1/ Introducing Henchman

I look like a fucking idiot.  There’s no getting around it.  I am standing in a sports stadium – or what is left of a sports stadium – with a dozen other guys, carrying a piss poor replica cutlass in one hand and a flintlock pistol in the other, facing off against twice as many police.  The Police, I should mention, have proper guns and tear gas and body armour.  I have a pirate costume.  It’s not even a good pirate costume.  It looks like something you’d buy on Ebay for twenty bucks for your kid’s Halloween party.

One of the police is calling on us to throw down our weapons and surrender.  His voice sounds smug over the loudhailer.  They know they’ve got us.  It may be different if the boss was here, but he’s been missing ever since things started going wrong and it’s becoming pretty clear that he has no intention of returning.  I really don’t know if his super-powers would make much difference anyway.  He’s strong and he’s fast compared to normal folks and he throws small explosives that appear to be more noise and sound than real damage, but the Police seem to take him seriously enough to have turned out quite a force.  So maybe he’d turn the tide?  I guess we’ll never know.

I glance around to see if any of the others are showing any intention of surrendering.  It seems like a good plan to me.  Sure, we’d have to do some time, but that’s still better than getting shot full of holes.  Of course, there’s no chance of them dropping their weapons.  I may be new to this henchman gig but the cardinal rule has been made very clear to me.  You never surrender unless your boss surrenders.  If you do, you will find that your brief stay in a correctional facility becomes a more permanent situation.  Yeah, they kill you.  And your family, usually.  It’s a good incentive to play by the rules.

“Last warning,” Comes the voice of the law, crackling through the air.  Across the field I can see the police officers are eager.  This must be rare for them.  They are used to having to call in the capes to deal with a super-villain situation.  What are we?  A dozen poorly-trained thugs, in stupid outfits, carrying antique weapons.  It’s got to be like Christmas for some of these guys, so used to running and waiting for backup before dealing with anybody in spandex.  It’s going to be embarrassingly easy, almost a shooting gallery.  The flintlock pistol has one shot before it needs reloading (and I have not the faintest idea how to reload it) and although the cutlass is quite sharp I really can’t see us getting close enough to use swords – even if any of us were adept at doing so.  Which, as far as I know, we are not.

I whisper a prayer.  I’m not big on prayer, to be honest, but it seems worth a shot given that I am about to be dead.  “Please God, take care of Tabby and Dianne,” is pretty much all I can think to ask for.  I don’t suppose God is listening.  Primarily because He probably doesn’t exist, but also because I seem to be a practising henchman for a super-villain.  I doubt there’s a heavenly cloud waiting for any of us when the police gun us down.  Still, anything is worth a try at this point.  After all, my wife has a mostly-out-of-work bum of a husband and my daughter has a costumed bad guy for a Dad.  I reckon the least I can do is ask God to look out for them.  Can’t hurt, can it?

There is a moment of breathless anticipation as the air in the stadium seems to charge with the anticipation of violence and blood.  My fellow henchmen seem to have decided to go out with a bang because their collective terror has been replaced by something else.  I can feel myself getting caught up in it.  The atmosphere is contagious and I feel adrenaline rushing through me.  Or maybe its just stupidity.  No idea.  But it is time.

With a roar we are all rushing forwards.  Our cutlasses raised over our heads, the explosive booms of the flintlocks filling our ears, our war cries roaring as much through our veins as through the air.  I’m sure I hear somebody shout: “Yo ho ho,” and it’s difficult not to admire his attempt at taking his role seriously in the face of imminent death.  This is, after all, the stuff that real theatre is made of, I think bitterly.  I have a moment to wonder, not for the first time, what the fuck pirates have to do with Leprechauns anyway, but it’s not a question I’m likely to get answered any time soon.  I’d meant to ask, but there hadn’t been a moment.  Now there probably never will.

The police stand in their line, regimented, confident, trained.  They do not shoot wildly, nor cry out with excitement.  They make their shots count.  To my left one of the other pirates falls.  I think his name was Larry.  Nice guy, not particularly bright but easy-going and quick to buy a round of drinks.  His pirate name was Flynn or Mad Pat or something.  I’d not had much time to get to know the new names The Leprechaun had assigned us, so sue me.

To my right Doug is hit in the chest and falls to his face, skidding in the dirt like he is diving for last base.  A bullet whistles past my ear and hits Big Sue in the eye.  You’d think she would be killed instantly, right?  But no, she’s still screaming behind me as I rush the police line.  Looking around only three of us have completed the charge – which is still better than I’d have expected.  Somehow, I’m one of them.  No idea how that happened.

I swing my cutlass at the first cop.  It’s not a practised blow.  I haven’t got a fucking clue how to use the thing so I just beat his plastic riot shield with it.  It makes a solid sound.  Doesn’t seem to bother the cop on the other side of it at all.  Not surprising since he’s built like a linebacker and I’m a pretty average size.  That and the fact that I seem to remember The Leprechaun saying these swords were meant for slashing rather than straight blows?  Probably should have paid more attention during the training session, but how much can you really learn about piratical swordplay in an hour?

At this point the cops just kind of pile onto us.  Mark takes a face full of tear gas and is choking somewhere behind me which means only Leonard – sorry, One-Eyed Pete – and I are still in the fight.  We last maybe thirty seconds before we are beaten unconscious with night sticks.  I’m thinking that compared to Big Sue I’ve got lucky, but then one of the cops shoots me anyway.  There was no need for it, but I can’t bring myself to complain.  I am, after all, a super-villain’s henchman.  This is why they pay us the big bucks.

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