Mark’s entire apartment is clean, his slow cooker has a pot roast in it, and he’s successfully hidden from that one downstairs neighbor that keeps trying to set him up with her granddaughter for the whole day.
So of course something goes awry.
He’s rifling through his cupboard for his box of rooibos-he saw it earlier, he knows he did-when there’s an absolute pounding on his front door. Somebody had better be dying, this is his first day off in forever…
Grumbling darkly, he abandons his hunt for tea and goes to answer the door, fully prepared to give whoever it is an earful. He rips it open, mouth already forming words, and just. Can’t.
There are three men on his doorstep. Or. Two men and one…thing. He knows the ginger; Jimmy Rogers, walking disaster. The other? Don’t know, don’t care–wow, that arm is shredded. As in, torn. And bleeding.
Great. Great! He should have known his nice day wasn’t destined to last.
“Mark!” Jimmy sounds genuinely surprised. “Shit, man, I didn’t know we were coming to see you. How the hell are you?”
“What do you want.”
“Okay, so we pissed off some people…”
Oh, no. None of that.
“Don’t involve me in your crap, Rogers–”
“This isn’t my fault–”
“That’s what you said about that drone that freaked–”
“I lied about that one! This really isn’t my fault–”
Uh. Okay, there, Darth Vader.
Next thing he knows, Shredded Blond is being thrust at him.
Up close, Shredded Blond appears to have been hit with a…rake? Maybe? Mark’s definitely thinking gardening tool; there’s leaves on him and probably in him. Great. That’s just asking for an infection.
“This isn’t a hospital.”
Hey, he did his bit.
“Get in,” he says. Then, just so Jimmy knows he’s ticked, “This is your fault and you’re still not allowed to touch anything.”
“Yeah, yeah, I know.”
It’s like he’s just completely oblivious to his own stupidity. How? The man’s a brilliant programmer, Mark will give him that, but. He shouldn’t be alive. He smacked a bear.
Whatever. Okay…yeah, that doesn’t look pretty. There’s no leaves actually in the wound, so that’s nice, but still. Still, man, what the hell…
Shredded Blond shivers when the air conditioning hits his skin, but it perks him up.
“Mafia gardener. I think.”
“Close enough,” Darth Vader says. He’s looking at the mummified hand Mark found at some outdoor market. He’s pretty sure it’s a monkey’s, but it’s old, he doesn’t know. He didn’t want it, but, much like the copy of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas he got given once, he feels too guilty to get rid of it*. “What is this?”
“Don’t touch it.” Yeah, okay, it’s actually not as bad as it looks. Considering. “And you. What the fuck.”
“I didn’t mean to get attacked with a hand rake.”
“A hand rake.” Shredded Blond nods. “Seriously? What the-hiiiiii.” Darth Vader is now literally right here. “You’re in my light. Move.”
He moves. Shredded Blond laughs and Mark hits his uninjured arm to make him stop it and be still. Darth Vader makes an irritated noise, but he’ll just have to cope.
“I like this guy, boss.”
“Can we keep-ow! What the hell, man?”
“You’re fine.” Okay…just a little… “What do you want.”
“You’re invited to join a cult,” Jimmy says. Darth Vader sighs. Mark’s sympathetic, a little; Jimmy’s annoying but usually indispensable, which can lead to…problems. “A really exclusive–hey, Trent.”
What-woah. Um. Okay.
“Problem solved,” the giant says. “Dumpster’s a little full, but hey.”
“Good.” Darth Vader cracks his neck. “It’s not a cult.” Huh. Sounds like something a real cult leader would say. “We’re going to kill Batman.”
“Yeah, that sounds like a cult to me,” Mark says dryly. “Or at least really, really dumb. Move again and I take your arm off.” Shredded Blond doesn’t answer. Darth Vader is suddenly in the light again and this time Mark gives him a good shove. “Stay out of my damn light. Again: what do you want.”
“Aw, c’mon, Mark, it’ll be fun,” Jimmy says. “Well. You know. Things might happen.”
“You’re not convincing me–you hold still, you stand over there, out of my fucking light, or on God I will stab both of you.”
The room is silent for a few minutes, and then the big guy-Trent?-bumps into the couch, swears, and says, “So did I just stuff a body in a dumpster for no reason?”
There! All done.
“Why are you trying to kill Batman?”
Eh. Given what he knows about Batman, there shouldn’t be too many injuries. But then again, these dumbasses apparently enraged a Mafia Gardener. So.
Choices, choices; stay here and hide from the downstairs neighbor, or join the cult? Hm.
“What the hell,” he says. “Fine.”
*True story. I HATE this book. Hate it. But I can’t bring myself to pawn it off on somebody, so here it sits, shoved to the back of a bookshelf.