Because I love you thiiiiiiiis much, it’s the sixth part of “Interviewing Leather.” We’re actually moving into the first extensively changed/written bits since I started posting this as a serial — since as you’ll recall, the story was unfinished to begin with — and I hope you enjoy the result. Things are also a bit more active in this week’s entry. But then, that had to happen sooner or later, right?
It is worth noting the language is a little bit rougher in this entry.
The bagmen were the ones to grab me, one to an arm. I had been trying to retreat into Leather’s private bath. They hauled me back, my arms straining my shoulders, and swung me around to face Marco. Marco didn’t waste time. He slammed his fist into my stomach, turning his body as he did it, giving his punch momentum.
It was like a bomb went off in my abdomen. This is a pain like I’d never felt. I was hunched in, and I’d have curled up into a ball if the bagmen weren’t still holding my arms. As it was, I was exposed as he backhanded me across the face. I swear he loosened a tooth and blood went flying. Lip, nose, I don’t know from where.
“You set us up, motherfucker,” he snarled, hitting me again. “How’d you do it? Huh? How’d you do it?”
I croaked something. I can’t even tell you what. But whatever it was, it didn’t satisfy the henchmen. Marco slapped me around some more, then backed up. I shook my head to try and clear it before I realized the bagmen had let me go. The reason why became obvious — Marco hit me with an uppercut that threatened to snap my head clean off and I flew backwards.
It felt like one of those moments in a boxing movie. Felt like I had gone into slow motion, with my heartbeat overdubbed on the soundtrack as I arced back, eyes going blurry as my body went rubbery and I turned in midair, before crashing onto Leather’s bed. I saw a smear where my face had left a bloody mark on her white bedspread, and I remembered thinking Leather would be pissed before the bagmen hauled me back up for another round of dancing with Marco’s fists.
But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself.
When Leather and the boys went out on their jobs, they locked me in Leather’s bedroom. Though this was technically a lair, it didn’t have a dungeon or a prison. Leather had shrugged when I asked her about it. “I’m not a captivity kind of supervillain usually,” she said. “The times I’ve had a chance to strut in the fuck-me outfit, I’d been working with other villains. Contract work, or the occasional big heist. And I can lock my bedroom door from the outside and the only windows are too high and small for you to crawl out, so it makes sense.” She’d grinned. “All the cool personal shit’s in my study anyway. But try to resist going through my underwear drawer.”
I didn’t, for the record. Resist, that is. Hey, it’s boring to sit in a bedroom, even with DirecTV and a Tivo. Actually, her bedroom was pretty homey — television, nice stereo, comfortable bed, nice recliner with reading lamp. Bookshelf full of manga, adventure books, Laurel K. Hamilton butting up against Neil Gaiman — and if you didn’t need that mental image, well, neither did I.
For the record? She had a small selection of black lacy things, a freaking ton of sport lycra and comfortable cotton, and a disturbing lack of leather underwear. If she’s going to name herself Leather, you’d think she’d wear the part.
But my voyeurism during my captivity isn’t why the boys were introducing me to unimaginable pain. No, that stemmed from the evening’s work. It had been a quiet job, not loud like the jewelry store.
The job in question was a Circuit City, hitting not only the sales floor but the warehouse, long after hours. This job wasn’t a smash and grab, with laughter and shootouts with security and kissing cameras. This job was supposed to happen without anyone figuring it out until it was done. Preparation was everything. They had a tractor trailer they’d gotten ahold of, and they were literally going to drive it up to the building’s loading dock, head inside, kill the security system (and take out any guards, in a less lethal fashion) and load the thing from front to back with high end electronics.
“Laptop computers are best,” Leather explained. “They’re compact and expensive, and that’s a good combination. We’ll clean the place out of laptops if we possibly can. After that, we’re looking at other high end electronics. Small and pricey beats large and affordable. We’ll grab some high def televisions, but they’re so friggin’ big it’s almost not worth it.”
“How is this stuff better than jewelry?” I asked. “Given it’s such a pain in the ass?”
“Street value,” she said, stretching. She was wearing a full body suit, today. It was leather, but flat leather, not shiny, and it hugged her. Her hair was tied back, her mask larger to help cut down on the glare from her face. The henches, on the other hand, wore nondescript clothes. Jumpsuits — the kind a janitor would wear. Marco had on a blue work shirt and jeans. They looked for all the world like a warehouse crew, ready to move stock.
“Street value? You’re telling me you can fence a laptop for more than you can a five thousand dollar diamond necklace?”
“That’s exactly what I’m telling you,” Leather said. “We got over nine hundred thousand in jewels and got paid under one hundred thousand for it. If we steal four hundred thousand in electronics tonight, we’re looking at well over a quarter mil from the fence. Electronics are in demand and everyone wants a bargain.”
They didn’t take the Leathermobile. Steve was Steve, though this time he was taking a ten year old Hyundai and a girl — the girl was a “day player” that Steve worked with. Since they were going to be sitting in a parking lot watching an empty warehouse, they needed to look as ‘legitimate’ as possible, which meant a couple of kids making out in a car. Steve told me the girl would angle so he could see the warehouse at all times. I made noises about ‘perks of the job.’
Steve shrugged. “It’s just business,” he said.
Marco smoked his cigar. The bagmen did their comedy routine. Leather bounced around. We prayed, and Leather kissed everyone. Steve drove off to pick up his ‘date.’ The rest took a black SUV to get the tractor-trailer. I was locked in Leather’s bedroom. Another night of Supervillany.
Right up until the door had been kicked open by Marco and the boys. I had been watching Leather’s tivo — she had a thing for game shows, so Let’s Make a Deal had been on — and I nearly lost bowel control when they smashed in. I admit, I ran. Look, these guys are scary and they’re all bigger than I am. So I panicked. They retrieved me, and you came in for the first part of the story.
Marco was pissed. Full on pissed. And he wasn’t afraid to show it. Neither were the others. I got kicked in the sides, punched again, slammed down onto the hardwood floor, picked back up. I’d love to tell you a story of my wisecracking in the face of danger but let’s be honest here. I got my ass kicked and there was no two ways around it.
Somewhere in here, I gathered there had been a problem with the night’s entertainment. A problem named Darkhood.
Apparently, things went off well enough. They got in, the guard went down without too much hassle, the security system was taken out, and they’d set to filling the eighteen wheeler with high end electronics. That was all fine. It was as they locked up that the trouble came, in the form of an arrow with a tear gas grenade attached to it that hit the loading dock. Darkhood had been trying to eliminate the henches as a concern, and it might well have worked only Marco had been clear enough. And he’d grabbed the henches by the collars, gotten them into the cab, and pulled out and away while Leather stayed behind to fight the archer.
That was apparently standard procedure, by the way. I know, I know, you expect the henchmen to run up like ninjas in a bad 80’s movie, going in one at a time so Our Hero can knock them down. In the real deal, that was specialized work. Marco and the boys could fight — oh man, was I learning that — but that wasn’t their job. When the police or a superhero showed up… well, that was what Leather was there for. It was the job of the henches to get away, preferably with the night’s haul.
I knew that from before. I found out Darkhood had hit them during their spirited discussion with me. And it was clear that Leather herself wasn’t with them. Was she in jail? They didn’t know.
All they did know was a superhero had shown during a quiet job, and that made them suspect a rat. And there was a nice juicy rodent locked up in their boss’s bedroom.
“How the Hell would I have told Darkhood anything!?” I asked. Well, screamed. In a begging tone. “I’ve been here!”
“You tell us,” Marco snarled, stomping down on me again. I was being curb stomped, sans the curb. “You tell us! How’d you do it, boy? Was this your plan all the long? You a cop all along boy?”
The big man turned, his bearing shifting.
Leather was standing there. Her suit had tears in it along her abdomen and leg, and another along her arm that was obscured with blood. Her hair was a mess. And she looked pissed. “What the fuck?” she demanded.
“Takin’ care of business,” Marco snapped.
Leather stormed in, shoving Marco back — he half flew back against the wall with her strength. “Remind me,” she demanded, looking first at Marco, then at the other two. “Did I? Or did I not? Tell you idiots that Chapman was cool until I said he wasn’t?”
“Little shit ratted us out,” one of the Bagmen said. He sounded whiny. “That’s how the cowl–”
“Oh. Right. Chapman blew the gig for us. Right.” Leather turned, glaring at the bagman. “Chapman knows our address. If he could call for help, why isn’t this place crawling with cops? Why was he still here to get beat up? And how did he tell Darkhood what Circuit City we’d be at? Especially since we weren’t really at a Circuit City?”
The bagman opened his mouth. He looked at the other bagman. Silently the two let go of me. I sort of slid down to the floor.
Leather looked at one of them, then the other, then looked at Marco, who’d gotten back up. “Well?” she snapped.
Marco shrugged. “We fucked up,” he said.
“When we got back after the transfer, been so long that when you weren’t here, we thought you’d been taken out. It pissed us off. Points for loyalty, right?”
Leather snorted. “Loyalty? Loyalty is doing what I fucking say and using your fucking head! Jesus — look at this!” She stabbed her finger at the bed. “That quilt cover’s silk. You know how to get bloodstains out of silk? You been reading Hints from Fucking Heloise, Marco?”
Marco shrugged again, looking at the floor.
“You got to the transfer station?”
“Yeah,” Marco said.
Leather looked at one of the bagmen. “You made the transfer?”
“Saw the train leave and everything.”
“You got a manifest?”
The bagman nodded, fishing out a sheaf of paper wadded up in his pocket.
Leather took the papers and smoothed them out, looking them over. “For the record,” she said, “while you were doing this, I was fighting a superhero. When he was done, I had to hit the fallback point and get scanned before I came home. You know this. You know that if I’m covering you guys getting the loot to the fence, it means I’ll be a while getting home. What do you do when that happens?”
None of them spoke.
“What do you do when that happens?!”
“Get in, hit police band radio, listen for a paranorm pickup call, get on the security system and wait.”
“You’re God damned right. Instead, you three broke into my bedroom and started kicking the shit out of Chapman. I half-wish we had been blown so you morons would be going to jail when the SWAT team busted in here and found you guys off your fucking posts.”
They had no answer for that. “Scanned?” I croaked.
“What?” Leather snapped her head to look at me. She wasn’t terribly happy to be interrupted.
Well, I was in a shitload of pain and I’ve never been bright, so I didn’t look away. “You said you had to get scanned before you came home.”
Leather rolled her eyes. “Darkhood’s a fucking tech,” she said. “Cowls love to ‘let’ you get away with a homing beacon or transmitter or something shoved up your ass so they can come waltzing in when your guard’s down. I have a thing set up — go there, get wanded like at an airport. Make sure when I come home I’m all by myself. Shut up.”
I took a breath and shut up. My heart was pounding and my skin was flushed — like a runner’s high, with pain.
“Right,” Leather said. “You three are going to go and do a sweep of the grounds. Make sure we’re not blown. One of you or the Steve gets on the rig and keeps in contact. One of you goes out of contact, Steve hits the panic button. Right?”
“You got it,” Marco said, and started to walk out.
“Don’t you fucking move yet. You three broke my orders. And you either broke our hostage or screwed with my guest, and either way I’m pissed.” She looked at each of them in turn. “You understand that under the terms of our agreement I can dock your cut of tonight’s heist up to fifty percent after your Guild fees, right?”
“Fifty–” one of the bagmen started to protest.
Leather’s hand shot out, doubling the bagman over. She smoothly lifted him over her head by his stomach. “Alternately, I can fucking kill you under the disobedience and insubordination clause. I might not even have to fucking pay penalties!”
The bagman sort of whimpered.
Leather dropped him. “As it works out, I am a benevolent boss. And therefore I’m electing to go with a warning instead. That warning includes a financial penalty. Because I’m an exceptionally benevolent boss, that’s going to be twenty-five percent instead of fifty. Understood?”
The two uninjured henchmen mumbled assent.
“Understood?” she repeated to the third, as he stood up. He nodded frantically.
“Good. Now. Since this is a warning — let me give you that official warning, which I’ll be certain to send along to the Guild rep too.” She looked at each of them slowly. “If you ever, ever break my orders again… as God as my witness I will devoted whatever time I have out of jail to making your lives living Hells. I will break your knees. I will beat up your wives and kids. I will make fun of your mothers and kill your fucking pets in front of your eyes. My wrath will be as extensive as it will be disproportionate, because I have no. Fucking. Sense. Of perspective. Do you idiots hear me?”
There was a pause.
“We hear you,” Marco said. “We’re sorry, Leather.”
Leather seemed to relax. “Cool. Get the fuck out of my bedroom.”
They shuffled out. Marco looked over his shoulder, at me this time. “Sorry man,” he said. “Nothing personal.”
I sort of nodded. Jesus, what would you do?
Leather watched them go, breathing a bit hard. And I could swear — right in that moment, having just roughed up guys who looked twice her size? She looked as young as she had to really be.
I started to get up myself, but I didn’t get far. “Don’t move,” Leather snapped. “Thanks to the fucking three stooges, you and me need to have a little talk now.” She walked over to the door. “Fuck. They broke my door.”
“A talk?” I asked, wincing.
“Yeah.” She pushed the door more or less shut, then grabbed a chair, wedging it in place under the doorknob, as a makeshift lock. “A talk.” She turned to face me, leaning forward. “Chapman?”
“There’s no way you could have contacted Darkhood. At least, no way I can think of.” She leaned forward. “I find out there was some way I couldn’t think of, and no matter where you are, you’re going to wish you’d changed your name and face and gone to live in Barbados.”
I breathed in, somewhat labored. The adrenalin was wearing off, so if anything I was beginning to hurt far worse. “Gotcha,” I said.
She nodded. “Cool,” she said. “Now take off your clothes.”