“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 4

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Dave sat cross-legged on the floor next to Moreen with the rest of the hostages. Muffled sobbing came from someone behind him, along with soothing whispers and a murmured Hail Mary. “Everything’s going to be okay,” Dave had told everyone when the gunmen had first corralled them. He fervently hoped he hadn’t lied.

Out of the six gunmen who’d stormed the lobby, only the last three were still conscious and on their feet. The one with four arms stood watch over the hostages, two arms crossed, one holding a pistol, and the last carrying a walkie-talkie that he checked into every three minutes. Another gunman with a scarlet mohawk kept his gaze on the front entrance. The crowd outside had dispersed, replaced by police, red and blue lights splashing rhythmically across the glass doors.

The final gunman would regularly disappear for several minutes, returning with anywhere from two to six more hostages to add to the growing group on the floor. Janitors, clerks, lawyers—there were a lot of people who must have hidden themselves when the gunfire started. The courthouse was ten stories tall, but the third gunman seemed to be searching every nook and cranny.

When the Prophet Kid had been arrested, the DSA had captured five out of the estimated dozen members of the Monstro Gang. But they hadn’t caught the leader. Bradley “Pretty Boy” Jeffries was the brains of the operation—and the brawn. He could rip apart a car like wrapping paper when he was in his monster form. He was the whole reason the DSA had sent Dave after the gang; they were hoping White Knight would be strong enough to stop him. But he’d gotten away.

Four-Arms was talking to someone on that walkie-talkie, and whoever it was couldn’t be too far away….

Dave shifted his weight atop the hard tile floor, moving his legs so they wouldn’t cramp. The Monstro Gang had given their demands to the police negotiator who’d come in, but with the Prophet Kid spirited away by some mysterious third-party, this could only end in violence. He had to be ready to act at the first sign of trouble.

“Heads up,” said Mohawk Guy.

And trouble strode right through the front door.

She was wearing a stolen police uniform. The dark blue pants were just a little too short for her long legs, ending half an inch above her ankle-high boots. She crossed the lobby, ponytail of smooth black hair bouncing with every step, and dragged the Prophet Kid to the closest gunman. The Prophet Kid. Dave should’ve known she was the one who’d broken him out. But why hand him over to the Monstro Gang? Was she working with them? No, that didn’t make any sense. They wouldn’t need to take the courthouse hostage if she was going to deliver him to them. And why the police uniform?

Four-Arms grabbed the Prophet Kid by the shoulder and said something. It was too low for Dave to make out, but the man’s face was unbearably smug when he said it. The Prophet Kid was hunched over and miserable-looking, but she…she was all wrong. Her shoulders were square and stiff, and she gave Four-Arms the blustering glare of someone who was helpless to actually do anything. Acting like a cop forced to give in to the demands of criminals. What was her game?

Four-Arms’s focus was on the Prophet Kid. He waved a gun-holding hand vaguely in the hostages’ direction, sending the policewoman along. She turned, and her dark gaze slammed into Dave’s staring one.

Her wine red lips split in a dazzling smile.

“Is that…?” Moreen asked.

“The Black Valentine,” he growled.

“White Knight. I had no idea you were here.” The Black Valentine squeezed in between him and the security guard on his left. “Taken hostage by the Monstro Gang?” She lowered her voice conspiratorially. “That’s a little embarrassing, isn’t it?”

“Please tell me Officer Garcia isn’t lying unconscious in her underwear somewhere,” Moreen said.

Dave’s eyes flicked down to the nameplate pinned to the stolen uniform. Then his eyes flicked back up, because Officer Garcia’s shirt was a bit…tight on the Black Valentine.

“No, I grabbed her a dress at a boutique down the street. She looks great in it, I might add.”

“What are you doing here?” Dave asked.

“You don’t want me to be here?” The Black Valentine put a hand over her heart as if wounded—drawing Dave’s gaze to her chest again. “You’re right, of course. I should have gotten the Prophet Kid out of town and left all of you to get shot when the police failed to hand him over. What was I thinking?”

“So you’re here out of the goodness of your heart,” Moreen said flatly. “Lucky us.”

Dave didn’t say anything, because only someone incredibly naive would admit they believed she’d come here to help—and Dave didn’t believe that, not really. But he had known the Black Valentine to act selflessly before. Just once before, but still.

“I might also have a vested interest in utterly decimating the Monstro Gang,” she admitted.

Of course she did. Only an idiot would think otherwise.

“So are you planning on starting that decimation anytime soon, or are you just going to sit here chatting?” he asked.

“Hey, you’re the one who distracted me.”

Still smiling, she closed her eyes and relaxed her posture. Her eyelids were covered in a dusting of gold makeup that glimmered in the light. Even sitting on the dirty floor in an off-size police uniform, she managed to keep a touch of glamor.

Enough. That thought had no business being in Dave’s head. He quashed it and focused on the Monstro Gang. The third gunman had taken the Prophet Kid somewhere down the hall, but Four-Arms and Mohawk Guy were still standing guard. Would they let the hostages go now that they’d gotten what they wanted?

“Oh,” said the Black Valentine in a tone that didn’t imply good news.

“How bad is it?” Dave asked.

She glanced behind her at the terrified hostages, and when she looked back at Dave, she didn’t speak aloud. She sent her voice into his head telepathically.

They’ve got bombs. Lots of them.

Her mocking smile had vanished, and she looked at him with wide eyes.

The whole building’s rigged to blow.



Kristen’s Corner

And now the title for this episode makes more sense. 😉

Dave and Val are finally in the same scene, which makes me happy. Each of them are definitely capable of holding their own storylines, but I like it best when they’re together and bouncing off each other.

The next update will be July 25th.

Published by Brandedkristen

If Kristen Brand could have any superpower, she'd want telekinesis so she wouldn't have to move from her computer to pour a new cup of tea. She spends far too much time on the internet, and when she's not writing, she's usually reading novels or comic books. Icon by @heckosart.

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