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Hot Buzz

By J. L. Ender

“I think maybe you’ve had enough, Sergeant Maxwell.” My partner’s eyebrow quirked as I slung back my second shot.

“You’ll wish you’d had two soon enough, rook.” The bitter aftertaste of a good espresso was always the best part of my day. In a world where coffee grants superpowers, it’s important to stay caffeinated.

The rookie frowned. “My name’s Newman.” As if I’d bother to learn his name. I’d have a new partner soon enough. Not everyone can handle life as a beat cop.

I snorted. “Newbie Newman? That’s friggin’ priceless.” I turned my glass upside down. It clinked as I set it on the counter.

“Thank you, ma’am,” I said to the woman running the coffee cart.

There’s a fine line between over and under caffeinated. Too much coffee, you get the jitters, and the magic loses some of its power. Too little, and the bad guys have the edge. But try telling a newbie that.

We stepped away from the cart, moving toward the block we’d been assigned to protect. Our orders were to keep an eye out for a purse snatcher moving through the area. Supposed to be fast.

A man raced by. He had a hefty red leather purse tucked under one arm.

“There he is!” the rookie cried. He took off.

I ran after my partner, easily closing the distance, then passing him.

Friggin’ rookies.

The suspect, a tall man in tattered gray sweats, turned a corner. I put a hand out to brace myself, palm slipping on slimy bricks as I tore after him into a narrow alley. He was still several steps ahead of me, but I closed in quickly, the bricks of the buildings to either side a blur as I reached speeds over sixty mph.

The man burst onto a crowded street. His eyes darted around wildly. I stepped forward, ready to tackle him to the ground.

Bystanders eyed us in shock—he with his dirty face and ratty clothes, me in my police uniform. A smoggy breeze ruffled my hair. My hat was gone, lost it in the alley.

“Stand down, buddy. It’s over.”

The whites of his eyes were bloodshot as he gaped at me. Before I could draw my firearm, he tossed back a shot of something. More espresso? That’d make him crazy fast, faster than me.

The man lurched forward. No extra speed. I raised my gun, but before I could fire, he knocked the weapon away, nearly shattering my forearm.

Black coffee. He’d given himself super strength.

“Is it too late to let you off with a warning?”

He let out a wordless growl of rage and swung again. I used what was left of my super-speed and ducked. The fist whizzed over my head and struck the bricks of the building behind me, shattering several to rubble.

I let out an unprofessional screech and took off, the perp hot on my heels. I fumbled with my belt as I ran. I kept iced coffee handy for emergencies. This qualified, but I couldn’t drink and run at the same time. I’d get more on my uni than in my mouth. I needed a quick diversion.

We were passing a park. An open stone lane led to a large fountain. I dashed toward it. I hoped I could outrun him, but with both of us hopped up on espresso, it was no good. He couldn’t catch me, but he could keep pace without much effort.

I reached the lip of the fountain and stopped. Drawing my backup gun from my ankle holster, I braced myself for the noise and fired a shot into his knee. The bullet bounced away, shattering a flagstone. He staggered, but kept coming, barely slowed. Was that my optimism, or was he limping? That must have been some darn good black he’d slurped down. Maybe a French roast? There were rumors of a coffee that made you invincible, but I’d never been able to find any.

I ripped a can of iced coffee from my belt, chugging a third of it. The bitter taste went down smooth, with a nutty finish. The perp roared, darting forward. I ducked a punch that would have shattered my ribcage and grabbed his forearm, concentrating on the new powers the drink gave me.

A thin layer of ice sprouted all over the suspect’s body. He literally froze in place. I stepped back, breathing hard. Cold shivered through me. I purged the remaining energy from my body, freezing all the water in the fountain.

The rookie tore onto the scene, gun drawn. “On your knees, you moron,” he ordered the perp.

“No good,” I panted. “I froze him.”

“You… with an iced coffee?” His eyes roved from the suspect to the water fountain. “But all this… shouldn’t be possible!”

“That’s why we spend money on the good stuff.” I rubbed at the arm the suspect had nearly broken. “Next time I tell you to take a shot, you take the shot.”

He holstered his weapon. “Hey, I had no idea this would happen…”

“And that’s why I’m in charge. Save my life sometime, and maybe I’ll let you start thinking for yourself. Come on, I know a diner where we can get a decent cup of coffee.”

“But we don’t need coffee anymore.”

I clapped a hand on his back. “Sometimes it’s okay to drink coffee just for fun, rookie.”

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J. L. Ender is the author of the superhero series Steel Fox Investigations, as well as a number of novels and short stories across several genres. Ender has worked as a dishwasher, a beef jerky labeler, a warehouse worker, a shelf stocker, a greeter, a traveling technician, a laser engraver, a package handler, a copywriter, a graphic designer, a librarian, an editor, destroyer of worlds (in an unofficial capacity), a dispatcher, and a phone operator. You can find him on Instagram where he regularly tortures himself by trying to write even shorter fiction at 150 words or less.

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