The Bellow Street Boggart #5

“This one’s a real life-saver,” I said, getting the door for Rolo.

“This is a laundromat,” Rolo noted.

“Ever have a washing machine break down?” I asked.


“Well, it’s horrible. Just intolerable, really.” I knocked on the countertop. “Hannah! How’s it going?”

“What do want, Lucas?” a voice carried from down the hallway.

“Come out and introduce yourself!”

The counter sectioned off part of the main room, the rest of which was dedicated to coin-operated washing machines and dryers, with a long backless bench running down the dead center. On the other side of the counter was the threshold of a removed door, which the laundry’s sole employee was now passing through.

“How’s the dry cleaning?” I asked.

“Do you actually care?”

“I’m giving a tour, here. Can you maintain appearances for five minutes?”

She glared back. “You left this whole ‘operation’ of yours high and dry for almost a year, Lucas. Do you have any idea how many close calls we had around here? I mean, seriously.”

“Well, I’m sorry for going to fucking jail, I guess. I’m back now. Happy?”


“Rolo, thank you for your patience. This bundle of joy over here is Dr. Lazuli.”

“Ciao,” Hannah droned.

“…Likewise.” Rolo cast a glance my way.

“Now, this building is the one place on Bellow Street where you don’t need a passphrase to get from the front to the back,” I explained, walking and waving my guest and employee toward the back of the room. “Because this place is set up for emergencies. If you walk in bleeding, that’s password enough.”

“Do try to stop the bleeding on the way here,” Hannah said. “It ruins the floors.”

“It doesn’t. She just hates mopping.”

“Who likes mopping?”

I grinned and put a hand on the “Employees Only” sign on the door at the back of the room, pushing it open. To the left of the entryway was a wide ramp going down, with another left turn at the end.

“Who let you build a place like this?” Rolo asked.

“Construction permits were the easy part, actually,” I said. “Especially when you know a thing or two that the person signing them would prefer doesn’t become common knowledge.”

“Blackmail, rat man? Tch.”

“A means to an end, my friend.”

Hannah picked up the pace and hit a light switch as we found the bottom of the spiraling ramps. Turning to face us, she swept a hand out over the basement.

“Behold. My secret laboratory.”

“She’s a card, ain’t she?” I said, deadpan.

The area was divided into quarters by curtains that could be drawn between the two treatment areas. Each area could also be hidden entirely from the ramp’s line of sight. One side of the room was crowded with wheeled carts and machines, while the other had a pair of rolling beds shoved into the corner.

“You’re running a hospital down here?” Rolo asked.

“Patient privacy is protected by law in any medical facility,” I said. “But, well. You’re a superhero, right? If everyone followed the law, you’d be out of a job.”

“You think you’re so endearing, don’t you?”

“I know, right?” Hannah said.

“Mm. Point being, this place is an emergency room that’s off-record. No referrals to specialists, no long-term treatment plans, but secret. It’s a place to stabilize, recuperate, come up with a cover story, that sort of thing.”

“And it’s free,” Hannah added. “As long as it’s an actual emergency.”

“Worst-case scenario, we do maintain a call list of healers. It’s a bit unreliable on the availability front, and some of them do charge for their services, but….”

“The right power gets you patched up better than any doctor ever could,” Hannah finished.

“And why is this doctor working here, exactly?”

“What, you think I’d hire some med school dropout? I got as far as I have in this line of work because I have standards, Pavise. The very thing I’m trying to teach you.”

“A respectable doctor shouldn’t have to turn to the black market to find work,” Rolo spoke with venom.

“Talk to me if you’re gonna talk shit, tough guy,” Hannah said, stepping between us. “Lucas pays me, but he’s not the boss down here. I am.”

“Alright. Explain yourself, boss.”

I rolled my eyes.

“There’s absolutely nothing wrong with my practice,” Hannah insisted. “I just have one too many black marks on my record outside of the realm of medicine.”

“Black mark means felony,” I clarified. “She didn’t pay her taxes.”

Hannah sighed.

“I still have to twist her arm about it.”

“This year went up to seven-hundred and eighty-two billion, Lucas.”

“Well, there’s a war on.”

“There’s always a war on!”

“What is this? What’s this argument?” Rolo asked.

“Dr. Lazuli is not a fan of the extent to which our military is funded,” I explained.

“Skim my paycheck for saving lives just to bomb civilians in Somalia,” Hannah said, hardly at a conversational volume.

“Yeah, well. That’s the clinic, Rolo. Any more questions, or can we move along?”

“No questions,” he relented.

There was a new project in one corner of the room, here. The pattern of the fabric reminded me of something a grandfather of mine had.

“Now that’s an antique,” I said. I ran my hand over the wooden ornamentation of the back of the chair.

“Hey! Woah woah woah, hands off!” Caleb scrambled around a corner, waving an awl around.

“You’re going to lose an eye one of these days,” I cautioned.

He ignored me, gently touching the back of the chair. “Oh, dry. Thank goodness.”

“Fresh lacquer?” I asked.

“Hardly,” Caleb said. “That’s been setting since midnight. I had to sand off the first attempt and re-apply it because of- Oh. Uh, hi. Hello.”

“Rolo,” the target of Caleb’s redirected attention held out a hand. It was shaken.

“Caleb Lowrey,” my employee introduced himself. “I uh, I do repairs, you see? Fix up all this old junk and send it back. Well, I say send, but.”

“And what goes on behind the scenes, here, then?” Rolo asked.

“Come again?”

“I’m giving a tour,” I said. “Leah’s whipping up a design, and we just saw the doc.”

“Oh. Okay. Alright then,” Caleb nodded. “Well, I’ve got this big trailer truck in the alley behind Bellow Street, right? It’s great. I have the website for the shop, so I get orders to fix up this or that from all over the place, and when I get a batch done, it’s road trip time.”

“Road trip,” Rolo echoed.

“Uh-huh. I can pick things up on the route, or drop off a couple of non-furniture packages on the way. It’s not much, really. I’m not involved in, well. You know.”

“You are a smuggler?” Rolo asked.

“Wow. Ha. That- Well, that sounds a lot worse than it is, ’cause you’re not really… You can’t just leave it up to the imagination like that. I’m telling you, it’s not that big of a deal.”

Try as he might to downplay his contributions to the criminal side of the street, Caleb was one of our biggest earners. It was on the simple things, too. For instance, Nevada didn’t have the highest state taxes on tobacco products, but we were well over double some of our nearby neighbors, like Wyoming or Idaho. A shipment of cheap cigarettes could take quite the markup before matching local prices. The margin had to be spread out to the other front businesses for filtering, because even at Caleb’s rates, it was an unrealistic revenue figure for a furniture repair shop.

“Save your outrage, hero,” I cut in. “Caleb’s just an errand-runner. And on his schedule more often than mine. This might as well be a legitimate business, really. I just catch a favor now and then, because knowing somebody with a big truck comes in handy.”

“Handy for what, eh? What’s on the streets these days? Ketarine?”

“That’s not how you say that, and no, we don’t deal it,” I said. “Think ATF, not DEA.”

“Alcohol, tobacco… and firearms,” Rolo extrapolated.

“Oh, if that’s what you want, you don’t come to Caleb,” I said.

This is your black market arms dealership?” Rolo asked.

“Come now. Books and covers, you know.”


We strode between rows of machines with their flashing lights and ordinarily attention-grabbing sounds that all blended together into a simple backdrop of noise. We passed a fairly intense-looking matchup at the air hockey table. I found Mae working at the prize counter.

“Hey, Mae. This is Rolando. Rolo, Mae Collins.”

“I’m beginning to tire of your introductions,” Rolo sighed.

“Nice to meet you, too,” Mae said quietly.

“In any case. What can Rolo here get for… one ticket?”

“Not much, I’m afraid. Sorry,” she answered.

“Not even a sight for sore eyes?” I asked.

“Come on back,” Mae said, walking over to the small gate keeping folks from getting behind the prize counter.

“This has got to be the lamest place you’ve taken me,” Rolo said.

“What, you don’t like arcades?” I asked.

“Even the password is stupid.”

“It’s a passphrase.” I led the way to the back room.

Half of this area was shelving stuffed with extra prizes for the arcade, while the other half was a small break room for the employees. I shifted my arm, feeling the potential in all the angles of the lights in the room. I stuck my hand between a few oversized plush dinosaurs and made some of that potential take shape, solidifying in my hand as… a mouse, I decided.

“So, what are you here for, anyway?” Mae asked.

“I’m just being carted around while I wait for the sketches of my costume,” Rolo said.

“Scott isn’t in right now, is he?” I asked.

“He takes the mornings, mostly,” Mae reminded me.

“Right.” I set the mouse gently on the table in the break room, then focused. I could sense my body locking up for just a moment, paralyzing me, but I still felt free to move. I sent the mental impulse to raise my arm, and in the very next moment, I was standing on the table. The mouse was gone, and my hand was already high over my head to push one square ceiling panel out of position.

“I genuinely forgot you could teleport,” Rolo said.

“Good thing picking a fight didn’t work, then, huh?”

I dragged the gym bag hidden in the ceiling out through the gap where I’d moved the tile aside. A rope tied to a more solid anchor point somewhere up there stopped it from falling below my own waist-level, and I was still standing on the table.

“This is the current inventory, but I think Scott takes requests,” I said. I unzipped the bag and rolled out the bolt of canvas attached to the interior. Various pockets served as holsters into which snap-on loops of fabric secured the weapons.

“I have no idea what any of those are,” Mae said. “So don’t ask me for recommendations.”

“Just a bunch of handguns, by the looks of it,” Rolo said.

“There’s also this.” I drew a machete halfway out of the canvas, then slid it back into place. “Not sure what the price points are, but you can come back in the morning if you see anything you like.”

“Alright, I can buy that sort of thing legally, if I feel so inclined. But thanks anyway.”

Rolo did not sound particularly thankful.

“Well, like I said, he does requests if you give him enough time.” I rolled the weapons back up into the hanging bag, which was a lot harder than getting the whole thing down had been. It was quite heavy, and Mae climbed up onto the table to help me hoist it back into the ceiling. I created and retrieved another mouse from the upper space as I was shifting the panel back into position.

Mae hopped down from the table, while I tossed the mouse across the room. I timed my teleportation with the trajectory of the small creature, returning to the floor without the indignity of clambering down or staggering from a fall.

“Show-off,” Rolo muttered.

One of my phones rang, and I verified that it was the supervillain one before answering.

“Spotty, what’s up?”

“Okay, no,” Olivia answered.


“I know your ‘I’m doing something stupid right now’ voice, Lucas. Can’t I leave you alone for one afternoon?”

“I’m just showing a new customer around the block,” I said.

“Oh, you wish,” Rolo chimed in.

“One moment, Pavise, I’m on the phone.”

“Who in the mile-long line in the waiting room of hell is Pavise?”

“Brevity is the soul of wit, Spot.”

“Answer me!”

“Do we need to talk about your anger issues?”

“They’ll talk about my anger issues in a fucking documentary when I’m through with you if you keep dodging the most basic-“

“Okay! Okay, relax. Pavise is some rookie who needed a costume, and I’ve just been dragging him around while I check on all my resources for the heist.”

“While you what?” Rolo glared at me.

“Rookie villain, Lucas?


“Son of a-“

“Are we still meeting to discuss the plan, or what?”

“Son. Of.”

“How about six thirty?”


I hung up.

“Where’d Mae go?” I asked.

“Prize counter,” Rolo informed me. “Now, what is this heist you mentioned?”

“We’re going to a business and stealing none-ya,” I explained.


“It’s what, five fifty? Leah should have those sketches done.”

Rolo turned and started to make his way back to the haberdashery. “About how long does it take to go from a final sketch to an actual costume?”

“Why would I know that?” I asked, a step behind him.

“You literally own all of these businesses.”

“Own, not run.”

Rolo sighed and shook his head.

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