“Ladies and gentlemen,” said the man in the turtle costume, “This is a robbery.”
For the men and women in Lampert Fox and Company’s Belmont branch, this was, of course, just another Tuesday. Keystone City was no stranger to this kind of thing. It hadn’t been for over three decades. Since before America joined in on the Big One, the hard-working citizens of this fair town had become well-acquainted with unfortunate circumstances like these. They supposed that it came with the territory, really. Where lightning strikes, fire follows.
But the fire so far had been mediocre at best. All style and no substance. No pizzazz. These people, they saw costumed crime every day and they shrugged. Laughed. Waited impatiently for it to be over. They didn’t shudder, or cower, or cry. The problem was, they had no respect. No respect for the game. And who could blame them, with the all the bozos running around these days? What, were they supposed to be intimidated by the Eel and his grease gun? Was the Rag Doll going to stretch the fear of God into them? And what was the Shade going to do? What exactly did he have to terrorise Keystone with?
“Oooooh, look at my shadows?”
No, what this town needed was someone who knew how to play the game. Someone who was more than just his gimmick, who put as much effort into his schemes as he did to acquire the one hundred pound shell on his back that made walking maybe a little too hard to be worth it. Someone who was made of the right stuff, the stuff that gets you in the history books.
Someone like the Turtle.
And so he walked into that bank, and he announced himself with confidence, because he’d planned this, and he had goons, and by God was he going to show Keystone City what he was made of. As the patrons of Lampert Fox, America’s seventh-largest bank holding company, laid down on the ground with their hands behind their heads, the Turtle dragged his feet with purpose towards the Belmont branch’s manager, staring up at his immaculately groomed face with a triumphant sneer.
“Empty your safe,” he said. “All of i– ”
He didn’t get to finish his well-rehearsed demand, on account of the bank very suddenly transforming into the inside of a police car. He became keenly aware of a pressure around his wrists, which he came to realise were now behind his back. On the window nearest to him leaned a helmeted man dressed in red, a large yellow lightning bolt streaking down his torso.
“Those handcuffs aren’t too tight, are they, son?” asked Jay Garrick.
The Turtle peered over his shoulder, trying to get a good look at his hands. He couldn’t see past his shell.
“They’re fine,” he said, then spat, “Flash.”
Garrick nodded, satisfied.
“That shell,” he said, “What are you called? The Turtle?”
“Yes,” he beamed. “Your greatest enemy. The yin to your yang.”
Garrick chuckled. “Are you, now?”
The Turtle nodded.
“Well, Turtle – from one archenemy to another – let’s agree not to see each other again for some time, okay? I don’t want to see you doing this kind of thing again.”
“Oh-ho, don’t you worry, Garrick,” said the Turtle, using his shoulder to wipe away some spittle, “We’ll be seeing each other again soon. You may have beaten me this time, but mark my words, Flash – I, the Turtle, your greatest enemy – will clash with you once more. Our battles will be legendary. Keystone City – no, the world – will hear of our magnificent throes for an eternity to come. You’ll see.”
“Hmm. I sure hope not, son.” Garrick smiled. “You take care, now.”
He tipped his helmet, and in a blink, he was gone, leaving nothing but a cool breeze as the air rushed in to fill the space where he stood just a moment ago. The Turtle leaned back as far as his shell allowed, feeling a smile form on his lips. The famous Flash, stopping him on his first ever heist. This surely could be nothing but a sign of his own greatness? A sign from above that he was, indeed, made of the right stuff? The stuff that gets you in the history books? The stuff that gets you respect? That makes you into a legend?
“Oh, yes, Jay Garrick,” said the Turtle. “We’re going to do this forever, you and I.”
“Hello, sir. How can I help you today?”
The lady smiled sweetly behind the counter’s glass divider. It was an artificial smile, loaded with saccharin, and he did not want it. It insulted him. It made him angry. He felt the urge to slide a shell bomb through the slot in the glass, blow that stupid smile off her face, but it occurred to him that he didn’t bring any with him, and that while he enjoyed robbing people, murder was bad. This realisation made him angrier. He scowled.
“Woman,” he said, “Do you see what I’m wearing? Do you see this shell on my back?”
“… Yes,” she said, her smile briefly faltering as she took notice of the costume she’d tried so hard to ignore.
“So why don’t you tell me…” he coughed, “How you can help me today?”
This was taking too long. His knees hurt. If he waited for her to put two and two together, they might just break.
“I’m robbing you, you fool. This is a robbery. Hurry up and empty your safe. I don’t have all day.”
Garrick could be here at any moment. Staging this in Central City would only buy the Turtle so much time – a few seconds, at best. If this broad didn’t get a move on, he’d be caught before the chase began, and there was no fun in that. No glory. Garrick had bested him last time, and he wasn’t about to let that happen again. He’d been unprepared, but now, he had a plan worthy of his nemesis. He set the traps, prepared for every eventuality. Every eventuality… except for this one.
“Woman! The money!”
“Sir…” she hesitated, “Is there anyone I can call for you? Someone to help you get home?”
“What are you talking about?”
“The only people you should be calling are the police! This is a robbery!”
She glanced sideways at her boss, who’d stopped serving his customer to observe their exchange, brows furrowed in bewilderment. He returned her glance and shrugged. She picked up the phone next to her computer station, dialling and placing the receiver over her ear. The Turtle seethed silently as she waited for the call to go through.
“Uh… police, please. Thank you. Uh, hi– hi, yes, I’m calling from the Hayes Street Lampert Fox. There’s a…” her eyes met the Turtle’s, and she quickly looked away, turning her head to speak quietly into the phone so that he wouldn’t hear her. “There’s a… gentleman in a turtle costume threatening to rob us. He told me to call you. No, no, he hasn’t threatened anyone. I… I’m not sure. I think he’s confused. Yeah. Okay. Thank you.”
She lowered the phone and faced the Turtle again.
“They’re on the way, sir. They want to talk to you.”
The Turtle glared at her. “Tell them to get bent.”
Now that the blasted woman had called the police, it would only be a matter of time before Garrick showed up. The Turtle turned his back to the counter, knees aching all the while, and sighed. He’d been so convinced that this time, he’d be the victor – this time, he’d show Garrick – but it was no matter. What’s done is done. All that was left to do was to let his traps do their work, and put on a good show.
Wind filled the bank, following a blur of red through the dull interior. It sped from corner to corner, covering every inch of the space, customer and employee alike holding themselves for dear life as the gusts threw their hair and rustled their clothes. The blur came to a stop a few feet away from the Turtle, and the criminal steeled himself for a confrontation with his sworn enemy.
“Is everyone alright?” asked Garrick.
“Oh-ho-ho,” answered the Turtle, “You never cease to amaze me, Flash. I was sure my traps would cause you some trouble, but here you stand, unharmed. Well done, hero.”
“Traps?” asked Garrick, “What traps?”
What was he talking about?
“The traps, fool! The ones I set for you! The ones you evaded so expertly! That you disarmed, using your ferocious speed!”
“There were no traps, sir,” said Garrick. “I searched the building. It’s safe.”
That didn’t make any sense. He remembered setting those traps. He did it himself. Carefully placed, meticulously planned, all to make Garrick’s life just a little bit harder. They had to be there. They were there. Garrick was losing it. More than that… something was different about him. His helmet was gone. A mask hid his face. The lightning symbol that had stretched diagonally across his torso was now smaller, centered on his chest. He seemed taller, somehow, a little thinner. Since when had Garrick changed costumes? Since when did he look so…
The Turtle squinted.
“You’re not Garrick.”
“Garrick?” asked the man, “You mean, Jay Garrick?”
The Turtle glared at him.
“No, sir,” he said. “I’m not.”
Further Down the Track
“He did it again, Jay.”
Barry Allen cupped the mug of black tea in his hands, resting his elbows on the antique wooden table in Jay’s dining room. Jay sat across from him, nursing some tea of his own. The man was fast approaching his one hundred and tenth year, but he didn’t look a day over fifty. His eyes still carried the shimmer of youth, and he held himself with powerful shoulders, straight-backed and relaxed. His hair was grey, but full. He’d taken care of himself over the years.
Barry sometimes wondered if he’d share Jay’s longevity. It seemed to him like a gift sometimes, to grow old with the world.
Most of the time, it seemed lonely.
Jay sipped his tea. “Who?”
“He’s getting worse, Jay. He’s less and less lucid with every stick-up.”
Barry placed his mug on a coaster, absent-mindedly twisting the golden ring on his middle finger.
“He keeps thinking you’ll show up. He tries to draw you out by holding up a bank, and when he realises that I’m not you… When I met him at Hayes Street, he remembered. But it’s been taking longer and longer ever since. It took us two hours before Wally managed to talk him down today. He broke down, Jay. One of these days, he’s going to hurt himself. I mean… does he have a family? Does he have someone to take care of him?”
“No.” Jay shook his head. “He has family, but they checked him into a nursing home some years back. They don’t visit much.”
“Yeah, well,” said Barry, “Someone should.”
He took a sip from his tea. It tasted bitter.
“What should I do, Jay?” he asked. “He keeps forgetting. I… I honestly don’t know what to do.”
Jay rested his cup on a coaster and sighed. The youth briefly left his eyes, and for a moment, he looked tired. He’d given up superheroics at the tail-end of the eighties, and Barry felt that a part of him had always regretted it. Helping people was a part of who Jay was. That urge had been what compelled him to don his costume on the eve of the Second World War. Barry could tell that it hurt him to know there was so much he could have done for people like the Turtle, had he not retired. It was a guilt that often had Jay considering entering the fray again, despite Barry’s assurances that he and Wally had it under control, that Jay should let himself relax for once. And though Barry would hate to admit it, he sometimes thought that it would be nice to have a guiding hand out there with him. It sure would be nice now.
“We’ll think of something, Barry,” said Jay. “We always do.”
Keystone City, Kansas
“Where’s Garrick?” yelled the old man. “I want Garrick!”
He stood hunched in his costume, spittle running down his chin. What was once a vibrant green was now dull and faded, crusted a pale yellow with age. Thin strands of white hair fell in a patchwork along the sides of his head. He shook slightly, playing a dangerous game of balance with his weakened knees. The shell he once wore fifty years ago was no longer there. He wouldn’t have been able to stand.
“He’s not here, sir,” said the Flash. “It’s just me and Kid Flash. Remember? Jay doesn’t do this anymore.”
They evacuated the bank as soon as they arrived. Barry and Wally made quick work of it together; they needed to get the Turtle alone. Too many people confused him, and they wanted to avoid overwhelming him as much as possible.
“You’re lying!” yelled the Turtle. “I saw him weeks ago!”
Wally looked at Barry in exasperation.
“Jay’s been retired for thirty years, sir,” said Barry. “Please. Let us help you.”
The Turtle’s voice was strained.
“I’m not leaving! I’m his nemesis! He’s my… he has to be here!”
A single tear rolled down his cheek.
“He has to!”
As the Turtle began to cry, Barry felt at a loss for what to do. Looking at Wally, he knew his partner felt the same. They’d faced the Rogues together, saved people from car crashes, collapsed bridges, and blazing homes – but faced with this, it all seemed so small. How were they supposed to help here? What could they do for this man? With his speed, Barry could spend hours within the confines of a second. But even with all that time, he couldn’t think of a way to help him. For all his power, Barry felt powerless.
The old man’s frail shoulders shook with every sob. Standing there in the middle of the empty bank, he looked terribly alone. Barry couldn’t imagine what it felt like, to wake up one day and forget all the time that’s passed. To forget people, experiences. To be forgotten. To the old man, Jay Garrick was still the Flash. He was still a young, spry costumed crook. All he knew were the days before Superman, before Jay receded from the public eye and retired to his and Joan’s rowhouse, spending his wife’s last years with her before she passed. He only remembered the chase. He only remembered his friend.
Behind them, the bank doors swung open. With a gentle smile, Jay stepped through, dressed in jeans and a tucked shirt. Barry thought he saw a hint of sadness hiding behind his smile, and as Jay walked towards them he nodded, as if to say, It’s okay. I’ve got this now.
He stopped in front of the old man, placing a hand on his shoulder.
“I’m here, son,” said Jay. “You’re okay. I’m here.”
The Turtle looked up at Jay, his eyes red.
“It’s me, son.”
“I knew you’d come. They said you wouldn’t, but you did.”
The Turtle grinned, lonely yellow teeth smiling up at Jay.
“My greatest enemy.”
“That’s right. Your greatest enemy,” said Jay.
He wrapped his arm around the old man’s shoulders, guiding him towards the bank’s exit.
“C’mon. Let’s get you home.”
“You can tell me all about what you’ve been up to lately. I’ll make some tea. Do you like tea?”
“I love tea.”
Jay smiled. “Good man.”
They walked out of the bank that day, and Barry and Wally turned their attentions to other crises. They never did need to talk the Turtle down again. Every few days, Jay would visit the nursing home and make his old nemesis some tea. They would sit down and drink, and talk. Sometimes they’d play chess. Jay let him win. After his visits, Jay would often tell Barry that he regretted not doing this earlier. He wished he’d thought to visit him when his episodes first began. It felt good to keep him company. By being there, Jay helped the Turtle remember. Helped him feel a little less alone. But Barry knew that it was also helping Jay.
When he spent time with the Turtle, Jay felt a little less alone, too.