Jenna ducked into her car, taking a deep breath. It had been a long ten hours, but well worth the hell she knew she was about to catch. I suppose I can explain to Cox that this was just a test of Wolf while under extreme emotional duress. She smiled wryly, the smile slipping as she recalled all the times it had happened to her. Refusing to allow her mind to travel that particular path, she pulled onto the street and rode towards Aaron’s home in silence.
She pulled her car in front of the house, looking up. Shaking her head in appreciation, she vaguely wondered at the worth of purchasing her own home. Disregarding that inclination almost immediately, she started up the path to the brownstone. Here’s hoping he’s ready to listen… She pressed the doorbell.
There was a short buzz, the door clicked softly and she pushed it open. Stepping into the foyer, she decided against taking off her coat since Aaron would most likely want to head right back out. Making her way across the exquisite hardwood floor, Jenna took to the stairs to Aaron’s study. She didn’t actually know he would be there, but her hunches usually paid off.
This one did, in fact, as she found him seated at his desk. “You have some explaining to do,” he said in a low voice.
Jenna leaned against the door frame, quipping, “Now, is that any way to greet me?” Pushing herself off of the door, she moved further into the room and perched on the arm of a chair.
Aaron tried to maintain his stoic look for as long as possible. Then the right corner of his mouth shot up and it was over. There was really no way he could be angry at Jenna, she had coordinated the effort to get Kaye back. A little perturbed that Jenna hadn’t included him in her plans, well that was a different matter. “Once you’re done with your explanation, I need to apologize, then you can take me to see my lady.”
Jenna’s body relaxed a bit. Uncrossing her arms, she murmured, “I understand how it feels… the panic…” Pausing, she shook her head. “I understand.” Shifting, she explained, “When we found out the two agents were down, I had my sources track Kaye’s GPS. She had managed to evade her attacker so I pulled strings to get there as quickly as I could and arranged a flight back.”
“Pulled strings?” his eyebrows shot up. “Is somebody going to call you down to the principal’s office later?”
She gave him a wry smile, “There is that possibility, yes…”
“Well, if they’re going to give you detention, they’ll need to clear it with me first.” His own smile faded a little. “Seriously though, I want to thank you for getting Kaye out of there. And I’m sorry for the tone I took over the phone. Like you said, I was a bit – panicked.” Aaron stood up and slipped on his jacket, “You could have told me,” he said, giving her a reproachful look.
Jenna nodded. “I could have, yes… and had you panicked for two additional hours… or worse yet, something could have gone wrong, and back up would have been needed.” Shifting, she said, “It also been proven I don’t play well with others. You should have seen the reports my partners used to write…” she smiled again, “Come on, let’s get out of here. I told her you, Aaron, were helping me, a Federal Agent with a case. I don’t know if she knows about your altar, and I didn’t let on I knew. I figured that was your business…” Heading out to her car, she added, “I’ll make sure you get a ride home later… but we don’t know who attacked Kaye. He might be linked to the Organization; he might be out for the dig. She seemed to be holding back, but I figured you could get more out of her than I.” Ducking into the car, she started it. “The agent’s name is Nichols. Not only is she good with a weapon, but she’s a mild telepathic and telekinetic. She’ll know if someone tries to break in.”
Aaron couldn’t really argue her logic. The fact that he hadn’t known what was going on probably leant to the success of the ‘mission.’ He settled into the passenger seat and quickly they were off. They rode one block north, turned west on Carren, then hit Park Avenue East towards Freedom Eagle Park. “If she had been keeping anything from you, I’ll be sure to pass it on once I know she’s safe and sound.”
The older townhomes gave way to newer ones, interspersed with an occasional low-rise condo marking the change of the New Bridge district. They ran along the northern border of Freedom Eagle Park in silence. Turning north again for another block, Jenna maneuvered her car into the basement parking area of an apartment building, within clear sight of the Freedom Eagle Memorial.
Jenna nodded, pulling into her space. She produced a keycard from her coat pocket, saying quietly, “I don’t think you’ll need me for this reunion.” Squeezing his hand lightly, she added, “Remember to let the Agent know when you want to leave. Good luck.” She slipped him the coded card for the apartment and elevator.
“Jenna…” he paused, “I… thanks again.”
“You’re welcome. Now go get her, tiger… err… wolfy.” She gave him a broad smile, then slipped back into her car and pulled out of the garage.
Aaron shook his head as he watched her pull away, then glanced at the card in his hand. It had a magnetic strip and a smart-chip embedded in its plain white surface, and was slightly thicker than the average credit card; meaning it was also a proximity card. KenTech produced something similar for access control systems, and he made a mental note to check the company’s contracts listing the next time he was in the office. At the elevator he noticed there was more than one access control device. He shrugged, then swiped the card through the top device. A small green LED lit up, but the elevator doors failed to open. Figuring there was some sort of sequence, he then plugged the card into the next device. A digital panel displayed a series of unrecognizable characters and the elevator doors slid open with the barest of whispers.
Stepping inside, he noted that there were no buttons for the different floors. Must be coded to the card. The doors slid shut, and if it were not for his exceptional vision, looked as if they had formed into one solid wall. Aaron then heard a faint sliding noise from above, then the elevator started up. The usual hum of machinery was absent, but as he ascended, he could hear the faint sliding noises both above and below. Interesting… bulkheads opening and closing. Able to compartmentalize whoever or whatever… As best he could tell, he had gone up eight stories, then the compartment seemed to shift to the left and the doors parted, opening up to a small alcove with a single solid steel door.
Aaron stepped out of the elevator and the doors slid shut behind him, he felt the shifting motion again, and turned to see a blank wall. Had the elevator moved, or had the room? Or was it all just smoke and mirrors, carefully designed to throw off one’s senses? If it was, this place made Star Tours look like a merry-go-round. A small panel opened next to the door and out came another series of access control devices. Like before, Aaron swiped then inserted the card, but this time there was a third process; a pad with a recess in it the same size as the access card. He placed the card into the recess, and it quickly shot down into the pad. The panel closed back into the wall as the door clicked open. One time use, then off to get re-coded… very interesting.
The hallway was short, no more than fifteen feet, and it only had one other door. The whole place was eerily quiet, no sound of heating or other air conditioning, and it smelled sterile. The look of the walls was odd, not quite a metal, but not a composite, and they felt slightly warm to the touch. He stepped to the door, and heard the barely audible spark of a speaker coming to life.
“Good afternoon, Mr. Matthews. Come on in, your fiancée is waiting on you.”
The door swung out, forcing him to take a step back, then entered another small room. Several monitors lined one wall, there was a large desk with communications equipment, and a small, but not uncomfortable looking bed. Seated at the desk was a redheaded woman, she stood offering her hand, and Aaron noted she was nearly as tall as he was. She wore a tight fitting long sleeved shirt, framed with a pair of shoulder holsters, and the same gray fatigue style pants that Jenna wore with another pair of holstered side-arms at her waist. Behind her, next to the bed there was a rack of assault rifles and shotguns.
“Pleased to meet you, sir,” her handshake was firm, “Agent Nichols, and yes, that is quite an armory behind me.”
Aaron did his best to conceal his surprise and smiled as Nichols winked and tapped her temple. “I trust you keep certain things, ah… shall we say, confidential, Agent Nichols?”
“I’m only mildly telepathic, Mr. Matthews, I only pick up strong thoughts. And not to worry, the room Kaye is in is shielded from any type of telepathic scans,” she said.
Aaron gave her a skeptical look, “Uh huh. So may I go in now?”
“By all means, please do.” Nichols pressed a code into the keypad on her desk and the door behind Aaron clicked open. “Just use the intercom when you’re ready to leave.”
“Will do,” Aaron said over his shoulder as he stepped into the room.
‘Room’ was an understatement. Even at first glance, the suite of rooms looked as if it would put any luxury hotel to shame. Light and airy, and looking like it had every modern convenience, he found himself a little stunned. Kaye sat curled up on a plush couch, engrossed in a novel and hadn’t heard him come in. Aaron cleared his throat to get her attention, and her head snapped around. With eyes as big as saucers, and a squeal of delight, Kaye leapt from the couch and nearly tackled him to the floor with her embrace.
“Oh, God am I happy to see you,” she said, squeezing him tightly then pulling back and punching him hard in the chest, “now tell me what the hell is going on!”
He winced, mostly for show and she knew it, but it helped lighten the mood. “I was hoping you could tell me what happened to you first, but I guess I can fill you in from my end.” Aaron motioned to the couch, “Why don’t we get comfortable. I have the feeling we’re going to be here for a while.”
They sat, and Aaron proceeded to explain everything that had happened since she had been gone; answering questions when asked, and going over a few things more than once. All the while he found himself absently touching her hands arm, or leg, even once reaching up to brush a stray lock of hair from her face. She had been returning the attention as well.
“So you’re not working for the Organization anymore, you’re working for these Strategoi people?” she asked.
“Yes and no,” he replied, “it’s more like I’m working with Strategoi. But I’m done with the Organization, which we suspect is why they went after you.” He paused to let the information sink in. It was a lot to absorb and it had all happened in such a short time. “That’s about all I have on my end. I want to know what happened to you…”
Kaye took a deep breath and told Aaron everything about the attack and her escape. The questions that bombarded Aaron’s mind were kept silent, since he knew that she wouldn’t be able to answer them. When she finished, they sat in silence for some time.
“Aaron?” Kaye’s voiced brought him out of his thoughts, “Aaron, do you think he’s going to come here?”
He blinked, considering the question, “Yes,” he said.
“So what do we do?” She asked.
He looked around. For all appearances, the place looked like a normal penthouse suite. He could hear the noise of traffic, birds chirping. Typical city air filled the room. But he knew it was all to keep the room’s occupant from going stir crazy. Even the little arboretum where Kaye could get some ‘fresh air’ and ‘sunlight’ was all simulated. It would have to do, at least until he could get a handle on things, pool some resources, and make ready.
He patted her knee, “You get to stay here…” he noted the dangerous look flash in her eyes, “for the time being.”
“You damn well know that I can handle myself.”
“Yes. Yes I do. But for right now, I’ll feel better knowing you’re out of harm’s way. Hell, I would have a hard time getting into this place, much less anyone else.” His attempts to soothe her were not going well. “Besides, this place is leaps and bounds over our little pad. It’s got everything you need.”
“Except you,” she said.
“I’ll be here as often as they let me… and if I have anything to say about it, that will be quite often.” He gave her a half smile. “You’ll be begging Jenna and her crew to find something to occupy my time before the third day.”
She broke into a wide grin, “So do you have to rush off and save the world, or do you have some time for the lady you haven’t seen in soooo long?”
He checked his watch, “I don’t know, my schedule is kind of tight…” She swatted him “I think I can be persuaded to fit you in…”
“Jackass,” she said, taking him by the hands, “why don’t I show you the bedroom and then you decide?”
“What do you know, my whole afternoon suddenly became free.” He teased.
“That’s what I thought…”
“Hey, you don’t think they have cameras in there, do you?” Aaron asked, as Kaye led him to the bedroom.
So far his sweep of the docks had turned up nothing. Not a stray hair, not a whiff of perfume… not a damn thing. Given the recent events of ‘when drug busts go bad,’ even the criminal element was keeping a low profile. Kardiac had said that Fox hadn’t returned home, that bothered him. She didn’t seem the type to skip town, at least not since she fell for Kardiac. The fact that she was at the raid to look after Pope spoke volumes about her character. Maybe she would have skipped town in her life before, but not now. Now, she had something… someone else to think about besides herself. He knew how that felt. He’d just left the woman he loves a few hours before.
Bluewolf stopped for a moment to collect his thoughts. He found it hard to believe that Begnini would shrug off his threat so quickly after he’d ‘dispatched’ the largest thorn the mobster had ever had in his side. Wolf had recognized, or thought he’d recognized genuine fear in Begnini’s eyes that night, and didn’t think Begnini had the testicular fortitude to go after Fox. But if he was linked to the Organization, a fact that was becoming more and more apparent, maybe Begnini thought they would be able to handle one of their agents gone rogue. Maybe that was one of the reasons they’d gone after Kaye; to try and push him over the edge, make him reckless and prone to mistakes. Maybe that was just a carry-over from violence of Kardiac’s ‘death.’
Maybe if you weren’t so lost in your maybes you would have realized there was someone behind you before now. Bluewolf spun around, fully expecting to see Kardiac grinning at him quickly followed by a, ‘ha ha, I snuck up on you,’ or something similar. “You know it’s really too soon-” seeing that it was not, in fact, Kardiac caused Wolf to quench his rebuke mid-sentence.
The man was somewhat short, and Wolf’s keen eyes revealed that he was caped and cowled, with the barest strip of white showing beneath the edges of the man’s cape. What was beneath the cape, however, was anyone’s guess as the fabric seemed almost to encase the figure in a hard shell. The corners of the cape only twitched slightly, yet the breeze atop the warehouse should have literally billowed the cape about its wearer.
“You’re… ah… not quite who I expected,” the man said, with a low, calm voice.
His covered head crooked to the side, clearly sizing up the figure a few short yards away. Much of the body was shadowed with his back angled to the lights off the docks, but he could make out bits and pieces. The solid edges of some sort of armor along his limbs were too smooth to be kevlar. It appeared almost plate-like. His hair whipped around in the lake front wind, but much of his face was covered. The subtle glint of metal over his eyes reflected the ocher dock lights behind him. As Capin’s eyes adjusted to the lighting he could make out some sort of plating across the man’s chest. It appeared to be some sort of big cat or dog. Interesting. The man’s muscles tensed only slightly at first, but he remained calm, not making the first move.
“I could say the same about you. I can only assume we have a mutual acquaintance with a certain fellow in green?” If this character was a friend of Kardiac’s, the vigilante had failed to mention it, and hoped that if he was, they would be able to forgo the rough and tumble initiation he’d had with Kardiac. If he was playing for the other team, that was a different matter. He did remember Jenna mentioning something about another costume that operated primarily on the West Side of the city, but she didn’t have any details.
“Acquaintance?” One of Capin’s eyebrows crooked up, as did half his lip. He had the impression that they were about to go through that dance where neither of them wanted to give up any information. So the man new Kardiac. Capin wasn’t sure if that meant anything at all. The electric vigilante never mentioned anybody else. And besides, Kardiac wasn’t much of the hidden type. “Or it could be that we both read the papers and pretend to know people.” The other end of his lip lifted into a grin as he stepped forward. The cape eased away, letting out more of the white in his shirt. “Masks by their nature don’t make us exactly honest people. And our friend in green is pretty famous.” He paused a beat. “Or infamous. Depends on where you stand.”
“All true… but don’t you mean was?” Wolf was certain that Kardiac would have mentioned anyone else that was ‘in the loop’ of their charade, and judging by the way the man’s smile faded slightly at ‘was’ confirmed that he hadn’t been clued in. “How much do you know of his death?”
Capin’s grin faded to a grimace. It was the second time in two days that he’d been asked about Kardiac’s death. The first one was a Cop, the cop Kardiac had said he trusted. And now this guy. He rubbed his chin. “Little. A little bird told me he’d been killed.” The hand slipped back under his cape, which he felt itching with anticipation. He shrugged. “I’ve yet to see real concrete evidence that he’s dead.”
Capin looked up, eyes narrowing. Slightly closer now, he could make out more of the mystery man. The plate across his chest had more form. The points toward the top, the long slope down from the center. It was clearly a dog of some sort, something with a broad head and a long snout. Capin looked up, his eyes narrowing. The man’s own eyes were covered in tinted lenses. “Just because a guy isn’t answering his phone, doesn’t make him dead.”
The verbal circles they were running in were getting too deep, at least for the moment. With his cape parted, Wolf could make out more details. It looked as if this guy was wearing a tuxedo… good enough to change the subject, however obvious it might be. “Not the usual type of attire for running about over rooftops and through the alleyways of the city.” One corner of the man’s mouth shot up. Apparently he got that type of remark frequently. “And somehow I think a souped up limo would draw too much attention…” Screw it, I never did like to dance much, “what’s your game?”
He nodded slightly, keeping his pleasant face. The man wasn’t losing his cool, just his patience. Villains didn’t play it nearly that cautious. I hope he’s not just a really good actor. Capin strolled forward. The cape opened up, revealing the whole getup. He didn’t budge. “Okay. Okay. I get it. To the point.” Capin stepped beside him, looking out toward the docks. “If this city gets anymore of us, we’ll have to start a union.” He turned his head toward the newcomer who was eyeing him carefully, probably waiting for some sudden movement. “And what brings you to Garrison City, Mr.…”
Wolf relaxed slightly. Any self-respecting ‘bad-guy’ would have made a move by now, almost like it was a villain by-law or something. “Bluewolf, or just Wolf if you prefer. I came here as an operative for a government shadow ops group for the purposes of gathering information on our friend.” He paused, trying to think of an easy way to phrase his next statement. “They decided to change the rules on me and ordered me to kill him…”
The cowled man glanced up at him, one eyebrow raised, “And…?”
“And now that he’s dead, they’re focusing all their efforts on removing me from the picture. Along with anyone close to me.”
“Bastards. You can never trust the government.” Capin said, with an absolute straight face.
“Well, let’s hope that’s not the case since I’m now involved with another shadow ops group here investigating my old employers. And as we speak, my fiancée is holed up in this new group’s safe-house.” When Capin’s other eyebrow shot up to match it’s mate, Wolf was sure he’d made some sort of impression. “So is that about enough exposition for you…?”
“Oh, where are my manners?” Capin extended a gloved hand that Wolf firmly grasped. “Capin… and yes, that’s probably more than I needed to know.”
A hint of concern crept into Capin’s voice, “So you really killed Kardiac?”
It was Wolf’s turn to play the straight man, “You read about that explosion at the Yacht Club, didn’t you?”
Capin’s brow furrowed in thought. He hadn’t really read the paper, but he did catch bits here and there. “Your work?”
Bluewolf gave Capin one of his own looks. “Ours.”
“I see.” Capin nodded. “I guess the explosion would explain his phone going dead.” Capin sat down on the ledge, making himself a bit comfortable. “I must say, I was a tad worried for the guy when his friend Pope asked if I knew who did it.” He looked up at Wolf, his lip curling again. “Now I know.”
“Knowing is half the battle.”
Capin nodded, apparently not quite getting the joke. “So you’re watching ‘his part of town’ while he’s MIA then? Greenjeans must really trust you.”
“It’s not like he has much of a choice in the matter at the moment.” Wolf said. “But at the moment, I’m scouting the area for another mutual acquaintance I have with Sparky. It looks like I’m going to have to pay a visit-” Wolf’s head turned sharply towards the shadows behind them. “We have a visitor…”
Capin stood, slightly tensed and ready for whomever it was to show themselves. Of course, the bad guys weren’t always that accommodating, and both men knew it. After a few moments a figure emerged from the shadows. Wolf’s eyes narrowed beneath his visor.
“Who’s a guy have to kill to get an invitation to these parties?”
The voice was different, but he’d noticed a difference between Kardiac’s voice and his ‘regular’ voice. The costume was new… mustache shaved… different cologne… and something else… Fox’s shampoo! The man jammed the tip of his saber into the tar and pitch roof, casually crossing one foot over the other. Wolf made every effort to conceal a smile, and wondered just how long it would take Capin to figure things out.