It’s this part. And I’m afraid my fine son Wolfgang won’t be making any of us proud today.
Let’s see how this high-stakes mission works out with newly acquired explosive powers and a really awkward setup for running into Bad News.
If you’re behind, catch up right here:
Some soundtrack that happens to be pertinent to this particular scene:
(Because Franklin’s here and you all know it.)
Anyway. Let’s get this
disaster party started!
Bring the house down
I have to admit, in spite of all my barely masked disgust of him, Franklin was a pretty incredible singer.
I’d definitely pinned it right on the speakeasy-vibe I was getting from him. It was all classy, older jazz songs that he redid in his own sort of style. Sometimes cradling the microphone like he was singing it a lullaby, sometimes waving it around and looking like he would throw it across the stage if he got any more intense about singing.
I even found myself tapping my foot along with the music, despite the extreme circumstances these were under. At least I didn’t hum along and get myself tossed out for sacrilege to music.
The second song came to a close, applause came and went, and Franklin started in on the third song. Frank Sinatra’s “My Way”.
“And now,” he crooned, “The end is near . . .”
I barely held back a snort. More than any of the audience knows. Maxine and Franklin had a sense of humor, for sure.
The slow, smooth music continued playing through and I carefully watched the hall. Nothing yet. I glanced down over the crowd. Dallas sat underneath me, just in my sight. I caught his eye just as he looked up at me.
He raised his eyebrows in a question.
I shook my head slightly and pointed to Franklin, trying to discreetly gesture that it was supposed to happen at the end of the song.
Dallas nodded and stayed sitting rigidly in his seat. He looked down at a tiny screen he held, tapping out a few things. Other agents he’d pinned as SPI shifted their spots around the room, coming closer to the booth.
The pitch of the song slowly rose in a crescendo towards the end. Franklin leaned back and closed his eyes tightly as he sang, totally absorbed in the music. A few cheers started early as he quavered the pitch on a certain line.
I saw movement in the dark hall.
I snapped my attention back from the stage to the hallway. Too obvious. I stared at the curtains around the booth, trying to see as best I could from my periphery.
“For what is a man . . . what has he got?”
The shadow moved closer towards the guards standing in the shade of the unlit hall. A few muffled noises and quiet thumps that were mostly drowned out by the music, and the guards went down.
He moved closer. The last guards standing between him and Ecks went down.
I could get a rough estimate on his size now from the dark outline and my stomach did a flip. Holy smoke, they really did get Godzilla . . . I caught Dallas’s gaze again and waved one hand, jerking my head towards Ecks’s booth.
“The record shows, I took the blows . . .” Franklin dramatically went to his knees for a few seconds before throwing his head back as he sung the final line. “And did it myyyyyy waaaayyy!”
And the giant shadow stepped out into the light, pulling a gun.
Dallas shot to his feet with a shout of “NO!” only a split second before the rest of the crowd stood to cheer Franklin.
The SPI agents rushed in from their hidden posts.
Just as I turned to look full on and recognized who it was holding the gun. My jaw dropped.
News jumped at the use of his name and the sharp report of the pistol he was holding echoed through the hallway.
SPI agents dove in at him, shouting and raising their own guns, tasers and whatever weapons they happened to be holding. More gunshots went off. Bad News ducked a few blows, disarming and knocking out various agents with alarming speed.
The cheers of the crowd for Franklin’s singing immediately died, shifting gears into screaming.
No, no, no he did not . . . he did not just . . . I could only stand there and stare as he incapacitated Dallas’s backup squad like a machine.
News got a moment to breathe and turned, getting a lock on where I was at. He looked just as shocked as I was. “Wolf?” Bloodstains showed on his shirt and his sunglasses had fallen off.
It was him alright. Baden News. News had just tried to assassinate the director of the SPI right in front of me and . . . I couldn’t even see Ecks from here. Had he actually done it? Actually killed him?
I pulled my hands up through my hair, still staring. “News, what the . . . what the actual . . .”
Dallas was climbing over the seats, running up the aisle. His tie was thrown over his shoulder as he gestured wildly to the security guards. “Somebody get up there! Quick! Go, go!”
We were going to arrest the murderer . . . whoever was trying to kill Ecks . . . but now that we knew it was . . .
How? Why? News doesn’t just go around doing . . . this! Did Maxine hire him?
News stiffened and looked around frantically for some route of escape. It probably didn’t make it any easier to think for the fact that everyone was still freaking out in the audience, I was cussing a blue streak and Maxine was calling for help.
Footsteps pounded distantly against the stairs. Lots of footsteps.
News zeroed in on the end of the hall behind me and charged towards it, grabbing me by the arm as he went. I couldn’t even try to keep up with his long, running strides and I pretty much got dragged along.
He was going towards the fire escape door. Trying to get out before the security got him.
“Baden!” I managed to turn with his grip on me and grabbed his tie. “You . . . you tell me what the **** is going on here. Now. Did you just . . .? Why . . .?”
News stopped for a split second, gripping the bar to push out through the door. “Wolf, I majorly don’t have time to talk right now.” His voice almost didn’t sound like him with how strained it was.
I pulled his face closer to mine, yanking on the tie. “Tell me you didn’t do that on your own terms. Did Maxine hire you? Did she know who you were?” My hands shook and I was surprised I could even make the words come out right with how incredibly shocked and confused I was.
News pried my fingers off his tie, not looking me in the eye. “Dude it was . . . it was Frank, okay? Old buddy from the mafia and he was gonna hurt . . . he was gonna kill you if I didn’t do it so . . .” he stopped and gritted his teeth, shaking his head. “Gotta go. I’m sorry. I really . . . I’m sorry, okay?” He shoved out the door onto the fire escape, the sudden blaring sound of the fire alarm accompanying him. I saw him jumping down the stairs three at a time and breaking off into a run before the door swung shut in my face.
I just stood there. My shaking hands clenched and unclenched in fists as I felt my breathing speed up.
Franklin had threatened to kill me. Franklin hired News to kill someone. And he did that knowing full well that he was my friend.
I’d just gotten set up to throw my best friend in jail so that I could get more public glory.
This was supposed to be for my benefit and I was supposed to be thankful?
What sort of a sick, twisted, demonically selfish organization was this?
The pounding footsteps came around the corner, running towards the door. I barely noticed. A glow of heat surrounded me and I clenched my fists.
This is enough. I am done. I can just take down Maxine and Franklin right now.
A voice shouted from behind me. “Sir, turn around and put your hands in the air!”
“I think the big guy went out the door. He’s probably just covering,” remarked another voice.
I turned around and gestured to the door, striding forward angrily. “It wasn’t him. He was threatened into doing it. Blackmailed. The guy has nothing against the SPI!” my voice slowly rose to a shout as my hands burst into flames, the heat spreading up my arms. “He’s innocent! If you gotta arrest somebody, haul that Franklin jerk off the stage! He’s the one who set it up!”
The squad of security guys backed up, a few of them dropping their guns in shock.
“Is that . . . th-the Wolf?” one of the men muttered, backing up further than the rest. One of the other guys ran.
I cursed under my breath and marched forward until the group parted to let me through. Then I broke into a run.
My bowtie was already knocked sideways and pressed against my throat uncomfortably. I reached up and ripped it off my collar, dropping it as I ran and barely noticing the fact that it had ignited into flame the second I pulled it off.
Maxine was just down the hall at the booth with Ecks.
Sacrifice those people around me who were dragging me down. Yeah right. Like News?! Sure, that sounds like the worst idea ever, un-sign me up right now, thanks.
I kept running, fuming the whole way. The flames around me grew and I could feel the heat, but barely even tried to stop it. Maxine and Franklin deserved some choice toasting done anyway.
I slowed my pace as I saw all the people who’d gathered around the scene. Somebody who looked like a medic was striding over.
I could see Ecks, collapsed. There was blood, but I couldn’t tell if he was dead or not. Maxine wasn’t in sight. Dallas’s small form was visible for a few seconds, right in the middle of everything as he edged close to Ecks and directing agents to get help or chase off down the hall.
To chase after Bad News. Did he even see who it was? I muttered another obscenity under my breath, raking my hands – both of which were on fire – up through my hair, which was also on fire now.
People turned my way and the panicked yelling started up again, everyone edging their way back from the flaming man.
I heard Dallas’s voice as he yelled out an alarmed: “Wolfgang!”
I gritted my teeth and walked into the now empty booth I had stood next to. I could see from here.
Needed to redirect these stupid SPI agents to the guy actually responsible for this whole mess. Or . . .
I saw Maxine down below. How had she gotten down so fast? She was chattering to a couple of police officers that had seemed to come out of nowhere. She wrung her hands and looked on the verge of crying as she talked.
I clenched my fists. The flames almost flared higher, but I held my breath for a few seconds to try and not make things worse.
More people screamed and yelled, rushing for the exits.
Maxine and her two police buddies looked up my way. The police officers’ eyes went wide and Maxine put a hand over her mouth.
I pointed, yelling down while I had the officers’ attention. “She was the one that orchestrated that! Arrest her!”
The officers just reached for their guns, shouting at me to stand down or something.
Right. Who in their right mind listens to a known criminal, who’s also on fire?
I gritted my teeth as I saw Maxine backing up and slipping into the rest of the crowd. She’d make a break for it or something unless I did something. I needed to get down there. I started to turn, but then was confronted with the two unhappy facts that more security was closing in from behind me and that I’d lit the overhead curtains on fire.
I looked from left to right. There was a giant red swath of fabric to the left. One of the grand, decorative curtains hanging between a few of the seating boxes, extending almost all the way down to the floor.
I rubbed my hands together a little, blowing on them until the flames died down for a few seconds. Now to get down there.
I climbed up onto the edge, then grabbed the curtain and swung on. Heat flared on my palms as I slid down the slick fabric towards the floor.
More yelling from the crowd and officers. Fantastic. Did they even know how to do anything helpful?
Scrambling for a grip was harder than I expected. I cursed and gritted my teeth as I tried to slide down. I felt like a freaking cat, trying to hang on enough to keep from falling to my death.
My breath caught as I reached the end of the curtain. My hands kept sliding and it felt like the fabric melted away under my hands when I tried to get a good grip. I slid right off. There was a split second of just sickening falling, then I hit the ground.
Pain shot up my legs and I dropped, rolling to my side.
Aaand my hands were on fire again now, great.
No time for that. No time for that, come on. Turn the police onto the right track.
I pushed up, stumbling a little. Where was Maxine now?
The crowd wasn’t even distinguishable by now. They were still just running away. Milling around the place and perfectly hiding Maxine from view.
Plus that she could switch faces now. I probably couldn’t know if it was her if she was right in front of me.
What about Franklin? I turned towards the stage and saw him on the edge, gesturing as he talked loudly with someone. Gesturing a few more people towards an emergency exit. His face all the concern of a good citizen during this sort of unfortunate event.
The anger smoldered hotter and I clenched my fists.
He was the one that forced News into doing that. Made him kill someone . . . made him a wanted fugitive because he could use me as leverage . . .
“Wolfgang!” Dallas’s desperate voice shouted from up in the seating boxes. “Wolfgang stop! Flame off! Flame off!” He was cut off by a fit of coughing.
I didn’t look up, storming my way over to Franklin. Heat still pulsed off my arms. I knew it was coming from me being so d*** ticked off just then, but I pushed the thought back. I could at least singe Franklin’s hair a little bit. Burn his coat off him on the way dragging him to the police officers.
Nobody just went around and did that sort of thing to News on my watch. And he wasn’t getting a chance to do it again.
Franklin looked up and saw me coming, but his facial expression didn’t change from the saintly worry he’d had on before. He focused back on the people he was helping out the door, shooing them along.
Yeah right. Gentle mother-hen Franklin. He cared so much, I’m sure.
I muttered out a few names as I climbed up onto the far edge of the stage along with him. I clenched my fists, collecting the fire together to throw. To shove down his coat. Slam in his face . . .
I strode closer, speeding my pace.
Franklin stood up, let out a breath and met my gaze, waiting for me. He held up his hands quietly. “Easy there, hotshot.” There was actual, genuine worry in his tone.
Good. There should be.
I closed the final gap between us and leaned close to him, holding up one hand that was engulfed in flame.
“Dankworth, seriously . . .” Franklin’s tone rose along with his hands. “Calm down.”
I clenched my teeth, spitting out my words and growing the fire on my hand.
“You blackmailed News into doing that, you son of a . . .”
Franklin’s thin hand shot out, slapping onto my still flaming shoulder.
I gasped as the stage seemed to rock underneath me. Everything went out of focus, then slid back in. Any thoughts that had been in my head swirled away into nothing, taking the flames along with them. My hands dropped by my sides and I blinked.
Franklin was biting down hard on his lip and wincing, but the voice directing me what to do came through loud and clear in my head.
Good, no more flames.
Right. Oh . . . man . . . this is bad. This is really bad . . .
One lone emotion seeped through his fingertips into my head. Worry.
My breath caught in my throat as my heart beat faster.
Franklin shook his head and pushed his hair back with his free hand and the worry stopped. I was left empty again, just standing there and waiting for direction.
Franklin shifted his hand up onto the back of my neck and pushed me towards the backstage, behind the curtains.
Two rules now, okay buddy? No bursting into flame and no talking. We’ve gotta move fast. Just keep walking with me.
I kept pace with him as he walked next to me, steering me along. Our footsteps hit the ground in perfect synchronization. Stagehands were busy doing other things and let us through, barely looking up to see Franklin.
Everything’s fine. Stay with me and we’ll get out. It’s all good.
I relaxed a little, letting out a trembling breath.
I didn’t register exactly what it was at the time, but the energy drain from using up so much flame power started to hit me. My steps faltered slightly as my limbs got shaky.
Just down this hall and outside. We’ll be at the car soon, hold on.
I straightened up obediently, copying his speedwalk towards the door. The same door I’d pushed out of with Dallas last year, getting out of the opera house.
Smoke hung in the hallway in a faint haze, clouding my vision. Shouts came distantly and there were sirens somewhere far off.
Franklin strode over to the door, taking a second to switch what hand he was holding against the skin on the back of my neck. He pushed us both out through the door. A grimace came over his face as he looked down at the reddened, burnt skin on the palm of his hand he’d just taken down.
We stopped just outside the door, letting it swing shut behind us. The sirens were clearer now in the cool night air outside.
It felt good, being out somewhere cooler.
I had a faint impression in my mind that I’d just been very warm, but couldn’t quite place it.
We just stood there for a few seconds. Franklin blowing on his hand and rubbing it on his pant leg, gritting his teeth in pain. Me staring off into space, brain blank as I stupidly awaited further instructions.
Okay, the car’s right over there. Just come along with me. The voice coming through was a little strained, but I obeyed without hesitation. My legs went a little shaky again and Franklin steadied me as we walked.
Hold on for a second, hotshot. Rest when we’re in the car.
We reached the gold Cadillac parked across the way. A woman already sat in the driver’s seat. She turned and gestured to us to come faster.
Franklin’s mental prompting carried it through into my head and we half-ran the last stretch to the car. He popped open the backseat door after a few tries with his injured hand.
Good job. Now go ahead and get in.
I slid into the backseat, my shaky legs thankful for the rest. I leaned my head back. Franklin’s smooth hand still stayed on the back of my neck as he got in next to me, blocking out any thoughts that weren’t his from entering my head.
He closed the door behind him and the car started up, squealing out of the parking lot.
“Well, that went up in flames,” remarked the dark-haired woman in the front seat. My gaze rested on the wing tattoos arching up over her shoulders.
“Literally,” finished Franklin, blowing on his hand.
“I said he probably wasn’t ready for that. Hiring . . .?”
“I know, I know. I thought you gave him the speech and everything, though. And News is the best there is and I just . . .” he sighed, pushing a hand over his black hair to get it off his face.
“And obviously you were wrong. That was a big, risky step and now we blew it.” The woman puffed out a breath, turning back to face out the windshield. Her red fingernails dug into the steering wheel.
“I can talk to him later . . .”
“Later doesn’t fix now. Ecks only got shot through the arm. He’s still alive and I’m still second in command, Frank.”
Franklin opened and closed his mouth, gesturing with his burnt hand for a bit before biting down on his lip.
I just sat there, the whole conversation going in one ear and out the other. I was tired.
Franklin looked down at me, moving the position of his hand slightly higher up.
Sorry, man. You’re worn out from burning everything up, aren’t you?
Bet I would be.
Well, we’re safe now. We got out. You can go to sleep.
And I did.
Yes, this is definitely at least three buses, a long walk and a taxi away from good.
What happens next? Well, we’ll just have to see on Thursday.
Have a suspenseful Sunday, everyone. ❤