School went okay that way. I saw Vaughn and Cassie in the halls and said, "hi," but that was about it. The day didn't fall apart till I got home. I arrived before my parents, pulling the mail out of the mail box and grabbing the paper off the front porch. I unrolled it to find myself on the front page under the headline, "ROCKET AND TOMAHAWK BRAWL DOWNTOWN." A smaller headline below it said, "Mayor Calls for More Assistance."
Tomahawk turned out to be okay. No permanent physical damage.
Emotional? Maybe. A reporter made it to the lingerie shop while he was still unconscious, photographing him lying under the thongs. The photograph dominated the page. Next to it were three smaller photos of the two of us fighting. I'd never noticed anyone taking pictures, but, on the other hand, I'd been paying more attention to getting away.
I didn't bother to read the article. I walked around to the door by the garage, unlocked it and stepped inside. I put my coat into the closet, left my shoes by the door and dropped the mail and newspaper on the kitchen counter. Then I went upstairs to my room.
Sitting down on the bed, I realized that I didn't know what I was going to do next. I didn't feel like doing homework. I could go into HQ and work on the jet. Maybe do repairs on the suit? I dismissed the thought. Who knows who would be in? I'd get roped into a conversation about last night or worse, about the mayor.
In my gut, I felt that if I wanted to release what he'd said about killing people and the bits that made it sound as if he was controlled by mysterious forces, now would be the time.
It still didn't feel right.
Specifically, I mean it felt morally wrong somehow. I couldn't put it into words. When I tried to, it sounded stupid. It felt like I was blackmailing the guy and damaging his reputation. On the other hand, this was someone who really deserved to have his reputation damaged.
I decided to think about something else, but couldn't.
The best reason for not publicizing it was that it might make it harder to catch the actual mysterious forces behind him. On the other hand, making their existence obvious might force them into the open where more experienced people could take over.
Of course, I wasn't completely sure I wanted them to take over.
I lay down on the bed. I could almost have gone to sleep. After being shot, punched and slammed into a brick wall, I did feel a little sore.
I wondered what Haley was doing. Probably working. That was why we went out yesterday. I couldn't imagine that Italian restaurants were particularly popular on Halloween, but I guessed that they still had to be staffed.
Should I call her? I thought about it. Obviously I shouldn't do while she was working, but I'd heard that girls worried if they didn't get called back.
Of course, bearing in mind that I got all of my information about dating from novels and the internet, it might not be right.
I sat up again. I decided to go downstairs to the computer and find out if she had a Facebook page.
Before I even got out of my room, my cell phone rang. I pulled it out of my pocket, checked who it was.
I answered the phone.
"Heya Nick, you home?"
"Great. I'm driving down your street. We've got to talk."
"I'll be here."
He hung up.
By the time I got downstairs, he was already knocking at the front door. I opened it and let him in, thinking as I did it that he was huge. I was almost a foot taller than Haley. He was almost a foot taller than me. Haley wasn't much more than five feet tall and she could throw cars. I had a bad feeling Travis could probably rip me in two whether or not I wore armor.
Still, he didn't seem angry.
"We've got to talk, Nick. How about over here?" He pointed toward the living room. Then he went and sat down on the couch.
Contrary to its name, the living room didn't. It was more the "preserved in amber" room. As in, you could see the tracks from the vacuum cleaner (all running in the same direction) on the white carpet if you looked. Imagine pictures of Rachel and myself on the walls, a black, grand piano in one corner, and a picture window without the slightest hint of dust or cat hair on the wide windowsill.
Picture books sat on the coffee table in two distinct piles, one of foreign countries, the other of national parks.
Travis picked one up and flipped through it's pages. "Ever been to Denali?" He asked.
"No," I said, "I haven't been to Egypt either." That was the book on the other pile.
"The pictures don't do it justice. You've got to go there and smell the place."
I walked into the room, aware at every step that I was leaving footprints, sitting down in the chair across from him. The cushion felt stiff.
"So Nick, can we take the mayor down on what you've got?"
"I don't know. It's not going to make him look good, but it's not exactly a confession... How did you find out about that?"
"I called Cassie tonight. She drove Vaughn home from school."
He leaned forward. "The story I got was all jumbled. The mayor's part of some huge conspiracy and he's going to kill people from another conspiracy and somehow it's got something to do with Red Lightning? What's the real scoop?"
"That's actually pretty close to all I've got. Except I think that Red Lightning must have gotten his abilities from those guys somehow."
He went silent for a moment. "OK. Bottom line, what exactly is on that recording?"
"Well," I said, "the bottom line is he's obviously taking orders from somebody and he really does threaten to kill people."
"That's what we need, Nick."
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Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.