When he entered the store, however, the scene was entirely different from what he had pictured in his mind.
Joaquin sat on the floor, hands on the back of his head, with his legs prostrate, Jabbar Junior was holding the phone and hiding behind the counter, and Mr. Jabbar was holding a shotgun, pointed at Joaquin’s face. Massey’s eyes went from face to face, trying to determine who was the most pissed.
Clearly it was Joaquin who was screaming about his impervious skin and how Jabbar could shoot him ten times over, but he’d still be fine because he was a fucking superhero.
Jabbar, on the other hand, screamed, mixing English and Arabic about how Joaquin was nothing but a lousy thug and how come Frank had decided it would be a good idea to send a thief to work at his family store.
Frank stuck his pinky fingers in his mouth and whistled until his lungs hurt. The pair stopped bickering, and Jabbar Junior dropped down unconscious behind the counter.
“What the fuck is going on here?”
“He tried to rob me!” Mr. Jabbar yelled.
“Fuck you bitch, you denied me mah job, ’cause I look like a thug!” Joaquin retorted from the floor.
“I said you are a thug! A thug I am about to shoot if he doesn’t pay for the broken bottle!”
“Fuck you! You said I was a thug. And you broke that bottle yourself, you pay for it, you pussy!”
Jabbar shoved the shotgun closer to Joaquin’s face.
“I don’t like lying little shit thugs like you!”
“Fuck you more!”
Frank gestured for Jabbar to put away the shotgun. He pointed toward his badge and the storeowner complied.
“Get up Joaquin.”
The boy scrambled to his feet. His shirt was a mess; his suit jacket sleeve was torn and hanging loose.
“You control this kid Frank. I don’t want him near my store again, or I shoot him.”
Massey sighed. “Hussein, don’t be like that eh? How long have we known each other? Ten, twelve years?”
Jabbar nodded his head in agreement. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t want you bringing useless gangsters to me. I appreciate your help but you have to respect me on this. I don’t do such favors.”
Mr. Jabbar returned the shotgun to its place behind the counter, went to pick up a broom and sweep the shattered glass and whiskey off the white floor.
“I won’t press charges,” he declared, his back to Frank.
Frank nodded and gestured to Joaquin to leave.
“Thank you,” he called out as they left the store.
* * *
Anne grasped the bar across the door and looked over her shoulder. Major Globe stood in the hallway; his face pinched like someone had stolen his favorite toy. His hand rested on Bree’s shoulder, and when the little girl looked up at him, his face forced a toothy grin.
Bree smiled and waved. It looked to Anne like she wanted to rush forward and hug Anne goodbye, but the ever-present hand on her small shoulder kept her rooted to the spot. Her pink pajamas even had bunny ears on her slippers. Anne repressed a shudder when she thought of how innocent Bree looked in her nightclothes.
But, Anne thought, she is no innocent little girl. She couldn’t think of any logical argument Bree might have used to convince Globe to let Anne leave. Most likely, Bree just used her powers to compel Globe to comply.
It was sad really. Under Anne’s tutelage, Bree was progressing. She had started talking and had agreed to let her parents return to their lives. After she did something to their minds so they wouldn’t come looking for her.
Everything was starting to feel better, Anne thought as she pressed down on the bar to open the door, then that day at the cabin in the woods.
A shudder ran down her spine, and Anne walked out the door for the first time in a month. She had no allies, but if she had learned anything in the last eight hundred years, it was that she was a force to be reckoned with.
* * *
Joaquin climbed inside the police car and slammed the door shut. Frank kneeled by his window. Joaquin rolled his eyes and fumbled with the button to roll down the window. When nothing happened, he looked at Massey. Massey held up his remote and pressed a button. Joaquin scowled and rolled down the window. He looked into Massey’s eyes expectantly.
“If it would’ve been anyone else they would have pressed charges, and you’d be on your way to jail right now. I promised to keep you safe, but you gotta put in the effort too, Joaquin. I can’t pull you out of shit like this all the time. Last week you trashed a car’s front hood. This week you nearly got yourself blasted with double-ought.”
The boy threw his hands up. “I did what you told me to do! But he knew man, the moment I walked in he was aware of what I was.”
“And what’s that?”
“Are you, though?” Massey paused for effect. “I thought you were a hero.”
“Heroes do shit, man, they don’t lay about the place and look for shit jobs.”
Massey stood up straight and walked around the car to the driver’s side. He reached in through the now-open window, picked up a folder from the backseat and tossed it to Joaquin.
“Just promise me no more shit like this today.”
Joaquin returned a scowl that could only mean something like Yeah? Fuck you, and that was enough confirmation for Massey.
Joaquin’s eyes fell on the file. “What’s in the folder?”
“It could be nothing,” Massey replied as he started the car. “It could be an ally.” He shoved the shifter on the column into drive. “Let’s go find out.”
Next: Cast Die