My Secret Identity
© by Ryan Bartlett
The original Tacoma Narrows Bridge opened in July of 1940 and five months later it collapsed into Puget Sound. Nicknamed "Galloping Gertie," by the construction crews who built her, it was notorious for vertical movement between the spans on windy days. The problem led to the collapse of the bridge which was replaced with a twin suspension model. Bobby hovered over the east tower of the west bound span where the police were directing their spotlights. He circled the tower in search of the would-be suicide victim and spotted him huddled on the top of the span. He'd only been there for a minute when his presence was noticed.
"Look, look over there!" shouted an onlooker.
"It's him! It's the Boy Wonder!" shouted another.
Even from high above the bridge Bobby noticed the people pointing and training camera's on him. He hated having his picture taken. As a little boy he'd refused to sit still when his mother took him to have portraits done and he cried when they put him on Santa's lap. He realized it was part of his job now and he'd just have to get used to it. He refused to let the unwanted attention phase him, someone's life was in danger.
Bobby didn't understand suicide. Since his return home he'd been so happy. He felt like each day he had with his friends and family was a gift from God. Sure, he had his problems but didn't everyone? Suicide was so permanent. There is no coming back from death and Bobby couldn't understand how someone's life could get so messed up they'd want to just throw it away. Bobby firmly believed that no matter how bad things might get you could always make them better.
He landed on the tower and found the man, actually a teenaged boy, shivering in the wind with his arms wrapped around his knees and his face buried against them.
"Um, hey," said Bobby.
The boy was startled and his eyes went wide when he saw Bobby standing there. Bobby was equally stunned when he saw the boy's face.
His name was actually Jared but when his little brother was a baby he had trouble pronouncing his R's. Every time he called his brother's name it came out as Jed and the nickname stuck. Bobby couldn't believe Jed Garrison could be suicidal, he was Bobby's idol. Jed was the varsity quarterback, captain of the basketball team and pitcher for the varsity Timberwolves. He was tall and handsome with brown hair and big blue eyes that all the girls drooled over. On top of all that, he was an excellent student and an all-around nice guy. Bobby had played catch with Jed a few times during warm ups and had come to really admire him.
"How do you know my name?" Jed sniffled.
"Um…you know how it is, there are some things I know, that's one of them," Bobby rolled his eyes at himself. Even he thought his answer sounded stupid.
"Y-you're him. The guy from the news, the Boy Wonder."
"Yeah that's me," Bobby couldn't help rolling his eyes again. He really hated that name. "What are you doing up here?"
"I-I don't know," Jed sniffled and looked away.
"The police and all those people down there think you're going to kill yourself."
"Maybe," Jed sighed.
"Why would you want to do that?"
"I don't want to talk about it."
"Ok, well, what would you like to talk about?"
"Nothing, talk never solves anything."
"Ok so we won't try and solve anything. Tell me how you got up here. It's really high," said Bobby as he took a seat next to Jed.
"You didn't fly like me?" Bobby teased, trying to lighten the mood.
Jed looked at him with an expression that seemed to say, "what are you, stupid?"
"In junior high I came here with my parents. You can take tours and guides show you how to climb the bridge like they do for maintenance," Jed explained.
"Wow, that freaks me out just thinking about it," Bobby shuddered.
"I'm afraid of heights," Bobby admitted.
"You're kidding, right? You can fly."
"I've never thought about it while flying, but sitting here like this, I'm nervous."
"Why? If you fall you can just fly away."
"You might fall and I might not be able to catch you. I don't want to see you get hurt and I'm nervous because I'm afraid I might not be able to prevent it."
"What do you care, you don't know me."
"I know you wouldn't come up here like this if you weren't hurting. I know you've been crying. I don't like to see anyone hurt."
"You're lucky. I wish I could fly away," Jed sighed.
"Let me help you Jed, please, tell me what's wrong."
"You really want to know?" said Jed. He turned to face Bobby revealing the left side of his face for the first time. It was a solid bruise from his forehead down to his jaw bone.
"My God! Who did this to you?"
"My dad," Jed sniffled.
"But, but, why?" Bobby was dumbfounded. Jed Garrison was everything so many boys wanted to be. He didn't think you could ask for a better son and couldn't imagine what Jed might have done to deserve such abuse.
"I got a C in trigonometry."
"My dad freaked out. He kept calling me a loser and said I'd never amount to anything," Jed sniffled.
Was Mr. Garrison crazy? Jed was voted most likely to succeed in the yearbook!
"He hit you over a C?"
"I always have to be the best at everything. Football, basketball, baseball, school work, it doesn't matter. If I'm not the best my dad, he gets mad."
"So he's done this before?"
"All my life," Jed sniffled and lifted up his t-shirt for Bobby to see.
His chest and tummy were covered with fresh and partially healed bruises. Bobby didn't know how the abuse had gone unnoticed by school officials. Then again, he couldn't recall ever seeing Jed with his shirt off, not even in the locker room.
"I'm sorry," said Bobby, as he reached out and pulled Jed into a hug. "I'm so sorry."
"I don't even like basketball," Jed sobbed.
Bobby held his idol in his arms and as Jed's tears drenched his t-shirt, Bobby's heart was filled with rage. For the first time in his life Bobby Fixx knew what it felt like to hate someone. He'd been angry with Jared Crane, angry for having been taken from his parents and his loved ones but he hadn't hated him. Jed was everything Bobby wanted to be and all it got him was pain and abuse. Bobby hated Mr. Garrison.
"You can't kill yourself," said Bobby. Jed had calmed down some but Bobby still held him.
"I don't want to. I just got upset and didn't know what else to do."
"You haven't told anyone?"
"No one would believe it. Everyone loves my dad. They think we have this perfect family but it's all just bullshit."
"Does he hit your mother too?"
"And my little brother," Jed sniffled. Bobby tightened his grip around Jed and struggled to control the rage building inside of him. "My mom tried to pull him off of me tonight and he hit her too. I'm just glad Jordy wasn't there."
"Listen Jed, I promise you, he'll never touch you again," said Bobby.
"He's going to be so mad when he finds out about this. He's going to kill me," Jed panicked. His heart started beating so fast Bobby could feel it.
"He's not going to kill you. He's never going to touch you again. I swear it. He's never going to hurt you or your mom or your little brother."
"How can you know that?"
"You have to trust me," said Bobby. He pulled back to look in Jed's eyes. "You trust me?"
Jed looked into Bobby's frosty blue eyes and found them full of genuine concern. What he couldn't see was the younger boys resolve. Bobby wasn't telling Jed things were going to be ok just to get him off the bridge; he meant every word of it.
"I-I trust you," Jed nodded.
"What do you say we get off this bridge?"
"I'm going to be in so much trouble," Jed sighed.
"I mean it, he's never going to touch you again."
"I was talking about the cops," said Jed, looking down over the edge of the tower.
"Don't worry about them. They just want to help you," said Bobby.
"What's going to happen to me now?"
"They'll take you to a hospital. You'll have to stay for a few days."
"But, but, my mom and Jordy…"
"They'll be fine. I promise you."
"Why do I have to go to a hospital?"
"It's the law. Attempted suicide victims have to be observed for a few days." Bobby knew that much from listening to his dad talk about a case he'd worked on once. "That'll be ok too. The doctors will want to help you. I promise you Jed, everything's going to be fine."
Jed thought about it for a moment then looked into Bobby's eyes once more, "Ok."
The boys stood up and Bobby held Jed tight. He really was bothered by the height of the tower and he didn't want to drop Jed because he was nervous. He stepped off the tower and gently floated to the bridges deck. The moment they landed the boys were surrounded by police officers.
"Take care of him," said Bobby as he passed Jed over to the police.
The police officers hustled Jed over to an ambulance to make sure he hadn't been hurt. Bobby knew the paramedics would look under his t-shirt and that Jed would have to explain the bruises. He was in for a rough time but Bobby knew Jed could handle it. Bobby was going to take care of the hardest part for him.
The police sergeant in charge of the scene snapped Bobby out of his thoughts when he took his hand and shook it.
"He's a good guy, I'm glad I could help him," said Bobby.
"There's others could use your help," said the sergeant.
"I know and I'll be there for them too," Bobby nodded.
"Alright then," the sergeant smiled and Bobby took off into the night.
He looked towards the Washington Building as he climbed into the sky. The encounter with Jed left him with the desperate urge to hug everyone he loved and tell them how much they meant to him, especially Spencer, but for the moment, Spence would have to wait. Bobby had a promise to keep.
Finding the Garrison house was easy. Bobby may have idolized Jed from a far but he'd known Jordan Garrison for years. As he landed on the front step, he was glad Jordy wouldn't be home to see this. Bobby knocked on the door and heard footsteps approaching.
"Halloween early this year?" Frank Garrison quipped when he saw Bobby's mask.
"Frank Garrison?" asked Bobby. He knew this was the house but he wanted to confirm Mr. Garrison's identity before carrying out his plan.
"That's right, who are you?"
"I'm a friend of your son Jed."
"That worthless piece of shit, he's not home," said Mr. Garrison as he moved to shut the door. Bobby jammed his foot in so the door wouldn't close.
"He's not home because he's at the hospital. He almost killed himself tonight," said Bobby.
"That little pussy…" Mr. Garrison started.
Bobby seized him by the collar of his shirt and bolted into the sky. He was three thousand feet up when he finally stopped. Mr. Garrison screamed the entire way.
"Look at me!" Bobby demanded.
Mr. Garrison stopped screaming and turned his panic stricken face towards Bobby.
"Are you scared?"
"I uh," Mr. Garrison muttered incoherently.
"Are you scared?" Bobby exclaimed.
"Y-yeah, yes I'm scared," Mr. Garrison nodded.
"How do you think Jed feels every time he brings home a bad grade, huh?"
"Hey, I don't know who you are but I'm the king in my castle and that little shit knows my rules," said Mr. Garrison, finding his backbone.
Bobby was infuriated. He threw Mr. Garrison into the night sky like he was riffling the baseball towards home plate to keep a runner from scoring. Mr. Garrison screamed and as his voice diminished in the distance Bobby raced past him and caught him on the other end.
"Holy shit," Mr. Garrison panted. It was a miracle he hadn't had a heart attack.
"Do I have your attention now?"
"Y-yes sir," Mr. Garrison nodded meekly.
"When I take you home you're going to apologize to your wife and then you're going to the hospital and beg Jed for his forgiveness. You're going to promise to get mental help for your violent temper. Do you understand me?"
"You're going to do these things and you're going to mean them. You're going to try to be the father those boys deserve, got it?"
"I do, I understand."
"Good because if I find out you ever harm one hair on Jed or Jordan's heads, if you ever touch your wife with violence, well, that little flying lesson I gave you, next time I don't catch you. Got it?"
"I got it. I'll be a good father and husband I swear it. I'll get help, I swear."
Satisfied with the answer, Bobby flew Mr. Garrison home and deposited him on his step.
"You know what you're supposed to do now do it. And remember, I'll be watching," said Bobby. He took off into the night sky, he'd had enough of Frank Garrison.
"So, what happened," Spencer asked excitedly when Bobby returned to the roof of the Washington Building. "I was listening on the scanner, the police said you're a hero but you left the bridge half an hour ago. Where ya been?"
Bobby grabbed Spencer and buried his face in the nape of the boy's neck. He couldn't hold back the tears anymore. What had been happening to Jed was awful and Bobby couldn't help being swept up in his emotions.
"Hey, what's the matter?" asked Spencer as he stroked Bobby's hair to sooth him.
"I'm alright, just a rough night," Bobby wiped his eyes. "Let's sit down a minute."
"That son of a bitch!" Spencer exclaimed after Bobby regaled him with Jed's story. "When I first came out that asshole Todd Royce called me a faggot and tried to stuff me in a locker. Jed Garrison pulled him off and told him if he ever bothered me again he'd kick his ass."
"You never told me that," said Bobby.
"It wasn't a big deal. Royce is an asshole and it never came up again but Jed, man, he's such a nice guy. I can't believe he's been putting up with this shit all this time."
"He won't be putting up with it anymore," Bobby smirked.
"Bobby, what did you do?"
"Gave Mr. Garrison a little flying lesson," said Bobby and then he shared the story with Spencer.
"Oh my God! Bobby, I love you," Spencer laughed and kissed him. He didn't think Mr. Garrison would ever abuse anyone again. "I just hope he changed his pants before he apologized to his wife."
The boys laughed but it was getting late so Bobby flew them home. The next morning when he padded into the kitchen in his t-shirt and pajama bottoms, he found his dad reading the paper and his mom making French toast. Bobby pushed the paper aside, hugged his dad tight and then did the same with his mom, all without saying a word. He grabbed the sports section off the table and then went into the family room to check the scores of last night's Mariners game.
"What was that all about?" asked Patrick.
"I don't know," said Miranda, equally stunned.