The Hand Job – A SVHU Story


By: Andrew Thomas Prenger

“Fur is murder!” shouted the young hippy as he hurled red paint at us. There were three of them total. All of them had the same t-shirt on, emblazoned with the same slogan the young man had just shouted at us along with a picture of a fox.  They all looked pretty much identical, except with different hairstyles. They were all white, thin, but with too healthy of skin and fancy shoes and pants to actually be hippies. I figured they were just spoiled rich kids with some idealism in them. They would’ve grown out of this phase shortly if they hadn’t picked the wrong people to throw paint on.

In all my years of fighting heroes who had actual super powers and strength of conviction, I could honestly say that this young man was possibly the bravest man I had ever seen. I didn’t have time to tell him that because right after the paint hit my girlfriend, ruining her ridiculously expensive fur coat, she reached out and snapped his neck. He was dead before he knew it.

I couldn’t say the same for his two friends. They knew they were doomed as they stood there gawking at the sight of Dana, my eight-foot tall girlfriend, holding their friend like a rag doll. It was their own fault. Who throws paint on a giant woman? In Paradiso? Last statistic I read said that one-in-one-hundred people had an extra-normal power of some kind. Clearly they were not rocket scientists.

Dana set the corpse on the ground then grabbed it by his foot and pulled. Within seconds the leg separated from the hip. While all this went on I checked myself. Despite all the red paint and blood flying around not one drop had gotten on my white dress shirt. Damned miracle, that was. All of it landed on Dana who was now beating one of the hippies to death with the leg of his friend.

The last guy, who I would’ve shot on principle for having blond hair put into dreadlocks, bolted instead of waiting to be murdered himself. He almost made it to the end of the block when Dana hurled the leg through the air and knocked him down.

“Ag! I can’t believe those creeps! I just stole this fur coat and now it’s ruined. I wish I could kill them again! Look at me! Paint!”

She looked like the last twenty minutes of Carrie. “So…does this mean the date’s off?”

“Absolutely not, B.S. You are not getting out of this. Not this time. I am going to clean off. Give me half an hour. Call the restaurant, tell them we’ll be a little late, but hold our reservation.” With that she tore off her fur coat and black dress she was wearing and threw them on the corpses. Except for her heels she was completely naked.

“Jesus Christ, Dana, couldn’t you wait until you’re inside before stripping down?”

“I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of. It’s your stupid culture that says I should. Besides, I don’t want to get any blood or paint on my carpet.”

“Look, just…you know inconspicuous is one of my watchwords. Beautiful, naked women in the middle of the street is not inconspicuous.”

“I just killed three men in the street. I doubt I’ll be the one turning heads.”

She had a very good point. When you killed people for a living the sight of someone being beaten to death with their friend’s leg slips into the background. My awkwardness of Dana’s nudity was probably some vestigial feeling from my long lost Catholic childhood.

I was about to suggest she meet me at the bar when she was cleaned up when I saw movement down the block.

“Looks like you’re two for three today. Dreadlocks was only wounded.”

Dana almost started running after him, but stopped herself, “Could you get him for me?”

“Sure, babe.”

She stomped down the street to her apartment to bathe in turpentine and re-do her hair. I strolled down the sidewalk trying to act nonchalant, like I hadn’t just witnessed a double murder.

Dreadlocks stumbled into an alley and I followed after him. He wasn’t making much progress, he kept tripping over his own feet and weaving side to side, crashing into garbage cans like he was drunk. I figured that the leg had knocked some sense out of him.

I pulled out the 9MM I had holstered at my back, my casual wear gun. Right as I was about to fire I felt a sharp pain in the center of my hand. Something knocked the gun from my hand. It took a moment to register that there was a purple arrow sticking through my hand. It was almost unbelievable.

Ignoring the pain I squatted down to grab my gun. As I picked it up another arrow drove through my left forearm.

“Son of a bitch!”

I looked where the arrows came from. It was no surprise to see the Quiver King standing on the fire escape. He was Paridiso’s resident archer hero. His costume was deep purple robes with a white fur collar. He wore a crown that had a bit that stretched down and covered the top half of his face. A big white bushy beard covered the bottom half of his face.

Convinced I was subdued for the moment he hooked his bow over his chest then made a few short jumps down the fire escape until he landed in the alley.

“I’ve finally got you, Blood Shadow.”

That got my attention. I’d never dealt with any superhero directly without my villain suit. Dressed in that I was fully covered and had a voice modulator, making it impossible for people to identify me in my civilian clothes. Somehow, for all my paranoia, The Quiver King found out my secret identity.

“It took a lot of time and money to find out your civilian identity. Months to track you down. All so I could bring you to justice for killing The Fletcher.”

I tried to remember who that was. I killed hundreds of people each year. I couldn’t remember every single one. I wasn’t a serial killer. I didn’t fetishize my kills or keep mementos. It was strictly business with me. For the most part my relationship with my kills lasted as long as it took the bullet to kill them after I pulled the trigger then on to the next one.

“Uh…sorry?”

“You’ve got to be kidding me! You don’t even remember him! You kill my sidekick and you don’t even know you did it. How many people do you have to kill until you can’t even tell them apart?”

“Lots.”

That was the wrong thing to say. The Quiver King grit his teeth and started kicking me. It hurt, but I already had two arrows stuck in me so it wasn’t that much more painful.

“Hey! It’s The Quiver King!” I heard a young voice at the mouth of the alley shout, “Look, he’s beating up a criminal! Awesome!”

That made me groan, but it did give me a chance. The Quiver King stopped kicking me and turned towards the two kids.

“Children, you shouldn’t watch this.”

“But it’s cool! What’d that guy do?”

“Well…he…see…”

As he tried in vain to explain murder to two twelve-year-olds I took my shot. I kicked my foot out and caught The Quiver King in the knee. I heard a crack, but doubted that I’d done any permanent damage. It was enough to drop him to the ground. I got up and ran down the alley. As much as I hated it, I needed to find help. I should’ve gone the other way, back towards Dana’s apartment. She would’ve been able to stop The Quiver King without breaking a sweat. Shit, I thought, who lives around here that could help me?

The arrows were stuck in me good. He was using broad heads, an arrowhead type with points at the back which prevented me from simply pulling them out unless I wanted to do more damage to myself. The shafts were aluminum, I couldn’t snap them off. The Quiver King definitely wasn’t fucking around. From what I knew he normally used trick arrows with non-lethal weaponry. It was pretty clear he wasn’t planning on bringing me to justice.

There was a fair amount of people on the sidewalk, most of them scurried out of my way as I shambled through the crowd. A few people had their cell phones out which I thought meant they were calling an ambulance or the police. It turned out they were actually just taking pictures of me.

A guy in the crowd shouted, “Quiver King’s gonna’ kick yer ass!” I spit at him.

There were several cheers behind me. When I looked I saw it was because The Quiver King limped out of the alley. He had his bow drawn, but there were too many people in the way for him to get a clear shot. Pretty soon that would change. People were already clearing the way so he could continue attacking me.

I reached down and plucked my back-up gun, a snub-nosed revolver, from my ankle holster. The nice thing about being ambidextrous was that I had many places to hide guns on my person that weren’t limited to one hand access. Unfortunately with the arrow through my arm I couldn’t get a good enough grip on the gun. My hand didn’t want to respond. Pulling the hammer back was even impossible.

A woman came from the crowd to my aid. She hadn’t seen my gun yet so I jammed it into her hand and directed her to aim at The Quiver King. I’d done it before, used my power to aim for someone, all I needed on their end was to pull the trigger. To coerce her into doing that I pressed the arrowhead sticking through my right hand to her throat. She was breathing so fast I thought she would hyperventilate and pass out.

“Okay, just calm down. I need to you breathe slowly. You keep breathing that hard and it’s going to mess up my aim. I don’t need that right now. I’m having a bad day already, as you can see. All you need to do is pull the hammer back then squeeze the trigger. Then we can go our separate ways.”

She started sobbing, I felt her tears splash on my left arm, “I can’t kill him! That’s Quiver King! He’s a hero!”

“He’s an asshole.”

“I…no, I just can’t. He saved my family when our apartment was on fire!”

“If you don’t pull the trigger I’m going to find and kill your family. By dying here he’s saving your family again. Think of it that way. Now. Pull. The. Trigger.”

She pulled the hammer back on the gun. I smiled. Finally things were going my way.

“Let the woman go, blackguard!” The Quiver King yelled in his best ‘hero’ voice. He still had his bow drawn, tracking my movements. I swayed back and forth trying to keep him off balance. He wasn’t going to loose an arrow if he thought he might hit the girl.

“Fuck you!”

“…what?”

“You heard me! Fuck you!”

“Have you lost your mind?”

“Me? Lost my mind? You’re the one who keeps sticking me with arrows. I was just going to go out to dinner at a place I don’t really like with my girlfriend!”

“You killed my sidekick!”

“I don’t even remember doing that! Let it go!”

“Let it go? Let it go?! He was my friend! And I am not going to let his killer wander the streets to kill again! You’re a menace!”

“I’m not the one shooting arrows into people in broad daylight!”

“But you are the one holding a woman hostage!”

“After she shoots you she’ll be my accomplice!”

“What?” she screeched.

The woman dropped the gun which went off. The Quiver King grabbed his side as he fell to the ground. I was so shocked that I didn’t even try to stop the woman as she pulled away from me. The crowd surged forward, surrounding their fallen hero.

“That was awesome.” I said to no one.

Noticing that no one was paying attention to me anymore I decided to run for it. With any luck I’d be able to loop around the block to get back to Dana’s apartment. If what the Quiver King said was true about tracking me then he already knew that she lived there. No point in trying to maintain her already flimsy secret identity. I just hoped that I didn’t stumble into any police on my way there.

I was about to round the corner when an arrow zipped past my head. Only when I felt hot liquid running down my head onto my neck that I realized that he hadn’t missed on purpose. That wasn’t a warning shot. He’d been aiming for my head. He wasn’t fucking around anymore.

It didn’t seem likely that I could make it back to Dana’s apartment now. The bar was also out of the question. That would’ve been a good place to run to. I could’ve mobilized a few villains who would’ve enjoyed ganging up on the Quiver King. Even if they weren’t successful, and with their track record they probably would fail, they would at least provide the distraction I wanted.

Except it was too far away and completely against the rules to let any superhero know about it. I didn’t want to get 86’d from The Hook-Up just because I couldn’t figure out a way to get away from the Quiver King. Besides I preferred doing things myself. It’s just that I preferred having both hands working.

The Quiver King finally managed to get past the crowd. Despite his injuries he was making good speed towards me. Instead of having his bow drawn he held one hand to the side of his stomach where blood increasingly stained his robes.

Across the street was a construction site. There had to be something there I could use. As I approached a few of the workers clocking off stopped to gawk at me.

“Wow! Finally I get to see someone get taken down by a superhero. I’ve waited months to see somethin’ like this.”

“Yeah, looks like Quiver King is gonna’ put the smack down on you, punk!”

“Why is everyone automatically on his side?” I screamed at them. Normally the rampant hero worship in the city didn’t get to me, but with two arrows sticking through me I wasn’t as charitable.

“Because…he’s a hero.”

“Maybe he’s possessed! Or mind-controlled! Why am I immediately the bad guy if he attacks me? I could be innocent. Do I look like a mugger? Or a terrorist? Am I wearing spandex?”

“Well…no.”

“Exactly! You could…”

“Blood Shadow! Stop!”

The blood drained out of all the construction workers’ faces when the Quiver King shouted my name.

“You’re Blood Shadow?”

“Okay, that’s beside the point. You know? Fuck it. I am. I am Blood Shadow the super villain. Enjoy what time you’ve got left. After I make it out of this I’m going to hunt you all down.”

I ran deeper into the construction site. The building was mostly a skeleton. I scrambled into an elevator and slapped at the top most button. Height was a good advantage to have. While waiting for the elevator to reach its destination I decided to do something about the arrows.

I bit down on the shaft of the one in my palm and pulled. The aluminum shaft was smooth and didn’t hurt all that much. It wasn’t until I reached the end of the shaft and felt the fletching dig into my wound. I took a deep breath and jerked my hand past the fletching. I bit down harder and felt the aluminum give to my teeth as I fought the urge to scream. Once I recovered from that I did the same with the one sticking through my arm.

I got the arrow out as the elevator reached the top floor. As soon as I exited, the elevator started going back down to the ground floor. I didn’t have much time before the Quiver King found me.

On the ground was a toolbox which I kicked open, spilling the contents on the floor. I found what I was looking for: a roll of duct tape. I picked it up gingerly and held onto the flap with my teeth and pulled out a strip. I then started wrapping my wounds with it as I heard the elevator rising.

Also on the floor was a decent-sized claw hammer. I tried picking it up but had a worse grip on it than I did my gun. There was no way I could hold onto it during a fight so I taped it to my hand. Once that was done I had just moments to hide from the Quiver King.

Hand-to-hand wasn’t my expertise. I could do it, I still knew how to from my days in the Marines. These urban vigilantes, even the weapon based ones like the Quiver King, were much better trained in martial arts than villains tended to be. I figured that was because killing with a gun was much easier than killing with a fist. The heroes made every effort not to kill, so they’d much rather just beat a guy up than risk harming him with weapons.

The Quiver King emerged from the elevator. His bow was out, but not drawn. The pounds-per-pull on his bow had to be pretty high. His stomach wound prevented him from keeping his weapon at the ready. If I had my gun I would’ve had the advantage. Though if I could still fire my gun this would’ve been over much earlier.

I stuck to the shadows, moving as quietly as possible. He also moved cautiously. Every time I prepared to strike he would turn around, forcing me back to the shadows. We were at an impasse yet that was to his advantage. Even if he didn’t take me down the cops were due any moment. I was actually surprised that I couldn’t hear sirens already.

My head started swimming. My vision went blurry for a moment. Before I could stop myself I stumbled forward. The shuffling of my feet caught the Quiver King’s attention. He turned towards me and drew back his bow. He released the arrow while I still wobbled around. As a result he mostly missed. The arrow skimmed past my head, over the clotted cut from the first arrow, causing the wound to start bleeding again.

I closed my eyes tight for a moment. When I opened them again the world was clear. No spots dancing in my vision. My brain didn’t feel like it was packed in cotton.

The Quiver King was in the process of knocking another arrow when I attacked. I swung the hammer and caught him on the knuckle. He dropped his bow to the ground and clutched at his broken hand. I swung the hammer again and broke some fingers on his other hand.

“Now we’re even!” I shouted as I swung again and caught him in the side of the head. He fell to a heap on the floor, “Now I’m winning.”

He convulsed on the floor, drool spilling out of his mouth. All I could think was Oh, fuck, shit, I’m in trouble. Killing a big name hero like the Quiver King could ruin my world.

Okay, okay, it’s cool. Nobody knows you did this. Nobody except the construction workers, but that’s fine. You’ll be killing them soon enough. He wouldn’t have told his super buddies what he was up to since it was pretty obvious he planned on killing me. That’s a big no-no in their community. They don’t let you hang out at their cloud base if you kill people.

His twitching got on my nerves so I knelt down and pulped his head with my hammer. When I stood up the world swam again. That was good. Gave me some cover. Everyone knew I killed primarily with guns. I wouldn’t immediately be under suspicion for killing him. Though things might not go smoothly for Hammertime.

I leaned against a wall until I felt like I could walk okay. The last thing I needed was to pass out next to a superhero I just killed.

When the elevator doors opened at the base of the building I found nearly all the construction workers huddled around waiting to cheer for their conquering hero. It took them a moment to register that not only was I not the Quiver King, but by the amount of blood splattered on my shirt and face that their hero was the one conquered.

Before they realized that they outnumbered me and got the idea to rush me I raised the hammer and growled. They scattered like a group of school girls frightened by a bee.

I still had the presence of mind to keep a low profile, as much as I could. I looped around a few blocks, sticking to alleyways mostly, until I made it back to Dana’s apartment. Down the street I could see police huddled around the bodies of the two people Dana killed. I hoped they would keep their focus on that and not look too closely at the bloody man down the street.

I turned the handle of her door, but it didn’t open. I tried fishing my keys from my pocket, except the layers of duct tape kept my hand from fitting. As painful as it was I knocked on the door.

Finally Dana opened it. She was stunning in a slinky black dress. Had I enough blood in my body to spare I would’ve had an erection.

“Oh, it’s you. Did that jackass do that to you?”

“No. I ran into superhero problems.”

“That sucks. Ready to go?”

“Dana, I need a doctor.”

“Can’t it wait until after dinner? I’m pretty sure I can get us a table even though we missed our reservations.”

“I can’t even hold a fork.”

“…I could feed you. It would be romantic.”

“Just call Doc Lincoln before I die on your porch.”

“You’re such a baby.”

End

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