The rise of the fat mogul (the defenders saga book 2) (page 6)

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“Actually,” Buddy interjected.  “Considering how many people I know named Talmadge, I have a feeling I know exactly who we’re looking for, and exactly where he’s going to be.”


“Reverend,” Buddy said as he entered the cathedral.  “I hope this isn't a bad time.”

Damon glanced over his shoulder and saw Buddy striding toward him.  He placed the lit candle in his hand down next to the others.  “You've a lot of nerve walking into this place of worship.”

“I just heard about your wife.  It's a terrible tragedy, one I wish I hadn't been so directly involved in.”

“Wishes are for fairy tales, son.”

“I'm honestly sorry for what happened, Father, but I hope you understand that it was never my inten--”

“The only thing I need understand is that you are a reckless fool who believes you stand above God and man as something to be worshiped.”

“This is a trying time, I get that.  I don't want you to think I am taking what happened lightly.  That's why I felt the need to come here in person.  I need you to know--”

“The only reason you came here is to flaunt your existence over me.  Don't think that you're the only one who has been given special gifts.”  Damon turned to Buddy, flames bursting from his eyes.  “God will no longer allow people like you to continue on your paths of faithlessness.  He has plans for you, Buddy Hero, of that I'm certain.”

“Father, your eyes--”

“Yes, that's right.  I'm not that different from you, now that I've been given my gift.  Where we differ, however, is where the LORD will place judgment.”

“Are you saying that these are new abilities.  If so, I'd really suggest--”

“Silence!” Damon's nostrils flared as the flames shot out of his eyes, sputtering fire onto the floor.  “You know nothing of what you speak.  My power comes from God himself.  This is not the work of some foul demon, as it is with the likes of you.  I am here to judge you, and that judgment shall be quick.”

“Surely you don't intend to--” Buddy said, backing away slowly from the man who burned with rage.

“I don't intend to do anything.  Not here at least, not in this place of sanctuary.  However, your time will come.  And it will come soon.”

“Um,” Buddy stuttered.  “I have some friends who may be able to help you understand what your body is--”

“Get out!” Damon screamed.  “Your kind is not allowed within the House of God any longer.  You shall no longer be allowed to foul this place of worship.”

“I just--”

“Out!” Damon screamed again, his entire body bursting into flame as he yelled.  The scent of burnt cloth and ozone filled the air.

Buddy stared at the specter in front of him, uncertain how to respond.  Fear that more damage would be caused by him staying than leaving assisted him in reaching the decision to exit swiftly. 

“That's right, Buddy Hero, run.  Run from your judgment!  Just remember, no one can run from the wrath of God forever!”

Damon fell to his knees as the sound of the slamming door echoed through the cavernous building.  The flames died down revealing the naked form of a feeble old man.  Tears fell from his eyes, instantly evaporating as they hit the heat of his skin.  Through the steam of those tears, he looked at the ceiling and spoke through choked words. 

“Hear me, LORD,” he screamed into the darkness.  “I beg for your guidance.”  He took a deep breath and continued.  “Something is happening, something I do not understand.  A new emotion burns within me, like anger, but something far more sinister.  I feel I am unable to resist its siren’s call, incapable of denying its unyielding release.

“The man who just fled from these hallowed halls, the man who believes himself to be man’s salvation.  He seems to be at the center of this emotion, the cause for its inconceivable pull.  At the very sight of him, I find myself yearning to pull him apart.  And the most frightening piece of it all is that even considering that option feels comforting somehow.  Just the idea that I might deliver harm unto this man gives my heart release.

“I fear losing sight of Your plan for me.  I fear that through this emotion, I may be following selfish means, instead of Your Will.  The man who gave me this gift, Arthur Flores claims to be Your servant.  He says it was Your Will that I receive these abilities.  Yet something about this man feels off.” 

Damon paused and looked at his hands as they lit up again.

“I need a sign, good LORD.  I need a sign of which path I am supposed to take.  Am I to act as Your messenger, bringing death and destruction as a part of Your judgment, or would acting in such a way merely cause me to become one of the Horsemen?

“Or, perhaps. . . perhaps these men and women who bring their own destruction, in the guise of salvation, perhaps they are the true Horsemen of the Apocalypse?  War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death.   Does not my gift resemble the purging fire more than the quest for death?  Or the fiery red horse of Conquest, the demon whose image is that of mass slaughter.”

The flames extinguished themselves as Damon stood and walked toward the back of the sanctuary.  He paused halfway from the altar to the doors and looked up to the sky, tears hissing once again as they hit his face.  He returned to his knees unable to continue any further.

“Please give me a sign.  And please don’t let her die.”


Buddy entered his sister's apartment quietly.  With how late it was, he didn’t want to risk waking her.  He even suggested that Alexa spend the rest of the night at her father’s house to ensure Maggie would be able to get as much sleep as possible.  He loved her, but he knew how difficult it was for her to be nice to unruly customers even after a full night’s rest.  He definitely wouldn’t want to be on the other side of a serving line run by an exhausted Maggie Jackson.

As Buddy shut the front door, he noticed a towering pile of books placed on the couch. 

“Looks like Zero is going to have plenty of questions in the morning,” he thought to himself.  He considered checking out what items had caught Zero's interest this time, but decided he’d allow himself to be surprised. 

He tiptoed across the living room to his bedroom and carefully entered the darkness that was his shared sleeping quarters.  He could hear Zero snoring loudly in his bed, obviously exhausted from a day playing with Dewey and his decimal friends. 

Buddy removed his clothing in absolute silence, even being certain to keep his belt from clicking against itself as it hit the floor.  Using as much care as he was capable, he reached into the crumpled pants’ pocket to pull out his phone.  As he slunk to the side of his bed, he fumbled on the floor for the end of the charger’s power cord and clumsily slid it into the USB port on his phone, causing it to make a single loud beep as it announced that it was, in fact, charging.

Buddy panicked as Zero snorted in response to the sudden noise, daring not to even move in case it would aid in bringing the notoriously light sleeping out of his hibernation.  After counting to sixty in his head without any further action from his roommate, Buddy felt confident he could continue his nightly ritual.

Pulling the sheets back gently, he climbed into his own bed, holding his breath to keep back the grunts his body wanted to release due to the effort involved in rolling over and into the Buddy-shaped dip in his bed.  He prayed his body would keep from making the creaks and cracks all too standard with this procedure.  Once he felt he had attained the appropriate position for slumber, he allowed himself to exhale once, slowly, before closing his eyes in celebration of a job well done. 

Through his closed eyelids, he became aware that the room was not its normal shade of absolute darkness.  He opened his eyes to see he had forgotten to close the bedroom door and, remembering his sister’s intended early morning, realized keeping it open was not an option, should he have any hope that Zero would not awaken at the sound of her daily preparations. 

Slowly, he escaped the comfort of his bed and shuffled his feet across the floor.  His eyes had now become adjusted to the dark room, which allowed him to narrowly avoid stubbing his toe on the dresser Zero had apparently decided would better serve in a new location.  He arrived at the door and pulled it shut; twisting the handle before returning the door to the frame so the lock wouldn't click as it closed.

Without a sound, the door was replaced to its proper location and Buddy cautiously turned the doorknob to its closed position.  He felt the spring in the knob loosen and let out another sigh of relief as he shuffled his feet back across the floor to his bed.  Once again, he held his breath as he crept onto the mattress, rolling slowly across it to return to his comfortable dip.  He closed his eyes for a moment and listened.  Zero's snoring continued as steadily as a metronome.  Buddy released his breath and prepared his mind for sleep.


beep . . . Beep. . . BEEP. . . BEEEP!

Zero was out of bed before Buddy even recognized the sound as that of Maggie's alarm.  His boisterous friend shouted an excited, “Good morning, Buddy!”

“Damn!” Buddy thought to himself as he considered rolling over and ignoring his over-eager roommate. 

“Come on, chum, the new day awaits!”

“Chill out, Zero,” Buddy spoke grumpily.  “Go back to sleep.”

“Ah, an early start to the day.  Always something I can get behind.  How was your rest?”

“I haven't started it yet.  Go back to sleep.”

“No can do, Buddy, old pal.  The day has begun, there's too much to do.”

“You don't have anything to do.  Go back to sleep.”

“Ah, but if the magnificent Margaret has chosen to begin her day at this hour, it can only mean she could be in need of assistance.  As is my payment for the woman who provides me residence and sustenance, I must be available for even the most minor of her needs.”

“Fine,” Buddy gave in.  “But just do it quietly, okay,” he wished, knowing there was nothing Zero did quietly.

“Shall you not be accompanying me in my efforts to aid your sister in her time of need?”

“It's three o'clock in the damned morning, Zero!  Hell, you couldn’t have been asleep for more than an hour even.”

Zero took a look at his watch.  “I slept for an entire forty-five minutes, chum.  That's more than enough rest.  Get up!”

“Ugh,” Buddy groaned.

“Fine, there's no more time to waste on you.  I'll tell your sister that you have chosen to be unhelpful this morning and will be of no use.  Or perhaps she will have some clever idea on a novel form of torture we could utilize in order to end your unending laziness.”

“Whatever you want to do,” Buddy groaned.  “Just let me sleep.”

Zero exited the room and slammed the door behind him.


Buddy lay on his back in his bed with his eyes wide open.  Although he was exhausted from the day, he now found it impossible to give in to the call of sleep.  This was due, in large part, to hearing the not-so-muffled conversation going on between Zero and Maggie just outside the door to his bedroom.

“I'm not certain I understand,” Zero spoke.

“A comic book convention, you know, where people who like superheroes and stuff get together and, well, geek out about it, I guess.”

“I still don’t understand.  Is it not true that the memories of days past, in which the likes of me were allowed to roam the streets freely and openly, have been removed from the public awareness?”

“Well yeah, but, well,” Maggie sounded frustrated, as she so often did when conversing with Zero, “you see, there's these books that people read, they've got pictures and stuff, and that's where people get to read about people like you.”

“But, dear Margaret, that still doesn’t answer the question of how people would come up with such ideas—”

Maggie groaned, cutting Zero off midsentence.  Buddy knew it was partially due to the fact that Zero continued to call her by her full name, no matter how many times she protested.  “It's fictional, okay, just pretend.  These stories were made up by some nerds who still live in their mom's basements, and now they make all sorts of money from movie and TV deals and lunch boxes, and I don't know, action figures.”

“I'm well aware of the current trend in popular culture to highlight people who appear to be quite similar to people like me.  I'm not an idiot, Margaret.”

“You could have fooled me,” Maggie muttered under her breath.

“Don’t you find it odd that these supposedly fictional characters are so similar to people that did truly exist at one point?  If no one knows they existed, how did they come up with it?”

“God, I don't know, alright?  Can I please finish getting dressed so I can get out of here already?”

“Certainly, dear Margaret. I have but one final question.”

“Fine, go for it, as long as it’s the last one.”

“Would you have any concerns with me joining you on this adventure into the world of the crusaders of print?  I believe it would be just the place for someone like me.”

“I think you're right.  Unfortunately, I only have enough passes to get in the people who are working with me today.  Maybe you can convince Buddy to go with you.”

“Perhaps I shall!  Enjoy yourself, fair Margaret, and I shall hope to see you at this convention of super heroic feats!”

Buddy heard loud footsteps storming in his direction.  He quickly pulled the sheets over his head, hoping that somehow Zero would overlook the not-so-hidden mound of person positioned in the center of his bed.

The door burst open and slammed against the wall.

“Buddy, old chum! I have just the adventure for us today!”

Buddy held his breath.

“Don't tell me you're still sleeping! It's already half past the hour.  Daylight is wasting.”

Buddy pushed the covers down harshly.  “It's not even daylight yet, Zero!  Just let me get some sleep.”

“If there is no rest for the wicked, surely there is none for the pure.  However, I shall not waste any more of my time on you for now.  When you awake, you will be taking me to this comic book convention your sister has been telling me about.”

“Great,” Buddy spoke, pulling the sheet back over his head.

“While you continue your rest, I shall see what I can do about getting one of these passes I heard mention of.”

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