“Dave and Val Watch Soap Operas” – Part 3

Moreen grudgingly admitted that Akio Yasunaga had a nice place. It was a modern, two-story, cube-shaped building with large windows and an open patio atop the flat roof. It was also floating on Lake Union.

A narrow dock led out across the water towards it and two other neighboring floating homes, and they had a breath-taking view of the night skyline on the other side of the lake. An agent had confirmed Yasunaga’s presence inside half an hour ago, and Moreen was just waiting for the harbor patrol to get into position before moving in. She waited in an unmarked police car with the Illusionist in the passenger seat. The SWAT team was in a van parked behind her, and the only sound was a frenzied tapping.

“Stop that.” Moreen glanced at Yuna’s fingers on the door handle. “You’re making me jittery.”

Yuna’s fingers went still. Ten seconds passed in almost complete silence.

“Yasunaga’s mine,” Yuna growled.

“Excuse me?” Moreen felt a headache coming on.

Yuna glared forward, though she wasn’t looking out the windshield. “When we get in there, I’m going to take Yasunaga down. He’s the one who bribed Mitch. He’s mine.”

“Yasunaga will be ‘taken down’ by whoever ends up in the best position to do it—whether that’s you, me, or another agent. You’re getting paid to do your job, not live out a personal revenge fantasy.”Continue reading ““Dave and Val Watch Soap Operas” – Part 3″

“Dave and Val Watch Soap Operas” – Part 2

Dave realized he’d lost his mind the moment he considered buying her flowers.

He blamed it on sleep-deprivation. The time difference meant he’d woken up at four in the morning, and it had been a long day of non-stop meetings, murder investigations, and fights. Then it was straight to the hospital to make sure the Black Valentine didn’t try anything funny like stealing all the drugs in the building while the doctors treated her. Her bullet wound wasn’t serious. Dave had seen friends and colleagues with worse, but that didn’t mean surgery wouldn’t hurt like hell, especially since she couldn’t take any anesthesia. The way she’d clenched shut her eyes as they stitched her up gave Dave an idiotic urge to punch the doctors for hurting her.

Now, Val rested in bed, and Dave stood guard—or sat guard, rather. He sat near her bed, drinking a cup of coffee a nurse had brought him, and as he gazed around the bland, private room, the thought crossed his mind that it could use some flowers.

It was a stupid idea for so many reasons. First, he didn’t exactly carry his wallet around when he was in costume. Second, even if he did have money, he’d have to leave Val unguarded to go downstairs to the gift shop. Third, he was in costume, and the moment someone spotted White Knight holding a bouquet, the tabloids would explode with speculation. And why would he even consider buying a supervillain flowers? If this was Pretty Boy Jeffries, the idea would be ridiculous. Was he only feeling sorry for Val because she was a woman? He pictured Madam Guillotine lying in bed instead, and the urge disappeared. So it was just Val, then.

“There’s nothing on,” Val groaned. She held the remote to the small, cheap TV on the counter across from her bed and was flipping through the channels.Continue reading ““Dave and Val Watch Soap Operas” – Part 2″

“Dave and Val Watch Soap Operas” – Part 1

Moreen let the silence stretch. Silence made people nervous. It made them babble in an attempt to fill it, and that babbling often gave her the exact information she needed.

Mitchell Andrews, aka Lightblade, wasn’t bothered by the silence. He stared vacantly at his lap and looked as if he hadn’t even noticed she’d sat down. The stubble that had been on his face when she’d met him earlier that same day seemed longer and scruffier now, standing out starkly against his sallow skin.

The interrogation room was small and plain: a table in between them, two chairs to sit on, a locked door, and a two-way mirror. Moreen had been in dozens of rooms like this, and so had Lightblade, though he’d probably never been the one handcuffed to the table before.

“So,” she said. “Why’d you do it?”

It seemed to take him a great effort to focus his eyes on her. After a long moment, he asked, “Does it matter?”

“I’ll let you know after you tell me.”

His pause extended into a long, solid silence. When his eyes started to lose focus again, Moreen spoke.

“You know you have the right to a lawyer.”

He shook his head.

“Then why not talk?” she asked. “Help me understand.”Continue reading ““Dave and Val Watch Soap Operas” – Part 1″

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Epilogue

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?”Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Epilogue”

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 9

Dave didn’t get it. Had the Illusionist decided to help Lightblade after all? Or had she been in on it from the start? Figure it out later, he told himself. Lightblade had only been a few yards ahead of him. Dave moved cautiously forward, hands extended like he was trying to find Death.

“How could you?”

The Illusionist’s voice came from somewhere ahead and to the right. If Dave moved fast, he might be able to reach her.

“Yuna…” That was Lightblade’s voice, and he sounded uncomfortable.

Oh. Oh. Dave stopped. The Illusionist hadn’t cast this blackness to trap Dave; she’d cast it to trap Lightblade.

“What have you done?” she demanded. “Carl is dead, Mitch. So is that reporter. And you’re behind it?”

“That’s not… I didn’t want that to happen.”

“Then what did you want?” Her voice was getting closer to Lightblade’s. “What was worth betraying everything you ever taught me?”Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 9″

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 8

Dave barreled down the stairs. Lightblade’s footsteps pounded ahead of him, but the man himself was just out of view. Dave had to catch him soon, before he got outside and into a car and vanished like Death. There. He caught a glimpse of the man’s gaudy uniform on the next flight down. Dave pushed himself to go faster. He was younger, stronger. There was no reason he couldn’t catch him.

The stairwell vanished, replaced by something…well, Dave had never done drugs, but he imagined this was what an acid trip looked like. The sky above was a pulsing swirl of neon colors, and he stood in a hilly grove of twelve-foot tall mushrooms. Everything was hazy and swayed in a way that was going to make him nauseous.

He tripped, missing the next step because he couldn’t see it. When he finished falling and hit the wall hidden by the illusion, he found himself lying in a field of flowers with cartoon smiley faces in their centers. Dave focused on the feeling of the hard floor under his hand, even though it looked like he was lying on green grass.

“What do you think you’re doing?”

The Illusionist must have been walking down the stairs in real life, but it looked as if she walked down a rainbow. The girl got an A plus for creativity.

“He’s getting away!” Dave got unsteadily to his feet.

“Leave him alone. What’s wrong with you? Are you brainwashed or something?”Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 8″

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 7

What a mess.

Val had really thought it was over. Now Agent Lee had gone back to trying to find Death by groping. One agent was wounded, and the other was holding onto his gun so tightly that his knuckles were white. And Dave was too busy covering the photographer with his big, manly body to do anything useful.

One of the reporters who’d been hiding under her desk made a dash for the stairs, and Val considered following her. Whatever plan they’d had was trashed, and this time, she didn’t want to hang around and wait for the building to blow up. But what if Death got away? The plan hadn’t been for Death to get away. And if he killed the photographer first, the DSA might not be able to find the evidence to take down the Kurodas.

That wasn’t acceptable. Val had to get involved.

Agent Lee’s back was to her, which made now the perfect time to act. Staying low to the floor, Val crept towards the stolen gun Death had dropped. With his eyes closed, hopefully he wouldn’t realize what she was about to do.

“What do you think you’re doing?”Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 7″

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 6

Val really didn’t want to be here.

For one reason, without her powers, there was nothing to stop Death from sneaking up and putting a bullet in her head. She wouldn’t mind the element of danger if she was having fun, but the newsroom was so boring that it could probably be prescribed as medicine for insomniacs. Even the décor was blah: beige walls, beige carpet, beige computers atop the beige desks that filled the room. The reporters, editors, and administrators were standing in groups and whispering as they watched Lee and two other agents search the dead man’s computer and tear through his file folders. The folders were—you guessed it—beige.

Val had commandeered the desk next to the late Mr. Finch’s, her feet propped up on it as she flopped idly through a printout of one of his articles. It was pretty standard stuff: a brief history of the Kuroda and Tsubaki Syndicates and the recent rise in violence because of their feud. Nothing prize-worthy, much less worth killing him over.

She distracted herself by watching Dave. He was standing by the elevator, surveying the room while simultaneously reassuring the editor-in-chief, who had lost all the color in his face when he’d heard of Finch’s murder. Lightblade and the Illusionist were downstairs somewhere. Val didn’t really care where, but she wondered if they would have the same effect on people as White Knight did.

When the DSA had first barged in, the newspaper staff had been running around like a bomb had just gone off. They wanted to know what had happened, if they were in danger, what they should do. But a few words from Dave, and they’d mostly calmed down. It was weird. Val knew a few other people whose slap on the back could break a human spine, and they didn’t exactly have a calming effect on those around them. What made Dave different? Was it the propaganda built up around his White Knight identity? Body language? Maybe it was plain old human shallowness. People liked pretty people, and Dave was…well, maybe “pretty” wasn’t the right word. He had too much brawn, his features too hard and bold to be what people typically thought of as pretty. But…no, screw it. Val was going to call him pretty.Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 6″

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 5

The cafe still smelled like coffee, but now a metallic undercurrent of blood lurked below. The staff and customers had all been cleared out, some of them being interviewed by DSA agents outside. Khaki Suit’s body lay where it had fallen, a medical examiner crouched over it. Moreen was standing over the examiner, arms crossed as she oversaw his work. The Illusionist sat in one of the booths across from Lightblade. She’d wiped Khaki Suit’s blood from her face, but there was a messy red stain on the front of her T-shirt. She’d given up on keeping the illusion of her costume intact, and Dave couldn’t say that he blamed her.

“It happens.” Lightblade’s rough voice was surprisingly gentle as he spoke to her. “No matter how good you are, no matter how long you’ve been doing this, people die, and sometimes there’s nothing you can do about it. You can shoulder the blame for each one until the weight pins you to the floor, or you can put it behind you and do your best to save the next one.”

It was good advice. Dave should think about taking it. He leaned against the brick wall, watching the medical examiner work. He wasn’t sure why they even needed one. It wasn’t like the cause of death was hard to figure out, but these things needed to be official.

“Let’s get a coffee,” said the Black Valentine.

She stood next to him, a little too close than he was comfortable with. A hint of her honey-scented perfume mingled with the smells of blood and coffee beans.

“I think they’ve shut down for the day,” Dave said.

“There’s another place right down the street.” She gestured out the window.

“We’re staying here.”

“Come on.” She somehow managed to make the two words sound almost musical. “They won’t miss us. You standing here all sullen isn’t exactly a critical part of the investigation.”Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 5″

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 4

“You’re not going to suit up?” Dave asked as the car pulled up behind the cafe.

He wore his White Knight suit, the mask not completely covering the bandage on his nose, unfortunately. Lightblade had changed out of his flannel shirt and into his costume, which Dave didn’t envy. The spandex was a weird mix of camouflage green and bright orange, plus brown combat boots and a matching jacket. The Illusionist, though, was still wearing the same jeans and Seattle Seahawks T-shirt that she’d had on in the meeting.

“Have you seen my suit?” She made a face like a kid who’d been forced to eat Brussels sprouts. “If I’m not tripping over the three-inch heels, I’m tripping over the cape. But you can’t take away the cape, because it’s the only thing that hides how far the stupid leotard rides up my ass.”

A DSA agent opened the cafe’s back door, waving them inside.

“Besides,” the Illusionist went on, “there’s no point in actually wearing the thing when I can do this.”

She held out her hands, and the illusion of a black and gold leotard and impractical crimson cape suddenly replaced her jeans and T-shirt. She’d even made it look like her hair had been curled and styled instead of being in a messy ponytail.

“I’m impressed,” Dave said, “And jealous. So very, very jealous.”

The Illusionist grinned.Continue reading ““Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 4″