Like A Hero
Michael J. Bowler
Publication date: October 18th 2022
Genres: Action, Adventure, Young Adult
Courage can be costly. Orphaned brothers Vincent and Dennis Villanueva learn the truth of those words when they create a masked crime fighter and turn him loose on Los Angeles. The brainchild of fourteen-year-old Dennis and embodied in twenty-one-year-old Vincent, “Invictus” hits the streets to jumpstart apathetic Angelenos into taking a more active role in their city.
But reality isn’t a comic book. Vincent finds poverty, homelessness, drug addiction, abuse, and cast-off children. Labeled a vigilante and criminal, the shy grad student with formidable martial arts talent and abysmal people skills soon doubts his ability to make an impact.
Forced to straddle an ambiguous line between moral and legal, he becomes disheartened and secretive, hiding the truth of what he’s doing from Dennis and driving a wedge between them. Feeling neglected, Dennis infiltrates a dangerous drug ring to show Vincent he can be just as heroic, not knowing that the woman in charge is weaving an insidious plot against Invictus as part of her citywide scheme of vengeance. In a race against time, Vincent must regain Dennis’s trust before the brother he loves is lost to him forever.
Dennis lay face down on the soccer field, while men in ski masks strolled among his prone classmates waving semi-automatic weapons at anyone who moved. He considered employing his martial arts skills, but being skinny and only passably good, such foolish courage would probably get him killed.
He shook his hair from in front of his eyes with a slight jerking motion and focused on James and Linda, lying on the field off to the side with the rest of the parents.
James had his head slightly raised and Dennis caught his eye. When a gun- man approached, James quickly returned his face to the grass. James wanted to intervene. That was obvious by the way he kept looking around for some kind of opening. But could he do anything without getting people killed?
The masked men called themselves “anarchists” and were well armed. Despite lying prone for the past forty minutes, Dennis had managed to spot sentries pa- trolling the rooftops, apparently stationed there to prevent the cops outside from storming the school and making their way to the field. He’d also noted the types of weapons these guys carried and considered how best each could be disarmed if this was a comic book scenario.
Except it wasn’t.
He considered the anarchists’ claims. They said they were “anti-capitalism” and “anti-public-school indoctrination,” but then they demanded twenty million as ransom for not killing him and his classmates, which sounded pretty capitalistic to him.
Raising his eyes once more, he noted a big, broad-shouldered dude wearing a black and blue ski mask, staring right at him while chatting with a burly guy holding an Uzi. Dennis averted his eyes and hoped he hadn’t called too much attention to himself. He’d overheard them earlier as they conversed by walkie-talkie. Masked guy was called “C-1” and burly guy “C-2” by the other anarchists, so he figured they ran the show.
He glanced over at Jackson and Kenny lying a few feet away. His two best friends looked terrified. Jackson’s curly hair partially hid his brown eyes, but Kenny’s bright blue ones screamed pure fear. Dennis tried for an encouraging smile, but it was difficult with his cheek pressed against the grass.
All his comic book scenarios started much like this one, except the hero al- ways knew what to do. As annoying as Robin could be, he’d know what to do even if Batman wasn’t around. Dennis’s mind raced with ideas. He knew James was packing—on duty or off, James always packed. But if he pulled his gun, kids would die.
I wish I’d thought of something when these guys first showed up.
Instead, he’d frozen with fear when the masked men flooded onto the field. And now with everything that had gone down since, Dennis trembled with the terrifying possibility that someone would die. Maybe him. Sadly, he wasn’t the hero of his dreams.
He peered at the administration buildings. Long and single story, the two main wings spread the length of the field. His gaze traveled up and he squinted with confusion. The sentry who’d been on duty at the north end was gone.
Dennis knew his weaponry from playing Call of Duty and other war games, and that guy had been patrolling with an Artic Warfare Super Magnum sniper rifle, likely a .338 Lapua Magnum, but Dennis was too far away to be sure of the model.
Only now the guy was gone. With C-2 barely ten feet away, Dennis used caution to scan the south roof. That sentry was gone, too. SWAT maybe? He knew James’ mean-ass boss would have called in the big guns for something like this. But he was also sure those sentries had been up there no more than two minutes ago.
Could it be Invictus?
His heart thumped with hope. Vincent must know about this by now. Dennis pressed his face into the grass and pretended to look scared. Hell, he didn’t have to pretend. He was scared!
Michael J. Bowler is an award-winning author who grew up in Northern California. He majored in English/Theatre at Santa Clara University, earned a master’s in film production from Loyola Marymount University, a teaching credential in English from LMU, and a master’s in Special Education from Cal State University Dominguez Hills. Michael taught high school in Hawthorne, California, both in general education and to students with disabilities. When Michael is not writing, he serves as a youth mentor with the Big Brothers Big Sisters program and a volunteer within the juvenile justice system in Los Angeles, but mostly he takes care of his recently adopted son. He is a passionate advocate for the fair treatment of children and teens in California and hopes that his books can show young people they are not alone in their struggles.
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