In the wake of last month’s shenanigans, the city is once again settling back down. Between Spinetingler and Oligarch, I have had to save this place’s ass quite a bit. Do I make a big deal of it, like the heroes? Nope. Do I get a statue? A plaque? The key to the city? A billboard? Buy one-get one coupons to a frozen yogurt place?
No. But at least I get graffiti. It’s just something I happened to see as I walked late at night through a poor neighborhood on the rough side of town in a leopard-print leather miniskirt, stockings, high heels, and tube top. Not a very warm outfit for walking down the streets of Empyreal City this time of year.
I didn’t expect to stay cooled down for long. In an embarrassing incident that no one’s letting him live down, the goat head guy got the shit kicked out of him. That’s the guy with the goat head, and he is just a guy in a goat mask. He crawled into the hidey hole of one of my cafes in this neighborhood with broken ribs, talking about how the Reds street gang invaded his sanctum and kicked him out.
It was a good opportunity for me to get better acquainted with this guy I knew nothing about, so I stopped by.That’s not a come-on. Didn’t have a clue about this guy, and I’m not a fan of how often that’s been happening. Seemed kind of odd he went with that name if he actually worships the guy. As much as you’d think Oligarch stacked the deck with powerful allies, I think he planned to help himself more than the rest of the group. So we sat down for coffee, him admiring the various explicitly non-Christian images and holidays mentioned on the cups.
Somebody in marketing saw the stupid controversy where some fundamentalist Christians got upset over coffee cups not being devoted entirely to their holiday at Starbucks and decided to really mess with them. Every time someone whines about that stupid “War on Christmas,” I make more money.
Baphomet, as he calls himself, made a pretty good case for why someone needed to go in, find the people responsible, do things to them, and get his stuff back. I took the case because I wanted to get out and get my hands dirty.
I ran across some of the Reds hanging out in front of a liquor store. They wore big, puffy red jackets. The big, tall, chunky one wore a design of a handgun and sickle on the back of his. When they saw me, they started in with the commentary.
“Look what we got here. You gotta be cold like that.”
“Yeah, how bout you come with us and warm up.”
“You keep goin’, you won’t be able to feel your hands. You come with me, I’ll give you a problem feelin’ your legs.”
That last one got a big round of laughter from their group.
I walked right up to the big one, twisted to the side, jumped, and smacked him in the face with a my boob. The brass nipple made him stagger back.
I know someone said “What the fuck?” but I didn’t stop to explain. I quickly unzipped my purse and shoved it over the head of the nearest Red.
His muffled screams sounded a bit like someone asking, “What’s crawling on me?” but he probably didn’t want to know. They had more than four legs and an exoskeleton; any pest control company would tell you the possibilities are endless. And unpleasant, to hear his muffled panic. He must have figured out not to keep his mouth open.
“Crazy bitch!” one of the others said. He pulled a switchblade. On me while one of his buddies checked on the big guy and the other tried to pull the purse off the other man.
“You should know better than to bring a knife to a pun fight,” I told him. He cocked his head to the side, puzzled. I followed up with, “Nice knife, but I’ve got a pair of stilettos.”
I kicked hard at his face. He slashed reflexively, opening a shallow cut on my calf. My shoe’s heel, meanwhile, opened up a vacancy in his eye socket.
The fight mostly went out of them after that. Most people really don’t care to fight to the death, and few want to fight a crazy hooker who takes eyeballs. You can quote me on that. Most people are wimps. That’s why war is mainly about eroding an enemy’s will to fight instead of killing off everyone. And with that guy’s eye impaled on the heel of my shoes, they lost the will to fight.
They tried to run for it, which got harder when I jumped on the big one’s back and asked, “Where are we going?”
Apparently we were headed to the magical destination of “slam the crazy woman into a light pole.” I didn’t care for the place. The weather was terrible, so I put my guest to sleep with a blood choke. Say what you will, about half his friends didn’t want to abandon him. Not eyeball guy. Eyeball guy gunned it out of there.
“The fuck you do?!”
“He better not be dead, we’ll kill your ass!”
I held up an open palm, beckoning them to address it because my visage did not want to. “Shut up. He’s all yours, but I gotta know something.”
“Who are you? What do you want?” asked one of them.
“I’m Banshee, and you all could have been dead if I wanted it. Now, I heard someone in your gang broke into a supervillain’s lair and jacked his shit. Guy had a goat mask, guns, maybe some weird books. I want to know who and I want to know where his stuff is.” I sat back on top of the downed gang member, trying to keep from shivering.
“We don’t know. We don’t squeal.”
I shrugged and grabbed the downed guy’s head. “What I did to him is called a blood choke, or sleeper hold. I could explain this all day, folks. Now, all I have to do is apply it and hold it for longer, and your friend here dies.” I wrapped my arms around the big guy’s neck and kept at it.
“You wouldn’t kill him.” One of them said.
“I wouldn’t’? Why not? If you don’t care enough about his life to answer my questions, then I don’t have any reason to keep him alive. So, like I said, this is a sleeper hold. And THIS,” I grabbed the man’s head and snapped it to the side, rotating it so that it faced the opposite direction. “is a broken neck. Whose next?”
They both adamantly unvolunteered themselves. On top of structuring an organization of villains, I also figured I’d try a new way of interrogating people. So I let them go. And, despite the freezing cold and the leg wound, I kept up with them out of site. I also called up Crash and asked her to bring me a coat and a hot chocolate. I wanted a ride when I was done tracking these people. I suppose I didn’t actually have to kill anyone to do that. It was just a bonus.
When they thought they got away, the lead pair stopped and waited for the guys I questioned. After they got caught up on what I was after, they made a phone call. If only I had someone around who could connect to the phone and trace the call. If only. If. Only.
“We were out getting some beer when we ran into some crazy superho outside. She fucking killed Big Mike. She was asking about the place we robbed with the goat guy. The guns and that freaky book.”
I didn’t stick around for the rest of the warning.
I had to go see a man about a goat.
Luckily I didn’t have to run the whole way there in heels. It’s hard to be faster than a speeding bullet in high heels, and it’s not something I’ve practiced. Crash picked me up along the way, though she did tease me and force me to jog alongside the car until I promised not to try and mess it up. She even brought my Banshee costume.
When we pulled up to the home of the guy holding the goods, I saw he had a bunch of the stuff out by the road. For some reason, for a moment, things looked like this time looking at a bunch of junked armor and robots by the side of a road, wearing rags. I could feel the weird mix of heat from fires and cold from the climate. If I’d looked around, I swore I’d have seen a battle between a giant mech and monster. Except when I went to rifle through the garbage, all I got was a oujia board, pentacles, candles, and other odds and ends more at home in some stupid shop catering to suburban wannabe mystics than anyone serious about the occult.
That damn book everyone’s talking about better be something if Baphomet was worth recruiting.
I had Crash start loading it up. I told her it wouldn’t be a big deal if she didn’t get it all, and that cars are a better shield against bullets than no shield at all if it came down to it. Then I approached the front door. The creaking of the steps and porch gave my presence away. Then I knocked.
“Who the fuck is it?!” called a voice from inside. I expanded my mind…in the completely non-drugged way of looking for networks. There were a good eleven phones inside, with six in the room on the other side of the door. Not all of them were where the cameras gave a good view, but a couple showed it to be a living room with a gangbanger in a beret holding that MAG machinegun I saw Baphomet use against the Buzzkills. I had to assume some of the other guns and such were his. One guy even had a battleaxe.
“Boo,” I answered.
I took a deep breath and unleashed my paralysis scream for just a short second. When I shut my cakehole, I heard a couple bodies drop inside. I opened the door and walked in to find they had been the last of the bunch. Looking down on them, I said, “Don’t cry, it’s just me.”
I grabbed the gun, and the axe, and any other hardware that looked out of place. I carried that out to the car where I found Crash napping on the job. I set her inside the car and put on the head while I tossed Baphomet’s weapons inside. By the time I walked in again, people were just standing back up. One of them pulled a regular handgun and tried to hold it up to me. I pushed his arm over so that it aimed at one of the others’ heads. “Go ahead. Shoot me. I dare you. I double dare you, motherfucker.”
He actually shot. Ha! Well, I gave them another dose of paralysis to keep them out while I looked around. “Book, book, book, book, book, book. If I was a book, where would I be?”
Interesting question. Where would a book be if a book had agency? Do they want to be read? Do they want to reproduce? Do they prefer peace, quiet, and nobody spreading them open to peer inside them?
Questions like that had to wait for another day, as something slammed inside the kitchen. It sounded like someone throwing the cabinets closed all at once. In there, I found a couple older women, one fat and one skinny. The skinny one laid in front of the sink. The fat one slumped over the table right in front of, well, a book. Just some old thing with a grey cover, a barely existent spine, and leather cords as binding. Nothing bound in human flesh. I didn’t open it, though. The thing showed up as a magical anomaly when my eyes tried to scan it. As plain as it looked, the thing had some power. It tried to pull that creepy stuff about slamming the cabinet doors, for one thing. And I really wanted to open that thing.
When I stepped out, I slid into the passenger seat of Crash’s car. She had the engine cranked and ready to go. “Feeling ok now?” I asked.
“Yeah. What’s that?” she asked, eyes fixed on the book.
“It’s primitive data storage. Like a prototypical computer or television. Come on, let’s go.”
“Is it going to do something to my car?”
“It’s a book.”
She reached across to try and take it from me, so I smacked her lightly in the face with it. “Drive.”
“That thing’s going to destroy my car somehow. Let me see it!” She lunged for it, so I put it through her passenger side window and acted like I was tossing it away.
“It’s gone. I’m going to destroy your car if you don’t drive. Plus, those pleasant Reds in there will wake up. I didn’t actually kill them, you know. Imagine what they’ll do when they see us making such a pleasant target out here, sitting in your nice, new car.”
“Are you-?” She started.
I punched her in the jaw to shut her up, then stuck my foot over, put it into gear, grabbed the wheel, and took off. With her looking the other direction, I even slipped my right hand back in and hid the book at my side where she couldn’t see it.
Yeah, something’s definitely up with the book. I’m probably fine, though. I deal with odd compulsions all the time. Whale!
I wasn’t sure about returning it to Baphomet, actually. The guy didn’t seem all that qualified to control a magic book that wants people to look inside it for some reason.
I met him back at the Mastermind Cafe the next day, in costume. It provided good publicity, and I think people enjoyed knowing the brand lived up to its name. They stared even before I pulled the book out of a satchel to show it to Baphomet. The rest of his stuff sat in a couple boxes in a backroom, with his gun sitting on top of it. Baphomet looked around, the goat’s face conveying a stupid look like “Oh, I’m a goat. I’d LOVE to shake your hand, Mr. Semi-Truck.”
Baphomet raised his hand, which glowed with green light. When he touched the book, everyone else looked away. “That’s dangerous.” He pulled it away and slid it into a pocket inside his coat.
“I know,” I said. “It keeps tempting me. I’d almost like to open it up just to see what can make it do that, but I get the feeling that’s what it wants me to think.”
He nodded. “That is how it works. You know what’s really ironic? No one can read it. Oligarch said he would find me someone, or something. This book doesn’t look special, right?” He pulled the book out again to show it off. “Books hold ideas. This one holds the worst. It was made long ago. When maps said ‘Here be dragons,’ they weren’t lying. There were monsters in the world, until someone decided to trap them. This is the trap. If I can read it, I can bring them back and control them. I got it for forty bucks at an estate sale.”
He flipped open the front cover to tease me, except an oily black tentacle whipped out of the page and grabbed my throat. It tried to pull me toward him, but at least the horny deity impersonator had the decency and reflexes to close the book. “I’m so sorry,” he said, trying to get it back in his coat. “Let me put it away.”
I grabbed his hand to stop him, pulling him halfway over the table to yank the book away from him. I walked out without a word and immediately went to the bunker under Double Cross tower. I had the Buzzkills clear out while I used a jackhammer to tear up the floor. Then I buried the book. Then I filled in half the hole and buried a box with a lock on it, and I surrounded it with cement and finished filling the whole mess in.
I didn’t hold onto it just in case. I didn’t try to research it. I didn’t think about handing it to Venus or Forcelight or anyone else to cause problems. I buried it twice under a bunker underneath a skyscraper and parked a bunch of bee people over it.
I’m thinking about parking a garbage truck on it, too. Or maybe a water tank with a killer whale. And stick buzzsaws on the ends of its flipper.
No fucking book is gonna suck me in. The closest any book is getting to that is House of Leaves.
And if I can stand not being entirely sure if I know all that book’s dirty secrets, I’m reasonably sure I can handle a book full of monsters that tried to catch me. I am nobody’s Pokemon! I’m Psycho Gecko, and I’m super effective!