The Kingfisher
Part Two
By: Walter G. Esselman

Synopsis of Part One:

First, our mysterious narrator jumped out of an airplane and plummeted into a desolate alley. Though he's unsure of why he even did it.

Shortly thereafter, he witnesses a bully knock a girl's head against some concrete. She is lucid long enough to see the bully and his friends disappear, one by one, each followed by a fatal sounding ‘clang'.

Returning to the fallen girl our mysterious narrator found that the girl, Sydney, was not waking up, so he took her to a clinic without revealing himself.

Now though, Sydney is sneaking out a side door.

PART II

I straightened as Sydney walked out onto the street, and casually walked away. When she was far enough away, the girl went across the street and kept going, a little quicker.

Curious, I started to follow. With occasional glances down, I trailed her back to her alley. The bully's car was now gone. Still, Sydney stopped and checked her alley before going down it. Wearily, she moved inside, however she suddenly stopped to look at something on the ground.

"What the hell?" she muttered to herself in a low voice. "Is…is that a gun?"

A roll of thunder came, and Sydney shook her head. She escaped deeper into the alley.

Sydney stopped by a 6 foot by 4 piece of plywood, which was flush against the brick wall. Grabbing the edge, the board swung open, and the girl disappeared inside as it closed.

The rain started to pater down. I waited a moment, but she didn't come back out.

Maybe that's her home, I reasoned, and it was not a happy thought. Poor kid.

That explained why she was even in the alley earlier. Vaguely, the little voice in my head was telling me that alleys were bad, but it was not clear why. Something about muggers, pearls and people turning into bats.

"Okay," I grumbled out loud with weary frustration. "That one doesn't even make sense."

Lightning lit up the sky, and it was immediately followed by a peal of thunder.

With Sydney sorted out, I needed try go back down into the alley and try to sort myself out, if possible. The little voice in my head was telling me to not stand out in the rain, because it would be bad for my health.

Using the nano hooks on my hands and toes, I climbed down into the alley and headed deeper in.

A second before I stepped on it, I noticed the pink backpack.

For a long moment, I stared at it in confusion. But then it hit me.

This was the backpack that had nearly taken my head off earlier. It was the girl's. Hunching over the pack—to keep the rain off it—I walked back to the plywood and almost pulled it open.

Luckily, I froze. The little voice in my head told me that that would be wrong, though it was a little fuzzy on the ‘why'.

A little bit of light shone under the bottom.

I decided to put the backpack down, right by the door. I knocked gently this time, and then went back to the shadows.

The light went off under the plywood.

I suddenly decided that it was weird to stand outside a child's door, so I turned away and slid deeper into the alley. Despite the fog in my head, it did surprise me how well I could see in this dark alley. Unfortunately, mostly what I saw was that there was little to hide under.

"Thank you for my backpack," called out a voice behind him. "But…" There was a pause, and then she continued. Her voice was frightened but determined. "But, I still wish you hadn't killed those boys. Ijusthadtosaythat!"

Blinking in confusion, I turned around. "What?"

Sydney was standing within a jagged opening in the brick wall.

"The boys were…," started Sydney, but she faltered for a moment before rallying. "They weren't good, but they didn't deserve…that. To be killed." She said the word, as if she were biting into a lemon.

"Um, I don't know what you're talking about," I said tentatively.

"I saw you grab the boys who were…being mean to me," said Sydney. "And I have no doubt that it would have been worse for me. A lot worse. But, I saw you grab them and then…" She stopped. "There was a terrible noise, like a ‘clang'."

Understanding now, I chuckled with relief. "Oh! That was the manhole cover."

"The what?" asked Sydney.

"I couldn't show myself, but I also didn't want to hurt the kids," I explained. "So, I pulled up a manhole cover and dropped them down. Though they might have gotten bumped up going down…but…"

"So…Wait! They're not dead?" asked Sydney with relief.

"They…shouldn't be. They were trying to get out from underneath each other, last I saw them."

Sydney gave a little laugh. "You threw them in the sewer?"

"The car's trunk would have also worked, but I didn't have that kind of time, and…I'm sorry for worrying you."

Sydney peered into the darkness for a moment, but then she continued. "The dentist's office said someone broke their window and left me in front. Was that you?"

"Yes," I admitted.

Sydney stood in silence for a moment. "Why?"

I blinked in confusion. "Um, you were hurt." Now that I heard it more, my voice sounded odd, with a slightly mechanical undertone.

"Oh," replied Sydney. "I guess I did kinda need a hand there. Thank you."

"You're welcome," I replied. "I'm just glad that you're alright." Suddenly, there was an awkward feeling. He had no idea what to say next. "Well, take care."

Sydney stepped back into her hole in the wall and closed the plywood door.

Looking around, I searched for something, other than her plywood, that would keep the rain off.

"I have a concussion," said Sydney's voice suddenly.

Turning, I looked back at her. The door was open once again, and she looked down at the ground uncertainly.

"But, I thought you were okay?" I asked.

"I…," started Sydney. Then she made an unhappy noise and held up a camp lantern. "Can you come forward a little? It's weird talking to a shadow. Makes me think that I'm crazy."

Stepping forward, I walked to the edge of the light. She raised the lamp a little higher and got a good look at me.

Giving a little cry, she dropped the lamp and jumped back in her hovel. The board slammed shut.

The LED lamp clattered to the ground.

Blinking in confusion, I looked down at myself. Somewhere in my mind, the little voice told me that something was wrong. My skin was a dark blue gray, which was almost black. I started to reach towards my face when the board opened up again.

"I'm sorry," said Sydney immediately. Her voice prim and proper. "I should not have slammed the door in your face. That was rude."

"Oh?" I said hesitantly. "It's okay."

Reached down slowly, I picked up the lamp and handed it to her. She hesitated for only a moment, but then she took it.

"Thank you," said Sydney.

"Da nada," he replied.

"You speak Spanish?" she asked.

My eyes widened, not sure of what to say.

"It's okay, it's okay," said Sydney quickly. "I ask too many questions."

"Nothing wrong with that," I replied though I wondered where that idea had come from.

"Maybe," she murmured.

I reached up to my face and touched the lines across my nose and something else. It gave me a start. "Do…do I have tusks?"

Blinking, Sydney leaned out a little further. "Don't you know?"

"I'm…a little fuzzy on what's going on." Probing my face, I decided that maybe they weren't tusks, but rather large fangs jutting up and out of my lower jaw. "Someone tried to kill me, and I jumped out of a plane. Then it exploded."

"You! You were in the plane that exploded?" asked the girl.

"Um, oh yes," I replied.

"Oh my God! That's all they was talking about at the clinic," said Sydney with breathless excitement. "It's a big mystery, because there was not supposed to be a plane flying over the city."

I shrugged. "Um. I don't remember. Sorry."

"Well, that's okay. I should probably know your name. Mine is Sydney. What's yours?" she asked.

Opening my mouth, I started to speak, but then he stopped. "Um…"

"You…don't remember your name?"

I just shrugged once again. "I…I don't know. I'm just…tired. Can we talk about this later?"

"Sure," said Sydney quickly. "Of course."

"Thanks," I said.

Turning, I started deeper into the alley as Sydney closed the plywood behind. Right now, I wasn't even worried about finding something to hide under. I needed sleep so desperately.

"Hey!" called out Sydney from her doorway once again. "You still out there?"

"Yes," I replied.

"Are you going home?"

"Home?" I asked. "Um, I'm not sure where home is. But, I'll find something to keep the rain off." He realized that he only said that because he didn't want her to worry about him.

"Why don't you have a…," she started, but then she stopped herself suddenly. "No! That's a rude question Sydney." She was about to start again but stopped.

I waited, suddenly realizing—somewhere deep inside me— that the rain would not hurt me. Something separate than the little voice in my head.

"At the clinic, they said my brain got knocked around," said Sydney. "They say if I hadn't gotten to the clinic when I did…it could have been bad. Really bad."

In the shadow, I straightened in surprise, but did not respond.

Sydney started to close the board again.

"Are you okay?" I asked.

"Hmmm? What?" she replied uncertainly.

"Are you okay?" I repeated. "You look worried."

"Well, I do have someone I've never met outside my house," chuckled Sydney, but even she heard the defensiveness in her voice.

I just waited in the rain.

Sydney gave a long sigh. "Okay. The nurses were worried about me going to sleep because of my concussion."

Still carrying her lamp, the girl moved inside the small space that was her home. She began to pace back and forth, talking out loud. She would appear and then disappear in the so-called doorway. "I had heard that if you go to sleep with a concussion, you might not wake up, an' I don't want to do that. But I'm getting really sleepy, an' I have school tomorrow."

"You might want to call in sick," I suggested gently.

"I can't risk it," said Sydney.

"Because of those boys?"

"No, they were just bullies," she said, waving the idea away. "No, I'm on a scholarship, and I have to be better than anyone else. Smarter, faster…and always First in my class."

"I think they'll understand."

Sydney shook her head quickly, and that made her wobble a bit. She stopped and got her bearings. I almost stepped forward.

"Maybe you should lie down," I suggested with concern.

"But if I go to sleep, I might not wake up again," said Sydney in almost a wail.

"Actually, that's a myth," I said, quickly and surely. "That's what I thought at first too. But, you're not having trouble walking…"

"But I…"

"Unless you shake your head really hard," I smoothed over. "And you're certainly able to talk with me." I stopped to poke the little voice in my head to help here.

"How do you know that?" asked Sydney.

I opened my mouth to answer, but then shrugged. "Not sure. But I am sure that what I'm saying is solid." I stopped. "I…just don't know why."

"It's okay," said Sydney quickly. "What else do you remember?"

"Oh. We should also check to see if your pupils are dilated."

"Can you do that?" she asked.

"Sure," I said. "But…I'd have to step closer."

Sydney stopped pacing in the so-called doorway. "An' if they're not dilated?"

"As long as you're talking, walking okay and your pupils aren't dilated." I counted on my fingers. "Then, you can sleep. But someone should wake you a couple times during the night, just in case."

"And…what if I don't wake up?" asked Sydney with cold terror in her voice.

I took a small step forward. "Then I'd take you back to the clinic immediately. And I'd try not to break their glass door."

Sydney chuckled, and then immediately reached for her head. "Ow, don't make me laugh. I still have a headache."

"Two presidents walk into a bar…,"

"Stop it," grinned Sydney with real mirth. She looked down and then nodded slowly, so as not to hurt her head. "I would be able to sleep better, if you could check on me."

Slowly, I stepped forward.

Sydney's eyes widened as I came into the light, and I wondered what she saw. But I resisted an urge to touch my face. Instead, I stopped for a moment, a little ways away. And then started forward until I could see her brown eyes.

The camping lamp hung near her knee, but I could see that her pupils were wide in the shadows.

"Can you lift your lamp up?" I asked.

"But…," she started.

"Your health is most important right now," I said, and I heard the surety in my voice. "And, if any problems come out of that clinic, I'll help you with them."

"Why?" asked the girl suddenly.

I blinked. "Being healthy is essential because it's…"

"No," she said quickly, interrupting him. "Why are you helping me?"

I stopped. "Um, because you're hurt."

"You're just hanging out in an alley in some suit, helping young girls?" asked Sydney pointedly.

Stuttering, I tried to form words, but I was having trouble.

"I just need to know," said Sydney. "Because I don't have any money, and I'm not into guys."

"Wait? What?" I exclaimed as I stepped back. "I don't want money, and I definitely wasn't thinking of the other thing. You're way too young." I rubbed the bridge of my nose, feeling worn.

Sydney was watching me carefully.

"I…I'll just go to the back of the alley," I sighed. "Or, I can find a new one, if that makes you more comfortable. There has to be…"

"You passed," said Sydney happily with a bounce.

Blinking, I looked back at her, confused.

"I just needed to…make sure," said Sydney. "Sorry."

Nodding, I understood. "No, it makes sense. You have to be careful."

"I guess, I just haven't gotten a lot of help…these past few years," said Sydney softly. "Not without someone wanting something, usually something bad. I've gotten lucky, but…"

"Luck runs out," I said softly. I held up a dark blue-grey hand. "Maybe mine ran out as well." He looked at her. "But, right now, I don't know what's going on with me. But I can at least help you. Even if it's in some small way."

"Are you just going to head off after you help me?" asked Sydney.

"I…I wouldn't even know which direction to go in," I admitted.

Sydney stepped a little closer.

"I would appreciate it, if you could check my pupils," she said. "To see if they dilate."

"It's better to know, than to hope," I said. "And everything comes out in the wash anyway."

Sydney cocked her head questioningly as I held my hand out.

"Could I have the lamp?" I asked.

I found myself looking at the dark blue-grey skin of my hand. But then she put the camping lantern into it.

Raising it up, the light shone in her face, and her pupils immediately dilated.

Stepping back, I handed her the lamp and spoke with mock gruffness. "Your pupils are fine, go to bed!"

Sydney gave a little chuckle.

"I can wait out here, and then I'll knock on your door every couple of hours, until you get up," I said.

"Okay," said the girl, but she did not move at first.

"Seriously," I said. "Bed."

Sydney pointed to me. "What's that?"

My cloak had fallen open at the waist. I immediately pulled it shut. "Sorry…sorry!"

"It's okay," said Sydney quickly. "I…I think you're in something, like Iron Man's armor."

Turning a little, I opened the robe. What could be seen was definitely not anatomically correct. My shoulders slumped. Everything important, especially That, must be under the dark blue-gray skin.

"I was kinda worried about that," I said.

"What's that?" she asked.

Absolutely not wanting to talk about anatomy, especially mine, I turned back to her and left the cloak open, since it was safe. "What‘s wrong?"

"Oh, you have writing there," Sydney. "On your left side."

Blinking, I looked down and lifted my left arm. There was definitely something there. I pulled the cloak over my shoulder, trying to see.

Sydney lifted her lamp. "Turn to the right a bit."

As I did so, the girl leaned in closer. "It's a bit hard to read. Like part got scraped off."

"Oh! I did hit a building when I was falling from the plane," I explained. "Before I dropped into this alley."

Sydney suddenly called out. "Kingfisher."

"What?"

"I can't make out much," said Sydney. "There are some letters, E, C, T, and then ‘Kingfisher'."

"Wonder what that means," I muttered.

Sydney suddenly gave a big yawn. She wobbled a little.

I looked at her seriously. "You really need to go to sleep."

"But I got this big mystery now," she whined. Her face contorted as she tried to suppress another yawn.

Picking up the plywood door, I put it right in front of her.

"Is this your way of trying to get me back inside?" asked Sydney's voice behind it, somewhere between amusement and grumpiness.

I moved the plywood forward a little to cover the door and gently bumped into her.

"Okay! Okay!" she grumbled. She walked back into her small home as I set the door in place.

"I'll knock in a few hours," I called through the door. "But, if you don't reply, I'll probably have to come in."

"I'll wake," replied Sydney from the other side. "Good night Kingfisher, thanks for your help."

"Good night," I replied, and sat in front of the door.

Sydney suddenly cried out from inside.

"Wait? What do you mean you fell out of an airplane!"

The End, for now

-

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