Interlude – Brandon

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“You remember your cousin, Jillian?”

Brandon looked up, the name catching his attention. It was name he hadn’t heard in a long time.

“Kind of.”

“She’ll be staying with us for a little.”

“For a little what?” he asked his uncle.

“Until your aunt can get her shit together.”

“So, she’ll be with us forever?”

“You get the idea.”

Brandon went back to his game, unpausing it. He pulled his legs up on the couch. He continued playing, focusing on moving forward down a long hallway. Inhuman sounds echoed on the other side, but due to the level design, he was forced to continue straight. The lights flickered, and he swore he saw the image of a little girl, but he couldn’t turn back now. Also, the door behind him was locked.

He pressed forward, literally, and tried distracting himself from the atmosphere of the game by thinking about his cousin. The one he hadn’t heard about for quite some time.

The news was sudden, but he didn’t mind. Becky wasn’t around anymore, so they had a free room. He wasn’t too familiar with his extended family, he hadn’t seen any of them in years, but he couldn’t think of anything bad to say about Jillian. They had hung a few times, nothing memorable, but she was nice enough. Nothing bad to recall about her.

Her mom, though, he heard more than enough from his uncle.

Jill would be living here. Hmm.

The idea sounded like a decent change of pace. It wasn’t like he could play football anytime soon. Maybe she was into video games. He was wanting for someone to take that second controller. It had been a while.

Eyes not leaving the screen, Brandon decided to ask another question. “When’s she getting here?”

“Yeah, about that. Get ready, because we’re picking her up right now.”

Brandon’s attention again went away from the game. His character died, mauled by a little girl.

“Huh?”

Jillian reached across the table, taking yet another french fry. Brandon grunted again, but he let her commit her offense.

“You should say ‘you’re welcome’ one of these days,” he said.

“That’s for lames, though. We’re closer than that.”

“Says you.”

“Well, you’re letting me eat this as we speak.” To demonstrate, Jillian tossed the fry into her mouth, pleased with the taste. She chewed loudly, but she covered her mouth.

Lookin’ like a proper lady there, Jill.

Brandon wolfed down the rest of his burger. He was certainly hungry, but he also didn’t want to give Jillian the chance to steal a bite of his main course, too.

As he finished, wiping his hands and mouth with a napkin, he looked at Jillian.

It was like looking at a different person. Completely unrecognizable. Where was the girl he used to shoot hoops with, back in the day? Now, she wouldn’t look out of place in a ScHoolboy Q music video.

Bucket hat on her head, her face touched up in makeup. She wore trendy denim overalls, a strap slung over her shoulder, exposing her skin. She had traded the young, innocent aesthetic for something more mature, and she had done so long ago. She wore it well.

Jillian had her path in life, Brandon was sure of that. Like how he had his own, and now their paths have crossed into this particular burger joint. Brandon wondered how long their paths would continue to intersect, interweave.

Jillian eyed him funny while she sipped her drink. Brandon was still staring. “God damn, I’ll buy you fries next time.”

“Oh, no it’s not that,” he said, looking away, out the window beside them. He instead looked at a police car passing.

“Then what?”

“Nothing. How’s school so far?” Brandon asked, trying to switch gears. “It’s been about… a month now, I think?”

“You’re not my mom,” Jillian commented, matter-of-factly. She didn’t sound miffed or annoyed.

“And I don’t want to be. I’m just asking.”

“I know, and I’m just kidding. It’s been alright, teachers know to leave me alone, and I have some people I chill with, after school. Wouldn’t call them friends, but they cool.”

The word ‘friends’ stuck out to him.

“Where do you chill after school?” he asked.

“By those stores by the school, they call it something but I can’t remember right now.”

“You’d be better off joining a club or something, instead of wasting your time there.”

Jillian smacked her lips. “Don’t be telling me what to do. That’s it, I’m taking another one.” She picked up another fry from his plate. Brandon didn’t care.

“Do you have anything that interests you?” Brandon asked, “Any hobbies?”

She gave him a cold look as she ate. “Maybe I do.”

“Too scared to share?”

“No,” Jillian said, perhaps too quickly. “I just don’t see the point in sharing that.”

She went for another fry, but this time, Brandon retaliated. He lightly smacked her hand out of the way. She almost knocked over her own drink.

“Don’t be so salty,” she complained, frowning.

“That’s the last fry you take,” Brandon said. “Unless you tell me, then you can have the rest of the plate.”

Jillian pouted, she almost looked like a little kid again. Nostalgic, somehow, like he was holding a ball over her head that she couldn’t reach.

She fell back into her seat.

“I like to sing,” she said, with no hint of shame.

“How come I’ve never heard you?”

“I’m not gonna go around putting on a show for you and Uncle B. And, my mom used to sing, so I’d rather just find something else to be good at.”

Brandon scratched his neck. He might have touched upon a sour spot, there. But, it didn’t stop him from saying, “Either way, that’s a start. You can join… what do they call it, the singing club?”

Jillian scoffed. “You mean the choir?”

“Right, right.”

Jillian sighed. “But, there’s like white people, and stuff. They scare me.”

Brandon nodded, as if there was some universal truth that he understood, and sympathized with. He pushed the plate of fries away from him, and towards Jillian.

She wasted no time in helping herself. She spoke with her mouth full. “Enough about me, I haven’t asked you anything yet. Any girls you like?”

Brandon immediately felt a rush of heat go to his face. He didn’t expect the conversation to go there. He scratched his neck again.

“There is, hah, you’re such a dork,” she said, amused that she managed to get that reaction out of him. “Spill it.”

For some reason, a girl did come to mind. Courtney Brooks. A tall black girl who went to their school. She was on the girl’s basketball team, and a damn good player at that. Sweet, funny, and of course her body was top notch. They had hung out a few times, skipped school for lunch off campus, but nothing serious. He was thinking about asking her out one of these days, but he still needed to gather the courage to do so. Brandon couldn’t believe he even had to, he liked to think he had the confidence, the swag, to walk up to any girl and ask her out. But, here he was.

One of these days.

“No one, really,” he lied.

“Do you have a type, then? Don’t tell me you’re into white girls.”

Brandon raised his shoulders an inch. “Depends.”

“What else? You tryna get with any Asian chicks? Tryin’ to get them to go lo mein?”

Brandon tapped his foot once. “I’m about to take that plate away again.”

Jillian scrunched up her face, sneering. “I’m only screwin’ with you. Calm yourself.”

Brandon glanced away again, but another girl came to the forefront of his mind.

Alexis… he couldn’t recall her last name. A petite Asian girl who also went to their school. She was on the volleyball team, although he hadn’t heard any praise regarding her skills, if at all. He had talked to her on a few occasions, and she was nice enough. Kind.. and kind. The occasions were few, after all. If he was shallow, he would’ve ranked her body much lower than someone like Courtney. ‘Petite’ was certainly the right word.

If he was shallow.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot.

He recently had been invited to her birthday. They were holding it at an old plantation house at the edge of the city. Braham’s Barn.

That was in a week. Did he need to get her a gift?

I’ll think about it. Definitely not bringing Jill, though.

The broken chains swayed when the ball brushed against them.

The middle of the day, the middle of fall, but Brandon was heated.

“Ha ha ha!” Jillian cackled, as if they were the only ones on the court. “You suck ass!”

Brandon grimaced, ticked off by the way she was acting. Didn’t help that one of his friends was here, too.

Derek laughed along, “Bruh, you lucky your athleticism was in football.” He caught the ball as it came to him.

Brandon put his arms on his hips, and looked away. “Least I can still jump.”

“Whoa!” Derek protested, “White men can jump!”

“Yeah, on the moon, maybe.”

“Alright, buddy.”

Jillian stamped her foot down, clapping against the pavement. “This is funny and all, but are we gonna go now? Uncle B’s cooking spaghetti today, and I wanna be there when he finishes up the dinner rolls.”

“Almost done, Jill,” Brandon said. “I really wanna smoke Derek now and kick his ass.”

“You wish, buddy,” Derek teased. “You can’t take me, we’ve spent the last thirty minutes proving this point.”

“I wasn’t actually trying.”

“Oh, okay.”

Derek moved to the three-point line, directly in front of the net, and took three long steps back.

“Here,” he said, “If I make this, can I join you guys for spaghetti?”

“That has nothing to do with what we were talking about,” Brandon said.

“But I’m hungry, and spaghetti sounds dope as fuck right about now.”

Jillian made a noise, complaining. “Just make it, then. Uncle B’s got enough for everyone, but stop dicking around.”

Derek laughed, sticking his tongue out. “Sure thing.”

He took the shot.

The ball smacked against the face of the backboard, and it bounced past Derek before he could grab it. It rolled across the court, stopping at the other side.

The ball rolled dangerously close to the Nikes of a man at a bench, sitting with a gang of others. They all wore white. Members of the Royals.

Brandon swore under his breath, and could’ve sworn that he heard Jillian mutter something similar.

“I’ll get it,” Brandon said, taking the initiative, “I’ll be back in a minute.”

“I’m coming, too,” Jillian said, starting to move.

He didn’t protest. They both went towards the group. He heard Derek tag along behind them.

Careful, all we need to do is get the ball back.

They advanced, moving in silence, a contrast to how loud and boisterous the other group were being.

The other group continued talking amongst themselves when Brandon got there. They were ignoring them.

The ball was too close to the man’s foot, Brandon couldn’t just reach down and grab it. He’d have to ask for it.

Brandon steeled himself.

He had to be careful with the volume of his voice, his tone. Had to get their attention, but couldn’t get a rise out of them, either.

“Yo, mind if I grab that ball real quick?”

Of the group, only two paid him any mind. The man sitting down, and the other right next to Brandon. The others continued talking amongst each other.

“What you want, boy?” the man asked. Hard.

“Just want the ball, dawg.”

From his seat, the man picked up the ball, and stood. Brandon was tall, but he was tall.

Casually, he stalked over to Brandon and his crew. Mouth closed, Brandon pinched his tongue between his teeth.

“This ball?” the man questioned, holding the ball with one hand, shoulder level. The bottom of the ball was high enough to touch Brandon’s forehead.

“Yes, that ball.” Jillian was the next speak, despite Brandon. “Quit playin’ and just hand it over.”

Everyone went quiet.

Jillian, damn you.

They were outnumbered, outmatched, and probably outgunned. Brandon’s mind didn’t want to go to such a dark spot, but he couldn’t stop himself from doing so. No fighting, only flight.

If they could.

“Pssh, you got a mouth on you, don’t you?” another one of them said. “What else can it do?”

This is taking too long, things aren’t looking good.

“I can fuckin’ bite your dick off if you don’t stop playing.”

Jill!

“What the hell did you say?” the man with the ball said, aggravated. He stepped forward, and Brandon and Derek responded by stepping back. Jillian did not.

“Yah heard me,” she said, her cool not lost at all.

“Bitch I will-”

“Stop.”

Everyone did.

Another from the men in white. He moved to them, and the others parted to make way to Brandon and the man with his ball.

“Jay,” the other man said, presumably the leader of this group. “We’re here to kick it, not start trouble. We don’t need that.”

The man with the ball, Jay, didn’t delay. He returned the ball to Brandon, dropping it in his hands.

The leader nodded, happy with how things turned around. He directed himself to Brandon and Jillian. With a blinged-out hand, he waved them away.

“Y’all go.”

No apologies, or admittance of fault, but they took what they could get. Brandon and the others promptly left the court.

“Jill,” Brandon said as they turned the street, leaving the area, “You have to got keep yourself in check.”

Jillian spoke absentmindedly. “Who are those guys? If we were in Bedstine, we wouldn’t be here, talking about this.”

Did you even hear me?

“The Royals,” Derek explained, “Another gang.”

Jillian touched her chin. She was pondering over something, Brandon knew that much.

I really do have to keep an eye on you.

A very close one.

Brandon ran, trying to push past the crowd. A lot of people gathered. Too many.

He could manage, though. He was much taller than everyone else, and he was stronger. Getting through the bystanders was easy.

The police, not so much.

“Hey, you’re not allowed through, just like everyone else!” the cop ordered, loudly.

“Please, you don’t get it, that’s-”

The cop put his hand on Brandon’s chest, trying to push him back. Brandon immediately froze, fear seizing him, and he stepped back.

Probably dumb to do, Brandon thought, but he was going to try, anyway.

“You have to let me through,” he pleaded, “That’s my cousin.”

The cop turned back, looking over the scene again. After a short pause, he stepped aside.

Brandon ran again.

He followed the trail of cop cars, leading to the front of the Strip. His heart dropped when he saw an ambulance.

Jillian was in handcuffs, being led by two police officers. He yelled. Not sounds, or any tangible words, but they stopped when they heard him.

“Jill! What did you do?!” he yelled when he got to them.

She looked at him, her eyes puffy and red, dried blood caked on her nose. She wasn’t saying anything.

Can she, even?

“Don’t force her to speak,” one of the officers said. He had a thick moustache that moved when he talked. “Her nose is broken badly.”

Brandon had to wipe his palms on his pants leg, not looking forward to the answer to his next question.

“Then you tell me, what did she do?”

The mustachioed officer spoke like it was nothing big. “Assault with a deadly weapon. Attempted.”

Brandon’s heart couldn’t take much more abuse. It skipping, beating fast, dropping.

Yet he still found it in him to ask for more information.

“The other girl? Was she okay?”

The officer turned and pointed to an ambulance a little farther away. “You can ask her, if she’ll let you.”

Brandon’s eyes darted back and forth between Jillian and the ambulance in the distance. He grumbled.

Reluctant, he started to break away from Jillian and the officers. “I’ll be back in a minute, just don’t take her anywhere just yet.”

Neither officer said anything. Brandon went off running again.

He got to the ambulance. Certainly, now would be the time his heart gave out.

Alexis.

She was sitting at the back of the ambulance, legs dangling. A blanket covered her, and she looked haggard. Hair frayed, some strands stuck to her cheeks. She was staring at the ground, not focusing on anything around her.

Carefully, he walked. He wasn’t sure if his presence would spook her any further.

“Alexis,” he said, testing.

She responded, turning her head to him. The look on her face, it wasn’t one of shock or even anger. Rather, she just looked tired. But not physically exhausted, no, she looked like she was tired of being here. As if she was waiting to go and leave, and everyone was keeping her from doing so.

“Brandon,” she said, soft.

“Eric texted me, just now. Are you okay? Can I ask what she did?” Brandon wasn’t sure if it was he was allowed to ask, but he tried regardless.

“That bitch tried to stab me,” Alexis said, unapologetic about using the insult. “She had a knife.”

Brandon swore under his breath. He was afraid something like this might happen, but not like this, and not so soon. Despite himself, he had held onto the hope that Jillian would rise above her destructive tendencies.

“Uh, um,” Brandon stuttered out his next question. “Can I see? Are you hurt?”

Alexis turned away, breaking eye contact, but she started to move the blanket away from her body.

Her shirt was torn, her midriff exposed. Blood was stained where the fabric was ripped, but there was nothing there, he could see that clearly enough.

His eyes went downward. He’d seen her in those shorts before. They were never that dark, or damp. Jillian did scare her.

“Are you going to the hospital, at least?” Brandon questioned. “Don’t they have to check you out?”

“No, no, it’s really nothing. I’m not hurt, like, at all. I’m just waiting to be picked up by a friend.”

“You can’t just, I mean, if you’re absolutely sure you’re okay, then maybe, but…” Brandon couldn’t formulate a sentence, everything was too much, all at once.

Alexis looked up at him, and he gave up. She smiled. It was a soft, tired smile, a mask for a sadness that Brandon could recognize, but couldn’t point out where in her life it came from.

“You don’t have to worry about me,” she said.

Pushed away, once again. Brandon wanted to cry.

Night. The van sped along, the ride smooth. The music was loud, booming, but it eased none of the anxiety that held Brandon.

Six others were in the vehicle with him. He only learned half of their names yesterday.

The others, though, they were the homies.

But everyone was decked out in all black. A far cry from the white that represented the Royals.

“Don’t worry, B,” Jack, the boy next to him, said. One of the homies. “We’re in, then we’re out. We won’t take long, and we can split up the money however we need to. I can take out a few extra bands for you.”

Brandon raised his chin, and nodded. Honor among thieves, apparently, was a real thing.

Let’s pray.

They had come to him with the offer, and he accepted. A way to get some quick cash and pay for Jillian’s medical bills. At the tail end of his tirade, Uncle B had suggested suing the other family, as recompense for that girl breaking Jillian’s nose. Brandon immediately dismissed the idea. The suit wouldn’t hold up, Alexis had a solid argument in using self-defense, and considering how he found her, she seemed to be in enough danger to justify that claim.

He also simply didn’t want to interfere with Alexis’s life any further. He had a strong feeling that things weren’t going to work out before, but this more than sealed that particular deal. Maybe, sometime in the future, they could be good friends, at most.

The more important reason why they couldn’t pursue a lawsuit was that they simply couldn’t afford it. The money would sink them sooner than they could get anything out of it.

As for helping out Jillian, this was all they could do. She’d have to go through juvy on her own.

So many things on his mind, so many reservations. Brandon didn’t voice any of them, though. He couldn’t, wouldn’t. It was bad luck to do so. Even if there was one particular reservation he was sure they all shared, but no one said anything. Was there a reason to?

The rest of the drive, Brandon stayed quiet.

It was simple, the plan was. Six people, three pairs, two locations. A corner convenience store and a jewelry store down another street. The van would drop off a pair of people at one spot, another pair at the other, and would wrap around when both parties were ready. Lucas, the one at the passenger seat, would provide support and communication for Matt, the one driving. They were both more Jillian’s friends than his, but Brandon’s friends had trust in them, and he wasn’t about to say anything.

He just wanted to be done.

Brandon got partnered up with Jack, which helped. Better to do something illegal with someone you know, rather than with a complete stranger. They were the group that would be hitting up the convenience store, too, which was much easier than the jewelry store. In, out. It should be that easy. Jack had said so.

It should be.

They were beginning to pull up to the first stop. Brandon reached beside his seat to pick up the metal bat. Jack cocked his pistol. They both fixed the bags around their shoulders, and pulled down their balaclavas.

Another day, another struggle.

The van didn’t stop, it only slowed to a crawl. Brandon pulled the door open, and got out. Jack followed.

His mind raced. He didn’t hear the van speed off, or other ambient sounds of the city. Just his heart beating in his ears, the doors slamming opening, his rushing footsteps.

He would’ve shouted to get everyone down, but he didn’t have to. There wasn’t anyone else in the aisles. It would’ve been foolish to do so, too, since that would have alerted any shopkeepers or employees to their presence. Best take them by surprise, as much as possible.

Brandon moved. One employee at the counter, by the register. Manageable.

Now, he yelled, his deep voice carrying throughout the store. “You! As much money as you can put in this bag!”

He whipped around the bag, opening it more with one hand. Using the other, he held the bat above the employee’s head, threatening to swing it down.

The employee, a thin white male, mid-twenties, hesitated for too long. He was wasting precious seconds. Brandon looked over to Jack, who moved past him, and jumped over the counter.

One wave of the gun was enough to get the employee to move. He sprang open the register, putting in as much money as he could. There was another register beside him, meaning another load. Brandon knew the amount in a register would be anywhere from around one hundred to two hundred dollars, so they would be making at most four hundred, just from these two hits. There might be other stuff in the back, but that was Jack’s job to check.

Four hundred, plus whatever they pulled in from the jewelry store. Brandon was beginning to think that this might work out, after all.

No, don’t get cocky now.

The employee emptied out the first register, and Brandon only had to motion to the other with his bat to get him to move. The employee worked fast, to Brandon’s relief.

Jack returned from the back aisle, having checked around while the Brandon’s captive worked. “Got some extra stuff in the back,” he reported, patting his own bag. “It’s a good score. No one else is gonna be a problem here, too.”

“Good, so we good?” Brandon asked.

“Yeah.”

Just as Jack answered, his hip buzzed. The walkie-talkie that was connected them to the other parties. Jack picked it up.

“How’s it going on your end?”

A distorted blare. An alarm? A gunshot? No, wasn’t distinct enough.

However, they could make out the words.

Shit! It’s here! It’s too fast! I-”

The sound cut out. They no longer had a connection.

Brandon was already sweating, but he felt it getting worse.

What was going on over there?

Jack pressed a button to change frequencies. The walkie-talkie buzzed again, but this time the message was much more clear.

This is Lucas! Get outta there! Meet on Jefferson, we’ll get you at the corner!

“Hey!” Jack exclaimed into the device, “Tell me what’s happening!”

Jewels are a bust! We can’t get to them anymore! Just move!

Brandon and Jack exchanged looks. They agreed in silence.

They moved.

Brandon closed his bag as he ran, using his back to push open the door. They sprinted down the street, heading towards Jefferson.

Apparently, things weren’t going well. Something had tied up the pair at the jewelry store. Was it the police? A guard? Someone else? Brandon wished he could find out. He so desperately wanted to help, but it just wasn’t an option.

Derek and Adam. They were his friends, it was a bust, and Brandon and Jack were about to leave them behind.

Brandon bit his lip until it hurt, but he knew he had to keep going. He could wallow about it later, and he would. For now, they needed to cut their losses, and escape.

They got onto another street, running on the sidewalk. Other people were here, in the way, watching. They saw. They were witnesses. More losses to take, but the only thing they could do right now was to deal with it.

Brandon ran, having to push a woman out of his path. She tripped off of the curb, nearly being clipped by a car as it passed.

Another loss.

Jack barked again into the device. “We’re coming up on Jefferson! Where are you!”

Coming!” the device answered.

Sure enough, they were. The van reappeared from a corner further away, tires screeching. It was audible.

Brandon and Jack maintained their sprint, attempting to meet the van halfway. They were so close.

So close.

From above, it arrived.

A shape, that was all Brandon could describe it as from that distance. It seemingly appeared out of nowhere, from the rooftops above, coming down towards the van.

It landed, or moreso it crashed, slamming onto the hood of the vehicle. The van veered off in another direction, but it skidded to a halt before anyone outside out be injured.

The shape slipped off of the hood, too, and collided with the street. It was the first to move again, Lucas and Matt weren’t getting out of the van.

When the shape moved again, getting up straight, it was then when Brandon realized that it wasn’t a thing.

It was a person.

The Bluemoon, Brandon thought, He is real.

He had seen it on TV, online. Everyone in the world did. But there was nothing like seeing it for yourself. Nothing like seeing a real-life superhuman in action. They were actually real.

Even then, what he saw was still hard to believe.

Cast in a streetlight, The Bluemoon moved to the van, crossing the distance between them with an incredible jump. He had never seen anyone go that far or that high with a single bound.

Brandon turned to Jack. He had only now realized they were standing in place.

“What do we do?” he asked, weakly.

Jack’s mouth dropped. He was dumbfounded.

Brandon acted, regardless of Jack’s dawdling. He ran again, and swung the bat in front of Jack’s face to get his attention, nearly breaking his nose in the process.

“Let’s just move!”

They did, and the last visual Brandon had on the van was of the The Bluemoon opening the driver’s side door, with Matt stuck in place by the seat belt. Whatever The Bluemoon had in store for them, Brandon wouldn’t stick around to find out.

They went back the way they came, moving onto a different street when they saw the corner store. They were running for some time, now, and Brandon was confident they could find somewhere to hide, wait for things to cool down.

That confidence was immediately shattered by the shouting behind them.

“Split up!” Jack shouted, and forked down a different road from Brandon in a flash. Brandon didn’t question or argue anything, he simply went another way.

He went down an alley, searching for any backdoors to slide into. One, but a hard pull couldn’t open it. Locked.

Damn.

He moved on, coming out from the other end of the alley to another street. His legs were already aching, he couldn’t keep this up. Had to find a place to rest, at least. Catch a breath.

An old steel building, outfitted to be an auto repair shop. Under construction, or scheduled for demolition, or even a base of operations for Styx’s Gang. Brandon wasn’t sure, but the building looked like it hadn’t been used in decades, worn down and almost sad. In fact, a lot of the buildings closer to downtown were like that. A result of all the gang activity in the city.

Brandon was fully aware of this effect, why this decay came to be, but he couldn’t care less at the moment. He fled into the building.

He made his way into the garage. It was dark, meaning no one was around. Some light came in through the windows above, but it wasn’t enough to see clearly. Brandon could only barely make out the heavy machinery and equipment littering the spot. Cars and motorcycles both were stationed here.

Not a lot of dust, Styx’s Gang does work from here.

But, anywhere was better than being outside, where that thing was. He’d lay low in here. At least no one else was inside.

He did have his bat, too, but Brandon doubted that it would be much help.

He stuck to a corner, and crouched. All he could do now was wait.

The silence, the time to rest, gave Brandon a moment to reflect on what just happened. He prayed that splitting up would work, but he had no idea if The Bluemoon went after him or Jack, but what was he supposed to hope for? That The Bluemoon went after Jack instead? How could he think that?

The thought did cross Brandon’s mind. He felt ashamed, but mostly what he felt was regret. Regret that he agreed to this job, regret that he hadn’t been more assertive in helping Jillian, even when she didn’t want it. Regret that he didn’t help himself.

A clang. It tore Brandon away from his thoughts.

Another. Brandon was back to panicking again.

Sounds were ringing from the other side of the space, echoing throughout the garage. Footsteps. Getting closer.

You motherfucker.

Brandon was left with very little options. He couldn’t make a move, or he’d be immediately spotted, but if he stayed, he might eventually be spotted. He decided to take the lesser of the two risks. He stayed still.

The sounds stopped. The footstep gone. Brandon forced himself to not take another breath. The fabric of his balaclava soaked up his sweat.

Before he could try to come up with another course of action, he heard it.

Two subtle taps. Soft, but he heard it. The sounds weren’t far like the others, no, it was much closer.

Brandon lifted his head toward the direction he heard it.

He saw him.

The Bluemoon.

He was perched on the roof of a truck, lifted up by one of the car lifts. He was facing directly toward Brandon.

Even though Brandon was in a corner, in the dark, he was still spotted.

You motherfucker!

Brandon burst from his spot, going as fast as he could to another exit nearby. The back exit, by another corner. It wasn’t even on the other side of the garage. He could make it.

He could make it.

I can make-

“Aoffgh!”

It all happened too fast to register. Brandon found himself on the floor, his body sore. His years in football taught him how to take a fall, however, and he bounced back up on his feet. He spun around.

There he was. The Bluemoon. He was shorter than Brandon expected.

Brandon tried. He swung his bat, swinging with a strength that he didn’t know he still had. Adrenaline pulsated through him. Brandon aimed for his head.

The Bluemoon brought up an arm, and caught the bat in his hand. Brandon was struck with horror. The fact that he could catch a bat with his bare hands, stopping it mid-swing.

How strong are you?

With one sudden yank, The Bluemoon tore the bat from Brandon’s hands. Like candy from a child.

All too easy, unfortunately.

The Bluemoon thrusted with his other arm, pushing an open palm into Brandon’s chest. It was like getting hit by a metal bat himself.

He flew, going a distance. He banged against a wall, and dropped back down. Brandon wasn’t getting up this time.

He heard the bat get tossed away, sliding under something, somewhere. Much like his hopes of making a getaway.

Before he could even think to move, Brandon was pinned down by a single foot.

That same foot was taken off his back, and brought into his side. He was kicked over, flipped onto his back, his bag of money squished by his weight.

Brandon could hardly see, barely breathe, but he tried. The image was murky.

A dark figure hovered over him. A hooded figure, The Bluemoon had on a windbreaker fitting to his name. His face was obscured, the eyes in shadow.

All Brandon saw staring back at him was a blank face.

He shivered. He couldn’t move, couldn’t escape.

He was done for.

The Bluemoon put his foot on Brandon’s chest, deflating him. Brandon couldn’t take another breath.

“And here, we have the last mole to whack.”

The Bluemoon spoke, but the voice was higher pitched than he would have expected. It threw him off. Was he a kid? Maybe even a girl?

“Yeah, I think that’s it,” The Bluemoon said. “Then I’m done for the night. It’s getting late.”

The word weren’t directed to him. Is he talking to someone?

“Alright,” The Bluemoon then said, shifting his attention to Brandon. “Time to go.” He reached down and pulled off his balaclava.

Brandon closed his eyes, the fabric being pulled away from him. He kept shut, bracing himself for anything.

Anything.

But nothing came.

Brandon slowly opened his eyes again, and realized that he was allotted the time to do so. He saw the moon again.

The moon from a window above.

Huh?

Brandon was alone. The Bluemoon was gone, the sound of a metal door banging open. He left him alone.

Why?

Brandon had to take it slow as he got up. He found that his bag still wrapped around him, the money still there. The only thing The Bluemoon left behind was an unsettling fear, and confusion.

Why did he leave him be? What went down with Jack? The Bluemoon said something about the ‘last mole to whack,’ that would have to mean he got to the others. Brandon had to guess that he was singled out, but once again, why?

Was he simply not worth it to the superhero?

Was it worth getting into? No, Brandon felt like he survived an encounter with the Devil himself, but he was still in Hell. Sirens were coming, he could hear them. Red and blue lights tinged the edges of the windows, he could see them. He wasn’t entirely free.

Brandon wondered if he ever would be.

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11 thoughts on “Interlude – Brandon

  1. It says something that I did not question for a minute that the medical bills for Jill’s broken nose would be costly enough to prompt Brandon to participate in a robbery to pay for them.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Brandon’s POV was…unexpected but I welcome it with open arms nonetheless. The last time we left off with Alexis she was about to do something to Jullian so I’m guessing that you plan for a little timeskip. I’m honestly just drinking my tea and waiting for that moment where Alexis fucks up and her identity is blown. Thanks for the chapter!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I had a lot of ideas for this interlude, Thomas was actually the original plan, so good guessing! But I decided to go with Brandon, it fills in some plot stuff, like what he was doing while Alexis was wondering about him, and about Jillian’s backstory, which definitely needed to be touched on if she was going to play the role she did in this arc.

      In the meantime, I hope you continue to enjoy that tea.

      Like

  3. So, I bet Alexis is glad she had already decided to not continue dating Brandon, because as awkward as this encounter probably was for her it would have been ten times worse if she’d been planning to ask him out again in the near future.

    Liked by 1 person

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