It’d been a week and a half since the death of Massacre. In that time, the only thing on the tip of everyone’s tongue was The Negative Man. No matter which station you turned to, someone was giving an opinion on the man who once terrorized Pacific Station.
However, the strange part to all of this was some were hailing him as a hero. One TV pundit claimed he was the new face of right and we should welcome him back to Pacific Station with open arms. Whenever someone questioned him, reminding him of the atrocities that occurred not that long ago, he responded with the fact a ‘good guy’ like Massacre just killed innocents too.
To me, The Negative Man was the past, a shadow that had great length to it. Spades called an Aces meeting two days after Massacre’s murder to proclaim that with The Negative Man returning, things would be even greater for us. None of the other three even questioned how I knew to get to the secret base. Maybe Spades planned all along for me to find out the location through the first job. If I had let them down, he could’ve just killed me and no one would’ve been the wiser to it.
I asked him if he had spoken to The Negative Man before starting his streak of crime. Spades laughed off the question and said no, that The Aces were only throwing out his name in the hopes to get The Dark Lion worked up. I wasn’t going to be the one to tell him it worked. He was still healing from his broken arm.
DL didn’t take Massacre’s death very well. He basically locked himself in his office at Wonder-Tech and worked nonstop. Even after returning to work, he wouldn’t even see me. I didn’t think he knew I was there when Massacre was killed, but I knew his revenge towards The Negative Man would be at an all-time high.
The sun was barely over the ocean and the waves were brushing up against my feet. I hadn’t slept much since that day, and I was sure my face showed it. I had my darkest sunglasses on, to keep everything hidden.
My phone buzzed again. Thinking it was Heather checking in to make sure I was doing alright, I popped it open. It wasn’t the beautiful lawyer; it was my boss. The message was simple yet clear – call me ASAP. I stared at it for a few minutes before actually thinking about what to do.
Before I could decide, another text came across. Like mirror images of each other, this one came from Owen Walker. The message, a bit longer and less hostile – we’ve got a job tonight, be ready Diamonds. This would be my second time running with them.
I dialed DL’s number. It rang twice before his gruff voice answered. “I didn’t know if you’d call me or not.”
“Curiosity got the better of me.” That was somewhat true. “Plus just seconds after you texted me, Spades did too. We gotta job tonight.”
It was almost as if he didn’t care. “We need to talk about The Negative Man. I can’t let Massacre’s death be in vain.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” I wasn’t about to let this go. “I’m doing another job with The Aces tonight. Will you be there for back up?”
“Listen to me!” I pulled the phone away from my ear. “The Aces will eventually crumble away and no one will remember them. The Negative Man, he’s been biding his time, waiting for us to crack and he’s showing his true intentions. First the deputy mayor, now my oldest friend…”
It seemed this was going to be a wasted call. “In case you forgot, I’m still tasked with infiltrating The Aces and I’m doing a damn good job of it. If you get over your pity party and feel like helping, I’d appreciate it.” And with that, I hung up the phone.
Maybe it was about time to give up on The Dark Lion. Maybe I’d given up on the idea that this city could be cleaned up. I don’t really know. All I could say for sure was Jericho Staley never did a job half assed and I wasn’t about to start now. There was more than one way to bring order to the city and I would find it.
I spent the rest of the day kicking around the boardwalk. On Sundays, a lot of the vendors would be more willing to wheel and deal, so I was able to score a couple of hot dogs, a funnel cake, and a large soda for less than five bucks. All and all, a winning day if you asked me.
I still had a few hours to kill, so I called up Heather and told her to pick a place for dinner and I’d meet her there. She sounded thrilled at the prospect and told me to give her ten minutes to figure it out. I was walking back in my apartment when she called back. “The Casa de la Cervezas.”
“You want to go to The Beer House? Never would’ve guessed that one.”
Her light laugh was pleasing to the ear. “Some girls like fancy and others like sports and beer. Consider me the latter.”
The plan was to meet in thirty, so I hopped in the shower and got dressed. The Beer House wasn’t big on formal attire, so I found a clean pair of jeans and a nice button down that had my old college from back east’s logo on it. All ready to go, I made my way through Pacific Station for a normal dinner before moonlighting as an undercover vigilante.
Heather wasn’t there when I arrived so I got us a table in between the bar section and the dining room. It was the perfect place, as we were close enough to the TV’s for her, yet far enough away where we wouldn’t have to yell to talk.
I was drinking a rather hoppy pilsner when she walked in. Every man in the place stopped to watch her walk in. And trust me, they were more than surprised that she stopped at my table and kissed me. I think she liked defying the odds and made a little show of it.
I pulled out her chair and the world went back to normal. “I hope you don’t mind I ordered a drink to keep my nerves going strong.”
“You already got the girl, but I don’t mind some liquid encouragement.”
I toasted to that. “So how have things been down in Legal? I know it’s been a weird week at Wonder-Tech.”
She took a hit of my beer. “You have no idea. Jenkins is basically running without a leash down in R&D, so the number of bad patents coming across our desks is insane. I don’t know what’s gotten into Mr. Wonderton, but he better get his head outta his ass soon.”
If she only knew the half of it. “I guess there’s a reason he’s like a billionaire and we’re just humble peasants.”
The rest of the evening fell out of work talk and into a number of other topics from sports to music, to movies. Turns out Heather is a huge fan of Saturday morning cartoons and Kung-Fu movies. She also liked her beer, I mean really liked her beer. By the time we were done eating, she was gone.
I helped her into my car. “I can drive…just fine!”
After seeing what happened to a drunken Massacre, I wasn’t about to let her make any bad decisions. Not on my watch. “It’s okay, I’ll take you home. Tomorrow after work, we’ll come back by and pick up your car.”
I think she said thank you and her head slumped against the passenger door. She was fast asleep by the time we got to her house and it was pretty easy to get her ready for bed. As much as I just wanted to lay down beside her, I knew it was time for business.
When I arrived at the warehouse base, Clubs and Hearts were standing outside. I grabbed my mask from under the passenger seat and put it on. Neither man appeared to be dressed for a raid, heist, or any sort of job where trouble might be lurking. Clubs was wearing something close to business casual and Hearts had on jeans and a white t-shirt, covered up by a leather jacket.
I grabbed my hooded jacket from my car. “What’s up guys? Anything good?”
Trelewicz grumbled, “I hate when he’s secretive about a job. Said this one would be easy, no guns or powers necessary.”
As if on cue, Spades opened the door leading to the warehouse. His arm was still in a sling, but like us, he was dressed down tonight. Khakis, a blue collared shirt, and a jacket were in stark contrast to the black mask on his face. “Good evening gentlemen.” He was almost giddy with excitement. “Who wants to earn some free money?”
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