by Martin Maenza
Thousands of miles away, in a well-to-do neighborhood in New Jersey, a domestic argument between a father and his teen daughter erupted. But this wasn’t a typical father nor a typical daughter.
A dark-haired, well-built man in his early forties pounded on the locked bedroom door. “Open up!” he yelled. “Antonia Louise Monetti, you open this door now!” The pounding of his fists on the wooden door was so strong, it shook loose the thumbtacks that pinned a poster on the other side.
The New Boys Down the Street poster fell down upon the young girl as she braced herself against the door, hoping to keep her angry father out. “Go away!” she yelled. With a gesture of her hand, a burst of silver energy pushed the poster off of her and across the room. The white-skinned, dark-haired teen just wanted to be left alone.
“You take one of my credit cards and max it out on clothes,” Anthony Monetti yelled, “and you want me to go away? Forget that! You get out here right now and take your punishment!”
“No!” Toni yelled.
“What?” her father yelled back indignantly. “You disobeying me now? I knew I should have shipped you off to your Aunt Josephine’s house after your mother died! But, no! You convinced me to let you stay! Then you go and disappear for a couple years, only to come back looking like some kind of made-up freak!”
“I didn’t ask to come back here!” Toni yelled from behind the locked door. “You don’t love me! You never did! You thought buying me stuff would make me happy! But I’m not!”
“You’re not happy?” Anthony mocked her. “You’re not happy? Try walking in my shoes, sweetheart! Try explaining you’ve got some weird-skinned daughter who likes to run around school like a two-dollar hooker, dressed in skimpy clothes! I wanted you to go to private school ever since you came back home!”
“Nooo!” Toni screamed. “You can’t send me away for school! Its not fair! I like my friends here!”
Anthony had enough of this stand-off. He crossed the room to his hall desk and opened the top drawer. Pulling out a shiny, high-caliber handgun, he started down the hall again. “I’ll show you fair, you little tramp! I’ll end this for us both right here and now!” He was about to take aim at the door when a voice called to him from the sliding glass door to the deck.
“I wouldn’t if I were you, Monetti!” said a firm, grim voice.
The Italian man spun around and saw a man with dark, wavy hair dressed in a blue costume with yellow trim. The newcomer’s hands were crossed, and he had a stern look upon his face. “You?” he said, recognizing the hero from last Fall when his daughter was returned home to him. “Nightwing? What the hell you doing here? You got no business in my house! I’ll call the cops!”
The hero stepped confidently into the family room. “Sure, go right ahead,” Nightwing said. “I’d be happy to share some information I’ve been gathering with them.”
Monetti held the gun in front of him for protection. He wasn’t sure what this so-called information was, but he wasn’t about to risk everything on finding out. “What do you want here?”
“We’ve come for Toni,” the hero said. “Obviously she’s too much for you to handle, and both of you are miserable. I promised her when we returned her home that we’d be keeping an eye on things. Well, I don’t like what I’ve been seeing.”
“Hah,” Monetti laughed. “You think raising a teenage girl with wild ideas is so much fun, then you take her! But if she walks out this door, I’m washing my hands of her! Do you hear?”
Nightwing’s expression did not change. “I’m sure that’s best for both of you.” He crossed the room and walked past Monetti. He knew enough background on the man to know he wasn’t stupid enough to try anything. Still, he need to be sure. “Oh, and don’t get any ideas, Monetti. I didn’t come alone!”
Anthony Monetti rushed to the patio door to look around. Nightwing smiled to himself and knocked gently on the locked door. “Toni, open up please,” he said.
The girl paused, hearing the voice. “Who is it?” she called out.
The girl’s heart skipped a beat. “Just a sec,” she said as she primped her hair a bit and straightened her dark miniskirt. She then cleared the jammed lock and opened the door. “Oh, hi.” She smiled like a schoolgirl would to an attractive male teacher. “What are you doing here? Did you come all this way to see me?”
Nightwing tried his best not to encourage her. “We need to pack your stuff,” he said. “You’re moving away from here. It’s best for you.” And with that, he helped her get her bags to pack her most essential things.
Fifteen minutes later, after loading her things in the T-Jet, Argent climbed into the back of the vehicle to find an old friend. “Carrie!” she squealed as she saw the winged girl dressed in green. “What are you doing here?”
“Looks like we’re gonna be roomies,” Redwing replied.
Up front, Nightwing checked into the cockpit where Artemis and Arsenal were waiting. “Are your girls all set?” the archer said in a mocking tone.
“Very funny, Arsenal,” the team leader said.
“Hey, just wanna know if Starfire’s gonna be a free woman soon,” Arsenal continued to kid. “After all, sounded like someone’s got a C-R-U-S-H.”
“Geez, do you have no shame listening in?”
“We had to keep your communication channel open,” Artemis reminded him as the jet took off. “Just in case Monetti tried anything back there.”
“I wasn’t worried,” Nightwing said. “His type are all the same. Still, now that Toni’s out of his reach, it’ll be a lot easier to shut down his operations if they dance any closer to illegal lines again.”
“Man, I hate creeps like that,” Arsenal said. “Gives us fathers a bad name.”
Artemis leaned closer to Nightwing. “By the way,” she said softly, “nice grim and gritty impression back there. Batman teach you that one?”
Nightwing smiled. “I learned from the best.”
The next morning, in Cosmos, Colorado, a car pulled up to a large trailer home down a winding dirt road and stopped. Mal Duncan and Lilith Clay exited the vehicle. The young woman stretched. “Man, Mal,” she said with a yawn, “you don’t waste any time, do you?”
“Not when we’re dealing with the future of kids,” the man said as they walked up to the door. The front path had broken step-stones with weeds growing all over the front flower beds. “Gotta strike while the iron’s still hot.”
“Hopefully we’ll have as much luck here as we did in San Diego,” she said as he knocked on the screen door. The sound of a television blared from inside.
“Hello,” Mal called inside. “Anyone home?”
“Just a second! Keep your shirt on!” a shrill female voice called from inside. In a moment, a woman came to the door. She looked to be in her late thirties with big, frizzy hair. A lit cigarette dangled from her fat fingertips. “Yeah? What do you want? If you’re selling something, I ain’t interested.”
“No, ma’am,” Mal said. “We’re not selling anything. Are you Dawn Driscoll?”
“Who wants to know?” the woman snapped.
“We’re here to talk to you about your son,” Lilith said, “Cody.”
“He ain’t here!” the woman said. “That good-for-nothing punk took off a while back! Ran away from home again, just like he done a couple years ago! Good riddance!”
“So, you don’t know where he went to?” Mal asked.
“Nope! Now, if you don’t mind, I wanna get back to my morning stories!” And with that, Dawn Driscoll slammed the door shut hard.
Mal looked at Lilith, shrugged his shoulders, and started back toward the car. “I guess I wasted our time and Loren’s fuel,” he said.
“Don’t be so hard on yourself,” Lilith said. “You couldn’t have known that Risk wouldn’t have been here. When she never returned your calls, you knew we had to come out here ourselves to see her.”
“I suppose you’re right,” Mal agreed. They climbed into the car, and he started the ignition. “Still, with the help of Nightwing and the others, we’ve got four prospective students. That’s not so bad.”
“It’s not,” Lilith agreed. As they turned around in front of the trailer, she noticed a pile of rocks thrown together at the far end of the dwelling. “I guess she’s not one for keeping up appearances.”
“I guess not,” Mal said. And with that, they drove down the road back into town. It was time to head back home.
Dawn Driscoll watched from a crack in the blinds as the car drove out of sight. “They gone yet?” a young male voice called out from the back bedroom.
Dawn smiled. “Yeah, they’re gone. You can come out now.” From the bedroom emerged the blonde-haired Cody dressed in shorts and a tank top. “Looks like those Titans were nosing around about you again. But I think we’ve seen the last of them.”
Cody smiled. “Good thing. I want nothing to do with them! I just want to get out there and grab all I can!”
“Agreed,” Dawn said. She embraced the young man affectionately.
“Uh, do you mind?” Cody asked. “This is kind of weird, y’know.”
“Of course.” The woman smiled, and her appearance shimmered. Gone was the older woman, and in her place was the natural shapely form of Mirage, dressed in a skimpy bra and panties. “Is that better, my hunky hunk?”
Cody grinned. “Much! The less I have to think about my departed mother, the better!” He pushed the young Brazilian down onto the old brown couch and started to kiss her all over.
“Don’t you worry about a thing,” Mirage said. “We won’t be seeing her again.” The young woman glanced over her shoulder to the window that overlooked the side yard. The top of the rock pile, the one under which she’d buried the old drunk’s body, was just barely in view. A smile of extreme pleasure crossed her lips. Part of it was due to the actions of the horny young man groping her. The other part was the satisfaction of knowing she had Cody eating out of the palm of her hand. With her brains and his muscle, they were about to be going places. The world was ripe for the taking.