I know we’re in no particular rush to know what happens next, let’s give everyone some collages and songs.
(yeah I know I know, cliffhanger and everything. But seriously I do have collages and songs and you’re going to suffer through them.)
Firstly, the songs. One for Dallas, one for Wolfgang. And collages, one for Dallas, one for Wolfgang.
And Wolfgang. (I actually used lyrics from the song in the collage so heh, this is appropriate.)
Can you tell I like making collages yet?
ANYWAY. On to the story, enough dragging it out.
Back to what Wolfgang has to say.
Catch up below if you’re behind.
The last part of the meeting the night before had been the announcement of a sort of pre-victory party happening early the next day. Sort of before sending off all the newly minted “heroes” to their respective positions around the states for the big move the day after.
I mean, of course they were all going to jail before the day was out. But still . . . why not go to the party and enjoy the smug looks on their faces while I could?
So yeah. I went over there the next morning anyway.
It was at the same house. A bit of a weird, highbrow sort of hanging-out party. Everyone was showing off their superpowers in a nonchalant sort of way in one of the big open rooms.
There was the gentle, constant hum of people talking. Really, this seemed like the first time I’d actually seen these guys relax at all instead of just sitting there stiffly as they organized their evil plot.
Ah, they’ve gotten cocky. Relaxing since they’re so close to winning.
Yeah, we’ll see how many more hours that lasts.
I stepped in a little cautiously at the sight of a floating snack tray. Probably the invisible lady or something there . . .
“Heyyy, Dankworth!” Franklin waved from where he sat on one of the couches. Maxine sat nearby in a chair. Franklin beckoned with his hand, still not sitting up from his nonchalant slouch across the cushions. “Come on over here, man!”
I smiled and waved back, sticking my hands in my pockets as I went over towards him. Didn’t get too close, though. Out of touching-range.
“Hey, man. Didn’t see you around the other night.” I leaned against the other end of the couch.
Franklin shrugged loosely. “Ah, had some stuff I needed to take care of that night. Me and my man Jay over there.” He pointed across the room to a thin young man with big glasses. “We needed to pick someone up. And no big deal, since we both got clued into the plan a bit earlier.”
I nodded, looking over at Jay for a second before turning back to Franklin. “So, you excited for this to take off?” I couldn’t help the grin that started creeping across my face. Hopefully it didn’t look too suspiciously devious.
Franklin grinned back. “Absolutely. Even if I’m taking a bit of a later shift with the hero thing, this is gonna be great.”
Maxine turned from the conversation she was having and looked over at me. “Oh, Wolfgang, you made it.” She stood up, her long jacket swooshing down to touch her legs. Her brilliant white teeth flashed in a smile. “Just in time for the fun to start.”
I raised my eyebrows. Probably not referring to being arrested.
“All we do most of the time is just talk,” Maxine tucked her hair behind one ear. “I just thought it would be nice to have a bit of a show before everyone takes off. A contest of sorts, with the superpowers.”
I blinked, glancing over at Franklin. “Oh.”
Franklin grinned and I resisted the urge to edge further away. Well I know who’s not being my partner for whatever we’re doing.
“A couple of things, actually. Anyway . . .” Maxine raised her voice over the quiet buzz of conversation. “Everyone, come on down to one of the training rooms. Let’s see who has the best dramatic entrance.”
Ohhh boy. I muffled a cough as I pushed back upright. Maybe I should have kept that recording hat. Just to video the superpowers while they were still in existence.
All the group got out of their comfortable positions and started going towards one of the halls. The conversation shifted to a more eager, animated tone as everyone started talking about what they’d do for their entrance. I couldn’t even remember everyone’s powers so it was a little hard to follow what they were talking about.
Franklin came up next to me and put an arm over my shoulders as we walked. My muscles stiffened at the touch, but thankfully I stayed in my own head this time. Still, having him touching me . . .
Franklin shook his head. “Hey, relax. Just wanna chat.” He lowered his voice. “So they were talking about doing some costumes for a few people who want it. What do you think? Would you want one?”
Well. I thought these people had more pride on the line than that. I wrinkled my nose, “I . . . no. Not really. Tights aren’t my thing.”
Franklin laughed. “Aw, it doesn’t have to be tights, Dank.” He swept one hand through the air as if painting a picture. “See, I want something with like . . . a cape. Not going for the whole superman thing, since I don’t want too much else. But maybe I could keep this getup and do some sort of old English cloak deal so it’ll look real classy.”
“Mm.” I shoved my hands in my pockets and stepped to the side so Franklin had to take his arm off my shoulders. The smile back came a bit easier without the imminent risk of my mind being hijacked any second. “Well, we’ll see. Right now I’m good with just a leather jacket.”
“Gotcha. We’ll talk about it.” Franklin shrugged, putting his hands in his pockets as well.
The sound of our group’s footsteps echoed dully in the space as we walked. It was down the same hallway Maxine had taken me before, only this time we took a right turn down another hall, going down a small flight of stairs.
There was, surprisingly a few more windows down here than there had been up above. Narrow windows stretching along where the wall met the ceiling, casting light on the grey and white surroundings down here. Though I wasn’t sure if the slick emptiness was an absence of anything to put down here, or some weird, modern fashion statement.
I guess it was sort of a fancy basement.
Maxine stopped by the door right as we got inside, waiting until everyone was inside.
I looked around the big room, squinting a little at the small hallway that led out the other direction and the guard that stood by it. If this was open to everyone, what needed guarding?
Maxine clapped her hands together. “Now, this is purely for fun. No sort of ranking involved. However . . .” she put her hand in one of her pockets and pulled out a crisp one hundred dollar bill, “I will give this to the determined ‘winner’, just to make things interesting.”
By the indifferent, only mildly excited “hmm”s that went around, I guessed that probably wasn’t a lot to these guys. Seriously, though. That would be more cash than I’d had my hands on for more than a month. And I guessed I had a pretty good chance with this whole “dramatic entrance” thing.
Franklin slicked his hair back, looking like he already had some sort of plan for those hundred dollars.
“Right.” Maxine put the hundred down on a small table that sat near the door and smiled. “Well, who wants to judge with me, and who wants to go first?”
A couple of people who I knew didn’t have that showy of powers went over next to Maxine. Two people volunteered to go first, then gave each other looks.
Franklin thoughtfully snapped his fingers a couple of times. “How about Jay goes first? His house, after all.”
Jay raised his eyebrows. He glanced over at me. I looked back, unsure what he was getting at.
Franklin went over and elbowed Jay. “Come on, man. Go on.”
Jay sighed and everyone else backed up off the floor.
Technology manipulation. Let’s see how impressive this ended up being.
Jay stood in the middle of the smooth, empty space and dropped his chin to his chest. He raised his hands slowly, then balled them into fists.
All the lights in the room flicked off. The air conditioning wafted a strong, cold wind through the room with an eerie sigh. Then two lights flicked back on, putting Jay in a spotlight. He spread his hands and raised his head, his face still holding the same tired expression it had before.
I’ll admit, that was pretty impressive. I joined the other guys in clapping.
Another thought crossed my mind and my smile faded a little bit. Man, that might make things more complicated with arresting them, though. Hopefully the police clue in on that switchboard and go after that first . . .
I held back, watching the other ladies and gentlemen take their turns after Jay. Mainly just doing some sort of flourish with their powers. One of the guys who got super strength punched the floor. The lady who had a different variant on mind control (just controlling what people said from a distance) had us all cheer out her name. Yeah, I didn’t love that one.
I didn’t think Franklin would do anything. Just since his powers were so much less immediately showy. But when Maxine ushered him forward, he grabbed a couple of guys standing next to him and went out, having them lift him onto their shoulders like he was some act in a circus.
He pushed up into a standing position, putting his feet on their shoulders and spreading his hands as they held onto his ankles. The position wobbled a little, along with the blank smiles on their faces.
I winced. Jay shifted his position nearby, looking mildly disgusted.
I glanced back at him. “I see it was a smart move not standing next to him,” I kept my voice to a low mutter.
Jay nodded once, his nose still slightly wrinkled. “That isn’t an act I’d be particularly eager to help in.”
Maxine looked fairly impressed, though. So who knew, maybe he had a chance.
Franklin took a final bow and had the two guys let him down. Their expressions shifted from the pasted-on smiles to a mix of confusion and annoyance, with a hint of embarrassment.
Maxine nodded, smiling. “Very nice.”
The applause from the rest of us had the same hesitance as it did the last time mind control was used. Nobody was really a fan of that.
Maxine looked around our group again. Just a few of us left who hadn’t gone. She pursed her lips thoughtfully before pointing over to me. “Dankworth. Why don’t you go show off a bit?”
I saluted her and walked out onto the floor, rolling my shoulders a little as I collected up the energy. Why not get an easy hundred bucks on my way out of here, anyway? Even with crazy powers like these, at least they could look cool in some empty cement room.
I positioned myself where Jay had and right behind the crack in the floor from the guy who had super strength. I glanced over to the guard standing by the small hallway in the corner. He just adjusted his sunglasses and leaned against the wall.
Nothing huge and fancy. Just a little flame-on, flame-off.
And, still, that’ll be more impressive than most of their stuff.
I couldn’t help a small grin, but ducked my head to hide it for a second. I raised my arms out to the sides, building up a little as I focused. Then I let it loose. Shooting flames out of my hands and off my shoulders in one big burst that lit up the room.
I left the flames going for a little bit, but could feel the drain starting on my strength. Lowering my hands, I brought the fire back down until there wasn’t any left going. I just stood there myself in the middle of the room, with a few smokestains on the floor by my feet.
The majority of the people there hadn’t really seen my powers in action and I noticed that the crowd had backed up. Franklin was grinning widely. Maxine had her thin eyebrows raised.
I shrugged, taking a small bow. “Hopefully that was dramatic enough.”
The applause this time as I walked back was more hesitant out of terror. A couple mutters were exchanged with thankfulness that I wasn’t a villain anymore.
The last few people went. They weren’t particularly showy superpowers, and they seemed unnerved by the smokestains around the ground by now, so they were a little thrown off their game.
Maxine tapped her nails against the table as everyone grouped back together. She had a short exchange with the other few people who’d volunteered as judges. A few more mutters and whispers later, she straightened up and cleared her throat. Everyone came closer, as though expecting the hundred to be theirs.
Make it interesting, right.
These guys were like sharks after fresh blood, despite the nonchalant looks they tried to keep up.
Maxine held up the money. “And you were all impressive, but the hundred dollars goes to . . .” an odd look crossed her face for a second before she held it out to the side. “Franklin.”
Hold on, what . . .?
“Aww, thanks.” Franklin took it, kissed the bill lightly and shoved it in his pocket. He turned and smiled at everyone, slicking his hair back. “Great contest, everyone. It was a close one.”
Maxine blinked a couple of times and shook her head, her red painted lips parted slightly as a look of indignation crossed her face. Her brows drew together and she gave the back of his head a brief, scathing look. The next second, she managed to pull back a smooth smile, but there was a note of annoyance that lingered.
He mind controlled her.
A bit of anger flared heat inside me, but I quickly pressed it back down. Whatever. It was probably stolen money or something anyway.
Besides, he’d get what was coming to him soon enough.
“Well,” Maxine started in an overly chipper voice. “That was fun. We were going to talk about costumes if anyone wanted to do that upstairs. We’ll see what we can work before everyone needs to take off.”
It was pretty obvious from the tone in the group that everyone knew what Franklin had done, but Maxine wasn’t making a big deal, so no one mentioned it.
Franklin dropped back next to me as everyone filed out of the room. “Hey, that was seriously impressive, dude. I thought for sure you’d win.”
Oh yeah, I bet.
I didn’t answer, instead turning around a little and nodding towards the guard in the corner. “Who’s that?”
“Ah, that’s just old Jenkins. Keeping an eye on a temporary guest for us, since he . . .”
“Frank,” Maxine butted in warningly, shooting him a look. She stood by the door and nodded towards it.
“Yep,” Franklin dropped the topic like we hadn’t even been talking and loped over to the exit.
I frowned and followed him, slower. I gave the guard one last look. Temporary guest . . .?
Could that have anything to do with the “someone” that Franklin and Jay had to pick up the night before?
Probably going to kill them or something then. Hopefully not before the SPI came in to bust up the joint, then.
I’m so done with this organization.
I let out my breath, trailing after the rest of the group as I ran my fingers through my hair. I felt my phone buzz a little in my pocket and reached a hand down to pull it out. Well, I should have noticed that sooner, then. There was a missed call and a voicemail showing on my phone screen. From Kaity.
Ah, most likely the call to tell me to get out of here, then. Dallas probably had the file in by now.
I got over to the voicemail and hit “play” as I held it up to my ear. The hall emerged into the big room we’d been in before. I set my course for the door to outside as the voicemail started up.
“W-Wolfgang . . .” a small, tear-choked voice came over the line.
My steps faltered and I wondered if I’d hit the wrong button. That couldn’t be Kaity, could it? The next words put that doubt out of my mind.
“It’s . . . it’s Kaity,” the voice continued. “Dallas . . . I just . . .” she broke down, the words dissolving into hiccup-y, quiet crying.
I felt my hand holding the phone start to shake and I gripped it tighter, pushing out the door. What had happened? Why on earth would she be crying? Did the SPI not take the case? Did Dallas lose papers? Why wasn’t he the one calling me?
I emerged from the air conditioned, plastic smelling interior of Jay’s house into the warm, open air outside. My shoes crunched against the rocks as I walked further out, squinting against the sunlight.
Kaity still hadn’t said anything more in the message. Still crying.
Finally, I heard a gulped in breath and she managed a few more words. “I’m sorry. Just . . . sorry. Dallas . . .”
And that was the end of the message.
Despite the hot sun soaking into my jacket, I felt goosebumps. I took the phone down, about to text or call her back, when it buzzed in my hand again, making me jump a little.
The caller ID blinked on.
Another incarnation of bad news. Hopefully more specific . . .
I picked it up and put it to my ear. “News?”
The familiar, rumbling baritone “Yeah, it’s me. Wolf, I just got a call from that little bit, Kaity . . .”
“Hey, me too.” I pushed my free hand through my hair again. “What happened? She was just crying and saying something about Dallas . . .”
“She was crying the whole time she was talking to me too,” News cut me off. “Got good reason, man. Dallas is gone.”
I froze, fingers still tangled up in my hair. “Gone?”
“Nobody’s seen him since he left work last night. And they found a note in his office that says he was going to kill himself. It’s in his handwriting.” I heard a swallow on the other end. “Kaity was the one that found it.”
“Dallas . . .” I couldn’t find my voice for a second. That was preposterous. Dallas wouldn’t kill himself. Especially not after last night. We had our case together. That was like the first time I’d seen him smile in forever, how could he possibly . . .?
“And his research on those Silverwing guys is all . . .” News blew out a breath. “It’s erased. Gone. Kaput.”
The blood drained from my face. My stomach dropped so fast I felt like I might throw up for a second.
All of it.
No, no, but we had everything. We had everything to totally bag them and it was just in time . . . we can’t let them go through with this and we had enough to . . .
Realization added another punch to my gut.
Franklin and Jay going out last night to pick someone up. A temporary guest being guarded downstairs.
That was Dallas.
They knew he could sink them and . . .
They’re gonna murder him. They’ll destroy all the research.
Crap, crap, crap . . .
I rubbed a hand over my face and cursed under my breath.
“I just hope it’s not true about the suicide. And it’s really wacky about the research, but they’re just stumped on what to do . . .” News continued.
“I know where he is,” I interrupted, my voice cracking a little.
“You do?” Bad News’s voice went up in surprise. “How . . .? Can you bring him back?”
It would absolutely wreck my cover. Blow all my cover and whatever chance I had of sinking them . . .
I looked back towards the building and let out my breath, then started for my car, setting my jaw. “Yeah. I’m bringing him back.”
OH HORRORS WE NEED THE NEXT PART
Patience, my minions. Thursday will come.
You know, the chapter was gonna go a lot longer than that in the middle, like Wolfgang going and checking his facts and everything…. but I was getting called down to dinner while I was writing the end of the chapter and fact-checking is overrated, so I actually think that worked pretty well.
Anyway. Have a great Sunday everyone and I’ll see you next time.