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The Greater Good

Jake rested a foot on the log, pensively pushing it back and forth. The log rolled slightly.

Jerry wasn’t letting up. “Look, all I’m saying is women love that stuff. You just sprinkle a bit of that into a conversation, you’ll be rolling in it in no time.”

“Easy for you to say,” muttered Jake.

“What? Speak up, bro,” said Jerry.

Jake cleared his throat. “You’re married. You can dish out whatever advice you want. It’s not like you have to follow it. You’ve already got Sheila.”

Sheila, hearing her name, glanced over from the picnic table. Jerry gave her a smile and a wave and she smiled and nodded back before turning back to her own conversation.

Jerry leaned in toward Jake. “How do you think I got Sheila?” he asked, a grin spreading across his face.

Jake stopped rolling the log and stared at Jerry. “You didn’t.”

Jerry straightened out of his lean and waggled his eyebrows.

“Jerry, come on. Your demasking was an accident, right?”

Jerry shrugged theatrically. “Well, I’m certainly not the one who tore off my mask in front of her. But when I was taunting Doctor Dark while he had me tied up, I may have said things like, ‘Whatever you do, don’t take off my mask, I’m begging you - I need my secret identity, and revealing it to your hostage would ruin me, blah blah blah, wahh wahh.'”

Jake kept staring. “I… I can’t believe this, Jerry. I thought you were joking before. You really violated one of our sacred rules just to impress a girl?”

“Hey, now,” Jerry said, putting up a hand. “It wasn’t me, right? It was Doctor Dark. And I specifically told him not to!”

Jake looked down at the log and shook his head. He rolled the log back and forth a bit more. Suddenly, he froze. He looked up at Jerry. He cast a quick glance at Ripper Island and then stared daggers at Jerry.

“And when you took her to our secret island fortress? You said it was the only place she’d be safe from Doctor Dark, but that wasn’t the real reason, was it?”

Jerry tried to shrug nonchalantly, but his smile gave everything away. “Doctor Dark had already forgotten about her. She was just a one-shot hostage to him. I couldn’t forget her, though.”

He looked over at Sheila and watched her a moment. She was saying something that was getting a pretty good laugh out of Ellen.

Jerry turned back to Jake. “Sometimes, you just know… you know? So I had to see her again. I used the Justice Computer to track her down, flew to her apartment in full costume and knocked on her eighth-story window. I told her Doctor Dark had been spotted in the area but I knew where she could be safe. It took a bit of convincing, but she let me fly her to the fortress.”

Jake’s jaw dropped. “You… I can’t believe how irresponsible… and you call yourself a Justice Ripper…”

Jerry didn’t hear him. “When we got there… I showed her around. I let her get a look at the Justice Computer, but not too close up - just wanted to impress her, not show her how I’d kinda stalked her. I took her the trophy room, let her try out Ursa Minor’s claw-gun, and the Rainmaker’s umbrella. I took her to the Danger Chamber, and showed off with a training routine. Then we went to the Observation Dome, and under the stars… we sealed the deal.” He smiled, looking off into the distance.

The log snapped in two under Jake’s foot.

Sheila, Ellen, and Eileen looked over, startled at the sound, Ellen and Eileen automatically shifting their weight subtly into a battle-ready stance.

“Dude, we’re in public,” Jerry whispered, scanning the area to see if any civilians had noticed. “Keep a lid on the super-strength, all right?”

Jake opened his mouth to apologize, then closed it again. He laughed darkly. He smiled sheepishly at his sisters, who warily relaxed their stance.

“What a fine bunch we are,” Jake said.

“Hey, now,” said Jerry. “We do the world a great service. We have to make sure our needs get taken care of too, so we don’t snap. It’s for the greater good.”

“Right. The greater good,” said Jake, looking off toward Ripper Island.

“Just… think about it, okay?” Jerry said. “I’m not telling you to shout from the rooftops that you’re the Red Ripper. But women love being in on a secret. And the world sure didn’t end when Sheila found out who I was. I just want you to be happy, bro. Happy like I am.”

Jake put his foot on one of the log halves. He rolled it back and forth.

“Anyway,” said Jerry. “Let’s grill up those burgers, huh? I’m starved.”