“Are you ready, honey?” I asked as I turned to look at Loren in the back seat. As always, her pale green eyes made me smile. She nodded and scooped up her favorite action figure, holding it by the waist safely against her side. “I only need to be in here for a few minutes, and if you’re a good girl, I’ll grab some ice cream for us on the way home, okay?”
“What about Mommy?” she asked as I opened the car door.
“Of course, we’ll get some for Mommy, too,” I replied with a smile before getting out and walking around the car to open her door.
Loren hopped down from her booster seat and held my hand tight as we walked around the corner to the front of the Central Bank branch. A man on his way out held the door for us.
“Thank you, Mister!” Loren said with a beaming smile.
The man smiled back and then looked at me. His smile faded as he recognized me.
“Thank you, sir,” I said as he released the door and walked away briskly.
It was quiet inside. There were the velvet ropes guiding customers through a maze to reach the tellers where they would conduct business. In the back of the lobby, several brown leather chairs sat unoccupied on an expensive rug flanked by two wood doors leading to management offices.
“Daddy?” Loren said, tugging my hand.
“Yes, honey?” I replied, looking down at her.
“Why is everyone looking at you?” she asked.
I looked up and found that it was true, nearly every person in the branch were trying to sneak looks at me, diverting their eyes when I looked at them.
“It’s a long story, baby girl, but let’s say that a lot of people don’t know who Daddy is, okay?” I replied.
“Okay! Can I play on the chairs?” Loren asked.
“As long as you sit on your bottom, we don’t jump on furniture, right?” I replied, letting her hand go. “I’ll be done in a few minutes, okay?”
“Okay, Daddy!” she chirped as she ran across the lobby, her shoes clicking against the polished stone floor.
The line moved, and I stepped forward, keeping my eyes on the little girl happily marching her action figure across the arm of a chair. I ignored, as best I could, the looks from the other customers and the tellers until I reached the front of the line.
“Welcome to Central Bank. What can I do for you today?” the teller asked.
“Good afternoon,” I paused and glanced at the nameplate next to the window as I slid a check and deposit slip across the counter, “Grace. I would like to deposit this into my checking account, less ten dollars, please.”
“Aren’t you-” she began as her hand reached for the slip.
The front doors of the bank erupted in a fireball that left a gaping hole behind. Two customers on their way out were thrown back into the bank from the blast. My head snapped to look at Loren as the manager’s doors opened and six more funneled through, scaring her enough to scream. One of them snatched her from the chair and carried her with their hand over her mouth.
“This, ladies and gentlemen, is a robbery!” The clear leader of the gang yelled as he fired a pistol into the air. “Follow our directions and no one,” he paused, seeing the charred people on the floor, “most of you will remain unharmed.”
My teeth clenched as I turned and walked slowly toward Loren. Her tear-filled eyes pleaded for safety in her fear. I knew that look well, though this was the first time I had seen it directed at me.
“Excuse me,” I said, putting up a hand as I spoke to the man holding her, “I need that little girl.”
I felt a gun barrel pressed to the back of my head. “I wouldn’t do anything stupid, man.” I heard the leader say. “We’re the Whispering Shadow, and we will kill everyone in here.”
“You see,” I said, slowly turning to look him in the eyes, “that’s my daughter.”
I watched the color drain from his face as he recognized me. “Y-you’re-”
“Darkstar,” I replied, tilting my head to the side. I let my eyes shift black for effect. “I’ll be taking her now, and leaving.”
“Y-yes, sir,” he muttered as the hand holding his gun began shaking.
I turned away from him and walked casually to Loren, holding my arms out to receive her. The one holding her set her on her feet and backed away as though she were a bomb ready to explode.
“Daddy!” Loren yelled as she ran into my arms.
“Sorry, baby girl,” I whispered to her as I turned and walked for the door.
“I’m scared, Daddy. These are bad men!” she said, looking into my eyes.
“You’re right, honey,” I replied, nodding as I stepped through the rubble of the doorway, leaving the bank behind.
“You shouldn’t let them be bad, Daddy. You tell me to be good, why are they allowed to be bad?” she said as I reached the corner and stopped.
I thought for a moment about everything I had done before she was born, the banks I had robbed, the people that were still terrified of me, and the would-be heroes that I had killed. Loren’s usually sweet eyes were piercing as she looked at me in defiance.
“I have to keep you safe, lovey,” I replied, truly not wanting to get involved.
“There’s a policeman over there,” Loren said, pointing across the street. “He can keep me safe.”
“Okay,” I sighed, “but you have to listen to him, okay?”
Loren nodded as I looked in either direction for traffic and crossed the street. The officer, noticing the movement, looked at me, and began backing away.
“Excuse me, Officer, but I need you to watch my little girl while I deal with the bad men,” I said, setting Loren down.
“Yes, sir. Retired. You see, my daughter-”
“Daddy has to stop the bad people from being bad,” Loren said, pointing to the bank.
“Exactly,” I said with a sigh.
“But you’re Darkstar, the most villainous criminal the city has ever seen!” the officer replied.
“As I said, I’m retired,” I replied, pinching the bridge of my nose as I stepped right in front of him and leaned into his ear to whisper. “I’m trying to set a good example for my little girl here. If I don’t stop the bad men from being bad, she won’t feel like she has to listen to me when I tell her to be good. If you say I’m a criminal in front of her again, I’ll kill you and everyone you’ve ever cared about, do you understand me? Just watch her and keep her safe so I can deal with this shit, okay?”
“O-okay,” the officer said as I pulled away. He held a shaky hand out for Loren to hold.
“I’ll be back in a few minutes. Please keep an eye on her, she can be a handful sometimes,” I said as I turned toward the bank.
I shook my head as I crossed the street again. “I can’t believe I’m doing this…” I muttered as I stepped inside.