Roger emerged on the north side of the bridge and found Sean reading the side of the bridge. The graffiti had been painted over already, but only a single coat through which the two-foot tall, black, spray-painted letters were still readable.
“I dare you to find me, Stardust, before more is stolen,” Sean read.
“He even included the commas,” Roger observed. “You don’t see grammar like that in graffiti usually.”
“What did Tony say?” Sean asked.
“He didn’t tell anybody.”
“Okay, give me the phone. I want to talk to Ruben.”
“No, man,” Ruben said when he was on the phone. “I figured that was your thing and you’d let people know your way, you know?”
“That just leaves Kevin,” Roger said as Sean hung up.
“...He's not answering.” Sean creased his brow and tapped the cellphone to his forehead as he thought. “I've just got this gut instinct telling me we need to get to Kevin's. Maybe it's a new power, like a danger sense?”
"You think Kevin's in trouble?" Roger asked. The concern in Sean's expression told his flatmate everything he needed to know.
Kevin lived in Elgin like the others, but in an apartment complex in the northeast part of town. There were only a few parking spaces left in the parking lot to choose from.
“Just drop me off here,” Sean said. “I'm going up first.”
Sean pressed buttons at the building entrance until someone buzzed him in. His gut instinct seemed to be confirmed when he reached the second floor landing and saw, down the hall, the front door of Kevin's apartment was suspiciously ajar. Without knocking or calling out loud, Sean pushed the door open a little wider and peeked inside. There was a black cord stretched tight across the doorway that the door would hit if it opened any wider. Sean squeezed through the doorway as open as it was and stepped over the cord carefully.
There was still no sign of Kevin. The front room was a mess, but that was normal. Comic books were lying all over, properly bagged, but not in any type of order. The cord ran between hooks screwed into the walls and ran all the way around the room, past the half-wall with the window that looked into the kitchen, across the hallway to the rest of the apartment, and disappeared up under a shelf buried in clothes on the far side of the living room. Curious, Sean tugged the cord.
Thud. Looking up, Sean saw a dart sticking out of the door that had not been there a moment earlier. Across the room, some clothes had fallen off the shelf and revealed Kevin's crossbow was mounted there.
“Okay, that was just dumb,” Sean said loudly.
“What do you mean, dumb?” Kevin's voice came from the kitchen. “It's a classic trap.”
“It's the crossbow you bought in the Medieval Times gift shop. I know you're behind the counter, Kev. Come on out.”
“Of course,” Kevin said, standing up. “It's only fair that you see the architect of your sorrows at the last. Tell me, did I really have to give it all away with the Stardust reference or were you just toying with me?” Kevin was dressed in his best suit, holding a white cat in his arms and petting it.
“When did you get a cat?”
“I borrowed it from a neighbor,” Kevin said, looking slightly embarrassed. “Tell me you at least got the pattern to the thefts...? Oh, come on! I can tell by the puzzled look on your face that you didn't.” He dropped the cat and came into the living room, snatching up comic books and holding them up one at a time. “Ms. Marvel, Hawkman, U-Foes – each time the issue after their first appearance, just like the letters that come after the first letters of their names spell my name backward. And this was my second time through my name. It was so easy!”
“Okay, that is seriously the dumbest thing I've ever heard. Why would you... Holey moley. This is like the ending to Unbreakable? You want to be my supervillain?”
“No, I'm your nemesis,” Kevin said, pulling the crossbow off the shelf. “You think I wanted to be nothing but a supervisor at Meijer for the rest of my life? Like all the great superheroes, you give your nemesis a sense of purpose. I've dogged you for years without your knowing it. Sending you e-mails I knew I had viruses in them. Spitting in your pop cans when you weren't looking. Following you on your patrols without your even knowing it.”
“You spat in my pop cans?”
“Taking... your motorcycle.”
Sean was not sure if he could be angry with Kevin before, but it came easily now. He lunged for Kevin.
Kevin had grabbed something else on that shelf under the crossbow. He dropped the crossbow and let Sean have it with a Taser.
Sean cried out and jumped back. The Taser had given him a nasty jolt, but did not hurt as bad as he thought it would. “Geez, Kev!” he said, leaning forward and putting his hands on his knees. “I've always wanted someone to take me seriously as a superhero, but this is ridiculous! Have you even thought this through as to how it's going to end? I'm going to have to haul your butt to jail!”
“No, you're forgetting the nemesis always gets away to come back another day,” Kevin said, backing up to the window. While he held his Taser defensively in one hand, he fumbled with the window with his free hand, trying to open it.
Man Thing by Jim Cheung
19 hours ago