Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Thursday, April 01, 2004

I guess instead of typing this out I should just clip one of the newspaper stories, but I feel like going over it for some reason. And why not? My version's as good as anybody's.

About midmorning, I was running some errands on the way home from work. I got off the subway at Crowninshield Square, and as I was climbing the steps to the sidewalk, I could hear commotion up ahead. What the hey, this is the big city, there's always something going on.

Except when I got up there I was in the middle of a panic. People were trampling past me on the run. I held onto the railing so as not to get swept under. The air smelled funny--like smoke and a bit like the furnace when you first turn it on in the fall.

About seventy feet above the square, hovering by the Droopers! billboard, two people were fighting. (I didn't know who they were at the time. I do now.) One, Ms. Moxie, was a red-haired woman in a blue jacket and skirt. She was outlined in a bright blue glow. The other one, Scorch, was a burly blond guy in a muscle shirt. He seemed to be on fire.

Scorch was throwing little flecks of fire at Ms. Moxie. (I have to admit I feel kind of embarrassed typing out these damn superhero names. 'Ms. Moxie', for Christ's sake.) They were mostly being deflected by her force field or whatever it was, but then they'd shower onto the crowd below so she'd have to reach out with her blueness and catch the sparks before anybody got hurt. S was more graceful with the flying; he was bobbing and weaving all over the place. M, though, was holding herself up off the ground on a column of blue energy, which seemed to work well enough but didn't give her a lot of maneuverability.

This was nothing I should get mixed up in. I knew that. What I really ought to have done was duck back underground and not get stampeded or incinerated. Still, I figured I could stay out of the way, and I had a certain professional interest in what was going on. I dashed from the subway stairwell to a storefront doorway.

S got smart. He began scattering his fireblobs in a wide arc across the dozens of people who still hadn't found a way out of the area. M broke off her dogfight with him and floated out over the throng, spreading her blue glow more widely to catch the flames in midair. As she extended the energy out, it got paler. S saw this and swooped in.

He busted through her force field and got her in a headlock, punching her kidneys with his other hand. They plunged to the ground and I couldn't see them behind the hordes of people. There were bursts of fire and blue light, though.

This is the cool part. Some woman had been driving through the square but got caught in the crowds. Now she sized up the situation and steered her car right for a fire hydrant. Water started shooting all over the place. Another guy, getting the idea, held a garbage can lid out over the geyser to direct it at the fight. It took him a second to get the range, but he did.

When the water hit S, a cloud of steam belched up. I still couldn't see what was going on, but seconds later, M flew up out of the square. S hung upside down and motionless in a bubble of blue light beside her. She pointed at the busted hydrant and it shone blue and warped around until the waterspout turned into just a trickle. She waved at the garbage-can-lid guy and the woman in the car and took off with S. I could hear sirens from not far off.

A couple of teenagers were in the doorway beside me. "You see stuff like this much?" I asked them.

"Third time," one of them said.

"Fifth for me," his buddy said. "But the second one kind of sucked."

It was weird. I see a superhero every day, pretty much. But I only ever see him when he's being subtle. Greyghost is always angling and preparing stuff ahead of time. There was nothing subtle about what M was dealing with in Crowninshield Square today; basically a guy was trying to set her ass on fire. What are you like if you do this kind of thing all the time? Specifically, what's Greyghost like?

Not only that, but I could see the square after M and S were gone. As far as I could tell from the newspaper stories, nobody got seriously hurt, but there was certainly property damage. And for what? It's a screwed-up situation all around.

On the other hand, I'm making pretty good coin these days, so maybe I'll just shut my freaking mouth and see if my conscience will let me sleep tonight.
This evening I was at my desk cleaning some kind of--I don't know; it looked like chocolate--off Greyghost's mask. One of his masks, anyway; he must have a few because I've never seen his face. Not pleasant work, but the man does have an image to maintain.

The phone rang. Not my cell, but the office phone. This rarely happens. It was Suchit.

Suchit is the other regular security guy upstairs. Every now and then when I'm bored I'll go up and hang out with him. We play chess, which he always wins because a) he's brilliant and b) I can't concentrate with him talking my ear off. He's trying to make some kind of independent movie in his spare time.

"Hey, Suchit. What's up?"

"Hey, Dennis. How's it going?"

"Not bad. Slow day. You?"

"Pretty good, pretty good. I picked up a new magazine downtown; it's called Smoing. You ever heard of it? There's this one article on local architecture and how you can tell which mayor was in charge of the city any year just by looking at which buildings were put up then. You should pick up a copy. Or I could lend you mine. Except there's this one thing I want to photocopy for my sister."

"I'll keep an eye out for it."

"Reason I called is a guy showed up here with a package for you."

"Really? That's weird. Okay, I'll come up."

A big fat envelope, all taped up, was sitting in front of Suchit when I got up there. I hefted it; pretty heavy, mostly paper. It was addressed to me, all right. Who the hell knows I'm at this address? The handwriting wasn't Greyghost's or Cruickshank's or Carl's, and I was pretty sure it wasn't Ingrid's either.

"Did you have to sign for it?" I asked.

"No, he just handed it over. Big tall guy, kind of old. Had an old army coat on."

"Huh. Thanks, Suchit. I'll look at it downstairs."

Back at my desk, I sliced the end of the envelope open and dumped the contents out. Item the first: an inch-thick stack of fanfold paper. Item the second: a keyring. The paper was a printout of information in a language I couldn't identify, interspersed with figures and tables that meant nothing to me, all courtesy of a dot-matrix printer running out of ink. The keyring had three keys on it: a car key, an old-assed brass key about four inches long and very ornate, and a plain grey security card of the type where you just show it to the card reader instead of sliding it along a slot. I poked it idly with a pencil, having some idea I shouldn't mess up the fingerprints. There was nothing on the envelope to say who this was from or why I should have it.

I have learned a thing or three in the months I've been working here. One of the three things is how to look up stuff about keys. I was flipping through the key bible when Cruickshank blew in.

"Do you have an extra cellphone battery?" he asked. "Mine's acting up."

"Box beside the angelfish tank," I said, still reading.

"What's all that?" he asked.

"I dunno. Just got delivered upstairs a couple of minutes ago. See for yourself."

He frowned at the keys, and frowned even harder at the printouts, but his face cleared when he looked at the envelope. "Oh, right," he said. "Chuck it."


"It's garbage. Don't bother with it."

"How do you know? Who sent it?"

He shrugged and pitched his old cellphone battery into a filing cabinet. "Greyghost can tell you about it if he wants. But, seriously, don't waste your time."

"Some guy knows I work here and sends me a James Bond care package and I'm supposed to forget about it?"

"Basically, yeah," Cruickshank said. "Did Greyghost tell you where he was going to be tonight?"

I didn't end up throwing out the mystery envelope. I used my super power of filing on it and it now resides somewhere south of the decrepit cellphone batteries. With a Post-It note on it saying, "Ask GG!" Because he usually can't wait to explain things to me.

Someday I'm going to have to reread this entry to make sure I've accurately portrayed the sense of Not Knowing What's Going On that seems to be hanging around here lately.

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