Every superpower has a catch. One problem: I can’t catch. Here I am, superheroine to Chicago, handcuffed with a zip tie, and without a pencil. I’m always losing pencils. And pens, crayons, markers, and virtually anything you can draw with. Today I found a pen, drew a belt with a pouch, and stashed supplies inside. Just my luck the pen ran out of ink! Drew, my crime-fighting partner, sits across the room, blindfolded. His real name is Andrew Gillam, AKA the Seeker. Hence the blindfold. He can tell where something is, which is handy for when something is stolen, but honestly, he spends most of the time looking for pens.
I met him after drawing myself getting a new friend in second grade. Sure enough, a new student from St. Louis showed up within a week. I didn’t create him or anything; just put an idea in his head, I guess. He lives on his own, in a little shed in Jackson Park that nobody else can find. In a shed. Every time I visit, I draw a bridge or whatever to get across the ditch. It’s not very deep, but I’d rather not jump nine feet. Good thing is, nobody else can or even wants to get across. Drew really lives in the basement, though. It’s like our secret hideout. Complete with computers, Wi-Fi, and a “magically” refilling pantry, I practically live there myself.
After Drew showed up in class that first day, I just thought it was coincidence. back when I was six, I made a crayon drawing of getting a puppy. When I was ten, I drew a comic of our teacher giving everyone easy homework for a week. The list goes on, and when I finally realized I had powers, you can imagine who I told.
Seeker and I don’t use our powers for money. Unfortunately, Colossus does. He’s the only other person I know with powers. His are classic: super-strength. Also, unfortunate, he isn’t dumb. Colossus is smart enough to keep Drew and I apart. Well, sort of apart. We’re in the same room.
This is all my fault. If only I’d packed an extra pen! But I didn’t. Or if I’d caught that Sharpie Seeker threw at me! But I couldn’t. I’m awful at catching. So instead we’re here, wrestling with zip ties in a muscle-man’s study.
Colossus enters the room. A heavy-looking bag he carries jingles as he walks. He squats near me.
“Hey, girl. Draw me a car,” he tosses me a pack of colored pencils and paper. They’d have been useful earlier. He breaks my restraint with a single tug. “No funny business.” I open the package. Better to stall, however.
“A sports car? Or just a getaway car?”
“A truck. Shiny, new, runs perfectly smooth. If it breaks down, I’ll know whose fault it is.” He points to his hand, then Drew. Never mind, then. That’s a threat enough- I start drawing.
“Hurry up already.” I stop drawing and glance up at him.
“Cars are hard.”
“I don’t care. Be done soon, or you’d better hope your boyfriend’s skull is hard.” I ignore the boyfriend part. I don’t really care; but Seeker does, and he has a short temper.
“I’m not her boyfriend.” He needs to stop talking- “We’re just partners.” Stop, Drew! “So why don’t you just-” I hurriedly finish the truck.
“Can we go now?” I ask quickly, holding the page up.
“With money on his hands?” Andrew I-Don’t-Know-Your-Middle-Name Gillam...!
“Shut up.” For once I agree with Colossus, as his calloused hands lift me. “I’m coming back for you boy. If you do anything, I’ve got your girlfriend.”
I should’ve made the floor cushioned. I’m short enough not to be seen from the window, on the floor. Unfortunately for him, Drew is seen from the window, so he’s forced to ride in the trunk. But the music Colossus listens to is so bad, I envy him.
There are two reasons I’m thankful for the smooth drive. The obvious is that Drew would get punched otherwise.
But also, my hands are untied. And I still have the art supplies. Ten minutes later, Colossus is in prison, and the money is returned.
I drew a phone, gave the police a head up on our location, and they showed up in less than three minutes. It was the usual- The Chief thanking us, but asking us to “please be careful, you’re only kids after all,” some “maybe leave this sort of thing to the adults,” and “enjoy your childhood in peace.”
Then of course they asked who we are, who our parents are, and where we live. Obviously, we don’t want them to know that stuff, so we just bow our heads in mock shame, mumble stuff like ‘we’ll be careful!’ And leave as fast as we can.
“If you want,” Drew offers as we walk, “I can walk you home.”
“No, I can walk by myself.” We were almost at that curb between my house and Jackson Park.
“Are you sure?”
“Um, yes. Why are you so concerned?”
“I-I’m not.” He shifts uncomfortably. “It’s just . . . what if. . .What if something happens? Like, if somebody knew who we are, and tried to, like . . . threaten us.”
“I can take care of myself, you worrywart,” I elbow him. He frowns, and looks at me.
“I-I know that. And don’t call me a worrywart. But what if-”
“Enough with the what-ifs! Just because I’m a girl doesn’t mean I can’t protect myself.”
“That is not what I’m saying! I-” Drew gasps, his eyes widening. “Behind us.” He whispers, “on the count of three.” I stiffen immediately. “one, two,”
“Three.” Heavy hands clasp our shoulders. “You’re coming with me.”
The man spins us around and I get a good look at him. He’s tall, maybe in his late twenties, and bulking with muscle. We couldn’t have taken him in the first place. Along with a scraggly reddish-brown beard and mustache, he wears a crisp blue and black suit, with a silver tie.
“You’re the kids with the powers, right?” He asks. I glance at Drew, who looks confused, skeptical, and annoyed, all at the same time.
“Is he crazy?” Drew says to me, with eyebrows raised, and nose scrunched. “We’re just kids.” The man holds up a cellphone and speaks into it calmly, like that was what he’d been waiting for. So much for acting.
“These are the ones. Pull the car up.”
“Woah, dude!” I hold my hands up as if to push him away, and back up quickly. “We don’t-” He grabs my arm, and pulls me back surprisingly gently. Ignoring what I said, he turns to Drew.
“If you don’t come, we’re ready to use precautions.” I can’t pull away.
“We’d have her, for one.” Drew hesitated. Hesitated. Hello? Use your powers and get help already! I wanted to scream at him so bad. Why was he being so. . . stupid? I stare at him in disbelief. He was always like the smart one, the one who was thinking ahead, always practical, and prepared. Drew often made plans, bade his time, while I wanted to go in, charging. He held me back, a lot, and I usually trusted him. Yet. . . what the heck was he waiting for? He looks back at me, concern clearly plastered across his face, arms locked, his hands subtly formed into fists. Then he stared. . . at my ponytail? Where was his priorities?
“So, hypothetically, if I ran, you wouldn’t chase me?” A sleek black minivan pulls up, and I can see the gears spinning in Drew’s head as he looks it up and down.
“Not chased. You’d probably come on your own,” then the man pushes me into the backseat of the van, and slams the doors. I can only hear a faint murmur of their conversation.
“Not scared, are ye, dear?” I jump. A short woman with an odd accent sits at the wheel, giving me a once-over. “Not what I expected, either, hiring kids, and all; but I ‘ave ta do whatever Jim says. I owe ‘im a debt from a couple o’ years ago. Y’know what I mean?” Then she shakes her head. “Suppose ye don’t- ye must barely be in middle school.”
“W-who are you, uh- miss?”
“Kimberly Kale- Jim’s all-around employee.”
“Um, is Jim that guy. . . outside?” I glance outside and see Drew and Jim arguing passionately.
“’Course ‘e is. Who else-” Jim climbs into the car, and Drew stands outside, arms folded and pressed against his chest, biting his lip, staring at the sidewalk. He isn’t. . . No, Drew couldn’t. . . “Get buckled, dear, we’re getting on the highway.”
After a bit, I find the courage to ask, “you let him go?”
“It’s only a minor delay,” said Jim, “but don’t worry; we’ll find your friend soon enough- if we need him.”
“-Did we let him go? If you found two pencils on the ground, would you take the longer, new one? Or would you take the short stub?” He turned in his seat to look me in the eye, “and you should relate to that very well.”
We’re heading west. I’m watching the street signs as we drive past, and it isn’t looking too good. The car must’ve been expensive, because we’ve been driving for two hours and haven’t even stopped for gas. Though, I’ve never actually been out of Illinois before. The only road trip I’d ever been on was to my cousin’s 8th birthday, down in Springfield, and after I’d become Sketch, Dad had never taken me to see them again. Dad- I’d seen him this morning, before he went to work, but that seemed like hours before. Sure, he knew I went out as a superhero, and of course he’d be worried, but I doubt he’d call the police.
Well, he would after a few days. I just hope a few days is enough. . .
“She’s asleep, Kimberly. She actually fell asleep.”
“That’s good. I ‘ate it when we ‘aft to use sleeping gas on younger ‘uns.” Consciousness floods in, and I force myself to not open my eyes. If they want me to sleep, there’s no way I’m going to. I hear doors open and close, and I’m lifted- again. What am I, a bag? I suppose I should be used to this. If you save people publicly, (like I have) then you get kidnapped like twice a month by people who want you to stop (like I do). Each time we’re kidnapped or whatever, Drew and I play innocent, up to the last minute, before we’re driven away. But. . . we left Chicago hours ago. Drew and I are a team, and teammates are supposed to trust each other, but it’s kinda hard to trust somebody who’s miles away.
“What’s the password again, Jim? I always forget.”
“They changed it again this morning. Ah, I think I wrote it down. . . Right, it’s in my pocket,” The arms holding me shift, so Jim must be carrying me. “Here it is: Veil2Brothers. Whatever that means.” Veil Brothers? If that’s the password, Drew needs to know it. . . But there isn’t much you can do while you’re pretending to be sleeping. I am getting tired. Maybe I can work it out tomorrow. . .
Something glinted as I opened my eyes. Where...? Right, I was kidnapped. Again. Twice in on day was a record I hoped would not be broken. I was in a room, - a living room, maybe- lying on a soft brown couch. My throat was dry, and my lips seemed stuck together. I needed water. So, I sat up to look for some, but my head started spinning. Instead of sitting back down, I waited for the pain to pass before examining the room. The couch was against the yellow wall, on the far side from the door. In front of me was a glass coffee table, and on the other side of that, an identical couch to the one I was sitting on. Nothing else.
Knock, knock. Jim entered the room with a bottle of water and a stack of papers. He sat on the couch and looked me in the eye before placing the water on the table.
“We want to propose something to you.”
“You’re taking me home with an apology? ‘Cuz otherwise, it’s a no.” My voice was a little groggy, so it didn’t sound as annoying and heroic as I wished it did.
“Actually, it’s not. See, to put it bluntly, we wish to hire you-”
“Gee, great way to hire somebody. It warms my heart, each time some jerk kidnaps me.”
“You’d start getting paid properly if you were still working for us at sixteen,” he said, ignoring my comment. “Until then, you would probably get what you’d call special treatment. Pocket money, nice meals, plus gifts on birthdays.”
“I already had that stuff before you came along. Really, that isn’t what I would call ‘special treatment’.”
“Oh, so you’re familiar to having a couple hundred in your pocket?” Jim asked, an amused smirk playing on his features. “In that case, you already have a laptop. Wouldn’t like eating from our buffet either, I reckon.”
“You’re trying to bribe me.”
“That’s how all business is done.”
“Well, stay out of my business, because it’s not done that way. Besides. Child labor laws- I don’t work for anyone.”
“Katie,” he said, which was creepy, “you know you’d only be drawing. We also have excellent lawyers.”
“I never told you my name.” I cross my arms and glare at him, hoping I looked mature and experienced, instead of a three-year-old not getting their way.
“Fine. We’ll talk again tomorrow,” and he left. Well, good riddance. If I ever see him again, it’ll be too soon. Wait- did he say ‘we’ have a proposal? I doubted it was Kimberly. Didn’t yesterday they said something about ‘they changed the password again’? Maybe something bigger is going on- like a secret underground organization. What did Jim say about Drew? If we need him? This could be a trap. Drew needs to know about the possible trap, the possible plot, he needs to know the password- Argh! I hate being unable to talk to him. I drink some of the water Jim left on the table.
I need a second opinion on this. Otherwise, I’ll overthink myself to death. That’s it: I’m overthinking everything. There isn’t any plot- the ‘we’ is probably just Jim and Kimberly. Who else could it be? Jim is probably just some rich guy trying to get richer. Maybe I haven’t been careful enough, and he pieced a few things together. Then he assumed my powers were cooler than Drew’s. For some reason, people often do that. Usually, one of the last things they assume about him. He comes back quick.
A trap? Please, this isn’t a movie. What was I thinking? Except, I’m a superhero, and they’re only supposed to exist in movies. . . But I’m not some fiction film. I am Katie Rien, and I’m going to make this Jim-guy wish he never thought about using me.
Three days. That’s how long it’s been since I last saw Drew, or dad or anybody- three whole days. And they’ve been exceedingly boring days, too. Each morning Jim would try to hire me, I’d decline, and have the rest of the day to run out of things to think about. The door is always locked. The windows are too high for me to look out of, even if I push the couch over, and I’m not especially short. I must be in a basement, because where else would you install windows like that?
Knock, knock. Why...? Jim had already come this morning. It couldn’t be Drew, could it? If it is, he certainly took his time, since he had seeking-powers.
Nope. It’s Jim.
“I told you, you can’t hire me.”
“Exactly. So, we’re going to force you instead.” My heart dropped down somewhere around my shoes, and it started pattering quickly.
“Y-you can’t. You don’t have anything-”
“How about anyone?”
“Who?” A single word. The only thing that mattered- who.
“She cares. How touching. Maybe he would survive if you’d accepted the job.”
“Tell me who you villain!”
“After you help.” He could be bluffing. I hadn’t been shown any proof. But what if he wasn’t bluffing? If Drew was really being held captive. . . If they were going- going to- Maybe, it was somebody else. But I couldn’t let them hurt some innocent kid- Or was it Dad? Neither would want me to accept. . . but I couldn’t stand it if- if they. . .“I’ll do it.”