It was either very late or really early depending on your view of time. After being dismissed by Spades, I went back to my apartment first to make sure no one was tracking me. I did a quick search of my body and found no bugs or devices on me. Leaving my mask, phone, and car, I hoofed it on foot to John Wonderton’s home.
The mansion was huge, a good six miles from my small apartment complex. After about two miles of walking, I hailed a cab and got a ride to a diner less than a mile from his house. I ducked into the diner though, ordered a coffee, again unsure if anyone was following me.
With cup in hand, I left and made the walk in the shadows until I reached the front gate. Cold and agitated, I buzzed the alarm over and over again until I got an answer on the screen. His face shifted from aggressive to surprise. “Jericho?”
“Let me in. We need to talk.”
The screen went back and the gates opened. I quickly hurried in, not stopping until I got to the front door which was already open. John was standing there, still in his DL battle armor without the faded yellow cape and cowl. It looked like he hadn’t been home long before I showed up.
He ushered me in, closing the door behind me. “Where were you tonight? I expected to see you with The Aces.”
“Much like I do for you, I was running the show from behind a computer desk. I saw everything.”
His face darkened. “You saw what Massacre did then?”
“He showed up drunk, ruined the operation, and to tops things off killed hostages!” The whole night’s worth of emotions began flooding into me. Maybe because of a glitch in the electric, but the lights in the house flickered for an instant. It was appropriate. “He’s become a danger to everyone, including himself. We need to bring him in.”
John poked me in the chest, hard. “You worry about The Aces. I’ll take care of PJ.”
That wasn’t the answer I was hoping for. “You just proved tonight that you can take The Aces whenever you want! You broke Spades arm like it was nothing. Massacre is the bigger threat.”
“Jericho, you’ve been a good friend and an invaluable help to me these past few years, but remember your place.” The look of disgust was evident. “I got lucky tonight with Spades and he got away. He won’t make the same mistake again.”
“Spades is Owen Walker.”
“What?” That stopped his rant. “The same Walker that owns gl-O-bal Labs?”
“The very same. His personal bodyguard and assistant Jeff Trelewicz is Hearts. In conjunction with their powers, they have a whole lab filled with the latest tech, some of it not even patented yet.”
I don’t think John had gotten over the fact Owen Walker was Spades just yet. “All these years, I wondered why he seemed so distant, so aloof.”
“Now that he knows you’re The Dark Lion, this is personal to him. You’re his rival, both in his public persona and in his super dealings.” That wasn’t the point of this. “With this information, we can hit him where-”
“Stop Jericho. We have a plan and we’re not going to deviate from it. You’re in tight with The Aces and I want you to keep doing that.”
Why wouldn’t he listen to me? “I get it’s been a bad night for you, but it’s time to listen to reason. We have a surefire way to end this, once and for all.”
His energy was fading. “I shouldn’t have to explain my end game to you. Let me remind you who the vigilante is and who the sidekick is.”
I stared daggers at him. “Fine. I’ll finish this John,” I tried to keep my voice even, “but this is it. When The Aces are out of the game, you’re on your own.”
I didn’t give him a chance to respond, I stormed out and slammed the door behind me. The sun was starting to crack over the horizon and I power walked all the way back to the diner. The morning crowd was beginning to shuffle in, so I grabbed another coffee and waited. I ended up sitting in the tiny booth for another two hours, drinking coffee and eventually ordering something to eat.
When my phone said seven in the morning, I shot Heather a quick text, asking for her to come over and pick me up. Two minutes later, I got a response saying of course and asking if everything was okay. I wasn’t sure what to tell her, but I knew today was not a day I’d be going to work.
When she pulled up, I paid my tab and got in the car. “Jericho, you look like shit. Were you partying all night?”
“The guys stayed over a bit, but John and I had some words this morning. I think today looks like a beach day.”
Her dash thermometer said forty-six degrees. “Not quite the weather to go enjoy the sun and sand I’d say.”
Obviously I wasn’t going to tell her the truth. “I work too hard and for too little to constantly put up with his arrogance and ‘my way or the highway’ philosophy. Let’s see how he does without me for a few days.”
We were bobbing and weaving in traffic, getting closer to my apartment. “Well I can’t call in today, there’s a meeting that my boss assigned to me, but how about tomorrow? We can go do something fun.”
With the promise of something fun on tap for tomorrow, Heather dropped me off at home and continued on her way to work. Part of me was ready to crash for the day, catch up on all the sleep I missed, but I also felt the need to walk some more. The morning was still cool, as it was the night before, but the breeze coming off the ocean was very nice.
So I did, I kept walking around the area. I didn’t really have anywhere in particular to go, so I was a bit surprised when I ended up at the place PJ and I came to a few days earlier. I was even more shocked to see a large man hiding beneath a blanket, pushed up against the edge of the patio.
No one else was around, so without thinking, I reached down and grabbed the blanket and yanked it off. Huddled in a broken mass was the sobbing form as Massacre. Blood from the innocent people he killed still stained the front of his costume, red streaks against the dark green and yellow material.
His head whipped around, eyes bloodshot and he reeked of booze. “Jericho? What’re you doing here?”
He didn’t know I had infiltrated The Aces, had no clue that I witnessed his epic failure. “I could be asking you the same question PJ. You stink of booze and are covered in blood.”
Pushing himself up (an incredible feat for a man of his size and his current condition), “Don’t ask questions you don’t need the answers too.” Roughly pushing me aside, “Don’t tell anyone you saw me here.”
I couldn’t just let him go. Bluffing, “I heard on the news what happened.”
He turned around fast, much quicker than someone who was as hungover as he was should. “Don’t say another word! You weren’t there and don’t know what happened!”
“They say you were drunk, that you single handedly ruined DL’s chances of capturing The Aces! How close to the truth is that?”
He gave me a hard push, one that sent me crashing into the wall behind me. Nothing broke, but I felt the brick and it didn’t give any cushion as I hit it. Looking up, I could see him looking down at his hands, appalled and scared at what he just did to me. Without even asking if I was okay, he bolted out of the hidden alcove.
I got up and went after him. He wasn’t running at full speed and I was able to keep up with him. He turned out on to Sunset, and by this time people were pointing and screaming at him. I guess the news really did report everything this morning.
As I closed in, one of those electronic billboards started flashing and crackling. Electricity jumped from it and hit Massacre, sending him into the streets. The image on the billboard changed from the car dealer advertisement to…
“It’s The Negative Man!” A man yelled it out for everyone to hear.
In the street it was chaos. Cars had collided with each other, crowds of onlookers were forming. I remained just out of sight, close enough to the billboard, yet tucked away in the shadows on a few of the buildings.
The image was distorted, like an old TV with bad reception. His black eyes took in no one else except Massacre. His electronic voice hollered down at the fallen super. “Massacre, you are a disgrace. For your failures, I judge you guilty.”
There was no way Massacre was getting up after the electric blast he took. Sure he was impervious to a lot, but The Negative Man was a whole other animal. Everyone in the street was stopped, watching in horror at the scene unfolding.
Then, without warning another blast shot from the billboard, vaporizing Massacre, leaving behind only the ashes of what was his body.
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