Cape City Chronicles
v1: Today the City, Tomorrow...
#9: The Terrible Tantrum!
by Jennifer Kohl
Two weeks ago...
Kelly stared out the window, slumping in her seat as the bus idled. One more stop after this, and then she’d finally be in Cape City. One more boring-ass stop and she would finally be free of this seemingly interminable bus ride, the crying babies, the weird smells, the weirder people, the frankly horrific bus bathroom and the somehow even worse station bathrooms.
“This seat taken?” someone asked.
She looked up at a man, maybe a couple of years older than herself, in jeans and a black concert t-shirt for some band she’d never heard of. “No,” she admitted reluctantly.
He smiled and brushed back a bit of his long, greasy-looking blonde hair. “CCU student?” he asked, not moving to sit.
“Huh? Oh, right, the sweatshirt. Yeah, on my way back there now, actually. Went home for a week for my sister’s wedding.”
His smile widened. “I’m an alum myself.” He sat and held out a hand. “Gordy.”
Ugh, I do NOT want to make friends right now, especially with someone this weedy-looking. “Kelly,” she said, and took his hand, expecting it to be moist or sticky or something equally disgusting.
But it wasn’t. His skin was warm and smooth, his grip light but just firm enough to be noticeable, and he did something with his thumb on the skin between her thumb and forefinger that seemed to drain all the tension of the ride out of her body.
“Oh wow,” she said, stifling a moan.
Gordy grinned. “Aren’t you glad I sat here?” He was still holding her hand, palm-up now, and tracing light, looping patterns over her palm with one finger of his free hand.
“Ooooh...” Kelly’s voice was soft, weak, a surprise to her ears. But it matched how she suddenly felt. “Yes...”
“I think you’re going to find that we will be very good friends.” He brushed a lock of hair out her eyes, and as he did, stroked her temple lightly, just so, and she was floating in euphoria.
“Don’ un’erstan’,” she murmured. “How..?”
“Shhh,” he said, as the bus started to move. He touched just under her ear, where her jaw and neck met, and another gentle wave of sleepy pleasure rolled through her. She’d had questions, but they were gone now. He trailed light, gentle brushes down her neck, and even the concept of questions evaporated.
“You feel so good, don’t you? So good from my touch. And I can touch you more, in ways that’ll make you feel even better. Wouldn’t you like that?” he asked.
A last kernel of resistance surfaced in her pleasure-addled mind. She knew how much she would like that, but she had a powerful reason not to. “Have a... gir’f’en’...”
He smiled. “Don’t worry. You can introduce me to her later.”
The rest of Kelly’s bus ride was a haze of bliss, floating in a pink fuzzy cloud where all she had to do was let the words he murmured flow through her and occasionally nod in agreement. By the time the bus pulled into the Cape City terminal, she was more than willing to accompany him to the hotel he’d reserved before coming back to town. And by an hour after that, she’d do anything for him.
Including help him get his revenge.
“I don’t get it,” said Alex, staring at the cuffs on the table. “The hook’s intact. The cuffs are intact, and the lock works. Not even Olympia is flexible enough to pick the lock while she’s wearing them, at least not without using her mouth or feet, and she definitely wasn’t doing that while I was in there. How did she get loose?”
“I don’t know,” said the uniformed cop who had been standing guard on the room. “I don’t see any way she could have, if the cuffs were put on right.”
“Same,” said Alex. “Which means they weren’t put on right. So who put them on her?” She could see the uniform hesitating, so added, “Don’t pull any of that solidarity shit on me, you know that doesn’t fly here.”
“Right,” said the officer. “Um, I’m pretty sure it was Sergeant Dawson, he’s the one who brought her in.”
“That’s not the kind of mistake he makes,” Alex answered.
“I know,” the officer replied. “That’s why—”
“So where is he?” she interrupted.
“I don’t know.”
“Seems like there’s a lot you don’t know. Find him!” Alex seethed. She couldn’t very well tell a random uniform why she was angry, though; let him assume it was at him, that was better than admitting that she was worried. It really wasn’t the kind of mistake Deshawn would make, so how did it happen? Well, there was a simple explanation, wasn’t there? Two different people had tried to mind control Alex in one day, and neither of them was the notorious escaped mind-controller with a grudge against her. There was a lot of mind-control happening lately, and if Deshawn were a victim...
Well, it meant that they were uncomfortably close to her. It meant political problems for SCI, if it couldn’t even protect its second-in-command. It meant paperwork, and losing one of her best people right when she needed him the most.
And it means the closest thing I have to a friend is in danger.
The woman who walked into the little tea shop could not possibly have looked more out of place. She was massively underdressed, for starters; this was a place where little old ladies sat to sip and exchange herbal remedies and complain about the kids today, a place for cardigans and shawls and pantsuits two decades out of style, and she was wearing tiny shorts, thigh-high boots, and a halter top that was barely more than a bra, all in shiny black. She was also about forty years younger than the average attendee, wearing a lot more makeup, and much steadier on her feet, moving with a grace that was at once alluring and disturbing, less cat than swaying cobra.
What few customers were in at this hour looked at her with undisguised disgust, but she ignored them, weaving her way to a half-shadowed table at the back. “Madame Yao,” she said softly.
“Ms. Jones,” the old woman replied.
The woman scowled. “That’s Ms. Ishtar to you. Jasmine to friends. J—that other name belongs to a dead woman.”
“Ah, of course,” Yao replied. “My apologies.”
Jasmine inclined her head in acceptance. That was no mistake. She’s trying to throw me off balance. But for fun, or because she’s going to pull something? There’s got to be more to her than meets the eye. You don’t get to be Tarantula’s messenger by baking cookies.
“Would you prefer Devildancer?” Yao asked.
“Keep it down!” Jasmine hissed.
“Please do not concern yourself,” Yao replied. “The customers here are well-versed in not noticing what happens at this table, and as for the staff, well... they know who they really work for.”
“Look, I got your message, I came, let’s get on with this.”
Yao took a long, slow sip of her tea. “Curious, isn’t it, how the young are always so impatient. Sometimes it seems like the more time one has left, the one seeks to hoard it.”
“Sure, right, now what—”
“We are calling in your debt,” Yao said.
“What?” Jasmine asked, shocked. “I’ve been paying on the regular for three years, I can’t just—”
Yao sighed. “Not the monetary debt. Our organization is quite pleased with the work you’ve done. Half the strip clubs and most of the brothels in the city are now yours, and through you, ours. I refer to the other debt.”
Jasmine bristled at “through you, ours.” Yeah, so she’d had to borrow pretty heavily from what turned out to be some pretty unsavory people to buy her strip club out from under her old boss, but since then she’d built an empire of her own. Just because they loaned her the seed money—wait. “Other debt?“
“We are, of course, fully aware of your other... activities. We heartily approve, and have taken steps to ensure you are able to continue them.”
Jasmine stared. “That time Corvid and Poledancer almost got me, but then they got diverted to some fifth-rate basement warlock instead. That was you?”
“Indeed. Also two separate instances in which Athena investigated demonic activities tied to you.”
“Athena never—wait, Athena was on my trail? And you distracted her?“
Jasmine sat back, stunned. Of course the old hag could be lying... but she never had been able to figure out how Corvid and Poledancer suddenly stopped chasing her and picked up the wrong guy instead, or why the city’s biggest magical Special had never so much as noticed her. “Let’s say I believe you. What do you want in exchange?”
“Very little,” Yao replied. “A piece of information.”
“You seem to know a lot already.”
“We do,” said Yao. “But our sources capable of employing less... mundane means, shall we say? Are not particularly reliable. You, on the other hand...”
“I’m the best demonologist on this plane.”
Yao inclined her head. “So we are informed.”
“OK, no promises, but I’ll hear you out. What are you trying to find out?”
Yao smiled thinly. “A simple matter, of little import, but necessary for our own peace of mind.”
She told Jasmine what she wanted, and Jasmine shrugged. “I can do that. And that makes us even?”
“It does... until the next time we need to protect you.”
Jasmine considered a moment. “Deal.”
“Girls!” Stephanie called, rapping on the table. “Girls! Settle down.” She looked around the table. Of course Cara was sitting calmly, waiting for the meeting to start—she was always quiet, except when she suddenly wasn’t. But the other members of the sorority were talking, chatting, laughing, doing basically everything except paying attention to the emergency house meeting their president had called. “Hey!” she repeated. “This is important! GP biz.”
That settled them down. “GP biz” was their code for the reason Gamma Pi Omega existed. Not to host parties, haze pledges, or network; the real work. Gamma Pi Omega was fun, but it was a cover—for Girls Power, which was definitely a real and serious superhero team and not just somewhere for the Protectors’ sidekicks to hang out.
“Right,” said Stephanie—Glory Girl, as she was known in costume. “So. Word is... Groper’s back in town.” Between Glory Girl’s connections as the protege of Gloriana, the Protectors’ unofficial second-in-command, and Stephanie’s mastery of the grapevine, she was almost always the first to hear about new threats or returning old ones. That was why she was the leader.
Groans sounded around the table—from everyone except Candice, the Cosmic Cheerleader, who looked unsettled.
“I know,” said Glory Girl. “But he’s given us a hard time before, and more importantly, he hates us for getting him expelled last year.”
“Should’ve thought of that before he tried to turn half the girls on campus into his personal harem,” Cara said darkly. Darkly was how she did most things, hence the name Corvid.
“The important thing is, we stopped him! We can do it again!” said Michelle—or M’sh’l, as she was known on her home planet. Her code name was the literal English translation, Starfury. “Groper doesn’t stand a chance!”
“Right,” said Glory Girl. “We all know what he looks like. We should call around to hotels, motels, and so on to make sure there isn’t a Gordon Grouper registered anywhere, but we have to assume that not even Groper’s dumb enough to use his real name. Rumor is he’s going by Tantra these days.”
The team’s youngest member, a sophomore named Aisha—Contour in the field—giggled. “Oh no, what an awful menace, girls. Fear the wrath of the Terrible Tantrum!”
They all laughed—except, Glory Girl noticed, Corvid and Cosmic Cheerleader. That was normal for Corvid, but... “Candice?” she asked. “You okay?”
“Huh?” Cosmic Cheerleader blinked. “Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?”
“OK,” said Glory Girl. “Well, let’s get started trying to find him.”
“Ooh,” said Starfury. “Can’t. I have Prof Goode’s class in, like, ten minutes.”
“Which of course means I do too,” said Corvid.
“Okay,” said Glory Girl. “But—”
“And tonight’s that party with Sigma Eta, remember? I’ve still got prep work to do,” said Cosmic Cheerleader.
“Oh come on, Candice. Class is one thing, but isn’t this more important than a party?”
“Don’t worry about it, Stephanie,” Candice replied. “Like everyone said, it’s just Groper. Or Tantrum or whatever. You and Aisha are more than a match for him.”
“I could take him out myself!” Contour bragged before stretching her arms to three times their normal length. “He can’t touch me if he can’t get near me!”
“Hrm,” said Glory Girl. “All right. I guess the party is important to maintaining our cover. We’ll split up for now—but when you three are done with class and prep, you join the search, all right?”
There was a chorus of agreement, and the meeting broke up, but Glory Girl still felt uneasy. Something’s off with Candice. I’d better check in with her later, maybe after the party.
For her part, Candice went back up to her room, ostensibly to make some calls. But as soon as the door was closed, she leaned against it and hugged herself tightly. Please don’t let it be true. He was supposed to never come back!
It was frightening, that after everything he’d done, he’d gotten off with expulsion and no criminal charges. Even more frightening that he’d been able to come back after only a year. But most frightening of all?
Part of her was glad he was back.