And here we have part ten of “Interviewing Leather.” A moderately well-anticipated part, as near as I can tell, as we’ve got Dynamo Girl and Todd out in the city proper now, out to save the world.
There’s not much more I can say, other than ‘enjoy!’
Ten eighteen. If someone had come up to me say a week ago and asked me what patrolling Meridian City with an Honest to Christ superhero — admittedly one who was actually a supervillain heroing as a lark — would be like, I think the answer ‘boring’ wouldn’t occur to me. After a couple of hours of driving around run down sections of Meridian, though? I was beginning to wish I’d brought along a book.
Mostly we cruised, listening to the police band — Deegee had it built into her stereo — if someone didn’t know the key combinations, you’d never know it was in there. And it tracked calls and plotted them on a GPS screen that seemed to do a Hell of a lot more than be a GPS screen. “Why do you have all this?” I asked, finally.
Deegee grinned. “Well, in my usual line of work it would give us a sense of where the police were, and how we could route around them. I have trip planning software that’ll do that automatically. But really, it’s more useful for what we’re doing.”
“What are we doing?”
“Waiting for something I could be useful in,” she said. “Simple holdups or car thefts or smash and grabs won’t work unless we’re damn close — close enough that I can get there in time to ID the bad guy and take him down. If it’ll take me ten minutes to get to a crime scene without a sense of where the criminals went? I’m a pretty face in a mask with no one to punch.”
“Wow.” I shook my head. “Pretty frustrating, I’d imagine.”
She shrugged. “Depends on how you look at it. Most of these things are minor anyhow. A guy picking a pocket or taking a purse at knifepoint usually won’t actually hurt their victim. If I’m there and I can help I do, but in the end it’s not a first priority. Gang violence, on the other hand? Or real armed robbery? Or worse? That’s where someone like me can really help.”
“But if you saw a simple mugging?”
“I’d stop it. I mean, duh. That’s what the lycra’s all about.”
I looked out the window, down a long street with yellowing streetlamps and neon signs. They had metal cages they pulled down over the shops in this neighborhood, and even the convenience stores looked like an armed encampment. People were leaning against buildings. Talking. Hanging out.
“Are those drug dealers?”
“Then… why aren’t you….”
Deegee rolled her eyes. “Look, I know it’s vigilante justice, but there’s a right way and a wrong way, you know? I can’t just go crack skulls because they might be selling drugs. I have to have more than that. If I don’t, then there’s too much of a chance of screwing up — of hurting someone who doesn’t deserve to be hurt. Nuh-uh. No thank you.”
There was a light tone. “Weather advisory,” the voice of the GPS said. It sounded like every other female electronic voice. I have to assume the phone company pimps that voice out for pennies. I glanced at the screen. It had shifted to a weather map, showing clouds coming in in green and yellow and red, with “THUNDER STORMS” across the bottom and a barometric pressure reading.
“Do we call patrols on account of rain?” I asked.
“Shut up,” Deegee murmured, looking out at the next block. We were stopped at a stop sign, but there was no one behind us, so she was waiting.
“Sorry. Didn’t mean to–”
“Shut up.” I realized then she was focused.
I looked across the street to what she was looking at. This block was nearly empty. There was a tall woman, wearing jeans, a white tee shirt and a flannel shirt over it. She was heavily made up and wearing heels, and half-stomping down the road.
“A prostitute?” I asked.
Deegee snorted. “In blue jeans and flannel? She’s a dancer.”
I looked back at her. “Um… so? That’s not against the law.”
She pointed down the block to our left, not taking her eyes off the girl. I looked where she was pointing. Six guys, wearing colors. Orange and red, whatever that meant. A gang. Or something like one, anyway. They were walking the same way. Two of them were laughing.
“What do you think is going to happen?” I asked, my heart beginning to pound.
“Dancers get most of their money in tips and private dances,” Deegee said. “That’s cash. They trade it in for twenties and fifties at the end of the night.” Deegee was watching intently. “The girl’s angry. Dollars to doughnuts she got stood up for a ride home, so she’s walking. Probably carrying a few hundred untraceable bucks, too. So, either this is coincidence that those guys are following her, or they’re thinking she’s an ATM.”
“What are you going to do?”
Deegee’s fingers tightened on the wheel. “I’m going to wait and see what they do. They haven’t done anything wrong yet.”
I watched the girl walk. Then I looked at the pack following her. And I realized right then the difference between Leather going to work and Dynamo Girl going to work. Leather planned everything in advance. She tried to work everything out — all contingencies. But after the planning, she went out and made things happen. She acted. Dynamo Girl… couldn’t do that. She didn’t know what the bad guys would do. She didn’t know what pack of toughs was just walking home, versus being vicious predators. She couldn’t act. She had to react.
The dancer turned the corner, going down a side street. Deegee bit her lip, looking at the toughs–
The moment the dancer went out of their sight, the six began to run.
“Crap,” Deegee snapped, pulling out. To my amazement, she turned right instead of left — the opposite of where the toughs were.
“Where are you going?” I asked as she opened up the throttle, shooting down the road and skidding through a red light, drifting into a left hand turn with a long skid that terrified me.
“Circling the block,” she snapped. “Got to meet them on the other side! Hang on and let the car stop itself!”
“Let the car what?”
But she was ignoring me. She had hit a switch and the car had gone onto an autopilot, driving down the road while she slid down to the floor, her unnaturally flexible body fitting near the pedals.
“What are you doing?!” I shouted as the car swerved around two other cars and squealed. Above us, the moon roof was sliding open.
“Going to work!” she shouted with an almost savage glee, coming up and tossing the dress into my lap, her mask on her face, her leg warmers pulled up. She hooked her hands onto the moon roof’s edge, swung up, curling her body around and through the hole even as the car skidded to the side once more, facing the other end of the side street we’d seen the dancer and the gang go down.
Ahead of us, I saw the dancer. She’d just been shoved down by one of the gang members. They’d surrounded her. In the sudden flash of the car’s headlights I could see the almost animal like glee on their faces.
The car surged forward twenty feet — halfway to the gang — and then slammed on its own brakes. Dynamo Girl threw herself forward at that exact moment — clearly she had some sort of remote — giving her momentum to let her fly forward, twisting in the air like the best gymnast on the planet and bowling into one of the toughs feet first, her body curled. She kicked off him into a backflip, the combination of her momentum and her leg strength throwing him fifteen feet as she landed in a crouch.
As for me? I did the one thing you’re not supposed to do in a situation like this: I got out of the car.
Look. I’m not a superhero. Leather had made that abundantly clear before we left. But she also compared me to Barbara Babcock, chasing after a scoop for the Crown City Chronicle. She had been trying to smack me with a sense of perspective, but Babcock was famous for more than being Paragon’s girlfriend. She didn’t hang back when a story broke. She ran forward. She got in trouble. She made things happen.
If I’m gonna be Barbara Babcock, then by God I’m gonna be Barbara Babcock. If that meant Dynamo Girl had to rescue me from a mad scientist tying me to a chair, then so be it. Anyway, I couldn’t hear what was going on.
“–the Hell are you?” one of the gangers shouted, swinging a chain that Dynamo Girl easily ducked under. He let the momentum swing the chain around his body for another pass. Dynamo Girl sprang up, leaping four feet over the chain as smoothly as a nine year old jumping double dutch.
“Such language,” she said, as she twisted in the air, swinging one long leg in a circle kick into the chain wielder’s shoulder, knocking him to the side. His foot hit the curb and he went down. “You know, there’s no chance you’re getting my phone number without a little more sophistication in your approach!” She giggled as she landed between two others, ducking below one’s clumsy swing and rolling into a handspring split, her legs driving into both of their stomachs. The pair doubled over and went down even as she rolled to her feet, arms akimbo. “Though you do know how to dance,” she said, laughing again.
“We know a lot more than that, bitch!” a fifth shouted, pulling a gun and firing four shots. The dancer shrieked.
Dynamo Girl twisted and whirled, looking for all the world like a ballerina on a stage instead of on a firing line, the bullets clearly missing her despite the point blank range. She landed in a three point stance and rolled forward, turning her roll into a handspring and hooking her legs around the gunman’s shoulders. She pulled her legs back, pulling the gunman off the ground and rolling him over her body, slamming him face first into the pavement and sliding on top of his twitching body. I swear to God she reclined there, crossing her legs and putting her hands behind her head as she looked at the sixth ganger. “Go ahead,” she said with a grin. “Show me what you’ve got.”
The dancer, in the meantime, had gotten to her feet. She was shaky, backing away — precariously in her heels.
“Over here!” I shouted to her. “Come on!”
Her head snapped around to face me, and she began to run. Unfortunately, the sixth tough had been distracted too, and he whirled to face me, pulling a piece of his own.
Of course, that put him back to Dynamo Girl, who swept his legs before he could get off a shot.
I’m not sure what happened next in the fight, because the dancer had reached me. “Do you have a cell phone?” I shouted.
“A cell phone? Do you have a cell phone!”
“Y-yes! Yes I do!”
“Then call 911 and tell them you were just attacked! And stay over here near the car!” I pulled her closer to the car — which I realized looked more like a sportscar right now than a Tercel. The license plates had been covered over by metal shutters too. Clearly, at some point when we tore ass around the block it had changed out of its secret identity the same way Dynamo Girl had.
Dynamo Girl herself was facing down three of them in the meantime. Somewhere in there the guy with the chain and one of the two she’d taken down with the split-kick had joined up with the sixth guy and all three were trying to take her out. One had a two by four, chain boy had his chain, and the other had a knife.
Dynamo Girl was clearly playing with them — sliding to one side to avoid one attack while almost casually throwing back an arm that knocked a second back. Rolling back and kicking off the wall to let her do a somersault over their heads and land in time to push the third into the other two. She wasn’t in any danger here — this was all about style. About making an impression.
And then it hit me. She was right — this was theater. But I wasn’t the audience and neither was the near-victim who was staying close to me, still half panicked. She was playing to the criminals. It was a street performance of a one woman play called Crime Gets You Beat Down By A Girl In Tights. It wasn’t just about knocking them out and saving the woman and her purse. It was about delivering a message to the criminals that even trying to commit a crime would lead to the worst day of their lives.
It was working. The three toughs were angry and scared and frustrated all at once. They got sloppier — the guy with the two-by-four nailed the knife guy, for example. And Dynamo Girl rubbed their noses in it. Just like a dog who made a mess on the carpet.
But one of the dogs hadn’t been spanked enough. The first guy she hit — the one she’d used the car’s momentum on — had made it back to his feet. He was still clutching the dancer’s purse, and he tore out of there, running back the way they came as fast as he could.
“Dynamo Girl!” I shouted. “That one’s getting away! He’s got her money!” Barbara Babcock couldn’t have done it better, I figure.
Dynamo Girl’s grin slipped. She ducked under the chain guy’s punch — he’d wrapped the chain around his hand now — and came up punching, taking him down surgically. She spun-kick the guy with the board, bouncing him off the alley wall, and she dropped an elbow into the back of the knife guy, who was still on the ground after being clocked by his friend. None of them were going to get up now.
Rain had begun to fall now. Big droplets, with thunder in the background. The last guy was still running — a good hundred feet away. Dynamo Girl dove forward, leaping over garbage cans sitting outside an alley door — the alley was too narrow for a dumpster, I guess. She curled and came up with one of the trash can lids, and she spun around like a top, or an ice skater in full pirouette. She spun so fast she blurred, and then she released with all the form of a discus thrower.
The trash can lid gleamed in the car’s headlights, arcing out, the last ganger almost around the corner….
It crashed into his legs, hitting with enough force to take his legs out from under him. He slammed into the pavement hard, the purse sliding even as a police car pulled up, lights flashing, on the far end of the alleyway.
“Yes!” Dynamo Girl shouted, pumping her arm. “That’s how we do it Dynamo Girl style!”
“I… I don’t believe it,” the dancer said.
“Believe it,” Dynamo Girl laughed, cartwheeling back. “The police can take it from here, miss! You’re–”
A second police car pulled up on the other side. Dynamo Girl blinked. “Todd!” she shouted. “We got to book!” She started running for me, the rain coming a little faster now.
I turned for the car, in time to see it settle back into a Toyota, locked tight, and shift over to the side — a nice illegal park job. I blinked, figuring we were going in it, only to have Dynamo Girl grab me, slinging me up and over her shoulder as she leapt and grabbed the ladder of an overhanging fire escape.
“What are — what are you doing?” I shouted.
“Vigilante!” she shouted back, and I realized what she meant. Some heroes have sanction — they work with the police, they follow procedures, they file reports. Freelancers were vigilantes. Depending on the city, the cops might turn a blind eye to them, but technically they were breaking the law. Dynamo Girl couldn’t get the car past the blocked alley, so she had disguised it and grabbed me. And now she was swinging up, grabbing a bar on one fire escape landing and swinging up to the next, flipping the two of us in midair so she could do the trick again — but doing it all one handed because she was holding me with the other.
It was terrifying and exhilarating all at once. Less like a dangerous stunt and more like a roller coaster. I realized I knew she wouldn’t drop me. She couldn’t drop me. She knew exactly what she was doing, and she always would. And we hit the rooftop and she ran and ran and threw herself into a twenty foot leap to the next roof, and then the roof after that, and then halfway up a steep inclined rooftop. The storm broke then, with sheets of water and rain and wind all around us, and lying there on the roof I saw her throw her arms to the air and laugh with the purest joy I’ve ever seen, spinning like a schoolgirl with complete and total abandon.
I was eating a bagel at ten thirty the next morning, when Leather walked in and dropped a newspaper on the table in front of me. I looked up. Her hair was wet, and was also black again, the front streaks bleached almost white in preparation for whatever color she would add to them. Her labriet piercing was back in, and red — her fast healing meant it had largely sealed up by the time we got home, so she’d repierced it herself. Fortunately for her, she was largely immune to infection and the redness and swelling wouldn’t last an hour.
“Read,” she said, drumming her fingers on the open paper.
I looked down. It was an article on page three of the City section — the Police beat. I read.
It detailed an encounter that a Tanya Marks, a local adult dancer, had had with a group of thugs who had attempted assault and robbery. She had been saved by the timely appearance of a new super heroine — the ‘Dynamite Girl.’ It speculated that the new heroine was the partner of some experienced hero in the city, and mentioned that Darkhood had not been available for comment.
I bit my lip, and looked up at Leather.
Leather closed the paper, and tapped it again.
I looked back down, this time at the front page.
“LEATHER STILL AT LARGE: ELECTRONICS HEIST NOW ESTIMATED AT SEVEN FIGURES IN VALUE.” Underneath it, Darkhood — apparently available for this interview — made it clear he would bring the criminal in. Over twenty four hours after Leather’s last appearance in the city, and she still made the front page. There was even two pictures — a file photo of Leather fighting the Silver Horseman, and a stat of Leather’s face, about to kiss the lens of the security camera from the jewelry heist from a few days before.
Leather tapped the paper once more. I looked up at her.
“That’s why I’m a supervillain,” she said, and walked out of the room.