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Dave drifted in and out of consciousness for a while. Every time he woke, he’d keep his eyes shut, feeling an overwhelming and nameless sense of dread. Then he’d remember that he’d escaped, that no one was waiting to torture him more. Eventually, he opened his eyes. The off-white, rectangular ceiling tiles of a hospital room greeted him, and he could hear muffled voices from the people in the hallway.
Dave turned his head, which was cushioned by a thick pillow. Harris and Moreen sat next to his bed.
“How long—” Dave coughed, his throat scratchy. “How long have I been out?”
“A couple hours.” Harris tried to smile, but it didn’t quite stick. “Which really isn’t enough. You should get back to sleep.”
Sleep sounded nice. Dave’s head felt cloudy, and his limbs were heavy and numb. But something nagged at him. He was forgetting something, or there was something he needed to do and….
He jerked up. “They’re working together. Blueblood, the Black Valentine, and—” Continue reading
Val didn’t pour herself another gin and tonic. She put the empty glass to her lips and leaned back her head, getting a small swallow of melted ice with just a hint of flavor. No more alcohol. She was going to need every fraction of her brainpower to stay alive. She gazed around the room, sizing up the few men who’d come to watch Joey and Cleto’s game, a crumpled wad of fifties waiting on the side of the table for the winner. She’d be able to mind-control one of them, maybe two, to cover her exit if things went south.
The heavy pool tables would make decent cover in the event of a firefight, and the cue sticks could be close-range weapons in a pinch. She’d already mapped the layout and knew about the man Blueblood had out front. That only left Blueblood himself, the most dangerous of them all. She had to keep distance between them at all costs.
Speaking of Blueblood, he walked jauntily out of the kitchen while munching on potato chips. “Ready to have at him?” he asked her.
Val set her glass onto the bar with a resolved thunk and stood. “Lead the way.” Continue reading
Dave was starting to like the concrete floor. Sure, it was hard against his skull and back, pressing each link of chain further into his flesh. And yeah, it was filthy. But letting his muscles go slack as he rested on it felt like a little slice of heaven.
He didn’t know how long he’d been lying there. He didn’t know how many times Giordano and Werecat had dunked him. It felt like it had been a lot of times, but he didn’t want to think about it. If he could have found the strength to lift his head and look at the tub, a shudder of revulsion would have passed through him. He forced himself not to think, not to remember in excruciating detail the feeling of water up his nose and rough hands on his head. He wanted to lie on the floor in a haze and think of nothing at all.
He hadn’t talked. Or at least, he didn’t think he had. He would remember, wouldn’t he? So he had to brace himself. Because when Val came back and tried to get into his head again, he was going to be tempted to tell her everything as long as they stopped, as long as they never brought him anywhere near water again. He couldn’t let himself do that. They were going to kill him anyway, and he didn’t want to die betraying everything he stood for. David Del Toro might dread what came next, but White Knight was strong. He had to be White Knight. Continue reading
Val would have given anything to leave the room, but she forced herself to stay. For one thing, she’d lose Blueblood’s respect if he thought the Black Valentine couldn’t stomach watching someone get tortured. But more importantly, this was her fault. She hadn’t been able to break through Dave’s mental shields, so she could at least bear witness to the price he was paying for her failure.
Joey had stepped into the kitchen behind the bar earlier, rolled up his sleeves, and pressed his forearms to a hot stove to put himself in enough pain that he’d be strong enough to hold Dave’s head under. Even with Werecat’s help and Dave in chains, it was a struggle. The two men crouched awkwardly over Dave’s kneeling position, their hands grasping his arms, shoulder, and head. Dave bucked and thrashed beneath them, but it wasn’t enough to throw them off. Not since Madame Morphine had gone up to him before the torture started, leaving him conscious enough to experience it but in enough of a stupor to have trouble fighting back.
When Dave’s movements began to slow, they pulled him out and threw him back onto the floor. Dave hit it hard, his head rolling back, and immediately started coughing up water. His eyes were squeezed shut, his shoulders curled in, every inch of his body language screaming torment. He looked frail, a word she’d never associated with him before. She should have scorned that show of weakness, but the world seemed to have turned upside down. She wanted to go to him. She wanted to hold his head in her lap, smooth back his wet brown hair from his face, and make sure none of these bastards touched him again.
Val hurt. She could blame some of that on her telepathy, on how she could psychically feel his pain and physical shock, but that didn’t explain her nausea or the ache in her heart.
“We should take a break.” Giordano looked down at Dave’s trembling form impassively. Continue reading
Walter Franke sat in the small interrogation room, comfortable in the way of a man who’d been in this situation a thousand times before. It didn’t matter that he’d never stepped foot into this particular room before today, or that he’d never met the supervillain handcuffed to the table across from him. Everything about this was familiar, up to and including the tangled knot of anxiety his guts had twisted themselves into.
“I don’t believe you,” he said.
“That’s not my problem,” said the supervillain.
He called himself Dr. Blood. He wasn’t a doctor. He hadn’t even made it through a full semester of college. The local agents had found him at home, thankfully, so Walter wasn’t subjected to whatever disastrous eyesore he called a costume. He wore a black T-shirt with some kind of pentagram-type thing on the front, and his dark hair was drowning in gel. The small strip of facial hair going from his lower lip to the tip of his chin might have technically been a goatee, but it didn’t deserve the designation. In short, everything about him made Walter want to punch him in the face.
“It’s most definitely your problem,” Walter said. “If you want to walk out of this room, you need to make yourself useful.” Continue reading
Dave had been ready the first time. Even half-conscious, it hadn’t been hard to figure out their plan when he saw the tub of water they’d brought into the room.
Dave wouldn’t call water his “weakness” exactly, but it was something his super-strength didn’t protect him from. Beating him was a good way to break your knuckles, and trying to cut him was like attacking a tree trunk with a butter knife. His skin was fairly burn-resistant, too, and bullets famously bounced off of him. But he needed to breathe like everyone else.
The tub was big and metal, its sides smeared with dirt. Giordano and the other one—the cat man, Dave couldn’t remember his name—grabbed him and dragged him towards it. Dave didn’t resist, his legs dragging limply across the floor. Part of that was because Madame Morphine had made his limbs feel stiff and distant, but also, he knew he should save his strength.
They dropped him into a kneeling position in front of the tub, the chains around him clinking together at the sudden movement. Dave’s head bobbed unsteadily, and he stared into the tub, seeing individual dirt particles moving in the water. Then hands gripped his shoulders and head, and he took a deep breath. Continue reading
Val was a telepath, and telepaths who survived learned to control their emotions. Dave’s gaze found hers, though his eyes were unfocused. As she took in the purple bruises on his face and the way he swayed even though he wasn’t standing, she ruthlessly stomped down on the emotion welling up in her stomach. She pursed her lips in a thoughtful manner, hyper-aware of Blueblood and the Fox Woman watching her reaction.
“Well,” Val said, “That’s not what I was expecting.”
She could shoot Distortion. Shoot Distortion, take out the others telepathically, and free Dave. No, she didn’t know the whole situation yet, and besides, that was…that was a huge sacrifice to make for someone who didn’t even want to kiss her.
“Grabbing unexpected opportunities when they come up is the secret to success,” Blueblood said cheerfully.
Val looked at the Fox Woman. “You disagree?” Continue reading
Val stepped out of the car, glancing up and down the seedy Chicago street. It was dark, and the area looked deserted, but that didn’t mean no one was watching. Val crossed the sidewalk quickly, her heels stepping over crumpled bags of chips and cigarette butts, two bodyguards right behind her. She telepathically scanned the old brick building, and even though she didn’t sense any danger, she let one of the bodyguards go in first.
Blueblood had set the meeting place. That meant she needed to be more cautious than usual.
They stepped inside a pool hall. It was big enough to hold six pool tables, a bar, and a dozen or so stools. Two of Blueblood’s men were playing a game, one of them lining up a shot with his cue. No sign of Blueblood himself or Joey, and that made Val worry. Not out of personal concern for Joey’s well-being, but out of the knowledge that if he hadn’t made it back, then the job had gone very, very wrong.
If things had gone wrong, it would benefit Blueblood. He just needed to make a show of trying to help her father so no one suspected him when he made his murder attempt. (Or more likely maneuvered Val into making the attempt. She doubted he’d risk doing it himself.) He may have ordered his men to fail, or set them up to without telling them. Either way, if something had happened to Joey, it was because Blueblood wanted it to. And him eliminating Val’s minions without her permission didn’t bode well for their future partnership.
Then Val noticed a third figure in the room: JB. He was hunched over on one of the barstools, sucking soda out of a glass through a straw.
“Hey, kid,” she greeted. Then she turned back to the men. “Where’s Blueblood?” Continue reading
Moreen sat on the edge of her hospital gurney, her right foot tapping rapidly on the floor. From her curtained-off cubicle, she watched doctors, nurses, and the occasional police officer rush past. Someone would moan or cry out occasionally, drowning out the hushed conversation and beeping medical equipment. The ER was a hive of activity, none of it enough to distract her from the pain in her arm or the worry gnawing her insides.
A familiar figure in goggles and a tight, blue and yellow suit spotted her and rushed up.
“How are you?” Harris asked.
“Fine,” she grunted. “Any news?”
“You’re not fine. Your arm’s broken, right? They putting you in cast?”
“Surgery first. They need to put in wires or something. It’s fine. Any news?”
She knew the answer even before he shook his head regretfully. If he’d had good news, he would have blurted it out before asking about her arm.
“We’ve got eyes on every possible bolt-hole they could be taking him to,” Harris said. “Giordano’s and Madame Morphine’s faces are plastered across the news. We’re hauling in everybody who’s ever spoken to them for questioning. And a psychometrist is going over the whole hotel. We’ll find him.”
“I should be out there, too.” Continue reading
Dave opened the stairwell door to find Joey Giordano, Madame Morphine, and another goon coming up the steps. The four of them stared at each other for a fraction of a second before all hell broke loose. The goon started shooting, and Dave yelled at the others to run.
Chung and Attwater pulled Puebla back down the hallway as a bullet stung Dave’s side. Giordano charged up the last few steps, and Dave braced himself. The sleeve of the other man’s suit jacket had a bloody tear (Moreen? Was she okay?), which would make him stronger than normal. Dave sidestepped when Giordano swung at him, trying to use the man’s own momentum to throw him. But Giordano was too good a fighter; he didn’t overextend the punch. When he missed, he pivoted and threw another.
Dave raised his arm to block, then used the fist of the same arm to pop Giordano in the jaw. Giordano lurched back and hit the doorframe, knocking the door off its hinges. Judging by that reaction, he wasn’t as strong as Dave yet. But this was no time to play nice. Dave aimed another punch at this head, but Giordano jerked out of the way at the last second. Dave’s fist hit the wall—and went straight through it.
Dave wrenched his hand out of the hole, but it cost him a precious second. Giordano brought down both fists onto the back of Dave’s head. Dave’s vision went white, and he staggered. Pain spiked through his skull, and he tried to shake it off, but Giordano didn’t give him a single instant. He socked Dave in the stomach. Continue reading