Truth. Justice. Minesweeper.

Sunday, March 27, 2005

I kind of feel like a jerk. By which I mean I suspect I am a jerk. No. I know I am. But I'm also an extremely pissed-off jerk. I don't remember the last time I felt that mad. But at least everything's over now.

Greyghost and Cassie had been missing for days. I couldn't even get Cruickshank or Ingrid on the phone. And I didn't know what to do. Finally, after a couple of hours of staring at the phone in the office, I said, "Screw it." I picked up some sunglasses and one of Greyghost's spiffy walking sticks, and headed down to Claudia Calhoun's hideout.

Of course, it was possible that the Table guys had moved her someplace else, but I had to try something. Anyway, I walked right up to her building, but before I got to the door, a couple of Table drones made a move on me. I let them get close, and then closed my eyes and banged the walking stick on the sidewalk.

The bulb in the pommel of the walking stick popped with a searing flash I could see through my sunglasses and eyelids. One of the Table guys kind of reeled against the building, and the other one said, "Shit!" and fell down. I continued through the front door. Those things are one of Itzhak's neatest tricks; no permanent damage, but there's really not a lot you can do if you're not ready for them.

The good news, of course, is that if those two goons were on the job, Claudia Calhoun must have been still there. And when I knocked on the door, a voice said, "Who's there?" (No peephole.)

I recognized the voice. Not Claudia Calhoun's, but someone else I knew. Goddamnit. "It's Dennis. Let me in or I'll burn this building down."

The door opened. Prowl was standing there, scowling at me. Claudia Calhoun was sitting on the couch. Apparently they had been having a nice little conversation. "What do you want, Dennis?" Prowl asked.

"Guess," I said, pushing past her. "Ms. Calhoun, we haven't met. My name's Dennis, and I need to know what you're up to with Nefario and Greyghost and the Table."

"How did you find me here?" she said. Didn't sound as intimidated as I had hoped.

"Never mind that," Prowl said. "Dennis, if you think she's going to tell you any of that, you're crazy. Go home before I kick your ass."

I didn't turn away from Calhoun. "I'll tell you how I found you here if you answer this. Has Prowl here been helping you hide out all this time?"

"Don't answer that," Prowl said.

"Yes, she has," Calhoun said. "Now give."

"A friend of a friend saw you through a window," I said, and rounded on Prowl. "You knew she was alive all this time, you decroded bitch. You drove us into hiding, you sicced those other masked assholes onto us, you chased me down the goddamn street, and the whole time you knew she was alive. What the hell do you think you're doing?"

"Dennis, do I have to use the phrase 'kick your ass' again?"

"I want to know everything, or I'm blowing the whistle. I know enough to ruin whatever it is you're up to, and I'll tell everyone. I will."

They exchanged glances. Prowl said, "It's probably safer to tell him. He can keep a secret."

"Where do you know him from?" Calhoun said. Prowl just shook her head. "Okay. Here it is. I was working on a story about Nefario, and how he got his super-powers from a Table experiment, and I was talking with Desmond from Table. They feel responsible for Nefario, and they want to stop him, but they don't want any negative publicity about it. And they were under pressure because they thought Nefario was about to raid them for more of the same technology they used to create him."

"I guess they were right about that," I said.

"Yeah," she said. "So I made a deal with Desmond. I'd get to write the story about Nefario's capture if, in return, I downplayed the Table's role in him getting his powers. But to arrange his capture, we needed to force some superheroes to go after him for some kind of crime. So they said they'd fake my death, and pin it on some superhero, and that would force that superhero to investigate. We'd rig the evidence so it pointed to Nefario, and the superhero would have to nail Nefario to vindicate himself. And Prowl--I knew Prowl from before--said that she could help me put pressure on whichever superhero we picked."

"And that's why you were investigating Greyghost's secret identity. Not because you wanted to know, but because you wanted to frame him for murder."

"Tone it down, Dennis," Prowl said. "There's nothing stopping me from giving you a slap in the head."

"It sounds like kind of a stupid plan to me," I said. "It's too complicated. What made you think it'd work?"

"Well, I figured it was a dangerous story to write. But if I was supposed to be dead, I'd be safe from Nefario. Plus I'd have Prowl and the Table to protect me. And if it worked, I'd be famous for coming back from the dead with this great story," Calhoun explained.

"I don't believe you guys," I said. "This is the worst thing I've ever heard." I was so mad I was shaking. I could hardly dial my phone.

"Who are you calling?" Prowl said.

I punched in a number I had noted down from Greyghost's Nefario file. We had been harassed by low-rent superheroes for weeks, I had been caught in the raid on the Table building and punched in the stomach and dropped out of a hovercraft... "This message is for Nefario," I said into the phone. "I'm sure you'll be interested to know that Claudia Calhoun is alive and preparing to lower the boom on you, and can be found at 878 Lower Franklin Street, Apartment 2G." Actually I only got the first half of the word 'apartment' out before Prowl kicked the phone out of my hand.

"What the hell!" she said.

"You guys asked for it," I said, and headed for the door.

And that's what makes me a jerk.
Fair enough! What TOTAL arses! I think u went a little far telling nefario, but OMIGOD!!!!
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