.

He opened his eyes to see a young paramedic sitting over him. The sirens filled his ears now. His stretcher swayed with the motion of the ambulance.

“What…what.” Stevie whisper.

“Don’t talk, kid. Save your strength.” the paramedic said placing the oxygen mask firmly on Stevie’s face. “We’ll be at the hospital shortly.”

He was back home; back to reality.


The Big Finish

He was immediately wheeled into the Operating Room. Everything seemed fuzzy, but he could tell that his condition wasn’t that great. The I.V. tubes which were jammed into his arms were uncomfortable, but he was too weak to pull them out.

“He’s got severe hemorrhaging in the chest area.” The doctor said said to his nurse, slipping on rubber gloves. “We gotta get in there and stop the bleeding before his lungs collapse.”

“Daddy….Daddy…” Stevie called out harshly. He felt the fluid slowly pouring into his lungs.

“Put him out. We gotta do this fast.” the doctor said. The nurse carefully injected something into his I.V. tube…

One minute he felt the nurses drugs taken affect on him…

…the next minute, he felt very uncomforable. He opened his blury eyes to find himself, in a small chair, bound by a mass of heavy ropes.

He smelled blood. It was strong and heavy. When his vision cleared, he saw were the smell was coming from.

Poker Face…Pixie Stick…Ghost…Knuckles…and Maddam Q…

All dead…

Stevie wiggled in his ropes until his hands could reach into his coat pocket. He pulled out his trusty razor-blade (which was properly hidden so the criminals wouldn’t find it). He slowly sawed at the ropes until they fell to the floor.

After rummaging through the bodies and finding a gun, he tip-toed through the puddle of red until he was near the exit. He was in ‘The Shack’ on the north side.

“The money…” he whispered.

Stevie felt his way through the darkness until he reached what appeared to be his office.

The light was still on and he could hear someone rummaging through his desk. He gripped the gun tightly and kicked the door open. That’s when he came face to face with his arch-nemesis one more time.

“Hold it right there, Tiger Claw!” Stevie said raising the gun.

Tiger Claw slowly turned around to face Stevie. It was his father, at least in the other world. But he was still different. This ‘Daddy’ was bigger, and more vicious.

“Impossible…” Tiger Claw said beholding the super sleuth. “You were dead when the Maddam checked on you.”

“Well, I guess the shoe’s on the other foot, huh?” Stevie said slowly moving into the room.

“Oh yes.” the villain smiled. “It seems I gave them 24 hours to find my money. They found it….but they were a tad bit late. So…I had to kill them.”

When Tiger Claw smiled, it was just like Stevies father. It was the same smile he had seen just before every beaten he took.

“You are the most evil man I’ve ever known!” Stevie said. “You lie, scheme, and manipulate people any chance you get. And I hate you. All this ends right now!”

Stevie led Tiger Claw outside to the alley. The detective felt tired. He didn’t know how much longer he could stay in this world, but he was going take care of Tiger Claw one way or the other.

“You won’t hurt anyone anymore.” Stevie said. He could almost see the villain smiling under the glare of the street lights.

“Come come, detective. After I raised you…taught you everything you know. You actually think you could ever get rid of me?” he took a step back. “You don’t seem to understand. You can never get rid of me. No matter where you go, your Daddy will always have a hold on you!”

“Not this time, I’m afraid.” A mass of police sirens came at them. Stevie smiled. “You here that? In a few minutes, it’ll all be over. I have you pinned to those murders, plus whatever I’ll beat out of you…” Stevie’s victory speech was cut short by the loud sound of engine blades from above them.

A large flying vehicle decended from the clouds above. Stevie was in shock.

“You see, detective. I taught you everything you know, but I didn’t teach you everything!” A rope latter hung from the flying vehicle. “It’s called a helicopter, detective. Another miracle of the modern age!” Tiger Claw grabbed the ladder. “This is where we say goodbye for now, Mr. Collinsworth.”

Stevie raised his gun. “Don’t try it, or I swear I’ll…”

“…you’ll do nothing detective.” The copter slowly lifted the super criminal off the ground. “You should’ve checked to see if the gun had bullets. You would’ve realized I confiscated them before my partners’…unfortunate accidents.”

Stevie pulled the trigger, but nothing happened. “Noo!!” He ran and leaped for Tiger Claw’s boots, but the criminal was too high.

“Farewell. We will meet again, young detective Stevie. In this life….and the other.” Tiger Claw disappeared into the night’s darkened skies. The chopper’s whirling blade faded and became drowned out by the sirens pulling into the alley.

“This ain’t over, Tiger Claw. I guess I have to deal with you on both sides. But know this, I am going to beat you. Just as badly as you’ve beaten me.”

Stevie lit a cigarette and watched as keystone cops poured into the abandoned factory. He didn’t know how long it would be before he was pulled back to Orange County. But he was going to devote all his time to the demise to his father’s alter ego.

“Detective!” he heard someone cry out. Gloria appeared from the crowd of police officers to race toward him. She gave him a big hug. “I though they offed you! When we reached the pier, you were already gone. Jeez, they said you were dead!”

“No. Not today, Gloria”

“Where’s Tiger Claw?”

“Got away….again, I’m afrad. But don’t worry, he can’t hide forever.” Stevie took a pull from his cigarette, but then started to caugh horribly. “Remind me to stop smoking.”

“So…you wanna grab a cup of coffee?” Gloria said staring deeply into his eyes.

“Sounds like a plan to me. Besides, I need you to tell me all about me.”