Today marks that we are halfway through The Powers That Be, officially.
Yeah, this is loooong.
Anyway. Today we again get a POV that we haven’t had before. Though I get a feeling that some of you won’t be as fond of it.
Franklin gets a turn telling us what happened. -eyebrow wiggle-
If you’re behind, here you go, you have homework.
And if you’re not behind, yay for you, here’s another part.
Enjoy. Or don’t. -cackles off-
The public eye
Even if it was a pretty big disaster at the opera, at least some good came out of it: My full-length television interview on the topic.
Dankworth’s publicity had absolutely plummeted, and that was a bummer. But it never hurt to spread a little extra icing over the topic with my own shining reputation.
I’d been called to SPI headquarters early that morning after being interviewed for the TV news. And along the way I’d gotten mobbed by more newspaper reporters wanting my opinion on the topic. So I had government officials and all the media after me. Boy, I was popular.
It was a tricky act to juggle, but I balanced between the SPI and reporters pretty well, since they were honestly asking most of the same questions. It got crowded in that little room, though.
“How do you feel about the fact that your concert was interrupted by not only one, but two acts of terror in one night?” asked one lady, sticking out her microphone recorder towards my face.
I thought for a second, pulling on a slightly saddened, slightly relived expression. “I’m just glad no one was seriously hurt, ma’am.”
“How do you feel about . . .?” another reporter started, before being rudely cut off by an SPI agent.
“Mr. Tumbler, the burning man who had been identified as The Wolf was last seen heading towards the stage you were on before he disappeared in the chaos,” the agent’s deep voice cut through the rest of the chatter, hitting a deeper, manly pitch. “Did he approach you at all? Were you aware of his identity?”
I frowned, my smooth brow wrinkling up under the hair flopped onto my forehead. “The Wolf . . .? That was him the other night?” The agent gave a confirming nod. I raised my eyebrows in surprise and looked around the crowd of people. “Well, I had no idea a peasant such myself was in such distinguished company.”
That got a bit of a laugh and I grinned, running my fingers through my hair as I pushed it back. The slickness caught slightly on the bandage I’d wound around my palm to cover my burnt, raw patch of skin there. I hid a wince.
Another girl reporter piped up from near the back. “People say you were helping some of the crowd near the front out towards the emergency exits, at risk to your own safety, before escaping the building yourself.” Her voice squeaked as she talked and I saw admiration in her big, brown eyes. “When, as the star of the show, security could have gotten you out safely as one of the first people. What inspired you to such heroism?”
I couldn’t help but smile at the obviously nervous way she voiced her question. She liked my music, probably. And this was her first time seeing me in person. I made a mental note to accidentally drop my handkerchief or something for her to take home as a souvenir. I took a deep breath and replied.
“Well, wasn’t exactly something I thought through at the time. I just . . . you know, I saw what needed to be done and that someone had to do it and . . . boom. There I was.” I shrugged modestly, giving the girl a wink.
She took in a breath and gave me a starstruck smile back.
Of course it was killing me to leave out the fact that I’d also saved probably everyone’s lives by hijacking Dank’s brain and stopping his whole rampage. Seriously, I’d wondered exactly how I could use that power to be a legitimate “superhero” and not just use it for party tricks and stuff. But after that . . .
Dude, I could totally work this superhero thing.
There was a bit more clambering for my attention, which the SPI agents won out on.
“The assassin was recognized last night as Baden News. He’s a former member of Dankworth’s ‘Pack’,” spoke up a woman I would have thought of as a reporter except for her SPI investigator badge. “We have small indications that it is possible he might have known you in past connections. Do you know him and is it possible that this attack during your concert could be a hint at something between you? Some lingering grudge?”
Cameras flashed and pencils scratched on paper.
I frowned a little and tilted my head, slipping my hands into my pants pockets. “Baden News . . . I don’t think . . . no, I haven’t heard of him.” I shook my head as I looked back at the woman.
She pulled a picture out of her coat pocket and held it out to me. A picture back from a while ago. A younger mugshot of News.
I took it and looked it over intently. Hmm. He’d gotten a new fedora since then, actually.
I shook my head again and handed it back over to her. “I mean, we grew up around the same area, so I think we might’ve bumped into him on the street once or twice, but I can’t see it connecting to my concert, really. It was probably just the most open place he could get into that Ecks was visiting.” I shrugged. There were a few murmurs of agreement.
A few more questions were asked before I started wrapping up. I had stuff to do, after all.
Not to mention Maxine was standing off to the side and waiting for a private audience with me.
I waved to her a little bit and she gave a forced smile back. She discreetly made the “cut it off” sign and I let out a breath, waving a hand.
“Well, I gotta go. That’s all for today, folks. I loved talking to you.” I smiled around the group, making a quick fingergun at the girl near the back.
Slowly, the people trickled back out of the door and left, still scribbling their notes and talking to each other.
I sauntered over to Maxine, watching the last guy slip out the door. “So, gorgeous. What’d you want to talk about?”
Maxine brushed back a stray strand of hair that had escaped her messy bun and raised her dark eyebrows at me. “Let’s talk outside. More of an official SPI report needs to be given on this sort of thing.”
“Anything you say,” I replied, a slight smile still showing on my face.
Her heels clicked as we walked over to the door. We moved on down the hall, the bright office-y lights glaring down on us. The agents around hushed and moved out of the way for Maxine. I just followed close behind in the wide berth they gave her.
Even if her plan to become the ultimate head of the SPI had failed, this at least worked temporarily. Ecks was sort of hospitalized at the moment, which did leave current operations in her hands.
Sort of what she wanted, right? Not a total failure. We’d still bump Ecks off somehow.
We got to the door to go outside and pushed out. It was before nine, but there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and it was already getting warm.
I adjusted my tie and stuck one of my hands in my pocket as Maxine stopped by a tree off to the side of the building. The perfect spot where no agents hung out, but it wasn’t shady and suspicious to anyone walking by.
She stopped, looked around to make sure we were alone, and turned towards me. Her voice was low.
“Frank, last night . . .” she took in a breath through her nose.
I stood there, not flinching.
“Really, that threw off everything we had on Dankworth’s front,” Maxine continued. “How’s the hero fight going to go over if everyone thinks he’s got these fire powers to just freak out the public and go lighting all their houses on fire?” She threw her hands wide, then dropped them again with a groan. “Hiring that Bad News dude was . . . I admit he was impressive, but his relation to Wolfgang on that high-stakes of a thing. That was too much of a risk. And it seriously . . . seriously fell through.”
I made a bit of a face as I scratched at my head. “Well, I thought News wouldn’t be the most eager about it, but he killed people all the time back in Chicago. And I really thought after Wolfgang had cut Mansley down like that, he was ready to do the bigger gambit of turning News in . . .” I gestured to her. “I mean, you told him, right?”
Maxine pressed her lips together and didn’t answer me.
“Right?” I leaned forward slightly.
She folded her arms. “If we were doing it anyway, I thought he would do better in the moment rather than back out beforehand. So no, I didn’t tell him.”
I raised my eyebrows. “Partly on you too then, sweetheart.”
“Aside from the point,” she brought one hand up to brush her hair back again. “What are we going to do with him now that it’s all over? How are we leading up to the big move?”
I shrugged loosely. “More training? Just throw him in with the other guys. I mean, man, the Strauss guy especially . . . he’s got his powers down. Maybe a bit of training with him . . .”
It really was exciting, seeing everybody’s powers come out. Jay Strauss was the dude whose place we were basing all the stuff out of. And with his incredible grip on his technology manipulation powers, he was keeping us very well hidden from any prying eyes or cameras. I was sure whatever mole alert we’d had back at the old place was a thing of the past with these new developments.
Maxine nodded slowly, her teeth biting into the bright red of her lipstick.
I waited for a second before speaking again. “I mean, we sure as anything can’t just drop him . . .”
“Oh, no, no.” Maxine shook her head. “He needs to stay around. Really, I think with the whole superhero plan, he could almost pull it off better than any of us if he gets that temper under control and is able to salvage his reputation with this.” She put out one thin hand, counting off on her fingers. “He’s got the showiest powers of anyone, by far. The best sort of ‘hero backstory’ that none of us can hold a candle to. And really, he’s got the most . . .” she trailed off in a partial sigh. “Honestly, from what we’ve seen, he seems to show the most promise for being the actual hero type.”
I nodded, but crinkled my nose. “Doesn’t come all that naturally, though.” I sort of wanted that title of “hero type” landing on me.
Maxine snapped her fingers. “Anti-hero, that’s it. People love anti-heroes. We can’t just drop someone like this.”
Anti-hero, right. I rolled the term over in my mind, liking the feel of it.
Hm. Franklin . . . famous singer, rich kid, and super anti-hero. I liked the sound of that.
It could be a team effort between me and Dankworth.
“But there is still the problem of the powers being revealed this soon,” Maxine continued, I frown thinning her painted red lips into a smaller line. “It was supposed to be totally out of the blue for the public. More of a dramatic reveal of their new line of heroes to fight the old ones. But now they know there’s a human torch out there . . .” she pointed a red-painted fingernail over in my direction. “Did anybody see you using your mind control when you steered him out of there?”
I shook my head and a clump of hair swung down into my eyes. “Everyone was really panicking too much and running the other direction to take much notice of me. Plus, it’s not exactly an obvious thing. It just looked like I was helping a pal outside for some fresh air.”
“Well that’s good, at least.” She drummed her fingers on the side of her arm. “I guess we can work out some way to frame that disaster last night into his backstory. Say it was an . . . early struggle to control his powers that ended badly. Something like that.” She waved a hand dismissively. “Anyway. I don’t think we’re in too much danger from that if we play it right and can smooth Dankworth’s ruffled feathers.”
“Though, looking at that, I really don’t think killing his little brother is gonna go over very well either,” I pointed out.
Maxine sighed. “I really hope we can still work that out. It would be such a wonderfully tragic addition. I mean, everyone’s loosing something or someone to the heroes once we turn them evil, but a brother . . .” She put a hand over her heart, looking off into the distance.
“The man who let the rest of the Dankworth family die finally kills the youngest one before the Wolf rises over him to smash his twisted heroism down once and for all . . . I just . . .” she swallowed a little, looking a little teary eyed. “Oh, if he went with us on that one, he’d be such a poster boy.” She stopped staring into the middle distance, meeting my gaze. “Are you sure there’s no way you can implant ideas with that mind control thing of yours?”
“Meh, still trying it out, but it hasn’t worked so far. Pretty much just lasts as long as I’m touching the person. And it’s like a dose of medicine. Stronger or weaker based on their size.” I shrugged. “I mean, I could force him into agreeing, but that would probably lead us right into another explosion once I take my hand off.”
Maxine muttered a quiet curse, quieting into thought for another minute. A sour look came across her face. “We do have one bigger problem than that.”
Things apart from last night had been running pretty smoothly to my knowledge. I raised my eyebrows in surprise, “We do?”
She nodded, rubbing her fingers together and looking very bothered.
“Shoot, then. What is it?”
I was stunned into silence for a second before I laughed. “I wouldn’t call any kid that size a ‘big’ problem, Max.”
“Oh ho, you wouldn’t think it, but he is.” Her voice held a strained note . . . an edge that hinted she’d lost more than a little sleep over this issue. “I’ve been keeping tabs on him for months now. The kid’s like a bloodhound. He’d been after our trail practically since he got on at the SPI. Investigating everything in and around Mansley’s involvement. Digging up the most obscure files possible and losing sleep over researching the tiniest details that could possibly turn him onto something.”
“Yeah, but he can’t have found anything,” I pushed my hair back out of my eyes. “We covered our tracks. Double . . . triple covered them. He’s sniffing out a dead end.”
She gave a humorless laugh. “Oh, that’s what I told myself back last year in September. You don’t know this agent’s level of dedication. He hasn’t let up. And actually . . . keeping an eye on what he’s found, he might actually be scratching the surface. He’s got a lead.”
“That’s ridiculous, how . . .?” I trailed off, the name registering in my mind. “Wait, Dallas Knight?”
Maxine nodded, rubbing at one of her temples with her fingertips.
I moved my finger and frowned as if connecting dots in the air in front of me. “But that would . . . does that mean he’s got his powers back?”
She nodded again.
Someone randomly getting their powers back would be a huge lead on what we were doing, especially if he knew Wolfgang. And the fact that he’d been researching for months on end . . . my confidence in our track-covering was starting to falter.
I fiddled with my tie-tack. “Well. That is a problem.”
Maxine smoothed her hair back, adjusting her hairdo with one hand. “He doesn’t have enough to bring us down yet at least, but . . . I just don’t think I can let it get that way.”
“You could fire him.”
“And I would, except for the fact that the kid might as well be an angel. Everyone loves him. He follows the rules and regulations all to a T. He even calls the agents of lesser rank than he is ‘sir’ or ‘ma’am’. He volunteers for every extra job that needs doing. Sometimes he even works holidays and overtime just so he can help out more . . .”
She sighed and rubbed at her temples again. “In addition to the fact that he’s dating a girl from communications. Even if everyone else accepts it, she won’t let it drop. Firing a saint like Dallas would only cast more suspicion onto the organization and pull me down with it. I’m not about to totally throw my work away after all these years . . .”
“That’s what’s so tricky about doing this whole thing in so much of the public eye,” I remarked. “Barely anything discreet you can do.”
“But he still needs taking care of, Frank. This isn’t just going to go away.”
We both fell silent as a pedestrian walked past on the sidewalk.
I thought for a few seconds, twisting my mouth sideways. I leaned an arm against the tree we were standing under. “Y’know, I think Jay and I could take care of it,” I mused quietly. “SPI agents take visitors during the day, as long as we’re known. He’d have reason to interview me. And then . . .” I shrugged, spreading one hand. “Maybe he won’t leave work of his own free will, usually. But I’m sure I could . . . convince him otherwise. Jay can make the security cams cut out for the occasion even.” I smiled a little. “We could even leave a nice little note. Tell people he’s taking a few days off since some stuff came up . . .”
Maxine’s expression eased as I talked, but she held up a hand with a slight frown. “A few days though?”
I stopped. “What else? Say he’s taking a few months off?”
“Well he can’t come back is the thing,” she bit her lip. “Really. He and his research just need to leave the premises completely.”
“Ah,” I nodded. “True. Well then, a suicide note, I guess.”
“That would require the least search parties, if they’re just looking for a dead body.”
Isn’t that the truth. After years of Mafia stuff, I wondered how much easier a lot my jobs would have been with this sort of mind control powers. Would’ve been a lot quieter for sure.
“Right.” I pushed off the tree. “Well, boom. I’ll get that done as soon as I can get Jay with me. Anything else you need to talk about?”
Maxine shook her head, letting out a breath like I’d lifted a huge weight off her chest. “No, that was it. Thanks for . . . taking care of that.” She gave me a partial, sad smile. “I don’t like this side of the business at all, really. I hate when people get in the way.”
“And that’s why you’ve got me,” I leaned over and stole a quick kiss before she could do anything, then grinned. “At least you won’t be around to see much of the girlfriend’s reaction, right?”
She gave me a bit of a look and brushed past. “I guess. I need to get back to work.” She waved over her shoulder, her heels clicking as she walked back down the sidewalk towards the entrance. “Thanks again.”
I saluted her and leaned back against the tree.
Well, this’d take a bit of work to set up. I guessed I had my plans cut out for me now.
I brushed my hair back out of my eyes again, pursing my lips thoughtfully. I wonder how crazy well the mind control would work on someone that small . . .
Let’s see how this evil plan plays out…. next time.
Tune in on Sundays and Thursdays for the rest of the epic adventure, and I’ll talk to you later,