It was the third time this month Crowley had landed himself in jail. Which was more of an inconvenience than anything else. On one hand, it did serve to make the day more exciting. He got to check in with his acquaintances stationed over at the city prison - both the inmates and the guards watching over them - and it gave him an excuse to visit his favorite little deli across town. To celebrate with a slice of his favorite home-made oreo cheesecake after he made his grand escape.
And he would escape. That was never the issue. Crowley always made it out, one way or another. Sometimes, he felt bad for the guys on duty and would hang around for a few days, just to make them think they’d figured out a way to finally keep him in. Other times, he was far too impatient to get back to his work and would be gone before all the paperwork had even been processed.
On the other hand, the transfer procedures took forever and it wasn’t like they supplied the inmates-to-be with pencil or pad of paper to write down any diabolical schemes they might have while Mrs. What’s Her Face was processing form P-183B. Crowley couldn’t begin to count how many brilliant ideas were wasted while he was stuck waiting for bureaucratic nonsense to sort itself out. He always seemed to have them at the worst times.
Unfortunately for him, Crowley was very familiar with the prison’s entry procedures, having been admitted many times over his thirty-six year long life. First there was the official statement at the police office. Some bogus charge about ‘disturbing the peace’ or ‘endangering public safety’ or something to that effect. It wasn’t his fault people got in the way whenever he wanted to test out his new gadgets or take his beloved Bentley out for a spin. This time, he’d even waited until two in the morning to take her tearing around the city streets and the cops had still pulled him over the second they’d spotted him racing up 5th Avenue.
Granted, he’d also just escaped from this very prison a week and a half earlier. That probably had something to do with the rapid arrest, but in Crowley’s defense, he hadn’t been doing anything worth jail time then either. He wasn’t like all those other criminals - robbing banks or breaking into people’s homes. He’d never caused any property damage or endangered someone’s life. Not really . Yet he was lumped in with all the rest of them. An inconvenience, but one he still had to live with week after week, as the city’s prison system had yet to find a way to keep him in for more than seventy two hours.
After being formerly charged, there was the bus ride over to the prison. Those were usually dull and uneventful, although the music selection was usually decent. At least, until they pulled off the highway and lost signal. Every once in a while, someone would recognize him and ask for an autograph, which Crowley begrudgingly supplied. It wasn’t every day someone got the chance to meet a supervillain, now was it?
“Right,” A gruff looking employee huffed as Crowley was pushed forward, a bit rougher than was probably necessary. The man obviously hadn’t slept well the night before, made evident by the dark circles under his eyes and the clear patch of stubble he had missed while shaving, just below his ear. “Here’s your uniform.” He passed it over with another huff, his attempt to stifle the yawn creeping up on him. “Been here enough times you should know where the bathroom is. Change into it, and then Rodgers will escort you to your cell.”
Crowley glanced down at the bright orange jumper resting across his outstretched hands, wrinkling his nose in disgust. “Seriously, Derek?” he asked the man at the front desk, who simply shrugged at him in apology. Another rough push had Crowley stumbling toward the changing room, as he shouted his displeasure over his shoulder. “How many times do I have to ask you guys nicely to change these uniforms?”
Another push. Crowley ignored it. He wasn’t going to fall, no matter how hard they tried. One thing about having superpowers meant his reflexes were a bit higher than the average human’s. “Can’t you work with me on at least getting some color options?” The guard remained silent, although Crowley could see the hint of a smirk on his face. He pushed back his own grin, determined to keep this bit going as long as possible.
“This orange is atrocious!” He stopped walking momentarily, shaking out the garment, as if to prove his point. “Would you look at how horribly it clashes with my hair? You all are making me look like a fool, I’ll have you know. This. This right here is cruel and unusual punishment.”
The guard beside him, Rodgers, rolled his eyes. “Just shut your yap and get it on. We don’t have all day.”
Crowley shrugged. “You’re probably right,” shooting the man a wink before stepping into the nearest stall and closing the curtain behind him, grinning to himself all the while. Unnerving them was always one of his favorite parts of the whole ordeal. He loved to make them think he arrived with a plan in motion. It kept the guards on their toes. Challenged them a bit. Made them think outside the box. He liked to think he was doing the justice system a service. He was helping these guards to improve their skills so they could be better at keeping people like him where they belonged.
People like him, of course. Not people who were him. Naturally, he’d be out of here soon enough. In fact, he could have been out of here already, had he wanted to. But, if anything, Crowley was a creature of habit, and there were just a few things he wanted to do before finding his way back home.
“Heyyy, look who’s back! It’s El Serpiente,” a voice called from one of the cells as Crowley was lead down the hallway several minutes later. A tall Hispanic man peered out from the nearest cell on his left. “Did you bring us any souvenirs?”
Crowley laughed, raising his shackled hands in front of him, as if to make a point. “Come now, Arturo, you know better than anyone if I had, they would have been confiscated by now.”
“Could have just ‘poofed’ ‘em in here,” another man grumbled from the opposite side of the hall. Crowley turned to see him seated on his bed, leaning forward with his elbows atop his knees. “Isn’t that how your voodoo magic works, Serpent?”
“One,” the man began holding up a finger as Rodgers tugged impatiently at his arm. “It’s The Serpent, not Serpent.” He paused for a brief moment to look the man in the eyes as he passed. “You know this, Malcom. I know you know this because you just heard Arturo say it and I didn’t correct him.” Another finger, “Two, it’s not voodoo - that’s not my specialty, and three , even if it was, that is not how it works. You all should know that by now.”
“I don’t know,” a third voice,this one belonging to long-time inmate Harvey Brooks, teased from just around the corner. “I think we might need to see you bust outta here a few dozen more times to really get the hang of it.”
Laughter chorused all around and Crowley found himself smiling. Maybe the trip here today wasn’t such a bother after all. Sure, for him, a lot could happen in the almost two weeks he was out in the real world, but for these guys? Nothing happened here, apart from the occasional arrival of a handful of new inmates. As far as he knew, watching him escape time after time was the highlight of the week for them.
Maybe he should make it a point to stop by more often.
“Move it along, The Serpent,” Rodgers gruffed, tugging on Crowley’s left arm as they reached the end of the hallway. “You can gab with all your criminal friends during your own time.”
“Uh,” Crowley announced, glancing over his shoulder as they continued to walk past cell after cell containing someone the man knew. “My cell is back that way.” He tried to lift a hand to point behind him, but Rodger’s grip was tight against him, fingers digging into the neon orange fabric covering his lower forearm.
“Not this time, it’s not,” the man responded, a confident grin spreading across his face. Crowley felt a surge of excitement pass through him, originating from his stomach and spreading outward to his fingers and toes. A new cell meant new challenges! The guards were stepping up their game and he was ready for it.
“What?” the man began to protest, a half-hearted attempt to hide his building glee. Oh! There were so many things he could try. Were they going to stick him in a cell with reinforced doors? Solitary confinement? Some kind of multi-layer structure with guards posted at every door? The anticipation was killing him. “You can’t move my cell. I carved my name on that last one so you guys would always have something to remember me by.”
Rodgers scoffed, subtly rolling his eyes as they passed two other guards doing their rounds. One of them, a younger bloke who had started here not too long ago, looked surprised to see Crowley again so soon. He blinked his wide, blue eyes, shaking his head as if to ward off some kind of hallucination he was sure he was having, before grinning from ear to ear and waving at the supervillain as he approached.
It would have been a difficult identification to miss, even from that distance. With flaming red hair reaching all the way down to his shoulders and striking golden eyes, Crowley was hard to miss.
All for show, of course, but they didn’t need to know that. The tighter a lock he kept on his secret identity, the better.
“For goodness sake, Milton,” Rodgers barked, shooting a disapproving glance at the young man. “Try to look at least a little bit annoyed.”
“Yes - yes sir!” the boy responded, moving to salute as they walked by. Crowley caught his gaze and winked, grinning from ear to ear as he passed by.
“Swing on by my cell later, and I’ll get you an autograph,” he offered, watching as the young guard’s eye twitched ever so slightly. A nervous tick, he assumed, as a result of the direct interaction immediately after the boy had just been chastised for looking too eager to meet the supervillain. “You can pass it on to your girlfriend.” A pause. “Or boyfriend. Don’t want to make any assumptions, now do I?”
“Yes - I mean no - of course no - “
The conversation was interrupted mid syllable as Rodgers swung Crowley around, pushing him into the nearby concrete wall with enough force to break an ordinary man’s nose. Luckily for him, he was no ordinary man. That didn’t change the fact that it still stung.
He was going to remember this.
“You are not to go near him, Milton, and that is an order ,” Rodgers barked, then took a step closer to Crowley, pressing his knee into the back of Crowley’s left leg. “And you, ” he spat with more vehemence than the interaction required. “You are going into your cell and you are never coming out again.”
Oh, yes. Crowley was definitely going to remember this.
The cell itself was surprisingly very nice. Either there was some rule about wall color in solitary confinement, or the previous occupant had been quite the artist. There was an entire mural painted on every surface of the dome shaped room, except for the two inch thick steel door Crowley had passed through, complete with shrubbery, a rainbow, and several furry critters one might find in a forest.
The technique was juvenile at best, but he had to give it to them. It certainly was more entertaining than looking at a pale, concrete wall all day. He padded to the center of the room, where there was a single chair bolted to the floor and not much else. Crowley assumed that a cot of some sort would be brought in later, probably alongside his dinner and a dozen guards to ensure he stayed put.
Crowley planned to be long gone by then.
“Now,” Rodgers began, a glint of amusement in his deep brown eyes. The side of his lip curled upward in what Crowley assumed to be his version of a smile, but came off looking like he was constipated instead. “I want you to sit here, by yourself, and think about what you have done. M’kay?”
Putting on his serious face, Crowley sunk down into the chair. It was padded, but not very well. Lumpy in all the wrong places and in need of a wash down. Or a spritz of air freshener. “Any idea when my time-out will be over, dad?”
Murder flashed in the other man’s eyes. His mustache twitched in an attempt to hold it back, gears behind his eyes turning as he fought to come up with something clever to say.
“If things go my way,” Rodgers eventually growled, taking a step back so he was standing in the middle of the doorway, ready to seal it tightly behind him as soon as he removed himself from the room. “Several centuries. At least.”
With one final ‘hiss’ the door closed, sealing itself shut and Crowley along with it. He watched as Rodgers took one last, satisfied look, and then spun around to stalk back down in the direction he came from. Slowly, the man inside the reinforced cell leaned forward, elbows finding their way to his knees as he rested his pointy chin against the very top of his folded hands.
“Oh,” he breathed, amber eyes still staring through the small glass panel they’d left for him, to remind him of the world that lay just beyond his new prison. “I don’t think things will be going your way at all. Not if I have anything to say about it.”
Thirty minutes later, the front doors to the prison parted and Crowley strutted out into the open, not a single guard in sight. Normally he would have hung around a bit longer. It would have made the escape so much sweeter if he had a few days to waste on Rodgers’ ego, but the supervillain had experienced enough of this joint for now. He was in a foul mood and just wanted to go home and sulk for a while. Maybe catch some reruns of The Golden Girls if he was lucky.
He glanced down at his wrist, only to realize that his watch was no longer there. Of course. Crowley shook his head in amusement. He was always forced to give up his personal possessions before his admittance to prison. That’s why he never wore anything worth much whenever he went out as The Serpent. The costumes were cheap throw-aways, the eye-ware a dime a dozen. If he knew the city’s police department, and Crowley was confident enough to say that he did, there was probably a whole room down in evidence that contained every last one of his confiscated items.
One of these days, he may go back to get them. But that day was not today.
“Come on, Minion,” the man muttered as he reached the end of the pavement and looked up and down each direction of the road. “What is taking them so long?”
A sudden, loud beep sounded right in front of him and the man nearly leapt out of his skin. Not five feet before him, where there was once nothing but dried out grass, something started to appear. It began as a simple crack in reality, perfectly horizontal and about two feet in length. The seconds ticked by and it grew wider until Crowley could see it wasn’t a split in reality at all, but the inside of his Bentley, currently being driven by one very self-assured potted philodendron.
“I should shred you for this,” Crowley grumbled as he reached forward, feeling for the door handle that he knew to be there. Flinging the door open revealed the smooth, leather interior that he loved so much, the scent of it bringing with it a calming sensation to the man’s entire body. “Just toss you right into the disposal. Find myself a new minion who isn’t trying to scare me half to death.”
He side-eyed the plant, watching as their roots crept out from the holes at the base of the clay pot and snaked down to hover above the pedal. Minion’s leaves shook in laughter and Crowley had to hold himself back from shoving them onto the car floor in sheer irritation. For one, it would get dirt all over his most prized possession. It also wouldn’t do to disrupt the driver. He’d learned the hard way that was no way to go about doing things.
“Oh, come now sir,” the plant responded light-heartedly, the sound emanating from a tiny voice box Crowley had attached to the stem, right where it first began to poke itself out from underneath all that dirt. “You told me yourself you wanted to see the improvements on our cloaking device. I figured this would be the best way to test it out.”
Crowley grumbled at this, although he had to hand it to Minion. The device had worked incredibly well. It wasn’t a perfect ‘invisibility’ mechanism, per-se. In certain lighting and at certain angles, the general shape of the car could still be seen. But it would hopefully help out with the next high speed car chase he got into with the police. Especially if said altercation happened at nighttime.
“How do you do it, sir?” Minion asked as they pulled out onto the highway and sped back in the direction of the city. They would likely keep themselves masked for now, in case word got out about his escape and they sent a helicopter or two after him. “I’d say, this is a new record!”
“Please, Minion,” Crowley responded with a wink toward his underling. As silly as it sounded, the genuine praise at his abilities from this sentient plant was doing a lot to boost his morale. “If I told you my secret, you’d go blabbing it to the whole world.”
“I hardly see how that’s possible,” the plant protested in the most petulant tone Crowley had ever heard from them. He chuckled to himself, eyes drifting back to the skyscrapers in the distance. From here, he could just barely make out the top of Host Tower, the not-so-secret HQ for any superhero willing to sign their life away to carrying out “the greater good” every second of their lives. “It’s not like any of them would listen to a plant.”
A laugh burst forth from Crowley’s chest, quickly silenced when he looked down at the time and saw he still had several hours to kill that day. What in the world was he going to do for several more hours? Sit at home and watch television? His mood had lifted quite significantly since the jailbreak and now the thought of sitting on his couch seemed utterly infuriating. He was growing restless just thinking about it.
“We could make a detour, down to the park,” Minion suggested, reaching up to signal the merge, even though no one around could see the blinking light. Always with the rules, this one. “I saw a great big flock of ducks hanging around there earlier that could use a bit of terrorizing.”
Crowley groaned, sinking down into his seat in the most dramatic of fashions.
“What’s the point, Minion?” he asked with a whine. “Today is his day off.”
The him Crowley was referring to was, of course, none other than Principality. The angel-like hero who had been assigned to him from the get-go. Super strong, with broad white wings and the ability to manipulate radiant energy, he was a force to be reckoned with. And for some inexplicable reason, seemed to be the only one who would put up with Crowley’s constant shenanigans. Going so far as to draw out their fights with witty banter and dramatic showmanship, just to pass the time.
It was almost like he, too, had become bored with this life, as crazy as that sounded, and maybe even enjoyed the hours spent in combat with Crowley.
Ridiculous, he knew, but he couldn’t help but wish he’d found a way to entertain himself in the prison one more day, just so he could see Principality’s face during his triumphant return.
“I suppose,” the philodendron ventured, an air of anticipation in their voice, “if you made enough of a ruckus, The Host would have no choice but to send Principality down to apprehend you. It might mean another trip to prison, if you’re caught, but I have a feeling - “
Crowley sat upright, immediately fixing his eyes downtown where he knew the park to be. “Say no more, Minion. I’m implementing a direct course change. Don’t stop for anything - not even my slice of oreo cheesecake,” he barked, anticipating the next question. Excitement welled up in him as he imagined the glorious afternoon that was yet to be had. There wasn't much that could beat a showdown with his arch rival, especially so soon after another victory at the maximum security prison.
“I’ve got a date...with destiny.”