Rolling over in bed, Drew Stacy flails his arm around, trying to wrap himself around the beautiful blonde who should be sleeping next to him. The sun’s still rising and while he’s got a plane to catch, there’s still time for an early morning cuddle and maybe a little more if Gillian’s in the mood. Half asleep, he takes longer than he’s proud of to realize all he’s managed to wrap himself around is a pillow. He has the bed to himself.
Sitting up and scanning the room, a hint of light peeks through the window of his studio apartment. It’s enough to show that there’s nobody in the room with him and his bathroom’s empty. He’s alone.
His legs tingle as he forces himself to his feet. It’s only been five hours since he insisted he had to go to sleep and Gillian stuck her tongue out at him before climbing into bed to burrow into his arms. He knew she didn’t really want to go to bed yet but he still expected to see her this morning. Soon though he finds a note on the small table in front of his TV.
Sorry, got bored and thought I heard something down the street. Have to get to work early anyway but give me a call before you get on your flight if you can. See you when you get back. XOXO
So much for getting in some morning fun. Instead he drags himself into the kitchen to start a pot of coffee. When he opens the fridge though he realizes the only cream he has is a week past the expiration date and has a funky smell that isn’t appetizing. His stomach threatens to betray him in protest but he tosses the jug into the trash and tells his stomach to toughen up. The scent of coffee brewing washes his nausea away but it’s no good. He can’t drink black coffee. Another stop to make. A quick shower reminds him to water his plants before he leaves. A final rundown of the checklist he made a few nights ago confirms he has everything he needs. Time to go.
Grabbing his suitcase Drew hurries out of his apartment and rushes down the street to a coffee shop he knows will be open early. The sun’s still rising but there’s already a line out the door.
Drew sends a text to Gillian to confirm she didn’t have any issues last night. He’s getting used to waking up alone though he still gets nervous every time. If only she’d remember to send the morning text messages he’s requested. Some sign that she’s okay.
When he’s only a few people from the front of the line his phone starts buzzing. He half expects a message from Gillian apologizing for forgetting to text again but the buzzing goes on too long. Someone’s actually calling him. He doesn’t know the number. A lot of people wouldn’t answer an unknown call but most people don’t count on tips to do their job so he presses the phone to his ear. “Hello?”
The voice of Angela Peters, sounding far more upbeat than anyone has a right to sound this early, does more to wake him than coffee ever could. “You sound half asleep still. You are getting on a plane in two hours, aren’t you? If we have to reschedule the president will not be happy.”
“On my way to the airport, just stopping off for a cup of coffee. Not used to being up this early. Not sure why you needed me there tonight.”
“Because you insisted on being there for the photo shoot that’s running with the interview. I’m not sure why. You aren’t a photographer last I checked. Listen, there’s a reason I called. The president was wondering if you’d bring him a few of his favorite cannoli from a place over on Ninth Street. I can text you the address if that’s alright.”
Looking at his watch, Drew’s sure he has time to stop by a shop and pick something up. He’s just not sure why he’d want to. He’s never bought anything for someone he’s interviewing except maybe a coffee. This really isn’t that different, though he’d have to get them on an airplane and that gets more complicated. “Not to make this weird, but doesn’t he know anyone else in the city who could bring him some snacks?”
Angela’s voice lowers. “He knows plenty of people. None of them are coming to Washington today. He wants a dozen of them for his daughter’s birthday tomorrow. If a simple request is that much trouble though you can forget I asked.”
Reaching the front of the line, Drew manages to pantomime that he wants a caramel macchiatto with extra espresso. The girl behind the counter laughs at his arm working back and forth while pointing at the espresso but she gets his order right and he nods when she reads it back to him. “No, I guess it’s no big deal. I can pick up a dozen. I’m pushing things a little to get to the airport but I’ll manage. Text me the address. Can you at least call ahead though so they’re ready?”
“Already done. They’re waiting for you. Make sure you don’t miss the plane.”
With his coffee in hand Drew juggles his suitcase, his phone, and the drink while pushing through the front door. The first thing he notices as he steps out is an alarm going off in the distance, not close but probably only a few streets over. As he steps onto the sidewalk something metallic flashes inches in front of his face. He jumps back, spilling his coffee all over himself and his phone. The heat of the coffee hitting his hand causes him to drop the phone which slides across the pavement, dropping over the curb and ending up under a parked car. The metallic flash passes his eyes again, now returning to where it came.
Turning to his left, Drew has to blink a few times to be sure of what he’s seeing. A thick man who has to be nearly seven feet tall is pushing forward down the sidewalk causing crowds to separate and scream as he comes closer. He has a huge bushy beard that reaches the middle of his chest. Not that Drew can see his chest. The only parts of the man he can see are his face and his hands. The rest of him’s covered by a giant brown bear costume which seems to match the color of his beard. The costume even has a head, though his face pokes out the mouth. Drew finds himself unsure which set of eyes to look at.
The man’s only a few arm lengths from him and he figures out quickly what the flashes of metal were. The man’s exposed hands each have a yo yo attached to them but these aren’t normal yo yos. Each has three claw shaped spikes pointing out of them. The man whips them around indiscriminately, working to keep anyone from getting close enough to grab the many sparkling diamond necklaces which he’s slipped around each of his arms. There have to be dozens of them, each catching the light from the still rising sun and making the man a sort of kaleidoscope.
Dropping what remains of his coffee, Drew feels the warmth surround his feet as he tries to dive out of the way toward his phone. The man in the bear suit’s too fast though. Moving quicker than expected from someone his size the man closes the distance to Drew and hip checks him aside. He loses his suitcase and goes spilling into the street.
Shaking his head and trying to get his bearings Drew realizes his head’s only a few inches from where cars are still speeding past. He jerks himself back and pulls himself between a pair of parked vehicles. Reaching underneath them, he retrieves his phone and is glad to see that despite some superficial scratches it’s still working. Apparently this model’s not just waterproof but coffee-proof as well. As he tests the device one thought keeps returning to his mind. God, let Gillian have already gone home for the night.
“Bearing, stop now and we can make this easy.” Drew turns his head, looking for the source of the voice. His eyes stop on a man standing on the sidewalk at the next cross street. An older looking black man with graying hair and a pair of glasses stands there. Wearing a pair of khaki pants and a dress shirt, he looks like someone the giant man will run over. The only thing which stands out about him is that he’s got a bright yellow bowling ball in his arms.
Bearing stops and spreads his arms wide, screaming into the air. “Get out of my way Spare Warfare. Otherwise I’ll seven ten you.” As he issues his threat he flicks one of the yo-yos at the man who dives to his left, landing on the roof of a car. Spare Warfare starts rotating his arm with the bowling ball, whipping it faster than the weight would seem to allow. The man chucks the ball strait at Bearing. The ball hits him in the gut and causes him to drop to one knee. After his breath returns he growls. “That was a mistake.”
Bearing charges the car but Spare Warfare leaps away as the huge man crashes through the passenger door. Rolling across the ground, he runs for the bowling ball and grabs it before Bearing can turn. He starts swinging his arm again and again lets loose, hitting the man right in the knee. Another howl ensues.
A crowd starts to gather, though most keep their distance, not wanting to get caught in the fight. Drew starts recording on his scratched up phone, his journalistic instincts overruling his fear. Can he play this for the president? What would he have have to say about a fight like this happening on the streets of a major American city? It’s not like this sort of vigilante action didn’t happen before but now it’s everywhere.
Rolling forward to retrieve his ball, Spare Warfare tries to stand. Bearing whips his yo yos forward and catches him on the hand, causing the ball to drop on his foot and roll away. Blood spurts and Spare Warfare has to press the wound to his shirt, biting his lip to suppress a scream.
“Not so tough now amateur. You’re going to stop following me around now. Why do you care if I rob some stores? They have insurance, ain’t gonna hurt them none. You talk about keeping people safe. This fight makes people less safe. Now I have to rumble with you with people all around. Lay off.”
Puffing his chest out, Spare Warfare stands strong. “You don’t get it, do you? Having maniacs in the streets robbing us left and right destroys people’s trust in our society. There has to be order or everything breaks down and then safety is gone. Standing against someone like you is everything and I will fight you no matter what it takes.”
Spare Warfare eyes his ball which has stopped at Bearing’s feet. Bearing notices and shakes his head. “Don’t even think about it. This is over. Go home old man.”
Spare Warfare doesn’t listen. Rushing toward the ball for a moment Drew thinks he’s going to dive at the ball. Bearing extends his arms and starts whipping the yo-yos around. “You asked for this.” He gets the yo-yos going and swings. The spinning blades look like they’re headed for Spare Warfare’s shoulder but at the last moment he ducks into a somersault and the cable catches around his neck. The blades spin around a few times, the cable tightening around the neck until the spiked yo-yo itself sticks right into the middle of his throat. Drew drops his phone, the screen cracking as it hits the ground.
Collapsing to the pavement, Spare Warfare starts clutching at his throat. Bearing’s eyes go wide and he starts trying to pull the yo-yo free. Because of how tightly the cable wrapped around Spare Warfare’s neck though he can’t get it loose. “I didn’t mean to do that. I swear to god old man, I was going for your shoulder. Why’d you roll like that? That was so freaking stupid. What’s wrong with you?” The yo-yo finally comes loose from the neck and blood starts spraying out. Bearing still can’t get the string free. “Seriously, do you have a fucking death wish? I was just trying to get your shoulder. What’s wrong with you?”
Fighting with the yo-yo isn’t working so Bearing pulls the string from his hand and throws it to the ground. “I’m sorry.” He looks around, whipping his head all over the place, his eyes going wider as he realizes how big the crowd’s gotten. “You all saw him roll. I wasn’t trying to do that.” When the crowd doesn’t respond he roars again. “I still have one of these things if you want to get in my way.” He rushes forward, thrashing his arms out. The crowd splits to let him pass. The last Drew sees of him he’s rushing around a corner, using his giant furry arm to cover his face.
Sirens grow loud and ambulances are close. Everybody works to stay clear of Spare Warfare, still kicking and clutching at his throat on the sidewalk. With nobody else stepping forward Drew rushes toward him and picks his suitcase off the sidewalk as he moves. When he gets there he grabs a shirt out, pressing a white tank top against Spare Warfare’s throat. He uses his free hand to grab the man’s hand. “Look at me man.” They lock eyes and Spare Warfare’s fear is palpable. “I’m here. Do you understand? You’re going to be alright.” Spare Warfare nods and while he might be imagining it, Drew thinks the sees a little of the fear slip away. “Just hold on for me.”
Three hours later Drew sits in an airport terminal, having changed his clothes as his old set were covered in blood. His rescheduled flight leaves in half an hour. Angela started to object when he said he’d be late but when he pointed out how the Vigilantes Making Us Safe Act is what’s making him late the objections weakened. They were gone when he agreed to still pick up the cannoli. He’ll miss the photo shoot tonight but the interview won’t have to be rescheduled.
Looking down at his cracked phone he knows he needs to hear her voice. He dials Gillian’s number, not caring that she’s probably sleeping. She answers the phone on the fifth ring sounding groggy. “Hey. Glad you called before leaving.” There’s a long pause as she tries to wake up. “Aren’t you supposed to already be in the air?”
Holding his phone to his ear has his hand close enough to his nose that he can still smell Spare Warfare’s blood. He scrubbed and scrubbed but that smell won’t go away. “Something came up on the way to the airport. Vigilante fight. Had to get a rescheduled flight. Any issues last night?”
“Not really. Stopped a mugging. Chased a guy following some girl off. Slow.”
“You didn’t text this morning. I was worried.”
She yawns. “Sorry, was exhausted when I got back here. Still exhausted honestly. I’m glad you’re okay though.”
Drew takes a deep breath, not sure what else needs to be said. He needed to hear her voice. “Don’t go out anymore.” He’s surprised by his own words as he says them. Being a vigilante matters a lot to her and until now he never even considered asking her to stop but what happened to Spare Warfare could have just as easily happened to her. “Seriously, let the police handle this stuff.”
“It’s not that simple. People count on me. I want to know all about what happened but I’m too tired right now. Why don’t you call me tonight and we’ll talk more?”
“This is really simple. Just don’t go out anymore. Nobody’s making you.”
“We’ll talk later Drew.”
“I want to hear you say it.”
Gillian goes quiet. After listening to each other breathe for a minute Drew realizes that might have gone too far. Before he can apologize she says, “That’s up to me. We’ll talk about this later. Goodbye Drew.” She hands up the phone before he can respond. He quickly calls her back but his call goes straight to voicemail without a ring. He tries her two more times with the same results. A flight attendant calls for first class passengers to board and he knows he has to go. Walking up to board the plane, he tries to sort out what in the hell he’s going to say to Richard Hughes.