Mr. Shine - origins
August, 1981, Tampa
“There’s going to be a time..”
The meaty sound of a fist striking flesh.
“…when you’ll thank me for this..”
“…and on that day…”
Thud-Thud. Two strikes in quick succession, and the rattle of chains.
“…you’re gonna look back on this one…”
The sound of ragged gasps, broken things, almost pants really - like a terrified animal that’s been beaten so often a kick is a hug.
A solid slap that rocks the boy’s head back against the crossed timbers he’s chained to. “… and you’re gonna thank the good Lord that made you that I was your dad.” A feral grin, below eyes that held no mercy at all, only a fierce dedication and focus. Brown like old leather and just as tough. The man wiped sweat off his forehead with the back of one ham-like hand, then turned and reached for a bottle of beer that rested on a nearby workbench. He drank deep, and then belched. “That’s the stuff!”
He reached out and grabbed the sweat-soaked hair of the teenager chained to the cross-braces, lifting the boy’s head and peering intently into his face.
“Huh… nothin’ yet.”
He let the kids head drop and took another pull from the bottle, stepping back and observing the bruises that covered the boy’s torso. He shook his head and sighed, placing the bottle carefully back down on the bench.
“Maybe there’s still too much of your mother in you? I don’t know Bobby,” he squatted down and looked up into his son’s semi-conscious face. “It should have started by now.”
Bobby moaned softly, causing the man to wince. He rose and removed a key from his sweatpants pocket, then carefully undid the boys cuffs, taking his son’s weight easily as he did so.
“Maybe next week, huh Bobby?” He said softly, lifting his son and gently taking him inside the house. “Maybe next week.”
November, 1981, Tampa
“I swear Robert, you can’t walk more than a quarter mile without suffering some sort of calamity!” Betty Mehldau snipped off the last strand of the neat stitching above her son’s left eye. His eyes were green, like her own, but he had his father’s dark brown hair, and her father’s lean build. He was going to be quite the looker, that’s for sure.
“Yes ma’am”, Bobby replied softly.
“I did tell you to make sure you wore your helmet when you rode that bike. And this is precisely why.”
“Yes ma’am. I’m sorry ma’am, I’ll be sure to wear it next time.”
She shook her head and sighed, hands on hips. “Just you see that you do, young man.”
“Do what?” asked his father’s voice from the kitchen.
“Wear his helmet,” his mother called out from the bathroom. “Just wait till you see his eye. He’ll have quite the shiner come morning.”
“Mr. Shine!”, came his father’s laughing voice. The elder Mehldau stuck his head around the bathroom door, grinning as he observed his handiwork. “How ‘bout that Bobby? How ‘bout we call you Mr. Shine?”
“Oh you!” Betty exclaimed, grasping her husband’s face in both hands and pulling him in for a quick kiss. “Now you boy’s go one outside and play while I finish up dinner. “
“Yes ma’am,” Bobby and his father both intoned, Betty’s husband opening the door wide for his wife. She poked him playfully in his stomach, then hustled on out to tend her pots and pans. “How bout we take a quick run, Bob-a-rino? Just let me get outta my work clothes first.”
“Sure,” Bobby replied, “whatever you say dad.”
“That’s my boy,” Bobby’s father said, fingers already working the buttons of his police duty shirt. “Maybe today, huh Bobby?” he said softly as his son passed him, heading for the stairs to his room.
“Sure dad… maybe today.”
March, 1984, Tampa
“He’s almost 18! I thought he said it’d’a happened by now?” Bobby’s father glared angrily across the table at the short black man opposite him. Both wore Tampa Police Department uniforms, both had huge cheeseburgers and beers before them. “Isn’t that what he said? Or am I deaf?”
The other man, who’s name badge read “Ryan” shook his head. “No man, he said near puberty. That’s all, near puberty.” Officer Ryan took a healthy bite of his burger and chewed, calmly returning his partners glare with practiced ease. White people were so damn impatient.
“I been beaten on that kid for years, and have jack shit to show for it.” Bobby’s father hissed, leaning forward over his food and stabbing down at the table with one stubby finger. “Jack. Shit.”
“And!? And the kid’s gonna end up a basket case is and!!”
Ryan just chuckled, low and deep. “Bob, if that boy hasn’t gone off the deep end yet, he aint gonna. My Patricia, I been throwing every class and activity I can think of at her for years, and she still ain’t got the artistic talent the good lord done gave a butterfly.” He took another enormous bite of his burger, watching the tight orange-covered ass of a Hooter’s girl as she walked past their booth. Mmm mm, but that was a fine ass. He tore his gaze away. “We just got to be patient man. That’s all.”
Bob rubbed the bridge of his nose, eyes closed in frustration. “Maybe I’m not trying hard enough. Maybe I need to step it up…”
Ryan stopped chewing. “You be careful, Bob. You just be damn good and careful, and don’t do anything you can’t undo.”
Mehldau opened his eyes and gave a weak smile. “Yeah. Ok. You’re right.” He picked up his own burger and began to eat.
“You know I am,” Ryan replied firmly, not liking the calculating look in his partner’s eyes. Not liking it at all.
May, 1984, Tampa
“We’re so happy for you!” Betty exclaimed hugging the large black woman fiercely. The gallery was packed, with some buyers having come from as far as Switzerland to view Patricia’s paintings and sculptures.
“Oh Betty, Ralph told me that one day all those lessons would pay off.” She shook her head and gripped her friend’s arms tightly. “I was about to just give up, Lord knows I was. I thought she just didn’t have it in her, and now… this…” she looked around at the dozen paintings adorning the wall, eyes shining with tears.
The women hugged once more, crying and laughing, while near the back of the gallery Ralph and his daughter Patricia shook hands and answered questions, the pride on the man’s face fierce and glowing.
“You know Bob-a-rino?”, Bob said to his son firmly. “I think I know what we need to do now. Yes indeed, I think I do.” The father and son stood near the small buffet table, where they'd been sent to fetch drinks for the ladies.
Bob sighed. “Sure dad. Whatever you think.”
The elder Mehldau nodded, eyes hungry as he watched the crowd.
“I don’t think Bob, I know.”
July, 1984, Tampa
“No dad.” Bob was staring at his father, the roar of the ocean’s surf behind the pair loud, the surf shining silver with moonlight. “No.”
“No? We’re way past no, Bob-a-rino. Way past it.”
The gun was a crude dark shape in the older man’s hand.
“He said ‘one would gain great skill, the other great fortitude.’ That’s what he told us Bob-a-rino. That’s what he said. And since we know that Patty got the skill, that means you got the fortitude.” He looked at his son, standing not ten feet in front of him, and wondered. Wondered a great many things. Wondered why he looked so much like Betty’s old man. Wondered why the kid had never spoken a word to anyone about the beatings. Wondered at the power that was supposedly locked inside the kid’s tall, lanky frame.
But most of all, Bob wondered what the fuck it was going to take to bring that power out.
“You could get in trouble for this, dad. The law…”
“The law?” Bob barked, raising the gun and looking at it calmly. “The law is what we say it is, Bob-a-rino. Always has been and always will be. It’s just a tool, like this gun or your mom’s antiseptics. The law doesn’t give a shit one way or the other.”
The surf pounded away, unceasing. Uncaring.
“But,” the boy said, halfway raising his hands, then dropping them to hang limply at his sides.
The gun was pointing directly at him, the older man braced, aiming with the calm assurance of a man who’d spent years handling a weapon.
“I love you Bobby.”
August, 1985, Tampa
The Tampa Police Department mourns one of it’s own today. Dozens of officers attended the funeral services of Robert “Bob” Mehldau, whose body washed ashore earlier this month after being reported as missing by his family. The decorated officer, a 21 year veteran of the force, was most famous for assisting in the 1970 apprehension of the madman known as “Nero”, a man who was responsible for numerous medical atrocities in the Tampa area. Captain Emilio Estanza spoke briefly at the services, noting Officer Mehldau’s selflessness and courage under fire, and promising to bring the full force of the department’s resources to bear on discovering just what happened in Mehldau’s final days…
September, 1985, Tampa
Bob could hear his mother downstairs in the kitchen. She was crying again. He lay on his bed and studied the model airplanes hanging from his ceiling and listened to her sobs, soft and steady. He felt nothing but relief.
Relief and joy.
“He’s gone, mom.” He said softly to the darkened bedroom. “He’s gone, but I’m still here. But you never saw me, did you? Not really. Not in the ways that mattered.” He lifted a hand and held it before him, palm up, finger slightly curved. Silver light seeped from beneath his flesh, wrapping around his hand and tapering to a point at the end of each finger. The light was bright, bright as the moon upon the sea. Bright as the promise of an end to pain and suffering. Bright as a new day.
“He’s gone, but I’m still here.” Bob repeated softly, marveling at his power.
“I’m still here… Mr. Shine…”