If anyone is wondering where we kept a captured hero like Wildflower, that leads us back to the asylum. It occurred to me that I didn’t need to buy the old thing. We’re criminals beating up and kidnapping heroes. Why worry about the legality of owning the place we put them?
Still, I didn’t want to shoulder the cost of security alone, so I contacted Oligarch and convinced him to get some other minions camping around the place. That way, it keeps me from looking like I have a part in it to anyone who comes looking. Plus, that is one miserable, run-down wreck of a building. I don’t want my guys camping out there. It’d be terrible. Inhumane, even. Nah, I just kept the heroes there.
Heroes, plural. Nobody had nabbed the big ones mentioned at the table yet, but we were starting to get some prisoners from lower down the totem pole. Scrubs. Though, I don’t exactly have intimate knowledge of how reputations and being known work for heroes, except that power and skill helps a lot.
Either way, we got a couple of other inmates locked up well away from Wildflower’s cell. I saw that personally when I went to visit her. The rusty old cell in a dilapidated old asylum may not seem that secure, but this was an old-school asylum. Lead and asbestos and meant to be filled fifteen people to a five foot space. Plus, I’m pretty sure Wildflower can’t manipulate dead plants. If she could, a lot of people’s shirts and pants would have rebelled against them while on guard duty.
Backed up by a trio of men with light machine guns covering the entirety of the opening, I swung the door open and poked my head in. “Hello there, sunshine. Is everything to your liking?”
She squatted in the corner to the left of the door, keeping on her feet like she’d pounce. I hadn’t straight-up walked in, though, so the most she could do is grab my head. That didn’t give her many nonlethal options. I shook my head. “Now, now. I’m just here to talk. I stepped in and allowed the guards to close the door, leaving me alone with Wildflower.
“You did this,” Wildflower accused me, shivering. Sure, now she shivers. When the wind’s blowing against the side of a skyscraper and she’s fighting crime in ho clothes, no shivers. But lock her up in a cold metal room with no heating for a few days and she finally shows some ability to feel body heat.
I shook my head again. “No.”
She shook her head, her hands resting on her knees. My, she did have some long nails, didn’t she? “Yes, this is because I’ve been watching you. Don’t deny it!”
I tried to look concerned as I stepped over, kneeling down. “No, honey, no. I didn’t like you hanging around, but I had nothing to do with this. These people, Wildflower, they’re supervillains.” I don’t know if the wide-eyed look came across as sincere as I tried to look.
“What are you doing here then?” She spat at me.
I glanced back at the door. “I saw when that man on the motorcycle went after you. Security was happy when you didn’t come back, but I got worried. I don’t like you, but I’m not trying to kill you. Or imprison you. I pulled some strings, paid some people. I found you here.”
“Get me out,” she said. “There’s no sunlight in here.”
Well now. Is that the cold or the shakes, little miss part-plant?
“I’m not sure I have that kind of pull. Not yet. And…well…” I bit my lip. “I’m not sure I can trust you. Now, wait,” She bared her teeth at me. “You think I’m up to something. You’re watching me, Venus is watching me, and the first thing you did was accuse me of putting you here. I’m sorry, it’s not what you want to hear, it’s not what I want, but it’s hard to be sure you won’t…”
She growled at me.
“Listen, they won’t let me let you out. I’ll try, I will. I don’t know what they’ll ask of me. But I’ll try to help you. In the meantime, is there anything I can bring you to help you out some? You look cold. How are they feeding you? How about a pillow?” I reached out and laid a hand on hers.
She looked up at me. “I don’t believe you.”
I stood up and backed toward the door. I knocked on it, shave and a haircut. The guards popped it open. “Hand me the bags,” I instructed them. I kept an eye on Wildflower as they passed me a pair of paper bags, one of them from a fast food place that isn’t paying me for advertising. To Wildflower, I said, “I didn’t know where they were keeping you, but I figured it wasn’t nice. So here’s a double cheeseburger with fries and a pillow.”
I laid both on the floor between us. Wildflower looked between me and the bags, then stretched out to take them. She dug through the bag and almost ate a mouthful of wrapper in her urgency to shove the burger in there. I turned back to the guards, “What about the milkshake?”
The guard shrugged and shook his head, looking embarrassed as he could behind the hood he wore over his head. “Really? Give me something here. It’s a burger. You need more than whatever you’re letting her drink to down one of those things.” He offered a bottle of beer. I grabbed it, then felt something off. I shook it, then smelled the open top. Holding it back out to him. “I said beer, not piss.” He tossed the beer over his shoulder, then walked out of sight. One sound of a cooler opening and closing later, he came back holding the remaining two of a six pack. I set them down next to the non-food bag.
“Ok, there’s some beer to go with the food and pillow. It’s memory foam, so it’s good for your head. I guess you need a blanket too.”
She murmured something. “What was that?” I asked.
“A UV lamp would help more than a blanket, if you can.” She looked at me with wide-eyes now.
I nodded and smiled. “I don’t know if they’ll let me, but I’ll see what I can do for you.”
When I left the room and they closed that heavy steel door, I turned to the guards. “Don’t ever let her see the light of day again.”
One of them nodded and lifted up his gun. I pushed the barrel back down. “Not that way. I mean no sunlight. I think she gets something from it. Do you really want to be known as a guy who kills superheroes? Geez, you’d need to be crazy to want that kind of heat.” I threw my hands up as I walked away. “So hard to find good help around here. And y’all owe me a milkshake.”
We set up a number of alternate entrances and exits so people could escape without being spotted. Which worked out great for me. With Wildflower missing, Venus has taken to checking in on me randomly. It’s not round the clock coverage.
Of course, one of my biggest highlights was the return of Crash to active duty. She walked in just in time to hear me complain about why nobody’s been bringing all my business messages to my attention. I looked up to see her walk through the door, her smile going from sincere to painted on in less than half a second. “Ah, about time you showed up. You’ve been taking a lot of paid leave lately, missy.”
“It was my car again, I thought-,” she started.
I threw my hands in the air. “Always that damn car. And never your fault, either, or so you claim. What excuse are you going to use this time, someone just fell out of the sky onto it?”
Crash set her hands on her hips, jaw open, nodding. “Yes, actually. You sent me an email right after it happened. In fact, I think you were the person who fell on it.”
I shook my head and tut-tutted. “You can’t go through life blaming all your problems on everybody else. You have to take responsibility for your own actions if you want to be a mature adult. Now, get to work. I haven’t been able to get a thing done without you here to let me know what needs my attention.”
She sighed, but sat down across from me and started checking through her tablet. “The budget report looked important. The email is marked urgent.” She bit her lip as she read.
It is fun to take a bit of enjoyment in being a corporate asshole. It’s one of those little privileges you get from being in control. But, as I looked at Crash there, I remembered all too well what it was like to be on the other side of that. People treat you like crap for no other reason than they can. I used to take contracts eagerly to knock people like me down a notch. I stood up and walked around to the other side of the desk, then gave her a hug that probably seemed a bit awkward from where she sat.
“I appreciate you.” I let go and patted her on the head.
She blushed as she looked up at me. “Ok…”
“Now then, let’s take a look at those- holy fuckbeagles.” I had glanced over her shoulder at the budget report. Whoever wrote it must have been briefed on how I liked things, because the bottom line under the projections simply said “After New Years, we’re fucked.”
“We’re going to need a big score or two,” I mentioned.
Crash scrolled up. “I found something here from a Prof. Electro. He wants an appointment to discuss investing in a scheme to hold the city ransom.”
I looked him up on my eye HUD. Big fan of electricity. Likes to act flashy. One of the last heists he pulled was to rob a truck carrying gold to the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
“I thought I said I didn’t want to listen to the schemes of every criminal in the city. Don’t we pay people to turn down people like this?”
Crash read through more of the email. “He insisted and pulled an electro-pistol, so they told him they’d set him up.”
I rolled my eyes. “Some motherfuckers are always trying to ice skate uphill. Alright, I’ll see him. And while we’re at it, get me a list of other richy-rich businesses around here. Investment firms, banks…ooh, and insurance companies. I have a much more lucrative idea than this city ransom bullshit.”
Yes…it’s so brilliant…forget stealing gold, or diamonds, or cash out of vaults. We’re not even going to commit insurance fraud. No, dear readers. We’re going to stick it to some assholes who need sticking. Let’s extort us some insurance companies!