The American Hero Society (2)

January 2012.

Bel explores further in the building. A long time ago, her grandfather established a branch here in Jet City. Back when the city was still new and hadn’t yet transformed into a modern metropolis. But the years had eaten away at the dream of a better society. Decades of broken promises and failed initiatives. It was as if the world itself had rejected the very purpose of the American Hero Society. Then again, maybe it was Jet City itself that rejected it.

She hears a creaking as the wind pushes against the building. An old structure settling into its old bones. Or is it? She hears the creaking again. It is coming from… upstairs.

January 1942.

It doesn’t take long for the four of them to find the scene of the crime. There is glass everywhere. Bullet holes riddle the jewelry store. A young girl sobs over the bodies of her murdered parents. Serpent Lord hits her with a whiff of Pleasant Glades to calm her down as he takes her away from the carnage.

“The store’s shot up, but something’s not right,” Right Cross observes.

“Everything’s still here,” Spirit Wolf says.

“Two dead. Nothing taken. Looks like a hit job to me,” Jade Empress says.

“By who? And what could these people have possibly done to deserve it?” Right Cross wonders.

“Would anyone deserve this?” Jade Empress asks.

“Maybe… some people…” Right Cross says under his breath.

“Who did thiss?” Serpent Lord asks the young girl. She shakes her head. She cannot speak of what she saw. “Do not worry, child. You are ssafe now.”

“Allow me, Lord Serpent,” Jade Empress says.

“It’ss Sserpent Lord,” he says under his breath.

“Come, child. Close your eyes and open your mind. Show me the faces of those who took your family from this world,” Jade Empress says, summoning the sacred flames of truth.

The girl shudders with fear, then goes still. Her eyes close and a trio of faces appear in the air above her head. They are masked, but their faces are distinctive, their eyes clearly visible.

“Our killers,” Jade Empress says.

“Where did they go?” Right Cross asks.

“South. Toward the river,” Jade Empress replies. The faces morph and meld. “I see a name.”

“Yes?” Right Cross asks.

“Murder Inc.”

“Impossible,” Spirit Wolf says.

“They’re good and gone. Rotting in Sing Sing,” Right Cross says.

“Or ssix feet under,” Serpent Lord mutters.

“They may not be the same men we dealt with before,” Jade Empress notes.

“I have their trail,” Spirit Wolf says.

“Then let’s waste no time,” Right Cross replies.

Spirit Wolf leads them through the snow, following a trail only his hunter’s eyes can see. All four are swift in their own way. Spirit Wolf zips through the snow as easily as his namesake. Right Cross bounds with powerful legs. Jade Empress gracefully floats, held aloft by the power of her magic artifact, an ancient emerald lamp. Serpent Lord almost seems to slither, though the truth is much stranger.

The trail ends by the docks. Spirit Wolf tests the air.

“We’re close,” he says.

“Empress?” Right Cross asks.

“Their whereabouts are clouded from my sight. I do not like it.”

“Let’s forge ahead. We’ll find them eventually,” Right Cross says.

“I don’t like going in blind,” Spirit Wolf says.

“If Murder Inc. is back, we don’t have a choice,” Right Cross replies.

“Bessidess, when do we get a ssecond chancce to punch killerss in the facccce?” Serpent Lord asks.

“I’m loathe to agree with the brute, but he’s right. It’s like a second Christmas isn’t it, darling?” Jade Empress says.

“Hrrm. Looks like I’m outvoted,” Spirit Wolf gripes.

“Don’t worry, chum. We’ll all watch out for each other,” Right Cross says.

Jade Empress summons a fog rolling in from the river to cover their approach. Spirit Wolf is on full alert. His senses pick up nothing, yet something tickles his brain. Serpent Lord feels it also. Murder Inc.’s return would not have started with a simple slaying. But he doesn’t have all the pieces yet. The mystery will have to wait.

The warehouses are quiet. The street lamps do not illuminate very far into the yard, giving the heroes even more cover. Spirit Wolf and Serpent Lord get to work. They find one warehouse occupied with gun toting goons. From the sky light, they get a good look at the scene. The goons are gathered on the warehouse floor next to something covered by a big heavy tarp. They’re waiting. But for what? Serpent Lord gets a chill of anticipation. Finally, a chance at some action.

Spirit Wolf smells six distinct smells. And one that… no. That’s impossible, he tells himself.

“You think Right Crossss and Jade Empressss will mind if we have a little fun to sstart?” Serpent Lord asks.

“No. I sense a hidden danger here. Let’s get the others before we…”

“Wait. Do you ssee that?” Serpent Lord points out. Something slithering beneath the tarp. Shifting. Waiting.

Three goons covered in snow appear at the door. Out of breath, they rush toward the ones gathered by the tarp.

“And look. Our murder suspects too. This is turning into an easy night,” Spirit Wolf sighs with relief.

“Right, then. Time to grab the otherss,” Serpent Lord says.

“And crack some heads in the name of Justice,” Spirit Wolf continues.

“Fools!” one of the goons shrieks. “The amulet has been damaged. Now an even greater sacrifice is required to complete the ritual!”

“Maybe I spoke too soon,” Spirit Wolf mumbles.

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