Fantasy Humor Satire Science Fiction

"Peg O' My Heart"

By David Perlmutter
Apr 13, 2019 · 8,251 words · 31 minutes


From the author: A beloved superhero has been senselessly killed. And her dearest friends won't stop until they find out who did it- and why it happened.


‘PEG O’ MY HEART  by David Perlmutter                                                                                                                     8905  words  

MUSCLE GIRL:

We all couldn’t believe it when we got the news. Some of us, in our little specialized community, still can’t.

Jock Girl, a great superhero if there ever was one, was….dead. Her body was plucked out of the Red River in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, just like she was a damned fish. And, when the coroner examined her, it was clear that she had gotten some not-so-nice things done to her before her bucket got kicked.

Naturally, the entire pre-teen/middle grade/YA female superhero community, as well as our anthropomorphic counterparts, was, in varying degrees, shocked, appalled and incensed. None more so than me and my pals. We were damned if that kind of thing was going to happen again.

Especially to one of us.

                                                                *

So that was why the four of us- Cerberus, the world’s mightiest puppy; Power Bunny, the most powerful rabbit in the universe; Candy Girl, the Titan of Teens; and myself, Muscle Girl, the strongest and fastest pre-adolescent female on Earth (at least, I hope so), had agreed to resolve this little problem. Even, of course, if it meant one or all of our lives. But a supe’s gotta do what a supe’s gotta do, as we all say in this business.

Normally, Cerb’, PB, Candy and I- as the founding, and, at least right now, sole- members of the International League of Girls with Guns (meaning muscles, not firearms), would have been joined by our fifth member, the Brat, but she was up to her ass in skulduggery on some distant planet and couldn’t join us for this one. So we were short-handed this time, but we were sure we could handle it.

At least Candy was. Being chronologically older than the rest of us, and a different species than two of us, gives her a different perspective on things than us, although she’s more inclined to attribute that to her Asperger’s. Anyhow, when we gathered to plot strategy on the outskirts of Winnipeg, that was the impression she gave us then.

We were in our civvies at the time, so not as to arouse suspicion, and our mood was a little more tense than the usual jocularity we exhibit together at our headquarters. Undoubtedly, that was due to the murder of our old pal Jocko, which, as I said, had shook us all up. But Candy was much more hurt, as the Jocker had been her mentor when Candy first got her powers and didn’t know how to use ‘em. That was why, I think, she made the audacious suggestion of smashing the town up to find the guy (she was really convinced it was a guy) who was responsible for Jock Girl’s rape and murder.

The rest of us turned down that idea- flat. Which left her slack-jawed in anger.

“I can’t believe you guys!” she shouted, her face nearly as red as her hair. “Aren’t we supposed to be avenging her?”

“To an extent,” I chimed in. “But bulldozing a whole city- practically my home town, I should say- isn’t the way to do it!”

“Your home town is…”        

“Bleakly Corners, yes. But “business” takes me to Winnipeg a lot. I have a real…affection…for the place.”

“Fine,” Candy said, calmly. “I was a little out of line there. But what are we supposed to do about…?”

“We don’t ‘have’ to do anything!” Cerberus said.

That started Candy up again.

“Don’t piss me off, Cerb’!” she snarled. “You know what I can do to…”

“We all know what we all can do, Candy!” Cerb’ retorted. “Only some of us have a bit of trouble controlling their tempers when they get ANGRY!”

“If you don’t want me to really get angry, explain to me why it is you DON’T think avenging our friend is a good idea!”

“I was just going to say that we are all just as hell-bent as avenging Jock Girl as you are. That’s not at issue here. However, given that, for most of us, this is foreign terrain, we should be more cautious than usual about we comport ourselves dealing with this. Don’t you agree?”

The rest of us nodded. Cerb’ can be a lot of fun off-duty, but, on the job, she’s as serious as all get-out. Puts the rest of us to shame like that, since we don’t have the same level of seriousness in our characters, even on duty. Some people have a lot of trouble taking a talking puppy seriously, but we don’t. She makes us.

PB was next to talk, throwing her pink-furred arms up in the air.

“So,” she said, “to continue this line of unimportant, irrelevant discussion: How’s your Mom, Ed?”

“Knock it off, Barbara!” Candy said, sullenly, addressing PB by her “real” name. “This is serious.

 “Of course it is, Ms. Van Draalen”, PB retorted, in the same tone, addressing Candy by her “real” surname. It might have gotten ugly then, but I interjected by saying:

“Can we get on topic, please? Some of us don’t have all day here.”

“Gerda’s right,” said Cerberus, using my “real” name. “No amount of us talking is going to magically replace Jock Girl. She is gone. What we can do is try to figure out what the best way is to handle this…”

“…sick son of a BITCH!” interjected Candy.

“We don’t even know if it was a man!” said Power Bunny. “It could be…I dunno…something else…”

“Only a man could have done what happened to her!” Candy was getting angry again. “I’m gonna….”

You RELAX!” Cerberus ordered Candy ferociously, making her back up a few steps in genuine fear.

“Let’s not keep making presumptions here,” Cerberus continued. “It could easily be something else, like Barbara said. It could very well be that whatever…”

She cut herself off, looking at my youthful, blonde-haired, innocent-looking face and demure-looking skirt-blouse-and-sweater combo.

“Go on,” I encouraged her. “You were going to say that whoever mutilated her wasn’t necessarily a man, and that we shouldn’t be making any false assumptions without proof.” Here, I shot a look of my own at Candy, who wilted under it as much as she had under Cerberus’ earlier.

“Yes, of course,” Cerberus said. “My apologies, Gerda. That civilian gear of yours made me forget…”

“That’s okay, Cuddles,” I said, addressing her by her “real” name. “You without that monogrammed T shirt of yours makes me forget who you really are, too.”

“Well, let’s hope we can get through this thing intact,” Cerberus said, as she looked at the skyscraper- dominated downtown of Winnipeg nearby. “I got a bad feeling about this place.”

“I do, too,” I added. “All the time.”

                                                                    

                                                                          *

Winnipeg’s a big place, of course, so we couldn’t cover it all together as quickly as we could going to different parts of town alone. I got out my trusty copy of Sherlock’s City Map and we divvied up who would go where. I took the North and West Ends and St. James, Candy took Tuxedo, River Heights and Osborne Village, PB took Fort Garry and St. Vital, and Cerberus chose St. Boniface, since she can speak French (along with every other human language) fluently, and, it being a mainly Francophone neighborhood, that would help her out in a pinch. I warned PB and Cerb’ to be careful, since humanized animals didn’t exactly have civil rights in this human town, and they assured me they knew what to do if there were problems. Then we split up, intending to do a joint sweep through the downtown once we finished if we didn’t find anything going on anywhere else.

Now I think I better shut up for a little bit and let the other girls talk for a while. Don’t worry about me; I’ll be back.

 

POWER BUNNY:

I remember how one of those R&B bands from the 1980s sang something about how you shouldn’t get stopped by the police in Beverly Hills- or some such place. They should write one about how you shouldn’t get stopped in Winnipeg. I don’t know where in the hell they get these idiots masquerading as cops. Maybe that’s why some many ladies around here go missing- they feel that they can’t trust the folks that are supposed to be “protecting” them to help them out.

Just like everywhere else, I suppose. Especially if you’re part of a “minority” group, like I very visibly am.

At home, in the alternate dimension of Earth known as Anthropomorph, where all creatures are humanized animals- and other creatures- like myself, I make my living, such as it is, by being a freelance writer and photographer. That is, when I’m not smiting evil-doers left and right in this get-up. How I got this way would be interesting to you folks, but it’s not got much to what we’re talking about right now. So maybe some other time for that, huh?

Anyhow…

Like Muscle Girl just said, I had elected to deal with the Fort Garry and St. Vital districts. And I did so, initially, in my secret identity of Barbara Bunny, mild-mannered journalist. Better I snoop around in some strange place I didn’t know under the guise of the part of my life that didn’t involve kicking and punching and throwing stuff at people so I could find out what happened to Jocker in a sensible way.

Trouble is, human beings here in your world generally tend to regard me as an anomaly at best and a freak at worst. Which is why, generally, I stay in Anthropomorph unless my girls on Earth need my help. The girls in the League especially. We’re tight, but they know they would get treated there the same way I get treated here if they ever took me up on my offers to visit. Except for Cerb’, of course. She’d totally fit in there.

I didn’t think the human cops in Winnipeg would be any different in dealing with me- as a freaky looking super-powered “criminal”- than other human cops have been. And I was right.

Somehow, somebody must have seen me walking down Pembina Highway, the main thoroughfare of that part of town, which I did without seeing anything of interest to my purpose, and flipped their wig. Because, as soon as I switched to Bishop Grandin Boulevard and started walking on the bridge that would take me to St. Vital, a cop car arrived and, with a firearm click and a vulgar shout, I was “asked” to turn around.

That’s what I did. It wasn’t like I had any choice in the matter, now, did I?

“How fast was I going?” I said, with a certain amount of cheekiness. They didn’t laugh, so I started playing it straight.

“Look,” I said. “I’m just a normal reporter, investigating the murder of one of my friends…”

“Who?” one of the cops demanded.

“Jock Girl.”

“Who the hell is…?”

“Superhero. About yay tall, and built like a brickyard. Somebody offed her a couple of days ago, and I’m trying to find out who did it. That’s all I want to do. I’m not planning to do anything else while I’m here. Not that there is much to do, from what I’ve seen. So, if you don’t mind…”

Then one of the Podunk cops actually took a shot at me with his gun. He was angry with me because I had supposedly “dissed” his town, but his buddy calmed him down by reminding him of the consequences should I be shot and killed by them. (As if!)

Then, they wanted to know my “credentials” as a journalist, so I gave them my membership card for the Anthropomorph Press Club. They just laughed at that.

“What’s so funny?” I demanded.

Not surprisingly, they had never even heard of Anthropomorph, so I snatched the card back from them, violently.

“I can assure you,” I said, as calmly as I could, “that Anthropomorph is a real place, and that the APC is a legitimate concern. They’re so “legitimate” that they insist on me paying a hundred bucks- every year- for my membership! That’s all well and good for a person employed by a paper or website, but, for a freelancer like me, it really taxes the ol’ income…”

One of the guys then decided that, even though my appearance and the photo on my card clearly indicated that I was an anthropomorphic being, I was “actually” something called a “furry”, and was just “fooling” them. (I didn’t like being called that then, and I like it even less now, now that I know what it is.) So he started pulling on my face and ears, in spite of protests from myself and the other cop, as if my head was somehow “fake”.

Being as this was uncomfortable (and only one degree removed, in my eyes, from sexual assault), I asserted myself with my superhero strength and threw him off me.

“You jerk!” I exclaimed. “That HURT!”

Evidently, it’s illegal to call policemen that in Winnipeg, because they started approaching me, intent on arrest. However, I fought back by shaping one of my patented beam-of-light “carrots” and throwing it at them, which blinded them in their tracks. Then I changed to my Power Bunny duds and flew off.

That was actually a stupid thing for me to do, and I’ll tell you why. It attracted the wrong kind of attention to me. As I zipped across the river into Old St. Vital (which didn’t look that much different from the “new” part), the cops came after me with backup. I touched down to Earth for a breather at the corner of Fermor and Lagimodiere, besides a big building that looked as if it were made entirely out of glass. This, I discovered from a nearby sign, was the Royal Canadian Mint. Something I played to my advantage a moment later, when they caught up with me, got out of their cars, and rush towards me.

HOLD IT!” I barked, in a way that made them all stop moving. In fear, hopefully.

“If you come anywhere near me,” I warned them, as I started shaping a large light carrot with my paws, “I’ll destroy your precious Mint. I MEAN it! And if you still want to fool around after that, I do a pretty good job at cracking spines! So, if you don’t want to be hurt…”

They didn’t, ‘cause they had started backing away as soon as I started shaping the carrot (which I dissolved right afterwards), and were totally gone by the time I talked about “hurting” them. So I retreated back into the air, hoping to find any trace of who or what killed Jock Girl from a farther, unobstructed distance.

If I was lucky, that was. ‘Cause it seemed like the trail had gone cold…      

CANDY GIRL:

I was sore about ol’ Jocko. That was for sure. Other than Cantus, the guy who got me into this racket, the other superheroes I’ve befriended (the girls in particular), and (possibly) my genius-intellect younger brother, nobody else I know can really understand what it’s like to be a higher class of whatever-you-are than the rest of the idiots. The rest of my pals have some sort of confidant in their lives, I know that. But they probably don’t need ‘em as much as I need mine.

Somehow, I felt a little bit out of sorts after Cantus died. I kind of thought it was inevitable, him being an alien and not used to the way things were done on Earth. But I didn’t want it to be so soon. I was so low that I might have just tossed the power ring he entrusted to me as his “successor” away, and never ended up earnestly picking up his torch. And never have gone into this business, and getting to know everyone in the business, and not be talking to you, now.

What changed all that, of course, was my first encounter with the Jockstrap.

She showed up at my door one day, in her uniform: bicycle helmet over long dark hair, monogrammed sweatshirt, plaid skirt and pads on her knees and elbows. Not wasting a moment, she introduced herself as my “trainer”, and said we were supposed to begin “training” right away.

“For what?” I demanded.

As I’m over six feet tall, and she never stood a head over four, I thought it would be easy to evict her. So I got up from where I was lounging and made a move. But before I could grab her, she grabbed my arm and squeezed on it with the most powerful, superhuman grip I thought was possible.

“Does the name CANTUS mean anything to you, Candace?” she growled.

I nodded, in pain. To my great relief, she released her grip.

“How old are you?” I said in disbelief. “I mean, really?”

“I’m just as old as you!” she snarled. “Probably even got a couple more years on you, if you’re as young as you say you are!”   

Okay, then, I thought.

“I used to go with Cantus,” she continued, calmly. “Before you did. We broke up, amicably. Since we were both superheroes, and leading busy lives, there wasn’t exactly a lot of time for romance. You’re gonna find that out once we get done and you get out on active duty.”

I had been trying to suppress a lot of the details about my short summer romance with Cantus, mostly because the details of his slow, painful death were hard for me to deal with. But, now, to my shock and horror, everything he had told me and entrusted me with- and the implications of what it meant- flooded into my brain.

“You mean he was…for real?” I exclaimed.

“Of course he was, stupid!” was her answer. “And so am I, for that matter.”

She paused for a moment, letting me come to grips with things a little longer. Then she continued.

“That ring he gave you ain’t a cheap bauble, you understand. It’s got a lot of power in it, enough to make you more powerful than anyone else on Earth. That is, if you’re girl enough to handle it…”

I’m girl enough,” I snapped. “Nobody calls Candace Van Draalen a chicken- if they don’t want a punch in the face after they say it!”

“Just like I thought,” she said, impressed. “Spirit! You’ll do fine. We just need to go through the operating procedures of the ring and you should be good to go. Provided you don’t double-cross me and go rogue!” Here, she stopped and, scowling, beat a fist against a palm, indicating what, exactly, she thought of rogues. I got the message.

“Don’t worry about that,” I told her. “I’m a good girl, and I plan to stay that way.”

“Then you just let ol’ Jock Girl give you a push in the right direction,” she said, smiling, as if we were friends of long standing and not strangers. “I promise not to hurt you again. Although that particular bit of action is minor compared to what I do to my enemies. Dig?”

“I dig,” I answered, just as wondered to myself: What am I getting into, exactly? Still haven’t stop wondering that, for some reason…

Anyhow, Jock was the one who showed me how things went, hero-wise, that Cantus hadn’t had time to tell me about. That included how to use my newly advanced speed and strength to my advantage in fights, and when and how to conserve it; how to employ the laser beams in the ring with accuracy and effectiveness; and how to duck and cover in tight situations, especially when I needed to change from my human identity to my hero one quickly without anyone seeing or noticing. And, in particular, she gave me tips on how to handle the kind of creepy men who think about and want to do it with superhero girls- there are more of those kind than I ever could have imagined. Central of which was knowing how to kick their chauvinistic asses to the curb! But also to tell me not to make love to any mortal guys as a supe- big trouble in that, mostly for them. Not that I’d try to do that. Cantus was so gentlemanly and kind with me that he pretty much spoiled me for any other guys.

Jocker even went so far as to come up with my supe name. Shortened my first name and heightened my gender, obviously. But also a subtle way of reminding people- especially enemies and predatory men- that, while I certainly look good, an encounter with me won’t exactly be good for you.

So I owe her plenty. And that was why I was so pissed off about the how and why of her going.

                                                        *

What really got me mad was the fact that she’d apparently been so savagely maimed before she died. How DARE they! Beyond the obvious pre-death humiliation, though, it didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Until I thought of one possible manner in which it could have transpired.

If you’re born a super-girl, or can become one at will, like I can, your whole body becomes invulnerable, if you catch my drift. Any guy who tries to make it with a super-girl when she’s at full operational power who ain’t super himself is risking about a dozen different kinds of pain just trying it. But a guy who is super-powerful, and not heroic in the least…well…it could happen!

The girls thought I was a little too fixated on this scenario, but I was certain that there couldn’t be other options. If she’d just been killed, mind you, we could just go through our enemy databases until we managed to track down the culprit. We got a lot of enemies, man, so that’d take time. But if this guy- or whatever it was- had managed to squash the all-powerful Jock Girl like a rotten tomato, what was to stop him boning one of us if we came after him? Or all of us together?

 I pondered all of this while I went through my assigned territory, as mild-mannered Candace. Lot of time for that, because the places I picked ended up being so boring. Tuxedo’s basically rich people territory and parkland, and River Heights more of the same, though it’s a bit more democratic. It wasn’t ‘til I got to Osborne Village that stuff got…interesting…for me.

 And then, oddly enough, I had to confront everything Jocker warned me against when I started. But I would’ve made her proud.

 I’d planned to walk up River Avenue and downtown into the core, seeing that, as villages go, Osborne ain’t Greenwich. If there were hippies in Winnipeg, they probably lived somewhere else. But sleaze-balls…well, they’re everywhere.      

 I happened to spot a guy come on to a girl, and he wouldn’t stop bugging her. No better time to supe up than to help a sister out, I thought. So I ducked behind a tree, said my oath, and was out and running dressed like I am now: indestructible purple monogrammed sweatshirt and sweatpants, red belt, work boots, my ring glowing emerald green, and my red hair flowing down behind my back.

I got between them, and gave a silent nod with my face to the woman to beat it while I took care of the guy. She did.

“What the hell are you doing, bitch?” he demanded.

“Protecting people from the likes of you,” I retorted. “That’s my job.”

“Man, don’t you know me?”

“Is that supposed to mean something to me?”

Suddenly, his limited brain cells understood what I was implying.

“You ain’t from here, are you?” he said.

“Nah,” I replied. “I’m just visiting. I’m from the States.”

Then his body language shifted. It hadn’t been friendly to start with, but I could clearly see now what he wanted from me. And what I wouldn’t give him.

“So,” he said, “who pimpin’ you?”

“PIMPING?” I snapped.

“Yeah. Who pimpin’….?”

“I HEARD you! I’m a SUPERHERO, okay? Not a WHORE!”

“Like there’s any difference.”

I grabbed his wrist and squeezed it.

“God damn it!” he shouted     

 “What the hell did you MEAN by that?” I shouted.

“I ain’t never met no “superhero” who weren’t no whore dressed up as one,” he said, as I withdrew my grip. “Not like you, girl. You for real.”

I relaxed my grip. 

“I would figure you know something about whores, then?” I said.  

“Ah, yeah. They be crawlin’ all over me, man. Have to fight ‘em off with a STICK! But none of ‘em ain’t nowhere near as pretty or strong as you.

“You wouldn’t have, by chance, seen one of my colleagues in the hero trade, would you? She…passed away here a couple of days ago….”

He made a dismissive gesture with his mouth and hands.

“Girl, please! If there’s one thing this town won’t put up with, it’s your superhero shit. This a straight up, for real place. And, even if you say you is one, you could be jivin’ me.”

“Jivin’?”

“Yeah. Foolin’. Fakin’ it!”

“My powers are not FAKE!”

“Yeah? Then why don’t you prove it beyond that burn ya gave me just now?”

While he said that, he started to feel me up.  That totally pissed me off. I grabbed him by his chest and lifted him above my head.

“You asked for it!” I growled.

And with that, I pitched him forward with all of my strength. He ended up landing in the Assiniboine River, which wasn’t too far away. Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say.

My job done, I was about to change back when I ran into a cop who happened along.

Dammit!

“I saw you,” she said.

“Wait,” I said, nervously. “I can explain. He came onto me, and I….”

“….defended yourself,” she completed. “Fortunately, you being a self-identified “superhero”, you were strong enough to do what you had to do.”

“Look,” I said, still nervous. “I’m not from here…”

“Obviously. You’re American, aren’t you?”

“How’d you know?”

“The accent.”

“Yeah. But, look. I’m just trying to find out the circumstances behind the death of my friend here in Winnipeg. I don’t want trouble…”

“Not like that weird looking ‘friend’ of yours who tried to blow up the Mint earlier today?”

“Wait. What?”

“Yeah. Rabbit-looking thing.”

“Oh, you mean Power Bunny. Yeah, she’s my friend. Not the one who died, but….”

“Yeah?”

“Yeah. And I’m Candy Girl.”

“And you and your friends run around doing that comic book bullshit, right?”

“It’s not bullshit. We do those things, sure, but we take them seriously. We confront evil- and stop it in its tracks before it can do any damage!”

“That’s what everyone who ran for Mayor last year said they’d do. And nothing changed.”

My cheeks flushed in anger again. Normally, I act in respect and accordance with the law, but if this was how they planned on treating us…

“Fine!” I declared. “We can deal with the big thing threatening your city without your help, if that’s how you feel.”

“You think I GIVE a shit about that?” she retorted. “Look. As long as you and your evil significant others don’t go waltzing around here racking up millions of dollars in property damage, we’ll leave you to your work. But, if you cause injury or death to any other civilians, your asses are OURS!”

As she left, she struck a warning blow on my butt with her truncheon. I didn’t feel anything.

Inside, I was burning up again. They had the nerve to threaten us with jail if we damaged any of their property or people. But one of the most powerful superheroes in the world had died on their watch, under highly suspicious circumstances, and they’d done nothing to prevent it. Where were their priorities? 

     I knew where mine were, though. And, with that in mind, I took off to do some more grunt work…

CERBERBUS:

  Muscle Girl had warned me about how screwy a place Winnipeg could be. Especially regarding animals. And I had what I now regard as the audacity to assure her I knew what I was doing.

  Look. I may be faster, stronger and more intelligent than any puppy on Earth, in addition to being psychic, invulnerable, telepathic and lots of other things, but I’m not perfect. I make mistakes. And the biggest one I made on this job was deciding to go to investigate the French quarter of Winnipeg- meaning St. Boniface and its environs.

 St. Boniface used to be politically independent from Winnipeg, like Brooklyn once was from New York City, and, like its American counterpart, still flaunts that “independence”. You can feel it as soon as you cross into it over the Red River from downtown Winnipeg. There are some English speaking people there, sure, but the majority of the residents speak en francais. The biggest concentration of such people in Canada outside of Quebec, I imagine.

 Now, as a superhero whose adventures take me all over the world, it has been inevitable that I would become able to communicate with the natives in their own words everywhere I go. Being a highly intelligent dog, I can pick up the basic elements of languages to cover my needs practically everywhere. The concepts of “help”, “good” and “evil” are ideas that transcend linguistic boundaries, after all.

  At least, that’s what I thought when I flew into “St. B” to look it over. And made my mistake.

  I flew into Coronation Park (or, should I say, la Parc Coronation), and waited for a chance to approach any young children I might encounter in the area. Being as my titular “mistress” is kindergarten-aged, I’ve gained a high level of…..tolerance….for the behavior of this age group, and they’ve unwittingly helped me out a lot in the past without knowing it. I assumed this situation would be no different.

 I was wrong.

 What happened was that I waited among the foliage until any specimens that I could communicate with arrived in the area. In the meantime, I put the false fur I wear over my heroic T shirt back on to look more “normal”- and, therefore, more trustworthy to the younger set.

 Eventually, after being bored out of my superhero skull waiting, I got my chance.

 A young child, bearing a superficial resemblance to my human mistress, Gudrun, came into the part of the park where I was. In turn, I came towards her and spoke.

 “Pardon,” I said. “Tu parle Francais. Oui?”

Now, in my hometown, I’m well known (as Cerberus, anyway), for saving the world and what not, and the local people often throw a howdy at me, and I respond, because we all know that I can speak English fluently there.

Emphasize there. There I was not. Here- Winnipeg, St. Boniface, Coronation Park- they most likely did not know me, even if I was, literally, talking their language. At the same time, to my regret, I had also crossed a forbidden but forgotten boundary with regards to you mortal humans. “Lower” animals such as myself are not supposed to engage in contact with mortal human beings unless they initiate it and allow it to happen. Doesn’t matter if the animal can speak English or not. Something to do with the Garden of Eden, or so my mother told me.

Nothing makes you feel like an exception to a rule more than breaking that rule.

The end result was inevitable. The child gasped and ran away in the opposite direction, crying that “un chien” had spoken to her. (Technically, I’m a chienne, but that’s beside the point.) I knew that these cries were directed towards her parents or some other unknown caregiver, and what the obvious response would be. Either that the child would be told that dogs can’t talk (for all they know), or, if they were unreasonable people, they would attempt to find the renegade chien and have it locked away in yonder “humane society”-i.e. jail (to us dogs, anyhow).            

In any event, before things got worse for me, I was about to depart the park when a fellow canine entered the park. To avoid suspicion, I switched from my typical pre-takeoff crouch to a more typical “stretch”. Then I repeated the question in French I had asked the girl.

“Don’t try to be funny,” he said.

“Why?” I asked. “How was that…?”

“Because only the humans in this part of town talk that way. They’re the only ones who know what it means- and they’re not telling us like they somehow did you.”

“Fine. I stand corrected. Since you prefer to talk in English, let me repeat myself in that tongue.”

“Go ahead, Cerberus.”

I glared at him, angered and open-mouthed. How did he know who I really was?

“I beg your pardon?” I said, frostily.

“You can fool the humans all you want,” he said. “They won’t get it. But we do. I mean, how many other puppies look like you and do the things you do?”

Okay,” I said, flinging off my covering so he could see me in my superhero T shirt. “It is I, Cerberus, the world’s mightiest puppy. But you are not to reveal that I am here in your backwater city to a living soul! Understand?”

“Yeah,” he said. “Of course I won’t.”

 “I am here,” I continued, “strictly to avenge the murder of a superhero colleague who was fished out of one of your rivers not too long ago. Any chance you or any other dogs in town know about that?”

“Who was it?”

“Jock Girl. Know her?”

“Vaguely. By reputation. Just like I know you.”

I didn’t like the tone he put into the last word.

“What’s that supposed to mean?” I demanded.

He responded by pressing his nose close on mine, so they touched. My advanced senses made me take in his body warmth- and odour- to such an extent that it began to overwhelm me. But, when I attempted to wrench my small body free of his presence, his larger body blocked me. 

“It means,” he said, “that if you want me to keep your precious secret identity secret- and your reputation unblemished-you’ll let me ride you.”

WHAT?” I growled.

“Haven’t done it with a super-powerful girl before.”

“And you won’t get to. Why don’t you go find the kind of bitch that would actually want to make love to your repulsive ass?”

“Come on, baby,” he continued, totally ignoring what I had just said. “Try me. I’m not a virgin.”

Uggh! Men are all alike in the presence of cute girls, regardless of what species they are!

Sorry. No offense.

Anyhow, I had to defend my girlhood from this masher, as well as resume my mission, so I stood up and kicked him in the balls.

“Get lost, ASSHOLE!” I said.

Then I made him get lost by punching him hard enough to knock him into the nearby Red River.

It was at this time that some clowns in khaki- from the “humane society”, no doubt- entered, obviously encouraged by my encounter with the child. They shouted at me and each other in French, so I spoke to them that way.

Non!” I said. “Vous nes pas connais! Je suis un entranger dans te ville! J’ai un hero-super….”

My outburst convinced them- not of the truth about what I was saying, but that they were losing their tiny little minds. Because they began running away in the opposite direction as soon as they realized I had spoken.

Humans! Ah, well. No salt on my tail.

I took back to the air in hopes of reuniting with my friends.

And that didn’t take long, considering what Muscle Girl had uncovered…

MUSCLE GIRL:

Okay. Back to me.

While the others were busy trying to make their way through a place they didn’t know or understand (and I know what that’s like), I was busy trying to make my way through the toughest part of Winnipeg, one I’d been through before to stop problems as only I could. But, as usual, I ended up getting up to my tighty-whiteys in a problem I hadn’t expected to find, which nearly overwhelmed me before the girls and I could put a stop to it.

Every city in the world has at least one den of iniquity, one area where the cops are afraid to go, the lawbreakers advertise themselves, and the worst things imaginable can happen. In Winnipeg, everything north and west of downtown is a powder keg ready to go off at any time, given how poor so many of the residents are and how disenfranchised they feel. None more so than where I chose to begin investigating: a sorry looking scab of land bordering the Red River known as Point Douglas.

This neighborhood indicates who the bottom of the barrel in town is better than anywhere else. It’s as close to a U.S-style “ghetto” as you’re about to find in Canada. The people who live here like to drink and carouse, and the least principled of the men like to sexually assault any girl they can get their hands on. That’s why I make sure that, if I come here, I come as Muscle Girl. Mild-mannered Gerda Munsinger wouldn’t stand a chance with those creeps, especially if she didn’t secretly have super powers. On the other hand, a mighty defender of justice is perfectly capable of handling herself under these circumstances.

What drew me into the neighborhood was my uncanny ability to locate crimes in progress and my innate need to resolve them before they got worse. In this case, it was one of the sleazier aspects of Winnipeg life: a young girl- not as young as me, but close- about to have her virtue and possibly her life threatened by unsavory men.

Not on my watch! 

Before the men, who were clearly inebriated, could get their hands on her, I had interceded by flying between them.

“What the fuck…?” said one of the men.

“Aw, man!” said another.

“Yeah!” said a third. “You suck.

“Not as much as you all do,” I retorted.

They grimaced, their faces showing anger.

“You guys obviously don’t know who I am,” I continued.  “No. Scratch that. You guys obviously don’t know ANYTHING!”

“FUCK YOU!” the second one chimed in.

Somebody needs to!” I retorted. “Now, if you’d care to disperse…”

“Don’t fuckin’ tell me what to DO!” said the third one, drawing a knife from his pocket.

“Do your worst!” I snarled.

I threw my chest out, and he rushed forward with the knife. The girl screamed, but she didn’t need to. The knife broke on my chest, and the men started shouting- in fear.

“Fuckin’ hell!” the third one said. “What are you?”

“YOUR WORST NIGHTMARE!” I answered.

I grabbed the third one by his coat, lifted him up in the air, and threw him in the river. The approached me in the same fashion, and I did the same to them. Then, I turned around to address the girl.

“No need to thank me, miss,” I said. “Just doing my….”

She was gone. Not a trace left. Not even a “thank you”. Oh, well.

But it made sense to me. She must have been scared of me, like they were, and run off in the confusion.

Leaving me alone to deal with whatever else was out there in the night.

But I wasn’t alone for long.

                                                     

 

                                                            *

Before I was ready to move on, someone- or something- kicked me in the ass, hard enough to knock me right to the ground. I thought it was probably some local smart-ass being funny, and I meant to come up fighting. However, when I came up, I was too surprised to do it immediately.

That was because I was awestruck to see who it was. Someone I had tangled with before, and hoped I would never have to see again. She felt more or less the same about me, save for the never seeing me again bit. ‘Cause she’d sworn to get his revenge on me some day.

That day had come.

“YOU!” I snapped, conveying my displeasure.

“Yeah!” she said. “Me.

“You killed Jock Girl. Didn’t you, Bald Medusa?”

“Word was bound to get around about that,” she said, ruefully. “No hiding things from you “heroes”.”

Bald Medusa was once an ordinary teenage girl, like Candy. Then, however, she got hold of a chunk of planetary rock, and she gained superhuman powers. But, in the process, she lost all the hair on her head, and her face became a clock-stopping nightmare. Hence her name.

Besides which, the rock also turned her into a raving lunatic. She believed she could conquer the world with all the might and other physical resourcefulness she now possessed. Naturally our paths crossed, and we clashed. She foolishly thought I could be tempted into becoming a villainess, and tried to convince me to conquer the world with her. Naturally, I refused.

After I rejected her offer, she tried to kill me instead. And she nearly did.

My strength, agility and abilities were all severely tested battling her, and it was only with the substantial aid of a number of my fellow super-heroines that she was finally captured, and sent as far across the universe as we could imagine.

Yet now she was here, in Winnipeg.

How it happened, I didn’t want to know. But I now knew what I had happened to Jock Girl.

Medusa must have given her the same offer, and gotten the same response. At which point, the ogress likely beat her to death, since Jock Girl must not have been able to call for help like I had.

We faced each other like Wild West gunfighters, each waiting for a chance that the other would make a move. I prayed I could do so before she could unethically take advantage of the situation.

“Let’s get one thing out of the way right now, Medusa,” I said.

“What’s that?” he replied.

“Jock Girl.”

“Yes?”

“You admitted just now that you killed her.”

“I have no need to deny that. Yes, she died. But she deserved it for trying to destroy me! Just as you did. Like you, she knew nothing of the true value of having our abilities. That they must only be used for the purposes of the side of the good.  She disagreed, and called me a filthy name that I will not repeat here. You know it, of course, as you called me it yourself in the heat of our last battle.  In any event, I was able to destroy her. She landed in this place, and I disposed of the body in that nearby river.”

 “Leaving the cops to find her,” I responded. “And all her friends to mourn her!”

 

“Yes,” she sneered. “But at what cost to me? One less opponent in my aim to conquer the world. Little else than that, really. She meant nothing to me.”

I had held my temper in check until that last, insulting crack about my friend and colleague. Then I exploded, hurling forward with a super-powered fist aimed at her chin.

“SAY YOUR PRAYERS!” I shouted.

Unfortunately for me, she saw me coming. As a result, the punch that should have knocked out her brains ended up buried, impotently, in her chest. And I flew backwards onto the ground from the impact.

Somehow, she’d gotten stronger- strong enough to resist my might. Just like before, I faced a horrible quandary- and an even worse fate if I failed to stop her.

I knew I had to do something, so I flew off in the opposite direction. Not because I had suddenly turned cowardly, of course.

It was just that I needed help. And I knew where to get it.

CERBERUS:

Power Bunny, Candy Girl and myself had finished our patrols, with nothing collectively happening after what we told you. Muscle Girl had told us she would be in Point Douglas if we needed her, so, once we re-assembled in the downtown core, we went to join her there.

Turns out our timing couldn’t have been better.

Our first clue was when MG nearly collided with us over the Red River, coming the other way.

“What is the matter with you, Gerda?” I remonstrated her. “We could have killed each other like that. You know better that to…”

“Lay off, Cerb’!” Candy interrupted me. “Can’t you see she’s scared?”

“Not scared,” MG responded. “Intimidated.”

“By who?” said PB.

“Bald Medusa.”

WHAT?” said the rest of us, as one.

Muscle Girl explained to us that, somehow or another, that monstrous creature had escaped from the prison we had devised for her and sentenced her to in space. Turns out ya can’t trust the aliens of Andromeda to do what you want ‘em to, after all!

“Okay,” said Candy. “So what’s that got to with what happened to Jock Girl?”

“Everything,” said Muscle Girl. “She killed her.”

Power Bunny and I gasped in horror. Candy, however, was convulsed with venomous rage.

“That….SLUT!she shouted. “I’ll….ruin her!”

“Hold your fire!” I warned her. “We’re going to make sure we do this the right way, understand?”

Candy took a long time to master her emotions, but eventually she was able to suppress her anger- for a while, anyway.

So we conferred.

A full-frontal assault was out of the question, seeing as not even our combined strength would equal that of Medusa if we tried to drop her with a cavalry charge. We agreed to use only some of our powers each, in a strategic way. Which would accomplish our aims with the least amount of damage to the city. And that, judging from our encounters with the townspeople, would be very advantageous.  

As Candy was clearly the one of us who was the most bloodthirsty in her desire to avenge Jock Girl, she was the one who was dispatched to confront Medusa, and distract him enough so the rest of us could do our portion of the job.

CANDY GIRL:

So I flew off, and found her pretty quick. No mistaking that ugly mug and bald pate combo. But it was that aggravating personality of hers that set me off.

“What do you want?” she demanded.

“I think you know,” I said.

“No. I don’t.”

“Well, let me explain something to you. I had a very good friend-once. She was very kind to me when a lot of other people weren’t being kind to me at all. She encouraged me to pursue this kind of work, if you can believe it. Without her, I probably wouldn’t be here right now. That’s how much of a friend she was to me. But I don’t have her any more. And do you know why? Because you killed her. You took her warm and generous body and soul, chewed them up, and spit them out like they were nothing more than yesterday’s garbage! Maybe your warped and ugly mind thinks that’s the right way to treat someone who was doing some decent and good things in the world, but you made the biggest mistake in the world picking her as a murder victim. Because now, you are going to die the same way that she did. And, unlike her, nobody will give a God damn about you when you’re gone!”

She took that in the spirit in which it was intended, as she roared with a menacing growl, and sped towards me in an attempt to wreck me. But I aimed my ring at her, and the emerald light, while not destroying her outright, weakened and stabilized her enough for our purposes.

I’d done my part. Now the other girls did their things, too.

 Muscle Girl sent a telepathic shock wave from her brain to Medusa’s, Power Bunny flung a light carrot at her, and Cerberus emitted a powerful, sonically-enhanced bark from her throat. That did the trick.

“It’s over for you, Medusa!” I pronounced, as we surrounded her on all sides.

“You all believe you can destroy me this easily?” she snapped.

When you hate somebody like I hate you,” I said, “it’s easy enough.” I turned from her to the others. “Requesting permission to kill a murderous super-villain who killed a dear friend, making it entirely a justifiable act.”

“Granted,” Cerberus grunted. “Just make it quick, and don’t show off.”

 I advanced towards Medusa, and put my hands on her neck. I squeezed it, firmly, until it broke. Then Muscle Girl incinerated the corpse with her heat-baring lasers, and it was all over.

 POWER BUNNY:

Well, there was the funeral we had for Jocker just after that. Big affair.

MUSCLE GIRL:

I’ll say. She really had a lot of pals, considering the turnout.

CERBERUS:

But too many….trade secrets…were being discussed there for us to share fully how things went with you, our dear amanuensis. Best not to let our chronicler know too much about us.

CANDY GIRL:

Sure, Cerb’. Let’s just call this one a wrap, okay?

 THE OTHERS:

Okay!       

   

        

  

 

             

        

  

 

 

 

 

 

     

 

This story originally appeared in The Song Remains The Same (2016).


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David Perlmutter

David Perlmutter writes history, criticism and speculative fiction when he can find the time to do so.