We drove home from Lansing on Saturday afternoon. “We” in this case turned out to be Daniel, Cassie, Haley and I. Night Wolf’s car could barely hold four people, much less nine. Even though it only looked like a corvette at this point, it still didn’t have much of a back seat. We swapped seats and drivers at the halfway mark of the two hour drive.
Touring the offices of the Michigan Heroes Alliance had turned out to be every bit as interesting as touring the offices of your average lobbying firm, chamber of commerce, or business.
I was bored out of my mind.
Before we left, they handed us a few boxes of equipment — adapters that would allow us to connect laptops to their wireless network as well as the necessary technical information to connect other devices.
It would have been my turn to drive first, but I let Haley go instead.
She pulled out of the Michigan Heroes Alliance’s basement parking garage at a responsible speed quite unlike the one Cassie had used during her turn.
I plugged the adapter into Daniel’s laptop. The CD that came with it installed the driver and a few programs.
We had internet access.
More to the point, we had access to their databases. I suspected we probably had access to the same information through the FBI databases, but this program had a different user interface.
With the Feds’ stuff, you could search the database for a name, go down a list or whatever, but this program showed the state of Michigan. Dots marked the spots where villains had been sighted.
“Nick,” Cassie said, “pass it back. Just for a second.”
“Well, okay…” I paused, but handed it back to her anway, angling it to fit between the seats.
Daniel looked mildly annoyed as she took it, but with as little space as the back seat had, he could definitely see what she was doing with it.
“This kicks ass,” she began. “Did you know that you could make it show former villains too? It shows Man-machine in the special prison near Jackson and there are a couple in Grand Lake. Any of you ever heard of ‘Eye’ or ‘Milo’s Revenge?'”
“Milo’s Revenge?” I said. “Wasn’t that a video game or something?”
“I don’t know,” Cassie said. “It doesn’t matter anyway. They’re retired and it doesn’t look like anyone suspects them of anything current.”
Cassie tapped a little more. “Oh my gosh, I just changed it to show sightings from the the past week. Anyone ever heard of ‘The Executioner?’ He’s active and he’s been sighted near Grand Lake.”
“No,” I said.
Haley said, “I haven’t. He’s not the same person as ‘the Exposer,’ right?”
“The Exposer?” I turned my head toward her. “There’s a name. What was he? Some kind of superpowered flasher?”
“Yuck,” Haley said, “and no.”
Daniel said, “I’ll have heard of the Executioner if I read your mind.”
“Don’t.” Cassie said. “I hate it when you do that.”
“Look, I know. You don’t have to tell me.”
“That’s the problem,” Cassie said.
For a moment, no one said anything. I became suddenly aware of the sound of the car driving down the highway and the piles of snow on either side of us. After a moment, I noticed that we were listening to ABBA’s “Dancing Queen.”
A cassette sat in the eight-track cassette player.
“Where did that come from?”
“I found a box full of them in my parents’ attic,” Haley said.
“I’m glad it’s your parents’. Listening to ABBA doesn’t quite fit with your grandfather’s whole ‘scary vigilante in the dark’ thing.”
“I did find a couple under the seat,” she said. “The soundtrack to ‘The Sound of Music’ and a Lawrence Welk Christmas album.”
“That’s totally wrong.”
Haley glanced backward and said, “So who’s the Executioner?”
“Well,” Cassie began, “the computer says he’s a kind of hitman. Only he’s got a little bit of a specialty in superheroes. It looks like what he does is destroy their lives. Kill the people they know first and then finally them. He does normals too, but it looks like he makes less of a production out of it.”
“You know what we should do?” Cassie said.
“Try to avoid getting his attention?” I suggested.
“We should find him and catch him ourselves.”
“Except for the part where he hunts down everyone we care about,” I said, “that sounds like a great idea.”
“Just hear me out. I think that a lot of what’s gone wrong for us went wrong because we waited for things to happen instead of starting it ourselves.”
“True,” I said, “but if I remember correctly, the last time we started something it ended with a forty foot tall giant chasing us through downtown. Besides, if we’ve got this, every hero in Michigan’s got it. Someone else is probably already on the case.”
From behind me, Daniel said, “Could be, but I think there’s one more thing to think about. Why is he here on this side of the state in the first place? With Larry mostly running his business and my dad splitting his time between the Midwest Defenders and his job, we’re probably the best known heroes in the area right now.”
“Do you really think he’s here for us?” Cassie said quickly.
“I don’t know, but I don’t know why else he’d be near Grand Lake.”