The Special Case: A Drawn Bow
Posted August 21st, 2021 by Gracithe1andonly
in denial that I'm in college
AUTHOR'S NOTE: this story is for all my friends i've shown it to (you know who you are) but especially for my tocaya, who helped create the world it takes place in.
Bo’s life was trash. It had been for a long time, and would be for ever and ever, amen. The two parts of his life that were not trash were his stepbrother, Bar, and his buddy Thatcher.
Thatch had met Bo when they were both younger and angrier. The Wing had saved Bo’s life and Bar’s twice each, and that wasn’t even counting the times he’d saved the whole city, in general. Thatch was special, and Bo believed that too few people knew it.
So when the Claw decided it was a good idea to call his buddy out on the carpet (to kill him, most likely,) and Thatch decided to be stupid about it, Bo decided to take matters into his own hands. He acted on a half-baked plan as it came into his head.
Not so very long ago, the Claw had succeeded in kidnapping Bar as Fade, his alter ego. Thatcher and Bo, by joining forces, had succeeded in rescuing him without giving the terrorist the secrets and weapons he wanted. The Claw wasn’t half so paranoid as Thatcher (or Bo, following his friend’s example,) and had made the mistake of not using a burner phone to make his demands. With crossed fingers, Bar sat on the floor of his closet, opened his journal of secrets, and dialed the number he’d written down.
The Claw picked up on the fourth ring. Without hesitation, he spoke. “It seems I have the privilege of speaking to the Bow.”
Something about the Claw’s smug baritone voice always made Bo’s hair stand on end. Something about it felt too practiced, too polished. It struck him as fake. Bo was a master at losing and gaining back his composure in mere seconds, however.
“I wouldn’t call it a privilege, but yes,” he responded quickly.
The Claw hummed. “What on earth could he calling me for around suppertime the day before a big fight?”
Bo paused, gathering his thoughts. In order to sell this, he’d have to half-believe it himself. He remembered the dozen times he’d nearly been arrested by a member of the Double H, minimizing and trying to forget that the Wing had never let it happen.
The Claw’s heckling nearly broke his concentration. “Could he possibly be a full-blown enemy of the state, now? No more dancing on the line between vigilante and villain?”
Bo refocused and spoke. “I’m tired of the Double H using me when they want and calling me a criminal when they don’t. I was going to offer you an advantage, but it seems you’re more interested in taunting me than listening to me.”
The Claw did not respond for a moment. Then smugly: “I notice you haven’t ended the call.”
He was perceptive. Bo’s racing heart would give him that. He detailed the offer. “I might be able to provide a weapon that would make tomorrow’s duel a piece of cake. Have you heard of the Scale’s Ray?”
It would be surprising if the Claw hadn’t. It had made international news when Scale, then a member of the Double H, had created and used a weapon without any patents or permission. The result was the untimely demise of Cloak Cloudsley, one of the wickedest women Bo had ever met. Nonetheless, Scale’s conduct had gotten him kicked from heroic society. He had narrowly avoided a long prison sentence as punishment for his rash behavior. Since then, no one had heard from the Scale, but the Double H kept a close eye on his alter ego, Dennis Stead.
The Claw made an intrigued noise. “I do recall. And no one has seen Cloak since Scale hit her with it?”
Bo shrugged. “Nope. She seems to have been annihilated. Destroyed. Turned into thin air—”
“Yes, Bow, we get the picture,” said the Claw impatiently. “How do I get my claws on it?”
“Meet me behind the Jubilee building and I’ll hand it to ya.”
“Why the Jubilee?” mused the Claw. “I smell a trap, little Archer.”
The Bow sprinkled some more truth in with the lies. “You see, that’s where the Ray is located.”
A bark of laughter stung Bo’s sensitive ears. “You don’t even have it in your possession yet!”
“No, but I know I can,” Bo insisted. “Meet me there by midnight and see if I’m wrong.”
“Very well,” said the Claw almost lazily. “Surprise me.”
He ended the call. Bo sat on his closet floor for a few minutes, nearly numb with shock. That had actually worked. The Claw believed he would betray Thatcher, or was at least pretending to believe it. Even the pretense would be enough for his plan to work, if he moved quickly enough.
He opened the closet door and began to make his way out of it only to see Bar standing uncomfortably close, arms crossed. Bo yelped and fell onto his behind.
Bo and Bar both had brown hair and eyes, but there the similarities ended. Bo was lanky, long-faced, and pale, giving a constant misleading impression of less than perfect health. Bar, on the other hand, had been cheerful, chubby, and dark all his life. As he grew older he grew stronger, but never any more trim.
“Got home,” Bar said, frowning. “Saw the news a few seconds ago. You’re plotting something. Who were you calling? Not Thatcher, surely.”
Against Bar’s simple perception, communicated laconically, Bo could never stand. He shrugged restlessly. “Who says I’m plotting?” he muttered.
Bar’s eyes, round and dark, were full of thought and concern, but he blinked and stepped back. “Tell me what I can do.”
Bo sighed. “I have a plan. To help Thatcher. If it works, you’ll see me after midnight. If it doesn’t, well, I’ll call you.”
Bar was thoroughly unsatisfied with this, but they’d been living together long enough that he didn’t try to dissuade him. He made him eat a sandwich before he grabbed his supplies and headed out into the twilit city.
For the Bow, a heist into the Jubilee building itself was a simple matter. Finagling his way into the maximum security weapons locker was less simple. Nonetheless, with the help of a few technologically advanced arrows, tricks singular to him, and whispered prayers, he managed to retrieve the oddly shaped Ray without tripping any alarms.
The blueprints had been published as part of the reparations Scale made for his rashness, and Bo and Bar had studied them devotedly. Bo was pleased by how easily his theoretical knowledge transferred to practical, and spent his sliver of spare time waiting for the Claw hidden on a rooftop behind the Jubilee, turning the weapon down to its lowest power, appreciating Scale’s workmanship.
Then a familiar false baritone echoed upwards. “Where are you?”
The Bow took pleasure in dropping from seemingly nowhere, far enough from the Claw that it couldn’t be perceived as an attack. Annoyingly, the man didn’t startle at all, but merely tilted his head. “There you are.”
The Bow huffed and produced the weapon. The Claw reached for it, triumphant disbelief shining in his emerald eyes, but the Bow snatched it and danced away with his characteristic nimbleness. “Come to think of it, I think I want something in return for this.”
The Claw rolled his eyes and raised his glimmering, clawed hands. “Something more than seeing the Double H destroyed? Something more than my allowing you to live?”
The Bow’s heart leapt into his throat, but he grinned slowly. “Yeah. Rent ain’t cheap in this city, you know?”
The Claw scowled. “I don’t have time for this.” He lunged for the Bow, and at the same moment, the Bow aimed the weapon and fired.
Part of the reason Bo had dared to do this inside city limits and behind the Jubilee was that Scale’s Ray was a quiet weapon. It wouldn’t cause a disturbance due to noise. Nonetheless, Bo could feel its otherworldly force, and he worried that anyone in a mile radius would as well. The entire world seemed to lean in towards the Claw as he was hit by a strange line of light. Unlike there had been with Cloak Cloudsley, though, there was no bright light that consumed him. Bo lifted the gun and approached the place where his enemy had stood moments ago. Bo stopped and swore and aimed the gun again. Just like Cloudsley’s outfit had been, the Claw’s Empire uniform was still there, and it was moving seemingly on its own.
It was a miracle that when the little ginger head emerged from the red cape and brown coat, Bo didn’t shoot him on sight. Due to his appearance and the context, it was obvious to Bo that this hapless small person was the Claw. Ever after he regretted how harshly he spoke to the child, who shrunk from his displeasure like anyone his age would. He realized that his plan, though it had done what he wanted it to do (no way was the Claw meeting the Wing in single combat the next day,) had gone massively awry.
Hastily ordering the Claw child to stay put, he put the Scale’s Ray back where he had found it. Realizing that the energy signature might set off something he wasn’t aware of, he extricated the child from the coat and cape (which he took with him to hide the evidence), belted the too-large shorts, and led him across the street. He texted Bar to let him know he was still alive and then, clueless about what to do next, called Thatcher.
See more stories by Tía Snow