“And there’s one more thing…”
Daniel paused, resting his left arm on my desk.
He took a breath.
“When I was listening in on his thoughts, I happened to hear him refer to you as the ‘main target.’ And you know how I can sense the major association someone has with a word? He associates ‘main target’ with money.”
“He’s here to kill me, and someone’s paying him?”
“I thought he was doing this for free as revenge for everything that happened around Christmas. I thought they killed off anyone who tried to stop them, and their families as a matter of policy — not for profit.”
Daniel shrugged. “I guess Ray’s got a talent for making it pay. How else do you afford to have Syndicate L break you out of jail?”
“I hadn’t really thought about it.”
Then it was my turn to pause.
“Hey, who do you think hates me enough that they’re willing to hire the Executioner to kill me?”
“Could be anyone. Your grandfather had over forty years worth of enemies, plus he wasn’t completely inactive even in retirement. He provided equipment to a lot of supers. Anyone who got hurt by one might want a piece of you. Not to mention all the people we’ve fought since becoming a team.”
“Yeah, but it would surprise me if it were one of my grandfather’s enemies. I don’t really see any reason for them to bother. They’d have to know I’m not the original by now, and wouldn’t they all be too old to care?”
“I don’t know. I could imagine some of them might still care, but be too old to take you on personally.”
“Yeah, right, but it’s such a big group. I hope it’s someone we’ve fought. Otherwise we’ll have to go through forty years of handwritten records. They never finished getting them into the mainframe, and now you can buy better computers at Best Buy.”
Daniel nodded. “Right, let’s see if we can narrow it down. There’s Man-machine–”
“Unlikely,” I said. “I think he might be indirectly helping us these days.”
“That would be crazy, but possible.”
Daniel smiled a little. “The Gray Giant–”
“I think he’d do it himself.”
“The Cabal, but they’re already involved. Who have we missed?”
“Blood Money,” I said. “Remember Spike and Skewer and those guys?”
“Oh yeah, and the guys you fought in the convenience store, and the Maniacs.”
“And Syndicate L,” I pushed myself to the edge of the bed. “I’ve seen a lot of Syndicate L. The convenience store guys might have gotten power juice from them, and they were hauling the Grey Giant, and in California… We destroyed millions of dollars worth of their stuff.”
“That sounds possible.”
“Right,” I said, “but why me instead of Alex, Jenny, or Brooke?”
“I don’t know. Maybe you’re step one, and they’ll move on to them?”
“I hope not. I was planning to bring them in if we needed help, but I don’t want to hand them over to Ray.”
“Good point, but you know, it doesn’t have to be Syndicate L. I’ve got another option, but it’s unlikely. If Ray’s as good as we think he is, maybe he found the bugs in Hardwick’s house, and he and Hardwick staged their fights and some of the other meetings.”
“So then Hardwick’s the client? I don’t know. Ray killed Sean’s dad, and besides… even if the Impregnator drove Hardwick crazy, it doesn’t seem like he’s had enough time to go truly nuts.”
“Point, but maybe Hardwick doesn’t need the Impregnator to get nasty. My dad said he’s a pretty aggressive guy normally. Dad was actually preparing a case against him once, but things happened and it got dropped.”
“What kind of things happened?”
“I don’t know. Dad never went into detail.”
“Wow. I had no idea–”
“Nick!” My mom’s voice came from downstairs. “Haley’s here.”
I got up off the bed, and opened the door to find that Haley had already made it upstairs and was walking down the hall.
It felt good to see her out of costume. She smiled at me, and I must have smiled back, except as Haley got to my room, Rachel’s door opened.
“Team meeting?” Rachel stepped out, and shut the door behind her.
“I thought you were going out tonight,” I said.
“I was. I am, but what are you doing?”
“I don’t know. Haley was coming over, but we didn’t have any specific plans.”
To Haley I said, “Daniel’s here. He dropped by just after you hung up.”
“I saw his car.”
I moved out of the way, and let her through the doorway.
“Hi Daniel,” she said as she sat on the bed.
She sniffed the air. “What’s making the two of you nervous?”
Daniel looked over at me, and I didn’t even need a telepathic hint to realize that he wanted to know if he should tell.
From the doorway, Rachel asked, “Yes, what?”
“Daniel will probably do a better job explaining it than I will.”
So, of course we went through it all again.
After a few minutes, Haley interrupted Daniel from recounting the list of Ray’s possible clients with, “No, you said Ray was going to move on us sooner. When?”
Daniel opened his mouth, didn’t say anything at first, but then continued, “I don’t know exactly, but I got the impression of needing two weeks to get comfortable working with Prime. Now he might be moving in less than one.”