Peru – Sixteen years before present
The waves slid across the sand, white foam bubbling in its wake.
Thomas let the cool waters run across his feet.
Sunlight beat down on his face. Bright, hot. He was going to get a sunburn if he stayed like that for another minute.
I can’t remember the last time I was this happy.
A hand gently landed on his shoulder. Warm, comforting. Inviting. It was a touch he wasn’t quite used to, not yet, but at the same time, he didn’t want to lose that spark. That electricity. It was all so new to him.
Even with plenty of space on the beach, he still sidestepped to let his girlfriend stand beside him. They held hands.
They watched the waves come to them, then away.
They watched, then watched some more.
This was a moment, and they were in it.
“Already trying to go out and get cigarettes?” Kristin asked.
Thomas kept his eyes on the water. He smiled.
“You know I don’t smoke.”
“That doesn’t exactly answer my question.”
“I’m not going anywhere. Not now, not ever.”
“Is that so?”
“One hundred percent.”
Kristin bumped her shoulder against Thomas, only getting right above his elbow. She interlocked their fingers.
“Big words. Only time will tell.”
They were big words, but Thomas was up for it, up for the challenge. If not just to surprise himself, but Kristin especially. Scary? It was terrifying, down to the bone. Commitment was heavier than anything even Atlas could carry.
Thomas closed his eyes, seeing red from how bright it was out here. When he opened them again, he was staring right at Kristin.
At Kristin, and at her.
“Are we crazy for this?” Thomas asked, though he already knew what Kristin would say.
She kept her eyes to the ocean.
“We are crazy, and we get crazier with every passing day. Every passing month. We are long past the point of takebacks.”
A door closed, but Thomas didn’t think of it in that way.
“Good, good. I wouldn’t want to.”
She made a sound. A hum. Barely audible over the waves.
“You keep talking like that, I’ll start to think the opposite.”
Thomas put his hands behind his head, stretching. “What would it take to convince you, then?” He gulped. “A ring?”
Kristin made a face. A playful shock.
“Slow your horses there, cowboy.” Kristin then shook her head. “But who am I to talk?” Delicately, she pressed her hand against her stomach. Through her shirt, a noticeable bump.
“Another day then?” Thomas suggested.
“Another day.” Kristin agreed.
He left it at that, satisfied.
Amongst the waves, Thomas watched her listlessly.
He didn’t know how many minutes passed when she finally noticed him.
“Stop being such a loser.”
“If I’m a loser, then what does that make you?”
Kristin puffed out her chest.
“A winner. I’m the one who scored.”
Thomas almost snorted. What kind of logic was that?
“You certainly think highly of yourself,” Thomas said.
“I do. Get used to it, or you’ll be in for rough ride.”
Thomas rubbed his cheek with his free hand. “But, rough rides can be good.”
Kristin bumped him again, this time harder, more force.
He swayed one way, then back.
“Am I going to have to get used to that, too?”
“Keep getting smart with me, you just might.”
Chuckling, Thomas let go of her hand, and put his arm around her. He brought her close, tight, before falling to his side, bringing her with him.
She let out a high, shrill squeak as they dropped, water splashing around them.
Kristin was in the water, Thomas on top of her. Both wet.
“And you’re going to have to get used to that,” Thomas said. He couldn’t come up with a better comeback.
“Don’t do that!” Kristin said, scolding him. Salt water splattered from her lips to his face. “This isn’t some dumb movie where you can just do that!”
Smooth, Thomas. But Thomas was sure that a small part of her appreciated that kind of gesture.
Maybe it was a very small part of her that appreciated it.
“Now I’m wet,” Kristin said, complaining about the obvious. She propped herself up to get the water out of her hair. She groaned.
“That reminds me, Spacey wanted you back at the headquarters in ten minutes. You’re due an extra shift.”
Thomas grinned, almost vulpine. “He should know by now that if he sends you, we’re both going to be late.”
“Don’t joke about this. I can tell his patience with you is thinning.”
Thomas’s thoughts went to his boss, though he didn’t want them to. “I suppose I can’t fault him for feeling that way. A six-month volunteering program and I just… fooled around for most of it. Really, you did this to me.”
“Yes, distracting me with your feminine ways.”
“I don’t think so, buddy. You don’t get to be absolved from this.”
“Oh, so I’m just a buddy to you?” Thomas asked. He mouthed various positions, moves, references. “Do you give those out to all your buddies like party favors?”
Kristin pouted. “Don’t be so base. I only do that for pals.”
Thomas frowned. “When you talk like that, it’s hard to tell if you’re serious or not.”
“Then don’t change the subject. And get off of me.”
Before he let her go, Thomas kissed the top of her head, then he moved, letting her free. Though, neither of them moved to leave the beach. They stayed, sitting in the water.
“I thought we were leaving now,” Thomas said.
“Yeah, but it did take a long time to find you, and it’s so damn hot. I think Spacey can wait while we cool ourselves off.”
Thomas didn’t object to that. They still had some weeks of the program left, he’d pick up the slack then.
And, more time alone with Kristin was never a bad thing.
I’m so glad I met you.
“What do you want to talk about?” Thomas asked her, already lost in her eyes.
“We don’t have to talk about anything,” Kristin said, twisting her hair, getting water out. “We can just sit here.”
“We can, and while I agree that nothing’s more pure and beautiful than these silent, unspeakable memories, I like to talk.”
“That you do.”
Thomas took her hand, submerging it into the water between them. She leaned on him.
“I thought of a name.”
“Couldn’t help it. It’s a girl, right?”
“Right you are.”
“Since it’s a girl…”
“Wait, let me guess.”
He paused, tilting his head. Waiting.
“It’s Katy, isn’t it?”
He smile widened. “You are good.”
“Get used to it,” she said, melodically.
He could feel himself falling for her even more. Deeper and deeper.
“Can you guess why?” he asked.
“I’m not a mind reader. I may think highly of myself, but you’ll need to have more realistic expectations of me.”
“Ah, that’s no fun.” Thomas squeezed her hand. “I picked ‘Katy because, it’s like the ‘K’ from ‘Kristin,’ and the ‘T’ from my name. Also, ‘K.T.’ would be her initials, as well.”
His explanation hung in the salty air. A breeze cooling them.
Kristin didn’t offer up a response. She just snickered.
That snicker grew into a heartier laugh.
“Oh my god, you are such a loser!”
Dumbfounded, stupefied, and dismayed. Thomas hadn’t expected that response.
“Hey, if you hate it, you can just say so!”
In between her fits of laughter, Kristin tried to get words out. Her body was shaking.
“No, I don’t hate it… I love it.”
He felt like he was being thrown for a loop. “You what?”
“I said I love it.”
“Do you actually?”
“Yes,” she said, now stern. “I had my own ideas for names, but I adore that reasoning. I really want to use it.”
Thomas sat back, shocked that he could even be more satisfied. Katy. The name rang in his ears like a bell. Clear and bright. Like the sky above him. Endless possibilities. But there would be two constants in his future, now. He felt unstoppable.
“Katy.” He said it out loud, to make the idea solidify even more in his mind. He was going to be a father.
“My folks are going to love you,” he said.
“Of course they will. I’m me.” She pressed more of her weight onto him, leaning on him more. Relying on him more.
He couldn’t stop smiling like a big dumb stupid idiot.
“I love you,” he said to her, for the hundredth time.
“I know,” she said to him, for the hundredth time.
Stephenville – Ten years before present
Thomas stood tall, firm. Confident. And he exuded that confidence because he knew. He had all the facts, the statements, and the jury would be eating out of his hand once he was fully through with him. This wasn’t going to end well for the other guy. Or the other guy’s other guy.
It wouldn’t be easy, but Thomas would have been disappointed if it was.
He was going to have some fun.
“Good morning,” Thomas said, apt. He stayed at the podium. Weren’t supposed to move around and make a show of things like in shows or movies. These proceedings were usually slow, laborious. A lot of patience, waiting, and listening. For the audience, anyway. For Thomas, he might as well be skydiving.
“Morning,” the witness said back, with no life at all. She was in a suit of her own, drab colors, sitting at the stand. Her hair was tied, but it was done poorly, strands sticking out. There was a microphone situated in front of her, but she was sitting away from it. She didn’t look like she wanted to be there.
“Ms. Jessica Quinn, how long have you been the CEO of Tate and Mono Construction?
“Seven years, give or take.”
“So, relatively new at the job?”
“Thank you, ma’am. Just double-checking for myself, I apologize that I’ll have to continue like this for a few more questions. Feel free to relax while I gather my thoughts.”
Jessica didn’t relax. Thomas continued with his questioning.
“Okay, Ms. Quinn, you spearheaded the construction projects in King District, am I correct?”
“For how long, and what were the projects, exactly?”
“Different housing projects, apartments, homes, offices. My men loaded stuff, dumped stuff, put the hammer to the nail. The whole shtick. And about six months.”
She answered the questions, just not in the right order.
“And thank you for giving me the whole shtick. Now, as we all know, the reason why you are called up there today is because your ‘whole shtick’ hasn’t gone through the usual procedure, disturbing many residents and businesses, and some of those residents and businesses happen to be our clients.”
Thomas tapped his fingers on the podium.
“They filed a complaint to you, and not much has been done in the wake of that. Now, here we are.”
Quinn didn’t react to anything Thomas was saying. And he was loving it.
“Ms. Quinn, what was King District like, before Tate and Mono came to do its business?”
“Decent? Do you mind expanding on that?”
“I can’t explain it, it was just decent. That’s not too hard to grasp.”
“I’ll need a proper answer if only to get a better picture of the situation.”
“Fine, it was fucking Candy Land.”
Some in the audience behind him found that humorous. Thomas, not so much.
“Permission to treat the witness as hostile?”
Judge Edgar Brown hardly gave it a thought. “Granted.”
Thomas kept questioning, but now he could ask leading questions. “Streets were clean, people were friendly, a little rough, but what neighborhood doesn’t have an issue or two? Would you say that’s an accurate description of King District, Ms. Quinn?”
She yawned. “Yeah.”
He glanced at Phillips, Quinn’s lawyer, who was biting the end of his pen.
Cool it, Thomas. Don’t get too excited.
“And what was King District like during Tate and Mono’s time in the area?”
She didn’t say.
“Streets weren’t as clean, the people were hesitant to go outside, rougher overall. Would that be accurate to your experience there?”
Thomas nodded. “One particular bad apple started making roots around that time, right? The Path, a branch of a Japanese mafia group. The Yakuza. Their men have been causing quite the ruckus in the district since Tate and Mono started their construction, with reports that the Path’s men have been coming and going through buildings your company were responsible for, is that correct?”
“Objection,” Phillips said, “That’s speculation.”
“All the evidence is here, sir,” Thomas pointed to his stack of papers at the folder, “Numerous arrests close to these buildings, drugs, weapons found nearby. This is all written down and documented stuff, and this is more than just some noise complaints. I thought you knew this, Phillips?”
“Alright Thomas, enough,” Judge Brown said. “Do you have a point?”
“One I’m eager to make.”
With little enthusiasm, the judge said, “Overruled.”
Thomas tapped his fingers again, faster. “Ms. Quinn, among noise complaints, have these other more, serious grievances have been brought to your attention?”
Thomas could see her neck glisten under the fluorescent lights. Sweat?
“Keep in mind that you are under oath, Ms. Quinn,” Thomas said, reminding her.
“They have,” she answered.
“And what has been done about it?”
“We never encountered any issue with any outside party or the like, and our construction sites were clean of any illicit materials or contraband.”
“Thank you, Ms. Quinn. To switch gears here, you’re still a small company, relatively speaking. This is a big project you’ve undertaken, who’s employed you for these buildings?”
A noted lapse.
“Ishida Hitoshi,” she answered.
“That’s a big name, a big name for a big company overseas.”
Quinn didn’t comment or respond.
And now, the clincher.
“That’s also I name I recognize as part of a big controversy in Japan, with rumors that he has very strong connections with the Yazuka, and-”
“Objection, this is hearsay!”
Phillips leaped out of his chair, furious. “That has nothing to do with this case.”
“I think it has everything to do with this case,” Thomas argued. “If those connections are true, it lines up with what we’re hearing about the buildings Tate-”
Judge Brown stopped them. “Both of you, here.”
They both approached the table. Thomas was ready for what was to come, what could come.
The judge leaned closer, whispering, “Thomas, what are you trying to pull?”
“I’m simply raising an important detail that should be relevant in this case. If Ishida Hitoshi is in league with the Yakuza, people should be looking into what the hell he’s doing in Stephenville.”
“If,” Phillips nearly spat the word. “If that’s true, but any claims about that here are unsubstantiated, you have no evidence, and it’s not relevant, and you didn’t submit any of this. You’re making a mockery of this court and this case.”
“It is relevant, Phillips. The writing’s on the wall, yet no one is willing to read it, and I’m left wondering, why? And if you want evidence, look to the countless victims that have been coming forward in the last three years. Also, I can bet you Randolf and his boys can find a connecting thread if they decided to show some initiative. The only one making a mockery of this court is that woman on the stand.”
“Shut it, Thomas,” Judge Brown said. “I’ll be the one to decide if there’s any mockery here. Thomas, let’s say this is looked into, and what you’re saying is true, then this whole case turns into something else entirely, and you are out of here. Is that what you want?”
Thomas was beaming on the inside, but he couldn’t show it, not here. “Criminal activity is a factor here, and I want that recognized. I’ll throw the Hail Mary, someone else can score the touchdown.”
Phillips was fuming. “This is unnecessary.”
Judge Brown wasn’t looking pleased with Thomas. “You better know what you’re doing, or this is it for you. Go back.”
They left the judge. Thomas did know what he was doing, because that probably was it for him.
Stephenville – A week after Loving v. Tate and Mono Construction
A man stood next to him, holding a beer. James Gomez. Shorter than Thomas, more stout, but with more muscle than him. A head full of hair, a thick mustache. Both were in fashionable, yet casual wear.
“Thanks for coming,” Thomas said.
“Thanks for… inviting me.” James had to duck when a ball flew too close to his head. He was more concerned over not spilling a drop than he was about the kid who threw said ball. “I’m not a huge fan of children’s birthday parties, though.”
“I invited you, you knew what this was, and you showed up, regardless.”
“At this point, I’ll take anything to get out of the office.”
“Even to arrest me for malpractice?” Thomas asked. “A two-for-one deal? I give you a beer, and you give me handcuffs.”
“No, I wouldn’t do that, but I should. That was a dumb stunt you pulled back there. I heard about it through the grapevine.”
“My bosses are breathing down my neck, drowning me in mindless work. Death threats, many of which are written in Japanese. An earful from the wife, which was the worst of it.”
“God damn,” James said, his voice lowered. There were kids around. “You gonna be okay? With your wife and kid, you have to look out for them, too.”
“It’s nothing but big talk on the gang’s part. They do anything, it’ll implicate them, and then the Path is done for. They’ll keep their distance.
“You sound rather confident about that.”
“I have to be. I’ll admit, it was dumb, but it’ll be worth it soon enough?”
Thomas said it like it was a question.
“I can’t give any details,” James said, “But we’ve traced the money. You were onto something.”
Thomas let himself show the emotion inside him. Gratification. He was beaming.
“But why’d you have to go about it that way?” James asked. “You could have just sent in a tip, or better yet, tell me.”
“Tips are too slow. You’re good, James, but your position isn’t. You’re still new, like me. You don’t have the pull to launch an entire investigation. I saw the circumstances, saw my chance, and I took it. Putting it out like that really got things moving, didn’t it?”
“At the cost of your credibility and reputation?”
“If you’re good at what you do, you can get credibility back, and I’m great. And my reputation is with the people.”
“Why be a corporate lawyer then? If that’s the way you think, you’d be better off in the DA’s office.”
Thomas watched the kids play.
“Big companies mean big money, and big money means more for the little guy. I’ll come down, when the time’s right.”
“When? When I’m police chief?”
Thomas nudged him. “Probably.”
“Whoa there, let’s not get ahead of ourselves.”
“Why not? Dream big, do bigger. You’ll be the new police chief, and I’ll be the new district attorney. Together, we’ll rule Stephenville as…”
“Friends?” James ventured.
“I was going to go with pals.”
James didn’t get it, taking a swig of his drink, instead.
“Could be interesting,” James said.
“Could be real,” Thomas said, correcting him. “This city means a lot to me, you know that more than anyone else. It kills me every time someone asks why I haven’t left yet, why I haven’t packed up and moved. I want them to see what I see in it. It’s not perfect, but I can help, I know I can.”
James drank some more, then said, “Real powerful words there, pal, but don’t beat yourself up over it. You’re not a hero, you can’t put all that weight on your shoulders.”
Thomas agreed, “You’re right, I can’t. I’ll need people. People like-”
Katy came running to him, her face twisted up, and she was wailing.
“Yes sweetie?” He had to crouch to meet her at eye level. The way she was acting, it was unbecoming of her pretty pink dress. He had to get to the bottom of this, pronto.
“Alexis took my gun and she keeps shooting me but I told her to stop but she keeps doing it and I’m-”
“Hey hey, hey there.” Thomas had to rub her back, calm her down. She was hiccupping.
“I’ll have a talk with her, I’m sure she’s just gotten too excited again. She doesn’t mean anything by it.”
Katy was shaking her head, rubbing her cheeks with fists.
“I wanna get her back, I wanna get that gun back.”
Where do kids come up with this stuff?
Thomas massaged her again. “That’s not what I’m trying to instill in you. Go get some cake, and you’re making up with Alexis. No one gets that toy gun until this party’s over. Understand?”
She hiccuped. “Understood.”
“That’s my girl.” He let her run off to get cake, and he stood, his back hurting a little.
“Kids these days,” James said.
“You’re telling me,” Thomas said. “Sorry about this, James.”
“Go do your thing, I’ll go have another one of these, and I should be up to hear about Kristin’s summer in India one more time.”
“Make sure she mentions the story about the-”
“The Yamarāja. I know, I know.”
He shook hands with James, then excused himself.
Stephenville – Three weeks before present
“Car chase going into Williamson Avenue. It’s red, and the only one going that fast. Police might lose it if this goes for any longer. What do you think about lending a helping hand?”
“I’m thinking I’m done with the warm ups. Time for some real action.”
Hleuco grinned to himself. He liked it whenever Blank Face showed some enthusiasm, even if it was behind a layer of playful arrogance. It meant that she was getting something out of this. And it meant that she wasn’t completely doom and gloom.
He shifted in his seat, moving away from the complicated connected system of scanners and laptops, to the wheel in front of him. The van started.
With the different channels yelping into his ear, he got out of the parking garage, and drove.
The equipment was outdated, but it was functional, and it served a purpose. Gifts from Gomez. Whenever new stuff came in, the old stuff had to be taken out to make room. And James knew how much he liked antique trinkets.
The van was old, too. Unmarked, bought with cash, kept away in a location disclosed only to Blank Face. He knew the city, the ins and outs. Learned from the best, and the worst, when it came to hiding things. It was a hassle to have to walk there every night he needed to use it, but its purpose was well worth a little pain in his legs.
His foot was heavier on the gas pedal than usual, and not because he was too sore to lift it up more. He needed to keep up with the car, and keep up with Blank Face, so he could be in a good position to pick her up and make a getaway. It was imperative that they kept things as simple as possible, as clean as possible. They weren’t attempting to save the world, they were just attempting to make it nicer. Even if by a margin.
And the girl has school tomorrow, can’t let her be out too late.
“Update, please,” Hleuco asked.
“Can’t see it yet, but I do see the cars tailing it. Fuck me, they’re fast.”
Please don’t say ‘fuck me,’ Hleuco thought.
“Can you get to it?”
“Yeah, if it would turn to the right, I could intercept it from up top.”
Hleuco kept an ear out for anything interesting. Anything new.
He relayed what he was hearing.
“Police are setting up a blockade, it can’t make a right anymore.”
Hleuco shook his head as he drove, knowing she couldn’t see him.
Please be quiet.
“They’re attempting to trap the car on Williamson. They’re mobilizing faster than I thought.”
“What does that mean for me?”
“Seems to me they might actually have this one under control now. I’m impressed.”
“Great. So all I did tonight was just get some exercise?”
“Don’t sell yourself short. Mrs. Azikiwe wouldn’t be sleeping soundly right now if you hadn’t gotten her cat out of that tree.”
“I won’t stop selling myself short.”
Hleuco took the comment in stride. He sped down the street he was on, still mindful of the speed limit, other cars, and lights. It’d slow him down in getting to Blank Face, but she could make up for that with her own speed and mobility.
The fact that she even had that type of speed and mobility…
He was still having trouble wrapping his head around it. Blank Face had powers, strength beyond compare. No one had seen anything like it, ever. The world was still reeling from the revelation, what it meant, what was to come. How, and why.
It was a day that wouldn’t ever fade over time. It had become something of a pop culture lexicon. A meme, as the kids put it. ‘Where were you when the first superhuman made themselves known?’
Hleuco, Thomas knew. He was in his office, watching the whole thing unfold. Watching the potential.
A hero, here, in Stephenville of all places.
And he was able to work with her on this. On being an actual hero. Providing guidance. He would have felt privileged about the partnership, if the sheer coincidence didn’t shake him to his core.
With something so big, they had to take small steps. That meant limiting her shifts to more manageable times throughout the week, picking and choosing what petty crimes she’d handle, and monitoring police activity so they wouldn’t be in her hair as much. All to help instill the idea that her great power should be married with a greater sense of duty.
To better steer her in that direction, establishing rules was important.
Exercise extreme caution. Avoid overextending power for oneself or unto others.
Constant communication is necessary. Updates should be regularly provided and orders must be promptly followed.
Anything else was common sense.
He thought those rules were simple enough when he came up with them, but establishing them early was crucial. This had never been done before, there was no precedent. Blank Face was strong, and by her own admittance, already stabbed someone. Accident or not, that needed to be curbed, avoided in the future. He worried that she might want to escalate if things weren’t in check.
Which was why he also invested in precautions. Pentazemin rounds. He prayed he never had to use them.
There were many kinds in Stephenville. Those who were good, those who weren’t so, and those who turned and became lost. He only wanted Blank Face to be the former.
Thomas didn’t want another one in that last category. Not again.
“Hey, Hleuco, you still thirsty for an update?”
Her voice brought his conscious attention back to the road. He clicked the left turn signal, then turned.
“I’m on Williamson now, but the car keeps tearing through blockades.”
He tuned his ear to the police broadcasts. She was right.
“The car’s modified?”
“It’s going fast as fuck, everyone’s jumping out of the way since it’s just plowing through everything. Cars and vans. I think the front’s been reinforced.”
“Where are you right now?”
“I’m ahead of everyone, so I’m seeing it all, it’s just…”
“It broke through the last blockade. A… a bus is coming from the left at an intersection. A school bus.”
“At this hour?”
“Anyone could be in there! Shit, at this rate they’re going to collide.
Again, a pause.
Hleuco almost stomped on the breaks, but there were others around him. He had to keep driving.
“That’s a big no, Blank Face. You’re going to come back here right now.”
“And let people die? I can stop the car, there’s still time.”
Hleuco threw caution to the wind, listening to the police and getting a better sense of where to go.
He stomped on the gas.
“Blank Face, if you’re even thinking about it-”
“I don’t have time to argue. I’ll update you in a bit.”
He passed up a car, crossing a red light. The city flew past him.
He kept driving, and the police kept blabbering on. He punched the button to shut them up. He only wanted to hear Blank Face.
But there was no one on the other end.
Fuck me, Hleuco thought.
With another turn, he was close as he could get to Williamson Avenue. The police blockades worked both ways. He drove down a street that ran parallel.
Sweat dripped down the steering wheel. His heart beat so hard it hurt.
The machines beside him whirred, the van’s tires rolling down the concrete. A screaming sound.
Still no answer.
It was maddening.
Hleuco started slowing down.
Not another one…
Not another regret.
He moved a finger to turn on the police-
“Hleuco? I’m at-”
Hleuco went to a full and complete stop. The van and everything inside it rocked. Cars honked as they passed.
He ran his hand through his hair, nearly pulling strands out from the root. He was so happy he was mad.
“Repeat that, Blank Face?”
“I’m at an alley over on Baxton, by a pharmacy. Is it a good pick-up spot?”
That was a block down, secluded enough. It worked.
“It works,” Hleuco said slowly, “Stay there, don’t move. Be there soon.”
“I hear you.”
Now you hear me, he thought. But he drove to get her.
His chest wouldn’t ease up.
Before he got to the spot, he reached back to the seats behind him. He put on his mask as he went. A memento from his time in Europe.
He needed an identity too, some gesture to make Blank Face feel less alone in her role as a hero. Hleuco. From the name haliaeetus leucocephalus. The bald eagle.
He needed a mask, too. She couldn’t see his face as it was now. Not now.
The door slid open. Blank Face stepped in. They left.
“I’m back,” she said. It was good to hear her voice without the mechanical filter. That was what he wanted to hear.
“Count your blessings,” he said, “You’re lucky you made it out of that okay. But don’t push that luck.”
“I’m with you on that.” She was breathing hard, panting. Whatever she did took everything out of her. “My arms are killing me.”
How strong are you, Alexis?
The van rolled on, and Thomas was ready to call it a night.
He checked to see if he had everything on him. He did. Wallet, phone, keys.
Thomas got into the car, Jeffery closing the door for him.
The vehicle pulled out of the driveway, and they went.
Jeffery was usually more talkative, but he was mute, now. Thomas wasn’t that lively, either.
Solace got Edgar. He’s dead.
He was at his wit’s end, but he was too sick of everything to exert effort for a reaction.
He just sat.
Solace got Edgar, and he was dead. Because Blank Face and Hleuco pushed too hard, pushed the gangs too far, too fast, and Solace was born from their desperation. He thought he calculated it right, he thought they were disrupting just enough that it would not come to this.
Thomas was cognizant of the fact it would have been an uphill battle. Public opinion of Blank Face was plummeting, and they hadn’t yet reestablished her name as being Blank Face.
Uphill, but he didn’t expect it to become this steep.
No, these criminals are superstitious, cowardly. Especially in the face of an actual threat. I should have taken that into more consideration.
His thoughts poured over every detail, every bit of information in the past forty-eight hours. What connected, what made sense, what was a legitimate clue?
Thomas made a fist with each hand.
He had to give it up to Solace, they were thorough. Nothing came up when they investigated the event staff, and of course nothing came up when they went to Kristin. The only lead was the apartment they traced the signal back to. Nothing but bricks and wood.
Except a message to Blank Face.
Blank Face – Alexis – was positive the message was directed to her, by the leader of El Carruaje, a now-defunct gang, and Blank Face’s first foe. When she informed him of this, he tried to inquire about the woman who ran that gang, Benny. Her record, whether or not she was actually incarcerated.
Of course, everyone was scrambling over Solace. Of course, they were too busy to look into a small fry.
Thomas wasn’t the district attorney, not yet. He could only do so much as he was. No one answered to him, they would only consider what he had to say.
After forty-eight hours, all any of them could do was try and prevent this. But it didn’t work.
Lost in his thoughts, Thomas caught a glimpse of an intersection as they passed it. The sign.
Gomez’s office isn’t this way.
“Jeffery, are we meeting with Gomez elsewhere?” Thomas asked.
Jeffery kept driving.
The officer whipped his arm back, pointing a gun to Thomas.
Thomas backed up as far as he could, which was hardly at all. His hands went up.
“Just, just be quiet, or I’ll shoot. Not another word. And if you do anything else except sit there and keep those hands up, I’ll shoot.”
Thomas didn’t try him. Jeffery’s finger was already on the trigger. Thomas put his hands above his head.
Behind the car, a resounding, deep grumble rocked Thomas’s ears. He would have liked to turn and investigate, but there was no need to set off Jeffery.
Looking wasn’t even needed. He could see from the rear view mirror, and that distinct tone of that sound.
It was Styx’s bike. Styx was here.
So this was how…
And he considered Jeffery a pal, too.
He was fucked.