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Authors: Ernie Lindsey

Super

BOOK: Super
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Contents
Copyright

C
opyright © 2014
Ernie Lindsey

C
over Art
by Adam Hall of
Atom Creative

A
ll rights reserved
. Except as permitted under U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without the prior written permission of the author.

Also By Ernie Lindsey

F
or Sarah and Jack
,

More than super

E
ven heroes wear masks
.

--Unknown

Chapter One
Present Day

T
he woman
from South Korea
looks fetching in a white pantsuit. Her hair is the color of a raven, flecked with rainy day gray, and she wears it cropped close and level like a '50s flattop.

Out of everyone in this godforsaken support group, I trust her the least. In fact, I couldn’t trust her
less
if I tried; yet, I’m starting to think that she’s not the reason I’m here.

Still, she’s got some nerve.

John Conklin carries doughnuts around the circle, and when he asks in a hushed voice if I want glazed or Boston Crème, I politely decline. I know where his hands have been. “Suit yourself,” he says. “They’re from that gluten-free place up near Powell’s.”

“Patsy’s?”

His eyes light up. “Yeah, that one!”

I reassure him that, indeed, I do not want a doughnut, though on most days, I’d give my right arm for their blessed pastries. Bottom line, I don’t want John Conklin anywhere near my food.

Dallas works that Cheshire grin on her face, lying to everyone in the room, claiming that she’s responsible for Patriotman’s death off the coast of the Maldives.

We’re supposed to be here for that cotton-candy bullshit: love, support, understanding, and a shoulder to cry on. We’re not here to beat our chests about past conquests.

I should clarify:
they’re
here for that reason. I’m here for my own.

While the world mourns the death of the man in red, white and blue tights, from New York, to Shanghai, to Cairo, with newspapers screaming their headlines of despair, I sit here smoldering inside because I know the truth.

Plus, a woman named Kimmie Strand has been all over the news, talking to whomever she can, claiming to be the only witness.

Whatever. I repeat… I know the truth.

Dallas is lying, but that doesn’t mean she’s my culprit.

She sips her steaming mug of green tea and says, “You know I can’t tell you where the body is, Charlene. That would defeat the entire purpose. Imagine the hysteria.”

Charlene—she’s the attractive redhead—congratulates my South Korean counterpart and hugs her handbag closer to her chest. Her paranoia issues far outweigh my own manufactured problems, and the rest of us had begun to speculate that we’d never see her again. The fact that she’s here, that she made it again, says more about her character than I care to admit because she’s still a suspect. I like Charlene, no doubt, but if it comes down to a cup of coffee or handcuffs—not the furry kind—I’m choosing duty over desire.

Dallas goes on and on about her methods and tactics. She’s such a braggart that I’m beginning to wonder why she’s even here in the first place. She doesn’t belong. Neither do I, but I don’t care that she suffers from compulsive lying. I don’t like her.

“He was right there, guys. I’m telling you, just ripe for the plucking, and I was in and out before he took a second breath. Not that he would’ve had a chance to, mind you.”

Lie.

“Of course I was sure he was dead before I left. Don’t you all double check?”

Lie. Lie.

“I got the liquid brozantium wholesale. I’ll see if my supplier wants me to pass his card around.”

Damned lie.

The only thing she’s gotten right is the fact that they don’t know where the body is.

I do.

How do I know she’s not telling the truth about the rest of it?

Because that gig was
my
handiwork. A week ago, the world learned that Patriotman was eliminated with a simple medicine dropper full of liquidized brozantium, delivered to the ear canal. Every major news outlet on the planet received word that he’d died on the aptly named yacht,
Misery’s Fortune
.

The only known witness was a woman—apparently a (
ahem
) friend of Patriotman’s—who saw it from a hiding spot in the main cabin.

I wonder if she’s been enjoying her time in the spotlight. I may need to pay her a visit.

The story goes that some top secret, ultra clandestine government organization paid an assassin (
yours truly
) to get rid of the dear Patriot, and
voila
, one dead superhero, as ordered. Everybody knows that he was vulnerable to brozantium, but a single, concentrated dose that close to the brain? Dude never had a chance.

The thing is, see, people had been trying to send the man of chiseled chest-diamonds to his grave for decades, but they were going about it all wrong; the trick was to get in there where he was vulnerable.

Hell, I can’t think of any good examples right now—okay, say it’s like Luke Skywalker and the Death Star. Patriotman’s ear canal could be that opening that Skywalker flies into and then fires his
pew-pew
proton torpedoes or whatever. Anyway, we all know how
that
ended.

Am I proud of it? Damn straight.

I mean, I guess I am. Patriotman had done a lot of good for the world, and it was a shame, but
come on
! On the surface, as the world sees it and will never, ever know, I accomplished something that
no other person in history
has been able to do. More people have walked on the moon.

There’s a part of me that wants to say, “Good riddance,” because it’s the end of an era. New book, new story, new chapter. A world that will learn to be self-reliant on the other side of Patriotman’s death.

Dallas says, “Tara, there’s simply no way—I’m sorry,
Mara
—there’s no way I’m going to offer you any legitimate proof and reveal my sources. We all know how this works.”

Mara crosses her legs and her arms. She pouts until Charlie Delta tries to put a hand on her shoulder. She squirms away with an upturned lip.

Dallas says, “Well, he certainly didn’t die with his boots on—
wink, wink
.”

I understand what she means, but, gag me with a spoon if she’s insinuating what I think she’s insinuating.

Here’s the problem: I have no way to refute this woman. She can sit there and lay claim to Patriotman or any of my other conquests like Gray Ghoul, Scarlet Gargoyle, Captain Kane, Deathmarch, Quickstrike, Sam Diamond, the entire Power Hour Team, and even the
Crimson
Gargoyle, and nobody would know the difference.

I’m bound by contractual obligation to keep my damn mouth shut—the US government doesn’t look kindly on its subcontractors sharing state secrets—and she gets all the glory, at least among our counterparts.

In fact, if she signed the same agreements I did, then she’s in clear violation of subparagraph three, section four point two. Forget what it says, but if I had a mind to tattle, she’d be up a certain creek without a certain boat propulsion device.

Should I care? No. Do I? Bah, whatever.

It’s
ridiculous
, and I’m tempted to call her out in front of this entire gaggle of heathens, but who will believe me? Dallas has clout among this den of miscreants and, supposedly, I’m just here for the anxiety issues.

What I’m doing with this gathering of mentally imbalanced, professional assassins is another story that I’ll get to in a minute, but first, let me offer a little background.

We meet every Tuesday and Thursday in the back of a bowling alley that smells like stale beer and floor cleaner. I’m always worried about being congregated here with nearly everyone of my ilk.

If Billie Bombshell happened to learn about this highly clandestine meeting, she could swoop in, drop one of her explosive devices on the roof, and ninety percent of the world’s elite superhero assassins would vanish.

She swore her vengeance after I eliminated her brother, Billy Barbell, but if I took the time to worry about everyone who wants retribution at my expense, I’d be a quivering mess like Charlene.

Remember how in
Forrest Gump
all the shrimping boats were destroyed, and that left the spoils to Forrest? If somebody blew up this building right now, our few remaining colleagues left out there would have more work than they could handle.

The owner, this wrinkled raisin of a guy named Jeff, is a retired NSA agent himself, so he doesn’t mind if the twelve of us gather and whine about how hard our lives are, traveling all over the world to beautiful, exotic locations so we can purge superheroes as various governments deem fit. They have their reasons. I ask, they tell me, and more often than not, I’m happy to comply. The bastards deserve it.

‘If the price is right, no job is too small or too light.’

That’s my motto. Sure, the rhyming is hokey, but it makes it simple to remember me, and I’m partly convinced that’s why I get more jobs than some of these other jokers. I thought about getting it embossed on a stack of business cards and changed my mind. You don’t want a paper trail in this line of work. Literally and figuratively.

Anyway, back to the support group and this ratty bowling alley. I’d prefer a bagel shop, but a certain amount of discretion is required when you do what we do for a living.

On the plus side, Jeff also allows us to roll a few free games, and I have to admit, my skills have gotten better over the past month. I broke a hundred last week for the first time ever. John Conklin—he of the doughnuts, who is also the demented bastard with a necrophilia addiction—nearly rolled a perfect game a couple of weeks ago. I’ll never forget the look on his face when that final 10-pin didn’t fall, and if the guy humped something other than dead superheroes, I might be able to find a dash of sympathy for him.

I mean, damn, one pin away from a perfect game. Can you imagine?

Sorry, was that too callous? I’ve been at this a while, and I’ve seen shit that would make Stephen King cringe, so you’ll have to excuse my forays into
not-giving-a-crap
insensitivity. It’s natural to me at this point. You have to adopt a thick shell of armor or you’ll never get through the day.

Okay, so I mentioned there are twelve of us: Dallas, Charlene, John Conklin, me, Don Weiss, Tara, her twin Mara, Eleanor, Mike, Charlie Bravo, Charlie Delta, and Fred McCracken. Each of us has our own—well, we call them “quirks” to avoid the true nature of the fact that we’re all certifiably insane—on some level—to do what we do as professionals.

We kill superheroes for a living.

I’m the normal one of the group, if we’re being generous, because I’m here under false pretenses. I don’t have “quirks” like these guys, but if you sit around and listen to them long enough, it’s hard not to think that you might be one job away from tilting the pinball machine in your gray matter.

This is the Superhero Assassin Support Society (SASS for short—let it be known that I did
not
vote yes to that acronym), and I’m here because there’s a traitor among us.

At least, an underground branch of the U.S. government thinks so, and I’m getting paid to turn on my own kind…which leaves me wondering…which is worse, betraying your country, or betraying your friends?

The answer to that is pretty easy on a personal level, but, at the same time, if there’s no honor among thieves, then there’s certainly no honor among sassy people.

See what I did there?

T
he meeting went well
, aside from every single lie Dallas told. Fred McCracken had a breakthrough and cried for the first time. Mike was the first to offer him a clean hanky, and those two have been rivals for thirty years in different aspects of their careers. Charlie Bravo and Charlie Delta didn’t argue once over whom Mom loved best and John Conklin kept his hands where everyone could see them. All in all, I’d say it was a successful Tuesday, and I’ve only been attending for a month.

I’m now standing by the shoe counter waiting on Jeff to bring me a pair of size elevens.

I don’t know about actually bowling this time, because I’m nursing a wound in my side from the Patriotman gig. Let’s just say that I had an
accident
, and for some reason, I’m not healing as fast as I normally do.

Charlene approaches with her handbag clutched to her chest like it’s a shield—a zebra-striped shield with pink piping, but a shield nonetheless. She glances nervously from side to side, a tennis match of paranoid observation, and then manages to give me a smile.

“Hey, Leo,” she says.

I have to be suspicious of everyone, because that’s what I’m getting paid to do, but this is equally strange because she’s never spoken a word to me outside of, “And how did that make you feel?”

Charlene has one thing in common with Dallas. She’s not why I’m here either, and of that I’m positive.

She’s wearing a green shirt that complements her red hair, so I say, “If it isn’t the Terror of Teal,” and immediately question if I could’ve come up with a better line. She’s a terror, all right. This five-eight bundle of cuteness is responsible for thirty-nine kills if you believe Homefront’s data.

Every single superhero with the ability to look great in spandex has it out for her after CNC revealed her identity on
Tonight with Don Donner
a couple of weeks ago. It’s no wonder the poor woman wears her suspicion like a heavy winter coat. I shake my head, embarrassed, and add, “Sorry, that was dumb.”

Charlene titters nervously, like she isn’t sure she’s supposed to laugh, and I feel a gooey warmth in my stomach. I can read people well enough to know that laughing when it’s not warranted is a sign of liking someone—I mean
like
like—and I immediately feel as if I’m back in high school. Next thing you know, Charlene will be wearing my class ring, but it’ll be too big for her and she’ll have to wrap blue string around the band so it doesn’t fall off her finger.

With that thought, my eyes go down to her hands, which I’ve never really examined before, and I see that they’re large and sort of masculine. Maybe she wouldn’t need the string after all, and—

She says, “I wanted to ask you something.”

“Oh?”

Jeff shows up at the counter—stealthy bastard—and drops off the red, black, and gray size elevens. He sprays them with the anti-death-by-feet-fungus aerosol can and then seems to notice that Charlene and I are hanging out…together. He winks at me like she’s not standing right there looking directly at him. I roll my eyes and take the fashionably awful shoes.

BOOK: Super
5.04Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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