Keith R.A. DeCandido (kradical) wrote,
Keith R.A. DeCandido

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out tomorrow: Super City Cops: Secret Identities

Tomorrow, Bastei Entertainment will release the third of my three Super City Cops eBook novellas, Secret Identities. This is the latest tale about the police who serve Super City, a great metropolis that is filled with costumed heroes and villains, following the December 2016 release of Avenging Amethyst and last month's Undercover Blues. You can get the book for your Kindle or Nook, or get the eBook from Kobo.

Here's the cover:

Here's the promo copy:
The great metropolis of Super City is the home of dozens of costumed heroes -- the Terrific Trio, the Bruiser, the Superlative Six, the Cowboy, and many more -- who do battle against the super-villains who terrorize the citizenry.

These aren't their stories ...

When the heroes are done punching out the villains, it's left to the stalwart men and women of the Super City Police Department to restrain them, arrest them, and hope that this time there's enough evidence to actually convict them.

Just another day on the job for the Super City Cops.


Lieutenant Therese Zimmerman's life is turned upside down when a badly injured Spectacular Man stumbles into her apartment and reveals himself to be her on-again, off-again boyfriend, philanthropist Marc McLean.

At the same time, Detectives Kristin Milewski and Jorge Alvarado investigate what seems to be a simple murder of four homeless people by a powerful supervillain. Unknown to them, the murders are connected to how Spectacular Man got hurt. Now Zimmerman must choose between the person she cares about and her duty as a cop.

And finally, here's an excerpt. This is one of the scenes I'm proudest to have ever written in any work of my fiction, to be honest.....
Therese Zimmerman quickly got to her knees, put a hand on Marc McLean's shoulder as he lay on the floor, and asked, "Are you okay?"

"Apparently not. I'm definitely improving, but whatever the source is of that kaiju's power, it's a lot stronger than Elysian genetic engineering. I've only taken this long to heal once before."

"And when was that?" Zimmerman helped him back to sitting up on the floor against the bed.

McLean hesitated.

"What is it?"



Nine months ago...

Zimmerman was finally ready to go home after an absurd day that had three triple homicides, a major jewelry heist by a costume crew, and prep for a COMPSTAT meeting where they had to justify their shitty clearance rate to Commissioner Dellamonica.

And then the damn phone rang.

She was within a hairsbreadth of not answering it. Her shift ended an hour ago. The second-shift lieutenant had very generously been using Cordova's desk until Zimmerman went home.

But she was also waiting on calls from three different medical examiners, two different deputy prosecutors, and one reporter. So she answered.

It was, of course, none of those people.

"Therese, it's Beth. Hold for Mr. McLean?"

"Um, sure." Zimmerman tried not to grumble out loud. If McLean was going to break their dinner date tomorrow night, Beth could've just as easily done that via voicemail.

"Hi, sweetness. I have some news."

Zimmerman blinked. McLean sounded excited, which he almost never did. "Okay. Good news, I hope."

"That depends on whether or not you can take next weekend off."

"I thought next weekend was that business trip to Mexico."

"It was cancelled. I've still got two plane tickets—for me and my assistant—and if you want, I can change them to tickets to Florence for you and me."

For a moment, Zimmerman found herself unable to form words. "Uhhh..."

He chuckled. "Is that a yes?"

"I— Holy shit, Marc. Are you saying—"

"I'm saying, we can spend next weekend in Florence. You've been talking the place up for years, and now you can show it to me."

"I—" Zimmerman almost lost her grip on the phone. "God. Um, yeah, of course! I mean, I have to check, but— Fuck it, I'll make it work. Send me the itinerary, I'll work it out here somehow."



"So there was no trip to Mexico?"

"Oh, there was," McLean said, as he sipped his third glass of water, which Zimmerman had just brought back. "But I cancelled it after what happened."

"Which was?"

McLean took a deep breath. "Dr. Magus and I teamed up to fight a Tinder Demon on Colan Island. The demon did something to me—I still don't know what, honestly. But suddenly, my powers were gone. It was even worse than right now. I couldn't fly, I had ordinary strength, my vision and hearing decreased sharply, and I had slowed down considerably. My stamina was wretched, as well."

"Gee," Zimmerman said with a smirk, "and here I thought the sex in Florence was all lethargic because of all the touristy stuff we did."

At that, McLean actually blushed. "I'm sorry about that."

"Don't be. That trip wasn't about the sex, it was about sharing something I loved with you. Florence has been my favorite place to visit since I was a kid, and I loved being there with you." She looked away. "It was the first time I felt like you were really my boyfriend."

"I came so close to telling you so many times. On the Ponte Vecchio, that night at Cesarino, when we were in the Uffizi... But I couldn't do it."

"Why the hell not?"

"Because I didn't know what was happening!"

Zimmerman's breath caught. She'd never heard McLean sound this—this helpless before. It was heartbreaking, and she almost forgot how pissed she was at him.

"I couldn't even go back to Elysia to try to diagnose it, because without my powers, I couldn't get there."

"Why couldn't you get one of your teammates to take you?"

Now McLean looked away again. "They don't know about Elysia. I told you, I'm forbidden from discussing it. My people take their privacy very seriously. There was a time during the Second World War when they feared a Canadian submarine would find the city. There's an emergency plan in place that would have the vessel take off into space if Elysia were ever discovered. Had the sub found them, the plan would've been enacted, and I'd be living in space now instead of here."

"Wow. That's—that's ballsy."

"You are only the second person I've told about Elysia. The other was a couple of years ago, and she—" McLean's voice caught. "I told her because it was her dying wish to know where I came from."

On the one hand, Zimmerman suspected she wanted to hear that story. On the other, it would get them off topic, and she had more important questions.

"So how did you get your powers back?"

"I have no idea. One day—the day after we flew back, in fact—they just came back. I literally woke up Tuesday morning and I was back to my old, Elysian self."

"So you went back to lying. Or, I guess, kept lying."

"I wasn't lying, Therese, I was trying to protect—"

"Oh, bullshit!" Zimmerman got to her feet. "Do not pull that shit on me, Marc! Who, exactly, were you protecting?"

"By the very nature of what I do as Spectacular Man, I make a lot of enemies. I can be much more effective if people don't know where to find me on my 'off hours.'"

"I'd buy that argument if it weren't for the Terrific Trio and the Bruiser and the other heroes who don't keep their names secret. They do just fine. Everyone knows Jesus DeLaHoya is the Bruiser, and everyone knows where he lives. The Terrific Trio's IDs have been public from the beginning. Hell, your teammate, Komodo Dragon, her name's public, too!"

"Perhaps, but—"

"And you know what else? They can actually follow through with us. DeLaHoya's in HQ all the time filling out witness statements and complaints, and he always testifies. When you trash the Brute Squad, we have to rely on property damage and eyewitnesses, and half the time, we can't even hold them on all the charges we should because the people who are in the best position to tell us what they did wear masks and won't testify because they insist on hiding their real names."

"I understand your frustration, Therese, but—"

However, Zimmerman refused to let him get a word in. "No. No no no no no, I have had it with this, Marc. We've had this argument a thousand times before, and you always weasel out of it or have to go off and be a superhero before we can finish it or get around it by getting me into bed. Well, now you're lying helpless in my apartment, and you are goddammit gonna listen to me."

McLean swallowed. "Okay. Can I at least move up to the bed? If you're going to pace back and forth like that, I'd really like to be off the floor."

"Yeah, of course."

"And some more water, please?" McLean asked, as he started to float slowly in the air.

By the time Zimmerman got back with another glass of water, McLean was sitting upright on her bed.

She was actually grateful for the break to get more water, as it gave her time to catch her breath and better phrase her argument. Now it would be more of a presentation than a rant.

Besides, McLean had always had a tendency to dismiss her rants. An argument might work better.

"All right, I want to give you two recent examples that my detectives had to work with."

McLean nodded. "Okay."

"Last year, there was a rash of break-ins in Simon Valley, all very obviously being done by a costume. The doors were all just shattered. At one point, an overnight shift patrol caught the guy in the act, and they got their asses kicked. The costume smashed their unit and put both officers in the hospital. They both medicaled out, by the way—good police, both of them, and this asshole ended their careers."

"I'm sorry about that." As was typical, McLean sounded completely sincere in that apology. Though Zimmerman found that she had to reconsider what she had always considered to be McLean's natural sincerity in light of recent revelations...

"Anyhow, this guy was nasty. Later on, we found out he was part of some kind of government experiment that went sideways. DeLaHoya went after him, worked the neighborhood, tracked down the abandoned building over on 19th Street where he was hiding out, and brought him in."

"Sounds fairly typical," McLean said.

Zimmerman shook her head. "I'm not finished. See, the experiments they did on this guy removed all his hair and made his skin all smooth and hard. He left no trace evidence behind at any of the scenes. No hair, no fingerprints, no skin cells, no DNA, nothing but fibers from his clothes, but those were all generic. We literally had no usable forensics on this guy, so the only way we could prove it was him was from witnesses. And if DeLaHoya hadn't testified, we wouldn't have had enough to even hold him, much less convict him. He's still serving time, too."

"Wouldn't the word of the two officers who were injured be enough?"

"Without evidence? Maybe yes, maybe no—jurors don't always believe cops anymore, especially if there's no physical evidence to go with it. I mean, they did testify, but without DeLaHoya, it wouldn't have been a guaranteed conviction."

"I see."

"No, you don't. Because then we have the Cowboy. A few weeks ago, we had a major undercover operation finally come together. One of our detectives had been working to get hired by Apollo."

McLean frowned. "I recall reading about Apollo in the Six's records. I believe that the Bengal faced him once, but the outcome was inconclusive."

"So have all of SCPD's attempts to nail him. Hence, the UC op. We had a detective, Elias Vondelikos, one of our best UCs, go in and work his cover ID until Apollo starts hiring for a job. Vondelikos gets hired, they're all set to hit Robinson Airfield. We're able to alert DeLaHoya and the Terrific Trio and your team—because at least you guys maintain a public information office—and we try to keep the costumes away so the bust can go down."

"I'm guessing by how you began this story that the Cowboy didn't stay away?"

Zimmerman threw up her hands. "We don't know who he is! Nobody knows a damn thing about him, and because of that, not only couldn't we warn him, but we can't arrest his lasso-throwing ass for obstruction, assault, interference in a police investigation, and all kinds of other things."

"What did he do?"

"He attacked Apollo and his gang—including my detective—before they could break into Robinson."

"So he stopped the crime before it could be committed. That's a noble goal, isn't it?"

"Not when we need to catch the bad guy in the commission of a crime!" Zimmerman was screaming now. So much for a presentation over a rant. "The whole point of the UC op, the whole point of spending six months getting Vondelikos in there, was to actually be able to catch Apollo in a crime. And the Cowboy fucked it up! He put all the henchmen, including my detective, in the hospital, and Apollo's lawyer claimed he had no knowledge of the half a dozen guys with AR-15s on 104th Street, he just happened to be nearby."

"You didn't believe that, did you?" McLean asked incredulously.

"Well, gee, it would've been nice to have some evidence to support that, but all we had was the Cowboy. Who didn't stick around to help with the paperwork."

"I see what you're trying to say, Therese," Marc started.

"Oh, I'm not done. See, because of the Cowboy's up-fuckery, Vondelikos had to go back in, try to convince Apollo to hire him for the next job. Except Apollo may be crazy, but he's not stupid. He saw all the cops who crawled all over him after Cowboy attacked, figured it was a setup, and figured that my detective—who was the only one who went back to him looking for more work instead of laying low—was the rat. He's dead now. Apollo killed him. We were able to arrest Apollo, at least, and he's waiting for his trial. But I doubt Cowboy will testify, and Vondelikos can't, either."

McLean shook his head. "I'm truly sorry, Therese. That's horrible."

"Vondelikos was damn good police, and he didn't deserve to die so Cowboy could show off. I don't care how many parades or keys to the city Cowboy gets, the next time he shows his face in public, he's getting arrested as an accessory to murder."

"I can understand why you'd feel that way." As he spoke, McLean crossed his legs.

"Hey, your legs are moving! Looks like your Elysian tricks are starting to work."

"They're not tricks." McLean sounded almost petulant. "This is science, not magic."

"Science that your buddies keep to themselves," Zimmerman said with disgust.

"I'm right there with you, Therese, believe me. I think it's appalling that the others are willing to just let the world go on without their gifts. Being Spectacular Man—and being Marc McLean—are my ways of doing so. It's the best I can do."

"See, now, that's what I don't get. Why are they separate?"

"What do you mean?"

"What do you gain by keeping Spectacular Man and Marc McLean distinct?"

"Well, the Foundation is a private corporation that attempts to do good works for the city. It's Marc McLean's business, not really that of a superhero."

Rolling her eyes, Zimmerman said, "Oh, come off it. Spectacular Man is the most popular hero on the planet. If you had been up-front about being Marc McLean all along, then Spec Man could be the face of the McLean Foundation. You'd do a helluva lot more good that way."

"Perhaps." McLean didn't sound convinced.

Zimmerman sat down on the edge of the bed near his feet. "Besides which, both Spec Man and Marc McLean have strong reps. Combined, they'd feed off each other. Not only that, but then you could actually fill out witness statements, make reports, testify in court. Then maybe half the supervillain-types wouldn't get out early on nothing charges. Maybe we'd be able to put them away longer like we did that big guy from Simon Valley."

"Maybe." He looked right at her. "But how can I do that now?"

She frowned. "What do you mean?"

"I mean, it's too late. If I 'come out' now as Spectacular Man, you've just provided a very apt demonstration of what will happen. Outrage. Venomous pronouncements. Accusations of wrongdoing. And a great deal of yelling. Forgive me if I fail to see that as a positive."

"So you just want to perpetuate the lie?"

"It isn't a lie, exactly."

"Oh, it's totally a lie." Zimmerman got up from the bed and started pacing again. "You know why Richard Nixon resigned from the presidency? It wasn't because of what happened at the Watergate Hotel. It was because he covered up what happened at the Watergate Hotel. It wasn't the original malfeasance, it was the extension of the lie that got him in trouble." She stopped pacing and stared down at him. "Marc, you don't stop a falsehood with more falsehood."


"Not maybe. This is real life here, Marc. By hiding behind that mask, by not telling anyone who you are, you're perpetuating a lie. Hell, you may even be guilty of fraud. Does anybody know you're really McLean?"

"The founding members of the Six do. We all shared each other's identities when we formed the group."

"But you didn't even tell them about Elysia."

"No. And, of course, three of the other five founders are dead now."

"And no one else?"

He smiled wryly. "Not until today."

"Last night, technically, but yeah." She shook her head. "You realize what this means, right?"

McLean frowned. "I'm not sure."

"It means that everyone Marc McLean knows, loves, is friends with, cares about—you lie to them every single day. And except for—what, Mercury and the Bengal?—that's true of everyone Spectacular Man knows, loves, is friends with, and cares about, too. You call yourself a hero, yet your entire life—really, two entire lives—involve you repeatedly and constantly lying to those closest to you. Every day, you have to deceive the people you love most. What's so damn heroic about that?"

"Perhaps not much." McLean was staring at a point on the far wall, seemingly lost in thought. Then he looked up at Zimmerman. "But you just put your finger on it. Spectacular Man is a hero, an idol, a symbol. That's—that's very exhausting. When I take the mask off, I can just be Marc McLean, a person who goes to meetings and makes phone calls and signs requisitions and does normal things. I grew up in a utopia, Therese, and then I became a superhero. Being Marc is the only time I get to be normal."

Zimmerman couldn't help herself. She burst out laughing.

Frostily, McLean asked, "Did I say something funny?"

"Marc, you're a goddamn billionaire who runs a major corporation and several charities. Trust me, nothing about your non-costumed life is even remotely 'normal.'"

McLean had nothing to say to that.

And Zimmerman found that she had nothing to say, either. Instead, she collapsed on the bed at McLean's feet. "Goddamn."

"You've been wanting to say a lot of that stuff for a long time, haven't you?" McLean asked quietly.

"Looks like, yeah." She sighed. "I'm getting hungry. When was the last time you ate?"

"I honestly couldn't tell you—and I'm a little peckish, too, actually. Perhaps we can order from that diner down the street?"

Zimmerman couldn't help but smile at that suggestion. The first time they'd had sex was in this apartment, on this bed, and the following morning, they'd ordered breakfast from Buscema's Diner.

Grabbing her Zap, she immediately called up the app that allowed her to order directly from the diner and have it delivered. "Let me guess—steak and eggs, the steak medium rare and the eggs sunny-side up?"

McLean gazed at her with tired, but loving eyes. "You remembered."

"Yeah." With a wistful sigh, she started entering the order, while wondering what, exactly, she was going to do with her ex-boyfriend now.

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