Gina squinted her eyes from the radiance of pink neon flashing from the marquee of Club Candy Cane. She walked down Rector Street, amazed at how unexplainably empty it was. Deserted. Hart must be expecting her arrival. She walked toward the club and went around back. On the loading dock, she spotted a brawny bouncer wearing a black suit and gold shirt guarding the rear entranceway. He put his hand up and halted the Angelite from moving further. “I don’t know whatcha think dis is sista, but no one’s allowed back here,” the bouncer said. “So ’less you gonna give ya boy a lil’ sumthin’-sumthin’, you betta get up outta here! Not now, but RIGHT now!”
Gina wasn’t in the mood to talk. To end the conversation, she leveled the bouncer with one punch, which torpedoed him through the back entranceway. The doorframe and half of the surrounding wall came down with him. “Such a gentleman,” she snickered before stepping over his fallen body to enter the club.
Walking through a winding hallway, she wound up in the kitchen area, the kind that would be seen in a 5-star restaurant. Examining the top-notch cooking equipment, she sensed something was off with the freezer. No frost on the glass. The door felt too warm. No products of any kind stored on the shelves. She opened the door and stepped inside. Oddly, there were no cooling fans stored anywhere. However, she found climate controls on the back wall. Maybe the cooling unit was busted. One turn of the dial and the entire back wall slid open, revealing a hidden staircase. “How ’bout that?” she thought.
Going up the narrow stairs, she entered the hallway with the red doors. Grabbing her attention were the double doors at the end of the hall. She swung
open the double doors and entered. It was Hart’s private office, more lavished than the lobby of a fancy hotel. Enormous windows took up the whole back wall, displaying a beautiful shot of New York City.
Everything seemed normal. All of a sudden, she sensed an unearthly presence. Energy as strong as hers, but weighing down on her heart as if agony and depression were rolled into a poisonous slab of meat, unable to digest. Quickly, the doors shut behind her. Someone else is here, but not John. Someone else. Stronger. Cold. Evil. Who? There. Masked in the shadows. Flashing red eyes stared at her. Show no fear. She can’t let herself be trapped again. John used that to his advantage at the bank. Stay strong. Have faith. “You’re not Hart,” she said. “So, whoever you are, show yourself.”
Lights gradually shined. Gina could see his face. Oh my God. It can’t be.
For years, she called him a friend. Hard-working officers trusted this man for years. She inconsolably discovered the truth. He’s a full-fledged member
of the Clucifix. An orchestrator to this massive and horrific killing spree. John Hart’s mentor. Inexplicably, he goes by Grandpa. But, she undoubtedly knew his real identity. “Commissioner Wood?” she gasped.
“Only to the NYPD,” he answered. “Actually, I have so many identities that sometimes I lose track.” Her chest ached from the pain of betrayal. “You look upset, Vasquez. Was I the last person you thought you’d see tonight? Here of all places? Well, I’m kind of disappointed as well. My original plan was to recruit you to join my regime. I wanted you to lead the new breed of Clucifix soldiers. Didn’t turn out that way. Judging by your new status of power, I’m pleased to
see that my assumptions about you were correct. They thought highly of you as I did. Unfortunately, they got to you first. Good for them. Congrats, by the way. You look great.”
“Recruit me?” she asked in disgust.
“With the same offer I made to Hart. Now don’t get me wrong, John’s a good boy. He’s dedicated. Follows directions well. But let’s face it, he’s out of your league.” He threw his hands up and sighed. “Anyway, my plan got shot to hell once your family got you out of jail.”
“You? Did I go to prison because of you? It wasn’t the lawyers or my in-
laws, or even Goldberg for that matter. You’re the one who threw the book at me!”
“No, my child. Goldberg was solely responsible for taking you to court. However, it was I who convinced him to take immediate action. How else could I get you to join me except by pushing you to the brink of self-destruction?
Your life was over Vasquez. I was going to offer you a new one. A chance for greatness in the new world order! But nothing I did worked on you! I was certain that the hate you built against your husband would’ve been enough to manipulate you. I was wrong. A miscalculation on my part for underestimated your mental toughness.”
“My husband…you set that whole thing up?”
“Who do you think hired the bimbo you caught him with?” “…My God.” She felt numb.
“Now-now, Vasquez. Again, I didn’t force your husband to cheat on you – hell I never even met the guy – but he was seething with so much envy at you for taking over as breadwinner of the family. After such a promising start, he
became a pimple on the ass of patheticness. Starving for attention. I just dangled the right bait and he took a bite, as expected. I crossed so many boundaries
to get you in my army, but something or someone always intervened. I got so vexed over the whole thing that I had to settle for Hart.”
“Your protest. He impressed me by organizing so many officers in such a short amount of time. Between you and me though, the guy’s a B+ player. He’ll never come close to reaching your status. You belong with us, Gina. And together we can change the world. For real this time.”
It took a minute for Gina to manage her anger. She trusted this man. Saxon Davis calls him his best friend. Lo and behold, Cornelius Wood was the mastermind who altered her life for the worst. “You had me locked up. Drowning in guilt for years. Ripped my life and career away from me. Now you expect me to take part in your demented scheme for world domination as if it’s going to make up for the pain I endured?! Lost time with my family?!
Contemplating suicide? You must be out of your mind if you would ever think
I’d join up with you.”
“That’s not what I want to hear. Human history shows that great heroes always die at the end of hellacious wars. Do you know why? Because no matter how hard you fight to preserve your way of life, there is always someone greedier, more cunning, and eviler, desperate people who’ll do whatever it
takes to put the world in the palm of their hands. You can’t fight the inevitable, Vasquez. If you keep trying to swim uphill, sooner or later you’ll die from exhaustion. Ask yourself. Is it worth it?”
“Making sure my loved ones are safe from a mischievous waste-of-space like you? No question.”
Wood guffawed. “I like you, Vasquez. I’m actually going to shed a tear when you die – now whether it’ll be sincere or not I really can’t say.” He looked at his watch. “Looks like it’s time for me to go. Fun catching up with you.”
“What makes you think I’m going to let you walk out of here?”
“We both know you’re not ready for me. I could destroy you just like that.” He snapped his fingers. “Our time will come to dance. Meanwhile, some friends of mine would like your autograph. I’ll see you soon.” A brigade of clicks sounded. She turned around and viewed a herd of SWAT agents pointing shotguns at her head.
Moving at the speed of the wind, Gina disarmed them in a matter of seconds. Their arms stayed stiff holding imaginary weapons. She then mauled through the group with one-punch strikes, the SWAT army literary disintegrated as their bodies crumbled to dust on impact. Demons exploded like kernels on a hot stove. Centered in a ring of ash, charred uniforms and dented armor, Gina wasn’t surprised to see Wood had weaseled out of the room.
By the window, she discovered a large rip within the cityscape. Posterboard behind plexiglass. All fake. A light shined from the rip. She peaked inside. Standing under a spotlight with his back turned was John Hart. Gina burst through the papered backdrop and entered the room. Vengeful. Furious. Hart turned on his heel to face her while holding a bible in his hand.
“Are you mocking me with that?” she asked.
“No,” said John, slamming the book closed. “This is good reading material. So many wonderful stories. I like thumbing through it whenever I’m on the toilet.” He tossed it to the side. “I was looking for a cold-hearted passage to
recite before I kill you.” He sighed. “It pains me to have to spill your blood all over this floor, but a man’s got to do what a man has got to do!”
“Then what are you waiting for?” She cracked her knuckles.
John stretched his arms out lazily. “Why are you so hell-bent on fighting me? You made me this way!! All of this started because of those political jerks who love screwing over dedicated officers like us!! Goldberg. That conniving son of…I CAN’T BELIEVE YOU SAVED HIM!! He doesn’t care about you! Politicians. Government officials. They’re all greedy, filthy pigs that only give a damn about money!!! It’s them who want to control the world!! Not me!! I just
want to uphold true justice. Give the kind of protection that this world deserves.”
“So, you’re the hero in this? Does upholding justice mean forcing people to conform to your laws? Mandatory discipline for those who forget who’s in authority? You’re cut from the same cloth as Goldberg: bloodsuckers of the poor.”
“And what about you, Vasquez? Let’s say you come out of this as the hero. Do you expect to go home and live a normal life? Can you ignore the urge to punish the next jerk who resists arrest? No matter what moniker of regalness has been bestowed upon you, you’re still human, Vasquez. Those powers can’t change who you are. You see me? YOU SEE ME?! I’m perfect! I represent everything that keeps this planet moving. Angels are a dying breed. Faith is a
laughable concept. You can keep fighting for decades and you’ll still wind up on the losing team.”
“Pathetic isn’t a strong enough word for what I think of you, John. Not even demonic powers could raise your I.Q. You’ve undermined the law and preyed on the weak for selfish gain. That’s because you are weak. A shell of a man. You’ve sold your soul just to burn in Hell with absolutely nothing to show for it. Sad – sad – sad.”
John’s ego got sliced in half and Gina rubbed salt in the wound. Screaming louder than an MMA fighter singing opera, he rushed in to attack. His fists came swinging from all directions, moving as fast as lightning. Gina played defense only to test his strength. His skills were subpar at best. He’s not as strong as she imagined, be it that she was blocking his strikes with one arm.
John switched to defense as Gina engaged with strikes of her own. He swiftly dodged passed them until he caught a boot to his abdomen. She then
kicked him around the room like a soup can, plaster exploded from large holes he left in the walls.
“Getting tired already?” asked Gina, seeing John moaning and groaning on the floor. “Am I too tough for you? Do you need to call your boys for help? Have them do your dirty work for you, like always? Heh - some man you are.” Highly insulted, John attacked again. Before landing a punch, Gina landed a right hook to his ribcage and then crushed the side of his skull with a spin-kick. Rolling on the floor like tumbleweed, John landed on his knees and coughed out blood.
“I see your face glistening,” Gina teased. “Not working out as you should? A good cop is always prepared for any situation. Basic police academy principals Johnny boy. Guess you were asleep when they taught that.” She bent down over him. “What? Wanna quit?”
John cracked a creepy smile. “You haven’t beaten me. I’m just getting warmed up.” He hunched over his hand, which began to flicker with red lightning between his fingers, forming an energy ball. He staggered to his feet. Gina stood with her hands on her hips, waiting for his next move. She let her guard down. Just the move he was waiting for. He then threw the energy ball at her eyes.
“AAAAAH!!!!!” She was blinded by swirling globs like being trapped inside a lava lamp. She grasped onto her face, stricken by unbearable pain. Taking full advantage, John telegraphed several punches to her face, followed by an elbow against her spine
“Where’s your smart mouth now, Vasquez?!” he taunted as he grabbed a handful of red hair. “Didn’t I tell you this would happen...DIDN’T I?!!!! Such a damn shame. We could’ve had a great future together.”
Maddening swirls bubbled faster. Because of the throbbing pain, she couldn’t concentrate, falling victim to her human emotions again. Her ears picked up the sound of lightning regenerating from John’s hand. She channeled her energy inward and focused on clearing her vision. Surrounding sounds faded away, hearing only the beat of her heart, going at a normal pace. She felt her power grow. Pain diminished. Blobs dispersed. Her vision returned in time to
see John’s sparkling red hand attack once more.
She spun around and grabbed his arm, not letting his attack commence.
Neither one showed leniency, each struggling to get the upper hand. It was
a stalemate. Most of her energy had been used. She wasn’t strong enough to push him away. What else can she do? John laughed hysterically as he felt the Angelite weakening. She needed to counterattack soon or else she’ll face further suffering, maybe worse than before. Yelling with all her might, she shoved his lightning hand against his face.
John screamed as if he was laying on a bed of hypodermic needles. He then flopped around the floor like a fish out of water, grimacing and caressing his burned marks in his cheek and temple. “Why is this happening?!” he complained. “I’M A GOD!!!!”
“You’re history,” she said, standing tall while dusting off her shoulders. “Not yet, baby!” He pulled out a large crystal from his pocket. “You know
what this is? It’s called a Ghost Bomb, guaranteed to annihilate every living
thing within my desired radius! And I want every ounce of its power to tear your soul apart!”
“No! Don’t do this!” Gina pleaded. “You could level half the city! Thousands of people will die! Your fight is with me!”
“You’re right. Nobody else has to die. It’s too bad you won’t live to find out.” Gina lunged to stop him. Too late. From the basement to the roof, great balls of fire touched all corners of the establishment, destroying everything left standing.