Shades of Knight

     “Tap… tap… tap…” Startled out of her thoughts, Tess stopped with a jerk and turned around to see what was making the noise behind her. A short distance behind her she saw a man walking… his steps aided by the use of a cane. He glanced up as she turned, and nodded his head in momentary acknowledgment before returning his attention to the sidewalk before him as if examining it for cracks or raised bits that might pose some possible threat to his safe navigation of the same.

    He was probably somewhere around fifty… and Tess thought ‘somewhere’ because the more she thought about it, the more difficult to say that he was anything more than between thirty to maybe even sixty years of age as he leaned heavily now on the cane, dragging one foot a bit as if the leg had simply chosen that moment to not work. He was dressed well enough in tan work pants and nice leather jacket, his salt and pepper hair well groomed as was his short beard and mustache.

     She returned her awareness to the path before her… not her usual way home in the evening, but tonight had been full of changes as it was, and she had ended up walking through the park tonight to gather her thoughts and decide what direction she was going to take the next morning… quite frankly, today had sucked, and she just wanted it over and done with!

     She had met her fiancé for dinner, and in some misguided male line of reasoning, he had decided that he wasn’t quite ready to settle down… forget that they had been living together for the last three years while he finished school, their livelihood provided for by Tess working two jobs, one down at the newspaper as a proofreader, and her evenings spent waiting on tables down at a little hole-in-the wall type diner affectionately named “Eats” by the owner some fifty years ago, a name that stuck through several owners mainly because of the permit hassle associated with changing the name.

    Tonight had been one of her seldom evenings off, arranged with her boss a week ago so that she and Mike could get together and hammer out the few remaining details of the wedding… instead of a relaxing evening, she had stormed out of the restaurant after a classic scene from many a B movie… picking up his glass of wine and dashing it into his face and running out with all the other patrons’ wondering what had just happened.

    “He’s just lucky that I didn’t bean him with the bottle!” She still fumed over his callousness, and wondered if he was at this moment moving his things out of the apartment that they had shared all this time. “He better be, because I sure as Hell am not the one leaving!”

     On any other night, she wouldn’t have even considered going through the park, it’s darkness always seemed threatening to her, and the assorted lowlifes that frequented it were sometimes prone to assault those who wandered past it’s borders, but tonight, she had exited the restaurant in a rage with no particular destination in mind, and so at this late hour found herself on the opposite side of the park from where she needed to be, and cabs were scarce here.

     “You ok, Miss?” she heard the man ask her. She stopped in the circle of yellow that spilled down from one of the still working lights that were scattered along the walkways of the park.

     “I suppose that would depend on your definition of the word,” she replied, for some reason sensing that the man wasn’t any sort of a threat to her. “I can honestly say that I have seen better days than this one turned out to be.”

     He drew nearer to where she stood, glancing off into the darkness that prevailed under the trees that surrounded them. “It still isn’t over yet, dear, and no matter how bad things seem to be, there is always a chance that they will get worse.” He stepped in close and whispered to her. “Stay behind me by the bench no matter what… don’t run off or else they will find you, and I may not be able to help you.”


     She took a step back, her fear rising in her throat as she thought that he was about to attack her… but she realized that he was not the threat here when three men stepped out of the shadows and into the glare of the light. Two of them held short lengths of metal pipe in their hands, the other man holding a large semi-automatic pistol out in front of him. Quickly she moved as he had directed, close to the bench so that at least one side was protected if need be… her first thought was to run back the way that she had come, but knew that she wouldn’t get far before at least one of them would catch her.

     The largest one approached, a smug grin on his face as he saw no threat to him and his cronies here… after all, what danger could an old man and a woman pose to them? “Gimme everything ya got,” he directed them. “Wallets, watches, rings, whatever.” He looked appraisingly at Tess. “Good looking woman you got there Pops, too bad she won’t be quite so fine when we get through with her.”

     “The names not Pops, although it will do as well as any other for the moment,” the man replied. “But you won’t be getting our wallets tonight, or any other night, and you certainly aren’t going anywhere with the girl.”


    The three stood there dumbfounded for a moment, before the leader finally started laughing, the threat that the old man had made apparently amusing him greatly. “OK Pops…” he said. “That was real funny, I didn’t know that we was beatin’ down a comedian, but if we don’t see some cash real soon, the both of you are gonna get seriously messed up and we will just take it anyways.” He stepped forward now, intent on carrying out his threat.

    Pops shook his head. “Sorry, but this lady is very important to me, and the likes of you will never lay a hand on her, so back off… or else.” He stood there smiling at the young man, but his smile didn’t carry any sort of amusement in it… his eyes glittered with the intent of carrying out his threat, but the thief had no intention of letting this old man disrespect him in front of his fellow thugs.

    He stepped in, the pistol raised with the intention of bashing in the old man’s head, but in the blink of an eye he found himself on the pavement, gasping for breath, his windpipe crushed by the impact of the end of the cane against it. He lie there, his weapon rolling away forgotten, all of his efforts going towards drawing in a breath.

    The old man leaned in close but kept his eyes on the other two men in case one of them decided to take up where the first had left off. “Hurts like hell, I imagine,” he murmured under his breath to the dying criminal. “But only for a little while, I assure you.”

     He picked up the pistol and raised it, pointing it towards the other two lowlifes. “Go on, get out of here!” he commanded. “Change the path that you have chosen, or it will be you lying here next!” The two glanced at each other, turned and took to their heels into the darkness. He couldn’t resist the urge to hurry them on their way, and fired two rounds from the pistol, aiming it at the large oak tree that stood off to one side.

     “Come now, we have to get out of here before the police arrive.” He took her shoulder and turned her towards the darkness of the park. “I will see you to your apartment, but then I must be leaving, for I have other places to be soon.”

     She felt a calmness come over her, and knew that she would be safe with him, and they hurried down the path towards the other side of the park. “I am lucky that you happened to be behind me, aren’t I?” she glanced over at him as they exited the park, the wail of police sirens beginning to sound from far off, but rapidly drawing nearer.

    He spun his cane around his wrist, and smiled at her. “What makes you think that luck had anything to do with it, Tess?”

    She stopped at the curb in front of her apartment. “I… never told you my name.”

    He nodded his head. “No, you didn’t”

    “So are you going to tell me what is going on here, or just leave me here all weirded out?

    He chuckled. “I suppose that some sort of explanation would be in order.” He paused for a moment, brow furrowed as he decided just what to tell her.

     “Simply put, Tess… there are a certain number of individuals who will make irreplaceable contributions to society, and mankind in general.” He took her hand, and raised it to his lips, and gently kissed the back of it. “Throughout the ages, there have been, and will be, individuals who will make the world a better place in one way or another. These people… it is my job to protect them, to make sure that they are allowed to make these contributions without interference from the Dark Ones who work just as hard to bring about the downfall of this world and everyone in it.”

     “Me?” she questioned him “What do I bring to this world? I work at a newspaper and in a diner?”

     “And in both those jobs, you touch a thousand lives each and every year… and soon, one will touch yours, and the child that you have will bring a new light into this world… a light that will be sorely needed when that time comes.” He turned and began to walk back into the park, leaving her standing on the steps.

     “Wait!” she called out. “Who are you?”

    He stopped for second as if thinking about whether or not to answer her, then turned to face her. “You can call me Roland… it’s a fine name, and will do just as well as another.” He bowed… and literally faded away before her eyes, leaving her to wonder if he had been no more than a figment of her imagination… but the strident wails of the police sirens suddenly cutting off as the cars pulled into the parking lot on the other side of the park refusing to let her escape into the safety of that illusion…

     Roland stood atop a building across the square and watched as the policemen swarmed through the park, searching for the source of the gunfire that had been reported in the area, but all they found was the dead thug, quickly identified as Lenny Bolowitz, a wanna-be gangster and a thorn in the local police department’s side. Arrested multiple times, he always seemed to beat the charges somehow and end up back on the street again. He had worked his way up from simple theft to armed robbery, and the boys in blue were certain that it wouldn’t have been long before the expected dead body or three had begun to surface somewhere in the precinct.

     Roland glanced across the park to the old brownstone, the stone façade lit up by the rainbow splashes of spinning light from the police cars that sat out in front of it, the officers inside taking a statement from Tess, he was certain… Mike having dropped everything to be by her side after hearing about what had happened…but what could she tell them? That her son had come from decades in the future to protect her… to draw her and Mike back together so that he possibly might have a warm and “normal” upbringing instead of the abusive and neglected one that had brought him to this point, alone and fleeing from the authorities in his own time? Not hardly…

     He felt the sudden disruption in the night air behind him, and knew that “they” would be close behind… stepping off the edge of the roof before him, he triggered yet another rift in the envelope of time that sped around him and fell into it…1963 sounded good, say late November… maybe he would spend some time on that knoll down near Dealey Plaza in Dallas. “Just long enough to maybe save a dead President.”

     The past holds no fear for a man with no future…


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