Instinctively, I leaped up and dropped down behind the recliner as three young men dressed like thugs and each carrying two guns apiece barged into my apartment. My attempt to duck and cover was mostly for naught, though. The living room was small, and there wasn’t much space between the recliner and the wall. I also didn’t think the old chair would block a shotgun or a machine gun.
So instead of trying to use it like armor, I tensed the muscles in my body and hurled the chair at the door. With the legs still extended and the back tilting from the force, I was able to slam it into all three of them at once.
The lead man who wielded the shotgun took the main body of the chair head on. He was knocked back out the door, where he bounced off the rail and started falling head over heels down the steps. The man to his left, my right, took the back of the chair. The padding blunted most of the hit, but it was enough to knock him backward, which made him crack his head against the doorframe and drop his two pistols. The third man, who caught the legs, managed to cross his arms and brace against the hit. The angle of the chair meant he got hit last, and he’d already had a machine pistol and a revolver raised up to point at me.
This third guy managed to hang onto his weapons, but the blow still knocked up him against the wall. At that moment, I almost lashed out with my power. I could feel my skin ripple and surge, the serrated teeth starting to poke out from beneath. But I stopped myself. I forced my power down to make my body stay normal. A little burst of muscle could be excused; this form did look pretty jacked. I could still deny that I had done anything strange.
My hesitation cost me, though, as it gave the third man time to right himself and train his guns on me. I don’t know why I gave him the chance. Of course they knew what I was already. Why else would they even be here?
That said, restraint was probably prudent anyway at this junction. It’s not like I wanted to start a super fight inside my apartment. I raised my hands in surrender and waited for the inevitable hail of bullets. I could heal from it. Let them have their moment. I’d have to uproot my life and move again, but they could be satisfied thinking I was dead, and that would be one less person I’d have to wonder about breaking into my home again.
The guy didn’t fire, though. He just stared me down and kept the guns pointed. He wasn’t even aiming, though. I had to wonder how much actual practice he had with firearms if he thought his skinny arms could handle either gun one-handed.
The other guy, clutching his head from hitting the door frame, managed to kick the recliner back a couple feet. He retrieved his pistols and pointed them at me as well. He turned his head a bit and yelled, “Yo Mark! You a’ight man?”
There was a string of curses, followed by another round of thudding as the shotgun wielder stomped up the stairs. He was bleeding from a cut on his head, and one eye was swelling already. His glared daggers at me and grit his teeth, almost hissing as he pumped the shotgun and raised it at me.
“NO!” yelled his other companion, using his revolver hand to knock the shotgun’s barrel down. “We need him!”
“I don’t fuckin’ care!” said Mark. Before either of his buddies could stop him, he adjusted his aim lower and fired.
I cried out as the pellets chewed through my legs. I’d already dulled my nerves and reinforced my muscles and bones, but at point-blank it still fucking hurt. The force of the blow knocked my legs out from under me, causing me to face plant into the arm of the knocked over recliner. I cursed loudly.
“Mark, you stupid fuck!” said dual-pistol guy. “Chive is gunna slit your damn throat!”
“Nah, man, nah,” said Mark. “This guy could heal those fucks? He can heal from that.” He hocked a loogie on me. “Throw me down some fuckin’ stairs again, you dicksuckin’ cracker pussy.”
I’d already mended my wounds by that point, but blood still soaked my rug and my now shredded shorts. I pushed myself up to my feet and let out a breath. “Alright,” I said, forcing myself to be calm by gritting teeth in places teeth weren’t supposed to be. “You got me. Now, what is this about?”
“You comin’ with us,” said dual-pistols. “Chive wanna see ya.”
“Who the hell is Chee-vay?”
The other two practically gawked. “Dude, you live under a rock here? Fuck’s sake, man. Chive. The Boss. The
“I’m sorry. I’m not familiar. People don’t talk to me much around here.”
“No doubt,” said machine-pistol/revolver guy. “Chive, he the Big Man around here. He don’ like upstart niggas fuckin’ wit’ his turf. And he when he send a message, he don’ like fuckin’ white trash overwritin’ it, ya dig?”
“Ah.” So that drive-by had been a gang war thing or something. I wanted to say I wouldn’t have pegged Jamal for the type, but then, I didn’t actually know him at all. Or any of his group, for that matter. I guess I just assumed they were too young, but Jamal was what, 16 or so? Machine-pistol/revolver guy looked younger than that, and the two others barely older. I hadn’t actually grown up in a shithole like these kids, so I didn’t know how it worked. I was just a guest in their world here.
“So how does Chive wish to resolve this?”
“He’ll tell you himself,” said Mark. “Come on.”
I debated for a moment. I could stop them, easily. Kill them, if I was that sort. But I wasn’t. And I knew enough about gangs to know how this worked. You hit them, they hit back. You hit back harder, they hit back even harder. If I had a whole gang on my ass, I could count on my apartment getting riddled with bullets or set on fire, especially if my neighbor was an enemy of theirs as well. Everyone in this apartment would be dead, injured, or out of a home. If I fought now, things would escalate too far. Even if I ran away, who knows what they’d do to the neighborhood just to vent their anger.
I wasn’t about to become some thug-prince’s lackey. But if I settled a score, maybe they would back off. It’s not like they could really hurt me for good, and maybe if I flexed a bit of power, they’d see it was better to come to a mutual agreement and call a truce.
Christ. It was easier with supervillains. You just hit them until they stopped moving, and then the police or the military dealt with the aftermath.
I slowly nodded at Mark and kept my hands up. I let them escort me to a rusty red hatchback, still idling out on the street. The three guys leading me to it were black, but the girl in the driver’s seat was a curvy white chick with the shittiest looking attempt at dreadlocks I’d ever seen.
“Damn, Mar’, he don’ look li’e shit.” The girl had a thicker hood accent than the guys. She sniffled and rubbed her nose. Her eyes were a little bloodshot. I could see why she kept such company. She was probably getting a discount hit of whatever the kids were into these days for being the driver. If she kept it up, she wasn’t going to be keeping those curves.
“Shut the fuck up,” Mark said. “He’s a super.”
The girl turned and gawked at me as I was roughly pushed to sit in the back, flanked by the other two guys. “Nah shit,” she half-slurred. “Uh, yo’ sho’ ‘bout dis?”
I was starting to think she was laying the accent on kind of thick. She had a point, though. Either these guys didn’t know how dangerous it was to box someone like me in like this, or they were more scared of their boss than they were of me. I guess if they thought all I could do was heal, maybe I didn’t seem so threatening.
“Just drive, ya dumb bitch,” Mark growled. He gave me a wary glance, then flicked his gaze to his two cronies. They each put the muzzle of a gun to either side of my chest and held them there.
“You don’t need to do that,” I said.
“You do need to keep yo’ mouth shut,” said the guy with two pistols.
I almost wanted to ask their names, but I thought better of testing them. It’s not like I’d need to remember after today, assuming I could get things to go as smoothly as possible.
The ride was quick, just a few blocks south, a right, another block, a left, and then half a mile past the ghetto into an even worse ghetto. Old brick apartments, half of them still with burn marks from an old fire that swept through the town a few decades ago. Almost every window was boarded up, the doors broken or rotted off hinges. The whole area had been condemned, but the city didn’t have the budget to deal with it for now, or just hadn’t been able to decide what to turn it into, and didn’t want to waste the money clearing it until they had.
We pulled up to a large, three story building, probably an old 6-plex. At least this one had a door, and a few windows were open on the ground floor. Still busted out, but not boarded up, if you didn’t count the bars covering them.
The girl screeched to a halt, jostling us in our seats. “Careful!” yelled Mark, punching the girl on the arm.
She hissed and clutched herself. “AAAAH! Fuck! You fuckin’ cocksucker!” She turned to me. “You see, that, huh? You see this shit?”
I’m not sure what she expected of me. Maybe she thought that because I was a super, or just because I was a man, I’d try to step in. Unfortunately for her, I had zero sympathy. I don’t know what her life’s sob story was, but the fact is, she was helping these jackasses kidnap me. They could beat her ass black and blue for all I cared.
The guys got out and roughly dragged me out with them, despite me cooperating with them. Maybe they felt the need to show off in front of their gang. Maybe they just wanted to assure themselves they were in control. I just went with it.
We stepped up to the door. Someone inside was keeping watch through the windows, and let out a call. The doors swung open before Mark could knock, and his two cronies shoved me forward, guns pointed at my back.
We went through the entrance hall, turning left into the first room, which had probably once been the living room for a nice apartment. It was now a pigsty of old tables, chairs, and couple couches, all probably rescued from the curbs of other apartments on trash day. Cans and bottles of beer were scattered about, fast food wrappers and Chinese take out boxes decorated the table tops, lightly sprinkled with cigarette butts and blunt stubs. A couple crack pipes were among the mess as well. Over on the couch, two guys were using needles. The girl who drove us over immediately started pestering them for a hit.
Mark led me through the mess, past an equally trashed kitchen area, to a room that was probably intended as an inner bedroom, but which had been converted to something like an office.
There, behind an oak table, was a skinny middle-aged black man in a cruddy grey suit, wearing rounded shades and a dangerous, thin-lipped smile. There were two wooden chairs in front of the desk. In one of them sat Jamal. Another thug had a gun pointed at him. Mark’s cronies shoved me into the other seat.
The older man, Chive I assumed, gave me a humorless grin. “So glad you could join us at last. You’re little stunt caused us some trouble, but you’re going to fix it for us. I know you’re quite good at fixing things, aren’t you, Doctress?”