Prologue: On Return
Avenger’s statement is brief:
Demolition has been returned to custody, his hostages have been returned to Freedom City. The press has been quick to credit me with this achievement: this is incorrect. The credit belongs with the Freedom City Massive which spearheaded the rescue. It is an irony that the Freedom City Massive has rescued the Mayor who makes that group’s existence illegal. Clearly, the Massive acts because that team knows the difference between Justice and Law, and perhaps this City’s citizens should demand an administration that will work to change the divergence between the two.
Avenger steps down from the podium: Channel Three’s Amy Feng quick-draws her personal recorder and fast-steps towards him, making a “tight on me” signal: but the Avenger exits with the practiced speed of a veteran at dodging media scrimmages. Amy turns on her new camerawoman:
“Charlie! Stay on your toes! Keep up with me and watch for my signals!”
Amy would have more to say: but speeds back to the wired mike-stand where Mayor Moore is making some spin-doctoring after-remarks. Charlie’s too buzzed up by her first day on her new job to take offence or to wonder if this is why Bill quit. She can’t wait to surprise Joe with her new identity as Charlie, action girl camera crew!
Intrusions and Interruptions
“OK there! Nike’s leaving Freedom’s Eyes… there’s a big black dude smoking a stogie… he seems to step behind her… she’s out of frame.”
“Bringing it up… this one’s the city traffic cam for the avenue. I’ll run it back to the last timestamp…
“OK here we are at 3pm even. Just a minute forward… nope, two more minutes… OK go. Yep, there’s the same black dude waiting. Same cigar. He waves – check Nike: it’s more like ‘OK you waved, I don’t know you’ than ‘yo bro’ isn’t it?”
“Yes, that’s how I read it. Not that I’m any great judge of body language. So where does she go?”
“OK here: she swings down the alley, fast: the big guy swings in after her. Then nothing.”
“Call it over to Tripp and Holmes.”
At the alley, Tripley finds the stogie butt: hands it to Thad. Thad runs a post-cog:
Nike is walking out of Freedom’s Eyes. She acknowledges the wave with a briefly-lifted hand, but obviously doesn’t know the guy. When he falls into step behind her, she tenses up. Then she spins down the alley: gets set for a duke-out: two darts take her down from behind!
“Nice pieca’ work: they knew her MO: got it all laid out an’ took her down,” Joe comments.
“That seems to leave the big black dude as our next step,” Nightfall replies.
“Ya got that right kid: yo Wraith! Punch that face inta law databases, get us a match.”
“Will do: and I’m going to enjoy tangling with something a little more challenging than FCPD’s system!”
While Wraith is sneaking through the ultra security warding various face-matching programs, Tripley calls the lead he got from Charlie: Talip Hassan. Once he explains how long Nike has been missing, and assures Talip that he won’t be invading Jerry’s home or anything crazy like that, Talip is willing to share. Talip passes on Jerry’s details: another tony address, this time over in Kingston.
“I got a weird result on the face match,” Wraith reports eventually. “It’s two different guys, both with a record, but living in different states.”
“Huh. That is weird. We’ve got th’ stogie bagged up: nuthin’ else here. Well hey, I got us Falweather’s address an’ I plan ta pay th’ creep a visit.”
“Who do you want to bring this time?” Performer asks eagerly, “You took Holmes to Providence and Nightfall to Candyman’s apartment: do the rest of us get action?”
“How’s about all of us – I feel a home invasion comin’ on!”
“I thought you just gave your solemn word you wouldn’t break in?” Thad asks ironically.
“Hey – I won’t be – but I happen to know a big mean f@#%er who will be!”
“Ahh, alternate identities: how we love them,” Performer laughs.
Kingston: Wraith drops away from Performer’s ride: ghosts through the well-built detached house with its privacy screen of mature bushes.
“Empty, I’m afraid.”
The Massive turn the place over: and they’re not subtle. There’s nothing incriminating except two chunks of raw meat in the refrigerator. Tripp slips out of sight: becomes Tripley: redials.
“Say Talip? Is Falweather a vegetarian, would ya know?”
“Ah… strict Vegan in fact… you… you aren’t breaking and entering are you?”
“Huh? Uhh, no… I didn’t personally… but some people I know did… and Jerry ain’t here – there I mean.”
“Oh my goodness! You have involved me in an illegal burglary!”
“Hey – ya ain’t involved, ‘kay?”
Muttering about how sensitive academics can be, Joe rings off. He’s about to return to helping the others with the search when everyone’s M-Phone rings. It’s Red:
“Freedom City Massive is needed! Armed intruders at Providence Asylum!”
Joe grunts in mixed anger and satisfaction: for once, his forethought has actually been noted: Red’s over-watch of Providence means they should get there before the perps leave for a change: but perhaps at peril of Skylark’s life!
One hour earlier:
It doesn’t take Wraith long to bring up the footage: the nearest city security camera to Freedom’s Eyes “just happens” to be pointed squarely at the civic liberties group’s building. He already knows the timeline and zips along to 1500.
Two hours earlier:
The timeline is built by Joe, as the Massive either in civvies talking to Nike’s contacts or suited up and retrieving security footage, stakes out Nike’s movements the previous day.
Nike had headed to Freedom’s Eyes for a heart-to-heart with Dennis, a little after 1400 hours, from her work, The Neverending Story bookstore. She had been tense and upset since her return from lunch. Toby, her work-mate, has been covering for her since her absence.
According to Toby, Nike had left for lunch as normal. Joe verifies that at the Guiltless Bean, a Vegan diner, where Nike met a man matching the description of Jeremy Falweather. Thad manages to post-cog some of Jerry’s conversation:
“You’re very important, Nike: you’re part of such a great thing!”
This – a near-match of Candyman’s insane raving – is no surprise to Joe, who had set Red the task of pulling Falweather’s details the moment Red called them on Nike’s absence. The only surprise so far is how incompetent at getting those details Red seems to be. Perhaps all Armory’s resources are devoted to keeping a watch on Providence Asylum?
Eight hours earlier:
Providence Asylum, of course, is where Candyman is being held. He, and Angel Dust, AKA Michelle Ken. Bad Tripp and Holmes interrogate the two villains using a mixture of mental and physical persuasion.
Candyman brags that the Chemical Brothers still on the loose love him and will come for him: Bad Tripp takes him seriously:
“Dat Stretch guy – Eric – an’ Speedster – Aaron Beckley – I feature dem tryin’ ta free up supplies: an whut else’d dat be but bustin’ Candyman out?”
“From Candyman’s point of view, the love of an addict is true love,” agrees Holmes.
“It ain’t jus’ bein’ hooked! Speedster’s a bad hat an’ Eric’s gotta streak’a woman-bashin’ nastiness too!”
“How about Denzel – Roid? Not such a bad type?”
“If’n ya get whutz Michelle’s sayin’ den Denzel’s a real strung-out junkie jonesin’ fer his next fix. So: if’n we gets called out, getcha Roid-cream prepped! Haw haw haw!”
Four hours later:
The solid lead the interviews produce is a tony address in Central City. There, Candyman had kept a reserve stash of Boost. But as a terrorized doorman reveals, a cleanup crew led by Ginger has already gotten to it and removed it!
“Dat’s de trouble wit’ bein’ nice ta dese mugs, an’ aksin’ permission ta talk ta dem!” Tripp growls, thick fingers flexing as though squeezing a certain strawberry blonde’s neck. “Time we getsta dem, de intel’s old an’ trail’s cold!”
“That was ‘being nice’?!?”
It’s at that stage that Red sounds the alarm: Nike has been out of contact for too long: the Freedom City Massive begins its Nike-hunt!
“Now remember Charlie,” Amy Feng says, her voice pleased-sounding, “Watch my signals, listen to my voice not what’s going on around. This could be a big one: my first source said gunfire and my second one said a 550 had been called in.”
“550?” Charlie asks, her breathing coming fast. So much to remember! The Channel Three van races down the I-9 across Centery Bridge: they’ll be at Providence Asylum within minutes!
“It’s a police code: Capes 550: it means Capes or Super-villains are on-scene.
“If you’re really quick, you might spot something in the sky!” Amy finishes, laughing, then chants:
“Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No – it’s a Pulitzer!”