The Lion's Den
The Unconventional Adventures of a Morally Ambiguous Black Female Anti-Hero
“In other news, updates in the investigation on the heinous attempted kidnapping of the Mayor’s 11-year-old daughter. We now go live to Taylor Adams outside the mayor’s office for further details on the ongoing investigation.” The announcer nodded as the screen panned to a young reporter.
“Thanks Joan. Earlier this month, unknown assailants snatched the Mayor’s young daughter Ruby just two blocks away from her family’s downtown loft. These assailants later demanded a staggering $5 million ransom for the child’s safe return. However, before the money could be withdrawn, the masked vigilante the public is calling the ‘Titanium Diva’….” The reporter’s voiced trailed off as Ama focused her attention away from the TV screen.
Ugh, I hate that tacky name. They couldn’t think of anything less sexist than “diva"?? At least make it something fierce like the Titanium Terror. Or the Metallic Marauder. Now that’s a sexy name.
Ama breathed a sign of resigned annoyance, rolling her eyes as she continued adding the final touches to her sculpture:
“After extensive investigation, detectives at the Longwood City PD determined the kidnapping was likely perpetrated by members of the elusive domestic terrorist group known only as “The Lion’s Den”….” Ama’s eyes trailed to the slim black notebook sitting on her desk across the room. She put down the file in her hand and grabbed the remote for her new flat screen from across the table. She slowly cranked the volume up as the reporter continued:
“CCTV footage discovered earlier this morning confirms what appears to be three male assailants fleeing from what police believe to be the site where the young girl was being held for over 5 hours. More details to come as the investigation continues. This has been Taylor Adams for Channel 5 news….”
The voice abruptly cut off as Ama switched off the TV, the corner of her lips raised in a slight smile.
Three male assailants, huh. She pondered incredulously.
Good luck tracking those “men” down.
She quickly focused her attention back on her nearly completed black clay sculpture. On the workbench sat three black amorphous lioness figures poised to pounce on a small roughly shaped ruby.
Ama smiled to herself as her mind took her back to the events of last week.
She hated to admit it, but she loved every second of the encounter. The excitement. The danger. The feeling of having done something selfless. The adrenaline rush she felt as their deluge of bullets deflected off her hair. The look of confusion on the women’s faces as she emerged from the haze unharmed. The deliciously satisfying crunch of their bones as she knocked them each to the ground with a quick flick of her glistening metallic dreads.
And best of all, the look of relief on the girl’s face...
“Don’t be scared. I’m here to help.” Ama assured as she slowly removed the gag restricting the girl’s mouth.
“Titanium Diva?” Her voice was gravelly and raw from her hours in captivity.
“I’ve seen you on the internet.” The girl marveled at the long dreads cascading from Ama’s head as she gazed up in awe.
“That’s not my name...” Ama retorted “ but that’s what people call me.”
“Okay then, what is your name?” The girl countered.
“I haven’t decided. But I am taking suggestions if you have any.” Ama replied half-jokingly.
“What kind of superhero doesn’t know their own name?”
“I'm not a superhero. I'm just a lady with some metal dreads. Now, what’s your name?” Ama deflected.
She smirked as she loosened the last of the bonds from the small, trembling wrists. How the girl still had the energy to quip back after hours tied up in a van was a mystery to her. Ama’s brows knit in concern as she noticed the dark-red angry marks where the ties had dug into the delicate skin. It was clear she had been pulling at them in a futile attempt to escape.
“Ruby." She replied, wincing as she carefully rubbed her thumb over her abused left wrist.
There were definitive lines running down her face where tears had cut through the dirt smudged on her cheeks.
“Well Ruby, now that introduction's are out of the way….” Ama finally replied after a long pause. “We need to get out of here. Quick. Where do you live?”
“Downtown. The Elm building on West Ave.” Ruby stated nonchalantly.
The Elm? One unit’s rent in that place would pay off all my student debt! Ama gaped, trying hard not to betray any feelings of awe on her face.
She knew that building well. She’d read an article in the Longwood Times just last week about the Mayor moving into the recently completed luxury penthouse.
“Alright, I’ll take you home.”
“Home? Shouldn’t we go to the police?” Ruby questioned as she glanced warily at her kidnapper’s bodies lying on the asphalt ahead.
Ama shook her head. “I don’t do police. Maybe your parents can take you when we get you home. Can you stand?” She inquired gently, reaching a gloved hand out to the girl.
Ruby hesitated. She was obviously tired but the fire in her eyes burned bright as she glared doubtfully at Ama’s outstretched hand, seemingly weighing her options.
“Come on, I’ll carry you... unless you want to keep hanging out with them.” Ama said as she gestured coolly to the unconscious attackers.
Ruby took a deep breath before cautiously extending to accept the outreached hand. She rose shakily from the ground, wincing as she put her full weight on her bruised legs after hours tied up. Ama turned around, slouching down to offer her back so the girl could wrap her arms around her neck.
“What about them?” Ruby probed as she climbed onto Ama’s back.
“What about them?” Ama scoffed. “They aren’t important right now, you are.”
Just as Ama was about to rise and take off, the soft yellow light of a flickering streetlamp illuminated the bloodied, smoke-smudged face of one of the attackers. Taking a moment to study the figure, Ama noticed a thin, black, leather-bound notebook sticking out one of her left breast pocket. Normally, Ama wasn’t in the habit of checking bodies or leaving prints. But something about the concealment and placement of the book drew her to it. She tentatively strode closer, prodding the body with the tip of her steel-toed boot.
“Don’t touch them!” The girl cried out in Ama’s ear as she leaned closer.
“Don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.” She reassured.
She took a small step back as one of her long black dreads slowly extended from her head, turning to steel as she instinctively activated her powers. Pushing aside the zipper to get a closer look inside, she felt a compulsion to examine the notebook. She flipped open the book, noticing a large lion’s insignia branded into the leather of the front cover. She admired it closely before pocketing the notebook and quickly rummaging through the rest of the woman’s pockets.
Her eyebrows quickly shot up in disbelief as she pulled out two thick wads of cash, one stuffed into each front side pocket. Ama’s heart began to race as she noted the grim unsmiling face of Andrew Jackson staring back at her.
Now that should be Harriet Tubman’s face…
But Ama knew now was not the time to be contemplating which white oppressor’s face was going to be paying her bills this month.
Oooo, this will buy me at least 6 months’ worth of supplies.
As she slowly began flicking through the notes, her awe blossommed into delight as she remarked only the peripheral bills were 20's. The rest were all 100's.
Yes! My man Ben! This will get me name-brand supplies…. And studio space….and rent for 4 months…she almost broke out into a jig as she went through all the things she would finally be able to afford with this unexpected windfall.
“You know, stealing is wrong.” The little girl chided bringing Ama back to reality.
Dang, this girl is like the conscience I never had. Or wanted.
“Listen up my young friend…” Ama began in her most convincing matter-of-fact tone.
“There is no such thing as right or wrong in this world. Only justice and injustice. They stole you, so I’m stealing something much less valuable from them. Because you, my friend, are worth more than…”
She paused as she finished counting the final notes.
“Twenty thousand dollars.”
Ama could not read the expression from where the girl was perched on her back but she simply shook her head slightly and remained silent.
Without saying another word, Ama bent her knees and in one swift leap, they flew fifty feet up, soaring through the air before strategically landing on the rooftop of a nearby warehouse. The arms around Ama’s neck tightened as she took a running start into her next jump, launching them two blocks down the street and farther and farther away from the scene until they finally landed on atop a building facing the Elm.
This is definitely one-percenter territory. Ama thought as she scanned the towering building.
No wonder this girl was kidnapped! Her parents are probably as rich as the Mayor.
“We have arrived at our final destination. You may now take off your seatbelt and move freely about the cabin.” Ama teased as she slowly released the iron grip from around her neck.
“Wait! Don’t leave yet.” Ruby cried out. “You said you were taking me home, not home-adjacent.”
Despite the mock confidence and entitled tone in her voice, Ama could see the fear in the girl’s eyes as they darted across the streets below.
“Alright princess.” Ama answered with a mock sigh of fatigue. “I’ll take you to the door. Hop on.”
Making sure the girl was placed comfortably on her back, Ama took a running start and bounded across the street, landing with a ground-shaking thud just behind the Elm building. She squatted down to let the girl off, bending slowly to make sure she had steady footing.
Just as Ama turned to leave, the girl grabbed her wrist and pulled her into an embrace.
“Thank you.” She stated simply, taking a steadying deep breath before a long exhale. The weight of all she had endured that day carried in that simple gesture.
The girl barely reached her chest and was quivering as she tightened her grip around Ama’s waist. The realization of the trauma this child must have faced made Ama’s heart ache, but also made her proud of what she had just done. She saved a child’s life. For free…basically.
She peered down and saw the look of relief mixed with utter exhaustion settling onto the girl’s dirt-smudged face.
“You’re welcome…Ruby.” Ama replied as she cautiously returned the embrace.
“I was never here.” Ama muttered after a moment, unceremoniously detaching herself from the girl.
And with one final look at her, Ama turned and bolted down the alley before anyone else could spot her.