“God, it reeks in here,” the customer said. He was right; the little closet where Ward gave first aid held the commingled funk that two dozen brawlers had left behind. Ward, the secret identity of the supervillain Warmonger, believed in taking care of business. Especially when the business took good care of him.
“Yeah, I know,” said Ward. “Hold still. If you want one more, there’s still five minutes to last call.” The customer huffed, but tried not to move, and Ward pinched the cut closed with one hand and slipped a butterfly bandage across it with the other. Just another night at Warmonger’s Tavern.
“Last beer’s on the house,” he told the brawler as they emerged into the bar. “You want a shooter or a shot, that’s your dime.” The customer nodded, gave him a small lopsided smile, and picked up a bar stool to sit on. It hung together, which was good.
“That was the last one, boss,” Nick told him, sliding a mug to Ward and another to the customer. “Quite a night, huh?”
“Always is, on Saturday night.” Ward glanced across the last few customers and toward the small ring off to the side. Saturday was Fight Night. Most of the fights were drawn from a hat, but there was always room on the card for a grudge match. Patrons placed bets on the outcome, and often got angry when their guy lost. Often, as it did tonight, that anger could fuel a full-scale brawl. Warmonger fed on anger, giving him superhuman strength. He usually waded into the brawl himself, both to blow off excess energy and to break it up. Ambulance companies had learned to keep a unit nearby on Saturdays for the worst injuries; Warmonger himself patched up the others and kept a van to carry those needing more than first aid to the nearest doc-in-a-box.
“Last call!” Ward bellowed. “Taps shut off in three minutes, closing in thirty! Tell the barkeep if you need a cab!” The last dozen patrons, seated at wobbly tables or standing along the gut-high shelf around the wall, either nodded or ambled up to the bar. Two of the employees were fixing broken tables; Ward himself had designed a cheap breakaway system out of PVC plumbing parts that saved tons of money on nights like this.
“Nick, go ahead and close the place down,” said Ward. “I need a little air.” Nick nodded—good employee, that one, he never asked questions—and Ward slipped into the back room. He changed quickly, all black from balaclava to boots, and Warmonger stepped into the alley.
“You ready?” he asked the air.
Jaguar dropped down, a safe distance away. “Ready.”
Warmonger said nothing, but jogged away. Jaguar followed, fast and silent.
Bea’s Jewelry was well-lit, even the sidewalks outside were bright. They had reconnoitered the two blocks surrounding—nobody on standby, cops or heroes—and Pulse had located the alarm points a week ago.
Warmonger focused. Instead of breaking a window and setting off all the alarms for sure, he punched a hole in the wall. The force of that blow used a lot of stored energy, but he had plenty in reserve. He widened the hole, enough for Jaguar and him to slip inside. They wanted the back room; Bea’s specialized in custom work, and raw materials were much harder to trace. They filled several small bags with gold and rocks, a few hundred grand each if they fenced it a little at a time, and slipped outside—
“Hello boys,” an alluring voice said behind them. “Are you buying me a ring?”