Mr. Hex examined his temporary comrades. He was not impressed that they had been summoned by the same spirit that had called him, since they seemed to be in the range of common thugs. Still, he knew that physical confrontation was not the way he liked to do things. It was best to bring them along.
“Hex wand,” he said, holding his instrument in the air. “Take us to the Coyote’s dominion.”
A glow erupted from the wooden baton, surrounding the assembled villains and lifting the four into the air. The hex then blasted them across the desert sand, and in seconds they hovered above the State Police Forensics Laboratory.
Two men in the parking lot looked up from their conversation as the glowing bubble descended to the gray asphalt. One was an African-American, and the other was an American Indian. Obviously, the Indian was the minion of Coyote. The group spread out to form a crescent around the duo.
“Hex wand,” said Mr. Hex, pointing the wand. “Place the ring in my hand.”
The wand glowed, shining on Willie White Raven’s hand. Willie felt himself being pulled forward toward the man in the dark suit and sunglasses, but instead of resisting, he threw himself into the air to ride the pull back to the wand. Mr. Hex’s eyes widened at the move.
Marlon Wells looked around, deciding which of the villains to attack first. His brain processed information faster than a normal person. He decided to hit the big thug on the left first. He moved so quick, it looked like he had teleported across the short distance. His arms multiplied as he began to punch the villain hundreds of times a second.
The thug merely smiled in amusement. “Why don’t you hit me more?” the thug said. “I can take a beating all day long.”
Wells paused in amazement, thinking all of those punches should have had some effect. He had never encountered a serious villain with an ability he was trained to use before. The closest thing he had encountered was Cory Ferris, alias Diamond Jill, who was as new to her abilities as he was.
“My name is Power,” said the thug, winding up. “Let’s see if you can take as well as you give.” Power brought his arm down to smash his opponent flat. Marlon ducked, glad that his reflexes were working better than his fists. He wondered what tactic he could apply to get himself out of the spot he was in.
Tentacles then wrapped around Marlon’s legs, lifting him into the air. He smashed into the asphalt before he could try to get away from the binding limbs.
“He’s not the target, Power,” said a woman, whose hair was like snakes. “Finish him quickly so we can focus on the designated mark.”
“My pleasure, Medusa,” said the large man, straightening his leather jacket.
Willie White Raven smashed into Mr. Hex, his ring pulling him into the collision. He hit the asphalt, rolling away from the surprised villain. The man’s wand dropped from Hex’s hand, breaking the spell he had cast.
Getting to his feet, Willie bent to grab the baton before the other man could. Before he could get close enough, the suited villain grabbed the wand in a gloved hand and glared at the Indian as he pointed the rod at his intended victim.
“Give him a heart attack,” Mr. Hex said with a smile.
The glow struck at the desert rat. He leaped out of the way, flame rushing up his arms, changing him into his more feral form. He sank into the ground with a bark.
“Bring him back,” Mr. Hex commanded. Instantly, the Coyote floated in the air. He seemed to be smiling with his canine features. “What are you laughing about?” asked the wizard. The Coyote pointed.
Marlon Wells had his legs pinned together, a large leg-breaker swinging at his head, and another guy aiming a hand with light glowing in his eyes. This didn’t look good.
He wondered how he got into these situations as he rolled from Power’s killing blow. His hands grabbed the tentacles around his legs, and he began to rub the rubbery flesh as he tried to keep everyone in sight. Smoke rippled from the limbs within seconds as his hands buzzed against the air. Medusa picked him up and flung him across the parking lot.
Marlon spun in the air, ready to hit the ground running. He landed softly, and beams of light reached out for him from the unnamed stranger. He ducked and weaved to avoid the blasts. He needed to be more offensive against these his enemies, but he was running scared instead. He needed a plan to get him out of his spot.
He smiled at a sudden thought.
Marlon waited for the next blast to start. Then he switched places with Power, and the beam impacted against the leg-breaker, flinging him to the ground. Power could take solid hits, but not energy.
Cory Ferris roamed Interstate 70 in a black Toyota, enjoying the feel of the chill air from the air conditioner on her skin. The owner of the car lay in a gully five miles behind her. She had split his head open with the diamond ring she wore on her hand. That ring was why she had been nicknamed Diamond Jill.
She planned to drive until she reached California and then go north until she pulled into Portland or maybe Seattle. She was a bit tired of the dry sand, burning sky, and endless cacti that marked her path west. She didn’t care anything about keeping her bargain with the vision that had given her ring back. She understood other’s people need for revenge, but that didn’t interest her in any way. The only things she wanted was to be free, and to have the ability to do what she pleased when she pleased.
But if she did happen to come across the two who had stopped her before and put her in Bladesworth, she would rip them to shreds with her ring.
Mr. Hex looked up instinctively where the flaming wolf-man pointed, only to see a large anvil falling toward him like something from a cartoon. He pointed his wand with the words, “Protect me.” The anvil hit an invisible dome and slid to his left, and a cloud of dirt puffed up when it hit the ground.
The wizard was momentarily blinded by the flying debris. He raised his hand to protect his face, but for some reason, his arm froze halfway through the gesture. He tried to speak, to command his wand to work some of its magic to clear the air around him, but his lips were strangely stiff. The cloud settled back to the ground, and when it did, he discovered he was coated with a thin shellac of glass.
Mr. Hex tried to form words to command his wand to get him clear of his situation, but his mouth would not move.
“Thank you for the gift,” the Coyote said, plucking the hex wand from the wizard’s grasp with a barking laugh. “I wonder if it will work for me as well as it did for you.”
Mr. Hex watched as the Coyote ordered Medusa to be tied up by her own limbs and for Luc to fall asleep. The fiery canine laughed at the two as he put the wand away inside his fur. The flame dimmed, revealing the man beneath. The Indian smiled as he walked away with the wand, leaving his attacker frozen in place. Mr. Hex felt a confusion of emotions. He had never lost before, and now he had been beaten by a man with the audacity to laugh at him as he walked away.
“That was a neat trick with the anvil,” said the speedster named Marlon Wells, brushing off his tan uniform.
“That was a neater trick getting that one to shoot the other,” said Willie, smiling. “I knew you were the right man to help me out.”
“Maybe you can help me,” Wells said. “Cory Ferris has escaped and is leaving bodies everywhere. I don’t suppose you can track her down.”
“Let’s get our friends in custody before anything happens, and I’ll see what I can do.”
“Right,” said Marlon, walking inside to the lab. One phone call would bring enough officers to take care of the four villains in the lot.
When he returned, the nameless man who became the fiery wolf-man was gone. The lab technician cursed at being left behind, without knowing how this would end.
Marlon Wells went back inside, thinking that there was more than one way to skin a cat. He got out a map and a list of reports he should have been processing as part of his job and went over everything that had been reported on the highway. Now it was time to put his speed to a real test.
Cory Ferris braked slightly as a light approached her stolen automobile from the east. She spotted it in her rearview mirror, wondering what it was until she recognized the fiery form riding the light toward her. She pointed the ring on her fist at the glow, and a shower of sharp knives erupted from its surface, aimed at the Coyote in the air. She was disappointed to see him swerve out of the way of the sharp blades.
She put her foot down on the gas, light running from her hand into the wheel of the Toyota. The car burst forward, tires lighting in wheels of flame as the auto ran like a comet along the highway. The glow brought the Coyote forward to match her speed in a race along the empty road. She pointed her ring at him, and a giant hand wrapped around the avatar, hurling him at high speed to the asphalt. Some kind of air bag springing out of the ground stopped him from being seriously hurt.
Cory’s Toyota ground to a stop, and she cursed as she beat her hand against the wheel of the dead car. Why wouldn’t they leave her alone? She got out of the car, her ring glowing venomously. So the dog wanted to play, did he? They would play, all right.
The outlaw known as Diamond Jill angrily sent blast after blast at the Coyote. He was caught off-guard and had to move fast to get out of the way of the sudden barrage. Unfortunately for him, he had lost the wand in his collision with the air bag. That would have ended the fight fast, but now he had to scramble as he tried to think of a way to divert her attention. He drew a blank as he dived for cover.
A sudden wind erupted out of nowhere, and Cory flew into the air, hitting the ground and rolling over and over. She climbed to her knees, dazed and confused as she blinked the sand and sweat from her eyes. What had just happened?
Before she could get her wits back, a straitjacket wrapped around her arms. She screamed as the fiery dog laughed at her again. The other one stood at his side, tossing her ring up and down in his hand.
Coyote, Raven, and Snake met in the forest. A smashed tree indicated Snake’s displeasure at his loss.
“Our boy won the day,” Raven said, flapping his wing. “Pay up.”
“He had help,” complained the serpent spirit.
“That’s not our problem,” said Raven. “We said we wouldn’t do anything to interfere, and we didn’t. He did everything on his own, even getting his own help.”
“He wasn’t supposed to have any help at all,” complained Snake. “I don’t feel I should pay anything because of that.”
The Coyote laughed quietly. “How about this,” said the canine, “double or nothing?”