Hank stared back.
“You took my boy from me,” Mr. Hess said. His voice quavered with emotion and with the effort the stroke forced him to put into every word. “And I want to see you burn in hell for it,” he said. He looked down at the floor for a long moment. He turned to look at Mr. Sturgess, at Sarah and Jimmy sitting behind the defendant’s desk, and at the judge before turning back to Hank. “But that’s not what Bobby would want. He loved you. He adored you. He’d say ‘Dad, look how this guy is helping you clean up this city. Look at how he helps people feel safe. Look at how he makes a difference. He’s like you, Dad, except with a cape.’
“Bobby was one of the greatest people I’ve ever known. His capacity for finding the good in everyone was unparalleled, and he made his father proud.
“You violated his trust. Put him in situations he was ill equipped to handle or understand. You failed him. Your hubris cost us both our children. But as much as I’d like to nail you to the wall for it, I know Bobby would have taken a different tack. It’s for his memory that I do this, for his sake, not for you or even for your family, but for Bobby, my precious, precious boy.”
Mr. Hess turned to the judge. “Your Honor,” he said, “I’d like to withdraw my case.”
The judge frowned. “If that’s what you want,” he said. “If there’s no further absurdity, this court is adjourned.” He banged the gavel.
Mr. Hess shuffled out the door. Hank looked down at the railing in front of him. On the railing where Mr. Hess had rested his hand lay an old, beaten action figure with a scuffed V on its chest. Hank picked up the figure and stared at it, his hand trembling.
He clenched his fist then flung the figure at the ground. He stamped out into the hallway. “Stop,” he shouted at Mr. Hess.
“We are done, Mr. Wipple,” Mr. Hess said without turning toward him. “Go your way.”
“No,” Hank yelled.
People milling around the hallway gasped as Hank pulled out his grappling gun and pointed it at Mr. Hess. Two police officers among the crowd pulled out their weapons. “Stand down, Mr. Wipple,” one said loudly.
“No,” Hank said, ignoring the officer. “You can’t let me off. You can’t forgive. Bobby deserved more. Bobby deserved better.”
Mr. Hess turned to face Hank. “What good will this do, Mr. Wipple?”
“Stand down,” the police officer said again.
“How can you make his life so cheap?” Hank asked. “All he wanted to do was be a hero.” The grappling gun shook in Hank’s hand. “How can you just forgive me? I’ve lost too much for you to forgive me.”
“Mr. Wipple, how will this—” Mr. Hess began.
“Kick me. Punch me. Beat me,” Hank shouted. “Take my house. Take my life. Require something for the debt I owe. Take something, take anything, but don’t forgive… Anything but forgive.”
Mr. Hess looked at Hank. “You may have born the name, but you were never valiant.”
Hank smiled through wet eyes. “You’re right.” With shaking hands he turned the grappling gun on himself and pulled the trigger.