Join Our Newsletter

Read a sample mystery every week


...or Read FREE Stories on Your Phone
Capes and Masks
About the Author: Retired forensic psychologist and college professor Richard Helms is the author of twenty published novels, numerous short stories, and four screenplays. He has been nominated eight times for the SMFS Derringer Award, winning it twice. He has also been a finalist for the PWA Shamus Award six times; twice for the ITW Thriller Award, winning it once, in 2011; and once for the MRI Macavity Award. His Pat Gallegher novel PAID IN SPADES was the winner of the Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award.

“You know the story. Stolen by aliens who crashed my fourth birthday party. Returned when I was seventeen, but I was somehow … different than when I left. Well, duh. I was thirteen years older, had all this weird hair growing where it never had, and my voice sounded like I was shaving a cat with a cheese grater. Had never seen a human girl naked, but by gods I wanted to for some reason. Hey, you try spending your entire childhood with cold-blooded amphibians from the planet Flax and see if you don’t return a little bent. I still can’t eat fish.

“Of course, there were … other differences. My foster parents, Koxm and Borquash, allowed the Flaxigians to experiment with my DNA. They tweaked and modified, and before I knew it, I was able to do all this stuff.

“Like the flying thing. What’s up with that? I don’t have wings. I weigh two hundred pounds, and yet I only think about flying and I’m levitating two feet off the ground. It can get really unnerving. I don’t care how long I’ve done it, I’m still queasy hovering ten thousand feet over the city, waiting for someone to do something illegal. I mean, if I suddenly lose the powers, I’m coming down like a cannonball, and I’m screaming like a little girl all the way. Bet that would make some headlines.

“Then there’s the strength. I can bench press an ocean liner. What good is a power like that? You can only hit a guy so hard before you inflict the kind of injuries that land you in court. The police have tried to register me as a weapon of mass destruction. Sometimes, you can be too strong. Like the time I was late for a date, and I pulled the door of the cab into the back seat with me when I slammed it.

“And the bullet thing. Yeah, they bounce off my chest. Let me tell you, though, it really hurts. I have nerve endings. The prisons are full of guys walking around bragging about how they bounced .45 caliber slugs off my nipples. Meanwhile, I can’t get out of bed the next day.

“Sometimes I wish I was like Stealth. All he does is skulk around looking like a reject from the Boise Light Opera production of Cats, waiting for criminals to strike. He doesn’t have any powers. He can’t fly, or see through concrete walls, or hear a flea scratching its butt in the Yukon. He’s just cool. And he can fight really well. He had the right idea. He trained for almost ten years to get into the hero game.

“Me, I got dropped out of a spaceship over Nebraska with scrambled chromosomes and a couple of videodisks containing instructions on how to use my powers only for good. Hell, man, I was seventeen years old. I didn’t give a damn at that age about fighting crime. Even if I did, can you imagine how embarrassing it would be if I got a woody in the tights? Kids that age get a diamond cutter if you look at them sideways. I can hear it now. Hey, Captain Courage, what’s with the pup tent?

“That’s another thing. Everyone presumes I came up with that name. Man, if I meant to become a superhero, do you think I’d have dug up a lame-o handle like Captain Courage? Some reporter came up with it. After the newspaper printed the name Captain Courage a couple of days running, I was pretty much stuck with it.

“Then there’s the issue of money. You’d think, after I saved New York City from imminent destruction a couple of times, they’d put me on the payroll. But nooooo. They give me this big cheesy plywood key covered in gold foil.” I balled my fist and laid it over my heart. “Sometimes, it just gets me, right here, you know?”

I took another healthy chug from the flagon of Budweiser.

“Bitch, bitch, bitch,” Blade Mistress said, from the bar stool next to mine. “It’s always the same rant with you, Cap. Life is what it is. Live with the cards you’ve been dealt. Bloom where you’re planted.”

I sneaked a super-quick glance at her cleavage, pushed up like fleshy basketballs from the gold piping of the multicolored bustier she used as her costume. She was seven feet of icy blonde superbabe. I’d have given anything for X-ray vision. Why’d the comic book guys get all the coolest powers?

I gestured toward her beer.

“How about another?” I said.

This story appears in our JUN 2021 Issue
(Visit Amazon for a print version)

Buy JUN 2021 Issue

Buy It Now

Digital Subscription

Price $24.75 Cdn

You will immediately receive the current issue.
Future issues are emailed on the 1st of each month.

Reader Discussion

Add Your Comments

Read stories on your phone