Published by Quintin Fortune at Shakespir
Copyright 2016 Quintin Fortune
Shakespir Edition, License Notes
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Deadguy zipped around the corner, a purse tucked under his arm. He paused to look back, then ducked down as another shot was fired. He ran as fast as he could down the alley. The phone in his long coat pocket began to ring. He pulled it out to see Jill’s name on the screen. “This can’t be good,” he grumbled. “Hey Boss. What’s up?”
“You’re late,” Jill’s voice announced.
“Sorry, it’s All You Can Eat Pancakes Day,” he said. More shots were fired. One grazed his shoulder. He almost dropped the device.
“What was that?” Jill started pelting him with questions. “What’s going on? Was that gunfire? Where are you?”
“Big Bob’s House of Bullets and Breakfast,” Our Hero replied. He clenched his fist. “God bless America.”
There was a sigh at the other end. “I’m docking your pay for this. Just get here.”
“Just as soon as they bring me the Mauser filled with maple syrup.”
The line went dead.
Deadguy skidded to a stop. “That’s just great.” Bullets zipped past his head. “Hey, do you mind,” he called out. More bullets shot past. He ran off again, darting out of the alley in time to find a young brunette fearfully waiting. “Here’s your purse. Now get the hell outta here.” He turned and ran off in the opposite direction, looking back just in time to see the woman run off into the crowd and the men chasing him rushing out of the alley.
Our Hero strolled into the Office of the Professional Heroes almost two hours late for work. Kiri was preoccupied with something on her computer while Valkadaidan was meditating. “Always meditating,” he remarked.
“At least he’s on time to meditate,” Jill replied. He looked at her, noting she had the look that someone gives when they are fed up with someone.
“Are we sure he doesn’t sleep here at night?”
“I have a home,” Valk answered. “You went there once. Remember?”
DG thought for a moment. “Oh yeah. Did you ever get those burn marks off the walls?”
Jill’s phone rang. “Professional Heroes. Jill Nemo speaking.”
“Wait, burn marks,” Kiri questioned. “Did I miss something?”
“It was a few years ago,” Valk answered.
Jill hung up. “Alright, Heroes, we have a case. Let’s go!” The Heroes grabbed their weapons. “Not you Deadguy,” she added.
Deadguy stopped, concerned confusion on his face. “Um…what?”
“You’re on probation for the rest of the week,” she answered curtly. “You will be on desk duty for the time.”
“For being late,” he argued. “When did this start?”
“Today.” She grabbed her gun and ushered Valk and Kiri out of the office. Deadguy watched them leave, suspicion creeping into his mind.
Deadguy stood in the empty Office of the Professional Heroes using Masamune for batting practice. The wall opposite him was splattered with crumpled up paper. He tossed another balled-up paper in the air, then swung and connected. The paper shot across the room and slammed into the wall.
He looked at the mess and sighed. Something was wrong, but he couldn’t put his finger on it. Jill had been acting strange since the battle against Venatores Mali. Of course, the revelations that arose from that battle would be enough to upset anyone.
He had been part of that group. Those ‘Hunters’. All he remembers from it was the handful of memories that Genia’s kiss had unlocked. None of them explained why her kiss unlocked them, but he wasn’t going to complain about the kiss.
The phone rang, pulling Our Hero from his thoughts. “Pro Heroes, whatta ya want,” he shouted into the receiver.
“Hello. Is Jill Nemo available,” a smooth, unnerving voice on the other end asked.
“Not really sure I can comment on her relationship status,” he replied.
“That…is not what I meant,” the voice said, confused.
“Are you one of her stalkers?”
“I wish to speak to the woman in charge of you,” the voice snipped.
“Oh, I’m single,” Deadguy stated. “And I loves to mingle.” His brow furrowed. “Wait. No, it’s pizza. I love pizza.”
“Let me speak with Jill Nemo,” the voice growled.
“I don’t like the tone of your voice, Mister,” Our Hero proclaimed. “I’m hanging up now. Good day, sir.” He slammed the phone back on the cradle, then nodded once. He balled up another sheet of paper, something with ‘Urgent’ written in red ink that Jill had stuck on his desk, and batted it into the wall with the rest of the pieces of paper.
“I should order some pizza,” he muttered, thinking back to the conversation. Something clicked in his head. The voice sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quiet put his finger on it. ‘He didn’t do as much heavy breathing as Jill’s normal stalkers,’ he thought.
Our Hero plopped down in his chair, feet propped up on his desk. The man’s voice was smooth, almost hypnotic. It was controlled, as if he was trying to get…something…
“Deadguy,” Jill screamed as she stormed into the Office.
Our Hero nearly fell on the floor as he fell out of his chair. “Valk did it,” he instinctively said.
“Did someone call for me earlier,” she demanded.
“I think one of your stalker’s did…”
“That was the mayor’s aide, asshole!” She massaged the bridge of her nose. “I have been in talks with them about expanding our business for a month now. I swear, if you did anything to screw this up…”
“Everyone in this city knows I’m a crazy person,” DG defended. “I’m sure it won’t hurt anything.”
“Go home,” she huffed.
The two stared each other down for a moment. “Fine, he said finally. “But something’s up, and I’m going to get to the bottom of it.” He left as Valk and Kiri exchanged looks.
Deadguy got to his car just as his phone rang. “What now,” he grumbled. He fished the device out of his pants pocket to see Lilith calling. “I thought you guys communicated with the dead telepathically,” he said.
“I tried,” she remarked. “All I received was ‘this line is not in service’.” There was a pause. “Can you help me with something?”
“I can never say no to you,” DG replied.
“I mean is Jill going to be upset if I-”
“Jill’s kicked me out for the day,” he said, breaking her off. “So I’m all yours to do with whatever you want.”
“Good. This might take a while.”
The two pressed against the door, trying to keep the malevolent being in. “You do know how to show a girl a good time,” Our Hero quipped.
“This is your fault anyway,” Lilith hissed. “Why did you call an ancient Spirit Seeker ‘Zoidberg’?”
“Oh, don’t tell me you didn’t think the same thing?”
THOOM belted from behind the door, almost knocking the two away from the door.
“That’s not the point,” she argued. “I need to send it back.”
“No time like the present, Beautiful,” DG remarked.
“The tools needed are still in the room,” she scolded.
“Knock it off,” they both yelled at the door.
The necromancer glared at Deadguy. “You’re going in,” she declared.
“Wait, what,” he stammered.
“You’re going in,” she repeated. “You can’t die, so I presume you don’t have a soul.”
“How about on three?”
“How about no?”
“Three!” Lilith pulled the door open and shoved Our Hero into the room. He stood in near darkness as a giant creature sniffed around the room. It was pink with tendrils hanging from it’s mouth. It had giant crab claws for hands and a giant shell of a back. It stopped sniffing for a moment, then turned to face Deadguy. It’s eyes were pure white, making it blind to everything. Deadguy inched over to the bag that held the tools that Lilith had brought to take this creature down. The creature leapt across the room and started sniffing him.
“Good Spirit Seeker,” DG said sweetly, as one would to a dog. “Nice Spirit Seeker.”
The Spirit Seeker continued sniffing, then turned it’s attention back to the room. Our Hero inched over to the bag again, then lunged for them. He bolted out the door just as the Spirit Seeker heard him leaving.
Deadguy barreled out of the room, almost knocking Lilith over in the process. “It’s going to eat me,” he yelled.
“It doesn’t ‘eat’ people,” the necromancer fussed. “It just sucks their soul out of them and leaves them an empty husk.”
“That doesn’t sound any better,” he remarked. He shoved the bag at her. “Here’s your gear, now make it disappear.”
Lilith grabbed a bone dagger and a few different tubes of powder from the bag. She sat down in front of the locked door and began to chant, spreading the powders out one at a time and pointing the dagger at the door. The Spirit Seeker was banging on the other side hard, trying to break through. Strange curved runes began to light up on the door as the Spirit Seeker screamed in pain on the other side.
“That doesn’t sound good,” Our Hero commented.
“Shh,” Lilith hissed before going back to her chanting. Smoke began to wavier in from around the door frame.
“That’s definitely not good,” he added.
“Shh,” the necromancer repeated. The smell of fire filled the hallway. Deadguy began to get a little closer to her, ready to pull her away from what he was expecting to be something fiery. The Spirit Seeker roared in anger and pain, bashing against the door with all it’s might. It finally broke through, nothing more than a giant enraged fireball.
Our Hero grabbed the necromancer and took off down the hallway. “Something went wrong,” she stated.
“Thanks for that stunning report, Captain Obvious,” he shot back. “Unless that spell was meant to turn that thing into a cute, fluffy bunny, we’ve gone BEYOND wrong.”
The two ran down the stairs, the burning Spirit Seeker barreling behind them. The ancient wood of the building lighting up around it. The structure quickly began to come crashing down around them as they made their way to the exit. With one last burst of energy, Deadguy slammed through the double doors that led out into the early morning air. They managed to get to the street when they looked back to see what was happening. The building was lit up like a bonfire. Somewhere within was the dying roars of the Spirit Seeker.
“Oh no,” Lilith said.
“Oh no,” DG questioned. “Oh no is never a good thing.”
“Across the street,” she ordered. “Now!”
The two barely made it across when the building exploded. The flames took on the shape of tentacles and dragged the entire burning wreckage deep into the earth. They looked at the hole. Deadguy crossed his arms and turned his attention to Lilith. “You mind explaining this,” he asked, gesturing towards the hole.
“There’s something weird going on,” she said, more to herself than him. “I thought it was just a rumor, but this…” The sound of sirens broke through the quite early hours as police and fire departments were pulling up to the remains.
“And here comes the firing squad,” Our Hero sighed. “The police will want to ask us some questions.” He leaned closer to Lilith. “Just say we were out for a stroll.”
The first officer on the scene came over to them, ordering them across the street.
They sat down on the curb opposite the scorched crater that once held the abandoned building. The usual collection of police, fire, and EMT vehicles were on the scene as well. He pulled his phone out and called Jill.
“What,” her voice asked coldly.
“Hey Boss,” Our Hero greeted warmly. “Just calling to let you know I might be a little late to work.”
He held the phone away and glared at it.
“Something wrong,” the necromancer asked.
“I’m not sure,” he answered, concerned.
Lilith looked at him, studying his face, then looked back at the crater. “Something’s very wrong,” she muttered.
Deadguy barely stepped into the Office before he was shoved back out with an armful of cases to handle. “Can I at least get a cup of coffee,” he questioned.
The glass door creaked shut as an answer.
Our Hero turned to come face-to-face with the perturbing smile of Ian. “Hello Dead…guy, is it?”
“Congratulations! You win a prize,” DG announced.
“Oh? And what is that?”
“I don’t punch you in your stupid little face.”
Ian didn’t react. He just stood there, smiling. There was something in that smile that made him want to beat the hell out of him. It was a smile that didn’t take no for an answer. Deadguy shouldered past him. “Move it or lose it, Smuckenstien,” he remarked.
Deadguy looked over the top file again. One Mrs. Edna Tamara was standing in a ratty old shawl beneath a tree that was losing the last of its leaves. Up in the tree was a tiny calico cat. “Come down here,” the lady scowled. “It’s getting chilly and you’ll catch a cold.”
Our Hero sighed. “Hello, ma’am,” he introduced.
Edna turned to him, confused. “Hello?”
“I’m Deadguy, Professional Hero Extraordinaire,” he explained. “I’m here to help with the problem you called about.”
“Oh yes,” she said. “My baby Mittens is up in the tree again and won’t come down. It’s the fifth time this week and the fire department won’t answer my calls anymore.”
Our Hero began to try climbing up the tree. “Maybe you shouldn’t let Mittens out all the time. Don’t let him talk you into letting him go buy his own tuna. He’ll just buy catnip and end up…” He stopped at the kitten. “Alright, Fuzzy Butt. Let’s go.”
The kitten began to hiss.
Deadguy reached out. “It’s alright. I’m not going to hurt you.”
Within moments, the kitten lunged at Our Hero and latched onto his face with his claws. The attack caught him off-guard. He fell back, falling out of the tree and landing on the ground with a THUNK. Mittens was still clinging to his face.
“Come here, baby,” Edna cooed. The kitten released himself from Deadguy’s face and began to purr as Edna picked him up. She pulled a check out of her purse and placed it in Deadguy’s hand. “Here’s your payment.” She then pulls out a quarter and puts it in his other hand. “And a nice tip for you.”
“Great. Thanks,” DG mumbled. “Tell all your friends about us.”
Deadguy looked up at the sign ‘Get Baked’, a small bakery that sat on the corner of a tiny strip mall. “Oh, this is going to be fun,” he remarked. He entered shop to find two stoners behind the counter. They were to busy laughing with each other about something before they finally noticed him.
“Um…can I help you,” one of the guys asked.
“Deadguy. Professional Hero Extraordinaire. One of you called us.”
They looked at him with vacant eyes, then the first, thin stoner, finally looked like he remembered calling. “Oh yeah,” he wheezed. “We need your help.”
“Right,” his short, stock cohort agreed. “We’ve got a big job for you.”
The tall stoner waved Our Hero into the back of the store, where the area was packed with various baking machines and refrigerators. “Okay, here’s what we need,” he explained. “We need 15 dozen cupcakes in an hour. Can you do that?”
Deadguy crossed his arms and glared at the man. “Do I get a cool baker’s hat,” he asked.
The tall stoner looked over his shoulder as the sound of someone stuffing something into a locker. Deadguy followed his gaze to see the shorter one shoving baker hats into said locker. The tall one turned back to him. “I think we’re out,” he answered. He held out an apron to Our Hero.
“You’re a jerk,” DG snipped, snatching the apron from his hand. “Get out of here. I’ve got work to do.”
Two hours passed, and the stoners were engaged in something on the ceiling when the tall one suddenly remembered something. “Hey,” he said. “Whatever happened to that Dead dude?”
“What dead dude,” the short one asked. “I don’t remember any zombies.”
There came a rumbling from the back. The two looked just in time to see a tidal wave of cupcakes erupting from the double doors. The two stoners screamed as they were buried in cupcakes. The tall stoner saw boots walking up to him. “You’re out of milk,” Deadguy announced. “And eggs. And floor. Now where’s my pay?”
The stoner pulled a business check from somewhere within the pile of cupcakes. Our Hero plucked it from his hand and looked it over. “This is not the price you agreed to.”
“Business has been a little slow,” he explained. “She said it was negotiable.”
Deadguy snatched one of the cupcakes from the top of the pile. “This will cover the rest.” He left the two under the pile. “Don’t hesitate to call us again,” he called out as he left.
“…and then Tom down at the corner store married his high school sweetheart Merle back in 1953,” Greg Morgan explained to Deadguy. He was trying his best to stay awake while sitting with the old man in his retirement apartment. The place was decorated with paraphernalia from bygone eras.
“The eras aren’t the only thing bygone,” DG muttered. “I think my interests went with ‘em.”
“Of course, I’m the only one left that knows about the treasure,” Greg continued.
Deadguy’s interest suddenly returned. “Go on,” he encouraged.
“I remember it like it was yesterday…” he started, then stared off into space.
Deadguy started to panic. “Uh, sir? Sir?! Please don’t be dead…” He started to gently shake the old man.
Greg came back to reality. “Oh, hello,” he said, looking up at Our Hero.
“You were saying something about treasure?”
“Treasure? Oh yes! ‘Treasure Island’ was my favorite book as a child,” Greg stated. “Have you read it?”
Deadguy slumped back in his chair, a bit relieved that he was still alive. “I saw the Muppet version of it.”
“Oh well. Movies are fine, but they are nothing compared to a good book,” Mr. Morgan sighed. He patted Deadguy on the knee. “Thanks for listening to an old fogie drone on and on. It’s time for my afternoon nap now.”
“I think I need a nap too,” DG commented as he got up to leave.
“If you see my son,” Greg called out as he left. “Tell him I miss him.”
Deadguy stopped and looked back at Greg. He saw the sadness in the man’s eyes. He bit his lip and nodded. “I will,” he replied. He left the apartment, only to be ambushed by a slick, younger, used car salesman version of the old man.
“Hey, thanks for doing this for me,” the man said. “Worth every penny. Think you can come back next week?”
Our Hero took the check from the man, then kneed him in the manhood. “You need to go in there and spend some time with him. He misses you, and it’s breaking his heart.” He left as the man rocked on the floor. “He’s not going to be around much longer. Trust me, when someone dies, a part of you dies with them.”
Deadguy wore a bright orange vest over his black long coat. He walked out into the middle of the crosswalk and help up a stop sign. The car screeched to a stop and honked. He looked unfazed as he started to wave the children at one end of the crosswalk across. The kids ran as fast as they could, some taunting the slower ones. One little girl casually walked across with her nose stuck in a book. She almost collided with Deadguy, but he moved out of the way at the last moment.
The car honked again. DG still held the sign up, but snuck a quick middle finger before he walked back to the sidewalk. The car drove off, yelling obscenities as he drove past. “Hey, there’s kids here,” DG shouted back.
Another obscenity, and Deadguy responded be throwing the stop sign at the car. There was screeching tires, then a loud crash. What followed was someone screaming, several more crashing cars, then an explosion. Deadguy flinched at every noise while watching. He ripped the orange vest off and threw it onto a little kid.
“Hey,” the kid protested.
“It’s all on you now,” he said as he ran off. “Survival of the fittest. Good luck!”
Deadguy stood in the middle of the wrestling ring. “Run this one by me again,” he asked.
“We need someone to help train with Harry Mulligan,” the gruff, mean-looking trainer replied. “He tends to play a little rough.”
“Fine. Shouldn’t be too bad,” Our Hero huffed. “Wrestling’s mostly theatrics.”
There was the sound of a low rumbling. The ring started to shake as Deadguy turned to see a tower of muscle stomp into the ring. The wrestler looked down at Our Hero over his bushy mustache. His eyes peered down like angry pieces of coal. “Are you ready to face Mad Mulligan,” the man boomed.
Deadguy shrugged. “Sure. The bigger they are, the harder they-” He didn’t get a chance to finish as Mulligan hit him with a right. The punch sent him flying into the rope around the ring. He bounced off and went sailing into the wrestler’s Clothesline, getting knocked down by the massive arm. Mulligan jumped up and finished with an elbow to the chest. “Hit,” Our Hero wheezed.
“You alright, buddy,” the trainer called out.
Deadguy looked up at the ceiling, seeing the vastness of the universe just beyond the building. Or, at least he was seeing stars. “I’m…good?”
Mad Mulligan climbed to the top of the turnbuckle and leapt up in the air. He landed on Our Hero like a meteor. He grabbed a leg to pin him, and the trainer did a mock 3 Count. The wrestler got up and left the ring, Deadguy still stunned at just what happened.
The trainer stepped into the ring and handed him the check. “You may be a Professional Hero, but you’re a damn lousy wrestler,” he remarked.
“No, it’s fine,” DG wheezed. “I’ll just lay here and wait for my ribs to heal.”
Deadguy dumped a stack of checks onto Jill’s desk. “Since when did I become a Professional Gopher,” he questioned.
“Gopher,” she replied.
“Yeah. Go for this, go for that…”
“You are whatever I tell you to be because I sign your paychecks,” she answered coldly.
Our Hero’s shoulders slumped. “What’s going on,” he asked, a softness in his voice.
Jill was taken back by this. “What…do you mean,” she questioned, sounding more like her old self.
Deadguy leaned closer. “Something’s going on,” he said as if sharing a conspiracy thought.
Their boss blinked a few times, then looked around. “I don’t know,” she muttered.
“Miss Nemo,” Ian’s voice broke the scene. Deadguy spun around, ready for a fight. “Is everything all right?”
“Will be once I knock your teeth out,” DG growled.
“Deadguy! Stand down,” Jill ordered, the cold tone returned to her voice.
“Did I come at the wrong time,” Ian asked innocently.
“Ever since you were born,” Our Hero replied, crossing his arms.
“I apologize for my employee’s unwarranted rudeness,” Jill stated.
“It’s perfectly alright,” Ian said. “I tend to put some people on edge. I must have one of those faces.”
“Your face has nothing to do with you being a jerk,” DG remarked.
“Deadguy,” Jill cried out.
Our Hero pointed at Ian. “Something’s off about him,” he explained. “I don’t know what it is, but he’s part of something.”
“That’s really convincing,” she remarked. “Just because you don’t like him, doesn’t automatically make him some sort of villain.”
The two Heroes stared each other down. “Fuck it. Nevermind,” Deadguy huffed as he stormed out. He brushed past Valkadaidan and Kiri.
“Hey Deadguy,” Kiri said as the door eased shut. She turned to Valk. “What’s going on?”
The Dragon-Blooded shrugged.
“Glad you two are back,” Jill announced. They looked over to see Ian standing beside their boss, an unnerving grin of satisfaction on his face.
Deadguy sulked at Lupie’s, poking at the plate of nachos with a chip. The music changed to fit his mood. “Lovely,” he grumbled.
A woman with magenta hair slid into the other side of the booth. “Hey, Deadguy,” she greeted.
He looked at her, trying to remember her name. He knew she was one of the bosses here… “Amanda,” he recalled. She nodded slowly. “What’s up?”
“I was about to ask you the same thing,” she answered. “You’ve been prodding your food for thirty minutes now.”
Our Hero put the chip down and sighed. “Something weird is going on and I think it’s going to cost me my job,” he explained.
Amanda leaned forward. “Oh?”
Deadguy looked out one of the large windows that showed the street outside, trying to collect his thoughts. How do you treat an employee before you fire them,” he asked finally.
“I just fucking fire them,” she remarked.
He nodded in approval.
“If you do end up getting fired,” Amanda continued. “Maybe it’s for the best. Go out and start something new.”
“What? Like moonlighting heroics,” he commented.
“You could start a micro-brewery?”
He thought about it for a moment, then shook his head. “Nah. Saving the world is all I know how to do.”
Amanda stood up as a few customers walked in. “You’ll think of something,” she reassured. As she left, she grabbed the tab off Our Hero’s table. “On the house,” she remarked.
Deadguy walked into the Office of the Professional Heroes the next day to find Valk and Kiri packing up their desks. “Um…what’s going on,” he asked, confused.
The Dragon-Blooded and the Techie exchanged guilty looks, then went back to packing.
“Deadguy,” Jill’s stern voice sliced through the silence.
“Jill, what’s all this?”
“We are moving to a bigger building with the aid of the city.”
“And you were going to tell me…when?”
Jill glared at Our Hero. It was a look she gave their enemies before she verbally ripped them to shreds. “Deadguy, your services are no longer required,” she said coldly.
“My services? What, did you find someone else that can come back from the dead?”
“You’re fired,” she stressed. “Now leave the property before I call the police.”
Deadguy looked to his now former teammates. Valkadaidan was devoid of any emotion, while Kiri looked as if she was about to cry. He turned back to Jill. Her face was a mask of bitter anger. He walked over and snapped Masamune off it’s resting place.
“Hey,” Jill yelled. “That’s property of the Professional Heroes.”
He stopped and flipped the weapon in the air. He grabbed the larger end and held the handle out to her. “Then take it,” he challenged.
The two stood in silence, staring each other down. Jill huffed and crossed her arms. “Fine, take it,” she relented, turning away from him.
He flipped Masamune back to grab the handle and stormed out. The early December cold did little to cool the burning anger and pain deep inside him.
Deadguy was no longer a Professional Hero.