To make it up to you, here is the next teaser for my novel Unexpected Superhero – the middle part of Chapter One. (If you missed the first scene, read it here first.)
A police car raced past the entrance to Harborview Mall. Lights and sirens cleared a path among the post-Christmas shoppers. But mostly people moved to avoid the speeding white Toyota hurtling through the night like a rusty snowball.
The cars sped through two more lights. Divine intervention surely prevented a crash as the Toyota skidded on a patch of ice, nearly sideswiping another car. The police cruiser missed that particular bit of ice, but a close call at the next light had the cop in the passenger seat crossing himself with one hand while hanging on with the other.
Another police car parked in the next intersection forced the chase to take a hard right and brought them into a quieter industrial area. Quieter except for the jarring sirens. Large warehouse-style office buildings magnified the piercing sound and reflected the red and blue lights onto the snow. The Toyota picked up speed, blowing through three stop signs amidst honking horns and flying middle fingers.
The police cars slowed down enough to ensure that the chase continued to be accident-free. The Toyota made a left down an alley to avoid yet another police car, and raced out of sight.
* * *
Superhero X looked up at the roof of the nearby three-story office building and spoke into a microphone concealed in his mask. “What do you see, Tick Tock?”
Team leader Tick Tock, Mickey Valient to the rest of the world, coordinated the car chase with the police. “It’s our lucky day, boys. They’re herding him right toward us.”
In the growing winter darkness, the men stood nearly invisible in their midnight blue outfits, masks covering the upper half of their faces. When they spoke, their voices came out with a metallic distortion courtesy of Tick Tock’s voice-disguising device.
Adrenaline rushed through his system as X waited on the ground. He missed being out with the guys. Had it only been two weeks? The rushed wedding and honeymoon had been exhilarating, but he was glad to be home and back at the work he loved.
Standing half-hidden in the alley, X grinned at his other friend and partner in crime-fighting. “Ready to play, big guy?”
Powerhouse, otherwise known as Bull Kincaid, smiled back, his pale skin and white teeth a sharp contrast against the dark mask. At least six and a half feet tall and built like a linebacker, Powerhouse usually played the “immovable object” against the unstoppable forces they came up against. He cracked his knuckles, then his neck. “Bring it,” he said.
Police sirens wailed in the night, getting louder.
“How close?” X asked Tick Tock.
“Just turned down the alley,” Tick Tock replied. “Get ready.”
Powerhouse peeked around the fence that separated the alley from the parking lot where they waited. Gauging the distance to the approaching Toyota, he stepped back and moved behind an overflowing metal garbage bin. He placed his hands and one shoulder against it, waiting, shifting his weight from one foot to the other in anticipation.
X waited behind him, anxious for the fracas to begin. Sometimes he got to be the front man, but tonight they needed Powerhouse’s muscle to end the chase. X tossed a short steel pipe from one hand to the other, feeling the rush of energy flow through his body. The gloves he wore were palm-less rather than fingerless. They protected him from leaving fingerprints, but allowed his skin to absorb the strength of the metal. He had been working on plans for flexible titanium-lined gloves before he met Tori, but the craziness of falling in love and getting married over the last two months had disrupted a lot of things. The gloves fell to the bottom of his to do list. Tonight he’d have to make do with the pipe.
X squeezed his right palm around the steel. Hot energy tightened his skin all over his body. The rush felt good. He put his new bride out of his mind and focused on the job at hand.
“Ready, set…” Tick Tock’s voice came through their earpieces.
X shifted onto the balls of his feet in anticipation.
Powerhouse shoved the garbage bin into the alley. The squeal of brakes, the crash of metal on metal as the car hit the heavy steel container full-on. Powerhouse jumped behind the garbage bin and locked his elbows. He kept the car from skidding toward the surrounding buildings by digging his heels into the snow-covered asphalt. X watched the pavement buckle behind his friend’s feet.
The car stopped with a final screech of damaged metal. X watched the doors for exiting passengers. His turn at bat.
The garbage bin began to roll toward the opposite building. Powerhouse pushed it to a flatter area. Less paperwork if there wasn’t any damage to surrounding private property. X didn’t like to waste time with paper when there were always more people to protect, more criminals to catch.
“Driver side,” came Tick Tock’s voice in their ears.
The driver side door flew open and X took his position. A young man stumbled out – maybe old enough to vote, not old enough to drink, but dumb enough to run. He looked over his shoulder toward the approaching police car, his feet already double-timing in the opposite direction.
Right into the path of Superhero X.
The young man slammed into him and fell.
X grinned down, tapping the pipe against his thigh. He had only an inkling of what it felt like for someone to run into him. His brothers said it was like running into a steel wall. X put his palm out and raised his fingers twice. The universal sign for “come and get it.”
The driver gaped up at him from the pavement. One hand held his head. Must’ve cracked it on X’s chest.
“He’s not a mouse, X. Hold him for the officers.” Tick Tock sounded either exasperated or amused. X couldn’t tell through the voice-disguiser. “Powerhouse, another one on the passenger side.”
X shook his head slightly. There was no challenge in it when things went according to plan. He reached down to grab the driver. Not quick enough.
The man rolled away. Standing, he now held a 9mm pistol. Jogging backwards with the gun aimed at X, he ducked between two buildings.
X muttered under his breath. Careful what you wish for. More squealing brakes signaled the arrival of the police. X gave chase. A cop pounded a few yards behind him.
“He’s got a gun,” X yelled over his shoulder.
More sirens sounded from the front of the building. Police shouted to each other. X struggled to hear Tick Tock in his earpiece.
“Say again?” he shouted as he ran.
“Turn right. Bushes in front.”
The buildings gave way to the parking lot and X turned right. Three more police officers came running from their cars at the front of the building. X paused, searching the snow for footprints. He saw movement, halogen security lights reflected a flash of red fabric. He bounded into the bushes just as the driver jumped up with his gun.
X pulled up short. A shootout was not the kind of excitement he was looking for. Too many ways for it to end badly. Putting out his hand in a conciliatory gesture, he turned his body to shield the police officers behind him. Slow movements and quiet words would win the day. “Now just –”
“Drop your weapon!” a cop behind him shouted.
The cop moved into X’s peripheral vision on the left. Idiot! Didn’t he know X was here to protect him? He was supposed to stay back. If the driver started shooting now, he could hit any of them.
The young man flinched at the cop’s shout and raised his gun. To his left, X saw all the officers bring up their guns, everyone shouting at the guy to drop his weapon. X groaned. So much for slow movements and quiet words. The situation had spiraled out of control. Which left only one option.
Before anyone could start shooting, X leapt at the guy, holding tightly to the steel pipe. In a flash, an image of Tori appeared in his mind, a picture of his lovely little wife with a gun pointed at her. Another flash, and Tori was advancing on the gunman.
The same imperative voice that shouted in his mind when he first met Tori was stronger than ever. Along with the vision, it shook him, and X realized as he launched himself at the gun-wielding drug dealer that his timing was a half-second too late.
Bang! The gun went off.
Look for Unexpected Superhero on May 31 for Kindle, and in print later in June. All other ebook formats will be released on Labor Day Weekend.