“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 8

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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

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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

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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

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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

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“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

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 3

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“His name is Hong-Jae Chun,” Val said. “Born in Japan. Ethnically Korean. Started working as a freelance assassin in ‘87, hits all across Europe and Asia. As of four years ago, he’s been working exclusively for the Kuroda Syndicate. They must be paying him a small fortune.”

Val looked over the small group assembled in front of her in the bland meeting room at the Seattle DSA branch. She hadn’t had the attention of so many superheroes and DSA agents since the time she’d taken Wall Street hostage, and she was keenly aware that she currently had no powers and no weapons. She sat on the desk in the front of the room in a deliberately casual pose, reminding herself that everything was going according to plan.

“He can turn invisible,” she said, enjoying the face Dave made upon hearing this statement. It was like he’d walked outside to find bird crap all over his car. “So I can’t give you an accurate number of his kills, since no one ever sees him coming. The underworld has taken to calling him Death, which, as far as supervillain names go, is simple but incredibly evocative, don’t you think?”

No one answered. These people were no fun at all.

“How do you know he’s responsible?” asked Lightblade—or Mitch, as everyone here called him out of costume. Seattle’s hometown superhero was a tall, burly man with one of those perpetual five o’clock shadows that must have taken hard work to maintain. The stubble was peppered with gray hairs that you wouldn’t notice just from seeing him on TV.

“I read his mind,” Val answered. “The Kuroda Syndicate sells my family some of their imports. They met with us, and Death was lurking invisibly in the corner. I scanned him to make sure he wasn’t a threat. This job was on his mind.” Continue reading “Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 3

“Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 2

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“You’re going to Seattle.”

Dave took the news better than Moreen, who groaned loudly. “We’re taking her deal?” she asked.

“We’re taking her deal,” their supervisor, Walter, confirmed. They were sitting in front of his desk, which was a mess of overstuffed files, loose papers, and stapled reports. Walter Franke was a beefy, middle-aged former agent who’d had the misfortune of being excellent at his job. It led to his promotion, making him responsible for nearly the whole department instead of just his own cases. The stress left him permanently grouchy.

“You know we can’t trust her,” Dave said.

“No, I never would have guessed. Thanks so much for letting me know.” Walter rolled his eyes. “We don’t have a choice. The pressure’s coming down hard to solve this murder, and right now, the Black Valentine’s our only lead.”

“But there are so many better options we could try first,” Moreen muttered, “Like a magic 8-ball or a phone psychic.”

“I don’t like it any more than you do,” Walter said. “But if you want to take out your frustrations on me, by all means, keep griping. I’ll wait.”

Moreen prudently opted not to say anything. Dave raised his hand.

“Jesus, Del Toro, this isn’t a classroom. What’s your question?”

“Why am I going?” Dave asked. “I know I’ve resisted the Black Valentine’s mind-control before, but she’ll be on exatrin the whole time, right?” Continue reading “Two Eyeballs and a Gun” – Part 2