Showcase: Nemesis: Beyond Redemption, Chapter 1: First Blood

by Vendikarr DeWuff

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The old bodyguard finished reading the diary left for him, and he made a decision. He took pen to paper and began writing the letter that would save her.

Mr. Grant,

My name is Rocky DeCio. You don’t know who I am, but I know who you are. I worked for a long time foe of yours, the Yellow Wasp. I came to work for him after he gave up his costumed identity and came back to the family business. I became his trusted bodyguard, but there were things he never told even me.

All the truths are in the enclosed diary, but let me spell it out for you. He discovered you were Wildcat. Not too hard, actually. Just compare the old fight films of you against that WW II newsreel shot of you on the docks fighting the Fifth Columnists. Fighting style doesn’t lie.

He took your son, and it was his greatest laugh that your son be raised as his own. I didn’t know all this at the time, but now it explains so much. Vincent, as your son was called, was a good, sweet kid. He didn’t have the instincts to be a success in the business.

And Mr. B hated him. Treated him so poorly, like he was garbage. This diary explains that too. One time Mr. B was ready to take the business back and retire Vincent. But then it happened. Lena was born. That old man loved that girl as much as he hated her father.

You never saw an old man spoil a child so. I was the same way. I never had any family of my own. And when Mr. B asked me to keep her safe, I was thrilled. I taught her all I knew: guns, knives, fighting. Everything. Vincent didn’t approve, but I didn’t care. If she wanted to know, I showed her. Now I wish to God I hadn’t.

Vincent made recent overtures to the DeLuca family in Chicago, trying to pool business. Mr. B told him that was a mistake. At the big meeting, the DeLucas wiped out the family and moved to take their business. I got Lena out in time, but everyone, including Mr. B, bought it.

The old man had given Lena a key to a safe deposit box; told her if anything ever happened to the family to get the contents and it would tell her what to do. We did that this evening.

I got shot for my troubles, and Lena got me to safety. Imagine that — the kid saved me. She read the diary and knows who her real family is, namely you. I think Mr. B felt she should go to you if she needed someone. But that kid has a different idea. She said she’s gonna make her own costume and get the DeLuca family. That she would become their nemesis. Even commented that was a good name.

Please, Mr. Grant. I know you don’t owe me nothing, and owe Mr. B less than nothing. But she’s your flesh and blood. You’re the only one who can save her soul, and possibly her life. I beg you, please save my little Helena Bertinelli.

Rocky DeCio.

He sealed the letter and the diary in a large envelope and made his way to Gotham City. Marked Wildcat on the front, he left it at the front door and rang the bell. He walked down past a couple of houses and waited until the front door opened, and a young woman picked up the package, bringing it inside. He then headed back to New York, hoping to hear from Lena.

***

She laid in her bed, tossing and turning, as the events of the evening replayed in her dreams.

After three nights of watching the club, Lena made her move. She wore a red wig and a bright red dress. Standing out like that allowed her to hide in plain sight. Giving the doorman a coy smile, he let her in, assuming she was just another working girl.

The DeLuca family used this secret club on Lower Wacker Drive as their gambling headquarters. Not only was it a lavish casino, but their bookmaking business ran out of the back rooms. Her family’s contacts told her he moved three or four million through there a night, making it a perfect place to hurt the DeLuca family.

She had just wanted to kill them all, but amended her strategy first. She wanted to teach Dominic DeLuca that you had to be thorough. He had forgotten her, and he would learn that lesson. She already had. Lena knew she had to kill all of them. She didn’t want any of them coming back after her someday.

Lena walked in, her fur draped over shoulders, her red dress with the slit up her leg exuding sexuality. She smiled and headed straight toward the back. He had heard someone snicker and say Tony’s lunch had arrived. Tony DeLuca was Dom’s little brother, and he ran the gambling operation; poor Tony.

She knocked on the door, and a big man peered out at her. She smiled and said she was here for Tony. The man looked her over, then admitted her. That was his last mistake. After the door closed, she pulled the pistol with its silencer out of its holster in the fur and shot him in the head. Then she removed the second gun and started opening doors.

Rocky had been an excellent teacher, and she never missed what she aimed for. Doors opened, and men fell dead. She got to the final counting room and found Tony DeLuca — and a surprise. He had brought his son into work. She raised her gun and fired, hitting Tony in the chest.

Lena walked over to him and introduced herself. Tony looked up at her with fear, and she told his kid to turn around. The boy, Tony Junior, refused. Lena looked at the kid and demanded he turn around again. He again refused. The kid must have thought she wouldn’t kill his dad with him watching. Stupid kid. Lena told Tony to remember her on the way to hell and shot him dead.

She turned to the boy, hearing her own words echo in her head, “Kill them all.” But she couldn’t. She decided instead to give this kid a break. She told him to run. Tell his uncle that his Nemesis was coming, and time was short. She fired at the kid, and he ran off.

Lena then pulled off her coat and stripped out of the long, red dress, revealing a short, black dress. She pulled off her red wig, revealing her own raven-colored hair.

Strapped to the back of the fur were enough explosives to destroy the club, and Lena set it to go. She then ran from the room into the club itself, screaming about a fire.

People started scrambling to the door as an explosion was heard in the back area of the club. She had done it, had her first blood.

But that night she tossed and turned, her dreams only seeing the hatred on that young boy’s face, knowing she had taken one step in her journey to hell.

***

Detective Jose Delgado sat at his desk, reviewing reports on the alleged Nemesis, a vigilante with a mean streak for anything regarding the DeLuca family. He had to smile at her effectiveness. She had hurt this family more in a month than others, including the police, had in decades.

The fire at DeLuca’s casino, the bombings of his laundromat chain, the destruction of his gentleman’s club — all screamed of someone who knew mob life. Delgado knew she was either a rogue cop or a mob hitter.

DeLuca’s supposed trusted lieutenant in Milwaukee stole the northern operation, shutting DeLuca off from all that revenue. DeLuca’s coup on the Bertinelli family of New York didn’t pay off because he didn’t move fast enough, and a former Bertinelli lieutenant had taken over first.

Delgado then picked up the composite sketch of the woman responsible. Pretty face, but he doubted this was her. The witness descriptions had been too varied from one location to the next. What he wouldn’t give to meet this dynamo.

He reflected on how much she had accomplished. DeLuca was finished in Chicago. The only thing he had left was the DeWulf house, a high-class bordello in the Bridgeport neighborhood, blocks from the mayor’s mansion. And that burned down last night.

It was rumored that the clientele of DeWulf house were taped in the act, and the tapes helped the DeLuca family with their business. Most cops on the squad knew the Chief of Police was on the tapes, since the manpower thrown at capturing Nemesis was overkill. But that was yesterday.

The order came in to disband the special squad looking into her activities, and Delgado was left with the assignment alone. Jose just knew she got the tapes before she burned the place down. And now she was calling the shots in Chicago.

Delgado admired her and her accomplishments. Her call to action made him think about past decisions. He once taught grade school in Metropolis, trying to hide from his gang roots. He had gone into the army and become a ranger, needing the discipline. But once he got out, he taught school — until the day Superman spoke at the school. He spoke of living up to potential, not wasting a day.

Those words hit Jose hard, and he resigned that day, coming home to Chicago, where he joined the police department. And he was glad Chicago had never caught the vigilante fever that most Eastern cities had. He admired what they did.

And tonight, he decided to join them. He would continue his investigation of Nemesis, but from the streets. He had toyed with the idea for a long time, but now was his chance to break up the crime families and gangs that ruled the streets, to bring back order as Gangbuster.

And Gangbuster would be someone Nemesis would trust. She would come to him for his aid. And then the real problem would begin. Would he turn her in, or work beside her?

***

Cameron Chase stood at baggage pickup at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago. Her ride was late, and she was more than a little upset. Then a man in a sportshirt and slacks walked up to her.

“Ms. Chase?” he asked. Cameron just nodded her head.

“I’m Chris Chance; I run the DEO office here. It’s a pleasure to have you here.”

“I’m sure it is,” said Chase sarcastically. “Get my bag, and let’s go.”

Chance picked up her bag, then walked to his car, double parked in the pickup lane. He pulled a ticket off the windshield and tossed it in the back.

“Don’t worry about that; it’s a game we have. They give me tickets, I throw them away.” Chance put the bags in the trunk and went to let Cameron into the car, but she had already seated herself. He frowned and took his place behind the wheel. “First time in Chicago?” he asked.

“Yes, but I am not interested in a tour or the best place to eat. Just give me the update on the targets.”

Chance assumed a formal, businesslike manner as he proceeded. “A couple months ago, a vigilante began working in the city. She targeted the DeLuca family and has succeded in crippling his operation. She left a body count not seen here since the ’20s. Police investigations of her activities were curtailed to just one detective after she burned down an alleged brothel, believed to have filmed high-ranking people in the act, so to speak.”

Chase nodded to him. Having read all of the reports, she just needed a refresher on things. “Then what?”

“Well a few weeks ago, another vigilante appeared here. Codenamed Gangbuster, he’s concentrated on eradicating street gangs here. It appears he wants to keep them from filling the vacuum caused by DeLuca’s fall. He’s very precise in his planning and execution. Seems to have a military background. We have been monitoring both situations per instruction.” He paused, then added, “May I ask why you’re here?”

Chase smiled, ever so slightly, and said, “It appears some of your data gathering is faulty. Did you know Wildcat entered town the day before yesterday?”

Stunned, Chance nodded his head no, and Chase continued. “He was greeted at the airport by Detective Delgado, the man investigating the Nemesis problem. They talked and had dinner. Last night, there was an unconfirmed report that Wildcat was active in the Cabrini-Green area with Gangbuster. Did you know that?

“No, ma’am,” replied Chance, obviously humbled.

“We have conducted our own investigation of Nemesis and learned that she is most likely Helena Bertinelli, daughter of Vincent Anthony Bertinelli,” Chase continued. “Helena is the only member of the Bertinelli crime family whose death has not been confirmed. Her former bodyguard was visited by my boss, who managed to get him to reveal certain information during questioning.”

Chase paused, then said, “Do you have any water? I’m thirsty.”

Chance nodded. “Umm, what did your boss learn?”

“That Bertinelli is the granddaughter of Wildcat, and he’s out to stop her before it’s too late,” said Chase. “JSA commitments kept him from getting here any earlier.”

“Before it’s too late? She’s a one-woman murder machine. She’s beyond redemption.”

“No, Chance, she’s pissed. And I don’t think there is any way to stop her until she’s achieved her objective: to wipe out the DeLuca family.”

“Well, where is Wildcat now?” asked Chance. He hated not knowing what was happening in his own city, but it appeared Cameron Chase had all the answers.

“He disappeared. So did Delgado. It’s our belief that Delgado is your Gangbuster. Now he and Wildcat are trying to find Nemesis.”

“Well, we let them, right? Let the JSA clean up after itself,” said Chance.

“No Chance, we get her first. Commander Steel wants her, and he’s a man who gets what he wants.”

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