To All Things ...
(part two of three)
Thrilled by their mother's stories of sharing the night life with the famous Boy Wonder, triplets Abbey, Ashley, and Anna Abbots decide to put the meta-powers they inherited from their metagene latent, deadbeat father to good use by sharing the mantle of the Spoiler. Only this time, the teen vigilantes work for money, tracking criminals for the bounty, earning the necessary "buckage" for their educations. Each takes turns, enjoying thrilling nightly adventures in the crime-ridden streets of Atlanta.
But how can three overly competitive sisters manage to share a single identity when they can barely keep their own lives straight?
I'm looking for artists who would be willing to contribute art to go along with the Spoiler 2021 stories.Interested? Email me!
"Ashley, Anna, we need to talk."
I found my sisters at Anna's locker. Funny how we always ended up heading for her first when there was a problem. Judging by the looks on their faces, they'd already seen the newsvid of me practically inviting the world to guess my secret identity.
Ashley was the first to speak. "What's the matter with you? You were supposed to make sure you were alone. If you ruin this for us, I swear I'll "
"Some kid just got lucky, Ashley," Anna interrupted. "That's all. It's not like Abby meant to get caught on digital."
"That's not the point, Anna, and you know it." Ashley smoothed her short black skirt as she spoke. Compared to her short black skirt, soft white sweater, and shiny black tights, Anna and I were practically the frump twins. My long, denim dress and Anna's khaki slacks and plaid pullover didn't stand a chance in the notice-me-I'm-alive-here department.
Unfortunately, we had to postpone our "talk" when Ashley's current boy toy, Everett Sanders strode up to join us. His long, dark hair hung down his back in a thick ponytail that usually covered the school's dragon mascot on his varsity jet-ball jacket. He kissed Ashley on the lips and then smiled at Anna and me.
"Well, if it isn't the three most beautiful triplets at Masters Prep," he said.
Anna rolled her eyes at me. "How many triplets were you expecting, Everett? Four?"
"Beautiful ..." He turned to Anna. "And brilliant ..." Then he turned to me, adding, "And demure, as well."
I blushed. I hated it, but I couldn't help it. Like I actually stood a chance with a guy like him. "Thanks."
"Anyway," Anna said, "I guess we can finish our discussion after next period. I've got to get to the computer lab to help Mr. Tripp install the new 788s that came in last week."
She turned and walked away, her red ponytail bouncing behind her as she practically marched down the hallway.
"Sorry, Ev. She's a little stressed. She likes you, really." Ashley wrapped herself under Everett's arm. "Not like I like you, of course."
"Of course." He turned to me again. "So, Abby. Still available for the dating game?"
"You don't have to rub it in." Ashley punched him lightly on the chest. "Right Abbybots?"
"Thanks, Ash. Between the two of you, I feel like a princess now." I grabbed my backpack from the floor and slung it over my shoulder. "But to answer your question, Ev, no, I'm not dating anybody. Just like last time you tried to set me up."
"Well, if you think you can talk Anna into it, Steve and Mark would love to hook up and let's all triple after the game this Saturday. It's classics night at Grupers. Nothing newer than 50 years old. I think they're showing a double feature of Daphne Dean movies. Maybe even Life on the Edge. And concessions are half-price too."
"Yeah. He's really into redheads. He told me he's had a crush on Anna since third grade."
"Oh. So, I get Mark, I guess."
Ashley half-glared at me, then grinned. "Don't sound so disappointed. He's going to be all-state again, you know."
"Sure. Sounds good," I lied. I'd have much preferred to hook up with Steve Drake. He was new to the school and still had that mysterious air to him that kept me enthralled. Still, even going out with Mark Wright would be a step up in my dating life. Who was I kidding? Even going out with Keshon would have been a step up in my dating life.
"Good. Sounds like a good excuse for a trip to the mall, then," Ashley said, then turned to Everett. "Mind if a borrow a few creds to hook the girls up with a little fashion lift? And tell Steve and Mark to be ready to have their minds blown."
A date. A real date. With an all-state shoe-in even. So why couldn't I get my mind off the idea of chucking it all and slipping back into the purple and blue again for a night of Spoiler action instead?
The night air was cool again, and especially so with the mask up over my nose. Not that I was stupid enough to lift it any higher, but letting me feel a direct connection with the breeze didn't seem like it could hurt anything. Still, after last night, I'd have to be careful.
It hadn't been easy to talk Ashley and Anna into letting me use the suit two nights in a row. As different as we were, it seemed like the thing that kept us together was how much we all loved to put on the purple tights and go kick bad guy backside. In the end, I had told them that since I had made the major screw up, I should be the one to have to fix it. And they bought it.
The whole take-the-responsibility act worked every time. Even when we were just kids. Like when I talked them into letting me have more boy friends over to spend the night, just so I could "look for potential boyfriends."
Getting past Mom had been amazingly easy too. She saw me head out, and asked me point blank if I was going to do anything about the picture. I nodded and told her it was something I had to do, and she had simply kissed my cheek and wished me good luck.
Thanks to my friend K.Z. at the school newsvid, I found out that the photo belonged to a student named Anderson Gragg. I told K.Z. that I owed her one and then went to the library to look up Gragg's home address on school database.
After watching his house for nearly an hour, I lucked up. He got a phone call and yelled something I couldn't understand at his parents, then darted out of the house and jumped into his Fiat. The red sports car was a sleeked-out redesign of the classic and looked brand new. It bothered me to think he was able to afford it by exploiting me. Maybe I'd spare a few minutes to scratch it a little after finding out how he got the picture.
Okay. Sure it was petty of me. But I had to admit, the idea made me feel a whole lot better.
I had tailed him for a few miles until he pulled off by the old Air Force base. I pulled the mask back down before turning onto the overgrown service road. To be honest, I was surprised he'd take such a classic car down a road like that. When he stopped, he got out and began walking toward the tall fence that surrounded the base. I held back while he ducked under a cut-away section of the chain-link fence and looked around presumably to make sure he wasn't being followed then dashed toward a metal drum near the closet hanger.
He looked around again before opening the drum and reaching inside. Through the digital imaging lenses Anna had rigged in the mask, I could see that the envelope he pulled out of the drum was blank.
But I had an awfully good guess what was inside.
With a single leap and flip, I cleared the fence and then landed silently about thirty feet away from Gragg. He was opening the envelope and was apparently pleased with what he was seeing. I could have worn tap shoes and still sneaked up on him.
"So," I said, tapping his shoulder, "You're not just a creep, you're a fake too."
He turned around quickly, then dropped the photos and envelope and took off toward the fence. Not the brightest move when caught by Atlanta's hottest new vigilante femme as Keshon had called us. Still, he didn't even had the brains enough to take his own photos, so how could I fault him for trying to escape.
Not that it would do him any good.
The cape and rope trick made short work of him and when he was down, I ambled to where he was trying to squirm out of the cape cocoon, even taking my time to pick up the pictures first. It wouldn't hurt anything to let him stew a little. When I reached him, I stared at him in silence for a few moments.
"I didn't do nothing. I swear. I just pick Ôem up. That's all." His tears and red face assured me he was pretty straight up with me.
He was young, a little older than me, and his short, blonde hair reminded me a little of what Mom called the "East Coast look" from her hey day. I tapped underneath his chin with my index finger.
"Cute guys like you shouldn't have to work so hard to get a girl's attention, you know that?" I paused, letting him squirm some more. It was probably a little bit perve of me, but I couldn't help it. He looked so cute all wrapped up like that. "Who did you get these from?"
I crouched beside him, and shuffled through the photos slowly. They were all of me. Fighting Mo' Money and his henchman. Gliding over the city. Changing in the tunnel. But nothing with a good view of my face. Still, it was amazing, as if someone had been a few feet behind me all night last night. But there was no way. Surely I would have noticed something. A shadow. A noise. Breathing. Something.
"I've got all night. The costume keeps me warm and cozy. This cape, however is designed to let air through as if the cloth weren't there at all. And I imagine the night's gonna get quite a bit cooler before tomorrow."
"I don't know."
"Wrong answer, photo-boy. Let's try again."
"I don't know. I promise I don't."
I slipped the photos under my arm, then tapped his chin again. "Still wrong. I'd be happy to come back and finish this tomorrow. I'm sure no one would find you out here. Unless maybe the guy who supplied these photos were to return and find you." I rose. "I don't imagine he'd be very happy to see you like this. Do you?" I headed toward the fence with a quick stride.
"Wait. What about your cape?"
I stopped and turned around to face him. "Always the gentlemen, huh, Anderson? Don't worry. I've got plenty to spare."
"Please, don't leave me like this, not here."
His voice was pleading, desperate.
"How do you contact him?" I didn't come closer. I wanted to keep him feeling the distance, believing that at any moment I could just leap out and abandon him.
"I don't. He calls me. Tells me where to pick them up. I swear."
Just great. Another dead end. But at least I could solve the immediate problem. I walked back to him and crouched again beside him.
"Okay, Gragg." I spit his last name at him like a cobra does venom. "Here's what you're going to do. You're going to make a public apology to any newsfeed you sold that picture to and tell them that you staged the whole thing with a model. After that, any money they don't make you give back will go to the Deep Street shelter downtown. Got it? Don't answer, just nod."
"Good. And don't try to pull a fast one on me." I leaned in close. "I know how to find you, Gragg. I know where you live. What you do. What size boxers you wear, even. I'm everywhere you are, you understand? Cross me, and I'll come down on you so hard your great-grandchildren will be scared to walk outside their house at night."
He nodded again. I kissed his cheek through the mask. "Good boy." I pushed the button to release the cape, then slipped it back around my neck. "And if he calls again, don't you do a thing. I'll handle it." I stood up. "And don't worry about contacting me. Just trust me. I'll know."
I stood completely still while Anderson Gragg practically leaped to his feet and sprinted to his Fiat. Spoiler: 1. Snotty, rich photo-boy: 0.
Then it hit me. I had actually kissed him. And for no reason other than it had seemed fun at the time. Definitely not an Abbybots things to do. Weird.
When I made it back home and walked in the door, I nearly passed out from shock. The living room was a wreck, like a demolition crew had come through. And scattered across the floor were hundreds of copies of the photos I'd taken from Gragg.
But not just of me. There were hundreds more of all of us. The night Anna took down the Human Whip. The night Ashley took the Spoiler's first bounty to the cops. Even photos of us stitching up the costumes after a few tears.
"Mom!" I yelled towards the kitchen, then toward the back of the house. "Mom!"
No answer. I raced up the steps.
"Mom! Ashley! Anna!"
I checked each room, darting from one to the next like a crazed parent who has lost a child. Still nothing. Then I thought to check the closets.
It was a good thing. I found Ashley and Anna gagged and wrapped in a plastic-type twine that kept them bound together. I quickly cut the gags away.
"Abby, did you see Mom?" Ashley screamed as her gag fell away.
"No. What happened?"
"I don't know," Anna said after her gag too was loose. "There was gas, then I got hit from behind. Then I woke up in the closet."
"What about you, Ash?" I asked as I cut the last of the twine away.
"Same thing, only I heard Mom scream before I passed out." She stood up and then helped Anna to her feet. "We've got to find her."
I left the room and ran downstairs again for another futile search for Mom. Ashley and Anna could catch up as soon as they collected themselves. The important thing was to find Mom as fast as possible. I caught my reflection in the mirror at the foot of the stair. Some of the purple, the costume, was poking out of the backpack that I hadn't even thought to take off my shoulder yet.
What kind of hero was I? Out playing dark and mysterious protector of the night while some psycho broke in and kidnapped my Mom.
I knew looking around was a waste of time. No doubt, whoever had taken Mom had her long gone for quite some time. But what else could I do? Sure, I was great against scared, rich kids in new Fiats, but the minute a real, bona fide crisis came up, I was lost. What good was I against something I couldn't hit?
I heard the thunder of footsteps on the stairs and turned around. Anna had slipped into jeans and a Green Lantern T-shirt, and Ashley had slipped back into the same skirt and sweater she'd worn to school. Ashley spoke first.
"Any sign of her?" I could tell she was frightened. I wasn't used to hearing her voice quiver. She was always the self-assured triplet, the spokesperson of our little trio.
I shook my head.
"Let think about this? There has to be something. Anything." Anna plopped down on the bottom step and sat there quietly. Typical. Me wanting something to hit and Anna going into head space. Only Ashley was throwing off the normality of the moment.
"I don't know," Ashley said. "Is there a clue or anything like that we can use to " She stopped short when she noticed the pictures decorating the floor. "Oh, no. Who would do something like this?"
Anna stood up and saw them too. She dashed into the living room and scooped up a stack of the prints. "My god," she said, "Someone's been following us since the very beginning. Did you see these, Abbs?"
"No, They're probably just like the set I got earlier tonight from the punk digitographer who supplied for the paper. All of what he had was vague and not really anything to worry about, as far as the secret identity is concerned."
"But where did he get them? Take a look, guys. Someone's been tagging us since at least a few weeks ago."
I grabbed a few pictures from the floor. The first was Ashley dropping some small-timer off at the the 54th. The next showed me riding the luna-cycle. The next, however, was something new, a pic of Anna, dressed completely in the costume except for the hood. Her face was a evident as if she'd agreed to pose for a portrait shot. And she wasn't the only one caught in various degrees of out of costume. There was me wearing my jeans with the cape and hood. Ashley holding one of the early models against her to check the "look." More of me from the tunnel, some of which showed my face clearly. And quite a few more of Anna too.
"Who could have done this?" Ashley had come down from the stairs and joined us on our knees in the floor. "What's this?" she asked, grabbing a small, green box lying haphazardly near the couch.
"Never seen it before." I said, then turned to Anna. "You?"
She shook her head. "Open it, Ash, but be careful."
Ashley pulled the yellow bow off the package then gently lifted the lid from the bottom of the box. Inside was a picture of Mom when she was younger. She was tied up, being held hostage in the original Spoiler costume, but her hood was off completely. Standing behind her was a group of men in dark suits, all standing around one guy a blonde in light-colored tights and a bandana mask. It was grandpa. Mom's father. Cluemaster.
"Turn it over, Ash. Look for a note or something," Anna shouted.
"Hold on, I'm doing already. Just don't yell at me." Ashley shifted her weight to her right leg, then flipped the old photo over. She was starting to cry.
"Well?" I asked, scooting over close to her. "Is there a note?"
She nodded, and Anna joined our huddle over the box and photo.
There was a note all right. Written by hand and a fairly poor handwriting at that. It read:
Hi, girls. Let's have a little family reunion. And be sure to bring your Halloween costumes. You know the ones. Meet me at the old Soder Cola plant. I'll be waiting. Love, dear old grandpa, the Cluemaster.
We simply stared at each other. Then Ashley lost it and fell to the floor crying. Anna opened her mouth to speak, but nothing came out. I knew better than to even try.
Either someone was playing mind games or dear old dead grandpa was back in action.
Either way, Mom was toast just waiting to be burned.
To All Things ... concludes next month on DCU 2021!!!