The roar of water fades in, deafening in its sheer primeval power. Slowly the picture fades in as well, showing a mighty waterfall, the torrent crashing down into the waters below, churning it into a maelstrom of unstoppable force, a heavy mist hanging in the air around. As the picture zooms out, it shows the falls of Niagara Falls (the Canadian ones), a solid wall of water coming down, their top melting into the dark grey skies above, churning just like the falls below. It is a dreary day, clouds hanging low, pitched forward by a sharp wind and rain keeping the hordes of tourists at bay that normally line the edge of the river, trying to catch a glimpse. Where there are normally hundreds of people with folding chairs and blankets on the grassy hills near the edge, barely a handful is trying to brave the elements. A lone figure stands at the edge of the Niagara Parkway that lines the Niagara River, staring into the distance unmoving.
The Shadow: Sometimes you feel as if you should just let yourself flow wherever the water takes you. Let loose. Shed the worries and just let go. Let the primordial force of the river, of the seas take their course.
As he speaks, the camera sets off towards and upwards of the falls, taking in the sheer force of the Horseshoe Falls.
The Shadow: Giving in to the inevitable is tempting, but what do you achieve when you do that? You relinquish control, you hand over the reigns to your life to a force of nature. If you admit and come to terms with the fact that some things are out of your control, you don’t have to, you can still control your life, control your actions and not just give up. There are certain events in life, where you feel, though, that it is not worth trying to control things that are beyond. I feel for Ataxia and his anxiety about Mia, at first after the heinous attack that put her into a coma and now even more so after she disappeared.
The camera is coming back from its bird’s eye view and settles in in front of The Shadow.
The Shadow: She did not just sign herself out and go for some alone time. For one, there is no bloody signature in any of the books and forms and whatever they have. For the other, she would not just disappear like that without letting anybody know. She was taken. By who? I don’t know. Why? I don’t know. Is it out of my control? Yes. Will I just let myself drift wherever the flow will take me? No. I cannot just stand by and let Ataxia suffer. He still has hope, while mine has been gone a long time ago, so if there is ANYthing I can to do help him, I will do it, whatever it takes.
Another figure is coming into view, battling with an umbrella and the wind. A sudden gust turns the umbrella inside out, bending the thin metal shaft in the process. The person looks at it, shrugs and stuffs it into a garbage can along the way. The wind blows the hood off the face, revealing the dark face of Damiano Carvanha, water dripping off his big black mustache. Without turning The Shadow addresses the Portuguese.
The Shadow: Damiano, any news?
Damiano Carvanha: Depends on how you define “news”. We managed to get into the CCTV of the ECMC.
At this The Shadow turns around, a surprised look on his face.
The Shadow: Say what?
Damiano: Well, turns out that the firewall of the hospital is a little, uh, porous. Selkirk figured he’d give it a try to see and he managed to get right in, you’d be amazed by what information you can access just like that. A few celebrities have been treated there and some of the stuff that’s in those files--
The Shadow: Damiano…
Damiano: Sorry, sorry. So they don’t have as many cameras as we’d have hoped for, but fact is that she did walk out.
The Shadow: I did not expect that…
Damiano: No, me neither, but there is more. Not long before she went to the elevator, there was a man taking the same elevator.
The Shadow: It’s a hospital, people take elevators all the time.
Damiano: Not at 3 am. And there is even more. We went back over the tapes of the last few days and guess what, a man of the same build has been coming in every night like clockwork around 2 am, leaving between 0230 and 3 o’clock. No sign in or anything. Just during shift change, so the nurses usually are busy handing over files and cases and whatnot.
The Shadow: And I guess that the footage is too blurry for details?
Damiano: Of course. But at least we have...something, not sure how much, but something is wrong.
The Shadow: Obrigado, Damiano.
Carvanha puts a hand on The Shadow’s shoulder and solemnly nods.
Damiano: De nada.
As he turns to leave, The Shadow calls him back.
The Shadow: Any news from Francis and the others?
Damiano: They landed at Pearson about two hours ago. With customs and all it should not be too long. I’ll have Alistair check Dean before we figure out how to get him to Australia. Christian is in touch with the Aussie embassy, they managed to get him some sort of special document, so we could get him into Canada and God knows what Dolgo did over there to get him out.
A faint smile plays around the edges of The Shadow’s mouth.
The Shadow: Thank you, what would I do without you guys?
Damiano: Still get as wet in this rain as you are now.
The smile turns into a hearty laugh.
The Shadow: Touche.
The picture fades as Carvanha leaves down the same path he had come.
The Shadow is still standing in the same spot, the wind billowing his wet hair, giving him an almost wraith-like look amidst the murky twilight of the day.
The Shadow: So a mystery opponent for me at Evolution, how fun. As if I haven’t had enough surprises of late. I am wondering who came up with this, though, since Ataxia is not really able to focus on the day-to-day stuff… Was it Jaiden? Or was it someone else that just pushed the sheet over and he just waved him off with an ‘ok, whatever’? In the end it does not matter, what happens, happens, for better or for worse. Whoever it is, they might get lucky and spring enough of a surprise on me to win, but I will deal with that whenever I get there. For now my mind is elsewhere. Mia… Sanford and the others…
His voice trails off as he puts his head into his hands, gently massaging his forehead. Suddenly a familiar voice breaks the silence.
Sanford Thibodaux: Honey, I’m home! Hope you didn’t wait up for me.
Despite the emotional strain thad had been bearing down on him, The Shadow can’t help but smile as he turns around to face his second-in-command.
The Shadow: Good to see you, everybody made it back ok?
Sanford: Yeah, we had some hoops to jump through to get Coulter out of Moldova, but Dolgo managed to get him papers. Not sure how many goats he had to sign over, but after all was said and done the guy in immigration tried to invite us all over for a pig roast or something.
The Shadow: Did you?
Sanford: No! Who do you think I am? Alright, I was tempted, but someone insisted that we catch our flight instead.
The Shadow: Oh, a voice of reason?
Thibodaux looks at him with a look of mourning.
Sanford: Yeah, we could have flown out the day after, but that killjoy--
He doesn’t get any further as he stumbles forward into The Shadow from a whack into the back of the head.
Myfanwy verch Owain: Don’t you start with this again! We’ve gone over this over there and on the plane!
Thibodaux looks at The Shadow with rolling eyes and whispers.
Sanford: It was a looooong flight!
Myfanwy: I saw that!
The Shadow just shakes his head smiling.
The Shadow: Bickering like an old couple.
This was clearly the wrong thing to say.
Sanford: Who are you calling old?
Myfanwy: A couple? With him? Are you out of your mind?
The Shadow holds up both hands in defense, backing up a step until his back is pressed against the stone balustrade.
The Shadow: OK ok, I’ll shut up now before you’ll throw me into the falls…
With a triumphant look Myfanwy gives Thibodaux a little jab into the ribs with her elbow and then hooks her arm into The Shadow’s.
Myfanwy: And why are you out in the rain again? Do you like looking like a puppy that fell into the puddle? All you’ll do is catch a cold!
As she pulls him along, The Shadow looks at Thibodaux in passing, mouthing.
The Shadow: A puppy?
Thibodaux just shrugs before falling in line behind them.
A hotel room, nothing extravagant, two beds, a desk, a closet, TV, mini fridge, but with eight people pretty much filled to capacity. In one corner McLean is examining Dean Coulter, who looks a little less worse for the wear. Thibodaux is sprawled out on one of the beds.
Sanford: Ally, you’ve never told us you actually are a doctor, I always thought you just liked touching people.
McLean shoots him a look that could have easily sliced him in half before resuming his checkup.
The Shadow: OK, Francis, I’ve had my study set up for you, so you have the space and calm to go through all the files and documents, laptop with access to the database and I’m sure that Selkirk can get you into places that I don’t even want to know about on top of that. If Dean is cleared by Alistair, he’ll go with you, have one of the guest rooms set up for him, so he can get back in shape before going back to Australia.
Walcott gives him a short nod.
Francis: Dolgo will help me with the deciphering of some of the Cyrillic stuff and I’ll keep in contact with Alistair for any medical mumbo jumbo.
The Shadow: Great. I can’t thank you guys enough for what you did for me, it was a huge risk going in there.
Sanford: Nah, not that bad, thankfully whoever was fighting over there a while back did a good bit of the work for us. I just have to get that Virus guy--
Sanford: That guy my thanks, whoever his guy in the Epicentre is, was really organized and even dug up Oz over there for us. Win-win!
Alistair: Alrecht lads, th' loon is guid tae gang. Needs a wee tlc, but naethin' we cannae fix. Let's gang, plane's nae waitin' fur us!
With that he gives Dean a hearty slap on the shoulder, walks over to the door, picks up his bag and walks out. With a shrug Walcott and Dolgopolov get up as well, motioning for Dean to come. After a brief handshake they file out to catch up with the Scotsman.
The Shadow: Sanford, Damiano, could you go to ECMC and see, if you can get anything on that mysterious man?
Damiano: Sure, boss!
Sanford: Does that involve me getting up?
The Shadow: It might help you get there, yes.
With a theatrical eye roll and sigh Thibodaux peels himself out of the bed, slaps Carvanha on the shoulder and proceeds to leave. Just as they step through the door, he turns around.
Sanford: OK, kids, don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!
The Shadow: Trust me, we don’t even want to do what you WOULD do!
This elicits a hearty laugh from the Louisianan as he closes the door. The Shadow walks over to the now empty bed and lets himself fall backwards, exhaling sharply.
Myfanwy: Why do you do all of this stuff?
The Shadow: What stuff?
Myfanwy: Everything. You seem to be helping everybody.
The Shadow: One of the few things I can do.
Myfanwy: I’m sure you can do more.
The Shadow shrugs and sits up.
The Shadow: I probably could, but imagine the rug you have been standing on for years being completely yanked out from under you and underneath you discover a great, big hole without a bottom. Your world is crumbling to pieces before your very eyes. You need an outlet, a distraction. And might just as well distract myself doing something good, no?
Myfanwy: I guess. But what do you get out of it?
The Shadow: Other than a distraction, you mean? Well, you guys got tons of files that could help shed some light on what happened back then. And to hopefully avoid the same thing happening to others. Knowing that the world is an ever so slightly better place.
Myfanwy: But why the wrestling part?
The Shadow: I never really thought about it like that. I guess a sense of belonging, amidst likeminded people? I mean, I know a lot of people in the heavy metal community, but that is a different thing. Also the physical part of it, being able to compete and that.
Myfanwy: Who is it this week?
The Shadow: A “mystery opponent”.
She furrows her brow in confusion.
Myfanwy: How are you supposed to prepare for that?
The Shadow: You don’t. You just wing it, don’t have much of a choice. It could be virtually anybody. But I have backup to prevent nasty surprises beyond that.
Myfanwy: Druids? How many are there to begin with? And how many do you have left here?
The Shadow: Originally 12. Francis “retired” from active service, so to say, but Cederbergh’s twin is back up and running. Then Eddy left, he went actually to Makhnovia to find Elisha as part of his personal vendetta. Sanford and Damiano are out right now, then we have a few people on the files now, but overall we’re 11.
Myfanwy: So you’re one short.
The Shadow: No.
Myfanwy: What do you mean?
The Shadow: Look in that bag over there.
Myfanwy gets up and opens it, pulling out a druid’s robe. Her eyes go wide and she turns to The Shadow.
Myfanwy: Are you saying--
The Shadow: If you want it, it’s yours. You’ve shown tremendous courage volunteering to go out there, even though you barely knew us.
Myfanwy: Oh. But it was nothing in the end.
The Shadow: Yes, but we couldn’t know that, no? For all we knew, you could have stepped right into a warzone.
Myfanwy: Well, yes.
The Shadow: There you have it. You deserve it.
Myfanwy’s face is turning almost as red as her hair and she shyly says:
Myfanwy: Thank you.
The Shadow: Oh, earlier I forgot one thing.
The Shadow: Wenn you asked what I get out of this whole thing. I got to meet you. That alone makes it worth it.
Myfanwy: But I am barely more than a stranger.
The Shadow: Everybody was a stranger once. Has that ever stopped us before?
Myfanwy: Not really.
The Shadow: There you go.
Myfanwy: Now what?
The Shadow: I have no idea…
Myfanwy puts the robe back into the bag and starts walking towards the door.
Myfanwy: Let me know when you figure it out.
She winks at him and leaves the room, leaving The Shadow staring at the door with a furrowed brow.