As much time as I’d been spending on Raina’s estate, I still couldn’t get the nagging thought out of my head that no one needed this ludicrous an amount of space to live. Not to mention just the general atmosphere of this place bugged me.
The guest house Carter stayed in was at least less ostentatious, but I rarely went in there.
It was a dark, freezing night, so like always during late Fall and Winter, I was glad to have my leather jacket on. Being slightly less uncomfortable didn’t change the fact that I’d been standing outside in the cold for the past ten minutes.
“She’s clearly not home,” I said. “Either that or she goes to sleep super early. Regardless, I say we head home.”
Just be a little more patient, Lillian said. Don’t you want to make friends? I mean, aside from the band of crazies you usually hang out with.
My only response was a sigh. I really liked Carter and Raina, but Eve was my first and best friend, and not only had she been spending way more time with Olivia, but now she’d up and left with her for a week.
Having someone else to hang out with would be nice.
But, since it didn’t seem like she was coming out anytime soon, I decided to deal with an immediate matter, scratching my ass.
Thank you for not using me for that.
“Come on. I wouldn’t do that. That would be nasty.”
For an instant, I saw something…something with…a star and cross.
“Hey! Open up already, damn it! I’m freezing my ass off out here!”
“Ugh,” I said, now with a minor headache. “No idea where that came from.”
A couple seconds later, the door opened up slightly, Shay sticking her head out.
“What the Hell do you want?” she asked.
It may have been through a sudden burst of anger, but at least I’d gotten her attention.
“Mind if I come in?” I asked in response.
Shay really didn’t look happy to see me. If I had to compare her face’s expression to something, it would be to the way Raina looked at fat people.
“Carter isn’t here,” she said.
“That’s not a problem,” I said, trying to act a little cheerful. “I’m actually here to see you.”
Shay lowered her thick eyebrows.
“It’s really cold out here. Can we please talk inside?”
She sighed and fully opened the door.
Walking inside, a felt a burst of glorious warmth. Shay shut the door, and I saw she was dressed in an unflattering maid’s uniform. Just from her face, which I was beginning to notice was just as expressive as Carter’s, I could tell she was embarrassed to be seen in that dress.
“So what’s up?” Shay asked, sounding tired, resting her right hand on the door knob.
“Um,” I said, being made a little awkward by how uncomfortable she clearly was to be seen like this. “I was kind of wondering if you wanted to hang out.”
“I don’t think that’s the best idea, Malcolm.”
Don’t take no for an answer. Push further.
“Why not? Carter and I have gotten pretty close, not to mention we’re constantly trusting each other with our lives. I think it makes sense for you and I to get know each other.”
I must have sounded pathetic. Damn it, for over a decade, I was fine just talking with my sisters. But ever since I’d met Eve, I’d started craving interaction with other people.
“I’m freaking tired, so I’m just going to be frank with you,” Shay said. “I don’t trust you.”
“Fuck,” I said under my breath.
“It’s not just you,” she continued. “I don’t trust Raina or Olivia either. Hell, as much fun as she is to go clubbing with, I even have doubts about Eve.”
“What? I asked, trying to keep my voice from getting too aggressive. “You think Carter’s too good for us or something?”
“No,” she said as a matter of fact.
“Then what?!” I wasn’t sure why, but her not trusting me had struck a nerve.
“My brother is an idiot!” she shouted back at me. “I love him to death, but all he can do is see the best in people.” She paused and looked me straight in the eye. “Even when he shouldn’t.”
I stepped closer to her, and at the very least, she didn’t look scared.
“We’ve met maybe once or twice,” I said. “And I haven’t killed tons of innocent people like Raina and Olivia. What do you have against me?”
“You’re a fucking terrorist!” Shay shouted. “Yeah, apparently, I’m the only one who hasn’t forgotten about that.”
I’d never done anything that wasn’t for the benefit of the world. I was not a terrorist.
“I can explain every action I’ve taken,” I said in a harsh tone. “Everything I’ve done has been for the greater good, and I have never killed anyone who didn’t deserve it.”
“You see, everything you just said are things terrorists say.”
I took a deep breath.
Keep your cool, Bro.
“Pick something, anything I’ve done. I’ll explain.”
“Fine,” she settled. “Why did you shoot up the Wontro Parade in 2007?”
That was such a minor incident I’d almost forgotten all about it. The day of the parade I hadn’t even killed anyone.
“First, I’d like to point out that no one died that day.”
“Six were injured,” she immediately countered.
“More to the point, there were bombs inside the giant balloons set to go off half way through the parade. I started shooting around the area and dropping smoke bombs to clear people out of the area. Then I shot down the parade balloons and defused the bombs.”
Shay crossed her arms.
And then weirdly, she smiled.
“Are you fucking with me?” she asked. “Cause if you are, I will break your arm.”
“Nope. All true.”
Still smiling, she took a few steps toward the kitchen, shaking her head.
“Where exactly did you learn to diffuse a bomb?”
“Dunno,” I said truthfully. “Just knew how.”
“Alright, you’ve got amnesia so whatever, I’ll believe you for now. What about the orphanage you blew up?”
I bit my lip to keep myself from screaming. People always made a big deal out of the orphanage.
“It wasn’t a real orphanage. Some drug dealers were using it as a cover and were holding a few kids against their will so as to keep up the illusion. I got the kids out, killed the drug dealers, and blew up the building with the drugs inside,” I said, finishing my explanation. “Satisfied?”
“Holy shit,” Shay said, laughing.
“I didn’t say anything funny.”
“No, no, it’s just,” she paused. “You got involved with all of us because you wanted to kill Carter for being a super hero.”
“And, you are a super hero!”
“No I’m not,” I said defiantly. “Super heroes wear tights, and let criminals get off easy by sending them to jail.”
Wait, I’m not fully up to speed here. You tried to kill Carter?
“You may not be a traditional one, but if what you’re telling me is true, you are a super hero.”
My headache got a bit worse from trying to process Shay’s logic at hand.
“Wait, wait, wait,” I said, flailing my arms around. “I thought you didn’t trust me because I went outside the law and killed people.”
“Nooooo,” she said plainly. “Malcolm, I’m was a cop. I understand that sometimes it’s necessary to kill criminals. And sure, you may not have been following all the rules set in place for super heroes, but fuck that. I love the old heroes, not as much as Carter but more than most people, but I can still see the flaws in the old system.”
I face palmed.
“Then why didn’t you trust me? And why do you trust me now?”
As she answered, she walked closer to me.
“Because before, I thought you were a terrorist. And as for why I believe you now…” Shay popped her lips, and smiled right at my face. “Carter may not be able to do anything but see the good in people, but he can only do that when people have good in them at all. Raina, Olivia, and Eve trusting you means absolutely nothing to me. But Carter does, and if what you’re saying is true, and I think it is, then I trust you too. Enough that, yeah, maybe we could be friends.”
“Damn,” I said. “You sure have a way of explaining things.”
“Just one of many talents,” Shay responded, reaching out a hand.
I firmly gripped her hand and shook it.
Surprisingly, she had a tighter grip on my hand than I did on hers. Wow.
“Well, thanks for stopping by,” she said. “Give me your number and I’ll call you tomorrow. Let you know how my first day being Raina’s fucking servant went.”
Are you telling me that the only thing stopping you from getting out more was just explaining your actions? Why didn’t you do that sooner? And why aren’t you responding to anything I say?!
I lightly tapped Lillian through my jacket pocket just to indicate to her that I was hearing her and I hadn’t lost my mind.
“Actually, I was thinking we could go out tonight. Maybe grab some take out, head to the shooting range…”
I stopped mid sentence because Shay kept shaking her head at me.
“I don’t think so. I’m all for getting to know you better, but before we can go have a good time, I need to make sure that you’re fit to be the leader of the team my baby brother is on.”
“What did you have in mind?” I asked.
Shay turned away from me as she started unbuttoning her dress.
For a split second I started getting really warm. That quickly stopped when she went into her room and shut the door behind her.
Good. She’s gone. Now will you fucking talk to me?
“In a minute Sis. Just let me find out what she’s doing.”
After pacing around for two minutes, the door opened and Shay stepped out.
And as she did, my jaw dropped.
Now in her full Panda costume, she looked like a completely different person. Her long brown hair was tied up and covered by a white and black bandana with a spiral pattern. She wore contacts over her hazel eyes to make them resemble those of a panda. Capping off the changes to her head, she’d painted her nose black.
The main part of her costume was made up of football armor, overlaid by a white jersey with a black, panda face in the center. Under that, she wore black tights, along with black leggings and sneakers. There was a baton strapped to her waist, and there something was bulging out of her forearms.
“So Decker, ready to go on patrol?”