Spacer Death of a Three-Time Loser313
  | Asymmetry | Role-Playing | Villains & Vigilantes | The Revolution | Fifty Years Ago | Death of a Three-Time Loser |





    Someone had rigged up wires, lights dangled from the ceiling. A whole car, looking fairly new and indeed rebuilt, stood in the midst of the rather large, cavelike complex. There was also a young man, maybe fifteen, puttering around the car with a worried expression and giving the occasional unconscious sigh.
    The body had never come anywhere near the spot. This kid was probably the one who had called the cops. He certainly wasn't old enough to be on his own. He watched the youth open a bottle of Coke and flop down on the back seat he was using for a sofa, then reach up to click on a radio. It screeched through some static and settled on the police band.
    "Yeah, all right," the dispatcher was saying, "this is going out to all the boys in blue in New York, we got an actual honest to God California superhero down at the central office, you have got to check this guy out, cape and all!"
    "That's what I need. A superhero," the kid muttered.
    "Why?" Gravedigger asked.
    In a blur of gangly limbs the kid scrambled to his feet, spilled the Coke all over himself and swung wildly with the tire iron as he saw a big, dangerous-looking man with a shovel over his shoulder looming out of the shadows. Not quite as big and scary-looking as the guy who had dropped the body, and this one was wearing a mackintosh, hat, and a scarf over his face.
    Stevie had heard stories over the years, mainly worried ones from those guys who moved in on the Vagoda place.
    "Are you here about my dad?" he asked nervously. "Or the guy outside?'
    "The guy outside."
    "I didn't do it!"
    "No, that would have been the man driving the car."
    "Woman, but yeah." He nodded a lot.
    "Woman. Really."
    "Yeah. 'Bout my height, little taller, bowler hat. Who, uh...?"
    "That wasn't who killed him, then."
    "How'd you find me?"
    "You walked."
    "... Yeah. Okay. Okay. That's right, I walked." He nodded furiously again. "I thought you were the guy who was with her, he was big, like a gorilla in a pin-striped suit, scary guy."
    "That's the one who killed him."
    "That's what she said. He said no. I don't know, he didn't look too bright. He heard me, though, heard me mumbling under my breath like sixty feet away."
    "Interesting." Expression hidden, voice giving nothing away, he was well aware of how intimidating he looked.
    "Yeah, yeah. Scared me pretty good," Stevie volunteered, and dared a question. "You're not gonna call the cops, are you? I mean, again?"
    "For what?"
    He mentally kicked himself. "Don't want 'em to find me, put me in some stinkin' orphanage, take away my car, take away my radio, take away everything."
    "What's your name?"
    "Stevie. Stevie Stevarino. I...."
    "You can put the tire iron down," Gravedigger informed him, relatively gently.
    "Yeah." He set it on the sofa and brushed at his oil-stained, Coke-splashed shirt.
    "What did the car look like?"
    "Thirty-seven Lincoln, rust spots on the right front fender, they don't take care of it." He rattled off an impressive slew of detail.
    "Plate number?"
    "Didn't get the plate. But I'd know the car like that," he snapped, "if I saw it again."
    "Apparently. No, I'm not going to call the cops."
    "Thanks. Thanks." After a moment he added uncertainly, "I heard about you. Guys I used to work for, they used to talk about you."
    "Yeah. They were spooked, I don't think they were... good people."
    "Good, then." Bad people ought to be spooked by him.
    "They... might have killed my dad, actually."
    "What was your father's name?"
    "Stephen. Stephen Stevarino."
    "I'll see what I can find out."
    "Um. Who was that guy?" he asked breathlessly, nodding in the vague direction where the corpse had lain.
    "I don't know yet."
    "Somebody, uh, somebody did a pretty rough number on him."
    "Looked like he'd just got out of prison."
    "Yeah. He was, uh, I didn't know what to do, I had to call the cops, I didn't want 'em to come here, so...."
    "I don't see as you contaminated the scene much more than they did anyways."
    "Whattya mean?"
    "I'll see what I can find out about your father. I take it you'll be here."
    "Yeah. Yeah, I'll be here. Uh, if it's late enough I might be driving around in my baby here." He thumped the car's fender proudly and on the spur of the moment offered, "You go after those guys, you need a ride, you let me know."
    "I think I will."
    Horus the Gray had a problem, and vexingly enough it was one he had only recently become aware of. It seemed that the Ray, a long-time criminal with whom he had tangled on occasion, had started up a new protection racket—one Horus had only become aware of three weeks ago, when the Ray rather bafflingly decided to jack up the payments and sent some new and very violent member of his stable of thugs to collect. What was worse, the new man had somehow eluded Horus' mystical senses; in the normal run of things that meant a daemon from another dimension, but it seemed unlikely that one of those was being used as muscle. Which left a mystery.
    The Ray wasn't terribly bright, that much was painfully obvious, but he was capable of carrying out instructions. His good ideas had all been planned (according to rumor volunteered by one of his employees) by a former lover. Horus had at least discovered who was enjoying the Ray's protection; none of them were talking, so he had them under magical surveillance in hopes of catching the man in the act, a tedious and somewhat frustrating business.
    Angela "Angel" Miller was at her desk at the Times that autumn night, normal enough hours for her although it was almost dark by now, working on the usual crime beat stuff and ignoring the noise around her with practiced ease. The parakeet in the cage behind her chirped; only she heard it muttering, "Cheep, dammit, cheep. I hate this."
    Fear. She froze, head down, concentrating. There, a tailor's shop downtown, well to do. She picked up the phone, pretended to hold a brief conversation, surreptitiously opened the birdcage and headed for the door, leaving an illusion of a parakeet behind.
    "Hey, Angel, what's going on!"
    She waved without response, implying a hot lead, and vanished into the stairwell. On the way to the roof she became someone rather different: someone male, for one thing, in gray evening dress, gray cloak lined with red silk, and domino mask, with a rainbow array of rings and one large red stone on a chain around his neck (none of them with any inherent power, but diverting attention had long been a staple of the magician's art). One person with two very different identities and a somewhat conflicted mind about that. Horus flew toward the scene of the trouble, Jasper the raven flying behind.

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© 2002 Rebecca J. Stevenson