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Keith R.A. DeCandido is the author of more than 50 novels, about a hundred short stories, a mess of comic books, and more nonfiction than he's willing to count. While a good chunk of his output is in the 30+ licensed universes he's worked in from Alien to Zorro, others are in worlds of his own creation, such as the Precinct series of fantasy police procedurals (Mermaid Precinct being the latest), urban fantasy series set in Key West and New York (most recently the novel A Furnace Sealed), and, of course, stories about the Super City cops. In addition to The Case of the Claw, check out the eBook novellas Avenging Amethyst, Undercover Blues, and Secret Identities, and be on the lookout for four more Super City cops novellas from Falstaff Books. Find out less about Keith at his inadequate web site at DeCandido.net.

The Case of the Claw by Keith R.A. DeCandido

The great metropolis of Super City is the home of dozens of costumed heroes: Spectacular Man, the Terrific Trio, the Bruiser, the Superior Six, and more.

This isn't their story...

When the heroes are done punching out the villains, it's left to the stalwart men and women of the Super City Police Department to restrain them, arrest them, and hope that this time there's enough evidence to actually convict them.

The mutated spree killer known as the Claw has returned, leaving bloody victims all over Super City. While Homicide detectives try to find out who the Claw really is, uniformed officers must deal with the Bolt's escape from the drunk tank, and the bumblings of aspiring hero Knight Dude. Meanwhile, the Superior Six claim they'll cooperate with the police and stop the Claw—but they're busy fighting the Brute Squad and stonewalling the cops. The SCPD must find out the Claw's deadly secret, before he claims another victim!

CURATOR'S NOTE

Keith R. A. DeCandido is the author of over fifty novels and more comics than he can count. He writes in a lot of different universes, but for this bundle he gave us Super City Police Department: The Case of the Claw, a police thriller in a town where superheroes exist, but it is up to the police to find and stop the Claw. – Dean Wesley Smith

 

REVIEWS

  • "The Case of the Claw is also a well done procedural story. Keith R.A DeCandido takes all the usual parts of such a story and adapts them to the superhero setting without making it unbelievable or relying on the 'super' parts to solve the mystery. It's plain old police work that leads to the discovery of the secrets behind the Claw's origins, even if those secrets wouldn't feel out of place in a Fantastic Four comic – and that's the beauty of this novel: it combines those two seemingly unrelated settings and it feels like a natural fit. While the Claw case is obviously the centre of this novel, DeCandido sprinkles in a lot of side plots, like the one with the cop who lost his wife or one where the fallout of a super-fight has influences a case of domestic violence, and those side plots make Super City a living, breathing place instead of just the setting for a whodunnit story."

    – ens Deffner, Unreality SF
  • "In conclusion, this is a great book for those who love superhero novels and something I recommend to people who enjoy taking advantage of prose fiction. In this universe, superheroes and villains can die or change or be disgraced forever. It's not limited by the conventions of the unlimited comic publishing cycle and all the stronger for it."

    – CT Phipps, United Federation of Charles
  • "I can recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who appreciates a fast-moving, tightly-written and intelligent urban fantasy novel. I can recommend it just as firmly to anyone who loves a solid police procedural. And I recommend it is familiar with hard-edged trend of modern comics for adults, which includes a body of extremely impressive work from post-modern writers like Brian Michael Bendis, Kurt Busiek, Mark Waid, or Mark Millar. And more importantly, I can recommend it to anyone who appreciates the novel not only as a story, but as a craft."

    – Arinn Dembo, author of Monsoon and Other Stories
 

BOOK PREVIEW

Excerpt

Sunday, 11.45pm

A yellow streak flew overhead, stirring up the litter on 20th Street. Officer Sean O'Malley didn't even notice it until the sonic boom rattled the windshield of the blue-and-white police car he was driving.

O'Malley steered the cruiser down 20th. From the seat next to him, Officer Paul Fiorello stuck his head out the window. "Was that Spectacular Man?"

Shaking his head and hitting the brake as the cruiser approached a red light at Jaffee Avenue, O'Malley said, "Christ, Paulie, how long you been livin' in this town? If it was him, it'd be blue and red. It was yellow, so that means the Flame."

This late on a Sunday night in the Simon Valley neighborhood, the streets were dark. Nothing was open, plus the street lights hadn't been repaired since the Bengal tangled with the Dread Gang last month.

"I can never remember," Fiorello said, "is he Ms. Terrific's brother or husband?" Flame and Ms. Terrific were two-thirds of the Terrific Trio.

O'Malley grinned as the light turned green and his foot moved from the brake to the accelerator. "Hope it's her brother, 'cause that lady's hot. I'd do her in a cold minute. Y'know, there's nude pictures of her on the Internet, right?"

"Gimme a break, Sean." Fiorello shook his head. "That's some skank they found at Bitches With No Brains dot com and Photoshopped the Terrific lady's head on it."

Frowning, O'Malley asked, "Seriously?"

Fiorello rolled his eyes. "Yeah. And Santa ain't real, either."

"Damn." O'Malley let out a long breath. They were some fine pictures.

"So yellow's Flame?" Fiorello started counting on his fingers. "Spec Man's, like you said, blue and red."

"Nice rhyme."

Fiorello gave O'Malley a nasty look before continuing. "So green's who? Major Marine?"

"Yeah. And purple's Amethyst and if it's all rainbow-y, then it's the Prism."

Shaking his head, Fiorello said, "I don't know how you keep track of the costumes like that."

"In this town, it's the job." O'Malley couldn't believe that his partner was still having trouble keeping it straight after all these years.

Fiorello's face looked sculpted: perfect Roman nose, dark hair that never got mussed no matter how crazy things got on the street, and friendly brown eyes that always calmed down the craziest of citizens. Which meant, of course, that women paid more attention to him than to O'Malley with his bad skin, messed-up nose thanks to an attempt to stop a bar brawl when he was a rookie, and crappy hair.

Still, Fiorello was good police, and he always had O'Malley's back—certainly more than the other assholes he'd been paired with over his six years on the job—so O'Malley put up with him as best he could.

Even if Fiorello always left Manny's with someone on his arm while O'Malley went home alone to an empty apartment.

The next street was Ayers, and O'Malley slowly turned the wheel to the right. Even on a Sunday night, there was always something happening on Ayers.

Sure enough, there was movement to O'Malley's left, as well as the sound of metal grinding against metal, though still no lighting. It was the Tavares Pawn Shop, which stayed open until midnight, though it looked like they were closing a few minutes early. The sound had come from a man pulling the grate shut; a woman was crouching down and pushing a padlock shut. O'Malley didn't know their first names, but he knew the Tavareses had always cooperated with the cops, reporting stolen merchandise and such.

Slowing down the cruiser, O'Malley leaned out the rolled-down window. "You guys all right?"

Mr. Tavares looked over and smiled when he saw the cops. "Yeah, we're good, Officer. Headin' home."

His wife, having applied both padlocks, stood upright. "Hey, guys, if you see the Bruiser tonight, could you do me a favor and thank him? Some guy tried to jump me on the way in to open this morning, and he drove 'im off."

"If we see him," O'Malley muttered. "Get home safe."

"Thanks!"

"What the hell?" Fiorello asked as they continued down Ayers. "'If we see him'? Sounds like DeLaHoya saved her ass."

"I guess."

Fiorello stared at his partner. "C'mon, DeLaHoya's one of the good guys. And you know how I know that? You said it when we first partnered up. 'Most'a the costumes,' you said, 'they're assholes, but the Bruiser's okay.' So what the hell?"

O'Malley sighed. "You know that double MacAvoy caught last week? DeLaHoya fucked with the evidence—they had to toss the case 'cause'a him."

Fiorello shook his head. "He doesn't usually do that."

"Yeah, well, he ain't police. None'a them are." O'Malley went through an intersection, ignoring the octagonal stop sign.

His heart suddenly hammered into his chest as he saw a square block of a man dressed all in black jump into the middle of the street right in the cruiser's path.

"Dammit!" O'Malley slammed on the brakes and tried to get his breathing under control. It wouldn't do to run down the Bruiser, since in that confrontation, the costume would still be standing, and the front grille of the blue-and-white would be smashed in. The last thing O'Malley wanted to do was call in a damaged cruiser again—not after that time the Brute Squad totalled the unit, and he had to ride a desk for a week.

Fiorello smirked. "Hey, now you can give him the Tavares lady's message."

"Kiss my ass," O'Malley said.

No one knew what exactly happened to Jesus DeLaHoya to make him super-strong, invulnerable, and big as a house, but ever since it happened, the former amateur boxer—who'd acquired the nickname of "the Bruiser" when he was a Gold Gloves champ back in the day—had taken it upon himself to clean up Simon Valley. Unlike most of the costumes, he usually cooperated with the cops, and even testified in court when he helped put someone away.

DeLaHoya walked around to the driver's side. The verb to walk was probably not giving what he did enough credit. The Bruiser tended to stomp, on account of he weighed a ton, and O'Malley was just waiting for the day that the pavement gave out under him and he fell into the sewer.

"Officers, how you two doin'?" the Bruiser said. He was bending over and staring into the window at O'Malley, getting so close that he could smell the cheap coffee on the costume's breath. DeLaHoya kept his dark hair close cropped, and it just accentuated that his head looked like a trapezoid, with no noticeable neck—just went straight from the jawline to the shoulders.

"Whaddaya want?" O'Malley asked.

"Got somethin' you two'll wanna see."

O'Malley looked at Fiorello. "You believe this?" He turned back to the costume. "Look, DeLaHoya—"

"It's serious." With that, the Bruiser stood upright and stomped toward an alley between two apartment buildings.

Fiorello got out of the car.

"Hey, Paulie, what the hell?" O'Malley asked, but his partner was already crossing in front of the blue-and-white to follow the costume.

Shaking his head, O'Malley said, "Fine." He turned off the ignition and got out, pulling his ballcap out of his back pocket and putting it on his head. Technically, the plain black ballcap wasn't proper uniform, but O'Malley had always hated the blue department-issue hat. Fiorello, of course, wore his, with the SCPD logo on the front and the word central under it—and it never messed up his hair. O'Malley really had no idea how he did it.

Adjusting the bill of the cap as he walked toward the alley, O'Malley asked, "You wanna give us a hint, DeLaHoya?"

"I got a tip that some of Turk's boys were dealin' outta here."

This was starting to annoy O'Malley as he followed his partner and the Bruiser, pulling out his flashlight so he could see. "Turk's boys been dealin' outta here forever." His nose started to wrinkle, as the alley smelled like half a dozen homeless guys had taken a shit and then all croaked. O'Malley started breathing through his mouth.

"Not the last six months, they ain't," the Bruiser said, and O'Malley could hear the pride in his voice. "So I was checkin' it out, and I found this."

The Bruiser and Fiorello had stopped walking, the costume pointing between two Dumpsters. O'Malley shined his flashlight where the Bruiser's meaty finger was aimed, and Fiorello did likewise.

Barely, O'Malley could tell that it was the body of a man—and then only because the face was more or less intact. The rest of the body, though, had been torn apart. Organs and bones were sticking up through ripped flesh and torn clothes, and blood was all over everything. The limbs, what he could see of them, were all pointed in different directions than legs and arms usually went.

Something was stuck on the man's forehead.

The light got dimmer, and O'Malley turned to see Fiorello run across to the other side of the alley to throw up. He almost made it. His retching echoed off the brick walls of the two buildings. Uncharitably, O'Malley wondered what all those women who ignored him and chased Fiorello would think if they saw the two of them right now.

O'Malley shined his flashlight directly on the victim's forehead. It was a yellow Post-It with a pen-and-ink drawing of an eagle's talon on it.

The Bruiser said, "That's what I think it is, right?"

Nodding, O'Malley said, "Yeah." He turned and flashed his light on Fiorello, who was still doubled over, and was now dry heaving. His regurgitated dinner was doing nothing to make the alley smell better. "Guess I'm callin' this in."

"Look, I still gotta find Turk's boys. Can you just say this was an anonymous tip or something?"

"You didn't touch nothin', right?"

The Bruiser sighed. "Look, I'm sorry about what happened. That was a mistake, and I already apologized to Detective MacAvoy—twice. I didn't touch anything, okay?"

O'Malley was about to argue some more, but there wasn't any point. Besides, he now had bigger problems. "Yeah, fine, go beat the shit outta Turk's boys. Oh, and hey—Mrs. Tavares, from the pawn shop? She says thanks."

At that, the Bruiser actually broke into a big grin, which made his ugly face even uglier. "Tell her she's welcome." And then he stomped back out of the alley.

Fiorello was now standing with his hands on his knees, dry heaving. O'Malley grabbed the radio that was clipped to his right shoulder. "PCD, this is Unit 2202 with a signal 85. We got a dead body in the alley on the 400 block of Ayers. Need crime scene and Homicide."

"PCD roger."

"And hey, PCD?" O'Malley looked down at the mangled corpse and the distinctive Post-It. "Tell Homicide that the Claw's back."