Unexpected Superhero (Adventures of Lewis and Clarke Book 1), page 1
A Note From Kitty
The Adventures of Lewis and Clarke
Published by Daydreamer Entertainment
Copyright © 2013 Kathleen Bucholtz
Cover design by Najla Qamber Designs
Cover graphic of superhero © kimiko16 - Shutterstock.com
Cover graphic of cityscape © Zibedik - Bigstockphoto.com
Edited by Marcy Weydemuller
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
All rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission, except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles and reviews. Making or distributing electronic copies of this book constitutes copyright infringement and could subject the infringer to criminal and civil liability.
This one’s all for you, baby!
TORI Lewis was out of M&Ms. None in her purse, none in the glove box. Even the emergency packet in her briefcase had been consumed during her pre-wedding jitters. After the job interview she’d just endured for Half TV, a local cable TV station, she needed a chocolate fix. Now.
“I know I’m supposed to go to you for comfort,” she muttered to God as she pulled into a parking spot, “but if you wouldn’t mind, a package of M&Ms would jumpstart the process.”
The bell tinkled over her head as the door of Ed & Eddie’s Corner Market closed behind her. Tori stamped the snow off her boots as her eyes adjusted from the deepening twilight outside to the bright fluorescent lights of the store. It took her a moment to notice everyone in the store staring at her. Including the guy with the gun.
Tori froze. She always assumed her love of the colorful chocolate candy might one day destroy her figure, but she never expected her addiction to end in gunfire.
The gunman swung toward her. His bulky open coat couldn’t hide the fact that the skinny boy was no man. A Detroit Tigers baseball cap covered most of his brown hair, but not his panicky eyes. “What do you want?” His voice came out higher at the end and he cleared his throat. “Well?” he asked, forcing the word out at a lower pitch.
“Uhh…M&Ms,” Tori said. It sounded like a question. Her brain was having a hard time getting up to speed in this unexpected situation. God, help me.
Her eyes darted around the small store. An older woman cried and held a nearly hysterical younger woman, shushing her to no avail. One of the men held a baby ensconced in a little pink snowsuit. Another nodded quietly at her as if to convey caution.
Situation confirmed. She was hip-deep in doo-doo. Where was her big, strong new husband when she needed him?
The armed boy-man cocked his head toward the candy aisle. Tori didn’t know if he meant for her to move out of the way or if he was just being unusually helpful by pointing her in the right direction. Erring on the side of caution, she forced a fleeting smile and mumbled “thanks” as she walked past him and down the middle aisle to stand in front of the M&Ms. Now what?
The gunman turned back to Eddie, the cashier and half-owner of Ed & Eddie’s. “Hurry up before someone else comes in!”
“Easy, dude, easy,” Eddie said, moving his hands slowly toward the cash register. Eddie wasn’t very old either, early 20s or so, but he was sadly experienced in the holdup category. Tori couldn’t remember the details, but she’d heard bits and pieces of stories. Come to think of it, why did she shop at a store with a record anyway? She remembered Eddie had played sports in high school. Something like baseball or wrestling or karate could come in handy right now. Hopefully his sport hadn’t been cross-country running.
Tori glanced at the M&Ms next to her. More than ever she needed to stress eat. Could she open a package now and pay Eddie later? Maybe two packages. Her hands started to shake. She shoved them in her pockets.
Today was only day ten of her new and fabulous married life. She hadn’t wanted to go out today anyway and now this. Only two days ago she and Joe had checked out of their Disney World hotel, blue skies and temperatures in the 70s, nothing on their minds but a long and blissful life together. Tori prayed now that she’d make it to day eleven of that life. They hadn’t been married long enough to do anything except have sex – which was awesome – but she’d hoped for more. After all, they figured they’d have the rest of their lives together. Neither of them thought the “death” part of “till death do us part” would happen until there was a lot more gray hair involved.
The sound of a crying baby registered. Tori glanced over at the well-dressed man in the expensive trench coat. He kept his back between the gunman and his child. A gesture Tori would normally find heartwarming. But today it was the action of a man who wasn’t going to get involved. Great. He wouldn’t be of any use. So this is where equal opportunity gets us. Tori considered offering to hold the baby so he could help the other men save the day. Her self-esteem would be fine with that. Maybe if she were comforting someone, she wouldn’t feel like crying herself.
Enough! Tori wiped at her eyes. She was not letting some stupid, scared boy dictate her life and death. She’d spent too much energy changing her life into just what she wanted to lose it now. She chewed on her lip. What could she do?
A movement from the corner of her eye. She saw one of the men – the one who’d nodded calmly at her – edging closer to the gunman. Yikes. Should she duck or help?
A POLICE car raced past the entrance to Harborview Mall. Lights and sirens cleared a path among the post-Christmas shoppers. But mostly people moved to avoid the speeding white Toyota hurtling through the night like a rusty snowball.
The cars sped through two more lights. Divine intervention surely prevented a crash as the Toyota skidded on a patch of ice, nearly sideswiping another car. The police cruiser missed that particular bit of ice, but a close call at the next light had the cop in the passenger seat crossing himself with one hand while hanging on with the other.
Another police car parked in the next intersection forced the chase to take a hard right and brought them into a quieter industrial area. Quieter except for the jarring sirens. Large warehouse-style office buildings magnified the piercing sound and reflected the red and blue lights onto the snow. The Toyota picked up speed, blowing through three stop signs amidst honking horns and flying middle fingers.
The police cars slowed down enough to ensure that the chase continued to be accident-free. The Toyota made a left down an alley to avoid yet another police car, and raced out of sight.
Team leader Tick Tock, Mickey Valient to the rest of the world, coordinated the car chase with the police. “It’s our lucky day, boys. They’re herding him right toward us.”
In the growing winter darkness, the men stood nearly invisible in their midnight blue outfits, masks covering the upper half of their faces. When they spoke, their voices came out with a metallic distortion courtesy of Tick Tock’s voice-disguising device.
Adrenaline rushed through his system as X waited on the ground. He missed being out with the guys. Had it only been two weeks? The rushed wedding and honeymoon had been exhilarating, but he was glad to be home and back at the work he loved.
Standing half-hidden in the alley, X grinned at his other friend and partner in crime-fighting. “Ready to play, big guy?”
Powerhouse, otherwise known as Bull Kincaid, smiled back, his pale skin and white teeth a sharp contrast against the dark mask. At least six and a half feet tall and built like a linebacker, Powerhouse usually played the “immovable object” against the unstoppable forces they came up against. He cracked his knuckles, then his neck. “Bring it,” he said.
Police sirens wailed in the night, getting louder.
“How close?” X asked Tick Tock.
“Just turned down the alley,” Tick Tock replied. “Get ready.”
Powerhouse peeked around the fence that separated the alley from the parking lot where they waited. Gauging the distance to the approaching Toyota, he stepped back and moved behind an overflowing metal garbage bin. He placed his hands and one shoulder against it, waiting, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in anticipation.
X waited behind him, anxious for the fracas to begin. Sometimes he got to be the front man, but tonight they needed Powerhouse’s muscle to end the chase. X tossed a short steel pipe from one hand to the other, feeling the rush of energy flow through his body. The gloves he wore were palm-less rather than fingerless. They protected him from leaving fingerprints, but allowed his skin to absorb the strength of the metal. He had been working on plans for flexible titanium-lined gloves before he met Tori, but the craziness of falling in love and getting married over the last two months had disrupted a lot of things. The gloves fell to the bottom of his to do list. Tonight he’d have to make do with the pipe.
X squeezed his right palm around the steel. Hot energy tightened his skin all over his body. The rush felt good. He put his new bride out of his mind and focused on the job at hand.
“Ready, set…” Tick Tock’s voice came through their earpieces.
X shifted onto the balls of his feet in anticipation.
Powerhouse shoved the garbage bin into the alley. The squeal of brakes, the crash of metal on metal as the car hit the heavy steel container full-on. Powerhouse jumped behind the garbage bin and locked his elbows. He kept the car from skidding toward the surrounding buildings by digging his heels into the snow-covered asphalt. X watched the pavement buckle behind his friend’s feet.
The car stopped with a final screech of damaged metal. X watched the doors for exiting passengers. His turn at bat.
The garbage bin began to roll toward the opposite building. Powerhouse pushed it to a flatter area. Less paperwork if there wasn’t any damage to surrounding private property. X didn’t like to waste time with paper when there were always more people to protect, more criminals to catch.
“Driver side,” came Tick Tock’s voice in their ears.
The driver side door flew open and X took his position. A young man stumbled out – maybe old enough to vote, not old enough to drink, but dumb enough to run. He looked over his shoulder toward the approaching police car, his feet already double-timing in the opposite direction.
Right into the path of Superhero X.
The young man slammed into him and fell.
X grinned down, tapping the pipe against his thigh. He had only an inkling of what it felt like for someone to run into him. His brothers said it was like running into a steel wall. X put his palm out and raised his fingers twice. The universal sign for “come and get it.”
The driver gaped up at him from the pavement. One hand held his head. Must’ve cracked it on X’s chest.
“He’s not a mouse, X. Hold him for the officers.” Tick Tock sounded either exasperated or amused. X couldn’t tell through the voice-disguiser. “Powerhouse, another one on the passenger side.”
X shook his head slightly. There was no challenge in it when things went according to plan. He reached down to grab the driver. Not quick enough.
The man rolled away. Standing, he now held a 9mm pistol. Jogging backwards with the gun aimed at X, he ducked between two buildings.
X muttered under his breath. Careful what you wish for. More squealing brakes signaled the arrival of the police. X gave chase. A cop pounded a few yards behind him.
“He’s got a gun,” X yelled over his shoulder.
More sirens sounded from the front of the building. Police shouted to each other. X struggled to hear Tick Tock in his earpiece.
“Say again?” he shouted as he ran.
“Turn right. Bushes in front.”
The buildings gave way to the parking lot and X turned right. Three more police officers came running from their cars at the front of the building. X paused, searching the snow for footprints. He saw movement, halogen security lights reflected a flash of red fabric. He bounded into the bushes just as the driver jumped up with his gun.
X pulled up short. A shootout was not the kind of excitement he was looking for. Too many ways for it to end badly. Putting out his hand in a conciliatory gesture, he turned his body to shield the police officers behind him. Slow movements and quiet words would win the day. “Now just–”
“Drop your weapon!” a cop behind him shouted.
The cop moved into X’s peripheral vision on the left. Idiot. Didn’t he know X was here to protect him? He was supposed to stay back. If the driver started shooting now, he could hit any of them.
The young man flinched at the cop’s shout and raised his gun. To his left, X saw all the officers bring up their guns, everyone shouting at the guy to drop his weapon. X groaned. So much for slow movements and quiet words. The situation had spiraled out of control. Which left only one option.
Before anyone could start shooting, X leapt at the guy, holding tightly to the steel pipe. In a flash, an image of Tori appeared in his mind, a picture of his lovely little wife with a gun pointed at her. Another flash, and Tori was advancing on the gunman.
The same imperative voice that shouted in his mind when he first met Tori was stronger than ever. Along with the vision, it shook him, and X realized as he launched himself at the gun-wielding drug dealer that his timing was a half-second too late.
Bang! The gun went off.
TORI pulled her fisted hands from her coat pockets, looking around, trying to decide what to do. Please help me, God. Her eyes darted to Eddie behind the counter. He saw the quiet man moving toward the gunman, too. Eddie opened the cash register and started counting the bills out loud.
“Twenty, forty, sixty–”
“Just put it in the bag, man!” the kid shouted.
Eddie shot him an angry look. “I have to tell my dad how much got stolen for the insurance paperwork, you idiot! Eighty, one hundred…” Eddie kept counting, picking up the tens and then the fives.
Tori felt her lips twitch in a tiny smile. Brilliant! The kid was so focused on the money, he didn’t see the other guy sneaking up behind him. Tori tensed, praying this would work.
Behind her, near the women, a glass jar fell and broke. The young woman screamed.
The gunman swung around. “Everybody freeze!”
More screams tore the air. Tori ducked as the kid waved the gun. The idiot
The gunman turned back to the cashier. “Give me the money and no one gets hurt!”
Eddie stopped counting and started putting the money into a paper bag. Tori thought he nodded to the other man, only four or five feet away now and gliding forward soundlessly.
When Eddie started to put all the change into the bag, the gunman interrupted him. “Forget the change! I don’t want no change! What, you never been held up before? Get me the money from the safe, asshole, and I’m gone, and you live.”
Eddie shook his head. “I-I can’t – the safe–”
“Give him the money!” one of the women screamed.
The kid cocked his gun (okay, maybe he did know how to use it), looking back and forth between the customers and the cashier. As Tori watched from the cover of the candy aisle, the man behind the robber darted with amazing stealth first one way then the other, always keeping out of the gunman’s line of sight. How did he do that? He was over there, and then he was there, and then–
The robber didn’t see it coming – the other man closed the distance, thrusting the kid’s gun arm into the air, and shoving him into the counter. Eddie reached for the customary convenience store baseball bat, but he wasn’t fast enough. The robber twisted under the other guy. The two men tussled. The women screamed. Eddie ducked, and–
A shot rang out!
Tori flinched and ducked again. Could she do something to help? But what? She pressed a fist into her stomach, trying to keep the roiling fear down so she could think. The hot feeling in her stomach grew as she struggled between self-preservation and the overwhelming urge to help keep everyone safe.
The robber jumped away as the other man fell to the floor.
Another crash of glass. The gunman whirled again. He pointed the gun at the man with the crying baby.
Not the baby! Not if she could stop him. Tori grabbed handfuls of yellow M&Ms packages and started throwing them at the gunman. “Don’t shoot!” Tori screamed at him, hot anger bursting out. “Stop it! Put that gun down!”
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