It had rained here earlier, wherever “here” was. JB could smell it in the air when the car door opened. He unfolded his cane and stepped out, and sure enough, he stepped in a puddle. Water splashed onto the bottom of his expensive new pants and dampened his socks. He was probably going to make squelching sounds when he walked now.
“Here,” Eddy grunted, taking his arm. Others were getting out of the car, too, their splashing footsteps all around. Eddy guided him up a step onto a sidewalk, and they started walking.
“Do you, uh, know who we’re taking you to?” Eddy asked in a low voice.
“Blueblood,” JB answered. He’d known for days.
“And you know about him?”
JB shrugged. “He’s a supervillain. Can kill people by touching them. And he’s actually blue or something.”
“I’m talking about the important stuff.”
“The fact that he can kill me just by touching me isn’t important?”
Eddy huffed. “He runs a drug empire that stretches from Colombia to New York. How much do you know about the major crime families in the US?”
“I’m a member of the Kidz for Christ Youth Choir. My parents are dentists. How much do you think I know?”
Eddy groaned. “Look, just…there are three people you need to make sure you don’t piss off here. Mr. Belmonte, of course. Then there’s Evelyn Sakai. Ever heard of the Fox Woman? She’s the highest ranking member of the Tsubaki Syndicate in the States. And Blueblood—make that Mr. Arcaño. He’s usually reasonable, but he’s got a temper. So be respectful, but don’t come off as too much of a wimp. And don’t give him any reason to think you might betray him.”
Be polite and don’t do anything stupid. Yeah, great advice. JB never would have thought of that.
“Is everything alright, Jean-Baptiste?”
JB instantly tensed. He really didn’t like the sound of Mr. Lucifer’s voice. Or make that Mr. Belmonte’s. What was the point of these supervillains having special code names if they never used them?
“Yes, sir. I’m ready.”
“Good. And here come Arcaño’s men now. Joseph, go see that everything’s in order.”
There were muffled male voices, and then everyone started moving again. They entered a building—a restaurant, judging by the smell of fresh bread and cooked fish in the air. There were people already inside, but they all seemed to be grouped together in one place, and their conversation was hushed and serious-sounding. Not regular diners, then. JB wouldn’t be surprised if the restaurant was officially closed.
The low conversation died entirely. Had they just now noticed Mr. Lucifer’s entrance? Or had something else happened?
“Lucio, good to see you.”
JB knew that voice; he’d heard it before when he had flashes of the future. It was Blueblood’s.
“And you brought the guest of honor. Let me get a look at you, kid. Come here.”
JB’s stomach turned inside-out when he realized they were talking about him. Eddy guided him forward, but then his firm grip released JB’s arm, leaving him anchorless. JB swallowed. He was going to miss Eddy. He was already missing the Black Valentine. And you were definitely screwed when you found yourself wanting to go back to a mind-controlling supervillain and her hired gunman.
Two hands grasped his shoulders, and JB had to resist the impulse to lean away. Had Blueblood never heard of personal space? His cologne smelled like tobacco, reminding JB of some of the old men who went to his church.
“Well, it looks like you’re all in one piece,” Blueblood said. “The Monstro Gang didn’t mess you up too bad.”
JB tilted his face up in the direction of Blueblood’s voice, since he’d heard it bothered people when he didn’t “look” at them when they were talking.
“No, sir,” he said. Though it wasn’t for lack of trying.
“You know you were running with a gang that refused to pay me my cut? Ft. Lauderdale is my territory. If your friend Jeffries wanted to keep a hundred percent, he should have set his sights somewhere else.”
“He’s not my friend,” JB said before he could stop himself. “I mean, he… I didn’t ask to join the Monstro Gang. He didn’t give me a choice.”
“And that bothers you? You didn’t ask to join my organization, either.”
Crap. Um… “There’s no comparison. Jeffries was small-time and an idiot. You’re neither.” JB tensed. Please, please, please let flattery work.
Blueblood barked a short laugh. “And you’re not an idiot, either. Good. A man with your abilities can go far in this business. Welcome to the family.”
He snapped his fingers, and someone escorted JB to the table. Chairs scraped against the floor as everyone sat down. JB smelled Blueblood’s cologne again; he must be sitting right next to him. It looked like JB was the guest of honor. Lucky him.
Small talk came first. Blueblood asked how Mr. Lucifer and the yakuza lady’s trips had gone, and plates of food were set out in front of everyone. The smell of bread and baked fish tripled, joined by something peppery and involving tomatoes. JB’s mouth watered, but he didn’t dig in. He waited until he heard the clinks of silverware signaling that other people had started eating and then carefully located his fork and napkin. The time he’d spilled spaghetti sauce on his shirt in the school cafeteria had been bad enough; he didn’t want to make a mess in front of a bunch of supervillains.
“I forgot to say thank you for bringing me the kid,” Blueblood said to Mr. Lucifer. “His talents would have been wasted with the Monstros—not that there are any of them left now to complain about, eh?”
“It was my pleasure,” Mr. Lucifer replied, though nothing in his voice indicated he felt pleasure of any kind. “If everything goes according to plan, I expect you’ll more than return the favor.”
“I’m sorry to hear the Black Valentine got arrested, though. I hope you’re not planning on losing a daughter on every job. You only have two of them left.”
A few people chuckled—which was suicidal, if you asked JB. Then again, not laughing when Blueblood was obviously dissing somebody probably wasn’t too smart either.
“There’s no need to be sorry,” Mr. Lucifer said. “My daughter certainly isn’t. She’s already made a deal for her release. It involves giving over information about a certain Kuroda hitman that may be of interest to you, Evelyn.”
There was no chuckling now.
“You have my attention,” said a low female voice.
“It’s Death,” Mr. Lucifer said. “Seems he disposed of a DSA agent. The DSA never suspected him, of course, but with Valentina pulling the strings, they managed to apprehend him in the middle of another murder attempt. They should have enough evidence to incriminate Akio Yasunaga himself if they’re thorough. If you want to strike the Kurodas while they’re off balance, now’s the time.”
“How very interesting,” the woman said after a moment. “I’ll have to thank your daughter.”
A loud bang made JB jump. “See?” Blueblood boomed. He must have pounded his fist on the table. “This is what I’m talking about. With the three of us pooling our resources, we can kill anyone who crosses us. Enough time, and we’ll control everything from coast to coast. Every time a kid sells crack on a street corner or a john pays a whore, we’ll get a cut. To the future, ladies and gentlemen. To a monopoly.”
That sounded like a toast. JB grasped his glass, and the strong smell of wine hit him as he raised it to his mouth. He almost put it back down, but underage drinking was the last law he should be worried about breaking. So he drank, but he didn’t like the bitter taste or the sound of Blueblood’s future.
It’s been a while since we checked in with JB, and things aren’t looking any better for the poor kid, unfortunately. This is the end of episode 2, and I’ll be taking a week-long break before starting episode 3 on December 12th.
I hope everybody in the States who celebrated Thanksgiving had a great holiday (and everybody who didn’t celebrate had a good day). I had a great vacation visiting family, ignoring football on TV, and eating too much. I then had a rough first day back to work, passed out when I got home in the evening, and forgot to post, so sorry about that! I remembered today, at least. 🙂