We’re really flying through these chapters. By the end of the week, we’ll be 1/3 of the way through the story. It’s at this point The Aces really start turning up the heat on both our heroes and the city. Let’s see what’s in store next for Jericho and The Dark Lion…
Saturday Night; Pier District
I walked into the Pier District, privately thankful that there were lots of people out tonight. It seemed the shock and fear from the bank robbery was beginning to pass and the citizens of the city were trying to get back into normal routines. I saw Pierside over in the corner of the district and made my way over.
Heather had offered to come with me, but I didn’t want her involved in this. I politely told her I wasn’t very trusting of Jenkins and that if things got hairy, I’d text her to come diffuse the situation. I knew she was going out with some friends, but I knew if I did text her, she’d be here. Something told me she had a very curious side hidden beneath those long legs.
As I entered the dimly lit bar, I heard a voice, “Jericho, glad to see you made it!”
Phil Jenkins was here, with a beer in hand, looking rather relaxed. I walked over to where he was sitting and the bartender immediately put a beer down on the top. I picked it up and we clanked bottles. “This isn’t R&D is it Phil?”
“I prefer Pierside to being holed up in the lab all day, trust me. I know we’re on the cutting edge in terms of tech and all, but give me a beer and a lot of good looking women any day of the week.”
There were lots of good looking women here, that’s for sure. Jenkins was leering at a girl in a short skirt over by the pool table. Each time she leaned over to play her shot, she gave most of the bar a free show. “Can’t say I disagree with you Phil. Though we got a few hotties at Wonder-Tech.”
“You mean Adams right? Word around the office is you two are getting a little hot and heavy…”
“Phil, I’m not the guy to kiss and tell, but if I was, I’d tell you it was damn good.” Again, we clinked our bottles. “Any other rumors that’re good?”
He stared off, his eyes intensely focused. “I don’t know how much I should tell you Jericho. No offense,” he put his hand on my shoulder, “but you are John’s minion.”
That stung a bit. I never thought of myself as DL’s minion, but perception is reality. “I just try to keep my nose down and keep getting my paycheck. That cheap ass barely pays me enough to cover my rent over in Alameda.”
Jenkins grimaced at that. “I’m sorry man. Not that Alameda is a shit hole, but good lord, he should really pay you better than that.”
“My mom would be so proud to see my expensive Master’s degree being put to such good use.” I laughed at my own little joke. My mom, Miranda, was a very smart lady.
“Don’t think that Wonder-Tech is the end all, be all, of tech jobs. You never know what’s right around the corner.”
That was the line I was waiting for. “Where else can guys like us go? gl-O-bal? Everyone knows Owen Walker only hires from within. I couldn’t afford to take an unpaid internship after graduating.”
He shook his head. “That’s what they want you to think. Honestly, I think Wonderton himself started that spin. While it’s true gl-O-bal has a strong internship pool, Walker’s always on the lookout for top talent.”
I leaned in close and lowered my voice. “You’re talking like you know this from experience…”
“That’s why I’m meeting with you today. I know Owen and your talents haven’t slipped by him.”
“You know him?”
“Yeah, I consider him a good friend.”
I was caught off guard by this. I was expecting something more sinister that would go along with him being the Ace of Clubs. No, this meeting was turning out to be borderline corporate espionage. “If you’re good friends with him, why don’t you work for gl-O-bal?”
He waved me off. “I’ve been at Wonder-Tech for years. I guess you can call me a creature of routine and to leave would throw off my groove, you know?”
I didn’t buy that explanation, but I didn’t call him out on it either. I had to keep reminding myself he was a supervillain. “Not that I’d be opposed to a move for the better, it’s just a bit of a surprise.”
“Of course it is. But where are my manners? We’re here to have a good time, not talk about work bullshit.” Jenkins got up and walked over to an open table. I followed over and watched him put a dollar in. “You up for a game?”
Pool wasn’t my favorite thing to do, but I was quickly realizing that Jenkins trusted me and would keep talking. Grabbing a stick from the rack, “I warn you, I’m not very good.”
Turns out it didn’t matter. Jenkins was a very skilled player, yet for him, it was more about talking. We had two more beers while we played, after each, I’d get a few more tidbits of information. Everything to his real feelings on John Wonderton (“The man is an arrogant prick!”) to things that happened in the past before I arrived (“Jenna from accounting, yeah she banged half the R&D lab and at last count had five abortions.”). Honestly, by the end of our second game, I should’ve seriously considered talking to Owen Walker.
However, terrible management skills and office infidelities aside, I was here as DL’s second, not John Wonderton’s assistant. The problem was Jenkins wasn’t giving up any information on The Aces, just disdain for Wonder-Tech. None of this information would be useful.
After my second straight defeat, I felt as if I’d gotten as far as I could with Jenkins. “I know this is going to come as a surprise, but I’m an old man trapped in a younger guy’s body. I think I’m going to head on home.”
Jenkins smiled. “You’re wasting your youth Jericho, but I also understand.” His phone buzzed and he pulled it out real quick. “Looks like I gotta run too. A friend of mine needs a ride home.”
I laughed to myself that one drunk would call another for a ride, but that wasn’t my concern. I settled up at the bar and began walking out of the Pier District. I was tempted to text DL about this epic failure, but then he’d just want to talk. No, that could wait until morning. When I got to my car, I’d text Heather and see what she was up to.
The parking lot was dark as I entered. I could’ve swore this place had lights on it when I parked here just a few hours ago. Anyways, I walked over to my car only to run into an invisible wall. The impact sent me on to my ass and left my head stunned.
A figure dressed in all black approached from the dark. As he closed in, I saw he was wearing a Spades mask. As he walked, he shimmered, apparently passing through the invisible wall. He stopped a few feet from me, his dark eyes never leaving mine.
His voice sounded mechanical. “Jericho Staley… or should I call you The Dark Lion?”
What the hell was he talking about? “I’m sorry man, but you got the wrong guy.”
An invisible force pushed me back upright. I wobbled to my feet under the power of whatever this was. Two more figures stepped out of the shadows; one in a Hearts mask and the other in a Clubs mask. Hearts had his hand stretched out, as if controlling whatever was pushing me.
Spades took another step closer to me. “Do not lie to me! I already know the identity of Massacre due to his screw up, so just admit you’re The Dark Lion!”
How did Massacre give himself away? Not that it mattered if I found out, I was currently up against all The Aces. “I’m not The Dark Lion, I promise you. I don’t even know why you’d think that…”
Spades took one last step and reached out with his hand. It passed right through my jeans and into my pocket. He grabbed my gun and tossed it aside. He then went for the other pocket, looking for something else. When he pulled his hand out, he had my cell phone. Tossing it to Clubs, “Is he telling the truth?”
Clubs took my phone and removed one of his gloves. He gripped the phone in his ungloved hand and his eyes closed. Was he reading my phone telepathically?
After a few moments, “I can’t confirm Spades. There is suspicious activity, but not enough to persuade me to say one way or another.” He tossed Spades back the phone.
I couldn’t tell if this man was smiling under his mask, but his next words came out a little too joyful. “I guess that means we will find out the old fashioned way.”
I didn’t know what the meant until Hearts made a fist and a punching motion. The invisible force hit me and sent me flying, landing on the hood of a car. I was in big trouble…
*Come back tomorrow for Chapter 11!
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