Welcome back to the Penalty Box boys and girls. No more political talk here, we’re going back to what everyone wants – more Negative Man. So here we are, picking back up with Heather after a week with Father Reigart. Grab your drink and a snack as we head back to Indian Point for…
Issue #9 – A Casual Stroll
I couldn’t sit around, just waiting for the job to begin. The Fatal Five were fast asleep; according to Zed, the bond that connected all five of them took its toll. Still, it was only ten at night and my mind was restless. The front desk agent waved at me as I left. He was cute and all, but he wasn’t Jericho.
The nights were cool in Indian Point; a brisk breeze was whipping through the streets. Store signs were out, as most places closed around eight. There were bars and restaurants still open and I found a small one that seemed like it would provide the right combination of mood and quiet. The place was called The Red Dog. Walking inside, there was a country-rock song playing and a scruffy looking guy tending bar. His name tag read Victor.
I sat down at the far end of the bar and Victor approached. “What’ll it be, miss?”
“Well, Victor,” I jostled his name tag, hoping my charm might get me a free beer or two, “I’ll take a Drunken Cactus draft.”
He tipped his dusty old cowboy hat at me and poured the drink. He didn’t seem one for conversation and moved on to the next one. That didn’t mean I was drinking alone. Right as Victor left, a man planted himself on the bar stool beside me. There was something oddly familiar about him.
Even before he spoke, it hit me – this was Sandstorm. I went to reach into my purse and grab a phone, but his arm caught mine. “No violence, not tonight.”
I could blow up half the bar and not blink an eye, but it’d just ruin the plan. I removed my hand from his and grabbed my beer. “Tricky business coming here and confronting me.”
He raised a finger at the bartender, signaling for a beer. “I know who you are Detonate,” he whispered. “Girlfriend to The Negative Man, you’re a long way from Pacific Station.”
I was slowly leaning towards blowing him up, he knew too much. “If you truly understood who I was and what I was capable of doing, you wouldn’t be here.”
Sandstorm didn’t seem to be afraid, yet he should’ve been. He was dumb enough to have a cell phone in his pocket. “I came here tonight to give you a warning. Do not stay in my city any longer, especially with those five freaks.” He took a drink of the beer Victor placed in front of him. “Our first confrontation was just a trial run. The next time,” he slit his finger across his throat.”
“Oh a death threat?”
“No threats here, just promises.” He finished his first beer and got up. “I went to the John Wonderton school of vigilantes, either kill or be killed.”
No answers, no movement. I just glared at the man as he gave me one last smile and walked out of the bar. Victor had walked back down to me, “Miss, is old Tom Armstrong giving you problems?”
“Tom Armstrong, eh?”
Victor nodded. “Yep, he’s a county commissioner or something. Self-righteous hypocrite if you ask me, he never pays for his beers.”
I slid a five dollar bill across the bar to pay for the drink. “Here, take it. No one should have to suffer fools like him.”
The bartender was reluctant to take it. “No miss, it’s not right making you pay for it.”
But I insisted, and he eventually relented. I asked him for a refill and when he came back, it was time to see if I could extract any more information. “So tell me, that Armstrong guy, besides being a jerk, anything weird about him?”
He scratched his scruff thinking. “Nothing weird mind you, just an overbearing relationship with his teenage stepdaughter, Miranda. Poor girl’s gone through the ringer and Tom don’t let her do shit.”
Then it all made sense, this was a family business. I finished my beer quickly. “Well Victor, you’ve made this evening for me. Thanks for the company.”
As I left, he tipped his hat once more and said, “Anytime ma’am.”
Little did he know that show of respect saved the lives of all the patrons in the bar. The encounter with Sandstorm had upset me, greatly. I hadn’t showed it, but I was close to exploding. With a simple gesture, I remembered my humanity, if only for a second. It would probably be forgotten by the time I found Sandstorm and his stepdaughter, Dust Devil.
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