The Flash: From the Ashes, Chapter 1: The Morning After

by Hitman 44077

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Central City was unusually bright for a cold December morning. For most citizens on this day, there was a general sense of relief as the news of Firefist’s capture made its way through the media outlets in the city. That and the fact that the holiday season was in full swing only added to the optimism of the city.

Wally West had just left his friend Darryl Frye at the Central City Memorial Hospital and decided to walk at normal speed back to his home at the Kingsley Apartments. The hospital wasn’t that far from where he lived, and he felt the cold air would help keep him awake after the previous night’s adventures.

I’m glad that’s over, he thought as the images of Firefist and his crimes raced through his head. Byrnes, Mota, who else — just motivated by a twisted sense of revenge. As relieved that I am that Mick Rory wasn’t Firefist, I have to wonder how much of Byrnes’ story about Mick was true. It might explain certain things, like his fear of the cold, but would Mick be someone who would kill in retaliation of someone who killed a loved one?

Wally paused in thought, troubled by the unpleasant reality that there were many in this world who would and could do such a thing. He also remembered his own tragedies as Kid Flash and events that had shaped him. I — I guess so. God knows I wanted to kill Clive Yorkin when we believed he’d been the one responsible for the murder of Aunt Iris. (*)

[(*) Editor’s note: See “Freakout,” The Flash #276 (August, 1979).]

Continuing to walk, Wally hardly noticed the city’s business day unfolding before him and the Christmas shoppers who were already on the hunt for the latest sales. There’s no easy answer, he thought reluctantly. I wish there was.

Wally stopped at a newspaper stand, bought a paper, and read it at super-speed while continuing to walk at a normal human speed. One particular item stood out, even as he folded the paper back up, finished with it, and tucked it under his right arm. Good. It looks like Richard Laughlin lost another appeal in court, he thought.

Richard Laughlin was a criminal whom Wally West had brought to justice as the Flash when he first moved to Central City a little over two years earlier, shortly after the Crisis on Infinite Earths. His was a twisted mind, cold and calculating, who made Ted Bundy look like a Boy Scout. What he did to his victims was indescribable. Yet he’d gotten away with his crimes for months, possibly even years, by moving from state to state and had arrived in Central City shortly after the end of the Flash’s trial. After Wally captured him, Laughlin had been found guilty in a court of law and received the death penalty. But he’d been filing appeals while living on death row, of which all had been denied, moving him one step closer to the electric chair.

I can’t see him ever having his sentence being overturned to life in prison. He’d be a danger to the guards and other inmates, Wally thought bitterly as he briefly remembered what he’d witnessed while stopping Laughlin. He felt a chill that was colder than any winter day and tried to shrug it off, but it was evident that this was something that, while he didn’t think of everyday, was one thing that haunted him, even after more than two years had passed. I used to be against the death penalty when I was younger and had a lot of different feelings about government. Things change when you grow up and see things as they really are. Neither one is totally right or wrong, though Ollie and Hank would try to convince me otherwise for each side that they believe in.

Wally arrived at Kingsley Apartments, let himself in the building, and proceeded to walk to his apartment. I know I’m always on call as the Flash, but right now, I’m beat, he thought as he stopped in front of his apartment door and unlocked it. Inside, he took his coat off and placed the newspaper on his coffee table. He was about to walk to his bedroom when he heard the phone ring. I wonder who’d be calling this early, he thought as he walked toward the phone and picked it up. “Hello?” Wally said upon answering.

“Hey, Wally!” a cheerful voice replied that Wally recognized as his girlfriend, Frances Kane.

“What’s up, Fran?” Wally said, pleasantly surprised.

“Looks like you did all right last night. I saw that you captured Firefist!” Fran said, very pleased.

“You could say that, and he’s in jail as we speak. You’ll be glad to know that I was right about Firefist — and that Mick Rory’s an innocent man,” Wally said proudly.

“Oh, Wally, that’s great news!” Fran said, relieved that the nightmare was over and that Mick Rory wasn’t Firefist. “Has there been any sign of Mick now that this guy’s in prison?”

“Unfortunately, no,” Wally admitted slowly. “Still nothing on that front — no info or anything. Who knows? Maybe with all that happened the last few months, he might have gone into hiding just to keep clean and not get dragged into all that’s happened with Firefist. Or maybe it’s something else entirely. (*) I just hope he turns up soon.”

[(*) Editor’s note: For Mick Rory’s current whereabouts, see Batman: Something to Be Thankful For, Chapter 2: The Best Man.]

“I’m sorry to hear that,” Fran said slowly before turning the conversation back to when she’d last seen her boyfriend. “I take it that after we parted ways is when things hit the fan?”

“Yeah, that’s one way of putting it,” Wally said with a cynical chuckle, not directed at Fran but rather what transpired after placing Team Turmoil into police custody the previous night. “Did you know that maniac tried to destroy not only Central City’s United Fuel Industries Oil Refinery, but also each and every Fire Department Station in the city?”

“Oh, my God!” Fran said, shocked.

“Firefist had some new tricks up his sleeve, all in his efforts to both destroy this city and Mick Rory’s life. But it’s over now,” Wally said solemnly. “He’s got a lot to answer for, and believe me, he will.”

“That’s messed up. What’s wrong with people?” Fran asked, disgusted.

“I’ve got no idea, Fran. But with the police and people like us, at least we can protect the innocent and do what we can to stop the individuals who seek nothing but pure evil. We do what we can, and we always will,” Wally said confidently.

“You’re right. I guess I’ve still got a lot to learn when it comes to that line of work,” Fran said, referring to her costumed identity of Polara. “Still, there’s a lot of craziness out there. It’s almost overwhelming.”

“It gets easier after a few years, I think,” Wally said jokingly, which caused Fran to softly chuckle as well.

“I suppose it does. Look, I’m heading out of town today to Fallville. I have a seminar I need to attend for my social worker duties, and it looks like it’s going to take all day. But maybe we could get together for pizza tonight,” Fran said pleasantly.

“That sounds good,” Wally answered. “Your place or mine?”

“It doesn’t matter,” Fran said with a laugh.

“Good. I’ll surprise you!” Wally exclaimed. “I hear Hawaii makes a good pie, and it’s a nice change from the cold that we’re seeing right now. As long as you don’t mind the scarlet speedways, of course.”

“I’d love it,” Fran said lovingly. “I’ll call you tonight. Love you.”

“Love you too, Fran,” Wally said as he hung up the phone. Nothing like hearing from the woman you love to brighten up matters. It helps put my previous thoughts in perspective, he thought as the phone rang again. It can’t be Fran again this quick, Wally thought as he picked the phone back up and said, “Hello?”

“Wally?” a frantic female voice replied over the phone. He recognized it as CCPD police scientist Patty Spivot.

“Patty?” Wally answered with concern. “What’s wrong?”

“It’s Angie, Wally,” Patty answered. “She’s been arrested.”

“What? Why?!” Wally said in shock.

“Believe it or not, domestic violence,” Patty said in disgust.

Wally had suspected something was wrong when he saw Angela Margolin in Central City Memorial Hospital’s emergency room on Thanksgiving Day, her hand in a cast and slight bruising on her face. He’d even hinted at it to Angie, who seemed a little unnerved that day. “Look, Patty, are you at home or work?”

“I’m still at my house with John Flint,” Patty said, frazzled.

“I’m on my way,” Wally said sternly, not angry at Patty, but rather at what he suspected was more than just Angela acting out at her estranged husband Paul. With a quick hang-up of the phone, Wally — who decided not to don his scarlet and gold costume of the Flash — raced to the Spivot house to get to the bottom of what had happened the night before.

Wally arrived at Patty’s home even as she was preparing to hang up her phone. A quick knock on the door alerted her that she had company, and she let the twenty-something man inside her house.

“I’m glad you’re here,” Patty said with relief. “Maybe I overreacted, but it’s time to come clean about this.”

“Anytime, Patty,” Wally said with concern before noticing John Flint inside the home as well. “John?” Wally asked, puzzled that he was at the Spivot home. “Patty called you, too?”

John Flint felt a sense of guilt as he answered Wally. “No. Unfortunately, I was called upon to… make the arrest. In light of the arsons, we’ve been putting in all sorts of hours. And with the loss of more officers last night, we’re likely to remain busy for some time. That said, I’m glad that maniac’s behind bars. Despite our differences, Ed Hobart didn’t deserve to die like that, either.”

Wally took a breath, shook his head slowly, then spoke again. “Firefist definitely had an agenda, and I’m sorry that good people died in his sick scheme. That ended last night, and, unfortunately, this began — a friend like Angela Margolin in prison.” Wally paused, then continued speaking again, more seriously. “Something’s been going down with Angie since Thanksgiving. Now, it’s not my business to pry into one’s life, unless there’s something serious that needs to be dealt with. I did ask her that day in the emergency room if something had been happening to her. You see, she gave me a story I didn’t quite believe about an accident. I even asked you, Patty, if you might know something. I’m not passing judgement by any means, but if this domestic violence charge is connected to what I’m suspecting, then yes, I do need to know everything.”

Patty paused, caught in a position that wasn’t easy to explain. She’d sworn a promise to her friend that she’d remain silent about the problems with her marriage — problems that only seemed to slowly escalate into something dangerous. But what choice did she have? Should she remain true to her friend’s trust as her friend’s life was being attacked at all sides, privately and even now within public scrutiny? She had to do what was right, even if Angie would be angry at her.

“The truth is this, Wally,” Patty slowly began. “The troubles between Angie and Paul Margolin were there well before Thangsgiving.”

From there, Wally West and John Flint listened to Patty Spivot as she revealed everything she knew about the stormy relationship between the Margolins. How love blossomed in high school where they met. How their love for one another led to a courtship that eventually involved marriage. How both pulled duties as police officers in different cities — Paul in Central City as a beat cop, Angie in nearby Fallville as an assistant police scientist — even as they tried to start a family. How Paul moved up in the ranks to make detective, and his slow change of attitude that went along with it. How Angie’s duties increased as well, becoming Fallville’s head police scientist. How Paul and Angie wanted children. How a scarred fallopian tube hindered their efforts. How disappointed, then angry that the woman he loved had trouble conceiving a child. How she tried to grow closer to her husband by taking a job as a police scientist in Central City, a move that further angered Paul. How subsequent arguments had her threatening divorce, and how Paul talked her out of it by promising to help make things work. How Angie continued to believe him, only to be hurt again by hateful words. How Paul treated her like garbage, but refused to let go of her, as if by having control of her would show everyone just who was the boss in their family. How that eventually escalated into physical violence, with a broken wrist and slight bruises on her face on Thanksgiving Day. How it only grew worse the last few weeks, both physically and mentally. And finally, the events of the previous night, where, after another physical assault by her husband, Angie arrived at work, only to be confronted by Paul, who wanted to continue where he left off.

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