- April 2, 2023
The Wolf Pack (Chapter 21)
The Lunch Break
“Thank you again for doing this!” Emily yells. She has to yell so I can hear her over the wind.
We’re flying to her house, and she’s got me on her shoulders again. It’s better than being carried bridal style, but it’s still… weird. I don’t mind flying so much, but it wouldn’t be my first choice. Just not the worst.
As to why she was thanking me, she wanted me to talk to her younger brothers. I knew that people were going to see a gun-toting vigilante and think, ‘Oh my gawd, he’s so cool!’
That’s not a good thing, but what can you do? You can’t expect everyone to understand what or why you do what you do. Even if you wrote it out very clearly and distinctly, in clear words, people still misinterpret it. That said if I can fix the problem when I can… why not?
Emily told me her brothers thought I was cool, and we both thought, ‘No, no they should not.’
So she invited me to talk to them. Still not sure if that was the right idea, but what’s the worst that could happen, they like me more? Their dad was already a Republican, this was going to be an uphill battle regardless.
“No problem, I agree with you, the last thing we need is a bunch of kids idolizing me for shooting people.” She hums in agreement, which is boring so I poke a bit. “Especially white kids.”
She turns her head but didn’t say much more than, “Uh huh.”
“Especially white boys.”
“I-I heard you.”
“Especially incredibly rich and impressionable white boys who will grow up to be richer than god.”
Then I hear the groan I was looking for.
“Are you done?”
I have one more.
“They’ll be limitless Jeff Bezos if they’re lucky…”
She squeezes my ankles as she held me down on her shoulders. I can’t make out what curses she’s telling herself, but by the way she shook her head, she’s quietly cursing her head off.
“Hey,” I say with a shrug, “you insisted on carrying me.”
“I thought it would be good for them to see you emasculated.”
Oh, when you’re flying high above the sky, it’s hard to feel emasculated. She should have suggested carrying me bridal style, but I don’t think even my back could take it with how she decided to take her time getting there.
If I didn’t know any better, I’d have thought she was trying to spend more time with me. But I know better, she’s always trying to find time to spend with the team. It’s not like she’s going to school yet.
“I’m pretty sure you’re joking,” I tell her, “but at the off chance you’re not, I would have you know that being carried is more annoying and physically uncomfortable than emasculating.”
“Oh? And why is that?”
“You know what’s really emasculating?”
“No, I’m just continuing this conversation because I hate you.”
That made me chuckle.
“Being late, alone, and hitting the fucking pavement,” I tell her.
She laughs out loud at that, so all’s good… or good enough, I don’t read minds.
“I’m glad you see it my way,” she tells me.
“Don’t act like you put any thought into why you keep me from driving places.”
“You’re lucky we’re here,” she tells me as she suddenly slows and starts her descent. When she does, she has to pull on my legs. I got used to basically sitting on her back but I got to sit on her shoulders as she rights her legs towards the ground.
I can already see the two little shits in the high rise pool as we land. They couldn’t be a year older than Marie’s kid siblings, maybe eight or nine or… wait, why she floating over the water?
“I know you two wanted to meet the Hood,” she tells them as they look up at us with wide eyes.
I try to get off but she tightens her grip on my legs so I can’t move.
She ignores me to talk to her brothers as they float in the shallow end. “I can’t tell why though, he sinks and drowns like everyone else.”
She pushes my legs up so I fall over her back, right into the water.
This little bitch.
I don’t think this armor has many flaws, but how hard it is to swim in it, is definitely one of them. The night I met Claire, I had to swim to that warehouse, and it was the hardest thing I did all night.
Thankfully, this pool isn’t too deep. I easily jump and start pulling myself out, my helmet keeping me from treading water. It can do that for a few minutes, but like… it’s just a pool, not big-
“Hmph!” I make an involuntary groan when I’m plucked from the water by my stomach. It takes a moment to realize that she’s holding me under her armpit like I’m some handbag.
“Okay, Em, I think you’ve made your point,” I say through the pressure on my stomach.
“Yeah, you’re right,” she seems to agree, her voice having this false chime to it. It’s, a bit disconcerting, especially considering my position.
Then she throws me again this time straight for the ground. I knew I agreed to embarrassed myself, but not this abuse!
Before I hit the ground I feel arms catch me around my stomach, like I’m some kind of dog. My arms go limp from the sheer embarrassment of how she’s holding me.
Just as quickly she flips me around so she’s… holding me bridal style. I should not have mentioned that earlier.
“Oh, don’t worry,” she teases me with that demonic smile on her face, “I got you.”
Then the bitch drops me right on my ass.
“You look so cool there.”
“You really letting her do you like that?” one of the kids says.
“Excuse me?” I say as I rub my ass and see the brother with the combed-back hair staring back. The family resemblance is uncanny.
He has that same judging look on his face. He even arches his brow the same as his sister. He has to know what’s going on, and that might just sour his feelings on me alone. But that’s not the offensive part.
“What the fuck do you me, ‘do me like that?’ Why the hell are you talking like you’re not the whitest, preppiest kid at the local prep school for snot-nosed brats?”
The other kid snickers. He has this wild frizzy ginger hair that curls even when wet. Fraternal twins I guess.
The second doesn’t has his brother’s bark, because he cowers once his brother turns his glare turns his way.
“Daniel,” Emily calls the little shits name, and he turns away, starts mumbling to himself.
Probably saw some kind of kinship in privilege with me. As he mumbles to himself, his brow just furrows harder and harder until Emily snaps at him.
“I can hear you, Daniel.” That makes him flinch.
“So what?” he says back.
“So you’ll consider pool time over while I think about telling mom what you said about me and Chester.”
Oh, he’s in trouble.
“Ugh,” he says, making a big stink, splashing around, and stomping his feet out of the water. He even makes a big deal out of ripping his towel from the beach chair, nearly toppling it.
All the while, Emily floats above him, her eyes on him, with her fists on her hips. I’m sure she looks like their second mother rather than their sister. Maybe seeing how Marie takes care of her siblings has felt like she needs to step up, but she has two parents and she doesn’t need to do their job. Maybe this wasn’t the best idea.
The other one, Chester, walks out of the pool shivering.
Emily floats down to the ground as he walks up to her.
“You didn’t have to get out, you didn’t do anything, Chess.” She ruffles his wet curls as she looks around for a towel, but doesn’t see one.
“I was kind of done anyway, but Danny took my towel.”
Under her breath, Emily curses, “That little shit.”
“Emily!” Chester yells at her.
“I’m an adult, it’s fine, hold still.”
She places both hands on her brother and sucks in the air around her. Suddenly, she blows but with it’s super breath. It makes her brother’s skin ripple and he opens his mouth like he’s on a rollercoaster. His hair flies up and turns from curls into one big poof.
She’s done in a few seconds, leaving him dry and chuckling like a goofball. “Thanks!” he says but not much else.
He laughs the whole way, seems like the sweetest of the Burke kids.
He’s gonna get bullied so hard.
Emily stands back up with her fists on her hands, seemingly proud that she can make a little kid laugh. Then she turns to me, and that fake smile turns into an all-too-real smirk. “Why are you still on the ground? Are you utterly demoralized?”
“You dropped my ass on concrete, it hurts, I don’t know what else to tell you.”
She walks over, flips away her cape and sits next to me. “You could tell me off.”
“I thought about it, but I did volunteer.”
Emily leaned forward to rest her arms and her head on her knees, letting out this long sigh as she did so. “Thanks, I appreciated this, I could tell just how disappointing it was to see their illusion of you a bit shattered.”
“I don’t think you had to worry about Chester, or even Daniel, that wasn’t your job.”
She mumbles into her arm, “I know.”
She turns her eyes my way and starts smirking as she focuses her eyes on me. I don’t want to know what that’s about.
“You know,” she says in a way that already fills me with apprehension, “I’ve been trying to test myself, training my eyesight to look through walls.”
“Oh are you?” It didn’t take a rocket scientist to see where this was going. “Let me guess, you’ve been testing on my helmet.”
“See, you are a little smarty pants, but while I can’t quite see your face yet, I do know one thing.”
I lean in and whisper, “What’s that?”
She leans closer to whisper in my ear, “We make you smile a whole lot more than you let on.”
I sit with that before I start to pull away. “Do you… do you see all the times I smile?”
That sours the look on her face. “Yeah, I do.”
Good, she hasn’t forgotten what I am with all the… entertainment I’ve offered her. It is kind of weird how many white girls seem to love talking about serial killers. Maybe Emily is what happens when they get to meet one without fear of being killed.
Emily shakes her head, thinking about the less-than-friendly times she’s seen me smile under the mask. They were many times someone else was surely not smiling.
God, we’ve been doing this team thing a while now, haven’t we?
“It’s a pretty sight isn’t it,” she says out of nowhere, and I turn to see her looking over the skyline. You can see, even from the wrong side of the pool deck. The city has just enough buildings taller than this one to make the view spectacular at sunset. I’ve seen a few times from buildings around here.
I can assume she means the skyline, I’m not looking at it.
“Yeah, it is.”
She moves her eyes towards me, and turns to face me, with that grin on her face. Shit, she’s about to ask me to do something.
“We could go out and see it,” she offers, and that idea isn’t too appealing to me until she says, “Tommy and Marie are going to Jessie’s Oven after they’re done mopping up after a superhuman awakening. We should join them.”
She says it so matter of fact, smirking, like she’s already guaranteed a yes from me.
I do like pizza though. “Is Jessie’s Oven the pizza place off of Adds Circle?” I ask.
“The very one,” she chimes.
“Ehh,” I groan, I don’t do social gatherings in public, I don’t… like them, and we’re going to be in superhero clothes I imagine.
“Come on, you can’t like being alone that much.”
I very much can, and I very much will.
“Trust me, my time alone is for everyone’s safety,” I assure her as I stand up, sensing the end of this visit approaching.
I make my way towards the railing, about to leap and go home when she calls to me, “You suck!”
I half expect her to use superspeed and grab me, but she doesn’t as I put my foot on her balcony railing. I appreciate her not grabbing me and flying me there.
Still, she’s quite disappointed as she drones, “I’ll guess I’ll see you later, curmudgeon.”
“Be seeing you,” I say with a goodbye salute and leap off the building with my wings out.
I hear her call behind me, “Call Claire! She’s been calling! I bet she’s pissed at you!” Fuck me.
I could keep ignoring her, but that’s bad for my health. As I glide I call her and turn up the volume at my own peril.
“If you weren’t my only blood I’d kill you,” my great-grandmother growls into my ear.
“You’re related?” I hear James ask in the background.
“Keep it to yourself,” she tells him, in a much calmer voice now.
She’s not yelling and screaming, a miracle that makes me question my lack of faith, but I must admit that I am curious as to why. I’ll find out by taunting her.
“You’re not yelling and screaming, why aren’t you yelling and screaming?”
Claire admits, “I was yelling and screaming unintelligible things while you were ignoring my calls, but then I had James here hack your helmet so I could listen to you be a prick.”
“Oh Jesus Christ, the fuck, James?”
“She made me!”
Claire ignores us both ask, “Is there really any good reason you said no? Would a slice of pizza cut too much into your brooding time?”
My first excuse is, “I need to feed my dog.” Hold on, why am I even giving an excuse? I don’t owe anybody any reason as to why I don’t want to do something.
“You feed your dog in the morning, I know, her bowl is always empty at night!” Claire yells into my ear, making my eardrums feel like an actual instrument. “Would it really kill you to hang out with the team? You agreed to be a part of it.”
I’m still gliding toward the ground as I see the Challenger up ahead. As I angle myself for the sidewalk I ask Claire, “Since when did that include public outings?”
“Since the team included teenagers who need to eat. You fit that bill.” I don’t appreciate the personal blows against my image, the illusion can be too easily fractured by truths about me, even my age.
I stand my ground, and and I can decide for myself. “I’m not going, I don’t want to, that’s all there is to it.” I hear her sigh into the com instead of the usual groan I expect and prefer. The sigh, signals disappointment.
She remains silent, silent even when I land on the sidewalk and scare the shit out of the pedestrians. Even as I casually walk around my car and give them the opportunity to take out their phones for pictures, Claire is silent.
It’s when I open the driver’s side door that she speaks.
“Hey, please go with them,” she begs, I think it’s begging, no way, she doesn’t beg, but it sounds like begging. “Be a kid, for once, see if you really do hate it.”
I don’t need to find out again, I already know. Serial killers playing Dexter don’t – you know – hang out and act their age.
She makes an offer I have to think about as I enter the black Challenger. “If you go, I promise not to bitch at you for the next week over… anything.”
“Ehh,” I groan.
“You don’t want to be a hermit with only me as a friend do you?” Claire asks me.
“I have a dog.”
“You have a six-year-old pit bull, and they live anywhere from eight to fifteen years. You’re not even old enough to drink.”
I bring my hand to my helmet, and squeeze my fist real slow so she knows I’m making a fist. “Don’t talk like that about my dog, Claire.”
“Make friends to keep, Hood, nobody really wants to be without one good one, believe me, I know, I’ve spent more years alone than most people live.” That hint at immortality probably threw James for a loop, but it put a weight on my shoulders. I know, being her blood, there’s a chance I could end up like her, doubtfully as old but older than most.
I don’t need friends like Emily, Marie, or Tommy. Never thought about having ones like them before. Usually never relate to anyone who doesn’t have a list of their favorite kills. Though, this is what my mentor always recommended, for when the going gets tough and the tough becomes the empty void.
I press the ignition.
“So I got this new game, where you can beat up a skeleton and use its arms as swords,” Tommy tells us, clearly itching with excitement to play it when he gets home, “kind of wish my family hadn’t planned to have a picnic instead today.”
With a hoodie on instead of her armor, Marie takes a bite of her pizza and mumbles, “You can do it in real life if you’re not a fucking coward.”
Tommy is a little repulsed by this and looks at her with this shaky smile, “You’re kidding right?” but she smirks at him instead of responding. With more worry he repeats, “Right? Right?!”
“Of course, I’m kidding,” Marie assures, mumbling through her food, “thank god the Hood wasn’t here, he’d give you hell if he heard you believe that.”
Yeah, that jerk.
It’s nice to hang out like a normal kid for a change, but it’s way funnier to do it in costume. People stop and take pictures of us; some people sit outside the pizza place and watch us to see if we’re actually human. There were a couple of little girls who walked by us, right behind the short fence around the outside eating. I waved and they got all smiley and giddy.
Jessie’s is good pizza, but the best thing about it is the location. It’s around Adds Circle, the middle of Aegis City, where someone can forget what’s North Aeg and what’s South Aeg. All the stores and restaurants do so much business, that things are pretty cheap… or that’s what Marie tells me.
The circle that gives the location its name is this park filled with greenery and cleanliness, and instead of Times Square’s many screens calling for everyone’s attention, we do get one right in the middle. This three-sided screen that reports on the daily news, one side showing Tommy putting out a fire from last week where he drained the flames, another showing a shot of Marie freezing a getaway car after a robbery, and a new shot of me catching a plane from a few hours ago. All from the same news station, ACN, Aegis City News.
Usually, ACN is always showing anchors questioning us, but it’s starting to feel like they have other things to talk about, we’re fluff pieces to keep people’s attention to the screen. Better than the alternative.
All in all, the people, the beauty, the simplicity, even with the cars racing around the circle that break the city’s grid system, Adds Circle for me at least puts Times Square to shame. Seen it, it’s cool, but this is a place I’d like to come see more. It’s criminal that I live here and don’t find my way back more often.
So why wouldn’t Mr. Brood and Gloom want to come? Does he really hate being around people that much? I figured he’d be good at ignoring them, he’s good at doing that to the people who want to be his friends. He’s good at doing that to-
“You alright, Em?” Tommy asks me, breaking my train of thought. I look up at him as he points to my arm. “You got an elbow in your food.”
I look down and see that I just stuck my elbow in my garlic knots. “Damn it,” I curse as I wipe it off. I know where this suit has been, but I’ll still eat them, they’re too good to waste. Just wish I had an appetite right now.
Tommy and Marie are still looking at me, sitting across from our wooden table. I assure them, “Yeah, I’m fine, just aggravated that you-know-who didn’t want to come.”
Marie shakes her head as she goes back to her pizza, and Tommy chews through his sandwich as he tells me, “What did you *gulp* expect?” I mean, I guess I expected to see some kind of change, but maybe I overestimated his social improvement. “Gotta remember who we’re talking about, medium height, dark, and 100% douchebag.”
Marie jokes, “Are you sure you just don’t like being told no?” laughing to herself as I give her an angry squint.
I know she’s just messing with me, though there may some truth to it. Marie has helped me improve on my level of ignorance, which in her words means helping me notice when I’m being bratty and spoiled and don’t know it.
“I’m just worried that… is hanging out with me that bad?”
They look at each other, silently asking each other if the other thinks I sound melodramatic. They don’t answer me over the sound of a Challenger.
I have to admit, I missed a breath questioning if it’s what it sounds like. The black car I didn’t think was real until a few days go cuts off another car to park in front of Jessie’s Oven, illegally I add, and I find myself grinning from getting what I want. Yeah, maybe I was upset because I don’t like being told no, because now I feel ecstatic that the answer has become a yes.
We’re all watching this car pull up into a spot that’s not a parking space, waiting to see who gets out, but the team knows. The Hood gets out and shuts the door with his back to us. As he walks around to enter Jessie’s Oven he goes towards the counter for outside ordering.
The people waiting in line move for him, watching as the infamous vigilante known as the Hood, known for killing the mob and superhumans, orders a goddamn pie for himself.
“Here or to go?”
As the Hood pulls out a wallet from one of his armor’s compartments — there’s a compartment for his wallet — he responds, “For here, please.” People are literally shocked that the Hood has manners.
He gets a tab for his order number and hands them money. “Keep the change.” He must hate coins in his compartment.
He walks to us and sits down right next to me. He tells me, “By the way Emily, there’s nothing wrong with hanging out with you.”
I want to be mad but I expect this from him by this point, and now I’m embarrassed to say I never took out my earpiece. Anyone from S.I.L.A.S. could have been listening. As I click it off, the Hood adds, “Now Tommy on the other hand…”
“Hardy, har, har,” Tommy deadpans at the Hood’s insult. It’s honestly more funny than the insult, especially as food drips out of his mouth and he has to catch it.
Marie asks the Hood, “We heard you shot down our little princess over here,” which prompts a stick of my tongue, “what changed your mind?”
“I love the pizza here,” the Hood admits, and people all around hum and mutter to themselves, showing no skill for being conspicuous.
Faster than for anyone else, a waiter comes with a pie to our table, and the Hood takes it with a proper, “Thank you, that was fast.” As the waiter leaves, he turns to me and asks, “You don’t think…”
“That they gave you a pie meant for someone? There’s no doubt in my mind,” I tell him.
“Eh,” he groans as he looks down at his pie.
“So,” Tommy goes, “how are you going to eat it?”
The Hood doesn’t move his head, so he probably lifted his eyes as he responds with, “Pardon?”
“You’re wearing a helmet.”
“I’m going to take it off, obviously.” The Hood didn’t call him a dumbass, so that’s definitely an improvement.
Though saying that he’s going to take off his helmet catches the complete attention of not only Tommy and Marie, but the couple dozen people eating around us, all watching to see. I’m going to laugh so hard when everyone is disappointed.
The Hood takes his hands to his helmet, and we hear the latches come undone before he lifts it. As it slowly moves up his head, some steam comes out, blocking his face from view as the black helmet slips off. The steam fades fast and all everyone is left with…
… is a black ski mask.
“Ahh, come on!”
“Gotta be kidding me.”
“What’s with the fucking blue balls, man!” Tommy complains.
Marie actually finds it funny like I do and tells Tommy, “Stop complaining, and nobody wants to know what you mean!”
The Hood wears a black ski mask under his helmet, just I like I told everyone, but they thought I was joking. From it we can see the five o’clock shadow just around his lips, and the large cut that goes through his upper lip on the left side. From his eyes, his right is permanently swollen, it opens smaller than his left, which is strange considering his knack for aiming a gun.
The Hood notices who’s watching. Marie doesn’t give one shit it seems as she continues to eat her pizza as he does, and while he sees me inspecting his face he doesn’t comment on it. He does look at Tommy looking at him and asks, “What?”
“So that’s what you sound like,” Tommy mumbles, prompting the Hood to arch his eyebrow underneath his ski mask. “Well, that’s some of what you look like,” Tommy also mumbles.
Marie stops eating to inspect Tommy inspecting the Hood, and asks him, “What are you trying to say?”
Tommy points and shakes his finger towards the Hood, taking a guess that I made a long time ago, “I don’t think he’s that old.”
“Does that matter?” the Hood asks. I mean, just based on his voice, while monotone and cold, it isn’t scratchy or hoarse like my grandpa, or even as deep as my dad.
“Totally, it makes it less creepy that you hang out with high schoolers if you are one,” Tommy reckons.
“I graduated from high school already,” the Hood informs Tommy as he digs into his pizza.
“Alright.” Tommy stores that seemingly useless knowledge in his head for later.
Sometime does go by as we eat, me finally eating my garlic knots so our mouths are too full to speak. Being right next to the Hood’s pizza, I can’t help but smell the fumes and see how the grease makes it looks like a cheesy Heaven.
The Hood notices and asks, “Do you want a slice?” I don’t answer with my voice, I answer with a nod of my head and my quivering lip, and he offers it to me.
Tommy lifts his head to get a good look at the pizza and asks the Hood, “Can I have one?”
Tommy leans back in his seat disappointed and jealous of me as he should be. He leans forward on his hand as he takes the last bite of his sandwich, realizing he got less food than everyone else and is now paying for it. I can tell by the look in his eye that he’s daydreaming now.
Then the Hood shows him his pie. “I was kidding, take one.”
Tommy’s mouth waters right before he takes a bite. You’d think he would have just ordered pizza at a pizza place, but he got it anyway.
Then without warning, Tommy says, “I had a thought.”
“Oh no,” the Hood responds.
“I swear, it’s a good one this time!”
The Hood nods his head with this sarcastic hum.
“Hold on,” Tommy asks of us, trying to gain everyone’s attention. “Hear me out, I was thinking about birds,” and the Hood groans right then and there. Tommy shoots him an angry squint and continues, “I was thinking about birds as I was cleaning my dad’s car, thinking about how much it fucking sucks when they shit everywhere and get away with it.”
The Hood looks to his car outside the gate and has to agree, “Yeah, that does suck, and apparently it’s not appropriate to shoot them either.” I giggle at that, Tommy squints at yet another interruption.
“Okay, but I was cleaning the car when I realized how much I would love for it to be someone else’s day that gets ruined. Think about it, birds just shit on someone’s car, ruin their day and flies away, isn’t it great when it happens to an asshole?” Marie stops eating her food, probably out of both mental and digestive disgust at what he is saying. “Being a bird is like, secretly awesome, imagine ruining the day of someone you hate, but so subtly and innocently that they can’t do anything about it, ever?”
Marie admits, “Is it bad that he’s kinda selling me on this?”
The Hood shakes his head and goes back to his food, and I put my finger in my mouth and pretend to puke.
“I’m just saying, if I were a bird, I know whose car I’d shit on.”
The Hood raises his head, and at first, I think he’s thinking of his car, until he points out, “Tommy, you can fly.”
Tommy’s eyes light up in realization. “Oh yeah.”
That’s not a good sign. Sometimes I forget, boys are stupid, even when they’re smart.
As Tommy grows silent and deep in thought, the Hood actually smiles and tells Tommy, “I love the sound you make when you shut up.”
Tommy glares at him but doesn’t say anything back.
Let’s try and make this conversation more friendly to my stomach. Tommy actually has me thinking about my powers now, and using them outside of hitting or catching things.
“Well, while I can promise that I’m never taking my pants down to shit mid-flight, I have thought about other things that would be fun to do while flying.” I look at the Hood when I say this, seeing his eyes narrow on mine. Here’s hoping that he gets confused by the subtle tease, especially when I actually say, “Like flying to the moon.” I get doubtful glances from all three, as if my plans are silly.
I don’t know if it’s that they think I can’t make it, because, “I think I can make it!” or if they think it’s lame even though, “The view would be amazing!” Nothing, not any sign one that anyone is impressed or approves, killing my excitement about it. I go back to eating my garlic knots, muttering, “I can make it there…”
The Hood rubs my back as he patronizes me. “I’m sure you can.” It’s hard to scrunch my nose and not scowl at him.
“Really, that’s it, the moon?” Tommy questions.
I shrug, I thought it would be a good idea. “Yeah, I mean, I guess I don’t have some deep and thoughtful thing I want to do with my powers.” I throw my hands like I’m throwing a tantrum, “Go on make fun of me, tell me how my powers are wasted on someone like me!”
“I don’t think so,” Marie says.
I slowly lower my arms. “Really?” I ask again, and she just nods her head. “Come on,” I say, she doesn’t have to be nice to me. “I’ve got everything, and now I have no idea how to enjoy it.”
“No, I think I agree with Marie,” the Hood adds.
“So, I’m the only asshole?” Tommy says.
“At this moment, yes.”
“But why?” I ask them.
“I thought it was clear why Tommy was an asshole?”
I start shaking my hand in their faces to get the boys to shut up. “No, seriously though, why aren’t arresting about my childhood fantasies to be an astronaut?”
“Well,” Marie mumbles, “I guess… if you don’t have anything else you daydream about doing with your powers, that means you’ve done everything that could possibly interest you. Something as mundane sounding as going to the moon just to be there seems interesting to you.”
“Yeah,” the Hood agrees, “imagine if someone with everything to do had your powers, when would they have thought to use it to help people?”
Who’d have thought that Marie and the Hood would make me blush. I try to hide it but if grab my face that’s kind of a dead giveaway, so I just start looking like an apple I’m sure. “I know you’re just saying that, but thanks… I appreciate it.”
“No problem,” Marie says with her mouth full, or I think that’s what she said.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about, I don’t just say things.” As always, the Hood has to feel special
“Of course, you don’t,” I tell him.
“Are we assholes for implying the moon is boring?” Tommy asks.
“We’re not scientists, what would we do up there?” Marie points out. “Jump in low gravity when we have powers that let us do that here?”
“Eh, I guess context matters.”
The Hood stops to stare at him. “When does it not?”
Marie looks around and decides to just follow up with her own idea for fun with her powers. “I honestly just can’t wait until I’m 21,” she admits honestly, finishing the last of her crust. My immediate reaction is to be surprised, but considering how much stress she’s usually under I really shouldn’t be… but what does alcohol have to do with her powers?
“California lets you drive boats at 16, but all the good places won’t let you rent one until your 21, and you’ve had your full driver’s license for three years. That reminds me, I have to take that test if I want to make it on time.” Oh, so it’s not alcohol, good thing I didn’t speak when I jumped to conclusions.
Tommy remembers and comments, “I forgot that you like fishing,” and I must admit to myself that I had no idea. Fishing doesn’t strike me as something Marie would like.
The Hood thinks otherwise, guessing that, “I bet you like the quiet allure of the sea, you can be totally alone.”
Marie smiles, which confirms it for the Hood, “It would be a nice break from two kids screaming at home and criminals yelling at work.” I guess it does make a lot of sense when one thinks about it. “It was something my dad used to do with me now and then anyway, fishing isn’t one of the more expensive activities, you just need a shitty pool and some words from the dirt… so I’ve always liked fishing.”
“What does that have to do with your powers though?” Tommy asks.
Marie holds her hand out and faces it towards the ground, making a freezing gesture. “Oh I would cheat. I would cool the water around me, with my boat being the warmest spot. I’ll have more fish than I know what to do with, or at least I think, still have to try it.”
“Isn’t that cheating a little?” Tommy points out as he holds in a laugh.
Marie looks at him sideways. “Who cares, it’s fish, what are they gonna do, report me to some fishing committee?” She shrugs it off to go back to her drink, but I think other fishermen could actually report her for that.
All in all, I bet if I took a vote, Marie’s pick for casual use of powers would win over dropping a deuce on the cars of our most hated enemies and flying to the moon. Though, now I’m sure that going to the moon is something I’m gonna do.
It gets to be a pretty good meal, at least until the screens in the middle of Adds Circle start lighting up with ‘Breaking News’ plastered on all three. We can’t hear it, but it’s a light show that catches most people’s attention.
Tommy asks us, “Who wants to make a bet that it’s some bad dude we’re going to have to go catch?”
“Probably,” Marie agrees as she pulls out her phone, and asks us, “does anyone know how to listen in?”
“Go to ACN’s website, we can listen from there,” I tell them as I see the Hood putting on his helmet. “Don’t tell me you have internet in that.”
The Hood gloats, “I have my own Wi-Fi hotspot.” Of course, he does.
I pull out my own phone to get right on it as the screen shows the breaking news. Tommy says, “I’ve got it,” and turns on his phone’s speaker for us. He tells the Hood, “You make a good hotspot.”
The Hood drones out, “Thanks.”
We can hear the report as the screen tells us exactly what so important, and it ain’t a robbery or car chase, it’s a trial.
I hear news anchor Jackaby White reporting, “We come to you live from the trial of the famous international thief, Evan Settleborn, better known to Aegis City as Dr. Magician. He was apprehended several months ago by the vigilante known as the Hood and Aegis City’s own Espada.” The Hood lets out a huff by how they identify him. “After the last judge had to be changed after a conflict of interest, the defense is taking what can be seen as another chance to dismantle the prosecution’s witnesses.”
“What I want to know,” the Hood starts, “is who’s paying for this scumbag’s attorney.” Looking at the chiseled chin, gel-haired, well-dressed lawyer that Dr. Magician has, anyone can tell that he isn’t a public defender.
We can hear what the lawyer is saying as he approaches the microphone in front of the courthouse. “My client, Mr. Settleborn, is accused of armed robbery and assault, and on January 13th, a robbery and assault happened.” It’s hard to believe that was so long ago, it’s May now.
“What did not happen was a capture of the final robber at the sight of the crime,” the lawyer points out with a shake of his finger, and I feel my temper rising as I realize what he’s going to do. “Mr. Settleborn was apprehended not at the scene of the crime but while he was minding his own business, in a different set of clothes, when he was assaulted by a known, violent, vigilante,” a statement that the Hood doesn’t even twitch at, “while a so-called hero watched.”
It’s hard to always remember that I can easily break things, and when I close my hands into a fist, I end up scratching lines into the table.
“I will show the members of the jury,” the lawyer continues, “that these non-deputized individuals who made this brutal citizen’s arrest, accused this man of the crime because of the mask he wore, a mask he must wear because of an injury he suffered to his eyes.”
I ask the Hood, “Is that true? Does he wear that mask because of… something?”
The Hood nods. “More or less, he can’t see without the special lenses, but it doesn’t have to be a fucking bird mask.”
Well, that explains how even in his orange jumpsuit he still wears the stupid bird mask.
The lawyer continues to attack the Hood and me from when we caught Dr. Magician, arguing, “Anyone can use this same mask, there are similar ones at party stores, I know because I bought one this afternoon to show the jury and now you,” and he does pull out a mask that looks identical to Dr. Magician’s, too identical.
For a moment I think there’s a good point, a little tiny section of my brain develops a hint of doubt that we grabbed the right guy, until the Hood leans over my shoulder to remind me, “We know it was him when we found him, not only because of the tracker on his pants, but that he still had his glove on him.”
That speck of doubt disappears, and worry is replaced when I realize something about that.
“S.I.L.A.S. has the Worldbender, locked away in secret, and that can’t be used as evidence.”
Tommy and Marie look up and get these nervous faces. Our own boss’s policies regarding superhuman weapons may have fucked this case.
The lawyer puts the mask away, a mask I doubt he bought from a party store, and continues to defend a guilty criminal. “Anyone could have worn this mask, but because my client wore the same one, he was picked and assaulted by a maniac that the law refuses to arrest.” At that the Hood turns away from the phone.
“The law did arrest Mr. Settleborn. The law arrested a man trying to own up to his damaged eyes on the word of two witnesses, who have never been questioned or followed up on for a statement, the one who did the arresting having a questionable state of mind.”
At that,, the Hood stands up from his seat, and everyone, including the regular people around us, turn to watch him as he stands by the fence. We watch him watch the Adds Circle’s big screen.
He watches and listens as the lawyer gets heated and attacks his character. “The law accepted the word of violent criminal, over that of a disabled civilian! The law accepted his word without a statement and locked up Mr. Settleborn after this criminal brutalized him! That’s what the law has done, that’s what the law apparently does now, believes in murderers and lets them get away with wanton violence because they know how to shoot a gun. Well, I say to the jury, you are the law now, the better law who can right this wrong. As of now, Mr. Settleborn has no witnesses against him, no statements or reports, only the word of a madman, who I havecall to the stand!”
A part of me wishes I was there to know if the audience gasped.
I know I stop breathing as I think about the gal this lawyer has, to call the Hood as a witness. I turn to the vigilante in question and he hasn’t budged an inch.
I hear the lawyer say from the phone, seeing the veins in his face still popping on the big screen. He doesn’t yell anymore, he doesn’t just taunt, he does one thing better, he challenges the Hood.
“Or really, I would call him to the stand, but he won’t come, not one of the so-called heroes would. Because of that, I claim that my client should not only be found not guilty but should be repaid for what he has suffered.” Tommy has the common sense to mute his phone after that.
We all look at the Hood’s back, facing the screen, silent with his arms crossed. I look to Tommy and Marie, and that was stupid. They’re not going to go talk to him, I have to.
I must admit, the fact that he’s not yelling, cursing, threatening, or saying anything about this lawyer has me nervous about his reaction. What is he going to do?
I get up, and I hesitate before I start walking. He doesn’t move his head toward me even when I’m right behind him, but without a doubt, he knows I’m there, he knows everyone around us is watching.
“Hood,” I call his name as I tap his shoulder, and his head creeps around to look at me over his shoulder. I ask him, “Are you okay?”
He tells me, “You should have let me kill him when I had the chance.” I’m going to go with no, he’s not okay.