Sariah Miller sat beside her husband’s empty hospital bed. “Jesse, what would you do?”
“How touchingly melodramatic,” a raspy voice said.
Sariah turned. The Human Muscle stood in the door, a whole 600 pounds of bone-crushing power. His emblem, a large bicep, flexed on his red spandex leotard.
Sariah stood. “How did you get in?”
“Oh please. I’m the Human Muscle. How do you think?” He threw two pieces of twisted metal on the floor. “Those used to be guns.”
“What do you want?”
“I have what I want. The Sword’s secret identity. I became suspicious when I read about Jesse Miller having a heart at-tack and going into a coma. Jesse Miller having a heart attack? The picture of good health? Didn’t seem believable. I asked my-self, what really happened? And then I real-ized what a perfect illusion he had. Miller was agent to every costumed hero on the planet. Who better to be their leader? And competing with himself for your affections, what better way to throw his enemies off?”
“What do you want?”
The Human Muscle clinched his fist. “To make the Sword suffer. To destroy him and so avenge the years I spent in that rat-hole.”
“Too late. He’s dead.”
“And you can rest assured Mystic will pay for what he’s robbed me of, but mean-while, I’ll take what I can. I know quite a few who’d pay handsomely for the oppor-tunity to extract the price of meddling from the Sword’s family. Who should I sell your secret to? A kidnaper who will raise your son to be a villain? A sex offender? Or a serial killer?”
“Leave my baby alone!”
“Well, there’s one way you could save him. Kill the Sword.”
Sariah laughed. “How can you kill a man twice?”
“When he’s still alive in a comic book. Kill the Sword off and give me the honor.”
Sariah stopped laughing.
Human Muscle continued, “Further, I want my own comic book to cover my heroic exploits. Advertise me as the new Payday.”
“It’d be a worse betrayal to Jesse than actually killing him.”
“Darling, you leave me no choice.” The lumbering pile of muscle stepped to-wards her. He moved closer. Closer.
Sariah yanked pepper spray from her pocket, sprayed it in his eyes, and dashed for the door. The Human Muscle pulled a spray from his belt pouch and sprayed it in his eyes.
A green knee-high boot kicked the door open.
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