If you don’t like strong women, I advise going no further!
by Gary Henry
Crooks and casseroles
Megan strolled along the French Quarter sidewalk in the evening. She enjoyed the fact that the warm, humid New Orleans air would have once made her hair a frizzy mess, but now could not touch it.
A panhandler stepped into her path from a dark alley.
“Lady, could you spare a little change for a war vet?”
Megan eyed the tall, unshaven man in his dark, dirty, rumpled clothing. She tried not to inhale the sour body odor.
“I’m afraid not,” Megan said. “Please let me pass.”
The man didn’t move. He smiled, showing stained teeth, and looked her up and down.
Megan knew she looked well-to-do in her form-fitting short-sleeved blue blouse, with the thin gold chain around her neck, and light gray slacks that showed a hint of curve around her hips, and her low-heeled pumps.
She remembered thinking she was glad she could still look cute with gray hair at 58, but she realized the man sizing her up wanted her gold chain and what might be in the small black purse slung over her shoulder — and didn’t care about the stylishness of her outfit.
“You sure you ain’t got nothing for us?” Someone said behind Megan. She turned to see a second man.
Two more men stepped out of the alley, and she was surrounded.
“This nice lady pitching in for a bottle?” one of the new arrivals asked.
“That’s right nice of her.”
“Maybe she’d like to party with us,” said the other.
“Okay, boys, that’s enough,” Megan said. “I’m not giving you any money, so goodbye.”
“We’ll see about that, bitch,” the man behind her said. He grabbed for Megan’s shoulders, and the other men closed in, but Megan wasn’t there.
The four men collided, swore, and turned to see Megan standing a few feet away, smiling at them.
“I’m going to give you a chance to quit while you’re —” Megan began, but the familiar tickle of an incoming call on her quill-and-scroll tattoo Nani-phone interrupted her.
The four men rushed her. Megan inclined her head as she held her phone-hand to her temple, and the men crashed to the ground in a heap.
“Just a minute,” she said to the squirming pile of would-be assailants at her feet as they struggled against Megan’s unopposable will. “It’s my son.”
“Hi sweetie,” she said. “I’m in a meeting. Is it something that can wait?”
One of the men pulled out a white print-on-demand plasti-pistol and cracked off a shot. The bullet ricocheted off the smooth skin just under Megan’s throat. She held out her non-phone hand and the gun tore away from its owner and flew into Megan’s hand.
“Honey, the casserole is in the fridge,” she told her son as she squeezed the pistol in the middle like clay and watched the handgrip and barrel bulge out.
“It’s probably behind the milk.” She opened her hand and the deformed pistol shot straight up into the air, rising out of sight.
Megan listened to her son. The men, exhausted from struggling against her telekinetic power lay still, chests heaving. With a gesture she set them upright on their knees, hands behind their backs.
“Well, move the milk and look behind it, Connor,” she said. Megan moved her hand away from her face.
“You boys stay right there and don’t move,” Megan whispered to the men kneeling at attention before her.
She moved her hand back to her temple and listened. “Oh, the casserole’s there? How about that.” Megan shook her head and looked skyward. “Next time look behind the milk before you call. Or ask your sister.”
“Ok hon, I’ll be home Saturday. I love you.”
Megan closed and opened her hand, terminating the call.
“Men,” she said to the four kneeling on the sidewalk. “What’s a woman to do with you? That’s a rhetorical question,” Megan added. “I know what to do with you four.”
One of them found a voice. “Please ma’am, couldn’t you just let us go? We didn’t know you was one of them helpful ladies.”
“It’s a good thing I am,” Megan replied. “Otherwise you’d probably be doing something now we’d all regret. New Orleans PD,” she said, back on the Nani-phone. “Special line, please.”
“Helpful Ladies. Megan Harris,” she said. She glanced at her captives, on their knees, helpless. “Hello officer. I’ve got four little fish for you, right here at the co-ordinates of this call. Tried to mug me, and I bet I’m not their first.
“We’ll be here.” RG
Within moments, a long, black police car whispered to the curb.
A man and a woman wearing NOPD black and silver uniforms stepped out. They glanced at each other after setting eyes on the kneeling men.
“What a surprise,” the man, tall and swarthy, said to his companion, a slender woman with close-cropped white hair. She nodded.
“I’m Sergeant Gus Odom,” he said stepping up to Megan. “Megan Harris?”
Megan nodded. “That’s me.”
“Sergeant Lucy Tilson,” the woman said. “We’re much obliged to you for shutting this crew down. We think they’ve been going after the tourist trade here the past few weeks, but we haven’t been able to peg them.”
“No trouble,” Megan said. “They all could use a shower, though. It’s worth getting them off the street for that alone.”
“Fuck you, bitch,” one of the men said.
“Watch your mouth,” Odom told him as he and Tilson loaded them into the vehicle. “I’m sure the lady could’ve broken your stupid necks for you, if she’d wanted. I would have.”
The four settled into the vehicle’s bench-like foam cushions. Auto-restraints clacked into place. A woman’s recorded voice told the prisoners about their rights, including the fact that anything they might say could be taken into evidence and used against them in a court of law.
“Ms. Harris, can we rely on you to testify at the hearing?” Tilson asked. “Probably be in a few weeks.”
“Certainly,” Megan said. “Any excuse to visit New Orleans.” She pronounced it “Nawlins.” The officers smiled.
“Here’s my contact, including where I’m staying in town.” Megan touched palms with Tilson and Odom, exchanging contact information via Nani-phone. “I’ll be at the Saint Marie till Saturday morning,” she added.
“Oh that’s a lovely old hotel,” Tilson said. “I’ve stayed there several times for New Year’s Eve parties. Just a half-block from Bourbon Street.”
“It is nice,” Megan said. “I’ve got a second-floor room with a balcony overlooking Toulouse.”
“Well, I apologize for those clowns,” Odom said. “I hope they haven’t spoiled your visit.”
“Oh no,” Megan replied. “In fact, I’m meeting my daughter at the hotel in just a few minutes, and we’re going out for dinner and a little shopping. So I’d probably better get going.”
“Thank you again, Ms. Harris,” Tilson said. “We’ll be in touch.”
Odom nodded, and the officers returned to their car and drove away with their captives.
Megan waited to teleport back to her room until they’d turned the corner. She preferred not to show off her powers if she didn’t have to. The impression they made on normal humans made her uncomfortable.
She blinked out.
Almost simultaneously she blinked into her hotel room. She opened her palm to see the time. Nearly 8 pm, which meant Emma would soon attempt her first big long-distance jump, from Lawrencedale to room 208 in the Hotel Saint Marie, New Orleans.
No need to worry, Megan told herself. Emma had already teleported smaller distances, dozens of times, supervised and unsupervised.
And yet, as she sat on the bed’s white and gold quilt with the fleur-de-lis design, she couldn’t kick the feeling of dread rising within her.
Maybe it was an after-effect of the attempted mugging?
Should she call Emma and tell her not to come? The girl would be heartbroken.
Megan knew to pay attention to such feelings. Even so, she asked herself, what could happen that she, with all her powers, couldn’t handle — with her daughter, whose growing powers were already nearly as strong?
What could threaten a superwoman who had thousands of other superwomen ready to help, who could arrive instantly, only a thought away?
Reassured, she reached out and found Trish.
Hi hon, how’s Nawlins? Did I say that right?
Trish, are you sure you can’t do dinner with Emma and me? We’ll have so much fun!
Aw, I wish I could Megs. Tom and I have a thing tonight with the mayor and the commissioner. Let’s do something next weekend, though, okay?
Megan rose and floated to the replica Queen Anne desk. A sealed hotel stationery envelope that hadn’t been there in the morning sat on the blotter, “Honored Guest,” scripted on it in large flourishes.
Don’t open it, said her worries.
She shrugged the doubts aside and slit the envelope open with a red polished nail. She could do the same to steel or concrete if she wanted to, Megan reminded herself.
She withdrew a sheet of paper with a round plastic medallion attached. The simulated bronze piece was about the size of a silver dollar.
“Dear Megan Harris,” the paper read, “We hope you enjoy your stay at the Hotel Saint Marie, and would like to extend these discounts for nearby French Quarter merchants. Thank you for choosing us. We hope we will see you again at the Hotel Saint Marie when next you return to New Orleans.”
Megan laughed in relief. Why did she suddenly have such willies? It was a simple shopping medallion, loaded with discounts and special offers.
Maybe it had one for Antoine’s, or some other good restaurant. She could almost taste the Trout Pontchartrain she’d fallen in love with on her last visit there.
Megan picked up the medallion with her right hand and dropped it into her Nani-phone palm to download the contents.
As the medallion touched her tattooed palm, a tsunami of agony blasted through every cell of her body, knocking her to the floor. Megan lay flattened, unable to move while her muscles twitched and spasmed.
She could barely breathe.
“Hello Megan. It’s been so long.”
The woman’s voice penetrated the air-raid sirens howling in her mind. She moved her head an inch to better see the voice’s owner, an effort that sent shock waves of pain through the body she had come to believe could not be harmed.
She saw a slim young girl, perhaps not much older than Emma. Her black hair shone, and she wore a black flying suit similar to the one she’d given her daughter, but with gleaming black high-heeled boots.
“Of course you don’t recognize me,” the young woman said. Megan fought to follow the woman’s words, but the pain made a fog in her head that grew harder to penetrate with every second.
“I have a beautiful new young body, you see. It is that of Maria, a lovely young Latina. She gave it to me in return for punishing the man who raped and killed her.
“You know who I am, don’t you, Megan Harris?”
“It can’t be,” Megan moaned mentally, but no sound escaped her lips.
“I am Melnikova. I have returned to take my revenge on you and all the helpful ladies,” she spat.
Emma blinked into the room wearing the little black sleeveless cocktail dress her father hated and her mother only tolerated. She glanced at Melnikova, uncomprehending, and flew, terrified, to her mother’s side.
Melnikova shut her eyes in pleasure and grinned like a crocodile about to dine. It is too good, she thought.
No! Don’t touch me! Emma! Megan cried out mentally, but she could not break through the fog and pain and chaos swirling through her burning mind and contorted body, and neither Emma nor any of the other Helpful Ladies could hear her.
As Emma’s unicorn-tattooed hand touched her incapacitated mother, the unknown force rampaging through Megan leaped like electricity into Emma through her Nani-phone, and she too crumpled to the floor in agony. RG