Lavender

Lavender walked up the steps. She held the three bottles of water, two hotdogs, and her game program. She stopped at row 304. Checking her ticket, she saw seat 14. “Excuse me,” she said, raising her voice and showing a beaming smile.

Two large men looked up at her, smiled, and then stood. She now had enough room to inch past the two men. Stepping into the row, she worked passed four other people, and a drink vendor.

Lavender sat on the bench with the faded 14 painted on it. She put two bottles under her seat and began munching on one of the hotdogs.

Six minutes of match play expired since she purchased her food. Lavender watched as her favorite soccer team, the Smashers, ran over the field. To her, they seemed to be better equipped than the Titans.

The fan clubs started with their chants, each one taunting the other team. A few single fans dished out friendly ribbing as they passed each other on the steps and even in the seats.

A few more minutes ticked by and the Smashers scored a goal. With it being a home game, the bleachers erupted with cheers and thunderous noise.

A few minutes after the tumult died down, the Titans landed on the scoreboard. The cheering, though not as prevalent, was just as loud.

“That was an excellent play,” Lavender said to herself around the last half of her second hotdog.

The game resumed. “Oh, that was a bad call by the ref,” Lavender said with a grimace. Titan fans agreed and let others know with cat calls and name calling.

Williams, a player on the Smahsers acquired a yellow card a few minutes before the half. Again the Smashers fans in the stands erupted. A few individual fans scuffled and were escorted from their seat by security.

The fan clubs kicked their chants into high gear. Each club worked at outdoing the other club and then pushed it up a notch.

Lavender moved for the stairs before half time started. Her nose twitched as she landed on the walkway. A shiver danced over her spine, and her arms turned to goose-flesh.

“This can’t be good,” she whispered. Her head turned and her eyes scanned the crowd. Frustration, anger, and even resentment flashed across several spectator’s faces. “Oh, dear,” Lavender said and moved into the tunnel under the seats.

She hustled across the open space, past a concession stand, and dashed into the women’s restroom. Slamming a stall door closed, she focused on calm feelings and simple happiness. Lavender’s clothes shifted and morphed into something entirely different. Her shorts extended past her knees and hugged her legs. The peasant top shrunk and covered her arms to the wrists. An emblem of a dove appeared just below her collar bones. A swath of purple appeared over her eyes and around her head, holding her hair in place.

Lavender entered the restroom but her alter ego, Solace, exited.

A loud noise came from the seating area. Solace dashed through the same tunnel and found chaos ruling. Several people wearing Titans colors were beating a single individual wearing a Smashers jersey. Security guards were being pummeled by other people that didn’t wear any affiliation clothing.

Taking a large breath and exhaling, Solace took flight. Once in the air she reassessed the crowd. The two fan clubs had cleared the distance separating them and were in an all-out brawl with each other. Adults everywhere were fighting. A few teenagers were even involved.

The sight of two young children pulled Solace’s attention. They were in the way of two large men and about to be trampled. Solace hurried over to the younglings and stood in the path. “Peace and gentleness,” she said, letting the smile spread across her lips and lighting her eyes.

The two burly men paused, looked at Solace, blinked twice, and then looked around. Both men looked at each other then back to Solace.

“What’s done is done,” the petite hero said. “Let it go. Please see these children to safety.” Solace turned to show the two kids behind her.

“Oh, crap!” One man leaned forward and scooped up a kid, the other man ushered the second child in front of him. “We got this lady. Thanks.”

“You are welcome, good sir,” Solace smiled and scanned the crowd again.

“Ahhhh,” the high pitched voice said from over the soccer pitch. “My lovely sister has graced us with her presence.”

Solace turned to see her identical twin hovering out of reach. Aside from their costumes, they matched in every visible way. Their powers were even identical. The difference was how they chose to use them.

“Conflict,” Solace called out. “You’re the cause of this?”

“Sort of,” the slender black clad woman said. “I just enhanced what was already there. You already know this.”

Solace stepped from the steps and into the air. “Connie, stop this. People are going to kill each other.” In answer to her statement, two people were thrown over the railing to land in the grass of the pitch.

“That doesn’t matter,” Conflict laughed. “They want to do this any way. Otherwise, they would just stop.”

Solace turned, looking at the crowd. In just the few moments of conversation, it seemed as if the violence increased.

“If you won’t stop this, then I will,” Solace grimaced at her sister.

“Right.” Conflict let out a belly laugh. “You go into that and stop it. That’s hilarious, Ms. Pacifist.”

A loud banging noise sounded overhead. Solace looked up and saw the speaker. Her head darted to the wall of glass indicating the announcer’s booth.

Solace turned back and humphed at her sister.

Throwing her arms back and leaning into her path, Solace zoomed to the announcer’s booth. The door was already broken and four people were knocked out, laying strewn over the floor. Going inside, she saw two more people struggle with each other.

Solace reached up and touched both of their shoulders. “Calm down. I need help. Make it so I can talk over this.” Holding a microphone, Solace’s eyes bored into the two women.

Without even bothering to straighten themselves up, both women reached over and flipped switches.

A quick squeal of feedback sounded, but people kept fighting. Conflict looked at the booth.

“Excuse me,” Solace’s clam, quiet voice came over the sound system.

The people didn’t even acknowledge that someone even spoke. Conflict laughed louder.

Solace’s voice warbled, “Imagine there’s no heaven. It’s easy if you try. No hell below us, above us only sky.” Her voice picked up in volume and tone. A handful of people stopped and looked at the nearest speaker.

“Imagine all the people, living for today – aha-ah.” Solace’s words flowed and fit the familiar melody. More people stopped fighting. Three began mouthing the words.

Conflict looked at the crowd. “Come on! Get to it!” Conflict flew into the crowd. “You two,” she pointed at two men. “Fight!”

Both men looked at Conflict, then shook their heads. One made a dismissive gesture.

Conflict’s eyes turned into saucers. She clinched and unclenched her fists. “Stop it!”

“Imagine there’s no countries, it isn’t hard to do,” Solace’s voice filled the stadium. “Nothing to kill or die for, and no religion, too.”

Everyone stopped fighting. Several picked up the song and added their voices.

“NO!” Conflict smacked someone. She grabbed another person and locked eyes with them. “Kill Solace!”

The young man broke from Conflict and shook his head. “Get lost, creep!”

“Imagine all the people, living life in peace…You…”

The entire stadium picked up the song. Bodies swayed and smiles were passed along. People slowly straightened themselves up and cleaned up messes. They continued singing.

With a growl, Conflict flew from the stadium.

Half time was extended so the players and spectators could finish cleaning up. Lavender found her seat in time for the second half. “This is the life.” Lavender reached under her seat and pulled out a bottle of water. She took the first sip as the whistle blew starting the half.


“Imagine” Words and Music by John Lennon

©1971

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Super Paranoid

“Oh, no,” Gina quietly gasped, as her hand hovered over her open mouth. Ronald leaned in close with a questioning look. “Uncle Howard actually showed up.” She nodded across the lawn towards the solidly build older man.

“So,” Ronald turned, looking at the man. “He was on the list your mother gave me.”

“There should have been a pink star next to his name,” Gina rolled her eyes and let out a heavy sigh.

“He might have,” Ronald swallowed a sip of his punch. “What does that mean?”

“It’s the organization thing my mom does,” Gina’s narrowed eyes darted to Ronald then back to her Uncle Howard. “It means invite to the important events like funerals, or weddings.” She clenched her teeth, “Not to ordinary things like the once a decade family reunion picnic.”

Ronald ran a hand through his hair, and hooked his neck, “Uh…I’m not following.”

“Uncle Howard is special,” Gina said with a tilt to her head. “He’s retired now, but he continues to find problems everywhere.”

Ronald blinked at her.

“Uncle Howard used to be called Cobblestone,” Gina whispered then sighed.

Ronald froze with his cup midway to his mouth, his eyes unblinking. “Wait! THE Cobblestone?” His head jerked towards Uncle Howard, then back. Ronald’s cheeks flushed and his eyes sparkled. “Wow!”

Gina let out an “Oh boy,” under her breath. “Yes. THE Cobblestone.” She shook her head with her eyes closed. “Now, it’s just sad.”

“What do you mean,” Ronald asked, shifting to stand closer.

“In his last few days of super hero duty, he defeated Brood,” Gina answered. Ronald nodded. “Brood threatened to get even, like all the villains do.”

“Yeah, so what?” Ronald’s face contorted into annoyance. “Tell me something I didn’t see on the news.”

“Well, Brood is a telepath,” Gina tapped a finger on her temple. “He uses his brain powers to affect things and attack.”

Ronald arched an eyebrow and sighed. “OK.” He drew the word out.

“If something happens to Uncle Howard, he thinks it’s Brood getting even,” Gina said, looking at her feet.

Ronald shook his head, “I’m still not following.”

“Here we go,” Gina nodded towards Uncle Howard.

Ronald turned to see a football roll away from Uncle Howard. Howard stood stiff, with his eyes darting around the lawn. He moved his head to the right, eyes scanning.

Everyone at the picnic went quiet. Several people stepped away from Howard.

Howard’s head turned the other direction.

The kids that threw the football stopped in their approach to their toy.

“I know you’re here,” Howard shouted. He crunched the plastic cup in his hand, spilling the contents to the grass. “Show yourself, you base coward.” Howard’s skin turned red. Dark outlines in random patterns formed over his skin. His shirt ripped, followed by his pants and shoes.

“Oh,” Ronald drew this word out. “I see.”

Howard dashed to the side, smashing through the picnic table that held the food. “Brood! I’ll find you!”

“Quick,” Gina said to Ronald. “Call Denise.” She stepped away from Ronald with her head turning this way and that. “She’ll come and help calm him down.” Gina bolted towards the kids. “Vince, code puppy-dog. Code puppy-dog.”

Battle

Jayhawk walked the dark aisle way towards the entrance of the arena. The scent of alcohol, sweat, and perfume permeated the air, making his head swim. The blaring cacophony made it hard to hear over his earbud.

While he waited, Jayhawk clenched and unclenched both fists, checked his equipment belt, and ensured his helmet was secured. Staring across the arena at the other entrance, he saw his opponent, the Golden Sentinel.

“Ladies and gentlemen. Distinguished judges.” The disembodied voice of the announcer sounded over unseen speakers. “Tonight, we are down to the final two candidates. They are battling for the title of City Defender.” The word Defender reverberated around the arena and surrounding spectator areas.

The crowd erupted with cheers and shouts.

“So far, these two have been equally matched in each of the previous contests. They are also well known in the city and surrounding area. I present to you, the Golden Sentinel and Jayhawk.” Again, the last words bounced around unseen areas of the arena and the crowd noise swelled.

The gate in front of Jayhawk sprung open. Taking the cue, he dashed in. A rolling dive let him dodge the weapon the Golden Sentinel threw. As Jayhawk sprung to his feet, he spotted the Golden Sentinel shaking his head.

PONG!

Stars burst into Jayhawks vision and he collapsed to the surface of the arena.

The crowd gasped, then belted out a cheer with applause.

Jayhawk forced himself to his feet and scrambled for a nearby obstacle, using it for cover. He felt the back of his helmet. It was covered in spider web cracks and flexed when he put pressure on it.

The hairs on the back of Jayhawk’s neck stood up. A quick glance and he saw the shadow pressing down on him. Darting a hand to his belt he pressed a secret button.

The Golden Sentinel vaulted over the large cement obstacle and reached for Jayhawk. His entire body tensed and he fell to the ground with a loud thump and a loud scream.

“You’re not the only one that has surprises,” Jayhawk chuckled. “Electric counter-measures.”

Jayhawk looked at his target, the green flag flapping in the imitation breeze of the arena.

Scampering over several low obstacles, Jayhawk took the path of least resistance for the flag. Being the easier path, made it longer.

The Golden Sentinel moaned as he stood. He shook his cowl-masked head to clear the cobwebs. After a quick check of his opponent’s progress, the Golden Sentinel fired a grapnel line. The small wench on this belt pulled the Golden Sentinel towards his destination.

Jayhawk watched as the Golden Sentinel zipped into the air. A quick flick and a small disk shot from Jayhawk, severing the line Golden Sentinel had. The Sentinel plummeted to the arena floor amidst other obstacles.

Cheers and jeers rose from the crowd, and Jayhawk moved faster with his opponent out of commission.

The Golden Sentinel scrambled to his feet and dashed for the flag. As he climbed an obstacle, he aimed his grapnel gun again. Firing, the dart penetrated the lower leg of Jayhawk.

“Aahhhhhh,” Jayhawk screamed, clutching his leg, then collapsed on the platform.

The crowd gasped as they watched the expanded view on the jumb-o-trons placed high above their seating areas. Several booed, but a few cheered.

The Golden Sentinel activated the wench on his grapnel gun again and climbed to where Jayhawk lay sprawled. “Tough break.”

Several low sounding boo’s wafted over the arena as the Golden Sentinel advanced closer to the flapping flag.

Staggering to his feet, Jayhawk pulled a small item from his belt. With a hard flick of his arm, the device connected with the knee of the Golden Sentinel. A splat of blood hit the surface of the obstacle, and the Golden Sentinel dropped to keep from falling over the edge.

Again, the crowd expressed their amazement at what the possible heroes were doing to each other.

Jayhawk limped after the Golden Sentinel, passing the prone hero and advancing to the next platform.

Both heroes slowly worked their way closer to the flag. They both landed on the large, raised platform opposite each other.

“You’re not going to make it,” Jayhawk said and tossed a handful of pellets at the Golden Sentinel.

The Golden Sentinel rolled to the side to avoid the small projectiles, but wasn’t fast enough. The pellets exploded with little pops and a foam advanced over the form of the Golden Sentinel.

At the same time, the Golden Sentinel tossed a single disk at Jayhawk. Kicking the device, it exploded in a puff of smoke encasing Jayhawk. Within seconds he was coughing like a 30-year smoker.

Still both struggled to reach the flag.

The Golden Sentinel extended a hand, but it was covered in the foam, halting all advancement. It even covered his face.

Jayhawk felt his entire body go limp, and he fell to all fours, then to his belly, and lastly stopped. His arm, much like the Golden Sentinel, was extended, but not touching the flag.

The Angel

Jarryd Finely sighed as he walked through his front door into his dark house. Shedding his coat and thick boots, he moved to the kitchen. The clock on the microwave changed to 11:42pm as he pulled the fridge open. Jarryd finished the niggling amount of orange juice in the bottle, then tossed it in the recycling bin.

He grabbed the dish of leftovers his mother left for him. “Mmmmm. Meatloaf and green beans.” Jarryd walked down the short hall munching on the cold food. He tossed his bag on his bed, then undressed.

Wearing a towel, Jarryd shambled to the bathroom. He brushed his teeth while he waited for the shower to get hot.

As the water poured over him, Jarryd sighed again. “There has to be more to life than just work and sleep.” He let the soap and shampoo flow down the drain.

Toweling off, he moved back to his bedroom and put on an old pair of shorts.

Jarryd read a few news stories on his laptop. The most recent, that of Ajax and Thundra saving lives of school kids, got him thinking. “That is what I want to do. Save humanity and make the world a safe place.”

He shut down his browser and stood.

A noise from the outside of his window caught his attention. Jarryd bent a blind down and peered into the darkness.

His mouth fell open, and he leaned forward. His head crashed into the blinds and window.

Floundering for the pull cord, Jarryd got the blinds up on the third pull. Next he tugged the window open and breathed in the cold night air. His breath making a white plume as he blew it out.

“Jarryd Finely of Earth,” the glittery being said. The voice sounded like haunting wind chimes. It held out arms and nodded it’s head slowly. Wings from sprouted from the back of the creature. The long cloth covering the creature extended past where feet might have dangled. “I am Brynnian and I have been sent to grant your request.”

“My request,” Jarryd asked. He stuttered as his eyes looked up. The list of things Jarryd had ever asked for flashed behind his eyes and then stopped on his most recent. “You mean save humanity and make the world safe?”

“Precisely,” the angelic figure said with a smile and sparkly eyes.

“How’m I to do that? I am just a burger flipper.” Jarryd grimaced as heat traveled up his neck and landed on his face. “I barely passed high school and only go to community college part time.”

A seraphic smile flowed onto Brynnian’s face, “That is of little consequence. All that matters is that you discharge your duty to best of your abilities.”

Jarryd arched an eyebrow and a corner of his mouth tightened.

“I guess I could do that,” Jarryd said. “but I don’t have abilities. I ride a moped. Flying is right out and I imagine I’m gonna to have to fight and lift heavy things.”

A lilt of a chuckle escaped from Brynnian. “I am here to bring you those abilities.”

Brynnian’s arm floated towards Jarryd.

Jarryd opened his eyes and mouth, but he was held in place and unable to speak.

Brynnian’s finger fluttered down over Jarryd’s forehead, eyes, nose, mouth, and chin.

A tingle darted over Jarryd’s body and he gasped. Throwing his head up his arms splayed and tightened. His entire body screamed but only little whimpers escaped his mouth.

“It is done,” Brynnian said. “You are ready.”

Gasping for his wind, and feeling the cold wind, Jarryd asked, “Ready? What abilities do I have? Where do I go? What do I do? Who-”

“You get that answer in time,” Brynnian answered with his chiming voice and another smile on his face.

“But-”

“You have been given the ability to save all humanity,” Brynnian said and flapped his wings.

“Wait!” Jarryd reached for the strange being. “What I am saving humanity from?”

Brynnian swept an arm to stop past a shoulder. Another slow nod and Brynnian vanished.

“Shit!” Jarryd dashed back to the bathroom. He wiped the remnants of the fog off the mirror. Looking at himself in the mirror he didn’t see anything different.

Just as he turned his head, Jarryd saw a black figure on his neck. It looked like a tattoo of two pointed spears crossed midway down their shafts.

“Oh, man,” Jarryd said running fingers over the mark. “I need to explain that to Mom. Hell, I need to explain it to everyone. Hell, I need to have it explained to me. I don’t know what I’m supposed to do.”

The Old Guy

Vic Sawyer walked into the gym. At this early hour, there were mostly the silver hairs. He didn’t mind as he fit in with them. Just a few weeks ago, he turned 72. Vic didn’t need a cane and still stood up-right. Aside from the dark spots on his skin, it would be hard to say he was over 50.

With the confidence of a veteran hero, Vic activated the treadmill and walked in place at the set pace of four miles per hour. With his arms swinging he felt the warmth build in his body and beads of sweat appeared on his forehead. Once a few minutes passed, Vic stopped the treadmill and hit the water fountain. A few gulps later and he moved to the free weights.

Vic moved through a routine he planed out on a piece of paper. It wasn’t long, and he completed one set of each. The sweat on his face and arms rolled down freely.

Two young men entered the weight room as Vic crested the halfway point of his second set. The two youths laughed and muttered to each other. They kept the pointing and sniggering to a minimum and always under their breath.

Vic finished his second set and waited the entire minute his routine required. His damp towel held in his hand, he saw the young duo move to the weight benches. He shook his head when the placed several large metal plates on the bar. A quick calculation and the total weight crested 150 pounds.

Vic stood and wiped the sweat from his face and hands. Pointing his feet toward the over zealous kids, he stepped in their direction.

The kid on the bench breathed in and out a few times and he locked his fingers around the bar. One final breathe then he straightened his arms. Bar cleared the hooks and wobbled to the height of the extended arms.

“SHIT,” the horizontal kids squeezed out through clenched teeth. He wavered his arms back to reseat the bar, but missed the hooks. The bar forced his elbows to buckle, sending the metal to the neck of the young man.

The other kid didn’t react in time, and the bar bounced on the chest of the kid laying on the bench.

A weathered and calloused hand grasped the bar in the center. Curled fingers worked under the deadly weight. The arm pulled the entire weight in a smooth motion to the hooks and set them down without making a sound.

Vic leaned over the now gasping kid and said, “You kids need to work up to the heavy weights. Don’t strain yourself.” He winked, then moved to the beginning of his workout routine.

The kids worked their way to their feet and left the gym.

“It appears the Silver Defender is still needed.”

Vic looked at the woman standing near him. “You saw that?” The woman nodded. “Well, then I guess my identity is out in the open.”

The woman, a few years younger than Vic walked closer. She had long athletic legs and a slim figure. Her hips swayed as she reached for the muscled arm of Vic. “I’ve known who you were for a long time. I’ll keep your secret.”

A smile crossed Vic’s lips. He raised an eyebrow as he locked eyes with the woman. “Ahhh…Dreamboat. Or should I say Veronica Marshal.”

“See,” Veronica tilted her head and put on a coy smile. “I knew you would understand.”

***

And this ends Shorts – Volume 1. I have compiled some of these posts into an e-book. This is available free of charge. The advantage is all of the posts in one area and you can read them front to back. Check it out. Volume 2 is already in the works.

Twinsies

“Now,” David asked. “You need me to do this now?” David rolled his eyes, as he activated his turn signal. “I’m gonna be late.”

“Late for what,” Daniel asked. “You’re on your way home.”

David let out an exaggerated sigh. “I have a date,” he glanced at his dashboard clock. “In twenty minutes.”

“This shouldn’t take long,” Daniel said. “I just have to be seen walking out of my office and into the elevator.”

“Fine, but it’ll cost ya,” David turned again and zoomed through the yellow light. “I figure a c-note should cover it.”

“What! That’s highway robbery.”

“No, that’s paying for services rendered.” David pulled into the parking garage, handed the attendant a ten, then continued driving. “Deal, or I turn around and leave.”

“Fine,” Daniel sighed. “Right hand drawer. Just a hundred.”

“Good. I’m parked.” David pressed the hang-up button and got out of his car. Standing the parking garage made him uncomfortable.

“You ready,” David jumped as Daniel appeared next to him.

“I hate it when you do that,” David reached for the bundle in Daniel’s hands. “Just the shirt and tie. The rest won’t be noticed.”

“What ever. Just change,” Daniel said and pulled his dark-green cowl over his head. “It shouldn’t take more than three minutes.”

David pulled his shirt off and swapped it with the one he was handed. The tie was still looped, but he tightened it around his neck. He held his hand up to stall Daniel. David shoved his hands into the waist of his pants, pulling the shirt-tails with it. David nodded when he was ready.

Daniel grinned and grabbed his identical twin and zipped up to his open window.

David plopped into the soft leather chair and ran a hand through his wind-swept hair. “I’m leaving in three minutes.”

“Fine,” Daniel said. “I’m off, and thanks.” He waved to his brother and jumped from the window. His power kicked in and he flew out towards the danger he was called for.

“Twins my ass,” David said. “He got the power and the attitude. I got the brains.” He reached for the right hand drawer and pulled. Inside were papers, small trinkets, and a manilla envelope. Taking the envelope, David pulled a hundred-dollar bill out and folded it into his pocket. “Plus tip,” David repeated the process with a twenty.

After counting to one hundred, David stood from the chair. He grabbed the leather valise and walked out the door.

“See ya tomorrow, Marie,” David said to Daniel’s secretary.

Marie looked up from her computer and did a double take. Her lips moved but carried no sound, “David.”

“OK, Mr. Tabbert,” Marie smiled to herself.

The Cleaners

Mike looked at the plain wooden door. There was no sign to say this was Yeltza’s Cleaners. He pulled the doorknob and strode in.

The white counter showed a cash register and a metal pole holding various clothes wrapped in plastic.

“Just a minute,” sounded from the depths of the back.

“At least no one else is-”, Mike’s words stopped on his lips as he looked to his left at the row of seats. One other person sat, holding a ticket.

“Don’t worry,” the guy pointed to the items hanging on the pole. “You can’t see through the plastic. Custom made.”

Mike looked at the hanging clothes. Staring directly at the rack revealed a grey blob with shadowy colors.

“Good to know,” Mike muttered, rocking back on his heels.

“First time?” The seated figure placed on of his ankles over a knee.

“No,” Mike answered. “I get my ummm…uniform cleaned here all the time.”

“So do I,” the seated man smiled. “I take it you have someone else that takes care of it.”

“OK, you got me,” Mike said with a smile on his face.

“I used to have that,” the seated man said nodding towards an empty chair. “Then she left me.”

“Oh,” Mike moved to sit in a chair. “That’s too bad. Tough break.”

“Yeah,” the other man sighed. “Better all around, though.”

“Here ya go, Kevin. Good as new.”

A small man approached the counter. He climbed a stepstool, and placed the two items on the hook at the top of the pole.

“Thank you, Nate,” Kevin, the man in the chair, stood and took the hanger off the pole. He flipped the bag open on the bottom. A heavy jacket with a bright red skull emblazoned on it flashed into view.

Mike’s eyes went wide. “Skullcap,” he whispered. Mike’s mouth formed another word but it never left his mouth.

“See ya,” Steve waived then opened the door and left.

“You got yer ticket?” Nate held out a hand to Mike.

“Yeah,” Mike stood and handed the paper over. “That was Skullcap.”

“Who cares,” Nate read the ticket. “He’s a good customer. Comes here all the time.”

“He’s one of the leaders of the Bridge,” Mike looked at the door again.

“I don’t care. He pays picks his cleaning up on time,” Nate tossed the ticket on the counter. “Unlike you. Your stuff’s here. Been here for a week.”

Nate reached for the clothes on the pole.

“Oh, I’ve been busy,” Mike said as he reached for the hangers.

“I don’t care,” Nate waved a hand. “Pick your stuff up on time and pay your bill. That’s all I care about.”

“Fine.” Mike reached for the covers. “Did you get the burn marks off?”

“Of course,” Nate growled. “This is the cleaners. We clean clothes.”

“Good,” Mike let the plastic flow over the silver sickle on his costume. He pulled the small fold of bills out of his wallet and handed them to Nate. “Thank you.”

Tossing the clothes over his shoulder then walked outside. “Glad Skullcap didn’t see my costume. I’m gonna have to find a new cleaner.”