Do You Have Any Grey Poupon? by evergreenwriter83
Chapter 1 by evergreenwriter83
I woke up, groggy and sweat-stained, to find an enormous hole in the center of my black T-shirt, like I came out on the losing end of a battle against Mothman. My mouth felt stale and I had no doubt that there was a less-than-pleasant aroma of two-week old Doritos that surrounded me. I poked three fingers through the hole of the t-shirt, trying to remember if I had seen such a hole before I had yanked the shirt out of my duffel bag the day before.

Or had it been a couple days ago?

“Dude, you look like shit.”

My associate, Alex, swung himself into the gamer chair beside me, scooping up the PS3 remote like it was his lost appendage. My ass sank deeper into my own seat as my eyes focused on the screen before me.

I had fallen asleep playing video games. Again.

“Made it to level 50,” I said as we started up as if we had never stopped.

“Have we had any customers?”

My tongue rooted around my mouth double-checking for Dorito particles. “Nope.”

“Would you have noticed?”

I hid a smile. “Nope.”

“You need a life.”

“Look who’s talking.”

“I didn’t sleep in the store overnight.”

I gave up on my Dorito-collecting. “I kind of got evicted.”

Nimbly, Alex kept playing even while sliding a cigarette between his lips. He flipped open a matchbook one handed and with one sure swipe ignited a match. My eyes flickered to the broken fire alarm.

“So you’re living here?”

The store, aka “here” was Fly By Knight Comics and Games, the shop that we had opened together just six months ago. I had hit it big on the lottery, quit my job at Kentucky Fried Chicken, and never looked back.

Except now I was broke.

“It’s more like I’m trying a different approach,” I said. “No other comic and game store is open twenty-four hours.”

Alex’s upper lip lifted. “Walmart?”

“We’re superior.”

“The place stinks.”

I wasn’t sure whether he meant the merchandise or myself. We lapsed into silence as we dueled along on the big screen TV. Only after I had dealt my grand death punch and Alex had thrown the controller half-way across the room did I chance a whiff of my armpit.

Offensive, even to myself.

“Listen,” I said. “I know this is a lot to ask, but—“

“I’m not letting you into my place.”

I blew a long, dirty piece of blonde hair away from my face. “I wasn’t—“

“Yes, you were.”

“Just for a—“

The chimes above the front door ended our conversation. We both turned, expecting a typical customer: thirty-something, overweight, and slightly dirty. Kinda like me, except for the overweight part.

“Holy Shit, Spidey,” Alex said, his cigarette dangling precariously from his lips.

‘Holy Shit, Spidey’ was an understatement. I suddenly became aware of the draft the hole in my shirt created. I blinked rapidly, sure that I was hallucinating.

She was gorgeous. She was Anne Hathaway as Catwoman gorgeous. The leather clung to her body in all the right places. Her dark hair hung low, but away from her face, allowing her to remain incredibly, indestructibly, alert.

A comic book heroine come to life.

The three of us stared at each other for I don’t know how long. She was the one to break the silence.

“I need your help,” she said.

I ran my fingers through my hair, hoping that I didn’t have Dorito highlights like I so often did. There was something about Nacho Cheese Doritos…

“Our help?” I repeated.

She had lips that formed a perfect pucker. She seemed to direct herself more at me than at Alex. Her eyes were a dark brown that had it been for the darker pupil, I would have categorized as black. “More like a mission,” she responded. “A dangerous mission.”

“If you choose to accept it.”

Alex cast a sidelong look my way. I’m pretty sure we were thinking the same thing. Gorgeous, but a quack. Maybe she was one of those people you read about every now and then. You know the type. The ones that stab three nurses on their way out of the looney bin.

“Right,” I said, trying to keep my voice even. “A mission.”

Her eyes narrowed. “I’m serious.”

“Okay,” Alex said. I knew his angle. Keep the crazy bird happy. “What kind of mission are we talking about?”

“I’ve had something stolen and I need you two to retrieve it.”

Alex snorted. I shoved my hands in my jeans. “Why us?”

When she smiled, she made my heart skip a beat. In my younger days, I had been something of a ladies’ man. It was just the last couple years when I had succumbed to slothery. “Let’s just say I have a sixth sense about these things.”

I had no doubt she had a sixth sense. Suddenly I pictured her going home to a house filled with black cats and creepy melted wax candles and whips…

Whips.

“Okay,” I found myself saying. Alex audibly sucked in a breath.

“Nick, are you ‘nuckin futs?” he muttered out of the corner of his mouth.

“I got this,” I said confidently.

Catwoman’s grin widened.

* * *


“I can’t believe we’re doing this. Why am I doing this? Why am I not letting you do this alone? I wasn’t the one to say ‘I got this.’ I—“

“Would you shut up?” I hissed.

Alex and I were smashed together in an air duct. As if that wasn’t bad enough, I had to pee.

“I knew I shouldn’t have drank that Code Red,” I mumbled.

“That’s the least of your problems,” Alex said. Even though the light was minimal in the small tunnel, I could see he was trying to hold his breath.

“I changed my clothes,” I whined. “And I put on deodorant.”

“Seriously? You still smell like skunk.”

I bit the inside of my cheek. Okay, so I might have still smelled a little, but Alex took the award for the most odd body art. If anyone failed at going incognito, it was him. Millions of people smelled. Only he had a picture of a PowerPuff girl on the back of his neck.

“Hey,” I said, jabbing him in the side. “There it is.”

We both pressed our faces closer to the grate. As if on cue, a large black guy stepped into view. He looked around as if making sure that he was alone. Satisfied, he placed a large, wrapped object inside an ornate crystal vase and took a step back. He glanced at his watch, nodded, and walked away.

Alex and I waited a full minute before either of us spoke. Our eyes met. He looked nervously. I wondered if I reflected the same sentiment.

“Well?”

“Well?” I repeated.

Alex shifted, his hip hitting the side of the narrow metal tunnel. “Go get it.”

My mouth fell open. “Why me?”

The answer came out a hiss. “Because you’re the one that said yes to Catwoman!”

I scowled. The stiffness of the new black t-shirt I wore irritated my armpits. The black jeans I wore were a size too small. I was sporting a plumber’s crack in back and major circulation problems in the front. Truthfully, I have no idea what I was thinking when I said yes. All I knew was that there was boobs and smiles and a ‘Tom Cruise in Mission Impossible’ image that had played out in my mind.

Now all I had was potential wedgie action.

“Do it,” Alex prodded.

I swallowed hard. “You’re helping!” I hissed.

His brown eyes rolled up into his head. “Of course I am.”

I didn’t believe him for a minute. It was the same type of noncommittal answer he had given me when I had wanted to actual make a work schedule for the shop. The thing about Alex was that he came and went as he pleased. It irritated me to no end. It--

“NICK – GO!”

My back tensed. This was worse than the one time in Little League where the game had come down to me. I was playing outfield when all of a sudden the ball had come directly at me. The rival team was all smiles, gearing up for a triple play. I held my glove aloft, the white ball sailing closer and closer---

Until it crashed to the ground and rolled between my legs.

“I can’t do this,” I said.

“Stop being a pussy.”

“I’m not a pussy! You’re a pussy!”

“How am I a pussy?”

“You’re all talk and no action!”

A strange change came upon Alex’s face. His fingers wrapped around the metal grate and he yanked it up and to the side. It made a horrible screeching noise.

“That’s what you think?” he said cooly.

If it got him down there instead of me, it was exactly what I thought. I smirked. “Yup.”

Without another second of hesitation, Alex pushed past me and swung his own black-jean clad legs down through the hole. Like a ninja, he took a leap, landed in a frog crouch on the ground.

He made it look easy. He stood up to his full height of 5’9” and turned to face the vase. He glanced up at me and I gave what I hoped was an encouraging smile. With a face full of attitude, he reached in and removed the package that was the object of our mission. He seemed to test its weight for several seconds, looking thoughtful, before he gave me a second look.

“Okay,” he said in a whisper.

“Okay?” I repeated.

Heat rose in Alex’s face. “Get me up, dummy!”

“I’m no dum—WOAH!”

In my peripheral vision, I caught sight of legs. Skittering, scuttling legs. Huge, vicious legs. HAIRY legs.

SPIDER.

“FUCKING CUM SUCKING SHIT FUCKER!” I screamed.

“NI—“

I didn’t stick around to see the arachnid body that belonged to the legs that had been coming up so near to my face. I launched myself down through the hole, keenly aware that my whole body was covered in goosebumps.

Unlike Alex, I didn’t land so gracefully. My elbow connected with something hard on the way down. Before I had a chance to register what it was, my left hip connected solidly with the ground and pain shot up my side. The skin on the palms of my hands was torn away roughly as they made a sad attempt to brace myself.

CRASH. Something shattered to the right of my tattered sneaker. I didn’t see Alex’s face, but the horror in his voice gave me an idea of how he must have looked. “What the hell are you doing?” “Spa—spa—spider,” I gasped.

“Spi—oh shit.”

Without stopping to help me, Alex took off. I rolled over to my back, sitting up even though the pain in my hip intensified. I had just registered the fact that I had broken the vase on the way down when I was picked up like a ragdoll by the collar of my t-shirt.

With my vast knowledge of comics, I have studied many villains in my day. But the guy that had a hold of me took the cake. A monocle framed his left eye. A jagged scar stretched across the area where his right eye should have been. He smelled of blood and expensive cologne.

An unsettling combination.

"Qui êtes-vous? Où est-elle ?” I stared into the angry, fiery eyes of the rambling Frenchman and smiled nervously. Kill ‘em with kindness, my mama always said.

“Do you have any Grey Poupon?” This seemed to infuriate the guy even more. Air was restricted to my windpipe as the Frenchman let go of my shirt and wrapped his thick hands around my neck. I gagged and tried to twist away. Even though I had several inches in height on the guy, he had me in strength. The edges of my sight started to fill in with blackness. Any minute I’d be dead…

“Leave comic book boy to me.”

The room suddenly came back in to view. The Frenchman released me and I crumpled back to the ground, trying to suck in as much oxygen as I could. A pair of red stilettos came into view. They were attached to a pair of the longest legs I had ever seen. A beautiful blonde, not quite as beautiful as Catwoman, but close, smiled down at me. Her green eyes flashed maliciously.

“I know just what to do with him.”


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