“There’s one, over there,” said C.K. from the backseat. They had only just drifted past the entrance to Northside Hospice.
“Naw, that one doesn’t have a meter on it, either,” came Blackout, tone reserved, eyes scanning the streets for empty spaces big enough for the Villain Van.
“Are we honestly worried about a meter?” asked Fern. He had essentially given up on picking fights about minor things. He needed to save his complaints for the heist.
“Look, if we’re all gonna be out heisting and shit, we can’t have the car fixed with a boot when we need to make our escape,” replied Blackout, with a hint of impatience.
“No,” interrupted Blackout, “you couldn’t. I’m not having you melt off the tires when you go all fire-crazy.”
Fern bit his lip, took a deep breath, and looked out the window. They were circling back around to find a closer place to park.
“It would be pretty impossible to melt the boot without incurring damage to the Van, Fern,” said C.K.
Fern continued looking through the glass. The colors for the hospice were eerily bright, like somebody confused paint numbers and got electric blue instead of blue-gray. It was the sign that gave it away, though; “Northside Hospice” was written in bold, glass letters, a shade off of white. The first floor was a brown lobby surrounded by large, automatic doors, and the second through fourth floors were all big, bay windows with that electric blue running around their edges like squared veins.
A hospice. That’s what his life had come to—heisting a goddamn hospice. It was the only way to get C.K. to sign on. He was the one who had found all of the information about oxygen shipments, so they could actually do the heist. But Fern still couldn’t shake his head enough at the idea. What he hadn’t told C.K. was that he had planned on targeting the visitors of the hospice for their hostages. Well, at least the hostages that were going to be on TV, dictating their demands. He wasn’t sure of the obligations of heroes, or even law enforcement, to save a bunch of people who were okay with dying in the first place. Hostages that wanted to die were a topic that Fern felt was best left to philosophic discussions in cramped dorm rooms. After all, if things didn’t go well, and they had to start making examples of people so their demands were met, he didn’t want everyone to feel strangely accepting of the fact that they were all going to die soon, anyway. No doubt, this was probably the most confusing of heists to date. It certainly topped Jell-Oh-No’s aquarium raid, where he threatened to fill all of the tanks with Jell-O mold and lower the temperature until everything solidified. Everyone kinda raised an eyebrow and called him a dick. Not a villain. A dick. Important distinction.
“The oxygen drop-car will be here in 3 minutes,” C.K. chimed, eyes focused on his tablet. “We need to park. Now.”
“Did you hear that?” said Fern.
“There you go again,” Blackout responded, eyes darting around the road. “Always complaining and never trying to help nobody.”
“C.K., can’t you do something about this?”
“I don’t have current satellite data,” he lamented. “The most I could do is look for abandoned lots that don’t get checked often.”
“That sounds like a plan,” said Fern.
“Why didn’t we do that in the first place?” Blackout said, a bit upset, “You see me driving around here looking for a place to park that isn’t at the hospital itself.”
“You’re the one who wanted to drive,” shot Fern.
“I’m about to just park at the hospital and call it done.”
C.K. said, in a small voice, not intended to further upset Blackout, “That’s not the best idea…”
“That’s a stupid-ass idea,” clarified Fern. “They’d lock the lot down right away and we’d have no way of getting the Villain Van back.”
“Can’t you burn shit?”
“Oh, now you want me to burn shit?”
“No, I want you find me a parking meter without a purple Prius sitting beside it.”
“Then you should be looking instead of snapping at me.”
“And you should be shoving a—”
“Is that one?” C.K. lied. There was no parking spot. He simply didn’t want to have to jump-in and stop a fight.
“What?” Fern and Blackout said simultaneously.
“Over there? Didn’t you see it?”
“No,” said Blackout. “I was too busy with Mr. Hothead over here.”
“You should change your name to Scape Goat. It suits you better.”
“You should learn how to make-up better names, while you’re sitting there talking.” Blackout was obviously pissed off. “Villain Van? The Villain Van? Haven’t you noticed you’re the only one who actually says that dumbass name by now?”
“What was that?” Fern hissed the words between pearly-red teeth. You don’t ever. Ever. Tell a villain his naming skills were garbage.
C.K. let out a long, long sigh. “I’ve already called all of the tow truck companies to other side of town,” he offered, hands busy on his screen. “That should buy us a couple of hours. Park the damn car, Blackout.”
This time Blackout was the one to bite his lip, and then he turned the wheel smoothly and pulled next to a mailbox, between two sedans. “I feel like you could’ve done that sooner…” he mumbled under his breath.
Fern and C.K. ignored him.
There were in clear view of the hospital, now. Hospice. Nobody had the nerve to utter the word “hospice” aloud. Fern was thankful for this. It meant everybody was ready to take the heist seriously.
“You know what to do when they show up, Blackout.”
“Yeah,” he nodded. “I got it.” He put the van in park.
“They should be pulling up in under a minute.”
“Do we have the schematics on hand?”
“Of course,” he smiled.
“How many oxygen tanks are we expecting?”
“There should be 57 in the shipment.”
“Two carriers and two security.”
“I’ll cover the distraction, then,” Fern grinned, rubbing his hands together. “All Blackout needs to do is get his hands on the guards, and we’ll wheel the O-bomb right in the front door.”
Fern was nervous, but he didn’t want the others to see. It was their first heist, and if they dropped the ball while the cameras were out, then they could say goodbye to the evening news. Now all they needed was a bit of luck with the heroes. Nobody too powerful, like Yellow Bolt. But not a nobody, either. A nice up-and-comer would do the trick. And Fern could make some extra sparks fly to get some more cameras on the scene. Today was the day: 11a.m. on Tuesday. The perfect time for a first heist.
They all watched the armored vehicle roll in across the street. Two orderlies and white coat came out to greet it. Fern turned in his seat and looked Blackout and C.K. dead in the eyes, “Go time.”
C.K. and Blackout gave a short, sharp nod.
Fern held his breath and pulled the door handle.
And then pulled it again.
“Goddammit, Blackout!” he yelled. “Will you unlock the doors for fuck’s sake!?”
Blackout’s mouth formed a sheepish grin, “My fault.”
C.K. covered his chuckles with his golden tablet.
Fern clenched his jaw, squinted, and opened the door. Operation O-Bomb was underway.