written by Thom Garrett
edited by Danna Colman
The two of them sat on the cold concrete floor and leaned into each other, back to back. He liked her with her piercings and tatts, her hair dyed as black as tar, and her naïve kindness. Too bad she’d be dead in a minute or two.
“How you doing?” asked Petey.
“I’d feel a whole lot better if that bullet had hit you like it was supposed to.”
“I’ve been meaning to apologize for that. See, it did hit me, but it bounced off.”
She started to laugh and then coughed. He could see the blood where she spat.
“So, what? You’re bullet proof now? Somehow I didn’t take you for the Superman type.” She fidgeted with the pistol, its cold heft unfamiliar in her hands, like holding a ticking bomb.
“Yeah, I get that a lot. Turns out most of us don’t much like him.”
“Most of who?”
“Oh, you know. Guys like me.”
“The cape would be enough for me to hate him. I mean, who the hell wears a cape?
“I know, right?” Petey twisted around so he could look at her, liking her more and more.
“And what’s with all the spandex?” she said, looking over her shoulder to try to see his face in the shadows. “I mean, I like a little beefcake as much as the next girl, but those things are so tight I can see his religion!”
Petey giggled in spite of the danger. “Exactly! Why can’t they just dress in regular clothes?”
“Right! And while we’re on the subject, why do enchanted things always look like they came from the Middle Ages? Why can’t a pair of Nikes be magic?”
“Or maybe even a ratty old sweatshirt!”
They fell silent. He studied her wiry frame and the side of her face. She seemed unfazed by the danger, and even by her impending death.
She looked back again and met his gaze with a twisted smile. “What?”
“What’s your name?”
“Raven. People call me Raven.”
He frowned. “That’s a little dark, don’t you think? What’s your real name?”
She rolled her eyes and hesitated. She looked away and muttered, “Tiffany.”
With a grin, he said, “Raven it is, then.”
“Okay, so what’s yours, smartass?”
“Oh, I’m Petey.”
“Seriously? You might want to work on that.” But she spun around to sit shoulder to shoulder and thigh to thigh, leaning against him. Now he could see the blood soaking the front of her black T-shirt. She wouldn’t last long.
“Listen, Raven, I’m really sorry you got mixed up in this. I’m going to try to make it right.”
“Whatever. I’ve had worse first dates.”
“Worse than being shot?”
She gave him a world-weary look. “There are a lot of losers on Tinder.”
Then she closed her eyes. “I’m cold,” she said. The gun slipped from her fingers to the floor.
Just then a man burst through the door. He raised a pistol and began firing. Petey pulled up the hood of his sweatshirt and leaped to his feet, rushing straight at the gunman. The full clip of bullets hit him in the chest and ricocheted like he was made of steel. Petey easily subdued his attacker, rendering him unconscious, and then he returned to his spot on the floor next to Raven. She hadn’t even noticed that he had left her side.
Petey wrapped an arm around Raven’s shoulder. “I’m so cold,” she said without opening her eyes.
“Raven,” he said, “if you were with someone who was really cold, and you only had one sweatshirt, what would you do?”
Her eyes remained shut, but she smiled just a little. “I’d give her my sweatshirt, you selfish jerk.”
“And if you could save someone’s life, but you would have to die to do it, then what would you do?”
“Would I have to wear a cape?”
“Okay, then. I’d… I’d… Crap, I’m so cold.”
Raven lost consciousness, bleeding out on the cold, hard floor. Her pulse was barely perceptible, her heart rate slower and slower.
Petey sighed and sat motionless for a while, lost in thought. Then he shook himself, having made a decision. He shrugged out of his faded black hoodie and wrestled her limp body into it, pulling the hood up to cover her head.
Just then, another door seemed to explode open. A man stood there, gun raised, ready to shoot.
“No!” shouted Petey. “It’s too soon!”
The man shot and the bullet entered Petey’s shoulder, knocking him backwards onto the floor. Blinded by the pain, he felt something cold and hard under his fingers. It was the pistol Raven had dropped. He raised it and fired blindly towards the door, forcing the man to back away. Petey scrambled to Raven’s side and raised her to a sitting position.
“Come on,” he said. “Come on! The hoodie can do it, but you have to help. Breathe! Wake up! Stand up and fight!”
Another shot. Petey felt the shock of pain as the bullet hit his back. It took all his strength, but he stood and turned. Another shot hit his stomach and he doubled over, almost dropping to the floor, but then he straightened, resisting the pain and accepting what he had to do. He lowered his head and charged his assailant. One, and then another bullet slammed into him. He dropped face down on the floor. The man held the barrel of his gun an inch from Petey’s head.
He jerked his head up, raising the gun. It was that woman, the one who should already be dead. He pulled the trigger.
Raven felt the impact of the bullet but saw the sparks as it ricocheted off her chest. It didn’t even hurt. In fact, nothing hurt. She reached a hand inside her shirt to feel for the wound that should have killed her, but it was gone, completely healed, and she felt as strong and unstoppable as an angry bear. She walked forward, unhurried as the man fired round after round at her body. When she reached him, she easily took his gun.
“Who the hell are you?” he said.
“My friends call me Raven, but you,” she said, “you can call me Miss Tiffany.”
She threw him into a wall and he slumped to the floor, unconscious.
Raven rushed to Petey’s limp body and rolled him over, holding his head in her lap. His eyes were open, but he was fading.
She looked at his bloody body, starting to panic. “It’s the hoodie, isn’t it? Here, put it back on!” She started to pull it up, but he stopped her.
“No. Too late. Too much damage.” He breathed shallow breaths, and a weak cough brought blood to his lips. His eyes refocused and he said, “It looks good on you.”
“I don’t want it! Take it back!”
“No. It’s your turn now.” His voice was barely a whisper. “Best to stay hidden. No press; no Facebook. And promise me…”
“You know I hate you for this, but okay. What else?”
His voice was gone; his eyes were closed. He drew his last breath, and as he exhaled, he mouthed the words, “No cloak.”
Petey was done.