And the epic saga continues, after the massive disaster of last chapter.
This, time, we get a POV we haven’t gotten before…. welcome Liza to the stage, everyone!
If you’re new/behind/forgetful, catch up here:
and here we go with part 14. Enjoy, everyone!
Keeping home base
I usually didn’t mind that much, being the one left behind. Just so long as everyone communicated. But honestly, after Dallas’s and Wolfy’s assurances that they’d “keep my updated”, they were both being awful about doing it.
Maybe there’s just nothing noteworthy happening.
Well, I’d gone and put on Wolfy’s jacket while he was gone. Just like he’d told me not to. A sort of small revenge. Even if I did have to cuff up the sleeves to have full use of my hands.
I sighed and fiddled my screwdriver around as I put the toaster back together. Baden had wanted me to poke at it, since it’d been scorching all the toast lately.
I finished putting the last piece on with a final twist of the screw.
Lucius looked up from where he sat on the edge of the counter, preening his feathers and made a small noise in the back of his throat.
“Yep. Hope that’ll be fixed now.” I pulled my hair out of the tight ponytail I’d had it in and ran my fingers through, letting out my breath.
It was quiet in here without anybody else around. Just a few decorative lamps Bad News had put in the corners and aisles lit the place. He didn’t like the fluorescent lights overhead. Nobody did, really, so it was a good choice. It made the place look a bit more like home. Just circles of yellow light glowing up from spots around the big, open space.
Not even the air conditioning ran to fill the quiet. It was a surprisingly chilly night for June.
I fiddled with the cuffs of Wolfy’s jacket and sighed, leaning my arms against the counter, my right one hitting with a metallic clunk. I winced a little, still getting adjusted to it after all this time.
I peeked over at my phone, hitting the button to turn the screen on. No messages or calls.
I huffed my breath out, blowing a strand of hair out of my face. “Well, boys. It’d be nice if you’d pick up your bloody phones for a change . . .”
I was coming along next time. If nobody even told me what was going on.
The concert’s supposed to be over by now for goodness sake.
Lucius’s talons clicked on the counter as he turned before flapping off to his perch in Wolfgang’s room.
I stood there for a little bit longer before I pulled out my tiny, old radio from where it was tucked under the counter. There might be some good music on I could listen to . . .
I turned it on and worked with the dials, getting it to some sort of good music station. There was a song I liked on the country station, so I left it, softly crackling away while I hummed along and put away my tools.
The connection cut out for a bit as I closed the lid of my toolbox. I straightened up and went over to fix the antenna. As I looked down at the dials, another thought crossed my mind.
A thwarted assassination would be a pretty newsworthy thing . . . maybe the radio could keep me better updated than the folks that are actually there.
I hunched down again to move the dials around to a different station, hoping to pick up some sort of report. The connection crackled and I squinted in concentration. The right station should be right . . . there we were.
I smirked triumphantly, turning up the volume and leaning back.
“ . . . burning man that people were comparing to something like the Human Torch has disappeared. Reports vary, but many identified him as the known former terrorist, Wolfgang “The Wolf” Dankworth . . .”
My smirk fell away as my mouth dropped slightly open. Oh no. No, that wasn’t good. I reached over to the radio again, turning up the volume further. “No, no, Wolfy, tell me you didn’t . . .”
“How he happened to acquire these powers is much in question, but with this many witnesses and the opera house nearly burned down, it’s hard to deny the evidence. It also seems to connect with the few people who saw the assassin that made the attempt on Director Ecks’s life. He was seen and confronted many SPI agents before making his escape out off an unguarded fire escape. Baden News, former Mafia member and confirmed involvement in Dankworth’s Pack.
Could it be that after over a full year, the Pack has resurfaced to spread chaos among the public yet again?”
I stared at the radio, starting to feel nauseous at the words. My heart thumped.
Bad News had been the one trying to kill Ecks? And Wolfgang almost burned the place down?
I cussed quietly, running my left hand up into my hair. “You’ve got to be kidding me, boys . . .”
An easy mission, Dallas had said?
Sure, Knight. If that’s your definition of easy . . .
It was like the radio could read my mind. Dallas’s name came up just then, the announcer telling briefly of his notable actions under the pressure of the situation, directing agents and helping civilians out of the smoke-filled building.
Well. Easy for him, perhaps.
Wolfy and News were practically on the run from the law now. And the radio man saying they’d disappeared . . .? That wasn’t too reassuring. Did Wolf tick off those Silverwing guys and get hauled away? Did News get shot and go off to die in the woods?
Oh stop, they’re probably headed this way right now. Just on their own terms. Disappeared means the law just doesn’t know where they popped off to.
I grabbed my cell phone off the counter again, hitting Wolfgang’s numbers as fast as I could before putting it up to my ear.
It rang and rang and rang . . . then went through to his voicemail, just like the rest of the times. The tone buzzed in my ear. I pressed my lips together tightly before speaking.
“Wolf, I just heard the radio. They’re talking about you almost burning the opera house down.” I bit my lip. “This . . . okay, I would have liked to know of the change in plans, really. Just call me back, please.”
I hung up and dialed News’s number, my fingers flying over the buttons easily with how much I’d done it in the past few hours.
It rang incessantly, then went through to his voicemail as well. The only message I left was my brief muttering of a dirty word before I hung up.
Come on, this was ridiculous. It was almost midnight already. Somebody had to have made it back by now. The bloody radio was telling me what was going on before my own friends were . . .
The distant sound of a car’s motor out front made me jump to my feet. I jammed my phone in the leather jacket pocket.
There they were. Finally.
I blew out my breath and rolled up the sleeves of Wolfgang’s jacket again, starting to walk towards the front door.
The motor sound rumbled closer for a few seconds, then cut out. Right near the front spot where Wolfy always parked.
My bare feet slapped out a quick rhythm as I picked up the pace. I had been going to take off the jacket before he got here, but after that whole dropping-the-communications thing, he deserved a bit of payback.
I ran down one of the aisles towards the front and turned to the door, sliding a little on the corner. Before I got there, the form of a man came through the door.
I started to call out, but my words died in my throat as I saw that it was actually two men. The first guy kept walking into the light and I saw that he was in a suit and tie, but he was too short to be News. He kept one hand against the back of the other man’s neck, and another holding his arm.
I recognized the cowlick on the other man and stopped to stare.
The first man saw me and a smile broke across his face, looking tired and strained. “Well, hey there. You must be the Allister chick, right?”
Wolfgang stopped walking as soon as the other guy did, his head rolling forward slightly. His eyes were closed.
Was he . . . sleepwalking?
I stepped closer, quickly looking the both of them up and down. Smokestains showed on both of their suits. Notably more on Wolfgang’s rumpled white shirt than anywhere else.
The man I didn’t recognize slicked back his hair with his free hand, letting out a breath. “So, I’m a friend of . . .”
“Wolfy?” I raised my voice, hoping to get his attention.
No response other than what sounded like a quiet snore. The other man’s hand on his neck seemed to hold him up like some sort of badly strung puppet. His mouth hung partly open.
My heart beat louder in my eardrums as I turned to the man. “What are you doing to him? What the bloody h- . . .?”
He held up his free hand, showing red, burnt skin on his palm. “He’s fine, he’s fine. Just asleep. Wore himself out. It was an exciting night.” He smiled again, sticking out his hand. “I’m Franklin, by the way.”
I didn’t take it, the name clicking into place in my head.
Franklin. Mind control man, right. I wasn’t touching him.
Franklin awkwardly put his hand back down and rubbed it against his coat. “Anyway, I’m just here to drop Dank off. Heard he was staying here. Where would his bedroom . . .?”
“Right this way.” I pointed vaguely towards the back and started walking. Franklin followed me with a nod, Wolfgang coming right along with like some remote control toy with his eyes still closed.
I bit down hard on my lip to keep from saying anything, anger bubbling inside me.
At least he’s here and not arrested. But did Franklin knock him out? What all happened? Why’d he lose it?
We turned a few corners and came to Wolfgang’s room at the back. News had set up a chair inside and a cot with a few blankets thrown over the top. I gestured to it, pushing the door open. “There ya go.” I stepped in first, flicking on the raggedy lamp in the corner.
Lucius sat up from his perch and blinked at us, giving a small squawk as he saw Wolfgang.
Franklin nodded. He stopped for a second and one of Wolf’s limp hands came up, forming into a sloppy fingergun to point at me.
I felt my face pale and goosebumps tickled up and down my spine. That was bloody terrifying, not funny. What, did he think Wolfgang was just his toy marionette?
Franklin just grinned and chuckled as Wolfgang’s hand dropped again. Turning sideways, he got them both into the room and strode over to the bed. He reached the foot of the cot and squinted one eye like he was aiming as he adjusted Wolfgang’s position. After a few seconds, he pulled his hand off from Wolf’s neck.
Wolfgang dropped like a rock, hitting the bed with a thump. His head hit just on the pillow and one of his arms flopping to the side.
I flinched, but his eyes stayed closed. I heard another quiet snore.
Lucius flapped off his perch and onto the side of Wolfgang’s bed, nervously pulling at his hair with his beak. It didn’t get a response and he took up a worried post next to the bed on the floor.
Franklin let out a long breath and rubbed his hands together. “Great. Okay. Nice bird. Now . . .” he strode back over to me. “Got a few things to discuss.”
I backed up out the door and into the hall, keeping a good few feet between me and Franklin and a cold expression on my face.
He leaned easily against the wall and put his hands in his pockets. The relaxed look on his face showed that he either didn’t notice my disgust or didn’t care.
“Now, has Dankworth told you much about his . . . business opportunity he’s been involved in?” he asked, keeping his voice low like there was someone else around that might be eavesdropping. The dim lamplight shining down the hall cast shadows on his face.
Oh, I knew plenty. But I shook my head in response, wrinkling my brow in slight confusion.
“Okay, good, good.” Franklin pulled one hand out of his pocket and snapped his fingers a couple of times. He looked across the hall, then back at me. “Well, since hotshot over there is out like a light, I’ll probably have you give him a few messages from the business. I could tell you everything, or . . .” he held up his hands and wiggled his fingers. “Just let me hold your hand for a second and give you a download, word for word.”
I backed up another step, shoving my hands in the pockets of the worn leather jacket. “Let’s talk, thanks.”
Franklin dropped his hand again, shrugging. “Whatever floats your boat. Anyway, tonight was a bit of a . . . disaster. Some things went unexpectedly and Wolf’s fire powers went ballistic. That’s not something the media just drops within twenty-four hours. Plus he really wore himself out, so . . .” he gestured in the air for a few seconds as if searching for the right words. “I think it’s within our best interests to have him lay low for a little while?”
I nodded slowly, pursing my lips. I was dying to know what had actually happened, but asking this guy seemed more than a little shady. I wasn’t liking the vibe I was getting from him at all.
Franklin smiled. “Just tell him that he’s on official break right now. I’ll keep in touch and tell him when it’s best to come on back . . . when the next meeting is . . . all that jazz. Cool with you, sweetheart?”
My stomach turned, but I kept my expression passive. “That sounds fine, yeah. I’ll tell him.”
“Boom,” Franklin pushed off the wall, flashing me a thumbs up. “Perfecto. Well, if you’ve got that handled, I guess I’ll be off.” He smiled again, bowing slightly with a flourish of his burnt hand. “Pleasure meeting you and may we bump into each other again.”
I tipped my chin in a noncommittal half-nod. “Mm.”
Franklin strode on past me, brushing too close for comfort on his way to the door. I didn’t move until his footsteps faded away and I heard the thump of the door closing.
Now, to find out what on earth happened . . .
I sprang forward, coming around into Wolfgang’s room, striding over and dropping down next to the cot. Lucius flapped sideways a few feet to make room for me. I pushed my hair back behind my ears and leaned over close to his face with my head tipped sideways.
“Wolfy,” I hissed. “Wolfgang!”
His deep, even breathing continued, with not even the flutter of an eyelash in response. His face smashed sideways against the pillow and his limbs still splayed out awkwardly from the way he’d fallen.
“Hey, he’s gone, Wolfgang.” I snapped my fingers a couple of times. “Hear me?”
Just a snore in response.
I took in a deep breath and let it out, then briefly looked him over for injuries. Seeing if anything was wrong. If he’d been drugged or knocked out.
Nothing. He was just . . . really exhausted.
Lucius hopped up to tug at his hair again and gave a chirrup.
Something Fernsby told me about the way the nanites worked sparked in the back of my mind. While they did run their own special way and with a certain type of electricity, part of the linking with the users was with their energy. The more you used them, the more drain they put on your energy.
And Wolfgang just almost burnt the whole opera house down.
The thick scent of smoke still hung on his clothes.
So this was how it had turned out. This stunt to get him more publicity and getting people to like him. Rebranded as a terrorist. Possibly even outed from the organization he was trying to get into through this whole circus. And left with uncontrollable, rage triggered fire powers.
Nice going, Wolfy.
I sat back on my heels and bit at my nails as I watched him. Something had to have lit him off. What made him that mad?
The rest of what I’d heard on the radio stabbed back into my mind. News had tried to kill Ecks. Wolfgang had been there. He was supposed to stop the assassin. And if Maxine had set things up and we hadn’t seen Baden for so long . . .
That was it. That was definitely it.
We needed to regroup. If we didn’t figure out where we were going from here, this whole thing was going to be ruined.
I pulled my phone out of my pocket and stood, checking the screen again.
I growled under my breath and started to dial Dallas before remembering he was probably still caught up in all the SPI circus. Fernsby then.
I pulled up his contact and hit the number. It only rang once before the phone got picked up. Impressive, compared to what I’d been getting so far that night.
“Liza?” Charles’s voice came through the line very obviously worried. “Did you see the news about the opera? That was . . .”
“Yeah, I know.” I interrupted him. “That was Wolfy.”
“He just . . . he almost . . .” Charles came as close to swearing as I’d ever heard before catching himself. I cut off his incoherent fragments of sentences.
“I’ve got him at the Den right now. We need to get everybody here and figure out what we’re doing after all that mess. Can you come?”
“I . . . yes of course. I’ll be right there. I’ll get Dallas too.”
The call ended.
Well, one guy who’d listen to me.
I pulled up Bad News’s contact and stared at the screen for a few seconds. What had it been this past day? At least twenty times I tried to call him. This wasn’t like him at all. Baden didn’t just drop touch.
And obviously that Franklin guy wasn’t touching him the whole time.
I looked down at Wolfgang for a second, then back at the phone. I hit the button to text News, then tapped out a message on the keys.
-Baden News, so help me, if you don’t pick up and answer me I’m going to throw all the ice cream out and shoot a hole in the oven.
I sent it, then added another as an afterthought.
-And I’m not kidding. Answer me you big warthog.
A few minutes ticked by and I waited, counting the seconds between Wolfgang’s snores. Then I hit back to News’s contact and tapped the button to call him, tucking the phone behind my hair and up to my ear again.
It rang once. Twice. Three times.
And then it stopped with a click.
I waited, listening. There was breathing at least.
Then Baden’s voice. Huskier than usual.
“Don’t shoot the oven.”
I let out my breath that I didn’t realize I’d been holding. “News, you need to come back to the Den, mate.”
“I-I don’t . . .” his voice quavered and he stopped for a second. “But I was supposed to shoot somebody and I . . . I did, but . . .”
“It’s fine. Seriously, we need . . .”
His voice rose higher in volume. “Frank said he was gonna kill Wolfgang. Make his powers burn him all up if I didn’t kill the guy and I thought I did, but now the . . . the opera house . . .” his voice cracked again. “He said he’d make Wolfgang burn himself up and right after I left, the place just . . . went up. He didn’t say he’d bring Wolf there! He made me kill a guy and I shoulda known . . .”
My heart rate rose just hearing him that upset. I almost never heard that tone in his voice.
“Hey, hey . . .” I tried to pull on my most calming voice. “It’s okay, seriously. I’ve got Wolfgang right here.” Well. Okay wasn’t exactly the best word for the situation, but News was an optimist. He’d work with it.
I heard him suck in a breath. “Honest?”
“As I’ll ever be.”
“How is he?”
“He’s alive. Come see the rest for yourself.”
I hung up and jammed the phone back in the leather jacket pocket. That should get him here alright.
I let out my breath and ran my fingers through my hair, giving unconscious Wolfy another look. “Always an adventure with you around, eh?”
He snored again.
Well, at least there wasn’t any particular further trouble happening there. Not too bad of a cliffhanger, right? 😉
Tell me what you thought and I hope you all have a great day! ❤