CHAPTER IX : mourning cigarette
The bell rang as the crowd left the church where the ceremony was held.
A lot of people had gathered there, and the black-wearing folks were acting like this was one of the most social events of the year.
Mog despised them.
He had barely managed to keep his cool when two guys seating behind him had started joking about how this was no surprise to them, for they all knew Sam’s predilection for drinking.
But he had held on.
Sam was his friend.
His dearest friend.
Other than being a notorious writer around the big Orange (that’s what the citizen of the city liked to call it), he was also a great inventor.
But very few knew that. Sam had made most of Mog’s equipment, from his rapier shooting bullets to his electronic devices which he used to track down the villains running in town.
No one knew Mog’s real identity.
To them, he was just a loner who had been friend to an eccentric novelist.
But Mog was the hero impersonating the city.
By night he would wear the costume Sam had made for him.
Black trousers reinforced with leather, a white shirt in an old musketeer style that was harder to pierce than any metal known to this day, and a black cape large enough to cover himself at least twice.
But the real masterpiece was probably the mask Sam had made him: a white-polished mask that wouldn’t betray any of Mog’s emotions (even if he barely had any), rousing fear among the town’s bad guys.
His whole figure was covered by a hood, enhancing the darkness of his reputation.
He was indeed the city’s bad guys’ worst enemy.
But even if what he was doing was mostly good, the good citizens of his hometown feared him as well.
Mog didn’t care about that.
He was called the Phantom for a reason, and it was not to kindle any sympathy.
Plus, he had never been one of the “good people”.
Before Sam came to know him, Mog was taking down shady guys in dark alleys, beating them to death with his fists.
There was a violence inside him he couldn’t just shrug off.
So he decided to take it out on the people that deserved it the most.
But his friend had changed him.
Had made him a little more human.
And now these human emotions were overwhelming him.
He was in a rage that couldn’t be calmed down, he needed to kill the man that had run over his friend, it was his number one priority.
He wouldn’t try anything else before it was done.
He could not eat, nor sleep.
Now they were putting the dead body deep in the ground.
He was asked to say something about Sam, but the words couldn’t come out.
He couldn’t weep either.
Instead he threw his cigarette on top of the coffin, shocking the gathered crowd.
But no one said a word, and they moved out of his way; all feared the worst from that strange un-mannered friend their beloved writer used to describe as closer than family.
Sam had been the only person to get him.
To truly get who he really was.
Even if he sometimes knew Sam was just using him to achieve whatever scheme his complicated brain was planning.
But they had been the best years of his life.
Now all of that was gone, and only one thing was left on his mind: revenge.
The Phantom would track down the man responsible for Sam’s death and make him suffer for taking away the most precious thing he had.
Back home, Mog fumbled through his secret cabinet, where all the inventions and weapons Sam had made him were stowed.
He had intercepted the telegram sent by the police to their H.Q.: the man had run erratically to Grimaud’s square, entered, and that’s when they had lost him.
But the park’s fences were quite high, even for Mog.
Plus, the report stated that the fugitive was bleeding and by the look of it, probably high on timberine, a drug almost unaffordable for anyone but a Lord or a really rich and influent figure.
The Phantom had tracked down the owner of the car driven by the madman at the time of the accident.
The police had already seen him but Mog knew that a Lord could have easily bought them off.
Yet, the nobleman swore that his car had been stolen that night and that the thief had appeared to be bleeding out.
His staff had seen a man on the brink of death emerging from the swamp nearby, and had thought better than to go help him and risk being dragged into any trouble.
But now it was Mog’s trouble.
Of course, he didn’t kill the Lord or any of his staff, he at least owed it to his past friendship.
Back home, he found at last what he was looking for: an old little machine Sam had invented to track the energy flux.
It hadn’t been of any use until now, but he was now following his instinct.
He wasn’t even sure it really worked.
But there wasn’t any other explanation for his sudden disappearance.
Sam had often told him about the energy of the world colliding with other energies: like he had drunkenly explained to him, their world was like an ocean, waves battling against another without ever merging.
Sam thought that there was a multitude of worlds living at the exact same place, but on other frequencies.
That was the most he had gotten from their conversation before Sam had fallen asleep on his old leathered armchair.
But Sam always woke up in his bed. Now he would never again. Ruminating this last thought, Mog put on his costume, adjusted his mask, and went to Grimaud’s square in the middle of the night.
The Phantom moved through the trees like a ghost, holding his friend’s invention in his hand.
The compass was laying still, until he approached a tree with a big hole in it.
Surely the runaway wasn’t so dumb as to go hide inside a tree.
The compass went crazy.
Apparently, he was.
This just made the city’s reaper angrier: how could such an idiot be the cause of his friend’s death?
He deserved a better end than that.
Going into the hollow, and thinking that if anyone saw the Phantom hiding so ridiculously his whole reputation would take a serious blow, he flickered all the switches on the little engine.
It was supposed to react to the energy flux and re-light them, “like blowing on dead ashes” Sam had told him.
And surprisingly, it did.
A flow of colors swam around him and throughout the inside of the shaft.
Seconds later, the Phantom was in a totally different place: finally, he was on the murderer’s trail.