“Couldn’t tell you, Doc.” Capin’s jaw opened in a yawn. He covered it with his fist. “What would you do if you found out your little brother was secretly working for the bad guys?”
Mid-Night Man shook his head. “Jesus.”
“Yeah,” Capin replied, nodding, “but we’re the good guys. Whatever they decide, when word gets out…” He looked down, “When word gets out, what they do is probably going to be the least of his worries.”
“Jesus,” Mid-Night said again.
The two of them fell back into silence for a while longer, two shadows on the wall as Strategoi moved around them, up and down the halls. After a while Corin freed himself. “I should go. Jamie’s waiting…” He stretched his neck, taking a look over his blood splattered clothing. “We’ll have that drink next time.”
“Your treat then.”
Corin smirked tiredly, pulling the brim of his dark hat low over his forehead. Sticking a hand in front of him the shadow cast by the faux tree grew larger. Like something out of a Loony Toons cartoon he climbed through it, leaving the shadow to snap back to normal.
A commotion down the hall caught the Dapper Detective’s attention. The words “Kardiac” were particularly unnerving. Even as it stuck out in the blur of conversation you could tell they were saying it with a “K” not a “C”. He gave a quick glance around, finding himself unnoticed in the commotion. With a little concentration and coaxing, the cape and tuxedo appeared to give way to a Strategoi uniform. He headed back down the hall toward the medical ward.
“I don’t know where he went,” Capin followed the voices. “Hell, I don’t know how he managed to stand.” It was a doctor, rather slender in figure, in a heated discussion with a Stragegoi agent full on in gear, complete with assault rifle. Capin hadn’t seen him before. He read the doctor’s name tag: “RAND”. Sure enough, the name on the top of Eddy’s charts.
“He’s gone.” The doctor continued, pointing at the vacated room, then down the hall. “You get your team and find him or it will mean both our jobs.” The two continued their rather lopsided conversation. Capin briefly looked down to the nurse who sat in the room beside the doorway. Held in her hands, her head shook slightly with each gasp of air between tears.
“Kardiac…” he said to himself, turning away and heading back down the hall.
He walked like he knew where he was going, hall to hall, corner to corner. He could tell his destination was on its way to meet him. As he rounded the third left in a row he saw Bluewolf, who gave him the reverse nod, clearly knowing who he was despite his ‘attire’. The two men closed on each other. Bluewolf’s voice was hushed as they met.
“We’re done here.” He looked behind him briefly. Jenna hadn’t followed him out. “We’re taking Kard with us. We’ll work something out with the medical equipment. I can…” He stopped. Capin was shaking his head. “What?”
As soon as he asked the question he knew the answer that he would be reading off his partner’s lips. “We’re not taking Kardiac with us.” Capin shook off the Strategoi appearance as the cape fell down around the tuxedo in its place. “He checked himself out.”
Bluewolf slowly let a lungful of air out his nose, his eyes closing, shaking his head. His lower lip tucked up under his teeth ready to make that “f” sound, but he didn’t’ say it. He only mouthed it. They stepped to the side as a flurry of Strategoi people rushed past. “They’re not going to catch him.”
Bluewolf didn’t need his hearing to know that Capin’s words dripped sarcasm. It was enough to make the corner of his mouth jump up. “But we can.”
Capin motioned down the hallway opposite the direction of traffic, “Lead on, MacWolf.”
It took the two of them the better part the day to pick up the trail, and even longer to follow it to what they hoped was the end. Their progress had been hampered by the simple fact of operating in the full light of day, and in the process having to avoid the general populace. No easy feat even for Capin and Bluewolf. They’d relied heavily on Bluewolf’s olfactory sense, which seemed to have kicked into overdrive since his hearing was impaired. It was funny how the body seemed to work that way.
They sat atop one of the ritzier high-rises right off the city’s commercial district. As the sun started to dip below the western horizon, the two heroes carefully scaled down the north face of the building. They had a general idea of where they were going, but for the most part it was going to be snoop and poop until they located their mark. Fortunately, Karma was riding shotgun as the Garrison skyline cast the north face into partial shadow. It would have been hard enough to explain a costumed vigilante repelling down the side of a building, much less a guy in a tuxedo whose cape ‘walked’ him down.
“That’s it…” Bluewolf motioned to the balcony below them. It was expensive and ornate and complete with goon whose jacket was lumpy with a concealed pistol. “He’s in there.”
Capin nodded, positioning himself over the large man. Enry let go and they landed hard on the thug, who crumpled. He rolled the guy on his back and peeked through the sliding glass door. It appeared to be an office of some kind. Bluewolf dropped in behind him as Capin fished a keycard out of the man’s pocket. He slid the card through the reader. The little red light blinked green and there was a click. “Open sesame,” He said looking back at Bluewolf with a grin as he pushed the glass open.
As they stepped into the room, Bluewolf’s grim expression soured. He took a couple sniffs of the air. Something was clearly distressing him but he didn’t say anything. Quietly they looked around the room. It was an average office; completely unassuming with nothing of suspicion. Nothing Eddy Lane could afford of course. Nor would he hire Brazilian Thugs go guard his balcony. Eventually they got to staring at the two doors.
They looked at each other. “Well, Bob?” Capin spoke in a hushed voice and folded his arms across his chest. “Do we want to know what’s behind Door Number One,” he held up one finger then another, “or Door Number Two?”
“Monty.” Wolf replied flatly, looking carefully at the identical wood doors on leading to different rooms off of different walls.
Wolf didn’t hear or rather “see” the question but instinctively answered it anyway. “You’re thinking of Let’s Make a Deal. Monty Hall hosted Let’s Make A Deal. Bob Barker hosts the Price is Right.”
Capin shook his head. “Which door?”
Wolf crossed past him. No doubt that, had anybody walked in that moment, they would have been quite confused to see the costume clad man smelling each of the doors. “Door Number Two, ” he said finally, giving it’s knob a twist and push.
The room had that hazy gray feel of a room in broad daylight with the curtains pulled tight so you can sleep. Light from the office window spilled across the floor and up to the foot of the king-sized bed. Inside and around the corner somebody moved.
“Came looking for me?” Wolf made out the image of Edward Lane in the darkness. “You made good time.” Bluewolf said nothing.
“He can’t hear you.” Capin said, walking into the room. He didn’t look at Eddy. He simply walked across the room along the bed. “He’s deaf. Rave blew out the dampeners in his visor.”
“Shit…” Kardiac stepped into the light. “Is it…?”
“I don’t know,” Wolf replied.
“She’s pretty.” Kardiac turned back to Capin, now by the nightstand. He was holding the photograph that sat there. Two people, a genuinely happy couple. One was Edward Lane, a few years younger, but clearly him. The other? A simple deduction. Capin tossed the frame gently onto the bed, finally looking up and meeting his friend’s eyes. “What the fuck, Kardiac?”
Eddy Lane’s head jerked almost imperceptibly. In all their time together he couldn’t recall Ryu ever swearing. Not in anger. “So that’s it?” He looked back to Aaron. “You guys come all this way to give me the intervention and speech?”
“Actually, no,” Capin said crossing around the bed, between Blue and Green, “we didn’t. We came here out of concern. We covered half of Garrison in the process. This…” He looked around the room. “This isn’t where I expected we’d find you, brother.”
“Look,” Kardiac’s jaw was firmly set. He squeezed the word out through his teeth. “I–”
“No.” Ryu cut him off forcefully. “You know what, Kardiac? No, you don’t get to talk. Not right now.”
“Oh, I don’t get to talk?”
“No.” The two men stared at each other through narrowed eyes. “You’ve waived your right to talk. You had your chance. Now you get to listen.”
Edward Lane’s nostrils flared out. His knuckles whitened as they tightened into fists at his sides. Even in his weakened condition he felt the static rise up in him. He could taste it. All three of them felt the hair rise up on the backs of their necks. Even at full strength, Kardiac knew he probably couldn’t take Capin in a straight, no-powers fight, not if Capin really wanted to win. And in his present state he’d never stand a chance, if the Dapper Detective fought back at all. Still, he wanted to smack his fist across his jaw so hard. Just one good hit. One good one and that was it.
Ryu didn’t budge, but as if he could tell what Kardiac was thinking, the cowl peeled away from his face. Kardiac said nothing. He only put his hands on his hips, a gesture which spoke volumes.
“It’s old, Eddy,” Capin went on, a little less heated. “I don’t know what the hell you’re doing here. I bet you don’t either. But I trust you enough to let that go. The whole ‘my city my fight’ bit? It’s old, and you know that. It’s not even about that anymore… is it?”
Bluewolf couldn’t hear a word Capin was saying or even see his lips to get a gist, but he was studying the scene carefully, watching the body movements. It didn’t take much to see how things were playing out.
“Do you think you’re the only one who’s lost someone? Open your eyes.” Kardiac’s eyes narrowed. “Everyone in this room has lost someone. Some of us lost everyone. And yet you are holding so tight to that, you’re digging your own grave while you stand in it.”
Kardiac’s voice was raspy when he spoke. “I am not–”
“You are!” His voice rose. “You want to lie to yourself, that’s fine. Don’t lie to me. I deserve better, God dammit.” He jammed his finger into Aaron’s chest. “He deserves better. Trust, Kardiac.”
“I never asked for this team,” he answered defiantly, though his voice betrayed something hiding behind it. He turned away, taking two steps toward the window. “I was operating just fine on my own.”
“Sure you were. Skulking around the docks, busting up some drug shipments every now and then… You were treading water, and now you’re in the deep end with the goddamn enemy.” Eddy wheeled back on Ryu, and for a second, he thought that punch might actually be coming. True or not, it was a low blow thrown in the heat of the moment. Capin knew he should probably apologize but at that moment he knew more than anything, he didn’t want to, and that caused a sick feeling to form in the pit of his stomach.
“You don’t know the first–”
Before he could finish, there was a chirping sound. It came in a chorus of three from the comlinks of the two costumed men, the third sounding from within a duffle bag Aaron had slung over one shoulder. Capin turned on Wolf, pulling his from the inside of his coat. Wolf’s brow creased as the black-tie clad adventurer activated the disc and the voice rang through.
-body! Please I need help! Corin’s… Oh, God. The voice was panicked and unfamiliar to any of them that could hear it. They were everywhere. They took him.
“Who?” Capin looked up to Bluewolf.
“What’s it say?” As the voice continued to panic, he relayed what they had heard, doing his best to get the situation across. “Jamie Harris, Corin’s fiancé.”
Capin nodded. “Dr. Harris? Dr. Harris, my name is Capin. What happened? Who took Corin?” As Jamie attempted to relay the recent events, Bluewolf had his Com out and was already using it to get a fix on her location. “Okay. Okay, try and calm down… take some deep breaths.” The voice on the other side stopped, though her labored breathing continued. “Are you in a secure location?”
Yes… I-I think so, yes.
“Okay. Don’t move. We’ll come to you.” He switched the link closed and slipped it away. “You got her?”
Wolf nodded. “68 West Roscoe.”
“Alright. Well,” Capin turned and found Kardiac looking back at them. The cowl crept back over his face. “We’ll be out there with the people that need the help. The people that want the help.” Kardiac looked back down, his eyes training on the picture frame there on the bed. “You know how to get in touch.” And with that, Capin let himself out on Alexandra Vega’s balcony.
Kardiac sighed, looking to Aaron. “Well, Brutus?”
Aaron’s voice was low and quiet, “In the interest of honesty, you should know that Vivian is back in town. I asked her to look into Strategoi while all eyes were on us last night. She found the mole. Don’t know how long she’s going to stay in town, but… She did ask about you.” Without another word, he removed the duffel bag he’d been carrying and dropped it onto the bed.
Eddy’s gaze fell back to the picture of him and his wife as Bluewolf slipped out behind Capin.