Sidekick | Part 8
Walking back into the apartment, the realization hits that it might be better to show than to tell. A quick trip back down the elevator shaft and an immediate turn to the left reveals a wall of text, framed headlines and stories from newspapers across the years. There are plenty to pull from.
“Spandex-Clad Man Saves Family,” from the Polk Daily Post on April 12, 1979. “Polk Has a Full-Time Hero,” from The Madison County Update on June 21, 1982. “A City Safer than Ever Under One Man’s Watch,” from the Chicago Tribune, who developed a friendly fascination with on March 2, 1986. “Sleep Well at Night? Thank Paragon,” accompanied by a side panel article titled, “Police Chief ‘Sickened’ by Dept. Budget Cuts” from The Daily Polk on August 4, 1995. His influence got large enough to travel overseas, landing him as a feature in the New Scientist article “The Morality of Man,” a long form examination how genetics influence behavior. That piece from 1999 gave him one last major wave of positivity and public support that cumulated in the New York Times‘s October 3, 2000 piece, “Mayor Honors Long-Time Hero, Declares April 12 ‘Paragon Day’,” which took precedent over the secondary headline, “Ceremony Goes Smoothly Despite Continued Police Protests.” Hundreds of examples could be pulled from the pieces of gray paper and preserved print, but the wall was pretty scarce after the Paragon Day announcement.
That doesn’t mean he didn’t still make headlines. Quite the contrary, he had been in the news more than ever. There was a stack of papers that sat near the far end of the memorial that contained plenty of stories about him. Most of them weren’t quite as positive as those displayed so prominently on the wall. The dedication wasn’t Paragon’s doing, he isn’t so caught up in himself to honor his own actions in such a way. The framing was my idea, just a reminder for him that what he did mattered–if not now, at one point.
There were a share of dissenters that opposed the rise of Paragon Man throughout his rise. During the eighties, a handful of people from various organizations rose up to speak out against him. The underground press of the area ran regular condemnations of his actions, including the Pride of Polk‘s monthly feature “Para-gone Mad with Power” which recounted every arrest they deemed invalid that occurred over the past thirty days. It ran for 58 consecutive months, finally ending with a “Best (or Worst) of” recap and a small run of a book that featured editorials about Paragon the paper also produced during that time. Those also remain buried in the stack.
The 2000′s have been weird for Paragon. Certain types of crime remain on the rise: Drug use, theft, underage drinking. The odd thing for Paragon though is that when he stops those crimes he’s chastised, berated by pro-marijuana activists, web torrent providers and users, people in favor of a lowered drinking age. The people that once held Paragon up as a beacon of morality–”the only crime deterrent that a city would ever need,” in Mayor Simmons’ own words–had now deemed him to be the enforcer of an outdated rulebook, a hero that has existed for decades but failed to evolve with the times. Despite the lack of public support–the latest support poll revealed only 27% of citizens in the area believe his service is more beneficial than harmful–he remains the driving force of the Polk Crime Fighting Initiative.
The CFI was created as what the city calls a “more centralized effort to curb the causes and minimize the effects of criminal activity. It really was a more public relation-friendly way of nearly completely cutting the police force in favor of staffing Paragon and a bare bones call center and crime lab. It also set aside a minimal budget for doling out excess work–basically the menial tasks like enforcing parking tickets and bringing out people with outstanding warrants. Over the last few years these jobs have expanded in more meaningful work, including the initial investigative efforts and immediate response team.
This is less to do with thinking Paragon needs help; he doesn’t. In fact, he occasionally intercepts calls for work that he could easily handle and takes care of it himself. It has everything to do with the city not wanting to expose Paragon to higher profile cases or put him in a position where he’ll be exposed to the public. They realize his presence at crime scenes often isn’t welcomed by onlookers, so they’ll send someone like me to commence the case and allow Paragon to close it. While the city might not want him to show his face, no one fears it more than a criminal on the lamb.