“Well, that’s it,” Shay said, clearly pissed off. “One attack on our apartment and the landlord felt bad for us. Two attacks and he gave us til the end of the month to move out. Now with three attacks and the place completely destroyed, we have been evicted.”
Raina, Malcolm and I were sitting on a bench outside our former apartment building with Shay standing over us. Shay had wanted Olivia to sit with us, because she was technically the one who’d attacked the apartment twice, even if neither time had been by her own choice. Instead, she and Eve were just sitting and talking inside Raina’s limo.
“Look, like I was trying to say to everyone else before, I’m really sorry about what I did,” Malcolm said. “I had the wrong idea about Carter but I’ve come to realize that he’s a good guy.”
“Uh huh,” Shay said, clearly not buying it. “Tell me, do you try to kill everyone you think is bad?”
“Only the ones who really deserve it,” Malcolm answered.
I slapped my forehead.
I wanted to like Malcolm, I really did. Talking to him, he seemed like a really smart, cool guy. We’d just fought alongside one another. Now he was implying that he had killed before. I forgave Raina because what she needed was help, not punishment but I wasn’t getting that vibe off of him.
“I don’t even know why you’re making me sit here,” Raina said. “I mean, I am the one who saved the day. Again.”
“No, Carter was the one who stopped Olivia and she wouldn’t have been there in the first place if it wasn’t for you.”
Malcolm, Raina and Shay all looked pretty tense so I figured the best move would be to try and explain things privately to Shay.
I sighed. “Sis, can we talk for a second?”
She nodded as I stood up and the two of us walked into an alley. Still in earshot, I heard Malcolm ask Raina, “So you’re rich, huh?”
“Carter, I know it has been a long time since you’ve had people to hang out with but I’m pretty sure 75% of that group is made up of mass murderers. Eve seems cool but the rest just aren’t good people. Can’t you see that?”
I shook my head.
“First of all, Olivia and I aren’t friends. She went along with Raina’s madness, blindly following orders, and yeah, I’m pretty scared of her.”
“I’m sorry, but I don’t think you’re right about Raina having been mad. I think she has been feigning guilt, and is just trying to use you.”
“That doesn’t make any sense. She wouldn’t have to hang out with me as often as she does if she didn’t really consider me a friend and she has been doing nothing but helping the city.”
“Okay, fine. Let’s assume for a second that Raina really has turned over a new leaf and isn’t up to anything. She’s still a bitch. You know that, right? And what about Malcolm?”
“Malcolm, I seriously just met for real a couple of hours ago. I don’t know what his deal is but I know he believes in doing the right thing even if his view on what that is is different from ours. He went out of his way to try and cure Olivia, not kill her, and early on in the fight, his main priority was making sure Eve got to safety.”
Shay shut her eyes, breathing loudly, and squeezed her forehead.
“Bro, I want you to be happy. I want that more than anything else. Soon enough, whether these people betray you, Troyan starts a manhunt or something else happens, this is going to explode in your face if you don’t get out of the way.” We made direct eye contact with each other. “I have to get back to work now and when I’m done, we have to move out. Please be careful in the meantime.”
I nodded and said “I will.”
Shay got into her car and departed.
Much of what Shay had said made sense. But there was something big going on and there was no way I could handle it alone. I had to take the risk.
I walked back over to Raina and Malcolm.
“Your sister couldn’t even say goodbye. I guess when you have bangs like hers, you’re always in a rush to a salon.”
“Raina, can you please not say things like that about Shay?”
I wasn’t completely thick. I knew that Raina had a long way to go before she was a real hero and part of that was her need to become nicer. She was only mean to me in the way friends are to each other but she was still nasty to most other people.
“Whatever,” Raina said, not really caring. “So the three of us are the heroes here, aren’t we? Should we talk about the whole red eye thing?”
Malcolm and I nodded.
“Shouldn’t we get Olivia and Eve first?” Malcolm asked. “They are a part of this after all.”
I was going to answer him but Raina beat me to the punch.
“Not necessary. Olivia has zero interest in being a superhero and that’s not something I’ll be making her do, cause you shouldn’t be a hero if your heart’s not in it. And as for Eve…” She scoffed. “Well, she’s nothing special.”
“Hey!,” Malcolm and I shouted, taking offense on Eve’s behalf.
Raina raised her hands. I guess that was the closest we were going to get to an apology for being mean at that moment.
“Oh, and just so we’re clear, I’m not a superhero,” Malcolm said.
“Okay man, I know the red eye matter is kind of pressing but if we’re going to work together, we need to know what your deal is. Where did you go for all those weeks after we fought?”
“Sorry if I gave you the wrong impression but we’re not working together. We’re going to share information, yes, but I’ll be the one to take out whoever is behind this.” Malcolm pounded his chest. “I only work with…I mean, I work alone.”
Raina immediately followed that by saying, “Yeah, that’s great and all but we still have no idea who you are.”
He sighed. “Fair enough. Like you guys already know, I’m Malcolm. My street name is Bang.”
“You’re Bang?!,” I asked, completely shocked.
“Jesus Christ!,” Raina shouted. “Didn’t you blow up an orphanage?”
Malcolm slammed his fist against the bench and stood up.
“Everyone always brings up the orphanage. Well, let me tell you this. It wasn’t a fucking orphanage! It looked like an orphanage, yes, but there were guys there making bombs and keeping children hostage.”
Raina and I were both pretty shocked by what we were hearing. No one knew what Bang looked like but the media had always perceived him as a terrorist.
“Um. Did you get the kids out before you blew up the orphanage?” I asked.
“It wasn’t a God damn orphanage!,” he shouted back. “And yes, I got the kids out first.”
I couldn’t stop myself from hyperventilating. I knew that he wasn’t the monster that the media made him out to be but holy shit, I’d almost teamed up with a terrorist.
“Okay, so what? You go around killing people the law doesn’t catch up with?,” Raina asked, staying way more calm than I was.
“That’s pretty much it. I used to just travel around from my home in Louisiana, but I spent the last few weeks moving and now I’m crashing with Eve.”
“You’re living here?!,” I asked, scared shitless.
Raina just laughed. “Oh my god. Does Eve know you’re Bang?”
“No. And it’s going to stay that way. Got it?,” he asked rhetorically, pulling out one of his guns.
“Bitch, get that out of my face,” Raina said, teleporting his gun into her right hand.
“Give her back!,” Malcolm shouted, attempting to grab his gun. Raina just teleported it into her other hand.
“Raina, please don’t antagonize the terrorist.”
“I’m not a fuckin terrorist,” Malcolm said definitively, Raina letting him take his gun back.
“Okay, so if you’re not a superhero and you’re not a terrorist, what are you?,” Raina asked.
Malcolm spit something out of his mouth.
“I’m just a guy trying to do his part to clean up this world.”
I’d calmed down enough and I was pretty sure we’d gotten a good handle on who we were dealing with. I wasn’t too happy about it but I just had to try and trust my own judgment over the media, just like I did with Raina.
“Alrighty. With that out of the way, let’s get to the problem at hand. Raina, you’re the one who noticed it first so you should start.”
The only one still sitting on the bench, Raina crossed her legs.
“I first noticed it when Carter and I were fighting a guy shooting lasers everywhere who the press ended up calling Phaser. He was your standard Neanderthal until he suddenly went crazy. The moment before that happened, his eyes turned red for a second.”
“That’s not the only time this has happened before, right?,” Malcolm asked.
“Back when I was a super villain, I tried foiling a hostage situation so that I could kill the man in charge and make his henchmen work for me. Guarding the boss though was a fire breather named Timothy. Heard of him?”
Malcolm nodded. “Pretty bad guy. When you got to him, I’d been thinking about taking him out myself.”
“Anyway, I tried paying Timothy off and he seemed to be going along with it but then his eyes turned red and boom, he went nuts.”
“So basically, whoever we’re dealing with can manipulate people’s minds to make their powers get stronger and cause them to want to kill everything in sight.”
“That’s about right,” I said.
“You look like you’ve been doing this kind of thing way longer than we have,” Raina said. “Got any ideas where we should start looking?”
Malcolm put his hand to his chin, appearing to be deep in thought.
“Hmmm. I wonder.”
“Wonder what?,” I asked.
“Have either of you been following the string of murders being conducted by the same individual here in Bluejay?”
Oh shit. I’d completely forgotten about the serial killer. Even though he had struck again in the last few weeks, I’d been so busy with Raina, I’d hardly paid attention.
Damn it. A fellow believer in superheroes had died because I’d forgotten. Yet another reason why Raina needed to be this city’s hero and not me; she was really smart.
“Yeah, if we’re thinking of the same guy,” Raina answered. “He leaves shallow cuts on his victims before shooting them at point blank range. You think he has something to do with the red eyes?”
“I do. Think about it. Superhero Lightning Bee makes his debut. Not too long after that, people who love superheros start dying. And in the hero’s first big battle, an outside force intervenes.”
Great, Malcolm was super smart too. Between him, Raina and Shay, I was feeling even dumber than usual. Feeling antsy from that, I started fidgeting with a coin from my pocket.
Malcolm continued. “The second time the red eyes appeared, it was when the world’s newest super villain was up to something more than robbing a store. And this time…”
I interrupted, wanting to be helpful in some way.
“There was nothing special. Raina, Olivia, and I have been together a lot over the last few weeks. I doubt this person was after my apartment.”
“You’re right,” Malcolm said. “He wasn’t after your apartment. He was after me.”
“You think he wants all of us dead?,” Raina asked.
“It’s possible,” Malcolm answered. “When this started, Carter was the only superhero in the world and you were the only super villain. Throw in the possibility that he knows who my real targets are and he’s got three people who’d be likely to stand in his way.” Malcolm rubbed his head. “Ah, my brain hurts from all this deducing. That healer your sister brought did a good job on me Carter, but I’m so getting a peach when we’re done here. And if that’s all, I think we are.”
Malcolm started walking off when I said, “One thing still doesn’t make sense. How did he know who we were today, when we weren’t in costume?”
“Easy,” Raina said. “He probably knows you’re Lightning Bee. Just like everyone else,” she finished with her trademark evil smile.
“Alright you two, listen up,” Malcolm said, turning back to us. “I am going to find this guy and kill him. You two just stay safe.”
Again, Raina beat me to the punch for speaking.
“Of course, Malcolm. It is important that we respect our elders after all.”
Malcolm nodded with a smile on his face and walked off.
“You just lied to his face, didn’t you?,” I asked Raina.
“So, should we start our own investigation?”
“Actually dude, I’ll be handling this solo.”
“What? But we’re partners,” I whimpered, actually feeling kind of hurt.
Raina stood up and put her hand on my shoulder like Shay often did.
“No offense dude, but you were struggling against Soup. With a power like his, the man behind this is definitely a Demigod. It really is for the best if you stay out of this.” She took notice of my increasingly sad expression and put on one of her rare warm smiles. “But hey, look on the bright side. I talked to Daddy, and you and Shay are both more than welcome to stay in the guest house on our estate until you can find a new place. It’s big, well decorated and the best part? When a super villain who knows your identity attacks the house and wrecks it, a maid will be there to clean it all up so you don’t have to. Sound good?”
“Yeah,” I said, smiling for her sake.
“Good,” she said, walking over to her limo. She stood there for a few seconds until she said in an annoyed tone, “I’m waiting.”
A scary sight then unfolded.
Olivia emerged from the car, giggling.
“My apologies for the wait, Miss Raina,” Olivia said, opening the door for Raina, still giggling.
“Don’t smile Olivia. It doesn’t suit you,” Raina ordered, getting into the car.
Olivia’s face returned to its normal, stern look. “Yes, Miss Raina.”
She shut the door and got into the driver’s seat.
A few moments later…
“Frumpy, get the hell out of my limo!”
Eve got out, giggling even more than Olivia was.
“Carter, why didn’t you tell me Olivia was so great?,” Eve asked, walking over to me.
“Totally. She’s into motorcycles, she’s funny and she doesn’t give a rat’s hairy ass about the law.”
I wouldn’t call the last of those a good trait but this was Eve and at this point, I really wasn’t one to talk.
“Well, I’m glad you two are friends.”
“Yeah. I think the next time I see her, I’m gonna ask her out.”
Suddenly, something clicked.
Lightning Bee wasn’t going to get the job done against a dangerous super villain, but PI Carter Myers could still do research that could help Raina. Likewise, Eve and I could still help each other.
“You know Eve, I think I might be able to help you ensure a yes from Olivia. You’re going to impress her.”