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   Chapter 19 Back to the Drawing Board

Blog of a Teenage Superhero By m i c h e l l e p a k Characters: 13034

Updated: 2017-12-05 19:04


^^Horseman“s edgy ringtone.

Published Blog Post—Two Week Progress

This is a blog. Usually, you update these, but I“ve been investigating, and I“m sorry. The tip from Horseman has reaped far more than I planned, so most of my time has been spent taking photos of creepy old places that have far too many buckets of toxic goo lying around.

I wish I could tell you more about the superhero life, but there isn“t much to say. I go to school. I wear a curtain for a cape. I get disappointed when I can“t find the heroes.

But I will. I promise, I“ll find them.

Onyx, over and out.

***

"Do you have a dress?" I ask Finn, copying disjointed phrases from the second half of the Mayor“s leather pad into my notebook. Looking into the white pages is like peering into the mind of a very, very, very organized madman. The eves are clean and well-preserved, the penmanship swooping, almost pretty. Finn and I are elbow to elbow. He“s typing, fingers flying on the keyboard. All I can hear is the clack clack clack and the sound of aluminum Red Bull cans crashing to the library floor.

"Is there a reason I should have a dress?" he asks, never looking up from his computer.

"Cosplay. Steven Universe? Remember?"

He glances up, his eyes hidden by the flash on his lenses. His fingers hover motionless over the keyboard. "I“m not giving you my Sapphire dress."

"I just need to borrow it."

"No. Never. You don“t deserve the Sapphire dress." And then he“s back to clacking on the keys, glasses perched crookedly on his nose.

I“m about to argue that I deserve the Sapphire dress as much as anyone else, but my head hurts."Please? I“m pretty sure we“re the same size."

He pauses his typing once more. "You don“t have any of your own dresses?"

I shake my head. The last one I turned into a curtain.

He sucks in a long, theatrical breath, leaning back in his swivel chair. Ankles crossed in the open air, he holds a pencil to his lips like a cigar. He spins around. His glasses catch the candlelight. "I have two suits. A date suit and a funeral suit."

"Thank you. The date suit—"

"You get the funeral suit." And then he swivels back around in his chair and kicks himself over the bumps in the carpet toward the kitchen. I glance back down at the inky scribbles, my hand twitching with cramps, and swig from one of Finn“s open Red Bulls. It“s flat. He calls back at me from the kitchen. "And Monet?"

"Yeah?"

"Sorry," he says, "If I“m being a jerk."

I rub my face. It“s been two weeks. Two weeks after the student council okayed us a thousand dollars to put on the carnival. Two weeks since I told Percy who I am. My nails are chewed down to stubs. The carnival is tomorrow. Between organizing games, bribing shy geniuses into slamming their poetry, hero work, and secret meetings with Percy, this is my first moment of quiet. So quiet I could I swear I can hear my sanity coming undone.

"You“re always being a jerk." I unfold the map in my desk drawer. Half of the streets are crossed out. The ink is blurred. I press my fingers to my forehead, and I wish Kai was here, though I know he has to work. Being alone with Finn can be...weird. His moodiness is intense. Two can take it, but for one, well, it may be a little much. I think of lying beside Percy under her pink canopy, typing while she talks, and talks, and talks. Her mother is away, across the world, and I“m always welcome at her house. Just the thought of her makes me smile.

"Nerves," he says.

"Nerves?" I snap out of it. I“d like to hear Finn“s problem. I“d like to escape my head, remember more things can make someone nervous beside responsibility to find missing heroes and being hunted by a masked murderer.

"You“ll see."

And for some reason, those innocent words knot my stomach with dread. I flip my laptop open, fingers hovering over the keyboard, eyes darting over my amassing co

citizens!" I shout, snatching up the half-finished beer bottle from an old, wide-eyed man. I break it in half on my knee-cap, splashing myself with a frothy substance I“ll reek of in the morning. I raise my cliche weapon of choice. Masquerade picks up a barstool. We size eachother up for a second, patrons oooing. People used to go flying through windows every other day back when the superheroes were still around. This is the most action they“ve had in months.

We dance on broken glass, swinging, dodging, ducking. He hacks me down, I slash his costume to shred. Gasping, we fight, and I miss the rock cover of the Taylor Swift song for background sound. Between breaths, I ask the bartender if he can play it for me. He obliges.

Patrons form a circle around us. Someone phones the police. But the rest are blood-thirsty. Aside from when Masquerade splits my lip with a well-aimed punch, it“s pretty awesome as far as super fights go. Fight, fight, fight! The adrenaline races. I drop to a crouch and tackle Masquerade around the knees. He topples.

I get in one hard punch to his chest before he kicks me back into the crowd. But that“s fine. I snatch up the kid, drape him over both arms, and fly. Fly as fast as I can, pushing myself so hard I think my heart might explode, air expanding my lungs beyond capacity. I kick my window open, fling the boy onto my bed, and rip my cape and mask off. He“s still asleep. Window slammed shut, desk rammed up against the frosty blue panes to keep out Masquerade for at least a minute, I button a workman“s shirt over my "costume" in a record-shattering 1.5 seconds. The horse-headless Horseman is still passed out. I carry him into the library and lay him on the couch.

I don“t know how to tend to a fainted boy who may or may not be in shock. I just warm him some tea and grab a water bottle from the fridge with a hot towel.

"Hey, buddy, hey," I say softy. I push his hair out of his face. And in the light, I can make out his lean features, the bruises above his eye, the hard, sloping planes of his face, his hooked nose. Familiar. My heart stops. I know him.

Chip Hardwell.

Horseman is Chip Hardwell. The crying boy is the same one who mic-drops and speaks to me in disjointed grunts. Percy and Max“s third partner in crime. My prime suspect. Is an abused pawn in Masquerade“s game.

If I had any tears left in me from two weeks ago, this is the time I“d start crying. Of frustration. Of guilt for pegging someone so wrong, for mistaking a victim for a villain.

Instead, I draw up a shaky breath and face-palm very, very, hard.

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