Chapter 1- Decisions
December 24, 2000
A family was celebrating the upcoming holiday in a cabin near the edge of the Gotham Bay. The Father was reading a newspaper by the fireplace. The mother was cooking hot cocoa on the stove and baking gingerbread cookies in the oven. The daughter played with her stuffed animal, it was intended to be Christmas present but her parents decided to unwrap for her early. It was a pink bunny with a white heart shaped center she named Princess Iggy. The couple exchanged a quick kiss under the mistletoe before hearing a hard knock on the door. The wife opened the door and saw 8 men staring back at her. Each wore a flak jacket and carried an assault rifle. The men stormed into the house, one man pressed the mother to the wall as other members of the squad pointed their rifles at the father. The daughter fell back in terror accidentally dropping her stuffed animal into the flames of the fireplace.
“ON THE GROUND--NOW BROWN!” One of the officers roared.
“Mommy what’s happening? Why are they taking daddy?” The young girl asked.
Tears began to roll down Crystal’s face. “Everything’s fine honey, your daddy’s just going take a trip into the city, he’ll be back soon.” Her mother said trying her best not to sob.
“Just listen to your momma Steph, and remember that Daddy loves you.--DADDY LOVES YOU!” He screamed as the officers pulled him out of the house.
As soon as the mother was released from the wall she ran to her child and squeezed the girl tightly in her arms.
“I DON’T WANT DADDY TO GO!” The little girl cried.
Her mother grasped her even tighter, she wept gently on her daughter’s shoulder, “Daddy doesn’t want to go either but he has to Steph. This will all make sense when you’re older.”
They both stared out the window as they watched an officer press the father against the hood of the police crusier. The officer hoisted the man to his feet and began reading him his rights.
“Do you understand each of these rights I have explained to you?” The officer asked.
“Yes! Just get me out of here.” He affirmed.
The cop placed Arthur in the cruiser and drove away. Even as the sirens faded they still rang in Stephanie’s ears while she rocked back and forth. She looked back in the fireplace at the remains of Princess Iggy. What was left of the once pure heart was now burnt pitch black.
July 4, 2010
The last bell rang as Stephanie Brown exited her final class. She walked out of the building with a group of her classmates when something caught her attention. She saw a navy blue sedan parked outside across from her school’s driveway. A man stood in front of the car looking through the large crowd of students. He was nearly six feet tall with a muscular build; he also had a faded blond crew cut and deep scarring across his face. Stephanie recognized that the man was her father Arthur Brown. As she began to walk back to the building the stranger locked eyes with her and began to call her over. She decided to move hastily to her father in hopes that she could reach him before he could attract the attention of her classmates.
“Hi sweetie!” He said
“Just get in the car Arthur!” She whispered hostilely.
He stared at her. He could see her cheeks flushed with red coloring and her eyes planted to the ground. Arthur rushed into his car and twisted the key. Stephanie slammed the door, still avoiding eye contact with Arthur. For nearly five blocks they both maintained an uncomfortable silence, until they were stopped at a red light.
“Did you have a bad day at school?” Arthur asked.
“Not until you arrived.” Stephanie snapped back.
“Steph, I just wanted to surprise you, I knew you wouldn’t be thrilled to see me but I wasn’t expecting this.”
“Couldn’t you have just given me a heads up? Maybe you should have stuck a copy of your release papers in my locker. Aren’t clues your thing?”
“I’m not who I used to be Steph. I don’t expect you to believe this but I’ve changed. I know that I’ve hurt you and your mother, but I wan’t to make things right.” He pleaded.
“You can’t make things right! You’re about 10 years too late! Now let me out of this car!” She demanded. “I can walk home from hear.”
He pulled his car over on a curb. “It’s okay if you hate me right now Steph, but I’m not gonna give up on you or your mom. One of these days I’m gonna make you both proud of me.—I promise!”
“Your promises mean nothing to me Arthur.” She stated. She left the car and walked away.
July 14, 2010
Stephanie’s Point of View:
I wish that things could go back to the way they were but I know they can’t. Over the last week my father has managed to find a job, convince his parole officer that he is well enough to leave his halfway house and sweet talk my mother into letting him stay in our home. Today’s the day that he moves in and I couldn’t be more livid. I could say that I don’t know why I hate him but that would be a lie. It might sound ridiculous but I hate him because I hate hating him. When I looked into his scarred face I have these feelings. This anger builds up inside of me that I can’t control. It’s like I become this whole other person. A person that I don’t like and a person that I never want to become. This person enjoys being cruel and causing pain but that’s not who I am. There’s another feeling buried deep beneath the hate and that’s hope, a gullible and childish hope. When I hear him make all those promises I secretly want them to be true. I want him to fix all of our family’s problems and I want us all to be happy again but I know better than that.--Like I said before, I wish that things could go back to the way they were, but I know they can’t.
He arrived in the afternoon shortly after 4:00pm. He was lifting a couple of boxes from his car into the house. My mother’s body language told me that she wanted me to help him so I did. I went to the driveway and picked up a couple of duffle bags. On the way back to the house I tried to feel around the bags to see if he was hiding anything unusual, nothing but clothes for the most part. I placed the bags around the couch, which was now his new bed until further notice. I moved a few more things into the room before we were done. He looked into my eyes, he was about to speak before I walked away into my room and slammed the door. I could hear my parents talking through the thin walls.
“It’s okay Crystal one day she’ll come around.” Arthur explained.
“No—it’s not okay Arthur!” My mother protested. “She has to know that she can’t behave this way anymore.”
I could hear my mother’s footsteps coming up the staircase; each step grew exponentially louder as she came to my door. A harsh collection of knocks pounded on the wood as my mother said, “Steph—it’s mom, open the door, we have to talk.”
I sighed and reluctantly unlocked the handle. She opened the door and came inside. She sat next to on my bed and said, “Stephanie, you can’t keep acting this way around your father. You can’t keep lashing out at him for trying to repair this family.”
“I liked this family when it was just the two of us. Now he just waltzes back into our lives and you take his side.” I responded.
“It’s not like that!” My mom affirmed. “Right now we have an opportunity to heal ourselves rather than just staying numb or bitter. Your father wants to make things better—I want to make things better too, but I can only do that if you’re willing to give him a second chance.” She explained.
“Why should I? This man ruined our lives mom! He chose a career as a criminal over his own family then he ends up getting caught because of the clues he left in his own arrogance and you expect me to feel sorry for him? He’s the reason why I’m not happy. He’s the reason you got hooked on those drugs. IT’S ALL HIS FAULT!” I shouted.
“You know it isn’t that simple Stephanie. I might have taken those pills because I was still upset about your father’s actions, but that doesn’t make him responsible for my addiction. I had a choice on whether or not to take those drugs and I made the wrong decision. Your father made a bad decision too and he had to pay for it every day since then. Honey, your 16 years old and pretty soon you’ll be 17. You can’t keep shifting the blame to someone else whenever you are faced with a problem. Part of being an adult is learning that your actions have consequences. Your Father just wants to come back into your life, he not asking for your forgiveness but he needs your acceptance. So now you have a decision to make, you can either give him a chance to be your father again or you shut him out of your life.” She walked away to the door and sighed before looking back at me. “I hope you make the right decision,” she said before exiting my room.
I stared at the ceiling and thought about what she said. I knew she was right but I still didn’t like it. Maybe I felt like I needed to raise my shield higher since mom dropped hers so easily. Regardless of what I felt in my heart and in my mind, I needed to give Arthur a chance.
August 7, 2010
It’s been a few weeks but in that time I’ve started to bond a lot with my father. Last week we finished building a motorcycle together. He actually volunteered to help me get my permit for it next week. In the weeks before, he dropped me off at the mall to go shopping. I said I was just buying new clothes but I really went to a private security store. He’s also been spending more time with my mom. Each weekend she accompanies him to his OCD therapy and in return he goes with her to a drug abuse support group. Lately they’ve been leaving the house more often to go on dates with one another. It seemed like everything was working out…until tonight.
It was just around dinner time when I saw my dad answer his phone. He stepped outside for a moment and I could hear his voice rise. When he returned he looked angry.
“What’s wrong Arthur?” Mom asked. “You look upset.”
He eye briefly shifted away from her before he said, “Nothing’s wrong honey. I just got called in to do a night shift. I’ll be back in the morning.” He kissed us both before leaving the house. Upon leaving the house he put a few bags into the back seat of his car then drove off.
“Sometimes I worry about him.” My mom said staring at the car as it faded in the distance.
“You shouldn’t worry about him so much Mom, maybe you just need to rest.” I suggested.
She looked back at me and smiled. “You’re right honey I’ll try to get some sleep, just don’t stay up too late tonight.”
“Sure thing Mom!” I said. I started walking with her up the stairs. Once I heard door to her room shut I went to my closet to grab a few important items. As I slipped on a blue and purple disguise I started think about Arthur’s strange behavior. I knew something was wrong the moment he shifted his eyes to the garage. He has been working at his new job for nearly a month and he’s never been called in to do a night shift—and what was in those bags he just put in his car? I know he’s up to something and I need to find out what it is. If Cluemaster has really returned to a life of crime, then it’s time for The Spoiler to ruin his plans.