Chapter 21



The flick they were watching hardly registered in Wyatt’s weary mind, even though it felt like it could be relevant if he paid some more attention. Maybe he would rewatch it one day and draw the possible conclusions that could be drawn from a movie about a rich businessman and a street hustler trading places. For now, though, he was wrapped in a blanket like a burrito — because the AC in the Viteri mansion was all too effective — and partially consumed by the sofa, and in that shape and form he was leaning on Hector’s shoulder and leisurely going through some things in his head. Thinking was a poor man’s substitute for writing stuff down, which he wasn’t trusting himself to do much these days.

It was Friday again. Hector seemed to like the idea of having him over for those, and Wyatt was glad he chose that day of the week. If Hector wanted to meet on Saturday evenings for example, that would be worse. So much worse. But like this, on Fridays, Wyatt always had the excuse of Saturday being a work day for him. It meant he was justified in going home early. Or well, if not early, then going home in general. As long as that option was on the table, he knew he was going to be fine.

The truth, though, was that he wasn’t even scared of these meetings anymore. Hector was not some crude goon. He was the crème de la crème of the underworld and the business world, and he would not force himself on him, or even try to propose they had sex if circumstances weren’t somehow logically leading up to that. And when they were, it was clear, and Wyatt could try to redirect them in various ways. He was sure that after they’ve ran out of Zack’s childhood videos, he would find something else to turn Hector off with. Nothing horrible, except for kissing, happened when they met the last few times. And these days even kissing was more of a nuisance than horror material. Wyatt had been shaken right after the island, but now, two weeks later, his confidence was creeping back in. If he played it right, maybe it wouldn’t be until another island trip that he would actually need to go back to bed with Hector. 

But Hector wasn’t even the worst partner to be in a relationship with. Now that Wyatt thought about it, he was a considerate, one could even say, romantic type. He was also able to differentiate between business and private life, which meant that he did not abuse his power with people he cared for.

It was uncanny, but somehow, within just a few months, Wyatt had managed to become borderline family to the Viteris. At this point he didn’t doubt anymore that he’d managed to pull his grand deceit off. He did not know how he fooled the top dog in this city into dating him instead of killing him, but somehow he’d done it. Hector was not toying with him. He genuinely believed this whole charade, Ocher felt that, and Zack did too. And there wasn’t all that much anymore that could betray how things really were. Wyatt felt like they were already past the crucial milestones, where Hector could have seen through him, but didn’t. Hector already knew that Ocher sucked at being a thief. He also knew that he hated violence and fainted at the sight of blood, and that his dick betrayed him in bed despite his alleged crush on Hector. Wyatt couldn’t comprehend how all that added up in Hector’s mind and still let his ‘biggest fan’ disguise hold up, but somehow, in some form, it worked. He fooled the Man, and that made him feel like he was the evil mastermind in control of this situation. It wasn’t true of course, but it made it all much better when he looked at things that way. 

It didn’t mean that he could walk away, though, no, it was going to take at least several more months, before he felt it was safe enough to do so, and he had to plan it out well too. But he knew it was possible. For now he had to endure this status quo. Worst case, sleep with Hector a few more times. He definitely did not look forward to that, but he was going to live. He was still learning how to navigate this fake relationship, but he was no longer scared for his life, and that made a huge difference. Everything that Hector said, used to terrify him, and he would read deep into every word. But not anymore. Earlier today Hector had been inquiring about his parents. He advised Wyatt to convince them to retire. ‘How much longer do they even have? Only a couple of years.’ Hector said, and three months back that, even in the context, would have made Wyatt crawl out of his skin. But now he knew that Hector didn’t really mean to sound like he was making a badly veiled threat, being intimidating just came naturally for him.

Sometimes, when Wyatt let himself forget about Hector’s darker side, he actually liked this. Returning to a fancy mansion with a swimming pool and a beautiful garden, beat coming back to a cramped, stuffy apartment by far. Similarly, being served a several course meal was way better than eating leftovers of an old takeout. Today, for instance, his early morning shift at the gas station had been so hectic that he hardly had time to eat anything. But then he came here, roamed around, read a part of a random book in a cosy armchair, while sipping a drink that was made for him. He got to properly wind down. And then Hector came back, and they had a four-course dinner with king crab bisque as the first course. There were so many perks to this life.

Well, there was a bit of stress still too. Currently mostly because Hector was invested in the concept of helping Wyatt get his life back on track. He had suggestions that bordered on plans, and he talked about them to Wyatt over dinner. He stubbornly entertained the idea that maybe his boyfriend should give up thieving. That, on its own, did not sound so bad, but Wyatt was doing that for a reason, it was his secondary source of income, or well, had been until he had no time to regularly practice it. He dared to mention that, but Hector countered it easily. He could just give Wyatt the money. Wyatt protested instantly. Hector had already given him cash to pay his dues not so long ago. But Hector had a rebuttal for that as well; there would be no dues to pay if Wyatt wasn’t a thief. And if he didn’t want to accept the money, then Hector could find him a better job. All that was very compelling, but Wyatt didn’t want to become dependent on Hector or indebted to him. Of course, he wouldn’t dare actually say that or explain the reasons, so he just shook his head and apologized vaguely.

For the lack of any specific reason, Hector had misunderstood his reluctance and blamed it on Ocher loving his little criminal life. Ocher assured him that that was it — of course he loved being a petty thief, who wouldn’t love that? — and promised to think about it. And then Hector had more helpful suggestions. One of them was that Wyatt should go back to university. He elaborated on the topic over dessert, and it turned out that he made for an even more motivational coach than Hamsi. Each time Hector said he should resume his studies, Wyatt was reminded of the fact that had he not dropped out, he wouldn’t have been in this mess in the first place. It did make sense, and in theory it was something he wanted to do anyway. 

Generally, those weren’t bad ideas. It was helpful life advice, and Wyatt really did intend to think about all that. He agreed with the general message, so he kept nodding through the afternoon. And now he was just nodding off in front of the TV, hardly able to register how on the screen the rich guy who’d been framed was now trying to frame the poor guy who’d taken his place.

Hector wrapped an arm around his shoulder and pulled him close.

“You look tired, darling.”

Wyatt let out a confirmatory sigh. He was glad that Hector was the one to notice and point it out, that way it seemed more natural. He couldn’t wait to be driven back home.

Hector tilted his head to have a better look. “Stay the night.”

And just like that, in an instant, Wyatt was wide awake, his heart rattling inside his chest. It was already dark outside. It was a Friday night. He had no plausible excuse. Wait, no, he did, but he was so caught up in thinking about it that he almost forgot.

“Oh… I’m afraid I have work tomorrow. So it’s probably best if I go, you know, catch some z’s and such.”

Hector smiled. “Isn’t this Saturday one of your late afternoon shifts?”

Ocher squealed on the inside. Hector knew his schedule far, far too well.

“Right, I’m so tired I forgot…” he tried a quick save, and the Man looked at him with sympathy… and even more determination. 

“Stay, darling.”

Now, that backfired… But no, he was not staying the night. Anything but that. He was somewhat more partial to carrying out an execution of a random man in the basement than agreeing to this. Staying the night had its implications. It was a bad idea. The island had been one thing, that was bound to happen, but this absolutely didn’t have to. This here was perfectly avoidable.

“I wish we could have stayed on that island longer.” Hector said longingly, as if reading his thoughts or maybe smelling his fear. “Perhaps around Christmas we could have a proper vacation together. For now, I was thinking of bringing you to a charity ball as my date. It will be a costume party, around Halloween. Would you like that?”

A costume party? But what happened to the staying the night question? Was Hector not waiting for his reply to that anymore? Or had that not even been a question in the first place…? He glanced at the man, and Hector sure looked like that matter had already been settled. Oh God. There went the comforting illusion that he had all this under control.

“Sounds great…” His mouth said automatically. Wait, did Hector just say ‘as my date’. And a charity ball? Attended by Hector Viteri? Oh no, who else was going to be there? Was there going to be celebrities and reporters, and… a TV crew? This was Hector’s way of making them an official item. Why did he say it sounded great? His brain really wasn’t working anymore. “But uh… how public is that event going to be?”

“Very public,” Hector admitted. “Not quite as public as the Christmas ball we could also later go to if you’d like, but it’s organized by Daniel Bache, and many notable people are bound to be there. But that is a good thing for us, darling. That way we can make our relationship official before speculation starts. I was able to nip all the budding rumours so far, but I’d much rather just go ahead and announce it.”

Oh no… why was this happening now…? It was great that Hector was so sure about this, but he couldn’t just take this one in silence. This was going to have a huge impact on his life, so it was probably normal that he would want to discuss it, they’ve been discussing so many things today after all. It should just feel like a logical continuation of the various life topics to Hector. 

“Ahm… don’t get me wrong, Hector, I love the general idea… but are you sure…” Heck, what was he doing? He knew that Hector was serious about them being together. Hector was a businessman, and rumours were bad, so of course he wasn’t going to keep this a secret forever… Shit. “I… uh… sorry, don’t mind me, I-I guess I’m just a bit shy, I mean, it’s kind of a spooky perspective… to come out on Halloween.” He laughed, and hid his face in Hector’s chest, feeling hopelessly incoherent, but also knowing there was no way out of this either way. Not in the long run. It was going to be a costume ball. Maybe that wasn’t such a bad time after all.

Hector stroked his back comfortingly. “Don’t worry. We’ll be there together. If you ever need a breather from the attention, we’ll just retreat from the spotlight.” 

Wyatt pulled back, suddenly alert again. “It’s… it’s actually not just about me. My parents… they don’t know. I don’t think they’re ready to know. Not yet. And I don’t want them to find out… you know if this is going to be on TV, or in the newspapers, or something.” This was probably one of the most genuine things he’d ever told Hector. Wyatt was proud of himself.

“I’ll make arrangements to ensure the news doesn’t leave city borders. Bache would have some of the press invited, but those are people I can bargain with. I’m not a federal scale celebrity, so the temptation to blow this out of proportion should be minimal.” Hector thought for a moment. “Where do your parents live?”  

“Uhh… Charlotte, Michigan.“ He was pretty sure it was a courtesy question, and Hector had long known the answer to it.

“That’s far enough. They shouldn’t hear anything about us. Not to mention seeing you on TV. In the worst case, they’ll think it was some other Wyatt Brooks. You can also wear a very elaborate costume. Think on what that could be.” Hector patted him on the knee. “In fact, I’d like to take you to my tailor tomorrow after breakfast. He will take your measurements.”

“Oh, phewh, thank you, and sure, okay.” Wait, what? Once again he agreed to something without thinking. It kept happening. He really was tired. Measurements… measurements for what? A body bag? No, this relationship was way past the body bags stage already… or was it? “Wait, you mean for the costume?”

“Yes, for the costume. And for a suit or two later. So that we can go to more events together.”

Wyatt knew he should be happy that Hector had plans for them reaching that far into the future — today had been filled with those plans. But he wasn’t feeling particularly cheerful. He was losing ground way quicker than he estimated, and that it was only going to accelerate from here. Just fifteen minutes ago, he thought he knew how to steer this relationship, maybe if not in the most favourable direction, then at least away from the things he did not want. Now he was suddenly back to hardly seeing the light in the tunnel.

Hector leaned in and kissed his temple. “Since neither of us is really paying attention to the movie anymore, perhaps it’s time to go to bed? Or do you want to see how it ends?”

The light in the tunnel went off too, and the insistent train of thoughts about Wyatt’s future that was going through it, was instantly derailed straight into the looming present. Out of going to a ball and staying the night, the latter was more imminently horrifying. Was there any difference if he lingered in front of the TV? Maybe if he did, and then pretended to fall asleep, Hector would just go to bed and leave him on the couch? He felt like the choices he had were not genuine choices anymore. But maybe this was still worth a try. 

“Mm… I’m pretty cosy here. Let’s keep watching.”

“Alright,” Hector said and kissed him again.

He leaned his head back on Hector’s shoulder, and they continued following the woes of a younger rich guy who had lost everything because two old rich guys made a bet for one dollar. Or at least that’s what Hector thought they were now doing. Little did he know that in Wyatt’s mind, a diabolical ruse was brewing. He made sure for his eyes to open a little bit narrower with each passing minute, until he was pretty much watching the movie through his eyelashes. Then, he let his eyelids fall closed for good, and his breath slowly even out. Now, this should fool Hector if he was lucky. He was asleep already, and thus he would be left in peace.

As he waited for Hector to notice how believably he’d dozed off, the sounds coming from the TV slowly became but a distant buzz and then faded completely…

* * *

Wyatt’s senses were jolted into consciousness by the strangest feeling of being in motion. He jerked awake to discover that Hector was carrying him in his arms. And they were going up the stairs. 


He’d managed to fall asleep for real, but even that did not save him. Moreover, he’d just ruined what chances he still had to pretend, because he was a panicked idiot and stared up. Hector caught his look, of course, and smiled down at him apologetically.

“Sorry, darling. You need a proper night’s rest. I couldn’t leave you there.”

Wyatt cursed himself. Why did he have to open his eyes? He could have just continued to fake napping while being carried, and now it was already too late for that… Or was it? It was so strange to be in Hector’s arms like that… he couldn’t relax, his heart was pounding. But against all odds he decided to salvage what he could from his act. And so he made a bunch of vague mhm-ing sounds and pressed his face into Hector’s shirt in an attempt to indicate that he was in fact still sleeping. 

Hector snorted softly. “Don’t go back to sleep just yet. We’ve got to get you out of those clothes first.”

Shit. That sounded really bad.

Hector carried him through the corridor and into his bedroom, and as soon as the Man laid him on the bed and proceeded to deliver on his threat, Wyatt felt a whole new kind of dread. Being stripped by Hector was even more horrifying than having to undress in front of him, and Wyatt instantly switched to regretting that he didn’t pretend to have fully woken up instead. He braced himself for the worst. 

Nothing happened. 

Hector tucked him in, pecked him on the cheek, and judging by the footsteps, went away — sadly not completely away, but to the bathroom to brush his teeth, was Wyatt’s best guess. 

When the Man returned, Wyatt was making his best impression of being fast asleep. 

He felt Hector lift the covers and rest on the bed beside him. When the rustling of the comforter was over, there was just one sound — Wyatt’s heart thudding in his chest as he waited for the inevitable. 

Then everything went quiet and still.

So… that was it? That was it. Despite them being in bed together, Hector wasn’t going to do anything to him… Wyatt exhaled as quietly as he could and thanked whatever higher power there was that saved him this time around.

“Goodnight, darling,” Hector rumbled quietly.

Wyatt’s eyes shot wide open, but he did not respond. He was asleep, after all.

In reality, he was so totally awake under his sleepy camouflage that he just lay there, still anxious and waiting for something unspeakable to happen. He was trapped here with Hector, unable to fall asleep, and the only way he knew that the time passed at all, was by counting the other man’s steady breaths. 

Somehow Wyatt didn’t hear himself anymore. Hector’s breath seemed to be the only sound left in the darkness, and so he latched onto it. 

Inhale after exhale, deep and steady, the time flowed. And slowly, very slowly, Wyatt calmed down. He was supposed to be hearing that sound. That sound meant that he was in the right place. 

At long last, everything was going to be alright.


Xenia laughed and spun through the air, jumping high as she ran through the night, dancing on concrete like she used to dance in the fields and meadows. Instead of a mob of frightened peasants there was a different kind of mob after her this time.

But she was no more concerned now than she was back then. Betty might have caught her by surprise that one time, but it wasn’t going to happen again. She’d been on a lookout for them, and they came again and again, sometimes with guns, sometimes with knives and bats. But she was too fast, too agile. The two mortal women stood no chance against her. She could have killed them at any moment if she wanted to. But she didn’t — it was too much fun. And the wild chases were worth it too, as the two had great taste in clothing, and every victory came with a valuable trophy.

“You think you can run away? We own this city!” Wilma shouted behind her.

Xenia laughed and narrowly dodged a bottle, that flew through the air by her head, catching but a lock of her wet hair. Still, it was close enough. It was time to wind down for the night. Xenia ran quicker through the side street. A gleaming puddle up ahead caught her attention — there weren’t many left after the day’s scalding heat. But this was a proper one. It spilled all over the crossroads, but its bulk was clearly coming from the left, so that was where she was headed. The lovely new light shoes she’d just pulled off of Betty were going to get soaked. Perfect.

Xenia splashed into the puddle at full speed, making ripples in the reflected city lights, and before she could take another step, she fell stiffly to the ground. 

Wilma and Betty stopped some twenty feet away. They watched triumphantly as she convulsed on the concrete.

“Thanks, Leland, that should do it,” Wilma called out. “At long damn last.”

There was some movement behind the corner, then a gloved hand appeared, showing for them to wait. A minute later Leland appeared from around the corner in coveralls and boots, carrying a broom. He used the broom to shove Xenia roughly away from the puddle. Smoke was rising from her body in faint whisps.

“Looks cooked,” he said. “Watch out if you want a fixin, she’s a-mite on the hardboiled side.”

“Can we tie her up now?”

“Shore, if you’ns got oven-mitts.” Leland stepped aside and picked up a pair of shoes. He tossed those to Betty.

She caught the shoes, pulled socks out of a pocket, dusted off her bare feet and quickly put both the socks and shoes on, all the time glaring at Xenia’s feet. “Fucking hated wearing those slippers. Worth it to fry this bitch.”

Wilma meanwhile pulled out tape and a pair of welding gloves from her purse and began taping Xenia’s limbs to her body.

“I gotta mosey to a date. You’ns shore the kyarn don’t need a carry?” Leland nodded at Xenia.

“If you’re offering the three of us a ride, Leland, thanks, but we’ve got a car parked nearby. Have a fun date.” Wilma offered the young man a smile.

Leland gave them a wave and was gone.

“For a buck-toothed hillbilly he sure gets around.” Wilma noted. “I don’t know how. Just imagine the pickup lines.” She shuddered.

Betty shrugged. “He is good with power lines.” She nodded at Xenia’s limp, smoking body.

“Oooh!” Wilma shook her finger at Betty, amused. “That he is.” She looked at Xenia. “That he is. Well, better let’s take her someplace nice and private. I sincerely hope she is still alive, so that we can kill her.”

Betty nodded.

They bowed down to pick Xenia up.

“Hey, girlies, do I have a deal for you!” A voice called from the side.

They turned to find a bald old man in an oversized coat on the opposite side of the crossroads. He did not appear armed and stood with his hands clasped in front of him.

Wilma noticed Betty reaching for her gun and subtly shook her head. “You better skedaddle, pops. And forget you ever saw us. Whatever you are selling, we are not interested.”

“I wouldn’t be so rash, you haven’t even heard me out. It’s a sweet deal!” The old man tittered. “Now… how would you like to trade your two lives for a single one —  hers? Two for the price of one! A great deal in my opinion.”

Wilma laughed. “And who’s supposed to take our lives? You?”

“Oh no, no-no-no-no-no. Not me. Of course not.” The old man shook his head, amused. “Her however…” He stepped aside, revealing a small Indian old lady dressed in pink.

Wilma and Betty exchanged looks of mildly amused disbelief that turned real and raw when the tiny old woman in pink began to grow larger, sprouting sharp teeth and claws.

When she was done with that, she charged.


Wyatt woke up in Hector’s arms. He must have ended up in them at some point during the night or early morning. It wasn’t too bad though, he was still in his underwear, and Hector was in his pajama trousers. The man kissed him good morning, and right after that Wyatt made sure to spring out of bed like an enthusiastic morning person, before the kiss could have been taken any further.

They brushed teeth together — Hector had procured a new toothbrush for him and handed it to him with a sort of joking affection, that Wyatt could well read for what it was. Having your own toothbrush somewhere was like the first step to moving in.

They sat in the kitchen now, freshly brewed coffee in their mugs and a whole array of things to go with it in front of them. There was a creamer, a pitcher of freshly squeezed orange juice, a basket with bread, muffins, plates with cut vegetables, different types of sliced cheeses and hams… There were fried eggs and bacon. There were croissants too, butter, jam and fruits. A true abundance of food, and Wyatt was hungry, so his plate ended up overflowing with a bit of everything. He was in a good mood and proud of himself. He had slept with Hector but managed not to sleep with Hector! That’s how sly he was. He felt truly accomplished, and rewarding himself by making the best of his situation felt only right. He really did have it all under control after all.

Hector was in a great mood too. He was gushing about his tailor, how great the man was at his craft, how polite and charmingly old-fashioned. He was clearly very eager to finally spend money on Wyatt’s wardrobe. But he did glance at his Rolex every once in a while.

That made Wyatt glance at his own crappy watch too. It was almost ten o’clock. Was Hector in a hurry somewhere? He didn’t look like he was, and besides, weren’t they going to his tailor? So what was it? Right, there was another place set at the table. It was Zack’s visiting day. The teen was probably supposed to come in for breakfast.

Just as he reached that conclusion, there was a sound of footsteps that did not seem like they belonged to the maid, and Zack walked into the kitchen.

“Morning, Dad. Here I am, almost not” — the teen yawned — “late at all…” He froze when he saw that Hector wasn’t the only one at the table. Then he grinned. “Hi Wyatt. How goes?”

“Hey there.” Wyatt waved to him. He smiled, and genuinely so.

“Good morning, Junior.”

Zack took the place set for him and quickly filled his empty plate with freshly baked bread, bacon and eggs. Then he squeezed an obscene amount of ketchup on the whole ordeal.

“Ketchup alone does not fill the recommended daily dosage of fruits and vegetables. I hope you know that,” Hector noted, regarding his son’s plate with a measure of skepticism.

Wyatt snorted, chiming in, “Tomato is a bit of both though. Everyone thinks it’s a vegetable, while it’s actually a fruit.” It felt pretty strange to be here with Hector and Zack on a casual Saturday morning. It was strange but also… nice somehow.

“So ketchup, made out of the mystical tomato, actually does cover the fruits and vegetables requirement. In your face, Dad!” Zack laughed and pointed a fork at Hector. “If it makes you feel better, I can eat potato fries.”

“You’ll have to reconsider your choices as you age, Junior. Or you’ll have trouble balancing on that bike of yours.” Hector shook his head. “How is that going by the way?”

“No problems balancing so far. Some other problems now and then, but I’ll deal.”

“Attaboy.” Hector smiled contentedly.

“How’re you two doing?”

“I’m planning to present Wyatt to the world at Bache’s Halloween ball.”

Zack froze with a fork half-way towards his mouth. He put the fork down and stared at his father. Then he turned to Ocher, and back to Hector again. “And did you bother asking what Wyatt thinks about it?”

“We’ve discussed it.”

The way they sat at the table, Wyatt couldn’t even exchange meaningful glances with Zack without Hector noticing, so he just nodded. “Yeah… any ideas what I should dress up as?” 

“You should be Frankenstein and have Dad be the bride of Frankenstein,” Zack laughed.

“I’m not ready to go that far in public. Yet,” Hector said with good humor. His son laughed even harder, his springy hair shaking. Hector turned to smile at Wyatt. “There’s plenty of time, we’ll figure something out.”

Wyatt smiled back. Deep in his soul he thought that dressing up as a ghost would be probably the most optimal solution. Just entirely covered with a sheet. Or maybe as a mummy with only slits for eyes. If he was let to dress as those, maybe he wouldn’t even panic about having his photo taken. Maybe. He was tempted to ask Zack if he had already picked up the art of embalming from those Pharaohs he was hanging around with. He didn’t ask though. He had no idea how much Hector really knew about the bikers his son was with now. Probably a lot, but still, it was Zack’s private life, and Wyatt still wasn’t sure if he wanted Hector to find out that he played a part in his son joining that club. Anyway, him and Zack had a silent mutual agreement not to go on potentially problematic topics when Hector was around.

They had a nice time, but soon after they finished breakfast, Zack had to go. He had dropped by only to spend some family time with his dad — the bare minimum amount of family time, as Hector laughed and Zack ferociously denied — and was now going back to his own life, while him and Hector were heading to the tailor. Which was somewhere he’d never been and still didn’t think he wanted to go.

* * *

It turned out it wasn’t all that bad though. Slightly boring, and Wyatt kind of felt like his measurements were being taken to later be used with some imprecise malicious intent after all, but otherwise it didn’t even take as long as he’d feared. And even though Hector regarded him with this possessively reassuring business-like look, he also feared the Man less than ever.

Especially when after having left the limo at an inconspicuous distance, Hector agreed to eat lunch in a regular street café and not some high-end restaurant.

Then Hector took him shopping. After hearing from Wyatt that he’d never really had any fancy footwear because his family, and then he himself, could never afford it, Hector appeared to be on a mission to remedy that. He insisted on buying Wyatt some presentable shoes to match the future suits. Wyatt didn’t really protest, because well, he still remembered how awkward he’d felt in his most elegant sneakers in the expensive restaurant they’d been to before. And getting suits and shoes handouts from the Man was not as bad as getting cash handouts, right?

In the couple hours that followed Wyatt decided he really hated trying on shoes no matter how expensive they were, but later on their way through the mall, they bumped into an ice-cream stand and ended up getting a few scoops each, so all in all the venture turned out pretty alright.

They ultimately succeeded in buying two pairs of shoes for Wyatt, one black and one brown, both of them leather, all nice and shiny, along with some supplies that would make sure they stayed that way. Hector also got him a Newton’s cradle that he accidentally spent too much time staring at while he nibbled on his ice-cream cone. The Man didn’t get anything for himself. Wyatt figured that it was because he already had everything, and more. 

Then, with the start of his work shift slowly nearing, Hector had him driven back home. They pulled over right in front of his apartment building because Wyatt had already given up trying to pretend people in limos weren’t stopping on his street with the specific purpose to pick him up or drop him off at various times.

He pulled away from Hector on whose shoulder he’d been leaning and, deciding to take initiative again and show his overall gratitude as they said their goodbyes, he kissed the man shyly on the lips.

Hector purred a murmur of approval and held him for a moment before letting go.

“Have a good day at work, darling. I’ll see you next Friday?”

“I think so? Have a good day as well, and thank you for everything!” Next Friday didn’t sound bad at all. He sure could do this once a week.

Hector saluted him playfully.

Wyatt made sure there were no neighbors in the street, and he got out of the car. He waved to Hector before going indoors.


“Well, this has got to be a first.” Wilma sighed. “Any luck at all?”

Betty shook her head. She’d been picking at the concrete around a bar of their impromptu prison with her keys, the only weapon she had been left with, but that wasn’t going anywhere.

The two of them sat next to each other inside a cage of metal beams and pipes. Last night they had seen the monstrous old lady effortlessly bend the metal into a vague resemblance of an open box and thrust it into the concrete around them. Now they sat trapped under it in awkward near-fetal positions, worn out and cramped from forced immobility while their wounds were scabbing over.

“When we get out, we’re going to the doc, and we’re finding all these fuckers’ weak spots. Then we don’t dick around. We kill the lot,” Wilma whispered quietly.

Betty nodded again. She pushed the metal pipe she had been working on. It finally budged. The two women exchanged dark meaningful looks.

There were footsteps in the room next door, loud steps of several people descending the stairs. Betty hid her keys. The door to the room they were imprisoned in opened and their eyes followed it, then had to dart down as the man that came in proved to be almost half the size of what they had expected.

“Ladies,” the Mexican addressed them with a nod and approached the cage, stopping at a safe distance, “I am El, and as you no doubt know, I hold some degree of sway around these parts. While you must understand you had this social call coming, I do sincerely apologize for keeping you here for so long. Please rest assured that I was far away and returned as fast as I could.”

Betty gave the small man her usual grim glare. Wilma did not look quite as antagonistic, but stayed just as silent. The Mexican leprechaun was clearly not done talking yet. He strolled around the cage.

“Now, why you are here, in this regrettable capacity, is as it seems, due to your poor business sense. I hear that Penny had a pretty good bargain in store for you! Well, that is void now, of course, but perhaps a different deal can yet be struck. First things first however!” The small man lifted up a finger, putting the jangling mass of rings and bracelets into motion. “There are some grievances, my ladies. This game of cat and mouse was tolerable for a while, more than that even, Xenia was having a lot of fun, and even after the bridge incident she still insisted that I let her play it. But now it has gone too far! You were not good sports last night, and now I regret to inform you that my people have come to me asking for permission to kill you. They do ask for permission, you see, you girls are lucky like that.” The small man grinned, displaying his weird green inlays.

Wilma grinned back, just a quick flash of teeth. “We don’t feel particularly lucky but do go on.” 

“Ah, but you are!” El insisted, coming to a halt again and pointing his finger at them. “Because even though my people are all now holding a grudge against you, I am inclined to refuse their plea. You see, I respect you, and I respect your employer. He is a man of business, just like me, and that means he must hate to waste resources. Which so far have been your time, ladies, and which could, but will not be, your lives. I never wanted any bad blood between us. Therefore I offer a truce. It’s a beautiful day out there and I would love for nothing more than to release you back to it, you must have so many things to do that are not trying to kidnap or kill my associates. So, are you ready to hear me out?” He gave them another radiant smile. “Please do agree.”

“We don’t appear to have much of a choice on the hearing out part, unless we start banging these pipes.” Wilma knocked on one of the improvised bars of their cage. “My point is, you have that gori-, I mean, that glorious muscle on your side, you can’t possibly be afraid of two unarmed, exhausted women with broken ribs. And we could think so much clearer, if we get to stretch a little.”

“Now, now, I do love me some good storytelling, but your ribs aren’t broken, and we both know it. You’re making excellent points here, dear, however as I said, I respect the two of you. That respect stems from knowing what you are capable of. I know one bar is already loose, and I know what you are up to. You will be let out very soon. But I think limiting your options right now will let you focus more on what I have to say. So please do forgive these few more minutes of discomfort.” El paced back towards the door and called out, “Luke, please come in!”

Luke shuffled in uncertainly. When he laid his eyes on the women, he grew visibly restless and to El for reassurance.

El wrapped an arm around him and walked him closer to the makeshift cage. “Now, all this is the result of a misunderstanding. You are trying to get a hold of Luke here, but he does not have what you are looking for anymore. I know it because I have personally taken that power from him — it was too dangerous for everyone. Now, I trust you have already seen signs confirming this, however I am still willing to let you make absolutely sure for yourselves. In fact, as soon as you have recovered, I will allow you to take Luke for one trip of your choice to fully test his complete powerlessness.” He patted Luke on the mid-back where he could reach.

Luke gaped at him and the women in disbelief. He opened his mouth to protest, then closed it, again and again, like a betrayed fish out of water.

“Don’t fret, Luke, Wilma and Betty here are merciless but reasonable. They will know to play nice this time around.” El turned back towards them. “Now, after you find out by yourself that you’ve been truly wasting your precious time for months now, I trust that there can finally be peace between us. How does that sound to you, ladies?”

“Sounds reasonable enough,” Wilma said tiredly.

“Ah, I… “ Luke still seemed to struggle with accepting the situation. “I don’t want to go with them. They will not keep their side of the agreement, I know it.” He looked at Wilma and El in turns. El just smiled at him, seemingly ignoring his plight, so he chose to focus on Wilma instead. “What El said is true, I really don’t have the power anymore, and what’s more, I met a policeman recently, and now I am no longer reported missing or worth any money either. So you two should just leave me alone. There is nothing in it for you anymore.”

“You heard Luke, and you can confirm yourselves if you haven’t already that there really is no more bounty on his head, so to say. Now, I do understand you tend to speak with one voice, but nonetheless I would also like to hear from the other lady. Do you accept the offer?”

Betty scowled. “Yes.”

El clasped his hands. “Splendid! Neha, sweetheart!”

The old woman walked in. She was just a little taller than El, but the sight of her made the caged women shrink. Neha’s mouth twitched into a smirk, then sunk into its usual frown. 

The Mexican smiled at her charmingly. “The fair ladies are free to go. Please release them. Gently. I’ll meet you outside.” He nodded to Wilma and Betty. Then he turned Luke around and walked him out of the room, leaving them alone with the small old woman.


El and Luke waited in the backstreets, outside the brick industrial building that was used as this make-shift jail. The sunny weather outside made the blood-curdling sounds of deforming metal coming from behind them sound completely surreal.

“I hope she won’t hurt them.” Luke said timidly.

El smirked. “Not to worry. I think they learned their lesson.”

Soon the door to the street opened and Wilma and Betty emerged, looking bitter, but no more damaged than they had been. Neha followed hot on their hills.

El stepped up to them. “Wilma, Betty, it’s been a pleasure. Preceding your questions, your weapons are already back in your car. When you’ll be coming back for Luke, please make sure to contact us and schedule your appointment in advance. We are all highly civilized people when not driven to extremes, and there truly is no need for unannounced kidnappings anymore. And here,” he pulled out a neat little box from under the folds of his thick autumn-colored poncho, “is a little peace offering for your employer. Something tells me he enjoys a good cigar.”

Wilma eyed him quizzically. “What exactly tells you that?”

“My business sense of course!” El winked. “Please, pass them as my personal gift to him, and let there be peace between us from now on. We are all citizens of this beautiful city, after all.”

Wilma exchanged looks with Betty and took the box from him with some reluctance. “We’ll be back”.

“Certainly!” El agreed with delight. “You are always welcome here as long as you don’t make trouble!”

They left.

Luke watched them go, his eyebrows furrowed and his fingers tugging at his jacket sleeves. “Are you really giving me over to these infernal women?”

El took him by one of the sleeves and led him down the street. “Yes, I am indeed! But…!” He looked at Luke conspiratorially. “I am known to be rather generous, am I not?”

“You… are.” Luke looked at him confused but hopeful.

“That’s right!” The small man grinned from ear to ear, the jade inlays catching bright sunlight. “And to live up to my reputation, I will give them three for the price of one.”


It was past eleven in the evening when Wyatt finally got back home from his shift. He kicked off his shoes and shrugged out of his jacket. It was great to finally be truly back and done with everything for the day. Hanging around Hector this weekend proved to be rather harmless and even fun all in all, but he was so tired after that and his work, that all he wanted was to just fall down on the bed and sleep until Sunday afternoon at least. 

He almost fell on the floor instead, when he tripped over the box with the Newton’s cradle that was still in the hallway where he’d dropped it off in the early afternoon. He picked it up, and transported it to his bedroom, where after a moment’s deliberation he found a place for it on the desk. There, he was getting better at problem-solving and managing his life.

There was a new message on his answering machine. It couldn’t possibly be from Hector, so he wasn’t even scared to play it. In fact he wouldn’t be scared even if it was! He poured himself a glass of tap water to celebrate this achievement, rewound the tape and pressed the play button.

A familiar croaky voice sounded from the speaker. It was Hunter.

“Hello, this is a national survey. We’re… trying to figure out how often the average American remembers to be places. Weren’t you supposed to be somewhere?”

Oh shit. He completely forgot. Their gang’s scheduled meeting at Hunter’s was long over already. Shit, shit, shit. But alright, this was not any reason to panic, he was dating the Man, meanwhile this here was just some minor thieving business, a gig that he would probably be abandoning at some point anyway — this was just his friends of sorts wanting to discuss some stuff. So nothing was lost, but he probably should still talk to Hunter, just to make sure he was caught up on whatever plans they’d gone over. He sighed and put his shoes back on. He simply wasn’t destined to spend any time at home today. As he got back out into the night, his regret about having sold his car was more intense than ever. Oh well. It was public transit for him then. But it was so late, the night bus would take forever to come. So maybe he should go back and call a cab? Hector’s chauffeur picking him up and driving him back home got him spoilt. But no, he shouldn’t be a spendthrift…

Sighing, Wyatt decided against the cab after all. A few minutes later he was already waiting at the empty bus stop. He shuddered a little. The days were still warm, but the nights were getting pretty chilly. He caught himself looking around as he idled, but realized it was more of a habit than anything else now. He wasn’t actually worried about Wilma and Betty following him anymore, like, what were they going to do, wave to him? The slight paranoia he’d acquired because of them still lingered though, because he did feel watched. It was a weird kind of feeling, coming from all around. But who was watching him? The street lights? Yeah, he wished he still had that car. Being out all alone in the night wasn’t all that fun. Luckily the bus arrived before he decided to run back home.

When he reached Hunter’s apartment building, someone was just stepping out, so instead of buzzing Hunter, he slipped in before the door swung shut. He took the elevator to the last floor, walked over to Hunter’s door and rang the doorbell.

And then he stood waiting at the door for several minutes. Had Hunter not repeatedly yelled that he was going to get it in a minute, any minute now, Wyatt would have assumed he was out. All the greater was his surprise when the door finally opened, and behind it stood Evil Mr Clean, the bulky intimidating guy that Kat was dating.

Wyatt took a step back on instinct, instantly making way. Rance — was that his name? — passed him silently and headed towards the elevator. Hunter appeared in the door a moment later, looking shaken. 

Ocher stared at him, then looked down the corridor after the butch bald man, then turned back to Hunter, looking bewildered.


“Why was he here?” Ocher mouthed so that the guy wouldn’t catch it.

“He’s uh… He’s collecting my dues,” Hunter answered in a panicked whisper, fidgeting nervously.

Ocher blinked. “Kat’s boyfriend is collecting your dues…? Say what…?”

“Yeah, well, I told you about Rance before-” Hunter squawked. “The guy who almost killed me when we were kids, now collects my dues, that Rance.”

Ocher’s face fell. His mind couldn’t process it for a moment. “Oh my god, Hunter, I’m so sorry I didn’t realize it’s the same guy…” He checked that Rance had already disappeared. “It must be like some nightmare that you have to see him… and that now he’s dating Kat too.”

“Uh, sort of… Not really. I mean, my life is like that. I’m used to it…” the older thief rambled. 

Wyatt gave him a quizzical look as his mind processed things.

“Anyway, w-what do you need, Ocher?” Hunter leaned against the doorframe, arms crossed, hugging his sides.

Ocher had a hard time remembering what he came here for but in the end he managed. “Uh… I’m here because you called. About the meeting… I’m so sorry, I was out all day, and I couldn’t make it…” He trailed off and looked at Hunter. He felt absolutely like shit with this new revelation. Hunter was kind of his friend, he had trusted him with some of his pretty turbulent life story, and then after all this Ocher had never even realized that the guy who had once put Hunter in a coma had been shaking money out of him for months. How could he not realize it? It’s not like he knew any other people named ‘Rance’, it should have rang more bells. Any bells. 

He looked at Hunter for signs of hurt now. His hair was a mess, his shirt was half-undone and there was something smeared on his face. “Hunter, are you… are you bleeding?”

Hunter’s eyes opened wider. “No, why?” He wiped his face with his sleeve and looked at it in horror. “Shit. Ok. Yeah. Maybe a little.” He hid his arm behind his back. There was still a smear of something reddish in the corner of Hunter’s lips.

“Oh geez,” Ocher looked as appalled as he felt, “Did he hurt you? Does he always hurt you when he’s here?”

“Not quite… I mean, sometimes… It’s…” Hunter made a long incomprehensible sound, looking frustrated. His face gained some color. He glanced around the corridor, as if checking for nosy neighbors. “Let’s go inside…”

“Uh, sure…”

Hunter let him in, then closed the door behind them. He looked around, as if searching for something. “So you’re here about the meeting… The meeting… yes… Craig said he found a new target. It’s going to be a jeweler’s store. A serious haul. So we need your head in the game.” Hunter paced around his empty flat, looking left and right, as if he’d lost something. Which was near impossible, considering how the only two real pieces of furniture in the otherwise empty room were a couch and a coffee table with a few bricks replacing one of the legs.

“Uhm, I see…“ The other thief’s strange behaviour made Ocher instinctively look around for whatever Hunter was trying to find as well. “Real sorry about being a no-show today…” Ocher frowned when he spotted a crumple of pastel pink fabric sticking from under the couch. “Hey, is that… is that the nightgown you were planning to give to Kat?” Wait… was that blood on it too? No, it didn’t look like a blood stain, the more steps he took towards it the more it seemed like… a smudge of lipstick.

Hunter stalked over to the discarded item of clothing and nervously kicked it deeper under the couch before Ocher could get a better look. But Ocher’s attention was already elsewhere. He just discovered that Hunter wasn’t wearing socks below his jeans. Instead he was wearing something… half-transparent, light, with lines going up his heels. Those… weren’t stockings, were they…?

Hunter must have noticed the look of sheer horror on his face, because he blushed even harder than before and loudly said “Meeting! Let’s keep talking about the meeting! It was very important, you know! You shouldn’t miss them like this! That’s a shitty thing to do when your friends all count on you…” He trailed off and shifted uncomfortably under Ocher’s wide-eyed stare.

But Ocher couldn’t think about the meeting. On the inside of his head a fire alarm was going off, and the strangest dots were connecting.

“It’s… It’s not what it looks like!” Hunter tensed, like a hurt animal expecting another kick. “He forces me to do this, ok? And it’s better than the beatings!” Hunter turned away from Ocher, looking very ashamed. He hugged himself again. “I’m not a tough guy, okay?”

Ocher kept staring at him, speechless. He had always feared he would end up like Hunter, and lo and behold, it looked like he really did in even more ways than he’d expected. How long had this been going on? Had Hunter ended up in this situation before he ended up in his? Fuck, this was not a contest… The fact they were going down two separate drains into the same gutter also did not help. He looked at where Hunter had kicked the pink lacy lady’s nightgown under the couch and at the stockings the older thief was wearing under his pants. Was this what was going to happen to Ocher if he survived a few more years and Hector grew bored of plain vanilla? “Hunter…”

“Please. Don’t tell anyone, please,” Hunter said quietly. He did not turn to look at Ocher. “No one respects me as is. Please.”

Ocher opened and closed his mouth. He honestly didn’t even know what to say, so he said what both of them wanted to hear. “I won’t say a thing.” 

Hunter dropped on the couch, hung his head and began wringing his hands. After a moment he looked up, and they stared at each other in silence for a while longer. Ocher didn’t really want to ask about this, and find out what exactly was going on. It was already dreadful left unspoken as it was, and it could only get more so once put into words. But Hunter thought he was his friend. And well, he kind of really was his friend. One of his only friends, actually. “Um, Hunter, do you need help or something?”

“N-no, not really. Not anymore.” Hunter sighed and leaned back, visibly relaxing. “Thanks for asking.” He smiled sourly, but earnestly, cautiously searching Ocher’s expression for disgust or hostility. But all he saw in Ocher’s eyes was some form of horror and denial, and that ironically set Hunter further at ease. 

“Okay… But no, really… do you need help?” 

“How are you going to help, Ocher? Fight him?” Hunter snorted. “Trust me, I tried once, that landed me in a coma. And that was when he was a kid.”

Even more things snapped into place in Ocher’s head. “Oh my god. Please don’t tell me he’s also the guy who branded you…”

Hunter looked up at him with a wince. “Well, only because you told me not to, I won’t.”

Ocher screamed on the inside.

“It’s really not that bad once you get used to it. It’s not like I was getting laid much before anyway.” Hunter noted philosophically. “I’m glad you are taking it so well. But I was guessing you’d be more open to it, since you once said the salami sandwich tasted like dick-”

Ocher made an inhuman sound. “I WHAT? I never-”

Hunter looked up at him in indignation. “When we were eating those extra long sandwiches you said the weird powdered sausage tasted like cum member, I almost choked to death.”

Ocher looked at him stunned and at a total loss for words, until he finally realized what Hunter was even talking about. “Jesus, Hunter… I meant the cheese back then… it’s literally called camembert… it’s French or something…” Ocher looked at him in absolute despair.

Hunter looked back at him just as horrified. “I thought you sucked dick too…”

“No!” Ocher protested in horror. “No.” He added softer, when he saw hurt on Hunter’s face. “I-I mean… there’s nothing wrong with that but I… no, oh god… you know what, let’s change the topic…”

Hunter still looked upset, but nodded. “Sure…” He did not meet Ocher’s eyes.

“So, back to the jeweler’s…” Ocher said quickly. “Can you tell me more about what you discussed? Also, do you have your phone back or what? I mean, you called…”

“Nah, I just used a street phone,” Hunter said. He rubbed his face. “The jeweler’s job will be on October 26. The starting time will be fixed. There’s some repairs being arranged in a store next door, which will help us cover up the noise. Craig has the entire thing figured out as always. And it’s good he does. The place is almost centrally downtown. All of us will need to do our best to pull this off. Your part will mostly be helping with the heavy lifting and keeping an eye out.”

Ocher nodded. That was alright by him. He didn’t really aspire to be amazing at their thieving thing, and was okay with the more underwhelming tasks as long as he got his fair share of money. He just hoped that this time around Craig was going to be quicker with liquidating the haul. He’d finally settled the accounts with them only recently. “Sure, I’ll be there. So you think Craig will have the details for us next Saturday? I’m honestly not a hundred percent sure what my plans for next weekend are yet, but even if I end up being late for the meeting again, I will drop by on Sunday to make sure.”

Hunter frowned. “What do you mean you might be late?”

Ocher ran a hand through his hair, “Eh… some stuff came up recently. It’s no big deal, just, you know, my life being kind of shit as per usual. Hence, I might be a bit busy, trying to handle some things, but maybe I won’t be. For now I’m assuming I’ll make it to the next meet-up, but if you don’t see me, then it’s nothing to worry about, tell the others I’ll make sure I’m updated on everything before the heist.”

“Sure.” Hunter shrugged. “Good to hear that. We’d have a heck of a time trying to find a fourth if you decided to drop out.” 

“No no, come on, I wouldn’t do that. I’ve gotta eat you know. Speaking of which, do you still have some of that mayo?”


Hector Viteri sat behind the desk in his opulently furnished study. There was a box of cigars on his desk. Wilma and Betty sat in the armchairs opposite to him. They did not look comfortable.

Hector steepled his fingers. “Tell me more about this ‘El’.”

“There isn’t much more to tell, boss. He’s the ringmaster of that freakshow. And he’s got the allegedly no-longer-lucky Luke under his wing.” Wilma spread her arms. They didn’t want to bother Hector with this before and kept the issue to themselves, but now it was unavoidable. “He says he wants peace, but he appears rather well-prepared for war. His weirdos are tough. Tougher than anyone we’ve ever encountered. He offered us to test Luke’s luck one last time. Then he hopes we will witness the lack of it instead and just bugger off.” Wilma shook her head. “Don’t know what’s going on, but smells like a ruse to me.”

Hector frowned and said nothing, lost in deep thought.

“Even if something was done to repress that… quirk of Luke’s, then perhaps that something can be undone.” Wilma said. “We think we should gather the guys and off these clowns, then go on with the plan of warehousing Lucky. Then we can proceed to find out how he ticks.”

“Do you think you can do it covertly?” Hector looked at Wilma.

She shifted in the armchair. “Well… Somewhat. I mean it depends on your definition, your gauge for what is and isn’t covert. Like it wouldn’t be much more blatant than that gas explosion with Olivier, I mean that was right next to the police station and yet-”

“We will do our best,” Betty said quietly.

Hector rubbed his chin. He looked at them — these two seemed more ready for war that he’d ever seen them. “See, ladies, I normally trust your judgement. But I feel there’s a personal grudge at play here. Lucky was convenient, but the Citizens don’t need him. We did just fine without him for over a decade.” Hector leaned back in his chair and surveyed them with his small deep-set eyes. He knew what was going on here. “You got beat. You’re out for blood. But the truth of the matter is, you don’t need Lucky either. He just allowed you to do flashy stunts where a more subdued approach would have worked just as well. He got you hooked. But now is the time to let him go.”

“But we can’t have random midgets in coats kick Citizen ass and get away with it!” Wilma leaned forward in her armchair. “What will the competition think?!” 

“What competition.” Hector eyed her coldly. “You’ve spent a while hunting down one of El’s people just because.” He waved a hand. “There are rumors about random pairs of women with guns on the loose around town. We don’t need that kind of publicity. Olivier’s vanishing act was enough.”

Wilma crossed her arms. “What if they turn Lucky against us?”

“Then we’ll destroy them.” Hector shrugged. “But for now just go see if Luke is no longer an asset. If we really need him, at least we know how to reliably locate him, which was a problem before.” Hector moved the box of cigars closer and opened it. 

He pulled a cigar out, inspected it and cut its head. He produced a matchbox from a suit pocket, lit a match, put the cigar into his mouth and puffed it, while rotating it with the end above the flame. He rotated it that way for a while, then waved the match out and put it in an ashtray. The Man puffed the cigar a few times, then held it in his hand, studying it with visible approval. 

“These are fine cigars by the way. You two should try them. As a consolation prize. Smoke with me and let it go.”

“Let it go as we all die together, because the cigars are laced with poison?” Wilma asked skeptically.

Hector snorted and moved the box closer towards them.

Wilma nudged it back towards him. “Thanks, boss, but no. I’ve been watching you smoke these for years, and it’s way too much work. I promise if you drop dead now, we’ll follow in a quicker and more efficient manner.”

The three of them smirked at each other.


The seven gathered again. The men looked somber. Except the heretic, who appeared unusually carefree.

“So much for trusting women to do a man’s job,” the brute said leering. “Another failure. And this time a complete one.”

“Aw, look at you, so displeased, so full of anger!” The temptress cooed at him as was her custom. “But don’t worry, I know you don’t mean to insult me. You’re just unhappy that they didn’t invite you to the island, aren’t you?”

The brute snarled at her. He looked like he would growl, but the hero slapped him on the back of the head.

“Silence whelp!” he barked. “Don’t you dare talk to her like that.” He gave the brute another stern look, then turned to the women present. “Ladies, my apologies.”

The servant said nothing. The crone bowed her ugly ape-like head in gratitude. The temptress blew the hero a kiss.

The heretic sat silently, taking no part in today’s first argument and paying no heed to it whatsoever.

It had clearly been a mistake, because the silence from him in particular drew the temptress’ attention right away. “So, sunshine, could we get a little update on what’s going on there? I hear you’re just brimming with news!”

He rolled his eyes, but relayed how he had been driving Hector and the problem around for hours earlier today. “They are going to attend Bacchus’ nonsensical Halloween event.” The heretic added.

“Ooh, exciting!” The temptress briefly steepled her fingers. “Why, it might be an excellent time!”

“For another failed hit?” the brute asked dryly.

She laughed. “No, silly. To have fun! Halloween parties are quite thrilling, don’t you know?”

“No.” The brute shrugged. “We have very different ideas of fun.”

The temptress gave him a dismissive wave of her manicured hand and turned back to the heretic, beaming. “And you’re all nice and agreeable tonight, I love it!”

The heretic hadn’t been expecting her attention again and had started absently tracing his shirt with a finger in a crescent motion. He removed his hand quickly, but it was too late, she had already caught him doing it.

“Aw, is that what I think it is?” She cooed excitedly, and as if that wasn’t enough, she climbed up on the table from her seat, and crawled across it towards the heretic, reaching towards the leather strap around his neck.

He slapped her hands away before she could touch it and glared at her, but said nothing.

The temptress grinned. “It’s been a good month, hasn’t it? I told you. And we can always recharge it later too, it’s not even too pricy, at least for now.“ She looked back over her shoulder at the others. 

The hero and the doctor had to make an effort of will to move their stares away from her behind to meet her eyes. The brute stared at the ceiling and grunted in annoyance.

“This is the real deal. El’s onto something there, and we can all use it while it lasts. Are you really going to keep saying no to some extra power?”

“El is not all good news,” the doctor said gravely. “I treated Hector’s she-goons tonight, and they told me he took the lucky star away from the Citizens. And from us. That is a hefty price to pay for his services.”

“The gang will manage just fine without the star.” The hero waved a hand dismissively, but he too looked displeased. “But I agree that it is no small entrance fee. El better deliver.”

“Can we get back to the part where people die?” the brute demanded. “You’re boring me to death with this mercantile bullshit.”

The temptress stood up on the table, still in her high heels, and pointed at him, delighted, “I also like this part, so yes, let’s get back to it! You are quite right, wolfie. That Halloween party is going to be just the perfect time for a hit.”