As they walked along the riverfront, Mason pulled a cigarette from his cigarette case, and lit it. Liz noticed for the first time that there was no branding on the cigarette, and that she never seemed to see him with a lighter.She opened her mouth to ask about it, and the reason why he smoked so often, when he began, interrupting her train of thought.
“As with an insanely high number of stories, it all be began with a girl. I had just turned eleven, and I was, as my gran so diplomatically put it, a late bloomer. Also a bit of a geek.”
He sat down on the bench facing an empty lot. In Liz’s eyes it was a prime piece of real estate, and she couldn’t figure out why it would just be sitting vacant like that, without at least a “for sale” sign on it. Mason inhaled deeply, sat for a moment in thought before exhaling. The smell wasn’t what she had come to expect from cigarettes, in fact, it brought back a rush of memories of helping her grandmother making her special spaghetti sauce with meatballs.
“Do you know much about comic books? Do you know who first appeared in the first issue of Action Comics?”
“Uhm…Superman?” Liz answered hesitantly, “What does that have to do—”
“Points to you, but in addition to the big boy scout, it was also the first appearance of Zatara, ever hear of him?”
Liz shook her head.
“Zatara was this guy, a magician, like a stage magician, right? Except he found out that by talking backwards, he could actually do real magic. Of course he wasn’t as popular as big blue, but I loved him. One of the things my dad left behind when he left was his stack of comics, some real gems in there, but all I really cared about was Zatara.”
He stopped again, seemingly lost in his memories.
“You know, If it weren’t for my dad and those comics, we wouldn’t even be sitting here…”
“You said something about a girl?” Liz asked, prompting Mason to break his reverie.
“She was beautiful. The most beautiful girl I had seen up to that point. Couldn’t have been more than fourteen, red hair, green eyes, unearthly pale skin. Of course, I was eleven , so my experience with girls was very limited, but as soon as I saw her, it was like I had been looking for her my whole life. I was coming out of the comic shop, that one right over there…”
Mason pointed at the shop, several down from the vacant lot.
“…When I saw her. I waved, since she was looking in my general direction. She looked behind her, thinking I was waving at someone else, and when she realized I was looking at her, she smiled at me. It wasn’t a very happy smile, it was actually the saddest smile I had ever seen. She turned and ran down that alley over there.”
“Did you ever find out why?”
“Not exactly, I never saw her again after that. I ran down the alley to see where she went, but there was nobody there, and no place they could have gone. No doors, and the alley ended in a wall. It still does, you can go check it out for yourself.”
“And there weren’t any clues?”
“There was one.” Mason pulled out his wallet, pulling out a simple printed card, handing it to Liz.
For the best pizza in town
Come to Calistrogo’s
Turn back the way you came, Turn Right
Two doors down, you can’t miss it.
Liz looked at the card, then at Mason, “But that’s…”
She stopped as she glanced up at the now very real, and very busy pizza parlor where the vacant lot was moments ago.
“Come on,” Mason said, stepping on the butt of his now finished cigarette, “Let’s get some pizza”
Mason was halfway across the street before the stunned Liz had regained the use of her legs.