Tales to Astonish #111by Francisco Araujo da Costa (firstname.lastname@example.org)
From all across the world, people write letters. Besides things they write for friends and family, greeting cards and bills, packages and the assorted, there are those letters that are somewhat different. I work at the section that handles them at the New York Post Office that handles all those letters we get that have no easily identifiable addresses. One classic and obvious example is that a lot of letters are written for Santa when it's nearing Christmas time. Some of those letters are direct like:
"I want a N64, a computer, a TV and an elephant. If they are too much for you to carry, Mr. Claus, please leave the TV at the North pole, and bring it for me next Christmas."
While some of the others are poignant cries for help. Letters from poor children or that have a big family problem, asking for their daddies or their mommies to come back aren't unusual. We try to help them, but it's not always easy. That depresses me a lot during the holidays, you know.
But when it isn't near Christmas (or Easter, because the Bunny also gets his letters), the letters are directed to other people: urban myths and super-heroes children adore. Even teenagers write letters for them, hoping they will somehow get them. I have heard that letters are still written to 221B Baker Street in London, but I don't know how they handle their amount of mail or what they are like. All I know is that we get all sorts of letters written to super-heroes, ranging from kids wanting a bully to go away from good, simple, traditional fan mail saying "I LOVE YOU CAP".
Some of those might be stalkers, and I'm pretty sure the heroes who get these letters have stories to tell about them. Maybe there is a lot of comedy in this letters and they share a few laughs when people write them ways to get money quick or agents that want hire them so they can make a quick buck. I'm pretty sure there are this sort of thing in all their lives.
But do you know why I'm telling you all these things? Well, let me tell you, working at this part of the post office makes me competent enough to assure you that we always try our best to hand these letters to the super-people they are directed to. They share their feelings on them sometimes. I don't know, I think it makes them sentimental fools. But there are those who are not available to get them. Spiderman and Daredevil never declared us their address or their phone numbers so we can show them what their fans write. The FF used to receive their letters at home, but not many people know where to write to nowadays.
Anyway, I'm also a sentimental fool and I got curious. The real heroes, people like Cap and the Torch, they share what they get with us. They are more open about this stuff. But these vigilantes like Spiderman and Daredevil, they never read this. I figured they'd be receiving different letters, from different people. And that's why I committed a federal offense and violated correspondence. But I don't think the recipient will know it. This is how it starts. (Don't worry, you won't hear from me after I finish this up.)
"Dear Mr. Daredevil,
Do you remember me? My name is Amanda Lopes. You saved my life once. Oh, you probably receive letters from a lot of people saying that, but I'm sure that my saving was special. I'm not from New York, as you can see through the collection of stamps attached to the envelope. And that day you wandered into town and saved me. I have been your fan ever since.
After you saved my life from those awful, awful men, I started to do a little research about you. At first I thought I was in love, but now I know it's gee, I'm pretty sure there was a term for it, but what I mean is that it was just admiration. I'm over you, don't worry about that. As I said, I did research. I started the investigation in the local newspaper's files. You are from New York, that was not your first costume, there was something with yellow before. But I've seen that you staid out of New York for quite a long time. San Francisco is the town with more sightings of you, Mr. Daredevil, but I looked better and found out rumors about you showing up all across the country and even in Italy. Wow! I wish I could travel like that for my life. Did you pass through our town when you were coming from San Francisco or did you just do it for chance? Or did you know I was being held hostage by those men and came here to rescue me?
I also see that you are involved with a lawyer, Mr. Murdock. A blind man. That's very noble of you, because my friend Joey was blind and he had almost no friends. Sometimes, if I had to go do something, Joey would spend all day alone, listening to music and passing his fingers on a special book. He said it was written in Braille. I really don't know why people kept away from him, he was so interesting. I mean, just from what I told you he's interesting. You can see that he knew another language. But I made some research on that Mr. Murdock and I saw he was almost as good as you are. But he had his share. I see that he lost his father when he was young and then lost everything he had. He's almost as much of a hero as you are, Mr. Daredevil. And it's "almost" because I think that no one is as heroic as you are.
You see, Mr. Daredevil, I did this whole lot of research and found out about all these things you did. These people you faced were just too powerful even for Captain America and you beat them. I mean, Namor! You stopped Prince (or is it King?) Namor from attacking the city. I see also things like you being seeing in parts of the town and with people heroes shouldn't be. But that's alright, I don't believe the people that write those things. They also say bad things about mutants like me.
Do you remember me now? I bet now you do. I am that Amanda that was hiding from the Mutant Register thing. I even saved your life when that fat man wanted to step on you. It took a lot of effort, but I put that bell back to its place. You just helped me a lot, saying little but acting good. You went against the law and saved me from those bad people. I think the fat one was called Blob or something, but I'm not sure. Funny name, huh? "Blob". Sounds like his fat ass hitting the ground. And the other one, skinny and blonde, his name was Pyro. That I'm sure, you told me that yourself. I got a burn in my hand that left a scare. But it's ok, Mr. Daredevil, it doesn't hurt anymore. But why am I telling you this? You probably remember everything by now.
I really appreciated it when you saved me. You know why I'm writing this letter now? Well, two weeks ago I paid a visit to New York City. It was my first time in the Big Apple. Actually, it was my first time out of the state of ***. Can you believe that? I was already eighteen years old and it was my first time. I even bought a T-shirt from the Statue of Liberty. I was so fascinated with you that I decided to know the city and, maybe, run into you. As you know, that didn't happen, but I did visit the place where the Fantastic Four used to live. I think the guys who live there are called the "Thunderbolts". But it could be "Thunderers". Or "Defenders". I'm not sure anymore. Now that the Avengers and the Fantastic Four have returned, I don't think they're needed anymore, but oh, I'm rambling. I shouldn't ramble or beat around the bushes.
I will say what I have to say. But first, let me tell you more about my visit to NY. I saw Spiderman! Yes, I was in Manhattan seeing those really tall buildings (we have nothing like that back in my town) when he swung through. I think he was going to fight crime or something, but according to newspaper I read he was a bad guy. I didn't believe it, because I found out he's your friend. Then I went to take a photo of Avengers Mansion and I saw, you won't believe this, a Quinjet take off. It was amazing. It shone so bright and when I saw it fly by I knew that they were going to save the world. I felt worried when I thought that the world needed the Avengers to do something, but then I realized "The Avengers are going to handle it, so I'm safe. The world is safe." and sighed in relief. Why don't you join the Avengers? I saw in a newspaper I researched that you have acted by their side. Would they accept you? Of course! I mean, you are Daredevil!
Well, I really appreciated that you saved me, but I have to
tell you, there was still a lot of things to do in that town.
There were people who protected me, and I'm glad they were there,
but there were people who wanted me out. Fortunately, the guys on
my side were the majority and I was safe, but just imagine if
those jerks at Friends of Humanity had found out about me. This
brunette of yours would have been lynched, that's for sure. I've
heard they used to do that to black people, mostly in the South,
but now they don't do it anymore. Well, I think they don't do it
anymore. Now they wanna do it with mutants. I don't get it,
sometimes. I know some of the mutants are dangerous, but so many
But I really have a motive to write you. Two, actually. First, I wanted to ask you why do you do it? I know you don't receive money for it, there's no Med Care for super-heroes, fame and fortune are not your goal and you make a lot of enemies. I don't think it's all fun, either. It must be as stressful as it is rewarding. I just have this one doubt I'd like you to answer me if you can. With that I'll settle. There's no need for you to reveal me your secret identity or anything like that. (yeah, like you would!)
Now, there's that second thing. I have to ask for it too, so I'm sort of contradictory, but I think you'll find it reasonable. You see, a couple of years after you left town I started to feel sick. My powers were a little uncontrolled and I'd get flus every two weeks. I felt really weak. I thought it was that horrible Legacy Virus the newspapers talked so much about. Boy, was I afraid of that. I mean, you couldn't possibly save me from the Legacy Virus! So I went and had a blood exam. They said I had little "T-cells", whatever they are. So they asked to do one more test. This doctor came to me and said something like this (I'm not sure these were the words, but you get the spirit):
'Ms. Lopes, I'm sorry. I lament to have to inform you that you are HIV positive.'
He had a grave face, and looked like he was really concerned and serious. But I am not. I know you can save me from it. I mean, I know the Legacy Virus would be too much, but this is just Aids. And you are Daredevil! What can Aids possibly do against Daredevil. Or against me, if Daredevil is one my side. I know you are going to save me. I'm just waiting for you now, at the city hospital. I know you will come. Don't take long, I just heard one of the doctors saying I don't have much time. But I'm sure you won't.
Kisses from your greatest fan,
PS.: There's a picture of me at the Statue of Liberty atached. Do you like my new haircut?"
The name is Ed. Edward Stark. No relations to the industrialist whatsoever, I guarantee you. Not that it matters, but you wanna know it, I know you do. The name Stark always brings curiosity up. But that's not what I'm here for. Not by a longshot. I'm a private eye with a simple case in my hands: I have to find out all I can abut a man and tell it to another one.
The problem is that this man I need to know is dead, and telling his son about him ain't gonna be a piece of cake.
I was at my office in Manhattan, worrying about how many cockroaches were cruising along the floor. I once read about a detective that counted them in his office. 117. Now that's a lot. I was thinking about that when the man walked in my office. He was just your average Joe, with dark hair and brown eyes, about 5'10" and a mustache. Hell, weren't it for what I found out about his past I'd say he was the picture in the dictionary for "Joe", because that was his name. He didn't sit in my chair, he just stood there and fired it at me:
"I want you to discover everything about this." and gave me a piece of yellowed out paper. On it there was one short sentence I'll never forget for as long as I live. And I ain't just saying that, I mean it.
Thor is back, life is meaningless.
And there was a little blood in the corner. I thought it was funny that this note was printed. Suicides generally think more about the act and just hand-write something illegible. I thought for a second that something was fishy around here, but I trust the criminalists who handled this case. It was suicide and Thor was in the middle.
So Joe gave me a picture of his father, the keys to his place ("everything has been counted and tagged" he said insinuating that he was gonna check it when I left the building), and some info on his own background. He had been estranged from him for a long time, but never acted on it because his mother never let him. Emotional blackmail, I tell you, is the worst kind of blackmailing there is. I got the keys, the picture, and my hat and went to his place.
I looked around for a minute, from the frontdoor itself. There were several things linking to religion and Christ and lots of stuff like that. I took a walk and entered his bedroom. Besides a Cross watching ominously on his wall there were no other Christian ornaments. But there were several newspaper clippings and pictures of Thor. All of them had red stains on them. Bot all of them were from his blood, though. He had vandalized those pictures himself. I looked at his desk and saw a PC. Finally something I could work with!
I went to his computer and turned it on. He had an internet connection and I tried to get in. The password wasn't required; he left in the automatic. I went a little through his files and kept thinking how much of a vulture I am. I saw that he had gotten a lot of e-mail with the expression "<not-gods>" before them. Funny. A look at the obituary showed this guy was a fervorous churchgoer and that was gonna be my next stop. Why would he be mixed up in atheistic crap?
So, I started to read the e-mail, some written by himself. Took me no more than two lines to see what "<not-gods>" meant. He had started something called a "mailing list" with other religious people to knock Thor. They were not atheists, but rather extremely zealous of their beliefs, and they thought this "god" is hoax. I never bought that god thing, but I let it go. Not important, you know? I have other stuff to worry about. But these guys
And I kept reading the mail. The dates were from a year and a half ago. There were less letters after the commemorations of the disappearance of the heroes. "He died", said one of the mailers, "he cannot be a god. Praise the Lord!". This last phrase I read a lot. "Praise the Lord", sometimes with a capital T just to emphasize their monotheism. One of the last letters I saw had again his name. "Joseph Baker" was at the heading of many of those letters.
In this one he started to comment the return of the heroes and, well, Thor, their main hatred. The final words were his epitaph, "Thor is back, life is meaningless". This explained the fact that the letter was printed, but not really how he got to this point. And it's certainly not all I have to report to Joe Baker Jr.
I looked at the sign. It said "First Presbyterian Church of Park Ridge". Small town, this one of ours, but the church was imposing. All white with a shining cross in the top. Looked like a million churches in a different million places, only in this one there were people who knew Joseph Baker. I start to ask a few questions and see a lot of different people. I'll just give you the most important ones and a sample of the average of what I got. I'll start with the priest.
"He was a good man, Joe Baker. Contributed regularly to the church and helped its modernization. You know, the computers. When he gave them to us, saying they would change the way we work, we thanked him and the Lord so much. I only lament that he was so obsessed with Thor. That was his downfall, wasn't it?"
"He was a crazy man. All he ever talked about was Thor and how blasphemous he was. After he donated the computers, the reverend let him speak about it during the celebration. His speech was full of hate and when he announced that he was gonna keep his movement against these guys who say they are gods. 'There are others out there', he would say."
"I'm sorry, I have never heard of a Joseph Baker."
"Well, I don't like talking about the deceased, but it was only when Mr. Baker's wife left him with their only child that he started to really attend church. I guess it's better than going to those Sodoms of perversion many men as young as he was back then go."
"Praise the Lord, Joseph Baker was a good man. He had very strong opinions in issues that matter. He was pro-Life, against euthanasia, divorce and all those things. (I think the divorce thing was personal, don't you know.) It's only a shame that he was in favor of the teaching of Evolutionism and sex education in our schools. If it wasn't for that "
"Yeah, I knew Joe Baker. We were chums at using the computer, you know. He was new to it in the beginning, but after three weeks he already knew and used internet slang like an old regular of the Net. Look, man, I was part of Joe's mailing list for some time. I subscribed it after he insisted it with me for a week. After two days I quit. There were a lot of whackos there. After I quit we spoke little, but I dunno. It all seems so weird."
"It was Thor. Think about it. A few days after he 'returns from the dead' Joe's dead. I say Joe came back from his fishing trip and found a gunman. Suicide, they say? Conspiracy."
After this interviews I went back to my office.
"Bye. Thanks, doc."
Ok. Let's make a recap here to see if I get this straight. You'll get it better than I did, I guess. I was a little desperate to know what would lead a person to do it, so I called a shrink, doctor Strogorovich, and he said to me a few things to help me understand this guy's death.
The first thing he said is that this sort of suicide, a bullet in the chest, is typical "real suicide". He explained to me that, (at least that's what he thought) between the suicide attempts there are two different kinds. There's throwing yourself in a bridge, jumping in front of a train and shooting yourself in the head. He said these were the 'real' ones. Taking five aspirins, hanging yourself in a lousy shower, slashing your wrists with aluminum paper, these were the 'attention desperate' ones. "So", he said, "he really thought there was not anything to live for anymore."
Then he told me that, from the little I had told him, he figured this guy was a man who built his entire life in one precept he considered 'good', and when he was contradicted, he decided to do a 'bad' thing. In his case, an anti-godly thing. Suicide. A bullet in the heart, the note, it all made sense in his suicidal frenzy.
I don't know, a shrink to give me this sort of advice through the phone has to be a not-so-good one, or at least a little bit unethical, but he was listed in the church bulletin board of the church. He did it for free and, these days, you can't afford to spend more than you have to. Especially if you're needing to take a trip down the aisle with a demanding fiancée.
I know Joseph baker wasn't seeing him, I checked his expenditures. The heaviest of them were trips to New York City and some bills with printers and such. The newsletter he left on the church's door every week; the T-shirts with "Not a god" written under a caricaturized picture of Thor he used to sell; software stores and related; all these things were his expenditures. I don't know, it sounds like a lot of money spent for a guy who lived from a bookstore in a small town like this one. A store I only went in once, and it was empty, to buy a copy of "The Maltese Falcon".
So, my report to Joseph Baker Jr. looked basically like this.
Your father was a good man, who followed his religious beliefs. Tragically he took them to their extreme meanings and that was his tragic downfall. Some investigation showed he was zealous of his ways and beliefs, and that his obsession with Thor was only a way to make it clear to all and himself the righteousness of his beliefs. Unfortunately, when the heroes returned he had a severe bout of depression and shot himself in the heart.
He loved you much, I saw that in his writings --
From this point on, I just made a lot of things up based on what people told me. I was sick of this case. Really, the kid just hired me to find out if it was really suicide, and I only took the case this far because the money was good. My take on this guy was that he was a sort of religious loony like my cousin Mike. One that disliked Thor and the other "gods". personally, I don't give a damn about Thor or anyone else saying he's a god or the God.
No, that's lie. Joe was a complex man with a complex personality. He embraced religion and technology. He had a strong set of morals. But when the cornerstone of his latter days was crumbled and toppeled by the new coming of a god, he thought he was wrong. Obsolete. It's an inappropriate analogy at this time, sounding kind of funny to me and all that, but I think he felt like 286. Out of date.
All I know is that there's someone out there, watching for us, and that he's more than we get.
The rest is just it. The rest.
END THE 111th TALES TO ASTONISH
We've all got stories to tell and we're all stories waiting to be told.
Daredevil (and other related characters appearing) and the
distinctive likenesses are Trademarks of Marvel Characters, Inc. and are
used WITHOUT permission.