Day two, and Dave was already going stir-crazy. He’d thought he’d at least make it to the end of the week.
He, Moreen, Puebla, and Agent Attwater sat around the coffee table playing cards, while Agent Chung took his shift to sleep. They were playing Canasta, which needed two decks, and while the first was a regular set of cards, the second was superhero-themed. Each number showcased a different hero. The kings all showed the Crimson Phoenix, his photographs touched up from when they’d been taken back in the fifties. Victory’s image graced the queens, and White Knight was stuck on all four jacks. He was in different poses on each card: mid-run on one, and standing triumphantly with his hands on his hips in another, but he looked like a dope on all four. Nobody had confessed to owning the deck, and they were all acting like it had spontaneously appeared in the hotel room.
“So, how exactly do you get your image on a deck of cards?” Puebla asked as he set down the jack of diamonds. It showed Dave with his arms crossed, unsmiling. The photographer must have told him to look intimating.
“Bachelor’s degree in criminology, two years training at the Academy, and a lot of luck,” Dave answered.
“You’ll note he didn’t specify good luck,” Moreen added with a smirk. Continue reading
The most important decision was what to wear.
Okay, that was an exaggeration. Val had other important decisions to make: how much to threaten versus when to play nice, whether to demonstrate her strengths or trick them into underestimating her. But her wardrobe would make or break everything. No, really. It was true. There were few greater opportunities for a fashion faux pas than when meeting other supervillains. Show up in regular clothes when everyone else is wearing their costumes, and it’s like coming to a job interview in a torn T-shirt and ratty jeans. But arrive in costume when everyone else is in their civies, and you look like an idiot. You had to gauge your associates and the situation beforehand.
Fortunately, Val knew a little about Blueblood and the Fox Woman. The Fox Woman hadn’t worn a costume since her fortieth birthday, and Blueblood’s version of a uniform was a suit and tie. There was no need to don her mask and all the leather, especially not for a private dinner. Val wore a black dress, long-sleeved and knee-length. It would be perfectly acceptable for a business setting if not for the plunging v-shaped neckline that showed off her formidable cleavage. She completed the look with a necklace of black pearls and the most kick-ass heels she could find. They were mostly black except for the heels themselves, which were shiny metal spikes that ended in points sharp enough to pierce flesh. She wouldn’t be able to run in them, but she’d risk it to make a fierce first impression.
She rode in an elevator with Joey and two other of her father’s men, all of them in expensive business suits and smelling of aftershave. When the doors opened with a ding, Val stepped out into a restaurant. Continue reading
I’m very happy to announce that my short story, “How Lady Nightmare Stole Captain Alpha’s Girlfriend” is the featured story in Issue 29 of Luna Station Quarterly. It was just released today, and you can read the full thing right here.
Lady Nightmare made a short cameo in Villainous, so if you’ve ever been curious about her, check this story out. It’s a fun little tale of action and romance, and I might have snuck in a deeper theme or two. The basic premise is a damsel-in-distress falling for the villainess who kidnapped her, and complications when a superhero comes to the “rescue.”
If you’re even remotely interested in science fiction and fantasy, I’d highly recommend you take a look at the other stories in the issue here. “How Lady Nightmare Stole Captain Alpha’s Girlfriend” is in very good company, and you’re looking at hours of free entertainment (or days if you go through all of Luna Station Quarterly’s back issues). Also, check out that cover. Isn’t it the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen?
So go. Read. Enjoy. You won’t regret it. 🙂
Dave and Moreen checked in at the long-term hotel using fake identities. When they finished, Dave asked the front desk to call room 231 and tell them Mr. and Mrs. Martinez had arrived, so they wouldn’t spook anybody when they unlocked the door. Agent Chung, Agent Attwater, and the witness had been holed up here for three weeks since the last attempt on the witness’s life. They’d be a little jumpy, to say the least.
After getting their keycards, Dave and Moreen went back outside to grab their suitcases and bags of groceries. The hotel was made up of two long buildings three stories high, and Dave had memorized the floor plan before coming. The gated pool by the parking lot hadn’t been covered yet, despite that autumn in Illinois wasn’t exactly outdoor swimming weather. Red, orange, and brown leaves floated across the water’s surface, fallen from the row of trees planted along the sidewalk. The parking lot was maybe half full, and a man dragged his suitcase towards the lobby, the sound of its wheels bumping across the asphalt echoing off the buildings. Dave kept one eye on him. Pudgy and balding, he didn’t look like the stereotypical image of a hitman, but real hitmen rarely did.
Moreen knocked loudly on the door of room 230 before swiping the keycard and pushing open the door. Dave edged past her to go in first, standard procedure since he was the bulletproof one. But it was an unnecessary precaution, because the only person inside was Agent Chung.
“Glad you guys could make it,” he greeted. Continue reading
Val walked up to the old Victorian house, and the gun-carrying man by the door nodded at her as she went inside.
The interior looked the same as always: old-fashioned patterned wallpaper, decorative molding on the ceiling, and useless stuff everywhere. Fancy chairs that no one sat on were placed next to side tables holding vases of flowers. An antique cabinet of polished wood displayed knick-knacks of porcelain, stone, and glass. Oil paintings of scenes from the Civil War hung beside antique photographs and mirrors in gilded frames. You’d think the place looked exactly the same as it had a hundred years ago, and in fact, Val only remembered one thing in it ever changing. The old burgundy carpet had been replaced with hardwood floors. Probably because it was easier to clean up bloodstains that way.
Val found a maid engaged in dusting, which was probably a full-time job. “Where’s he at?”
“Out back, ma’am.”
Val went out the back door to the patio and pool. The landscaping made it look like a tropical rainforest was encroaching, and the pool itself was an enormous affair complete with a fake stone waterfall and a little bridge that led to a small island. Val had no idea why her father had it. He never went swimming. Maybe he liked the smell of chlorine.
His wheelchair was parked next to a table under a large umbrella, situating him in his own private shadow. He was dressed in the most casual, summery outfit he ever wore: a button-up white shirt, crisp khaki pants, and a vintage hat. A glass of iced tea sat on a coaster on the table, and his right-hand man, Joey Giordano, lurked only a few yards away.
He glanced up from the book he’d been reading when Val approached. “Val. Have a seat. It’s a lovely day outside.” Continue reading
Eddy’s job involved a lot of travel. It was one of the perks of the gig. He enjoyed the chance to see new places and meet new people, even if he had to dump some of those people in a shallow grave before he went back home. His goal was to visit each of the fifty states at least once. He’d been to thirty-eight so far and was collecting souvenir magnets.
At the moment, he was driving through the great state of Wyoming. It was one of his more pleasant drives, and not just because he didn’t have any cops chasing after him. The scenery for the past few hours had been nothing short of spectacular: grassy green fields, lush forests, and distant snow-capped mountains. It was the kind of place where a guy could get some real peace and quiet.
“That a new dress?” he asked his companion.
Irma Grimaldi, one of the scariest damn women Eddy had ever met, glanced down as if to remind herself what she was wearing. She was gaunt and graying, and Eddy had always secretly thought she’d look at home in a witch costume. But today she wore a pale purple dress and matching flowered hat, looking for all the world like she was on her way to Sunday mass. Oddly appropriate, since the two of them were heading to see a preacher.
“Yes,” she said. “Why? Is this a compliment? I think I might die of shock.”
“You know you’re gonna get blood on it.”
“Not if we keep this quick and clean like we’re supposed to.” Continue reading
After the dinner ended, JB found himself pulled out of the restaurant and bundled into a car. Nobody talked to him, and he wasn’t stupid enough to ask where they were taking him. Blueblood must have ridden in a different car, since JB couldn’t smell his cologne.
JB wanted to go home, to wear his own clothes instead of this scratchy suit, to lie in bed and listen to his favorite CDs for a while. He’d even settle for sitting on the couch and listening to The Price is Right reruns on TV with his parents, something that normally bored him to tears. Basically, he was up for anything that would give him a break from this constant fear. Daydreaming about home wouldn’t get him any closer to it, but it was better than dreading what would happen when he got to wherever he was going.
They ended up at a hotel. JB realized it when he heard suitcase wheels squeaking and a voice checking in at the front desk. His escort marched him through the lobby, dragged him into an elevator, and then finally pushed him down into a cushioned chair inside one of the suites. His own room? No, probably not. Blueblood’s cologne hovered ominously in the air.
“Thank you for coming, Mr. Dupree,” Blueblood said as if JB had freely chosen to visit. “I wanted to go over what our arrangement will be.”
A glass clinked, followed be a light sound of liquid splashing, and Blueblood settled into what must have been a chair in front of JB.
“I want you to use your abilities to foresee threats to myself and alert me before they happen. That sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?” Continue reading