Powerhouse walked beside Jones, carrying a box of groceries. Jones knocked on an apartment door. An elderly man opened it. “Come on in, Reverend.”
Powerhouse followed Jones into a living room that opened into the kitchen, where Jones put away the groceries. Powerhouse approached the table where the old man was sitting. Jones had said earlier he was a widower named Lenny, who spent his days alone, except for church or when Pastor Jones visited him.
Lenny eyed Powerhouse. “You got more hardware than True Value.”
“It’s all natural, I assure you.”
Jones brought over a cribbage board. Lenny said, “It’s good to have someone to play cribbage with, Reverend.”
“Thank you. Us cribbage players are a rare breed.”
Powerhouse said, “Can three play?”
Jones nodded. “Do you know how?”
“Sure, everybody knows how to play cribbage. It’s kinda like poker, right?”
Lenny laughed. “Sit down.”
“Carefully,” said the pastor. “Lenny has no space for a titanium chair.”
After the cribbage pros finished trying to teach the game to Powerhouse, Lenny shook the pastor’s hand and then Powerhouse’s. “Come by anytime. I can use the company.”
Powerhouse spent the next half hour or so in a nursing home, listening to Jones read the Bible to a elderly woman named Hazel. She was sitting up, but motionless and had a strange sheen in her eyes.
“Can she talk?” asked Powerhouse.
The pastor shook his head. “She had a bad stroke. Hasn’t said anything in months.”
“If she can’t talk, why do you come?”
“She can’t talk, but the Bible speaks to her and comforts her. She was a pastor’s wife and it helps her soul.”
“But it’s just a book.”
“No, it’s the Book, and it means something to her.”
Later, they drove out to the church. The pastor ran onto the basketball court, where Jimmy was playing with two other boys, and stole the ball from one of the youngsters, ran to the other basket, and scored a point.
Powerhouse ran onto the court. “I want to play.”
The pastor shook his head. “Sorry, man. Those superpowers give you an unfair advantage.”
Powerhouse sighed and sat down and watched the four of them play. After a while, two boys continued to play each other while the pastor talked to the third boy. The other two boys took turns talking to the pastor.
At the end of the last boy’s turn, he said, “Thanks, pop.”
Powerhouse stared. Huh? The boy was Asian. “He’s your dad?”
“He’s the only dad we have.”
An ex-cop from the congregation jogged up. He’d promised to guard Jones when Powerhouse had “other duties,” like cleaning up a warehouse for his alter ego.
Powerhouse flew home, haunted by the way young Jimmy Olsen had looked at Pastor Jones: the same way the real Jimmy Olsen looked at Superman. Maybe—maybe—not every hero wore tights.
At the church, Powerhouse found a work group pounding at a half-finished roof for the youth center, with the pastor right in their midst. Powerhouse landed behind him on the roof. “I can help.”
The pastor wiped his brow. “That’s good. We need all the help we can get.”
Powerhouse grabbed a hammer and drove in roof nails at super human speed.
Within two hours, they’d finished the roof. By the end of the day, Powerhouse had helped the church members finish laying carpet in the recreation and meeting rooms, and put up the backboard in the gym.
The pastor climbed down from the ladder and shook his hand. “Powerhouse, we appreciate your help.”
Powerhouse brushed sawdust off his costume. “All in a day’s work, pastor.”
”We’ll surprise the youth by holding their meeting here tonight. Would you be willing to come? The Service is at 7:30.”
The pastor must want to praise him, maybe admit he was wrong, that Powerhouse’s good deed guaranteed him a high position in Heaven. “It’s an honor.”
Night Lord examined the blueprints of Reverend Jones’ church. He’d enter through the ventilation system and shoot Jones with a poisoned dart from a blow gun.
He put on his mask and put a black coat on, concealing the blow gun inside it. He glanced out the window. The sun was beginning to set. It was time to go.
At around eleven, the Seattle chief of police sat at his desk, going through some paperwork. Powerhouse climbed in the window he’d left open since the AC was out.
Who did this guy think he was? Batman? “What do you want?”
“Who’s Frank Ross?”
The chief took a sip of coffee. “The biggest crime lord in Seattle. We’ve indicted him five times. Each time he’s gotten off.”
“And who’s Marcos?”
The chief put his cup down. “Marcos Silva?”
“Ross just said his name was Marcos.”
“Marcos is the head of the crime family that manages Ross’s organization. Ross is building a respectable business in the insurance industry and no longer associates with the underworld, but we’re sure he’s still the puppet master that pulls Silva’s strings.”
“What were Marcos and Ross doing with Frank Leonard and Captain Welch?”
The chief jumped up, fists clenched. “I’ve known Jake Welch twenty years. He’d never associate with that scum.”
“You mean Marcos and Ross?”
“Leonard, too. Can’t stand journalists.”
“I’m just telling what I saw.”
“I won’t believe it without evidence.”
Powerhouse put his hands up. “I was just asking.”
“If you get solid evidence, let me know.” The chief picked up his paperwork.
A bookshelf crashed. The chief glanced up. Police journals littered the floor at Powerhouse’s feet. Powerhouse blushed. “I’m sure it took Batman a lot of practice.”
Night Lord took a sip of his black coffee, feet up on his desk. A small drop spilled on his shirt. He wiped it off. He never had to worry about stains. He always wore midnight black, the same color as everything in his lair, though some of the furnishings had silver accents. He skimmed the crime section of the newspaper to see if any of his dealers had been arrested.
One of his underlings entered. “Night Lord, Marcos is here to see you.”
Night Lord sighed. “Send him in.”
Marcos entered. Night Lord stood.
Marcos pulled his gun. “I just got the latest report, and your sales are still half of the nearest drug lord’s totals.”
“We’ve had problems.”
“You’ve had problems. None of the other dealers in the city have had problems.”
“They don’t have Reverend Jones.”
“They got preachers in their areas. A preacher’s a preacher.”
Night Lord shook his head. “Jones is different. He evangelizes the dealers. He visits their families. He can show up anytime preaching when my guys are trying to sell.”
“Sounds like you need to whack him.”
“Oh, I’ve tried, but-” Night Lord paused. “My people are locals; they won’t kill a preacher. They’re afraid God will strike ’em dead. One guy I got to actually try was arrested, and another got born again.”
“They’re very religious people.”
“You should have put a Black in charge of this area. I’m seen as an outsider.”
“We’re equal opportunity employers. Besides, you didn’t think you were taking over Montana. Now, take care of this Reverend.” Marcos trained his gun between Night Lord’s eyes. “Unless you want me to give your territory to someone else?”
Night Lord glowered. Marcos would pay for that, assuming he ever slipped up and gave him opportunity. “I’ll handle it.”
“See to it.” Marcos began to walk away, but glanced back. “I don’t want to have to come back here.” Marcos left.
Night Lord sighed. Minions. “If I want it done right, I’ll have to do it myself.”
Powerhouse flew above a housing project in Seattle. Below, a young black man shoved a gun at another near a run-down warehouse that had graffiti spray painted in layers. “You do it.”
A second youth slipped the gun inside his Mariners jacket. “Fine, foo’, I’m a real man. I ain’t afraid to waste no preacher.”
Powerhouse followed the kid in the Mariners jacket kid to a red brick building with a cross on the roof. The sign out front said, “Power Street Community Church.” He materialized a coat and a hood to disguise his costume then entered the church.
A man walked up to him and shook his hand. “Nice to have you, brother.”
Powerhouse nodded and moved into the sanctuary. He sat in the fifth row on an old wooden pew, right behind the young man in the Mariner’s jacket.
A middle-aged black man in a burgundy robe walked to the pulpit. “Glory! Let’s begin with a word of prayer.”
Everyone bowed their heads except for Powerhouse and the unmoving assassin.
Following the prayer, Powerhouse sat silent with his arms folded while most of the congregation sang at top volume, stomping and clapping. What was going on? These people were poor as dirt, what did they have to be so excited about? If he hadn’t been there on crime fighting duties, he would have snuck out.
The pastor said, “Now, if you’re a visitor, please fill out a card.”
Powerhouse began to fill out the card, but stopped. He stared down at his actual physical address.
A man approached carrying a large golden plate that had money in it instead of food. “Can I have your card?”
Powerhouse stared at the card. I wish I’d never filled that out. The card disintegrated. I didn’t know I could do that.
The man said, “Um, I guess not.”
After collecting the church member dues, the pastor began his sermon. “Some folks say they’ve been too bad to get saved. That’s a lie. There ain’t nobody who can’t be saved. Anyone can be forgiven and changed if they will turn to Christ. Anyone!”
Anyone? How strange. Minor stooges reformed all the time in the comic books, but he could hardly imagine the Joker, the Penguin, or Lex Luthor reforming, at least not for more than half an issue.
The preacher continued. “On the other hand, some people think they’ve got it all together and they don’t need God. But you can’t be good enough to make Heaven yo’ home. All men have sinned and come short of the Glory of God. We all need the Lord, because we can’t do it on our own. Amen?”
Folks all around Powerhouse shouted it back at the pastor.
Huh? This was even stranger. Folks sometimes handed him tracts, but since he’d acquired his superpowers, he’d paid them even less attention. Batman didn’t go to church; neither did Superman or Spider-man. Superheroes would get the best place in Heaven because they’d done so many good deeds.
The preacher pointed right at him. “I have news for you. All your righteousness doesn’t mean anything to God. It’s filthy rags to God. Your works can’t save you, only the blood of Jesus Christ.”
When was the last time this preacher stopped a drug dealer or broke up a car theft ring? That isn’t filthy rags, that’s really great!
At the end the pastor said, “If you’d like to find Jesus tonight, come on up to the front and we’ll pray with you.”
A dozen people went up. The assassin hesitated then rose from the pew, tip-toed down the aisle, and knelt at the altar. The pastor approached him.
Powerhouse tore his coat off and pounced on the assassin. The pastor stared at Powerhouse. “What are you doing, man?”
“Saving your life. I heard this guy say he was going to waste you.”
The preacher turned to the assassin in the mariner’s jacket. “Is that true?”
The assassin lowered his head. “Yes, preacher. I was planning on killing you and I do got a gun in my jacket.”
Powerhouse grabbed the gun and bent it into a u-shape. “Now you don’t! Gun control, Powerhouse style.”
The pastor glared at Powerhouse.
He gulped. “I think I’ll be quiet.”
The assassin said, “I changed my mind. I need Jesus.”
Powerhouse rolled his eyes. “Oh, yeah right! He’s just trying to get out of trouble.”
He began to tie the youth up.
The pastor shouted, “Cut it out!”
Powerhouse stopped. “Do you really think you’re that good a preacher?”
“Nope.” The pastor untied the boy. “No one comes, unless the Lord draws him.”
The strange pastor prayed with the boy then patted his shoulder. “Now, go wait in that back room. Somebody will be there to help you to take the next step.”
The boy nodded with tears in his eyes.
The pastor turned to Powerhouse. “Thank you for your efforts. Would you like prayer?”
“There’s refreshments in the fellowship hall. You’ll be more than welcome.” The pastor turned to the others at the altar.
Powerhouse began to walk away. A man in the aisle said to a Middle Eastern fellow, “You going bowling, tomorrow?”
“Nah, I’m gonna help the pastor build the youth center.”
“Why bother?” said the first man. “They’re just going to blow it up.”
“I’ve got to do it. It’s like Nehemiah.”
Powerhouse arched an eyebrow. He’d pay a visit to the construction site tomorrow.
Flying over downtown Seattle the next morning, Powerhouse spotted the man in the Italian suit from the previous evening entering an office building. Powerhouse hovered near a brown stucco building and changed color to match.
Another familiar face arrived. The reporter who’d written an editorial attacking him, Frank Leonard.
Powerhouse waited a few minutes and then flew above the building they’d entered. He scanned it and found them with two other men in a boardroom on the 25th floor. He unlocked a window and flew inside.
A secretary outside the boardroom said, “Hey! You can’t go there.”
“Watch me,” said Powerhouse.
Ross blathered on about the campaign against Powerhouse. Marcos took an antacid tablet and waited for his turn. Powerhouse had treated him like some two bit hood. He was an experienced underworld figure. If he saw Powerhouse again, he’d whack him.
Powerhouse burst into the conference room and lunged for Marcos.
Marcos whipped out his gun. Powerhouse snatched it from his grasp and lifted him up by his shirt. “What were you doing in the alley last night?”
Marcos gulped. “Ain’t none of your business.”
Ross glared at Powerhouse. “You’re on private property. He doesn’t have to answer your questions.”
“Who are you?” asked Powerhouse.
“Frank Ross, owner of this building, and of Ross Insurance companies.”
“I recognize Mr. Leonard from the paper, but who are the rest of you?”
Welch jumped up. “Get out of here, or I’ll arrest you.”
“Who are you to arrest me?”
He pulled out his badge. “Captain Jake Welch, Seattle PD.”
Powerhouse said, “So the police captain who got the Chief to crack down on me is meeting with the reporter who wrote an editorial against me, and a man who was watching people try to kill me.”
Welch screamed, “Get out!”
“But I don’t know who the guy in the Italian suit is.”
Powerhouse obeyed. Welch slammed the door behind him. Ross fidgeted. “He’s not as stupid as he looks. Marcos, raise it to half a million.”
Powerhouse burst back in. “Marcos, that’s who you are! What’s your last name?”
Welch stood and whipped out handcuffs. “That’s it! I’ll bust your hide.”
Powerhouse jumped out the open window. “Powerhouse away!”
The four watched him fly away. Marcos gulped. “Boss, let’s make it 750 grand.”