The TV was on the news, and Billy and his mom watched it while eating dinner silently. There was an empty plate on the table: Detective Jack Brewster never knew if he'd be home for dinner, so they got used to eating without him. The silence was heavy. Billy knew what it meant, he knew what was behind his mother's look: she wanted to talk about something. Finally, she spoke:
“We had a PTA meeting today.” Billy sighed. His mother was very, very involved in the PTA. “It's about Danielle Cassidy.”
He put his fork down. This was up to no good. “So what about her?”
“Miss Kraczinski, the P.E. teacher, reported her. Apparently she's been harassing other kids... this includes you, doesn't it?” He didn't answer, but she knew his silence meant yes. “Honey, you have to talk about it! We've been through this when you were in middle school, we thought she would grow up and calm down, but she's getting more and more violent! Miss Kraczinski's stories gave us goosebumps! We got her into counseling for now, maybe this will improve her behavior. As I heard, this girl comes from a broken home and has a lot of anger issues to deal with before she...”
"I don't want you to get involved in this, Mom. Actions will only make things worse, trust me! She'll know whose parents are involved and she'll harass us even more. There's no way to deal with her, she's like that and she'll never change!"
She had no time to reply as Mr Brewster came in.
"Evening, everyone! Ha, I'm starving!"
He kissed his son and wife and sat down to eat.
"So how was your day, son?"
"Not bad... and you? Caught that vigilante yet?"
He had asked the question innocently, but he saw that his dad was, as always, supremely annoyed by this topic. "Told you, son, there's no vigilante. Just a kid looking for some thrill who's gonna get hurt if he doesn't stop soon."
"How do you know he's a kid ?"
"According to the reports, he's hardly taller than you. The guy could be in your school! Besides, that... costume, if we could call it this way... a leather jacket and a helmet? Pretty cheap for a superhero."
"Perhaps he doesn't want to be noticed, that's the point of the costume."
"Okay, now answer this: what is his plan? From what we saw, there's no method to anything, he doesn't even call the cops! Okay, sometimes, and I said SOMETIMES, he checks if the victims are okay, but mostly he just punches people in the face and runs away. It's like he's passing his nerves on bad boys rather than doing any sort of justice."
"But he helps you, doesn't he?"
"Help us? Personal justice always brings more harm than good, trust me, son."
There was a silence before Billy changed the topic: “Dad? I heard a name at school... someone heard it from someone who heard it from the news, and I was wondering if it's true... I heard there's one guy named Bronco Jones who's leading all the crime in the city.”
Jack Brewster was unpleasantly surprised. “That name leaked to the news? Really? Gosh these guys are fast...”
“Is it true, then?”
“In a way, yes. Not the king of criminals or anything, that's an exaggeration, but yes, there is a man in this city who goes on by that name and who is suspected to be a drug cartel leader.”
"So why don't you arrest him?"
"You don't bring down a man so powerful that easily. He has the right connections, and he's always ahead of us. Whenever we start investigating, evidences disappear mysteriously. All of his goons are too scared to testify against him, and he has an army of lawyers to defend him."
"Darling?" his wife said.
"You shouldn't talk about all this in front of him."
"Sorry, you're right. Don't worry about it, son, you and your friends are safe and it's all that matters."
"Yeah, I got it, Dad. Sorry, gotta go, err... in my room. Chat."
"But you haven't finished your plate!"
"Finish it later. Don't worry Mom, it was delicious." He said as he left the table. That was not a problem, he could get the info he needed somewhere else. His dad's laptop, for instance. The password was his own birthday. Easy.
The Honda stopped at a safe distance from the place, so as to see without being noticed. The rider observed carefully through the black screen of his helmet. The drug trade was larger than he first thought, and a man named Bronco Jones was its head. Time to take care of real stuff. Clifford Darrell Jones was his real name. Club owner. Officially. The club was set on the first floor of a three-story building. Looked like one of those seedy places one would go with a death wish. Lots of tough, tattooed bald men, girls in the tiniest outfits imaginable. Some bearded guys in denim and leather, their Harley-Davidsons parked on the sidewalk. If that was not the kind of drug dealer's lair! The shaven, tattooed guys in sharp suits looked like bodyguards, and they seemed to be guarding both the entrance to the club and the entrance to the elevator leading to the upper floors. The vigilante guessed that Jones guy owned the whole building. Too heavily guarded to risk a direct confrontation, he concluded. If he needed info, he had to get it through other means. Bolder means. So he parked the Honda, took off his helmet, and walked to the biker types who were smoking in front of the door. He came to them with a laid-back and smiling attitude, asking them for a cigarette. His act worked beautifully, and he and those tough men went on to converse casually about motorcycles, and when they found out he was a Honda owner, they debated on the merits of American and Japanese bikes. But while he was conversing merrily, he tried to keep an ear for the bodyguard types, in case they said something interesting. Two bald Mexican men in gray suits came out to smoke right beside the bikers. They were within ear range.
“So not only is this guy late on payments,” one of them told the other, “word has it that he spilled it to the vigilante. Told him about Mr Jones. So I just spoke to the boss, and he wants to make an example out of him.”
“Guess we'll have to pay Mr Ryan a visit, then. Tomorrow?”
“Yes, tomorrow. He will be at his school, we'll have to operate with finesse.”
The vigilante felt his fist clench by reflex, but he checked himself. Not now, he thought, not now. Tomorrow. At school. Ryan. He would make sure not to miss the party.