With his full focus now back on the group before him, Carter realized he didn’t quite know what to say. Somehow starting with, ‘My name is Carter Hall, during the day I curate a museum when I’m not out procuring another relic, but by night I smash in the faces of criminals with an otherworldly mace as Hawkman’ didn’t seem like the way to go. Weighing his options, Carter studied their faces remembering their stories before telling his own. Clearly his throat for what felt like the fifth time, Carter finally addressed the small group who were no doubt growing more and more anxious by the minute.“My name is Carter Hall.”
That was a good start.“And, I have anger management issues.”
He continued, reiterating the reason for why the six of them were in this group therapy session in the first place.“Hi, Carter.”
Replied the small chorus as Carter felt himself die inside. Well, not literally, at least. He was all too aware of what that felt like. To some extent, Carter resented becoming Hawkman once again. Had he never been reunited with the Nth Metal, he could have lived out the rest of this life in ignorant bliss. Completely unaware of what he was missing or the ability to make a difference as Hawkman. But with his memories and alien nature restored through the power of the Nth Metal, he was forced to act again.
Which is precisely how he ended up in this mess.“I suppose you’re wondering how I got here.”
Carter stated in a monotone voice before cracking a slight grin to lighten the mood.
It didn’t work. Humour had never been his strong suit. “It was a rainy day. I saw a car stopped just before an intersection. It had its four ways on, flashing to warn the other drivers there was something wrong. Stopping my truck behind them, I followed suit before climbing out to give them a hand.”
Carter paused; there was an air of anticipation slowly forming over the group. Each one of them hoping for validation that somehow, Carter’s reaction to the situation would make them look sane, reasonable even.
Except for the woman with the hair like fire. A smirk crossed her face like the one someone has when they’ve figured out the twist ending in a movie. She had seen this one before and knew where the jump scare was coming.
For some reason, that didn’t surprise Carter.“Inside the car was a younger man, a teenager maybe? Think it was his first time really out driving by himself. Either way, he had run into some trouble and was waiting for his parents to arrive. Offered if he wanted any help or for me to wait, he said no. No problem, so I turned to head back to my truck.”
Anticipation was swapped for confusion at this point. Carter had done lectures for the museum before. He knew exactly what he was doing.“Turning to head back to my truck, I watched as a black, luxury sedan stopped short, nearly colliding with my own vehicle, which in turn would have sent it into the kid’s car. The window opened a crack as the driver inside proceeded to tell me how I shouldn’t have left my vehicle and how he could sue me. So I walked calmly over to the man, shielding my face from the rain while preparing to explain the situation to him. Instead, the man inside the luxury sedan continued to raise his voice, berating me for wasting more of his time and telling me to move my vehicle.”
Carter paused again.“Not exactly in those terms.”
A collective chuckle came from the group.“When I suggested to the man that he go around, he acted as though I had asked him to shift the road. It was at this moment I found myself losing my patience. I began to see red. Placing my hand on the top of the window, I asked him to finish rolling it down so that we might have a proper conversation. Instead, he closed the window with my hand in it.”
Choosing his next words, Carter allowed for a dramatic pause.“So I put my other fist through the glass and hauled the man out the window.”
He finished with a shrug. The anticipation changed to relief. The tattooed man, rumpled suit and young woman all let out a collective gasp of relief. Compared to Carter they had found themselves sane. However, the woman with the fierce, verdant eyes crossed her arms and sat up straighter in her chair. Carter knew that look meant she felt she could top his story; there was pride in her expression. That was the exact opposite of the bland man who now hung his head in shame. He also displayed the body language of someone who did something worse, but it wasn’t something he wanted to admit.
That only intensified Carter’s earlier theory.“And, uh, Mr. Hall?”
The counsellor interjected, scrambling to the podium to divert the session back on course. “What did you learn from the experience?”“That some people are real assholes.”
Carter replied dryly. “Mr. Hall! We do not celebrate violence caused by anger here. If you fail to complete this course satisfactorily, I’ll have no choice but to recommend that you see a stronger repercussion in the eyes of the law.”
The court-appoint counsellor snapped, her tone sharp before faltering off as Carter narrowed his eyes towards her. Relenting, Carter forced a smile before commenting further.“I actually learned that I should have walked away.”I should have walked away.
Carter thought to himself as he moved across the room towards the woman with the auburn hair. The session had ended shortly after he spoke, but participants were invited to hang around afterwards and ‘enjoy’ the provided coffee and stale desserts. Carter had been an intergalactic law enforcement officer, a prince, a knight and an outlaw, yet somehow none of that compared to the unease he felt approaching the woman before him. “I wouldn’t drink that if I were you.”
Carter stated, interrupting the woman before she brought the styrofoam cup to her mouth. “Pretty sure they threw out the grinds and started using the dirt swept up off the parking lot.”“That would explain the smell.”
The woman replied, lowering the cup away from her mouth and placing it on the plastic-covered table. “Hall, right?”“Carter’s fine, I don’t know if I’ve caught your name though.”“That’s because I haven’t given it yet.”
The woman replied, “This was my first meeting.”“Ah,”
Carter replied, feeling slightly sheepish. “This was my-”“Third as I recall.”
The woman smirked, “Do you make it a habit of pulling people out of cars?”If only you knew the half of it.
Carter forced a smile before answering. He had definitely pulled more people from cars than he cared to divulge. Vigilantism seemingly ran in his family. His brothers, Hank and Don, had been doing a partner gimmick for years before the latter passed away. But Hank didn’t allow the tragedy to slow him down. Instead, he found a new partner, one he’s now very happy with.
Carter couldn’t help but feel a little jealous of Hank and Dawn. “Have to admit, that was my first time.”
Carter lied.“And yet somehow, I doubt that.”
The woman teased. Her emerald eyes lit up whenever she smiled, flecks of gold and blue exploding inside her irises like fireworks on the Fourth of July.“Y’know, if you still wanted a coffee, I happen to know a great place not far from here.”
Carter offered. She paused, looking up at him before replying.“As much as I appreciate the offer, I’m actually meeting my fiancé for a late lunch.”
She replied, extending a hand towards Carter. “However, it has been a pleasure meeting you, Carter Hall. In some sick, selfish way, I almost want you to bash in another car window to keep you here longer.”“I’ll see what I can do.”
Carter replied.I should have walked away.