Readers, I know how much you enjoy having your faces stuck in horrified positions, so allow me to start off this update by revealing that yes, I have been quite naughty these past couple of days.
“Ha ha ha ha, HA!”
“What is it with you and all the laughter?” asked Venus from where she was chained to a good, solid column.
“Spoilsport. It’s not every day that the great and devious Psycho Gecko takes a hero hostage with such an ingenious plan as this! Oh, you’d swarm me as a team if I showed up, but a mundane criminal in a mundane bank robbery? A lone hero ought to do it. At least until I go upside your head when you’re not looking. Ahahaha!”
“I wish you hit me hard enough to make me deaf you squealing cliché factory. Shouldn’t you be in a Saturday morning cartoon somewhere?” Oh that Venus. She’s a rambunctious little ball buster, isn’t she?
“For being the only one who will talk to me, the one to try and show up and thwart me the most, why do you not like me? Is it my teeth? I work very hard keeping these things top notch,” I said and unlocked my helmet. I lifted it off and reached up into my mouth, gave a twist, and yanked out a tooth. “Look at this! What’s not to like about these pearly whites?” I smiled at her, blood dripping down my chin.
Aww, snap, that’s right. We’re starting en media res here. Getting fancy around here. Fancy pants. So fancy, I ought to get them their own monocle. Curly mustache. A top hat! I even know how I can keep the top hat up using nothing but a rubber band, blood pressure, and my own natural –
“You disgust me, but I know you can be reasoned with. It’s unusual reason, but it’s there,” she said, sounding bored. Not even worried.
“Like in the diner?”
“It was better that we knew where you were than let you run loose. We were setting up an ambush by text besides.”
I nodded and stood, then paced back and forth, tossing the tooth over my shoulder where it bounced against a thug in a mask. “Hey, uh, boss. Psycho. Can we take the money yet?” He waved his submachine gun, some black thing with lots of ammo and horrible aim. The gun, I mean.
“Not yet, not yet. Sh sh sh sh sh. Go stand over there near the tellers. Threaten them about something. Use your imagination.”
He walked over toward the teller windows in front of which one of his buddies had lined them up. He raised his gun into the air and fired a short burst, then yelled, “Alright, I want those free pens! Lots of them! I want them to write red, too!”
I turned toward Venus, “He makes me so proud. I don’t normally have minions, but I was able to recruit pretty well since they figured I was a regular criminal mastermind and I wasn’t going through the supervillain channels.”
“Smart,” she said, squirming against the chains, “by the way, what kind of lock did you use on this again?”
“The Chastity5000. Certified by the Vatican, Answers in Genesis, and Southern Baptist Convention to be nigh impregnable. Perfect for keeping daughters impregnable when used on doors, windows, and special metal underpants. Speaking of things being clamped shut, how about you do some jaw flapping and tell me how you knew it was me in the diner? I’ve been just a-wondering about it.”
“That’s what this robbery’s about, isn’t it? You pretended to be some regular criminal and set up a bank job hoping I’d show up to stop it?” she answered, countering my question with another question. Or did she? Yes, she really did.
“Don’t sell me short. I set up a dogfighting ring and kidnapped a reality star too. Nice to see Raptor’s hips are back in their proper position after the rocket. I was considering sending him a fruit basket. Pineapple. Bananas. Oranges. The most evil of tropical fruits, that is. Then I remembered I hated him and wanted him to die.”
“Petty, aren’t we? Think you could hand me my communicator? I dropped it over by the rope post you whacked me with.”
“Oh, this one over here?” I asked as I walked over to the red carpet and grabbed the cellphone sized-communicator. I grabbed the post too and swung it over my shoulder as I stepped over the grey and white checked floor toward the column with my prisoner. “Here you go, my dear,” I held it out in front of her face. She leaned out and opened her mouth to speak. I brought the post down and caught her in the cheek, her brown hair looked so beautiful as it swayed through the air. Her teeth skidded along the floor toward that same thug from earlier. She looked so cute with blood on her face.
The robber glanced down at the teeth, then whipped a young teller with the butt of his gun. The young man sprawled on the floor as the thug yelled at the rest, “What kinda place are you running here, can’t even keep the floor clean?” I like that man. He’s going to get a raise when this is all over, unless I kill him. And if I kill him, I’m paying for him to have a special box, with packing tape and shit, maybe draw on it with a marker. A red marker.
I knelt by the hurt heroine. “Now, let me level with you. This time, it’s not coincidence or your own impetus that caused this little chat. See, your buddy said something the other day, a statement about motivations. Thing is, he’s rather uncompromising regarding me. And he didn’t know it was me at first. You, though, you did, AND,” I reached out and softly tapped the end of where her nose would be under the mask, “you’re smart. Unfortunately, unlike most people I like to interrogate, you have very little I can exploit. What am I going to do, stab your parents’ corpses? So no one I can hurt except your boyfriend. Last time I killed him, y’all just brought him back. Stole my tech to do it, by the way, you bastard. But you have a duty. You have to protect people.”
“You’ll never-” she started before I shut her up with a boot to the head.
“I know you’re better than this in any sort of fair fight, but this isn’t a situation you can kick ass to escape from. Anyway, I don’t actually know for sure that Dame is who told you, but I know she knew where my base is. I also know where she is. I have a deal for you. Maybe you know how I am about deals, maybe you don’t. Here it is: if I leave here without an answer about who gave you my face, then you’ll be able to find her location, too, though it’ll be six feet lower. Give me the name and she’ll live.” I made sure to record from this point on.
She considered me, hair hanging down over her face and sticking to the blood under her mouth. That look was almost perfect on her but for the chains. She deserves to be free. Fly free, little Venus.
“No matter what happens, you won’t go after her?” she asked.
“No matter what. Untouchable for the whole rest of this year at least. Won’t hold any grudges against her over this little misunderstanding, in fact.”
Her eyes drilled into me and she made her decision, “It’s a deal.”
I reached toward her and pretended to shake someone’s hand in front of her. “That name?”
“It was Dame. She told us all where you were hiding. She and I had some common ground and she gave me a picture of your latest face.”
That’s that. I put my helmet back on. “Alright, boys, pack up your money! Now where’s my bag from when I was disguised as the rest of y’all? Apologies for the deception, by the way, but not even y’all could be allowed to know it was me in on this. Oh, thank you, thugperson,” I announced as my favorite of these henchpeople brought the duffel bag out for me. I opened it just enough to flip a few switches on the device inside, a nasty little thing with a penchant for exploding in 4 minutes and 57 seconds. It has a fancy digital clock on it, too, that will count down from 12 minutes. It’s got some nice wires on it as well. There’s a bright red wire going right to the clock. Clip that and it’ll defuse it. The clock, I mean. The bomb will still go off on time.
I dropped it on the ground and raised my hands in the air. “Now folks, inside this bag is a little something special from me to all of you. See, right about now, there are a lot of cops out there. Probably a few more heroes, not that that’s a problem,” I turned and gave Venus a look at that last sentence, to the laughter from some of the muscle I hired and pretended to be like. “You’ve all been well-behaved, which is good. After all, none of you are losing money unless you’re rich enough to afford it. The government automatically insures your money up to a couple hundred thousand dollars. Trust me when I say that I don’t care enough about your lives to bother with ending them, but I will need one of you to come with me and the boys long enough to verify for the police that I have both a bomb and detonator!”
There were screams as soon as I said bomb, followed by loud gasps as I whipped out an old handheld game that I’d spraypainted to look genuinely mind- and bomb-blowing.
“Now, any volunte- whoa, not everyone at once,” I said as I was swarmed by people wanting to get out of there. I tried to pick out the person dressed the nicest, overlooking lots of regular folks and even a woman holding a toddler in her arms. I found myself grabbing a middle-aged man with a large bald spot on his pate. I motioned to the nearest robbers and then to this man. They grabbed him by the arms and dragged him in front of me. “Hey there, little fella. What’s your name?”
“Theophile Zebulon Ylgnampozqook.”
“The fuck? You want to run that by me again, but in an Earth language this time?”
“Theophile Zebulon Ph’nglui mglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn.”
“Wow, that sounded like summoning an Old One. I have no clue,” I looked up at my henchmen. “Any of y’all get that? Anyone?” Then I looked down at the guy in the suit and said with a shrug, “Alright, you’re my hostage now since you’re a white guy with money. Your name is Bob now for convenience.” I pointed over to the woman with the baby. “That kid’s coming with us, and you will hold it with its mouth pointed toward you. You even think of running, that baby will spew like a can of beer. Let go of him, boys.”
They released Bob and, to his credit, he followed orders. He went over to the woman and said something reassuring. She handed over the kid.
I grabbed him by the back of the neck and led him to the doors while the crap-making machine began to cry. I activated my regular bankrobber disguise. “You know, the problem with this is that they might shoot if we’re all spread out,” I mused to myself. Then I turned back to the thugs. “Line up behind Bob and me, guys. Don’t dawdle, boys. She’ll be out of there in seconds and she punches like a drunken football player.”
“Regular football or American football?” asked one of my robbers that had a British accent.
“Hell if I know. Whichever one punches in the balls more often. Wait a minute, speaking of balls…lightbulb! I have an idea!”
“Dun dun dun dun dun, hey! Dun dun dun dun dun, hey!” The robbers and I danced in a conga line with Bob and the kiddo heading us up. There were indeed many cops and one or two local heroes. I ignored all but a police sergeant who approached ahead of the barricades. I jumped out from behind Bob as we got close. “Hey!”
He was startled, but not enough to escape from me shaking his hand and briefly shoving the handheld in his face. “Now, before you can say anything, just to be clear, we have a bomb. It’s in the bank. This is the remote. Bob here was just for getting us out here to make this very important point before you let us go, because this thing’s on a deadman’s switch. You don’t want to make us dead men.”
“You really expect me to just let you go?”
I didn’t even acknowledge what he said. ”You also don’t want to make us nervous enough to accidentally drop this thing by doing anything stupid like sending cars or helicopters or superheroes to follow us. You agree?”
Resigned, he nodded.
I addressed my minions next, “Good. I hate long negotiations. Alright, boys, let’s blow this joint.” I turned back to the sergeant, “Not that way. Oh, and by the way, officer, I need to report a kidnapping. Arrest that man. That is NOT his baby.”
We left Bob and the cops to get things sorted out. We didn’t have time to worry about false charges. We were too busy being delicious and sauntering out past a bunch of people who wanted to take us down. Yeah, suck it, coppers. You been hit by, you been struck by, a smooth criminal.
And I must say, the whole thing’s given me an idea. Sure, Venus probably survived when that building went up, but she’s pissed. I want her to be pissed. I want the heroes mad enough to tear me to pieces when I bring this city down on their heads. Oh, there’s more heat ray to come, my dear readers. In the meantime, we’re going to lay the smackdown on some individual heroes in whatever weak spots I can find.
It’s all part of the plan. A plan to turn hero against hero and friend against friend. And that spells the Shieldwall’s end.