It wasn’t everyone who could wear a trenchcoat and fedora in the waning nights of the twentieth century, but that was the Black Mask for you. It helped that he had haunted Los Angeles since before the talkies were a glimmer in Al Jolson’s eye, but that was only part of his mystique. The Black Mask knew everything, about everyone. He kept files on generations of city governments, whispered in the ears of industrialists and studio chiefs, came and went from police headquarters like a wraith. There were almost no photos, few recordings of the gravelly voice behind the black facecloth — the sound of oil and broken glass, one unauthorized biographer had called it — but everyone knew he was there. The crimes no one could solve, the powerful men no one could touch, the shadows no one could penetrate … they melted away before him like morning fog. Maybe he had powers, maybe he didn’t; it never mattered.
When capes and tights sprouted around him like weeds and the heroes went from front-page news to scandal-sheet trash, he stuck to the trenchcoat and the shadows and the truth. Even the most devout powers snobs steered clear of him, never questioned his right to exist. In other cities, they were metas and superheroes and mysterymen and capes; here they were masks, and could be nothing else. The girl took advantage of that. Ten years after the mysterious explosion that took his life, his hideout was still drawing free electricity from the grid, and no cop in the city would risk pulling over a black Indian with his plates. Just in case. Just in case.
Trevor remembered when he wanted to be the Black Mask someday.