Arm linked with the Prophet Kid, Val escorted him to where Eddy waited in a parked car behind the warehouse. Val opened the back door and nudged the kid inside.
“Eddy, meet the Prophet Kid. Prophet Kid, Eddy.”
Eddy Capello was a big, barrel-chested man who’d worked for Val’s family since before she’d been born. Despite having sat in the comfy air-conditioning all this time, he’d taken off his suit jacket and rolled up his sleeves, revealing a huge tattoo of a skull on his forearm. (Val had always thought it was tacky but didn’t have the heart to tell him.) Oh, and without his jacket, you could see his shoulder holster with two Brownings. That was probably more noticeable than the tattoo.
“Hey, Kid,” he said, putting the car into drive.
“My name is Jean-Baptiste Dupree,” the kid muttered.
“You sure you’d rather go by that?” Val asked. “It’s kind of a mouthful. And that’s coming from Valentina Mariangela Belmonte.”
“Can you believe this kid, Eddy?” Val asked. “The Black Valentine breaks him out of police custody—something that I’m sure is the start of a fantasy for lots of teenage boys—and all he can say is ‘whatever.’ Not even a thank you.”
“Kids these days.” Eddy shook his head as he drove five miles under the speed limit. “No manners at all.”
Val watched the Prophet Kid’s reaction. He was slouched over and scowling, ignoring their banter. Oh, well. She would have preferred a thank you and a profession of undying devotion, but she didn’t strictly need it. This was a job, after all.
“So do you really go by Jean-Baptiste, or do you have a nickname?” she asked.
He didn’t answer, so she read his mind.
“JB, huh? I like that better.”
“Only my friends call me that.”
“And we’re not friends? After I risked life and limb to keep you out of prison? JB, I’m hurt.”
“Did you ever think that maybe I didn’t want to get broken out?”
Val read his mind to see if he was telling the truth. He was. Weird. And he was thinking it was pointless to tell her, because she’d have broken him out no matter what he wanted, which was also true. The inside of his head was all angst and melancholy and thoughts of his family. Val blocked it out before she got depressed.
“Well, that sucks,” she said.
Again, he didn’t answer. Val got bored of the non-conversation and turned her attention to Eddy. “Any trouble while I was out?”
She sighed. “Anything interesting on the police scanner at all?”
“Somebody got arrested for public indecency about five minutes ago.”
“Well, at least someone out there is having fun.”
JB jerked up straight. “No. Don’t!”
His panic crashed into Val’s mind, making her breath catch. She whipped her head left and right, looking for danger, but saw nothing. “What’s—”
“It’s a terrible idea.” JB’s voice turned pleading. “You don’t know them. They don’t need a reason to kill somebody. They do it for fun.”
Val went back inside his head to figure out what the heck he was talking about, but his thoughts didn’t make any sense. Something about Eddy’s police scanner. And the Monstro Gang holding everyone in the courthouse hostage? His mind was disorienting, to say the least. Most people thought in images, and not having that visual anchor would have given Val trouble even if JB’s thoughts were clearer.
He was sitting in the car, but his mind had gone somewhere else. There was the feel of someone’s hand on his upper arm—her hand? Yes, that was the smell of her perfume. His dress shoes squeaked against a smooth floor as he walked. The inside of the courthouse. “Welcome back, Kid,” said a male voice he knew too well. The Monstro Gang.
“Oh,” said Val. “Did you just have a vision of the future? That’s pretty cool.”
“Please don’t bring me there,” JB said. “You don’t have to do this. You’ve already got me. Just bring me to your boss like you planned.”
“My boss? Ha. He wishes I worked for him.”
Eddy stopped the car at a traffic light. “You’re bringing him somewhere? I’m feeling a little left out here. Want to fill me in?”
His police scanner crackled to life. “All units to the Judicial Center. Reports of multiple armed gunmen. I repeat—”
“The Prophet Kid just had a vision.” Val clapped the kid on the shoulder. “Apparently, his old buddies in the Monstro Gang want him back. They’ve got hostages in the courthouse they’ll kill if the police don’t hand him over.”
“They’re not my buddies,” JB grumbled at the same time Eddy said, “Sounds like some people are about to have a bad day.”
Val gazed out the window. “Yeah, it’s awfully bad timing, isn’t it?”
“You think he sent them?” Eddy asked.
“I don’t think it’s a coincidence,” Val answered. “It sounds more like a test. I beat the Monstro Gang, and I pass.”
“But you already beat them,” JB said. “You got me before they even started playing the game. So take your winnings and go.”
“Did you just refer to yourself as winnings?” Val smirked. “I dunno, Kid. I think the ‘boss’ wants to see me fight the Monstro Gang, not knock out a couple of underpaid cops.”
“So what?” Eddy looked at Val through the rear-view mirror. “You’re going to give the kid to the Monstros and then take him back all over again? That’s a stupidly needless risk.”
“It’ll be fun, though.”
“Not if you get shot.”
“I won’t get shot, then.”
She leaned forward and kissed his stubbly cheek. “You worry too much, old man.”
“I worry a reasonable amount. You don’t worry enough.”
Val leaned back. “I’ll be fine.”
“Please don’t do this,” JB said.
“The confidence in this car is overwhelming,” Val said. “Really, it’s flattering how much faith you two have in me.”
“I don’t want to go back to them.” JB’s voice cracked, and Val, well, she wasn’t made of stone.
“You won’t,” she said softly. “At least, not for long. You’re running with the Black Valentine now. I’ll take care of you, I promise.”
JB slouched further down in his seat and muttered, “Yeah, right.”
So yeah, past Val is significantly less cautious than the Val we see in Hero Status and Villainous. I’m sure this won’t come back to bite her at all. Also, poor JB needs a hug.
The next update will be on Monday, July 18th.