“A gruesome scene downtown is unfolding as the city’s waking up this morning. At least fifteen members of The Station Shadows are dead, with potentially another eight to ten on life support at Heights General. Police are on scene and with limited details released, be sure to stay tuned to 105.6 for all the latest.”
As the news release ended, Heather pulled up to a red light. “What’s wrong with this city?”
“Well, gangs tend to take each other out, so I imagine that’s what happened here.” I was lying through my teeth. I knew exactly what happened; The Dark Lion eliminated supply.
I think she was tempted to respond, but the commercial that was playing was cut off and the radio host broke back in. “Sorry for the interruption listeners, but we have just received word that Chief Grimes is about to give a statement regarding the breaking story developing this morning.”
I looked over at another car right before they cut away to Grimes. It was obvious that every person in the city this morning was listening and wondering just what the hell happened last night. I was equally curious to see how Grimes would respond.
His voice was sharp and angry as it echoed throughout the car. “Last night’s action against The Station Shadows was an official operation approved by everyone from the mayor on down. In conjunction with The Dark Lion, we eliminated most of the thugs that had been plaguing our streets. Let this serve as a warning shot to the rest of the no good sons of bitches running around out there. You mess with the city; you don’t need to worry about jail time. No, you need to worry about showing up at the morgue in a body bag.”
Heather turned the radio off. “He’s declared war on all the gangs…”
“Can he legally authorize lethal force like that?”
“He just did.”
A shiver went down my spine. What can of worms had DL opened? It made me think of what Jenkins told me, that Grimes was as corrupt as the rest of them. “How is what The Dark Lion and the PSPD are authorizing any better than what The Negative Man did to the city?” More to me than her, “Maybe it’s time…”
“Time for what?”
“Huh?” She startled me with her rising voice. “Oh, I meant maybe it’s time to leave. I didn’t move out here to worry about being caught in a gang war.”
“Oh.” Apparently that wasn’t what she’d been expecting. “You’d leave Pacific Station?”
“I don’t want to, but things back east aren’t like this. Maybe it’s because supers aren’t as welcomed in major cities and the police do most of the actual crime fighting.”
This sort of thing back east would’ve been put down by SWAT teams and government intervention. Never in a million years would anyone tolerate The Aces or The Dark Lion and their killing methods. But Grimes was good with it, mainly because it probably meant less work for him. That, or he just loved violence.
Heather turned into the Wonder-Tech employee parking. “I wouldn’t want to live in a place that had hostile views of people.” She turned the car off and looked over at me. “Are you sure you’re up for this? I think another day off…”
“Trust me when I say I truly appreciate the concern, but even a half day at work will help me stay focused. Sitting around all day with nothing to do drove me crazy.”
I got one last look before exiting the car. It was weird walking in the doors of the building. It’d only been a day, but my attack and the assassination of the deputy mayor in the room behind me were high profile news. The looks immediately started as soon as people realized it was me.
No one really said anything as I walked to the elevator, but you could hear a pin drop in the lobby. Only Heather and I got on and when the door shut, I released a huge breath. “That was really awkward.”
“People were really concerned about you yesterday. I just don’t think they knew what to say.”
That made two of us. “Anything would’ve been better than staring at me like a zoo exhibit.”
“I agree, but remember your attack, plus everything that happened last night, we’re all scared. Even me and you.”
Her floor dinged first. She gave my hand a squeeze and a kiss. “Don’t do anything stupid today.”
“I’ll try, but you might want to email John and tell him the same thing.”
She gave me one last look before the doors closed and I made my way up to the top floor, right to DL’s office. Fortunately no one was here when I entered, no one but DL himself. As soon as he saw me, he got up and the two of us made a direct path to the secret lab.
As soon as the door closed, I lit into him. “Could you’ve made a bigger mess?! I knew you were going to ‘eliminate supply’ but what you did was basically a massacre!” The pun was unintentional, as I doubted that PJ was even there.
DL didn’t look pissed or even surprised that I was mad. “I know you’re not going to approve with all my methods, but the city’s scum all know this morning that they aren’t to mess with us. When The Aces come calling for hired guns, they’ll be shut out.”
I wasn’t so sure of that. “Couldn’t this have the opposite effect? These thugs know they’ll be gunned down and have nothing to lose. They might go to The Aces for protection.”
If my thoughts made any dent in his steadfast belief, it didn’t show. Instead, “Is the flash drive ready to be uploaded?”
I pulled it out of my jacket pocket. “I rewrote and programmed it to do exactly what it needs to. As soon as I plug this in, they’ll start seeing money siphoned from you.”
“Good. Maybe before you call it a day at noon,” I raised an eyebrow. “Don’t look at me like that. Your legal counsel has already emailed me this morning saying you’re only allowed to work half days until further notice.”
“The Dark Lion is scared of a lawyer?”
“That’s neither here nor there. The point is, maybe right before lunch, go down and see Jenkins and get this thing uploaded. Hopefully that’ll move their plans along quicker.” He rubbed his head. “I can’t believe I’m still going along with this plan of yours.”
I could barely keep the enthusiasm out of my voice, knowing DL wasn’t a big fan of this plan from the get-go. “This is exciting. I’m going to be going undercover and infiltrating The Aces…”
He moved the mouse on the nearest computer and the screen came on. The articles on the screen said it all. The first, smaller one was about The Aces latest bank job and then assault of me. Below, in much larger font with a distorted picture of him, the headline read ‘The Negative Man Strikes Again.’
John let me stare at the headlines, making sure they sunk in before addressing my question. “We have to succeed in this Jericho. If we fail, who will pick up the pieces of the city?”
“I don’t know.”
“Exactly my point!” He walked over to his costume, the faded hooded cape that had seen many, many battles. “We’ll do this together; see this plan until the end. Alright, I’m on board with everything you want to do going forward and I won’t try to talk you out of anything.”
I felt the flash drive in my hand as I squeezed it. “I’ve been waiting for a chance to do something real again.”
He gave me a rough pat on the back and an approving smile. “What happened to you Saturday night won’t happen again. You focus on your task and allow me to continue mine. This two fronted assault will finally bring the disease in this city to its knees.”
“Before I go, what about Massacre? I know you gave him the okay to go ahead and tell The Aces your identity.”
DL sat down in a chair and sighed. “I don’t know how much longer we can rely on him. PJ hasn’t been the same since The Aces discovered the man under the mask.”
That wasn’t good. “What does that mean for us? He knows all of our secrets.”
“That falls firmly under things for me to worry about. The only thing you need to concentrate on is getting the flash drive uploaded and winning the trust of Spades. Once that happens, everything else will fall into place.”
And with that, I knew this conversation was over.
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