First time reading? Start at the beginning here.
Val stood inside a payphone booth in front of gas station outside San Diego, California. It was one o’clock in the morning—or make that three o’clock Central Time, which was what she’d been living in for the past several weeks. Combine that with the four-hour flight from Chicago, and it was no wonder she was tired. But tiredness was a luxury she couldn’t afford right now.
“—extremely concerned,” her father said over the phone.
“I know, but—”
“Evelyn spoke with me,” he went on. “You realize every action you take reflects back on my reputation. This is an embarrassment. I’m not happy.”
Val wanted to hang up on him. She wanted out of the phone booth, with the wads of old chewing gum stuck to the sides and the dirty receiver that was probably giving her at least two different diseases. She wanted away from his dry, disapproving voice.
“Don’t worry about Evelyn, Dad. I’m about to solve that problem. Trust me.”
“I don’t see why I should,” he snapped. “You’ve made a complete mess of things, Valentina. I’m tempted to bring you home right now.”
Val’s grip on the phone turned into a vice. “You can’t. If you pull me out now, everything will fall apart. I have a plan. It’s just a matter of time now—”
“How much time?”
“Until this weekend,” she said instantly. “Blueblood is making his move at that asinine hero parade in DC this weekend. And when he makes his move, I’ll make mine.”
The silence that came over the line dragged on unbearably. Val tapped her foot on the filthy floor, which was littered with cigarette butts and candy wrappers.
“Stop me now, and we’ll never know for sure if I could have pulled it off,” she said. “Wait until this weekend, and whether I succeed or fail, you’ll have a definite answer.”
She held her breath, extremely conscious of her surroundings. Besides the two parked cars that were hers, the only people at the gas station were a single man at the pump and the attendant behind the register inside. She’d erase their short-term memories before she left as a precaution, but it was still risky to linger long when was planning to commit a felony nearby.
But if she didn’t convince her father, the only law she’d be breaking was the speed limit as she drove straight back to the airport.
“Very well,” her father said. “But after this much risk, I expect to be impressed.”
“You will be,” she swore.
“Alright. Put Joey on.”
Val’s mouth twisted, but she did as he asked. She leaned against the hood of one of the cars and waited as Joey ducked into the small booth. It was a mild night, the temperature comfortably in the sixties, and other than the sound of cars passing by on the highway it was surprisingly peaceful and quiet. Val wondered what people did with their lives when they didn’t have murders to plot or their own skins to save. It must be relaxing.
Joey hung up the phone and exited the booth.
“If he gave you secret orders to stop me, I’d prefer we skip the charade and head straight to the airport,” she told him.
“No. You’ve got practically free reign.”
She put on a mean smile. “Good.”
They got back into the cars and started driving. The highway weaved between tall, barren hills, the lights of the houses atop them twinkling like stars. More of her father’s men sat in the back of each car, grim-faced and silent. Val didn’t try to strike up conversation as they got off the highway and entered a ritzy neighborhood.
The Fox Woman’s house looked pretty much like all the others on her street: two stories tall, red tile roof, and impeccable landscaping. Nice, but forgettable—or it would be, if not for what happened next.
Do it, Val said telepathically.
The first car picked up speed and rammed through the gate with a loud metal clang. The two cars careened down the driveway, pulled around the large illuminated fountain in the center of the yard, and screeched to a stop in front of the house.
Her father’s men were professionals. They calmly exited the cars, raised their automatics, and opened fire. Bright, brief flashes pierced the darkness like lightning, and gunshots went off like controlled strikes of thunder. Windows shattered. The wooden door splintered. Chunks of stucco were blow off the walls. The house was large, but their array of fire was larger. They tore up the place methodically, leaving nowhere to hide or take cover.
In reality, they were done in thirty seconds or less, but the storm of violence seemed to go on for much longer. When they finished, they filed briskly back into the cars and drove off, leaving a heavy silence in the wake of their destruction.
It’s weird to be writing a Val who desperately wants her father’s approval, as opposed to the Val of Hero Status and later who couldn’t give a crap what the old man thinks.
Also, brief reminder that Fight Crime! (A Love Story) takes place in the 90s, when cell phones weren’t common and payphone booths had a reason for existing. Just in case any of you were wondering why Val was using one. 😉
Almost Invincible is currently being beta-read, and everything is moving on schedule for the September 30th release date (though I’m impatient and really want to throw it up on Amazon now, haha.) I recently tweeted the first line, if you want a sneak peak!