"Dude, I'm tellin' ya ... NO one can beat 'im. He's, like, the greatest of all time."
"No, he's already been beaten ... and more than once."
Dillon threw his head back. "That's a load o' crap, dude."
"It is not, check for yourself."
"Online would be fine. I'd guess that even Wikipedia has something on it."
"It just seems so ... impossible," Wendy said, shaking her head slightly in disbelief.
"No one is completely unbeatable," JD said, shrugging.
"Dude, he's Superman. Who can beat 'im? He's all ... SUPER an' stuff."
"Yeah, who beat him?"
"About 15 years ago, a villain created specifically for the purpose called Doomsday beat him. Well, sort of. And in the epic 'Kingdom Come', Captain Marvel beat him as well."
"Captain who?" Dillon said, screwing his face up with doubt.
"Captain Marvel. You know ... Shazam."
"That wuss beat SUPERMAN?? Come ON, dude, you're yankin' us."
JD held his hands up as a profession of innocence. "I'm serious. Shazam almost killed Superman by calling lightning down on him repeatedly."
"But lightning can't hurt Supes, dude!"
"You'd have thought he was more durable than that, yes, but if Captain Marvel hadn't stopped, Superman was toast."
"That's really too bad," Wendy said. "What a pathetic story line. He's Superman, for Pete's sake. Why would lightning hurt him? I thought only Kryptonite could hurt him."
"Well, apparently, they've made some adjustments to that over the many years of his existence."
"Aw, dude, that's bunk," Dillon said. "That's ... that's crap, man."
"I don't write them, I just report them."
"Next thing you know, Batman'll hafta go t'the cops for help an' shit."
"I don't think it's that bad yet."
JD knew the time would pass more quickly than they expected it to. He didn't realize exactly how quickly, though.
JD thought about the investigation only briefly. He'd promised himself he wouldn't, to help the time pass. He felt ready; he couldn't think of anything else to do. There were no more preparations to make; there were no more cables to check, no more tapes to insert ... nothing more could be done. He was as ready as he could be, and even though he wanted to watch the second hand on his watch tick away the moments, he knew it would only make the waiting worse.
He forced himself into the conversation repeatedly. He knew that letting time get control of him wouldn't really help. It wasn't like there was an exact moment when the mechanism would trigger the ethereal playback, and even if there were, he didn't know when it was. All he had was an approximation. So he made himself look anywhere, everywhere, but the face of his watch.
The room was darkened now. They'd turned the lights off after they finished eating, and the three of them sat side by side behind the monitors glowing softly and gray, casting eerie light over their faces and shapes in the parlor. The temperature cooled with the heating system waiting quietly to be turned back on, but it was nowhere near as bitingly cold as the previous night. They were in sweatshirts and hoodies, and no one really noticed the coolness in the ancient house.
Dillon was contemplating the conversation, and Wendy sipped delicately on the remnants of her soda, shaking the cup to rattle the ice lightly. JD stared into the middle distance.
"Well," Wendy sighed, "I'm going out to my car and get my other clothes. I don't want to spend any time running around in my work clothes."
"I'll go with you," JD said, locking his eyes on her and smiling.
"Dudes, I am SO not stayin' in here alone."
"We'll only be gone a minute," JD said flatly. "You watch the monitors. Make sure you record anything that happens."
"Happens??" Dillon said. "Like what? DUDE, I'm so not stayin' in here alone!"
"Nothing's going to happen," JD spat, mildly irked. "It's only for a minute. Sheesh, quit being such a coward."
"Dude, I toldja last night -- that ghost's so comin' for me next. If anything's gonna happen, it's gonna happen t'me, and I ain't into it."
"Nothing is going to happen I said."
"You said that last night too, dildo! Look what happened! Spooks, dead cop spooks, I fell in a bush ... all sortsa crap happened!"
"Dillon, it's not time yet. Just stay here."
Wendy was heading out into the hallway. "Let me know when you decide who's coming with me if anyone," she said over her shoulder.
"I'm coming!" JD said and he started for the door. He stopped dead in his tracks when Dillon clutched his arm suddenly.
"Don't leave me here alone!" he said mournfully.
"Dillon, for God's sake," JD said, "just relax. I'll be right back."
"Lemme go too!"
"No! I want to be alone with Wendy for a few seconds."
"Is that all you need? Sheesh, dude."
"Oh for ... just watch the screens, will you? I'll be right back."
"JD, c'mon, man! I'm ... I'm scared."
"Really? Who'd have guessed?"
"Seriously, dickhead! I don' wanna be in here with a ghost alone!"
"You're not going to be alone for more than thirty seconds, Dillon! Grow up! And there aren't any ghosts!"
"Are too, and 'is ass is comin' for me, dude! You want that on your head, man??"
"I can live with the risk, yes."
"You're an ass, dude."
"And you're a baby. Now will you just let go so I can ..."
"I'm back," Wendy said, carrying a bundle of clothes beneath her arm. "And look, love -- I'm still whole. Isn't that amazing? I can go out to the car all by my widdew ow' sewf." She winked and grinned at him broadly.
"Sorry," JD said, his facing sinking. "I tried to go with you. Someone's a bit nervous."
Wendy caught Dillon clinging desperately to JD's arm. "Aw, are you scared, Dilly?"
His face drooped into a puppy dog frown and he nodded sadly. "An' JD's a dick an' stuff."
Wendy giggled and snaked an arm around Dillon's shoulders, kissing him on the cheek. "It's going to be fine, Dilly," she cooed. "Big JD is here to take care of us. He always knows what to do."
"Naw, he's tryin'a get me killed an' stuff, leavin' me here with a ghost cop an' shit."
"For crying out ... Dillon, I'm going to say this one more time. There. Are. No. Ghosts. Do you understand?" He spoke the last part of the sentence as though he were a recording slowed down and warbling.
Dillon did a fair imitation of him. "I don't believe you," he slurred back, "'cause you're fulla shiiiiiiiiiiiiiit."
Wendy roared with laughter. "You guys kill me. Where can I change, good lookin'?"
"Right here," Dillon said quickly.
"There's a room at the top of the stairs to the right," JD corrected quickly and glowered at Dillon, who shrugged an I-can-try-can't-I shrug.
"Now, I just want to warn you both," Wendy spoke with the cautionary tone of a baby sitter, "I'm going to go back out to my car with my work clothes when I'm finished changing. Okay?"
"And I'll accompany you," JD said, glaring at Dillon.
"And me too," Dillon said, a helpless expression on his face.
"Nnn-oooo," Wendy said, still using her parental voice, "I'm a big girl, all grown up and everything. I'm going all by myself, and you'll be okay with that, all right?"
JD sighed heavily. Dillon shrugged again. "Long as I'm not by myself up in here, I'm good."
She blew a kiss at JD and darted up the stairs.
"You baby. You must want me to kill you."
"Dude, I ain't stayin' alone in here. Toldja. Can'tcha make out with 'er at home when we ain't doin' this kinda crap? C'mon, man, please?"
"How can you possibly be so annoying? Is it a gift or do you practice?"
"Little from column A, little from column B."
JD shook his head. "Remember when I said I was glad we were friends? I'm re-thinking that."
"And nobody can beat Superman, dude."
"Yes they can."
"I don' believe you, dude. You're wrong 'bout these ghosts an' you're wrong 'bout that too."
"I can prove the Superman thing. I have copies of the initial fight with Doomsday, and I have a copy of 'Kingdom Come,' too."
"Dude, I so ain't gonna read 'em."
"You don't have to. They have pretty pictures you can look at instead. It's more your mental speed, just a notch below 'See Jane Run'."
"Doin' it on purpose?"
"You're tryin'a hurt my feelin's, ain'tcha?"
"Will that make you be less ... you?"
"Do you really wanna hurt me, dude? Just like Boy George said?"
"Um ... kind of, yes."
"Why'd they call him BOY George? Dude was practically a chick."
"What makes you think I care?"
JD sighed as Wendy bounded down the stairs. "Okay, kiddies," she sing-songed, "I'm going out, all by my little lonesome, to put my work stuff in the car."
JD appraised her in her jeans, a sweater that clung to her form without being tight, and her sneakers that had pink trim and laces. He couldn't help smiling.
"Hurry back," he whispered softly.
"I will," she said, tipping her head and biting on her lower lip happily as she raced for the door.
"Dude, you can amp down on that crap now. You told 'er ya love 'er an' all."
JD scowled at Dillon. "Amp down? What are you talking about?"
"You're all up in 'er grill now."
"I am not!"
"Are too. You're all mushy an' shit."
"Oh, stop it. You're mushy ... between the ears."
"You're all PW'd, dude."
Dillon rolled his eyes. "Puh-LEEZE, dude. PW'd. You're pussy-whipped, dude."
"I beg your pardon!" JD said, his face flushing instantly. "My level of intimacy with Wendy is none of your business!"
"I ain't sayin' you been screwin' her, dude, I'm sayin' you're all ... dorky an' shit now. Now thatcha 'L' worded her back, you're all sappy an' goofy an' shit. Pussy-whipped, man. She's gotcha all macked up."
"She's got me all ... you're being ridiculous. Besides, who're you, Dear Abby?"
The door opened and closed again, and Wendy appeared at the parlor entrance half a beat later. "Fast enough, baby?"
JD smiled and nodded. "So long as Dillon approves."
"Uh ... did I miss something again?"
"JD's all PW'd over ya, Wen."
"Aw, are you feeling all sappy and ooey-gooey inside for me, lover?" Wendy said, and pressed herself to JD's chest, kissing him lightly on the lips. "Well, you don't need to worry, baby. I'm not a ball-breaker. I like my men to be manly. I love you for who you are, not who I expect you to be. So you and Dilly can relax and be yourselves with me."
Dillon snorted. "HIS self is an ass, Wen."
She giggled. "I like his ass, Dilly."
"Just ate, Wen -- don' need the pictures, 'kay?" Dillon held his hands up to stop her from going any further.
They all jumped and Wendy yelped involuntarily when a shrieking screech tore through the room, and the window sash at the opposite corner of the room began to rise.