M.T. Johnson’s, Stafford’s Underworld, Series Preview. Learn More At www.darkhourdogpublishing.com
Albert Stafford’s shoes clattered against the damp pavement as he followed Flutterwing down the dank housing estate. The has-been superhero, a term Albert despised, had aged like milk:
She looked as if she was due a trip to rehab: greasy streaks of her black ponytail flapped lifelessly against the top of her back; her body twitched and creaked as she walked; and her dull yellow wings, with black veins running across them, were mired with holes.
A gust of cold November wind shot down the dark alley, lit only by a few flickering yellow streetlights. Albert shivered and clutched his black overcoat, feeling the grip of his Beretta M9 pistol pressing into his side from the inner pocket.
Flutterwing took a draw off her cigarette and threw it on the path; it looked like a firebug whizzing towards the floor. She strutted towards an abandoned-looking house and turned a corner, vanishing from sight. The screams of a rusty hinge and a metallic crash rang from the alley.
Aching at the knees, Albert hurried along as fast as his old legs could carry him. . These were not the legs of a SAS commando that could carry thrice the weight at five times the distance before giving way anymore.
A large, rusty metal door stood beyond the corner, the bricks around it shedding red flakes of clay, with weeds growing from the cracks between the path that led to the door.
Albert knocked three times. The door banged and thrummed. With the click of a lock, the door swung open to reveal Flutterwing, glaring at him through her amber eyes. Her breath smelled like a wet dog. “What?” she snarled.
“I need some blue pills. ‘Ole Derrick down The Red Horse told me you could help.” Hazy plumes of warm breath drifted from Albert’s mouth.
“Need help getting your cock hard, grandad?” Flutterwing chuckled, and spittle sprayed from her rotten teeth. “Was that a twinkle in your eye? Do you fancy me, is that it? Maybe you don’t need those blue pills after all—”
“The fuck are you yapping on about, Lisa?” A raspy voice called from behind.
“Nothin’, Boss. The old geezer wants to buy dick pills,” Flutterwing said.
A slender, ghoulish-looking man with coarse mint-green skin and yellow serpentine eyes emerged from behind Flutterwing. His reptilian skin flakey along his face and bald head. Albert knew him as Snake-Eye, another has-been hero from the ’80s to ’90s. He remembered seeing their stupid posters plastered all over the place; of course, the two looked in better shape back then. Snake-Eye in his black and green leather uniform with a sleek face mask, and Flutterwing in black and yellow spandex, gleaming black hair, and two pairs of giant wasp wings spread out for flight, both posing triumphantly whilst promoting their supergroup, The Beasts; that group favored heroes with animal-like powers. Albert recalled seeing Snake-eye, Flutterwing, and The Beasts doing a press conference after taking out some big-time London drug lord. Now they both looked like shit.
“And you kept him out in the cold instead of bringing him in?” Snake-eye slapped Flutterwing across the back of her head and beckoned Albert to come in. A forked tongue slid from his mouth and raced across his dry lips.
The decrepit gray room stunk of marijuana and pungent body odor. Albert suspected the smell radiated from Flutterwing: reptiles don’t sweat. A naked light bulb hung from the cracked ceiling.
They led him through a dank corridor into what looked like a living room. The light was dimmer here and paint flaked off the walls. A scale with white powdery marks sat on a table in the corner next to a mound of plastic baggies full of cocaine. A dwarf wearing tinted goggles and a furry hat was slumped over the table, unconscious, a needle stuck in his arm.
Creases appeared above Albert’s forehead.
“Don’t worry about Pete over there,” Snake-eye laughed. “He just got a bit carried away. Would you guess he was once a prodigy? Mouseboy, they called him; the most useless fucking superhero to ever grace the world.” Snake-eye fell into the mildewed couch in the middle of the room and picked up a grimy crack-pipe from the coffee table. He took a white rock from some tin foil on the table and put it in the pipe, and then he lit the bottom and sucked the smoke out of it. Snake-eye held it for a moment, then slowly exhaled. His slit reptilian pupils expanded as he stared intensely at Albert, and he slumped further into the couch as if he was melting into it.
“Sit,” he croaked and held a shaky hand out.
Albert sat on a chair next to the couch. Flutterwing came in holding a bag full of blue pills, brushing white powder off her nose, and took a seat opposite him.
“How many you after?” She said, opening the bag.
“I’ll take the lot,” Albert said.
Flutterwing squinted. “You want this whole bag?”
“I want every pill you have. As much as I can get my bloody hands on.”
Snake-eye laughed weakly. “Some lucky bird you got at home, ey? She’s gonna have sore legs the rest of the month.” He looked at the ceiling as he said the words, high as a kite.
Flutterwing’s eyes lit up and she laughed. “Sure, hon. Just show me some coin first so I know you’re not pulling my leg.”
Albert opened his overcoat ever so slightly. “No, you’re going to die.”
In that instant, the world seemed to freeze. Flutterwing’s malnourished face contorted into a grimace of rage and confusion. Her dirty nails dug into the table, leaving scratch marks in the wood as she pushed herself to her feet.
Snake-eye glared at Albert, rubbing his ear like he didn’t believe what he’d just heard.
Albert slung the Beretta M9 out from his overcoat. The motion so imprinted into his brain that it felt as natural as getting out of bed. He pointed the gun between Flutterwing’s wide eyes, not needing to aim, his eyes knew where they wanted that bullet to land. He squeezed the trigger…
Read more of Stafford’s Underworld here, in secret… on Simily.co.
Search for Snake-Eye: Origins or learn more about the series atRecommend0 Simily SnapsPublished in