There’s a quietness that exists when the world is calm and still. There are also different worlds that evolve between the daytime and the night. When most of us are fairly young, we tend to be more of a night owl than we are as we age. There lies a mystique about the night. It can be intoxicating, serene, mysterious, dangerous, and mystifying all wrapped up in a nice little bow. I’ve often heard various stories of the nighthawk but I never truly grasped it’s concept until I was about the age of 21. I’m almost 50 now so that should give you an adequate time frame. The nighthawk resonated with me because of the story of Shadow cat. That means nothing to most of you. Shadow cat can be one of several things. It can be taken as a literal interpretation or it can be a symbol of something else. For me, the Shadow cat and Nighthawk legends are a part of my soul. Here is their story.
Shadow Cat – according to the legend, was a black panther that had the ability to transform into a human during the day and a black cat at night. His senses were so tuned in to his surroundings that his diet consisted of poultry and seafood. He canvased his domain at night lurking in dark shadows, waiting to strike at those who were corrupt and aimed to do people harm. During the daytime, he would transform into a advocate for the innocent. Apparently, he had been on a quest to avenge the death of his family. They were murdered by treasure hunters who thought that they possessed a rare painting worth millions of dollars. Of course, why would any family hold on to a painting worth that much when they can barely afford rent, much less food to put on the table. Shadow Cat’s name in the world when he was human was Carter. His twin sister Catherine had been brutally stabbed by the treasure hunters and raped while Carter was at work. His former profession had been that of an attorney. Carter came home after a grueling day at work, where one of his clients who was completely innocent of a crime, was convicted for a 25 year sentence. His client was accused of raping a young girl. The ironic thing was that the young girl he was accused of raping had many gentleman callers that her parents arranged for her. “Lock him up” was the chant from the courtroom. After much deliberation and coercion, the judge complied. Even though there was enough evidence to overturn the sentence, the system let this young man down. Carter walked in the door of his parents home. He was hoping to enjoy a nice evening with them and wind down from a grueling day. It was then that he discovered the horror awaiting him.
He came into the living room and hung his coat on the rack. He called for his family and no one answered. He found Catherine’s purse on the couch and thought that Catherine must be out back. That’s when he found his family, murdered in the next room. Carter immediately checked for pulses and found no survivors. He called for help by calling 911 and had the local police close off the crime scene. He was desperate to find out who would do something like this. He begged the officers to let him help with the investigation. He was vehemently told that he was too close to the case and needed to be away from the case as much as possible. The intellectual part of his brain knew this but his heart was not easily convinced. He went outside, and called his friends. Little did he know that his story was just beginning.
His friend Alex came over and just listened while Carter sobbed. Alex was a unique soul. He lived life with a lot of religious fervor and truly believed that life was all about doing God’s work. Carter wasn’t so sure. After all, why would God allow his family to be brutally murdered? Alex decided to take him for a drink to let him have time to talk over a little bit of spirits. When they got to the club, they sat in a dark booth, allowing them to be able to talk about the things they knew. Alex asked him to recall what had transpired earlier. As Carter recapped the evening, everything was so cloudy. It was like a part of him had died along with his family and he had no recollection of anything. About an hour after they had been drinking, Carter told Alex he would be right back. He wanted to step outside to get some air because the club was filled with bodies that were dancing to various songs, and people who were all up on each other before they would go back to their own homes for some late night action. Carter walked out the door and started crying. He only took a few steps away from the door before he saw a figure in the alley. He thought this was strange because the figure was illuminated. There was a ton of smoke surrounding the figure and what appeared to be the tail of a cat protruded from the back of the figure. Curious, Carter walked towards this figure. He was determined to see if he was hallucinating or if he was seeing this correctly. Time seemed to stand still as if he were entranced by a force that was supernatural. As he walked forth, he noticed that everything around him became deathly silent. He could no longer hear the music. He only heard the wind whishing against his face. He felt a chill that was so deadly that for a moment he thought he was dead only he was very much alive. He called out to the figure. He asked who was there and the next thing he knew, something pounded against his head and he fell to the ground. He laid there for what seemed like hours and yet it was only a few minutes. What he didn’t know was that the soul of the Nighthawk was about to give him a gift unbeknownst to humans.
When Carter came to, he felt strange. He had the senses of a cat. He could hear very well, his eyes were sharp in the night, and the smells that encompassed his senses were astute. He had an extra sense about him that he couldn’t explain. When he started to speak all he heard was a “meow”. Carter thought it was strange because Carter didn’t meow. He was a human and humans only meowed to their cats. He started to walk through the alleyway only he realized that he wasn’t on two legs. He now had four and he didn’t see his shadow along the alleyway. What he saw shook him to his core. He saw the image of the black panther. He jumped back because he had the memories of his human form but couldn’t act as a human. He remembered the events of the evening and had no clue how he was ending up as a cat. And not just any cat. A panther. One that most people fear. Carter realized that as a panther, no one would recognize him so he went to the precinct.
At the precinct was a young rookie that Carter had mentored. His sister had also been friends with this rookie. Her name was Leigh. She was in her first year and had gotten involved with law because of her brother who was one of the wrongfully convicted felons. She couldn’t afford law school so she chose to become a cop and become the inside ears for those whom society had condemned. It was through the actions that her brother faced, that she saw the value in what she was achieving. Leigh was short in stature but big in presence. She had a trim waistline but voluptuous curves. She loved sports and fit in well with the men but she loved to dance and she especially loved to research. She was just getting off duty when she saw the panther. She froze. After all, panthers were not in big cities. She was about to call animal control when another cop saw Carter and started to shoot. Fortunately, Carter was able to evade the bullets because his senses saw the bullet coming before it was fired. Carter decided to find a way to hide. He ran about five blocks before he felt safe. It was much faster traveling on four paws than two legs and he decided that he might as well make good use of his new body. As he found his way into an abandoned building through a broken window, Carter smelled what appeared to be a fire. As a human, he would have run through the building trying to find any victims but as a panther, he had to make a few adjustments. He couldn’t talk in a language humans could understand but he could do his best to see if anyone was in the building. As he hurried through each floor, his silhouette was apparent every time he went up a stairwell. Leigh, who had been searching for the panther, saw the silhouette and ran into the building. When Carter reached the 6th floor, he heard a young girl crying out for help. He knew that he had very little time to help her. By the time he got to the room she was in, the girl was knocked unconscious. Carter leapt quickly and made it to her just before the flames consumed the room. He grabbed hold of her pants with his teeth and drug her to the doorway where Leigh had just arrived. Leigh recognized the panther was trying to help. She scooped the little girl up who couldn’t have been more than six and proceeded down the stairwell quickly. Carter was with them as they descended. Every step was dangerous and they had moments before the floors were going to collapse. They made it outside just in the nick of time before the building exploded in flames.
As they were outside, Leigh reached for Carter. She was no longer afraid of this creature. She was grateful for the sacrifice the panther had made. As she reached for Carter, he ran from her. Not because he didn’t want to feel her touch but because he was now a panther. He didn’t understand what had happened to him and if he couldn’t understand, how could anyone else possibly understand? Carter ran until he was exhausted. He made it to a forest located just outside the city. He decided to find a place to get a little rest. As he slept, something strange happened. A nighthawk appeared. The nighthawk revealed what had transpired and how the metamorphisis occurred. The nighthawk transformed into Catherine. Carter’s eyes were wet and Catherine beckoned him to listen for time was short. She would only be the nighthawk for one night. You see, a full moon was out that night and it wasn’t an ordinary full moon. It was a blood moon. The blood moon had the power to change certain people and those people would forever remain this way unless they broke the spell. The spell was finding a way to reverse time. And in order to reverse time, they had to bring a killer to justice without exposing their true selves.
Eventually Carter woke up. As he woke, he came to a disturbing realization. He was back in human form. Carter figured he was having a really bad trip. He didn’t do drugs but he was convinced that someone had slipped him some Molly or some kind of hallucinagen because this was crazy. He couldn’t have turned into a panther overnight when he was in human form in the daytime, could he? Carter made his way back towards the city. He found a phone and managed to call Alex who was a little irate with him for leaving him in the club with no explanation. Carter asked Alex to meet him at the local coffee shop. He told Alex the story of what he believed had happened. Alex thought he had lost it. Alex said someone must have hit him and he imagined the whole thing. This defied every type of logic and rationale that Alex had ever known.
Carter agreed and made his way back to the office. He had a strange message on his machine. The message stated that a man had been found with the frame of the painting that was found in his parents home but the painting was gone. Carter became excited. He wanted to submit the information to the police and let them dust for prints. Anything that could help find the people who had done this, Carter wanted to make them pay for taking his family’s lives. According to the legend, the perpetrator will be found but only when the moon changes from blood red to a full moon with three circles around it. Each of those circles represent another transformation.
The day seemed to fly by and Carter was bound and determined to get some answers. He asked to speak to the lead detective on the case by the name of Marcus. Marcus told him that they had dusted the crime scene and were waiting on the results from the lab. He called to find out if they had found any prints that didn’t belong to the family. They did. One of the prints belonged to one of Catherine’s best friends – Samantha Willingham. Samantha was out of the country supposedly on an internship with a touring company based out of Greece. Carter figured that Samantha must have touched the painting when Cathering may have shown it to her. Marcus said it was a possibility but he couldn’t assume anything. Carter found Samantha’s phone number and called her. There was a time difference and he woke her from a very restful slumber but he didn’t care. He figured he’d have to tell her about Catherine anyway. When he finally connected with her, she was shocked when he told her about the murders. She told him that Catherine had indeed shown her the painting because she knew that Samantha was brilliant at finding forgeries and wanted to ensure that the painting was indeed real. Samantha told Carter that the only person who could have known about the painting and where it was located was the priest that Carter’s family confided in. Carter didn’t want to believe that a priest would be involved in any type of murder but he let the authorities know what he found out.
A full scale investigation started taking place. That night, Carter laid down to get a little sleep. About an hour passed. Carter then transformed once again into the panther. Every night he transformed after eleven pm. And every morning he transformed into his human form at 6:00 am. This went on for months. The longer the investigation took the more Carter felt that this was never going to be resolved. One day, Carter was heading to the bank. His transformations were making it impossible to get good rest. The local teller, Brittany, was a huge flirt and she tried to flirt with Carter but couldn’t get anywhere. Alex came into the bank just as Carter was trying to make a deposit. Alex noticed his friend was exhausted and offered him a place to crash. He thought that Carter was just worn out after losing his entire family. Carter took him up on the offer. When he finally fell asleep, it was after four pm but when the 11:00 hour hit, the tranformation occurred. Imagine Alex’s surprise to see his friend literally transform before his eyes. There was an endless amount of disbelief going on in Alex’s mind. Carter sat in panther form across from his friend. Alex tried to talk to him and of course, Carter couldn’t say anything that Alex understood. It was Alex who figured out how to use this to their advantage.
Alex knew that he could trust Carter, even though he was in panther form because Carter made no attempt to hurt Alex. It was almost as if the two could telepathically communicate. Alex told Carter that they were going to find the killer and break the cycle of the transformation. Later that day Carter resumed his human form. They both got into Alex’s car and started retracing steps. They asked around the art world about the painting and if anyone had inquired about it over the last few months. They kept coming up empty until one of the galleries had a painting similar to the one they were seeking. Alex didn’t know much about paintings but Carter did. Carter could tell there was something off about the painting that was supposed to be so valuable. It had modern etchings in the painting and the painting was supposed have been done in the 1700’s. Televisions didn’t exist in the 1700’s and there was a tiny tv etched in the corner of the painting. It wasn’t easily spotted to someone untrained. Carter realized what got his family killed. It was the painting but not for the reasons that most people would kill for. This painting held the key to time travel. Now there was only one more problem. They had to find the stolen painting because it held the lock.
Another two months went by. Leigh was shopping at a yard sale and somehow spotted the missing painting in the owner’s window. When she inquired how the painting got there, she got a flippant response. She reported her findings to Marcus. He in turn sent a team to investigate the painting but by the time the police arrived, everything in the house had vanished including the painting. Perplexed, Marcus wondered how the hell the painting and everything else could vanish so easily. Fortunately, Carter was back in Panther mode. His eyes were accustomed to things that humans can’t easily see. What no one saw was that the house was still fully furnished but somehow the owner had managed to make everything appear invisible. Just like Star Trek managed to beam up their people, the house was able to make everything in the house particles that couldn’t be seen or felt. Carter saw it. He didn’t know how to communicate it to the police until the morning. Carter was fit to be tied. He really wanted to get the painting and break the cycle. He was too tired to sleep and he couldn’t transform easily without falling asleep. That’s when it hit him. He had to fall asleep. Carter fell asleep in the house. What Carter didn’t know was that the house had the ability to make him invisible as well. This is how Shadow Cat became born. The only way Carter could talk to his friends was in human form and even in human form, he had to find a way out of the invisible status. Carter left the house but remained invisible even when he transformed back into his human status. This is when he started leaving notes to Alex about what happened. Since Alex couldn’t see Carter, he had to rely on written messages in order to relay what he knew. Carter could talk to Alex in human form but being invisible was awesome and awful at the same time. Another few weeks went by. Then they got a break in the case.
Alex’s church was having a social event. Alex figured it would be a really good time to unwind. He hadn’t been attending services much since this who thing happened and he was really starting to question his faith. Alex asked his priest to listen to him. As Alex poured his heart out, his priest looked at him and said that maybe Alex needed to have an open mind. He suggested that Alex take a little time and regroup. When Alex thought his priest would think he was crazy, his priest reminded him that there are things in this world that are unexplainable. Alex thanked him, left the church and headed home. Two hours later, Alex was found on the side of the road. He had lost control of his vehicle and was in critical condition. Carter was waiting on Alex to return. He had a lot to tell him. He had been to a food bank and spoken with one of the volunteers. It turned out that one of the frequent participants had been bragging about helping to retrieve a painting a while back. Carter was ecstatic. He knew this was the break he was looking for. Carter kept trying Alex on the phone. There was no answer. Carter started to worry. This wasn’t like his friend and he knew he was hours away from transforming back into the panther for the night.
Carter started calling all the hospitals in the area. Sure enough, he found out that Alex had been admitted. He raced to the hospital trying to get to his friend. Just before he reached the hospital, someone appeared in the back seat. It was Alex. But how could he have gotten in the back seat unless he had died? He stopped the car and raced to open the door. He wanted to hug his friend but his friend wasn’t there. He was hallucinating again. Or at least that’s what he thought. He started to go back to the drivers side when he was whacked on the head.
When he came to, he had transformed into the panther. Alex was sitting at a campfire whittling his sticks with marshmellows. He couldn’t say anything in this mode but he wondered how Alex managed to be in multiple places at the same time. Since he was a panther, he wasn’t chained but something was different. Alex’s scent was different. He looked exactly the same but his scent had an aroma of fire. It wasn’t a human scent either. Carter wondered what was going on. He soon got his answer. Alex wasn’t Alex. He was Eddie. Eddie was the one person that Alex never knew. He was his twin. Alex had been adopted into a loving home while Eddie was living with monsters. Eddie had found Alex and plotted his revenge. He knew that Alex was in love with Catherine and because Catherine didn’t return Alex’s love, Eddie felt that she should die. The worst part was that when Eddie found Catherine, their parents were home and he couldn’t do one without covering his tracks. Eddie had enlisted his friend Fred to help him stage the robbery so that there wouldn’t be a question as to who had done it. They made sure their prints were no where to be found.
Eddie found the painting that was worth so much and figured that it would be worth a fortune so he could make it look like a robbery gone bad. It worked but he didn’t count on the supernatural forces that he unlocked. Eddie presented the painting to Carter not knowing that the painting held the key to fixing the transformation permanently. Carter scooted the other painting to Eddie and when Eddie held the paintings close together, something strange happened. A large flash of lightning struck where the two of them were. Carter was returned to his human form while Eddie was turned into a snake. Carter couldn’t resist a chance to rid the world of the snake who had taken his family. He found a sack and managed to get Eddie in the sack. He couldn’t wait to let Alex know that the killer was now in custody.
When Carter got to the hospital, he was stunned. Alex wasn’t there. The nurses said he vanished. Carter was confused. It was Eddie in the sack and Alex wasn’t around. What was going on? Carter went to Alex’s place and heard a very strange sound. A growl came behind him. When Carter turned around, he saw Alex was now the panther. During the switch, because Alex and Eddie were identical twins, the power was split down the middle. The panther equated the purity and goodness while the snake revealed the evil dweller inside. Because Carter had been the panther he understood what Alex would go through. It took years for Alex to adapt to his new body but when he gave up all hope, Leigh would be the one to reverse the fortune. But in order to reverse what had transpired, Leigh gave herself to the night and became the permanent Nighthawk. She watches now to ensure that the Shadow Cats are protected and that those who wonder what’s fantasy and reality are constantly challenged. Since the time couldn’t be reversed they wouldn’t be able to keep each other in human form. The only way to ensure justice was to transfer the types of power and expose them for their true selves. It seems our hearts know when to be the nighthawk and when the snakes are out.
The moral of the story is simple. Don’t assume that everyone is your friend. There are always going to be secrets that come out and always going to be folks who desguise themselves as innocent.