“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 3

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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?” Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 3

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 2

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David Del Toro saw the crowd in front of the courthouse the moment the car turned onto 6th Street. His head thumped against the back of his seat, and he resisted the urge to groan.

“I don’t suppose you know a back way in?” he asked the driver.

“No, sir. Sorry. I’ll get you as close to the front door as I can.”

“I appreciate it,” Dave sighed more than spoke. He looked out the side window and pointedly ignored the glare of the woman next to him.

“Thanks a lot, White Knight,” she said, her tone half-joking. No, make that only a quarter joking.

He turned to face Agent Moreen Lee. At five-foot-five, with chin-length brown hair and a drab brown business suit, she was more intimidating than most supervillains he knew.

“Please don’t blame this on me,” he said.

“They’re not waiting out there to see me.”

Dave glanced back at the crowd. They were close enough for him to see details now, like the woman in a full wedding dress holding a sign that said, “Marry Me, White Knight!”

“You’d think it was a rock concert,” he muttered, “Not a trial that’s going to determine the outcome of a boy’s life.”

“Yeah, well, they must not get to see very many superheroes here.”

“But Ft. Lauderdale has its own superhero.”

Moreen drummed her fingers on the door handle. “Who can talk to birds. It’s not a very impressive power.”

“Those birds are one of the best surveillance networks in the country.”

“I’m not saying he’s not a good hero. I’m just saying you can see why his fan club might not be as big as yours.”

The car reached the courthouse before Dave could argue any further. The sidewalk was swamped with people. Men and women with cameras stood on top of benches to get shots over the heads of the crowd, and parents carried children on their shoulders to give them a better look. Fortunately, uniformed police officers had managed to keep a clear path to the front entrance.

Dave wished he wasn’t in costume. Without his mask, he’d be just an ordinary brown-haired man who could blend into the crowd—or blend in as much as was possible for someone who stood at six feet four inches. But he was testifying officially as White Knight, so he’d just have to deal with the mob.

The driver pulled up to the open path and wished them luck. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 2

“Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 1

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Valentina Belmonte was waiting for a police van. She stood in an alley between two warehouses, drinking a mango smoothie as she watched cars pass by. Some kind of office building stood across the cracked, pothole-filled street. She should have talked her way in there and waited in the air-conditioning. The shade from the warehouses brought the temperature down from ninety to maybe eighty-eight. Summer in Florida. How the heck did other supervillains work here?

If this were any other job, she’d be in costume, but her costume had long pants, knee-high boots, and no small amount of black leather. She’d have gotten heatstroke twenty minutes ago if she’d worn that thing. So today, the Black Valentine was breaking the law in her civvies: the shortest pair of denim shorts she could find and a sleeveless shirt that showed off her midriff. And as a bonus, she didn’t have to worry about anyone spotting a masked supervillain and calling the cops.

Not that there were many people around to notice her. Two men had come out of the warehouse for a smoke break about twenty minutes ago, but Val had telepathically convinced them to ignore her and hadn’t had any trouble since. She sucked on the straw of her smoothie, trying to get the last bit of mango goodness from the bottom of the cup. Sweat dripped down the nape of her neck despite her hair being pulled up in a ponytail, and her skin felt sticky and gross. Once this job was over, she was celebrating with a dip in a pool somewhere.

A wolf whistle cut through the ambient noise of the street, directed at a woman passing by on the sidewalk. “Hey, honey!” the younger of the two warehouse workers called. “You’re looking sexy today. Where are you going?” The woman sped up, her mix of anger, shame, and fear hitting Val’s telepathic senses like a wave. “You’re just gonna ignore me?” the man hollered at her retreating back. “Learn to take a compliment, bitch!” He went back to talking with the other man, who was chuckling. Continue reading “Tick, Tick, Boom!” – Part 1