Tandy was on her hands and knees underneath a small bistro table with wrought iron legs. She was staring into the oblong shadow that the tabletop cast on the terracotta tile floor. A single wisp of smoke wafted up from the shadow joined by the vibrations of Cloak’s voice. “They can not wait much longer,” he said, “we must go soon if we are to help them.”
Tandy nodded and held up three fingers. She stood up carefully and conspicuously placed a cloth napkin on top of the table. She quickly straightened her collar and tie, smoothed her skirt with a quick tug, and leaned over slightly to rub the dust off the knees of her black leggings.
“You seem to drop things a lot, new girl,” a slinky voice admonished from an adjacent table. Tandy turned around quickly. The woman who spoke wore a fashionable red dress with impractical shoes. Her hair was stylishly tousled. She looked like she was ready to go to a cocktail party while the other patrons appeared dressed for afternoon tea at a country club. Tandy had been warned about this woman, a jet-setting heiress from New York City, who would fly to New Orleans twice a month, just for Sunday brunch at this particular cafe.
“Yes, I do ma’am,” Tandy responded without hesitation.
“Well, I don’t come to this place to stare at your perky ass, I come for the beignets. Drop your things somewhere else,” she snapped, removing her designer sunglasses for emphasis.
“Yes, of course ma’am,” Tandy nodded. She shifted a silvery serving tray into her folded arms, with the cloth napkin draped between a few fingers. “Can I get you anything else, more coffee perhaps, or could I ask the maitre d’ to help with your dinner arrangements for this evening?”
“New girl, what’s your name?” the woman asked, tapping a finger on the edge of the table impatiently.
“Tandy, thank you ma’am,” she responded.
“Tandy,” the woman leaned heavily on the name, testing it carefully, “Fresh coffee would be divine.”.
“Of course, I’ll make arrangements immediately, Ms. Hardy.” Tandy bowed her head slightly and excused herself.
Tandy walked hastily to the back of the bustling kitchen. She turned a corner and opened a small pantry door. There was nothing in the closet, literally. Tandy took a deep breath and then stepped into the void.
Floating in the darkness Tandy let herself glow at full strength. She undid the top button of her shirt and loosened her black tie. The tail of the tie floated away from her chest and seemed to elongate indefinitely out into the dark. Cloak floated towards her, pulling himself along her tie.
“I’ve brought your costume, but I still don’t understand the need,” Cloak said as he handed her a small white bundle.
“I’ve told you, I don’t want to be recognized,” Tandy kicked her shoes off and started to pull off her leggings. The exposed skin on her legs glowed brightly.
“I’ve never found this to be an issue,” Cloak insisted, “and I’ve been doing this longer than you have.” Her discarded button down shirt drifted towards him and he swatted it out of the way. She was wearing white tights rolled up to her shins and her crystal leotard. She covered her barefeet with thin lyrical dance sandals made from leather.
“Says the giant naked man in a Halloween costume,” Tandy snickered, “excuse me if I look elsewhere for fashion advice.”
“I think that you will attract attention, no matter what you do,” Cloak said.
“It’s more than a secret identity, wearing the costume makes a statement, it’s like declaring without words that we’re only here to help. You know, heroes who wear costumes aren’t supposed to be expecting something in return,” Tandy insisted.
“What if I did expect something, would that be so wrong?” Cloak asked.
“Like what? What could you possibly want from a poor woman and her children?” Tandy said.
“Respect.” Cloak said, his voice stone cold.
Cloak and Tandy were looking into the second bedroom of a dingy apartment. Cloak stood on he landing of a narrow fire escape, while Tandy balanced on the window sill. A door slammed somewhere inside the apartment shaking the entire metal landing outside the window. “Did you find this family by listening to the police scanner?” Tandy asked.
Cloak nodded, “Yes, a neighbor called in a domestic disturbance two nights ago, but the police did nothing.”
“And this afternoon…” Tandy tucked her hair behind her ears thoughtfully.
“The situation,” Cloak’s fist tightened and the flowing shadows of his cape shadows grew increasingly turbulent, “escalated.” Tandy set her hand over her heart and pursed her lips.
The building shook again, and muffled shouting could be heard through the external walls. A pair of small little girls with dark eyes scrambled into a twin bed underneath the window where Tandy was waiting. An older boy with dark eyes waited by the door. “I’m not going to let him in here,” Tandy read his lips.
The little girls were crying quietly, hold each other. Their feet fidgeted back and forth, burrowing their toes into the bed covers. Tandy tapped on the glass with her fingernail. Her nails were well manicured and painted a deep burgundy, at the suggestion of her employer. The taller of the little girls pressed her hand flat against the window. “Hey lady!” she shouted through the glass, “Hey! Daddy’s gonna be mad if you’re trying to make trouble here, lady!”
“Daddy’s already mad,” the little boy shouted. He waved an arm dismissively at her, trying to shoo her away like a pest.
A moment later, the door knob started to jostle and there was a pounding on the door frame. Tandy could feel the vibrations of both through the walls. “Hey, who’s in there, what’s going on you little troublemaking shits,” Tandy could only intermittently understand the threats he spewed through the door.
A moment later a large framed man with dark eyes stumbled through the door. Part of the frame was splintered, but otherwise the door was intact and thrown against the wall. As the door rebounded, Cloak appeared in the shadow behind the man but did not move. The man continued to stumble a few more steps into the room. “Damn straight Daddy’s mad,” he shouted, slurring slightly. The boy stumbled backwards into a small table and then slid to the floor, cowering in the presence of his father. The shorter girl with pigtails in her hair stuffed a corner of blanket into her mouth.
“If I’m even your real father,” he leaned over the boy, pointing, “knowing your whore of a mother…” He let the thought remain unfinished while he surveyed the bedroom. His eyes bulged when he saw Tandy in the window, now glowing brightly, with her cell phone to her ear. “You sick fuck, what are you doing in my children’s room!” he shouted.
“No! Daddy! The lady didn’t do anything! Nothing,” the little talkative little girl shouted. The other girl pulled another mouth full of blanket into her mouth. Her face was wet with tears.
“I’ll do nothing to you, noisy fucking -” he stepped towards the girls, but was unable to finish his sentence or his motions before Cloak pulled him into the darkness. The children were silent.
A moment later, Cloak unfurled his cape and the man reappeared on the floor. Broken in spirit with an anguished look on his face. He whimpered. The children remained silent.
“Open the window,” Cloak said somberly, “Let her inside.” The little girls nodded weakly, faces full of tears and snot, but still making very little noise. “Now!” he said more forcefully.
The girls opened the window for Tandy, radiant and glittery. She gracefully slipped into the room. She sat on the bed, with one girl clinging to each side of her. Their father looked up at her, relieved to see her light, trying to inch away from Cloak, towards her.
“You are responsible for these children,” she asked him.
“I… I… I…,” he cried, “I can’t, my own father wasn’t, he was gone, I wanted.”
“You can’t pour anything from an empty cup,” she said, “You can’t love your children, while you drink yourself unconscious every night.”
“Please, I don’t know how, my job hates me, my wife hates me, her children hate me… I hate me,” he sobbed, chest heaving, “please, I don’t know how else to stop thinking about all the hate.”
“Do you hate them?” Tandy said, “Is there anything else left inside you?”
The man looked up at her, tearfully, “I don’t know anymore. I’m so afraid… in the dark, I couldn’t remember their faces, I want to remember their faces when I die!”
Tandy threw a light dagger straight into the man’s chest. There was an explosive flash of light and then a lingering pulsing glow. The man suddenly inhaled sharply. He rubbed his eyes as though just waking up. He wiped his running nose on his sleeve. He looked around the room, “My son,” he reached out, but the boy scrambled backwards away from him, joining Tandy and the girls on the bed. “My boy, I love you, you save your sisters from me like a real man… I am so proud of you.” He fell over, unconscious.
“Is Daddy gone now?” the smaller of the girls whispered.
“No, just sleeping,” Tandy said.
“What did you do to him?” she asked, her trembling hands on Tandy’s arm, “Did you save him?”
“Your father was a bad man. I’ve given him a chance to save himself,” Tandy said quietly.
“Princess Angel Lady?” he asked, his voice was amused, but calm and measured while they drifted in the darkness, “Is this your superhero name?”
“hhhmmmpfh,” Tandy only made a frustrated grunt while she pulled off her white tights. “What’s your real name anyways? I mean besides Cloak.”
“I don’t recall anymore,” Cloak was standing in the void, as though on solid ground. Tandy floated upside down. He reached an arm up and helped her flip over.
“You don’t even have one name, and I’m supposed to have two names?” she poked his chest as she said this. “I’m ready to go home now,” she was draping her tie around her neck loosely and holding her fashionable boots in her hand.
“You also have many more shoes than I do,” Cloak said dryly. He pulled open a doorway for her and she stepped through, ignoring his comment about the shoes.
“When you think of me, what do you call me?” he insisted. “Friend?”
“I suppose we’re friends,” Tandy smiled, “but there’s still so much I don’t know about you.”