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Midnight Ch. 02

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Jennifer Hutchins, aka the costumed crimefighter Midnight, aka CallmeCallme6969 on the swingers’ site she had joined last night, logged onto her PC just after noon on Saturday. It was a gray, nondescript fall day, with leaden skies, a steady wind that rattled the eaves, and bare tree limbs reaching up, as if aiming to poke holes in the low-lying clouds. A lazy day, made for sleeping in, napping, curling up on the sofa with her cat, Mitsie, and popping in a DVD.

But first she wanted to check her e-mail. She stretched her arms, yawned. She had only gotten out of bed a half hour ago—having slept the whole morning away. It was just what she needed, but she still was shaking off the cobwebs from her long night’s sleep. She wasn’t a coffee drinker, never had been. So it took her a while to become alert, get her faculties in full working order.

When she saw her inbox flooded with fifty-three messages, that did the trick! Her faculties whirred into overdrive. How could she have received fifty-three messages in just one night?

She scrolled through the e-mails. Nothing there at all except notice after notice from the sex site. One message informed her that her account had been approved. Duh! All of the other messages told her that someone had sent her a private message on the site. Good grief. Were her naked photos that much of a hit already? She felt a swell of pride—nice to know that the guys approved of what they saw. But still, the thought of logging into her account and reading over fifty e-mails from admirers felt a bit daunting.

She felt something soft and furry rub against her leg, and looked down. Mitsie. Sitting on the floor, staring up at her, eyeing her lap.

“Hey, girl,” she said. “You want my lap? Well, what are you stalling for?”

Mitsie waited no longer. She sprang up, and landed perfectly, almost weightlessly, on Jen’s lap. She admired the way her cat moved and leaped so gracefully. It was something for her to emulate, to strive to match herself.

Going through the fifty-odd messages was not as daunting as she at first feared it would be. The vast majority of the messages were one-liners, with subject headings like “Hot,” “Baby, let’s fuck 2nite,” “Great rack,” and “Hey, ur smokin’.” And the accompanying text usually didn’t have much else to say. “You want my cock up your fuckhole, don’t you?” one message read, and the guy had attached three pics of his penis—two of it erect, one of it post-orgasm, shriveled up, the cum still fresh at the tip.

“Eww,” she said, and clicked on the Delete button.

She had never seen so many dicks. One after another, after another—the sameness was deadening. She got to the point where she hardly even read the one-line messages anymore. She just deleted them.

But just when it seemed like there would be nothing to make her pause, just when she was about to close out of the site and likely never log in again, she spotted a message with more meat to it, and no cock pics attached.

She also thought the guy’s user name was original . . . NotIronPyrite. Very interesting. Kind of egotistical, after a fashion—she supposed the guy was trying to say he wasn’t Fool’s Gold, but rather the real thing. Still, it was subtle, intelligent, showing a modicum of wit. Better than anything else she’d seen.

And his e-mail actually was composed of paragraphs instead of a single sentence. Reading through it, he sounded like a nice enough guy, though kind of conceited and presumptuous. But at least he was up front. She wondered about his unwillingness to send her a face pic, but she of all people understood the need to be discreet.

She clicked on the link to view his complete profile, and sure enough, there were the dick shots. But at least he hadn’t attached them in his e-mail, and she had to admit, his package looked nice. His dick was big, and he apparently was a meticulous manscaper. It looked like he shaved, fully, as opposed to just trimming. She liked that. It appealed to her sense of aesthetics.

One of the pics showed a part of his torso. Nothing to write home about, but at least he looked to be in passable shape—no beer belly. What he wrote in his profile mirrored what he’d written in his e-mail, with one exception. “I’m a nice guy, sane, I love ya, ladies. But in the bedroom, I like you to be submissive, and I like me to be dominant.”

She giggled. Well, he had a fetish. She could live with that.

She clicked on the Reply button, wrote the following . . .

“Hi there. You sound nice, and I appreciate the whole paragraphs. You seem to be one of the few guys on this site who can compose more than two sentences! I’ll be up front with you. I’m new here, and have never tried anything like this before. So let’s start off slow, okay? Tell me more about yourself. What do you do for a living? What do you like to do for fun? What are you into?”

She read it over, and it sounded lame to her. She sounded like a damn priss. This was a sex site, for God’s sake! So she ended Sakarya Escort it with a little more flair. . .

“Hope to ttys! Like your pics, btw. Mmmmmmm. Nice.



Before she could think to delete that last part, she clicked on Send, and off her flirtatious post went into the virtual universe of cyberspace.

On her lap, Mitsie was giving herself a cat bath, right now nibbling on her paws. She stroked her back, and Mitsie looked up at her, annoyed, as if to say, “Hey, do you mind? I’m busy.”

“Oh, Mitsie, Mitsie, what has your momma gotten herself into?” she said. But before she closed out of the site, she looked at NotIronPyrite’s dick pics again. Without being fully aware of it, she licked her lips.

She closed out of the Web, shut down the PC, but was pinned to her seat. She hated to disrupt her cat’s bath, so she sat there, swiveling her chair, turning toward the window. The maple tree in the front yard was stripped mostly bare now, the ground beneath it a carpet of fallen leaves. She’d need to rake those soon. But she quickly lifted her eyes from the ground to the tree itself. Something about it today . . . the lighting, the grayness, the mood. It brought her back, unasked for, uninvited. It caused her to look deep into the past, down the corridor of yesterdays, to that day, that terrible day, years ago . . .

Mom, who was pregnant with Richard at the time, was spending the night at her sister’s. So it was just Jen and Dad at home. She was six, a Daddy’s girl. She’d been looking forward to this night alone with him for days. And now here they were, sipping hot cocoa, sitting side by side on the sofa, watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Dad said it was his favorite movie ever made, especially during the holiday season. Jen didn’t much care for it—it seemed slow to her, and kind of corny—but she deferred to Dad. After all, she was just a kid. If Dad thought it was good, then it must be.

Outside, snow was falling. She had just got up a few minutes ago to look through the window, and the white, powdery flakes were illuminated under the streetlamp. She loved to watch it whirl and fall, like lighter-than-air popcorn. Christmas was five days away, and the snow served to ratchet up her excitement, which was already off the charts.

She placed her head on Dad’s shoulder, and he patted her hair.

“You tired, sweetheart?” he said.

“Nu-uh,” she said, but yawned.

“Well, you can close your eyes, Jenny. I won’t mind. I have Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed to keep me company.”

She fought the tiredness. She didn’t want to waste this special night with her dad by falling asleep. But then she felt his arm around her, so warm and comforting and restful. She snuggled up closer, and began to drift, drift, drift . . .

. . . until she was . . .

. . . pushed, violently pushed away . . .

Was this a part of some dream? No. She shook her head. She was awake.

But Dad. Where was Dad? He—

“You got any money in here?” A young man’s voice. And that’s when any lingering tiredness left her as if chased away by a rattlesnake. Now she was alert, on edge, nerves tingling.

Two men wearing ski masks were pointing guns at Dad. At his head! And a third person, a woman, was standing in front of her, looking at her. She even smiled.

“Don’t you worry,” the woman said. She was also wearing a ski mask. “We don’t want to hurt you, you’re a cute girl. Just rob you blind, that’s all.”

She saw them lead Dad out of the room, and she jumped up. But the woman corralled her and threw her back onto the couch.

“No, no,” she said. “You stay here with me.”

Jen couldn’t speak, couldn’t move. She just sat there, praying, praying, that Dad wouldn’t be hurt. On the television screen, Jimmy Stewart stood on a bridge, contemplating suicide.

The woman pulled out a gun, aimed it at Jen’s face.

“Hmm,” she said. “Y’know, I could kill you. Should I? Or shouldn’t I?” Something about her, the way she talked, didn’t seem right. Jen didn’t know or understand why—looking back, years later, she realized that the woman must have been high.

The gun barrel stared at her, an unblinking black eyeball.

“Tell you what,” the young, masked woman said. “You move, even one eentsy, teentsy little muscle, and I’ll kill you. How’s that? Just blow that cute little head off.”

From the other room, she heard someone getting punched. Then she heard it again. And again. And again. Dad? Was he getting the better of them? Had he forced them to drop their guns?

But then Dad came flying into the room, and he crashed into the wall, then landed on the floor in a heap. He was moaning, crying. His face was bloodied, and he was holding his left side. She had never seen her dad cry before, never seen him be anything but strong. He’d always been her rock.

The two young men walked into the room.

“Damn, you didn’t push him hard enough,” one of them said. Sakarya Escort Bayan “His brains didn’t fall out of his head when he hit the wall.”

“Well, I can fix that,” the other one said, and without hesitating, he went to Dad and kicked him in the head.”

“Daddy!” Jen screamed, and was about to jump off the couch when she heard a click. The woman. Cocking the gun.

“Don’t do it, hun,” she said. “Just sit tight.”

Dad covered his head against the onslaught, but then the other guy began to kick his legs, his ribs, his back. Until all that remained was a writhing, crying mess. “Fucker said they only have a couple hundred bucks in the house,” one of the guys said, and promptly kicked Dad again. This time Dad screamed. The cracking of his ribs was audible. Jen covered her eyes, no longer able to watch. She was crying now, feeling so helpless, so useless.

“Let’s go,” the other man said. “No use hanging around.”

She took her hands away from her eyes, saw them head for the door. Then, at the last second, the woman pointed her gun at Dad, and fired.

Jen screamed. And when Mom came home later, and then the police, she was still screaming, the gun shot still reverberating within her skull. She was certain she’d never cease hearing the sound of it.

And she would never again watch “It’s a Wonderful Life.”

She realized that she was crying, one of her teardrops falling onto Mitsie’s head. Mitsie didn’t like that, and jumped off her lap.

“Oh, I’m sorry, girl,” she said. “Just taking a trip down memory lane. Bad idea.”

She closed her eyes, and in the darkness she saw the gun barrel pointing at her face, the empty blackness threatening to engulf her, snuff her out like a candle. And she again heard the echo of that one shot. Just one. But that was all it took. It had nailed Dad in the neck, and he was dead when she reached him.

From that day on, she hated guns. Would never pick one up, never touch one unless it was in the act of disarming an enemy. And she hated the way she had felt that night. Powerless, useless. Weak. Completely at the mercy of the attackers. She never wanted to be put in such a position again. She had spent the last twenty-five years of her life ensuring that she wasn’t.

“I need some air,” she said, and changed into a sweat suit. Yes, it was a day made for staying indoors, a day for curling up on the sofa, a day for watching reruns or listening to music. But she would spend the afternoon running. Maybe ten miles. Maybe fifteen. Maybe twenty. How long would it take to outrun her past, to race beyond the cold, endless echo of the gun blast that had taken her dad away from her twenty-four years earlier?


Julian P. Covington closed his office door, ensuring his privacy so he could play. Why shouldn’t he? Here he was, working on a Saturday. He always worked on weekends. It went with the territory, he supposed, of being a big-shot journalist at the Herald.

He’d already written a first draft for his op-ed piece that would appear in tomorrow’s morning edition. It was a sharp, tautly crafted editorial, challenging Midnight to meet him and do an interview. Her fans (and, despite no lack of criticism directed her way, she also had legions of fans) were desperate to learn more about her. If she wouldn’t reveal her secret identity, maybe she could at least tell the public a bit more about herself. What was she interested in, apart from kicking criminals’ asses? What did she enjoy doing in her leisure time? Did she vote Republican or Democrat? Where was she born? Was she a native of the city? Hell, what was her favorite food? Why did she risk her life for the city—pure altruism, or some other motive? He ended the piece as follows . . .

“And so, Midnight, if you’re reading this, why not come to the friendly offices of the Herald? We’ll have cookies and drinks to serve. And you and I can talk. No pressure. No schemes. Just a simple Q & A session. I’ll even send you the questions ahead of time, if you prefer. But you’re too much of an icon to continually ignore the public’s demand to know more about you. So, Midnight, the door of Julian P. Covington remains open. You just need to walk through.”

He gave an approving nod. Good, tight copy. To the point. What the public wanted.

He set it aside. The detailed nitpicky task of copy editing the piece could wait a while. He needed a break. And he knew where to get it.

Clicking on his Web browser shortcut, he accessed his account on the sex site he’d joined months ago. He knew he wasn’t supposed to visit sites like this while on the job, but what the hell? He was Julian P. Covington! What would they do? Fire him? They wouldn’t dare. Besides, he logged onto the site every day while at work. He’d been doing that for weeks, and no one had complained. He was sure they knew what he was doing. Big Brother always knew what Web sites you visited. But they also knew who buttered their bread, and as long as he got Escort Sakarya his editorials in on time, then who cared what sites he browsed, what women he solicited, or whether or not he jerked off at his desk? (And he did, usually at least three times a week.)

He had just one message waiting for him, but it was from the woman he’d e-mailed last night—CallmeCallme6969. Hmm. So she was intrigued with him. He snickered when she said she wanted to go slow. Yeah, slow. That just meant he’d be screwing her brains out after three hours instead of one. Once he turned on the charm, she’d be his.

He sent her a quick message, telling her he’d be happy to take it slow (he chuckled as he wrote this), and maybe they could meet tomorrow evening for dinner. He’d tell her all about himself then. And if she wasn’t attracted to him when she saw him, she could walk. No hard feelings. They were two adults—no reason to play games and act like kids.

He put the odds at 50/50 that he’d hear back from her. He just didn’t feel up to exchanging endless e-mails. He’d gone down that road too many times with women who supposedly were interested in meeting up. Now it was put-up or shut-up time. If someone wanted to meet and have fun, great. If they were looking for a pen friend, they needed to look elsewhere.

He didn’t have time for nonsense. He was a busy guy, in demand. And he didn’t intend to make any more mistakes. The ones he’d already made were real prizewinners.

He sat back in his chair, and a nagging, annoying voice from somewhere within his brain tried to tell him that he was aging, pushing forty, lonely. That he needed to find someone to settle down with, get close to, allow himself to be vulnerable. What, was he going to be a playboy forever? After a while, the casual sex began to feel empty and worthless, didn’t it?

“Fuck off,” he told his inner voice. “Just . . . fuck . . . off.”

He had tried getting close to someone once, years ago. What good did it get him? A fucking broken heart, which was just lately in the last stages of mending itself. He had fallen in love, like a damn fool. And she hadn’t felt the same way. He’d been so sure of everything, but when he got down on one knee, presented her with a ring, she had just bowed her head and shook it. She didn’t say anything, didn’t have to. From that day forth, he had made a vow. He would never let his guard down again, never let any woman snake her way into his heart. Sex, yes. He needed that. He needed to strap a woman in, tie her up, feel dominant over her. He needed to hear her whimper when he slapped her ass, and then orgasm when he continued his assault, when her ass cheeks turned red with his handprints, and her pussy juices flowed freely, streaming down her thighs like a lustful river. By the time he was through, she’d be begging for him to fuck her, and he would. Hard and powerful and fast. Nothing lingering, nothing romantic, nothing soft. Soft was for losers, for guys who didn’t know any better. He’d never let a woman get to him again. Never allow a woman anything except to be under his control. If she didn’t like it, she could take a fucking hike. He’d find another. . . .

“Mistakes,” he said to the office walls, sparsely furnished. He liked his space to be clean and tidy and utilitarian. “Fucking mistakes.” The falling in love wasn’t the worst mistake he’d made. It had left its mark, but he was moving on now, he was in control now. But other mistakes were more permanent, more enduring. And more surprising. The kind of mistakes that popped out of thin air years after they happened, reintroduced themselves to you with a taunt and a sneer. Mistakes that you couldn’t walk away from. But you could try.

And God knows he had tried.

The inner voice, the voice that too often wouldn’t shut up, returned, again telling him he was a blind fool, that he had learned the wrong lessons. That he needed love just like anyone else.

“Bullshit,” he said. “What a crock of steaming, reeking, putrifying bullshit. Love. Give me a fucking break.”

He forced himself to think of CallmeCallme6969’s body pics—the six-pack abs, the tight ass, the high, full breasts. Love. Who needed love when you could have fun with a body like that without the hassles and commitment?

He picked up the printed copy of his first draft again, and began the second read-through, looking for minor things, now—a misplaced comma, a repetitious word—the nuts and bolts of the writer’s trade, the minutiae that he disliked but knew he needed to do.

“Damn you, Midnight,” he said. “What can I do to get you to meet me?”

He hoped this latest editorial would do the trick. She couldn’t hide from the public forever. And when he finally got the chance to meet her, talk to her, he wouldn’t fumble the ball. He’d ask just the right questions, study her every move, every gesture, every idiosyncrasy. He’d uncover, little by little, the secrets she was hiding. And then she’d be all his.

He smiled at that thought, feeling an erection coming on.


Saturday night, and when most attractive thirtysomething singles would be out in bars, at restaurants or the theater, or meeting a lover for a night of fun, Jennifer Hutchins donned her Midnight costume and went out on the town for a night patrol.

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