Vaughn said, “I don’t know. After I gave them a little bit of my grandfather’s stuff, they left me alone for months until you guys fought the Grey Giant. That night they dropped by and let me know that they wanted more.”
“What did you tell them?”
“I told them to go away.” He glanced toward the house next to us. It was a big red Victorian house with a big lawn. “Let’s start running before these people start wondering why we’re in front of their house.”
We started running again, but this time, it was different. Vaughn started a little fast, but I sped up to match him. Then I passed him. When I got a little tired, he passed me.
Within a few blocks, we were running almost all out. Not sprinting all out, but as close to it as we could knowing we still had three miles to run. I don’t know why exactly we did it. It just seemed like the thing to do.
We may have been pissed off at each other. I know I wasn’t happy with the idea of bringing him into the League, and I was beginning to guess that he was sensitive about discussing last year. So rather than talk about it, we attempted to run each other into the ground.
I’m not claiming it’s one of the most mature things I’ve ever done.
We were running through some of the less desirable older neighborhoods, places where the roads had big potholes from last winter. Paint flaked off the wooden siding of most houses and too many windows had cracks.
Vaughn shot away from me, running around a car at a four way stop and passing in front of a black Cadillac Escalade. It had been rolling forward but stopped as he crossed the street.
Lungs and legs burning, I followed him, glancing at the Escalade as I did. Wondering where I had seen it before, I realized that I’d seen it parked in front of the school while we were talking.
I put on a burst of speed and tried to catch Vaughn, managing to get close halfway down the block.
“Vaughn,” I said, barely able to talk, “behind.”
We both turned around in time to see the Escalade disappear behind a house. It had followed the cross street without turning in our direction.
“What?” He tried to breathe in the middle of it, turning the word into three syllables.
“Car,” I said, “saw it at school.”
We slowed to a walk, both of us breathing hard. We were next to each other in the street. Cars seemed to be parked on both sides almost all the way down the block, leaving only a lane and three-quarters for cars to pass through.
“Sidewalk?” I suggested, and we walked up the nearest driveway.
I turned my head to look behind us again and didn’t see the Escalade. I looked ahead in case it might be coming around the corner. It wasn’t. The only moving vehicle on the road was a yellow sports car. Well, I decided, I might just be paranoid.
The yellow sports car pulled up in the driveway directly in front of us.
Two men stepped out. I pegged them as mid-twenties. One was blond and stocky. The other, the driver, was dark haired and average build. Both wore suit jackets and looked… I don’t know. Well-manicured? They looked clean cut. Like they were the kind of people who paid attention to haircuts, fingernails, and color-coordinated clothes.
I guess that everyone’s supposed to do that, but personally, I figure that everything matches blue jeans.
The blond one said, “Vaughn, how’re you doing?” Meanwhile, the dark haired one stepped around the front of the car. He leaned against it and gave Vaughn a little wave.
Wise people would have turned around and run away by then.
“Hey Stevie,” Vaughn nodded to the blonde guy. “And Dom, great to see you too.”
As far I can tell, that’s Vaughn’s default face to the world. Even when you might be hiding a semi-automatic under your sports jacket, you still get treated as if you’re an old friend coming over to hang out.
Dom gave him a small, quickly disappearing smile.
Stevie said, “I’d like both you guys to step into the car. Friend of ours wants to speak to you.”
Vaughn said, “Sorry. We’re both in the middle of cross country practice. We’ve got to get back, but maybe later, right?”
Dom’s right hand moved toward the inside of his jacket.
Vaughn held out his right hand and the air between them crackled.
I didn’t bother to find out what exactly Vaughn was doing. I stepped forward, punching “Stevie” in the nose. It was a great punch, delivered exactly as my martial arts instructor had taught me. Unfortunately, Stevie didn’t go down. He stood there looking stunned.
My second punch hit him instants later in exactly the same spot, propelled forward by another step to give it just a little added oomph.
He went down, falling backward, his head hitting the car and then the driveway. He didn’t move.
To my right, Vaughn stood over Dom’s unconscious body, his hands still glowing with bluish sparks.
It reminded me ever so slightly of the end of the Return of the Jedi. The bit where the Emperor stands over Luke’s body? Except where the Emperor looked happy, Vaughn looked scared.
Well, we had that in common.
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Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.