(Again the comic book cover has nothing to do with the story, let me know if you like or dislike this added feature in presenting the story)
Continuing the Saturday afternoon posting of story. If this if your first discovery of the story start at Chapter One.
Sharon walked over to the counter where the guys were standing, and got to a place where she could see what they were doing, leaned over and looked at the envelope. “From Gary’s father?”
Andrew shook his head trying to recover quickly from finding this hot girl in the comic book store.
“Where did you guys find this?”
Gary chimed in after staring at her full another second. “In his pull list, back in the September issues.”
“So can we open it now, I am here.”
Andrew nodded and started to carefully slit open the end of the large envelope again, once done he opened it and slide the contents onto the counter top. It contained a typewritten letter addressed to Andrew at the top and a large 8 ½ by 11 inch photograph, and a smaller sealed envelope.
Gary picked up the photograph first. It was a picture of his godfather and Andrew standing side by side in the shop with the comic book wall rack in the background. Andrew had a broom in his hand and his godfather wearing unbuttoned Hawaiian shirt with a Batman t-shirt underneath. In his godfather’s hand was his clip board the same one Gary now used when doing pull lists.
“What does the letter say?”
Andrew looked over at the two of them and started to read the following.
Sorry for burdening you with this, but there is no one else I can trust right now. If you receive this upon your return from you Army commitment that means that my experiment has not gone according to plan. My son should be running the shop when you return and on his birthday he will know the full extent of what this letter means. Please give him the smaller envelope, if you are not able to give this to my son then please burn it as all will be lost and I do not want the progress I have made on my work to fall into the less than responsible hands.
Also enclosed is the photograph I took of you and Gary on the day before you left, I hope you remain safe and thank you for serving your county and doing this small favor for me.
“That’s it.” He explained as he turned over the letter, looking at the back and he handed it over to Gary.
Gary held it out so that Sharon who had moved next to him could read it at the same time.
After he had read it though he looked at Sharon who looked at him with confusion, she was uncertain what was going through his head. Gary walked away from the counter and sat down on the large table they used to sort out comics.
Sharon moved a chair next to him she reached out her hand and took one of his in her hand. “So what should we do Boss?”
“My father needs my help.” Gary said with a flat voice.
“Ah.” Andrew said while walking over to the table and standing a few feet away. “I know it is none of my business and all.”
Gary and Sharon looked over at him.
“But are we assuming older Gary is wherever your father is.”
“No reason to think he is not, those two have always been best friends and have done everything together.”
“Well older Gary was someone I would consider a friend, so if you guys don’t mind I would like to help look for them as well. Gary was a good guy, he treated the kids in this town really good, he gave a lot of kids a place to go where they belonged so I would like to find him and repay the favors he did me and some others.”
Sharon looked at Gary. He nodded. Sharon stood up and took a few steps and reached out her hand. “Sharon Towner.”
“Andrew Harlan.” He said shaking her hand.
“Ah the guy with the big pull list.”
“Guilty as charged.” Andrew said motioning towards the boxes.
Gary stood up now and retrieved the smaller envelope off the counter. He walked back to the large table, and looked at the two others who gathered around. He carefully broke the seal and slid a piece of paper out of the envelope. It was an index card it had three hand printed words:
Kevin’s Smith’s Bionic Man
Justice League of America
Gary flipped over the 3 by 5 card, nothing else on it. “What the heck is this?”
Sharon looked it over, and turned towards Andrew. “Are these on your pull list?”
Andrew shook his head. “No the only D.C. books I read are Batman and Green Arrow, and I haven’t really gotten into the Bionic Man stuff, I do read Hawkeye though.”
Sharon walked over and grabbed the big brown ledger, and started going over the pull lists. She would occasionally pause in running her fingers down the columns but then continue. The guys passed the card back and forth. Andrew even held it up to the light to see if it had anything like hidden writing. Nothing.
Sharon shut the book with a snap. “No one has all three of those books on their pull list. A couple had two of the three, but no one had all three.”
Gary looked over at Andrew. “Did any of them have any recurring characters or themes to them, or what do you call it, ah crossovers?”
Andrew answered. “No crossovers those are not to popular right now, and Bionic Man has not been around long enough to have any crossovers except with the Bionic Woman and that is not much of a crossover.”
“How about themes, anything revealed in any of those books that might have been revealed in any of the other books. Maybe a secret message or a code or something?” Gary said sounding a little desperate.
Sharon walked over to Gary and sat down next to him and grabbed his hand again. “We are going to find you father, it will just take some time.”
Andrew looked over the card again. “Guys, I cannot think of anything that these three have in common. One is a story about a non-powered hero, the other a cyborg and the third a team of super heroes.”
“Well none of them are anti-heroes.” Sharon added.
“Anti-heroes?” Gary asked confused.
“Yeah guys like the Punisher or Rorschach and Catwoman. Comic book heroes with the hearts in the mostly in the right place but use violent methods or illegal means to achieve the ends.” Sharon answered.
“How about the writers, or the artists, maybe the same guy did the same stuff in all three books?” Gary asked rubbing his temples now.
Andrew walked over to the shelf where the three most recent issues were stored and started to look at covers, then he got the three off the shelf, and pulled the older issues which were behind them. He sat down at the table and Gary and Sharon joined him. For the next few minutes that exchanged names back and forth. None of the names matched up at all. Then each of them started flipping thru the books and they passed them around each of them making a comment occasionally. After a while no pattern developed, at least not one any of them could see. Not even the hint of a pattern developed.
After a while Gary pushed the chair back from the table. “I am not seeing anything. No ideas about what these comic books mean to my father.”
Sharon closed the book she was looking at and then looked at the cover. “Wait a minute, what if he meant for you to look the comic books that you were here on you birthday, or what about the ones that were here when he left.”
Andrew chimed in. “Yeah, he would only have access to the ones from September.”
Gary replied. “Do we have the ones here from then?”
“I will look in my box for the Hawkeye from back then.” Andrew said getting up and going to his pull list boxes.
“You and I will look on the shelf, and then if not there than the old issues boxes.”
Gary groaned, the old issues boxes were something he hated. Not only did he have to bag and board all the issues that did not sell, but he then had to sort them into these cardboard boxes and mark them down in price. Of all the things he did in the store, old issues were the thing he dreaded dealing with the most. Gary looked at the time, and then he walked over to Sharon and grabbed both of her hands and she turned and faced him with a quizzical look on her face. “We missed our dinner reservation, it was for” he stopped and looked at his watch again. “Twenty-two minutes ago.”
Sharon shrugged and smiled.
“Maybe next semester?” Gary said smiling back.
“Definitely.” Sharon leaned over and kissed him on the cheek. “In fact I was thinking New Year’s eve.”
“Definitely.” Gary responded and then he leaned into her and kissed her right on the lips.
Andrew coughed. “I think I messed up someone’s plans tonight.” Sounding a bit embarrassed from across the room.
The two looked over at him and both shrugged.
“Time to find those comic books.” Sharon said and slipped out of her high heeled shoes.
It took two hours of searching and Andrew finally had to download the actual issue of JLA that they were looking for onto to his computer tablet. They assembled all the comic books on the large table and they each took turns reading them. Sharon even took out a notepad and made notes. After another hour of reading all the issues they thought were pertinent they each confessed having no idea what was special, similar, related, or interconnected.
“I am flummoxed.” Sharon said after putting down her pencil.
“Flummoxed?” Andrew said raising an eyebrow.
“Yes, confused, baffled, stumped, mystified, bewildered.” Sharon said sounding like a teacher. “It means I do not know what we are looking for.”
“Oh I know what it means; I just don’t think I have ever heard anyone use it before in real life.” Andrew said trying to sound impressed. “What is your major anyways?”
“Undecided for now, but I love reading.” And motioned toward the comic books jokingly.
Gary had watched the exchange and but now he stood and stretched. “Anyone else hungry, we missed dinner.” He said motioning towards Sharon.
“Me too, how about we go out to this pizza place I know, a bit off campus, but really good. I can drive.” Andrew said standing now.
“Sounds great.” Gary answered and Sharon shook her head eagerly.
A half an hour later, they were seated at a small pizza place that was a neighborhood place, close to Andrew’s home away from the college part of town, it was totally dead but the service was great and the owner seemed to know Andrew because he welcomed Andrew with open arms when he came thru the door. Andrew explained that he had been coming to the place since he was a kid. They did not talk about the clue but they did bring it along. They got to know each other, Andrew told stories about his Army training, Sharon shared how she came to be working at the store, and Gary related stories about his father and god father growing up together. When the food was all gone, and the owner came over and told them the meal was free as a welcome home gift for Andrew they all pulled out their wallets and tipped well. It was just as they were walking out that Gary said something that changed their whole demeanor.
“You know I think I have read comic books tonight then I have in my entire life.”
“You did not read comic books growing up?” Andrew said shocked.
“No my father liked to read me the classics, Treasure Island, Robinson Carouse, big thick books, he never got me comic books, it was always hardbound covers.” He stopped in the door and Andrew ran into him.
Gary turned towards him. “My father did not read comic books.”
“Huh.” Sharon said.
“We are looking inside the comic books for the meaning, what if the clue referred to where the comic books were on the shelf?”
All three of them looked at each other, and ran back to Andrew’s car.