“Marcus, too,” Daniel continued. “Really, they found each other. I’ve told them where we are.”
Moments later, they stepped out from behind the nearest house and into the light outside their garage. Marcus appeared almost like himself except for feathered wings. Also, though I hadn’t noticed it earlier, I realized that he wore a costume and had been all night. Gray like Travis and Haley’s, his costume flashed a rainbow of colors when he moved. On the left side of his chest were the words, “The Shift.”
Vaughn limped next to him, his left arm hanging in a way that seemed somehow off. Blood spattered the lower half of his face where he had no mask. A slit the width of a knife blade showed skin and dried blood on the right side of his neck. To judge from the amount of dried blood on his costume, it surprised me that any could be left inside him.
“What happened to you?” I asked.
“Vengeance,” he said. “It looks worse than it is. He really did want to speak to me, but I didn’t want to speak to him. Trouble was, the Hangmen don’t take no for an answer.”
“That’s their reputation,” I said.
“I heard the distress call,” Vaughn said, “and I hauled ass toward HQ except one of them managed to catch me with a noose –”
“They really use the nooses?” Daniel said. “I thought they were just there for atmosphere.”
“They really use them,” Daniel’s dad said. He didn’t sound happy about it.
“Anyway,” Vaughn said, “they pulled me out of the air and they told me to wait — except I zapped one of them… Then the other two beat me unconscious and tied me up.”
“Is that when you got stabbed?” I asked.
“No,” Vaughn said. “Vengeance did that. Did you ever notice that big knife on this belt? I swear it’s alive.”
“Alive?” I asked. “You mean it talks or something?”
“No,” he said, “Alive like Stormbringer in Moorcock’s Elric series. You know, as in ‘Blood and souls for Lord Arioch’?”
“I never read that one,” I said.
“I’m lying on the ground, barely conscious,” Vaughn said, “and suddenly Vengeance is right there, and, he says something like ‘let’s see if you’re anything like the original Red Lightning,’ and I’m trying to say I’m the Storm King, but there’s this burning pain in my neck, and I’m screaming, and he’s holding my mouth shut, and I can feel a presence and it’s judging me.
“Everything, and I mean really everything, I’ve ever done is swimming before my eyes. Drugs and school and fights with my parents. All of it. Finally it ends and he pulls out the knife, tells me I’m innocent and leaves me there.”
“You’re innocent?” I said. “What would he have done if he found you guilty? Killed you?”
Daniel’s dad said, “Exactly. He’d have left him to die. The cut’s completely healed, right?”
Vaughn said, “Yeah.”
“If you’d been guilty,” Daniel’s dad said, “you’d have just bled and it wouldn’t stop.”
A police car drove down the street, headlights on, but it passed us without stopping or turning on the flashing lights.
“They didn’t see us,” Daniel’s dad said, “but we’d better get going anyway.”
Gesturing to Marcus, he said, “Could you take Vaughn back to HQ?”
Vaughn said, “I’m not going back,” at almost the same time Marcus said, “Why should I take him back?”
Daniel’s dad sighed. “We don’t have time to argue about it. Come along, but stay outside when we go in. The last thing we need is the mayor rearranging your heads.”
We took to the air.
I assumed that Daniel’s dad would want us to stay low, but I was wrong. He led us up a couple hundred feet and had us hover.
I thought about pointing out that even though it was night, we still might be seen, but then I saw the Rhinomobile moving up the hill, picking up speed as it went.
The police had blocked off St. John’s Avenue with two police cars.
The Rhinomobile flattened them while the officers who had been standing behind the cars dove for the sidewalk. Then it roared straight up the road toward the mayor’s house.
Soldiers pulled out their rifles while one of the tanks rolled (slowly and somewhat jerkily) into the middle of the street. The Rhinomobile swung to the left and moved around it with ease.
As it did, a figure jumped out the top of the Rhinomobile, somersaulted a few times and pulled out a sword. The blade shone under the streetlights. Cassie charged the tank and cut the treads on one side before moving to the other.
The Rhinomobile crossed the lawn, crushing a lamp and shattering the gazebo before stopping in front of the front door.
Pipes popped out of the ugly gray vehicle and black smoke billowed out on all sides, turning the front yard into a sea of fog.
Smoke. Larry never stops tinkering with that thing, Daniel’s dad thought at us. Let’s go in.