Monday, July 15, 2013

Co-Created by the Mystery Man: Chapter Four

"So you know what else is illegal?" Mystery Man sauntered up the strolling driveway. It snaked its way half a mile up a hill between yards of evenly-trimmed, forest green grass. About halfway up, the driveway split and wrapped up the other side of the hill, merging again at the enormous front doors of the pristine mansion. In the center of it all was a fountain, naked cherubs dancing in the sparkling water and—"

"—And pissing all over the yard."

Behind the abrasive assassin, far down at the beginning of the luxurious lanes, rose a pillar of black, carrying on it the crackles of a blazing fire. Inferno is probably more accurate. No part of the guard house was as it had been before the question mark-clad crusader arrived.

"Hey, you gonna answer me or what?" Mystery Man scratched his head and glanced up irritably. "We aren't back to the 'Pretending Mystery Man Isn't Real' game again, are we? Even after all I've done for you?"

With a sigh, he shook his head. "Seems we are. Guess I'll just tell the butler then."

The mercenary marched up the steps, listening with satisfaction at the click of his heels on the stone. He mounted the top step, looked at the door, grabbed the knocker hanging from the lion's mouth, and promptly dove back to the drive with fingers in his ears.

There was an earth-shattering crack as smoke bellowed out over the doorway. Wood splintered in all directions, even hitting Mystery Man, though his suit absorbed the bits that did. It had hardly begun to clear before he made his move, dashing through the cloud holding his breath, katanas drawn and ready to go.

To his surprise, the suit did little to protect his eyes from the smoke. They watered over, blurring his already blinded vision. He stumbled forward, nearly tripping over a flipped tile. When his balance was regained, he found himself smack dab in the center of an assembly of very large men. Very large men, with very large guns.

"I don't suppose you'd care to explain," Mystery Man began, wiping at his red-sore eyes, "how my cross-dimensional supersuit can't protect me from a little smoke?"

Of course, Mystery Man had forgotten that the suit is not always an otherworldly portal. If his entire face were hidden behind such a structure, he would surely suffocate as the oxygen was pulled into parts unknown instead of his lungs. He stomped his foot, angered at having made such a moronic mistake.

"Moronic my ass! I'm angered at not being well-defined you stupid, son of a—"

The bullets rained down on him. Suddenly brought up to speed on his vulnerabilities, Mystery Man tumbled away, knowing that he could not depend on each slug to crawl through into another realm. He kicked out the shins of one man, who buckled just long enough for the hero to swoop up behind him and press a sword against his neck. It was classic human-shield, and it worked just as well as ever.

"Guns on the ground and your hides outside, or this guy gets gutted." Mystery Man squinted through the stretched fabric of his suit. When nobody moved, his voice filled with gravel: "I'm not joking, jackwads! Move!"

Not a soul turned. They all stood still as statues, silently calling on the hero's bluff. Then one moved, and before Mystery Man could react, the security man in his arms was dead.

"That wasn't cool, guy!" Mystery Man let the guard drop to the floor. He raised his swords, poised and ready.

"What you want, mook?"

The voice was laughably 1950s. Mystery Man turned to face its owner, a short guy with a big stomach. He was bald, old, and reeked something of stale cologne.

"Oh, I just dropped in to say 'Hi'." Mystery shuffled his feet shyly. "Oh, and y'know, I guess I might as well hit you with this, since I've been carrying it the whole story here: Y'know that asking someone to a kill a guy is just as illegal as killing that guy? I know right, go figure!"

"I don't know what you're talking about." The man waved dismissively. "All I know is there's some wacko dressed up like a goth Riddler blowing up my yard. An' if he don't make a sweet deal right fuckin' now, he's dead."

"You guys always gotta play it tough and dumb, don't ya?" Mystery Man turned away, talking over his shoulder at the line of armed men. "Don't they? Always pretending to be so innocent. Listen Captain Chili Cheese Fries, I know exactly what you've been paying for and I know exactly who you've been paying to. I'm part of the guild, got it?"

"It's funny you should say that." The voice was light and elegant with a hint of comfortable humor. It was a voice that brought memories to Mystery's mind. "So am I."

At last he had appeared, and Mystery Man knew this would be the last time they'd meet face-to-face.

At last he stood before... The Nudist!

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