“So what happened, man?” I ask the guy as I shine a penlight into his eyes, checking his pupillary responses.
“Got hit,” mumbles the guy, stating the obvious. With one hand, he’s holding the absorbent gauze pad I’ve given him against the big laceration on the side of his head, as he absentmindedly tugs his shorts up with the other. Not too far up, mind you – just enough to perch precariously on his ass cheeks and still leave about four inches of boxers showing. Scalp wound and abrasions be damned, he has street fashion to consider.
“I meant, what happened exactly,” I explain patiently, suppressing the urge to roll my eyes. I palpate the back of his neck. “What did they hit you with, and did you get knocked out?”
“Hell no!” he blurts indignantly, pulling away. He starts getting wound up, because now he has a story to tell. He gestures animatedly to the porch behind him, and to his buddies currently being interviewed by the police. There is a small crowd gathered on the street. “See, I was just sittin‘ here, kickin‘ it with my peeps, noamsayne? Mindin‘ my own, noamsayne? And then…”
…And you were just sitting there with your Bible study group, drinking a wholesome glass of milk and holding your weekly devotional, when all of a sudden and for no reason…
“…and then, I just got jumped, noamsayne? And I di’int do nuthin!“
No doubt there were seven of them, far too many for you and your homies to defeat in a stand-up, fair fight.
“Then, dude just drops the brick and runs off!”
Whoa, just one guy! He must have been a baaaaaaaad ass…
“Did you get a look at this guy?” I ask. “Would you recognize him again?” Immediately, his eyes turn shifty and evasive.
“Nah man, I ain’t ever seen dude before,” he lies. “He just some dude.”
“Sumdood?” I ask with sharpened interest. “You say Sumdood jumped you?”
He’s close, I can feel it. I knew it when the hairs stood up on the back of my neck when I got out of the rig. Evil lurks nearby.
“Yeah man,” the guy confirms. “Some dude.”
“There he is, over there!” the guy’s girlfriend says helpfully, pointing toward the crowd, “just standin‘ over there like he ain’t did nuthin‘!”
“Shhh, don’t point at him!” I hiss, pulling her arm down. “Just be cool, a’ight?”
“Aww girl, that ain’t him,” the guy says, feigning disgust. “Siddown and shut yo mouf.”
“That is him!” she insists. “I seen tha‘ whole thang!”
“Shut. Yo. Mouf. Woman!” the guy warns through clenched teeth. The girlfriend, chastened, clams up.
He recognizes the guy, he just doesn’t want to admit to it. He’ll round up his posse and try to exact some street justice as soon as all the cops have gone. But he doesn’t know who he’s dealing with. All of them together are no match for Sumdood.
I catch Farting Partner’s eye and jerk my head toward one of the cops. He nods in understanding, hands me the two-inch tape he’s holding, and saunters over to one of the currently unoccupied police officers. Attempting to look casual, I finish taping up the gauze helmet FP has applied to our patient’s lacerated cranium.
“What’s up?” Officer Friendly asks quizzically as FP steers him over to us.
“Don’t look too obvious,” I tell him sotto voce, “But the perpetrator is standing over in the crowd. It’s Sumdood.”
Officer Friendly’s eyes narrow, and he casts a surreptitious glance at the crowd. “Which one?” he asks, rolling the toothpick to the other side of his mouth.
“The guy in the wifebeater shirt, baggy black denim shorts, with all the bling.”
“And which one of twenty would that be?” Officer Friendly asks, mildly exasperated.
“Sorry,” I apologize. “The one second from the left, toward the back. About five-ten, 160 pounds, corn row braids. It’s Sumdood, I know it.” The girlfriend nods in confirmation.
“Him?” Officer Friendly asks incredulously. “Sheeeeeit, that’s just Tyrone. He’s a low level crack dealer. I’ve busted him a couple of times. He’s harmless.”
“I don’t care what his street name is, I’m telling you it’s Sumdood!” I insist. “The victim identified him!”
“He doesn’t fit Sumdood’s description,” the cop informs me. “I’ve got a composite sketch of him in the cruiser. Sumdood is at least six-three, and weighs 235. And he has an Afro. Besides, they just had a sighting of him not five minutes ago, all the way across town, at a drive-by shooting. No way he made it over here that fast.”
“You underestimate Sumdood,” I inform him sadly, shaking my head.
Oh, little does he understand the nature of Evil. Am I alone able to sense his presence? Will I forever be cursed with the burden of thwarting Sumdood? Oh well, with great power comes great responsibility.
“Sumdood is all around us,” I educate the cop. “I have spent lonely years wandering the wilderness in my quest to stop him. It’s what I do. Picking up little old ladies who have fallen and can’t get up is just my cover.”
“Are you okay?” Officer Friendly asks, concerned. “You got a fever or something?”
“Listen to Ambulance Driver,” FP says solemnly. “We have seen things that would turn your hair white. Uh, that is, if you had any, I mean. Sumdood possesses powers that – ”
“I got this, FP,” I say, interrupting my trusty sidekick. “Look, Officer Friendly. This is really beyond your level of experience and training. Sumdood has powers you can’t begin to fathom. He’s nearly immortal. Our only hope is to capture him when he takes physical form. You get the cuffs on him before he dissolves into smoke, I’ll bind him with the Sacred Three Inch Tape, anoint him with saline, and stab him in the heart with a sharpened caduceus made of rosewood. We’ll be heroes.”
“You guys have lost your fucking minds,” the cop replies in disgust. “That guy’s name is Tyrone Rockslinger. He’s lives over on Lee Street, and he’s been locked up in the parish jail for the past six months on possession with intent.
“You poor, deluded man,” I sigh tolerantly. “I realize this may sound unbelievable to you. It’s almost unbelievable to me too, and I’ve pursued Sumdood across the sands of time. Consider the fact that every description of Sumdood is different. Think of how Sumdood is often in two places at the same time. Think of how widely varied his modus operandi is. It’s obvious we’re dealing with a master criminal here, someone with superhuman powers.”
“We think he may be the third coming of the AntiChrist,” FP pronounces solemnly. “Only way to be sure is to examine his scalp.”
“You sure about this?” the cop asks dubiously. “He doesn’t seem all that dangerous-looking to me.”
“Looks are deceiving, believe me,” I warn him. “He is a shapeshifter, able to assume the guise of any being he touches. My guess is that the original Tyrone is stuffed in a trashcan somewhere.”
“And you say this Sumdood person is the one responsible for our complainant’s injuries?
“Oh, he’s responsible for a lot more than that, my friend,” FP says darkly. “He towed the iceberg into the shipping lanes, directly into the path of the Titanic. During the sacking of Jerusalem, he was directly respons -“
“He’s a bad dude, okay?” I interrupt, casting a warning glance at Farting Partner, “and this is as close as I’ve been since the Chicago Fire of 1871. We have to act now.”
“The Chicago Fire of 1871?” Officer Friendly asks skeptically. “Bullshit. Mrs. O’Leary’s cow started that fire, and – “
“There was a cow there, yes,” I explain urgently, my patience wearing thin. “There was a cow, and Sumdood was…well, he was trying to…see, he had the cow backed up to this stool and he was standing on it, and…well, I tried to stop him, and in the struggle a lantern got knocked over, okay? Satisfied?”
“But that was over 120 years ago,” Officer Friendly protested. “You don’t look much older than thirty-five!”
“I am far, far older than I appear,” I explain wearily, “but my soul cannot rest until Sumdood has been banished back into the depths. I am trapped on this plane until I have defeated my enemy.”
“Who are you?” the cop hissed, eyes bright with curiosity. And fear.
I have to level with this man. I need him.
“I am one of an ancient and secret order of paramedics,” I level with him. “Even the mention of our existence is forbidden. We live among you, and always we are watching. We have tracked Sumdood for milennia, seeking ever to thwart him in his quest.”
“And what quest is that?”
“The end of civilization as we know it,” I say flatly, meeting his gaze. “We managed to stop him when he sabotaged the bilges on the Ark. He released the first rat that started the Black Plague. He started the flu pandemic of 1918 when he sneezed into an all-you-can eat mutton bar in Madrid.”
“Ask anybody around here where they bought their methamphetamine, heroin or crack,” FP suggests. “What do they all say?”
“Sumdood,” Officer Friendly muses thoughtfully.
“And who is the babydaddy of half the unwed teen mothers around here?” I ask.
“Sumdood was the second gunman on the grassy knoll,” FP informs him.
“He kidnapped the Lindbergh baby, and let poor Bruno Hauptman take the fall for it. He has to be stopped.”
“And we’re pretty sure he was the source of the faulty intelligence that led us into Iraq,” FP furnishes. “We can’t let him get away.”
“We have to take this fucker down,” Officer Friendly says decisively. “He must be stopped.“
“Glad you saw it our way, Officer.”
“Hey you, Sum – I mean, Tyrone!” Officer Friendly bellows. “Get your ass over here!” FP and I take up flanking positions and don dark sunglasses, hands at the ready.
“Waaaaazzzzaaaap, Officer Friendly?” Sumdood brays as he sidles up. He casts a sidelong glance at me. I smile grimly, poised on the balls of my feet.
I know who you are, scumbag. And soon you’ll be mine.
“These EMTs here say you did this,” Officer Friendly says curtly, jerking his thumb at our gauze-helmeted patient. “As a matter of fact, they say you’re responsible for a lot more. I want some answers.”
“Whaa, me?” protests Sumdood, the picture of innocence. “I ain’t did nothin‘!” He fixes the crowd on the porch with a piercing stare. “Ain’t that right?”
“Uh huh,” gauze head agrees vacantly. “Musta been somebody else…”
“Ooooh, my bad!” chimes in his girlfriend with a glazed look in her eyes. “Gurlfriend wuz wrong.”
“See, Officer Friendly?” Sumdood grins triumphantly. “Just a case of mistaken identity. I can go now, right?”
“You can go now…” drools Officer Friendly as he stares into Sumdood’s eyes, slack jawed.
Sumdood throws us a mocking salute and does the pimp limp back into the crowd, fading into nothingness as FP and I stand there, mute in our rage. Sumdood is too strong for us to take on alone.
We were thisclose, people. Just a pair of handcuffs away from capturing the greatest threat to human health since AIDS or the Anopheles mosquito, and we missed our chance. But I’m still on the job, and I’ll never quit until I run Sumdood to ground.
But until then, Sumdood is still out there. And he’s only getting stronger.