We’re getting pretty close to the end. We’ll have this story wrapped up by Monday next week, I believe.
Friday Evening; Beaches Boat Club
The dreaded Christmas party was here. Erin mostly did everything to get this shindig off the ground and, believe it or not, the place looked pretty good. In the middle of the hall was a huge Christmas tree decorated from top to bottom. Along the back wall was a massive spread of Italian food, with the open bar right beside it. I was one of the first people here and I was glad no one was around to see my kind of enjoying myself.
No one that is until Erin showed up. “Is that some Christmas cheer I see on that Scrooge-like face?” He was holding a cup of spiked apple cider. “Can’t blame you though, this place looks rockin’!”
Another voice joined in the agreement. “I do say, for two IT guys, you sure brought this together very nicely.” John Wonderton was dressed in a suit and tie. Man did he make Erin and I look underdressed for the occasion. “I think I’ve earned a night of relaxation. I’m going to grab a beer and enjoy the music.”
Not long after Wonderton hit up the bar did most of the employees of Wonder-Tech and their dates arrive. Erin left me hanging once his wife showed up, so I kind of stuck to myself along the far wall. Heather Adams showed up, too, looking amazing. Unfortunately, her boyfriend was with her, not that I would’ve said anything anyways.
A few people came up at different moments and chatted me up here and there. Most of it was pity, but some were generally interested. Still, the night started to wear on me, so I ducked out and got some fresh air close to the beach.
My mind immediately went back to the plutonium core and the two ranger captains. Knowing what I did about Channel’s past, it was safe to assume he got Pabon in on this to help him. The two of them then ‘stole’ the funds without Whisant knowing and made the deal themselves. No offense to the men, but what would the two of them be able to do with a core that must’ve not been working.
I came to that conclusion because if it had been working, I can’t imagine they would’ve sat on it this long. I pulled out my phone and did a cursory search for doctors and engineers in the area that would be able to help them do anything with the core. Only one name popped up – Owen Walker, the head of gl-O-bal.
There was no news of Walker being kidnapped or anything, but it was worth looking into. Suffice to say if they hadn’t reached out to Walker, then I really had no idea what their plans were. The only other person in the city who could arm that thing was me, and they had no idea who I truly was.
I knew now wasn’t the time and if I didn’t go back to the party soon, Wonderton would wonder (say that three times fast) where I went to. Resigned, I made my way back towards the festivities.
Have you ever watched grown ass people play Pin the Tail on the Reindeer? It was a nightmare. The only redeeming part was the free drinks. Most of the ones playing were three sheets to the wind. All I could do was shake my head in despair as Erin stumbled towards the reindeer in question and fell face first into its backside.
“This is quite the entertaining affair.”
Wonderton’s sense of entertainment was about to be called into question. “There is so much else we could be doing. We have a solid lead and could be getting information from them.”
“Consider this a lesson.” He was my teacher now? “One must always retain a bit of their humanity even in the darkest of times. That humanity allowed me to defeat The Negative Man.”
That was a stretch. More like my exceedingly questionable judgement. “What does humanity have to do with it?”
He spread his arms wide. “The enjoyment these people are having tonight is the reason we fight in the shadows. If there wasn’t good people like this to keep safe, then why bother?”
Damnit, I hated myself for actually taking in what he said. This was beginning to remind me a bit about my dad, Ellison Staley’s outlook on life. Well before a certain jerk named Cooper stole that from both of us. “So I’m guessing there’s nothing else to do but drink and be merry?”
“You could mingle with your co-workers.”
“Sage advice from the guy who avoids human contact even more than I do.”
With that said, the two of us went our separate ways. Me, I went over to the bar and ordered another beer as Wonderton walked around and pretended to be a boss that cared. Chances were he was also handing out Christmas bonuses. I had received mine the day before.
Deciding not to be a Debbie Downer, I began looking for Erin. He seemed to know how to let loose, so I figured I’d give it a shot, too. But she was nowhere to be found. I spotted his wife however, so I made my way to her. “Mrs. Cieslik, have you seen Erin?”
“Jericho,” she hiccupped. She’d been drinking quite a bit, too. “He stepped outside to take a phone call. He’ll be right back, I think?”
The idea of heading back outside for just even a minute was appealing, so I went out there to give my buddy crap for taking a phone call during a party. When I stepped outside, there he was on the phone like she said, but I froze in place.
“They have no idea I’m your man on the inside, Channel. As soon as R and D gets that prototype charging station complete, we’ll be able arm that core.” Esposito answered him, but I couldn’t hear. “You’re damn right. We’ll show this hippie loving town what happens when you give those super freaks too much leniency.”
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