I thought about Reliquary. He was head of Stapledon’s magic department, mostly because he was the only wizard willing to associate with Stapledon, and not coincidentally something of a rebel in the wizarding community.
From what I’d heard, he was also fantastically knowledgeable about magic. He’d have been careful with The Thing That Eats’ container. He wouldn’t have let it shatter. Whoever or whatever had taken it had to have been looking for it—though if it were somehow a random heist, the thief got far more than expected.
While I thought about it, Haley asked, “How is Reliquary doing?”
Kayla said, “I… don’t know. I didn’t get to have much of a conversation with him. He said his attacker grabbed the wards, broke them apart, and turned into The Thing That Eats. He fought it, but it bit him and ran away.”
I leaned toward the microphone on the dashboard. “It sounds like he’s okay then.”
“No,” Kayla said. “After The Thing That Eats bit him, he started hearing its voice in his head. He’s holed up where he’d planned to store it and he told me that he’s not coming out until he’s permanently cut the connection.”
I asked, “Do you know where he is?”
“No.” Kayla stopped, and then added, “He said he was taking it somewhere secret, and he turned off his comm’s geolocation. He called about an hour later.”
Haley shook her head. “And that’s all you heard from him?”
“That’s everything.” Kayla’s voice turned quiet. “I’m worried for him. He seemed nice when he was here, but when he was on the phone just now he was stopping and starting and talking to himself… He didn’t sound well at all.”
I turned the jet toward Grand Lake. I’d have announced our change in flight path, but we were far above any height commercial aircraft flew and traveling faster.
Giving me a sidelong glance, Haley talked into her own mic. “Let us know if anything new comes up, and tell Agent Lim. We’ll be in Grand Lake before you know it.”
“I hope so,” Kayla said. “This is beginning to look like one of those nights where I’m going to be woken up at two in the morning. If you’re here, maybe I’ll get to go back to bed.”
Haley laughed. “I hope we’re all that lucky.”
The jet could move at more than twenty times the speed of sound in an atmosphere. I kicked up the speed several notches and the engines roared through the night. We made it back to Grand Lake in less than ten minutes. It took longer to submerge the jet in Lake Michigan and float through the underwater entrance to our headquarters.
After that, Haley and I stuck around HQ till midnight, but nothing did ever happen. Kayla emailed everyone else about the time she called us. So, we spent most of the time responding to emails and texts from the team. That, and worrying. Without information, we couldn’t do much else.
Interestingly, Samita and Amy weren’t calling or even responding to us. That wasn’t good at all.
We did get an email from Agent Lim though. It said that they’d contacted people capable of an “appropriate response” (whoever they were) and that our team was to stay out of it unless asked for help.
I drove Haley back to Grand Lake’s campus, parting when we reached my floor of the dorm.
Our hug made me wish we weren’t going to separate dorm rooms, but between the fight and an hour of acting as a glorified taxi driver, I found that I’d passed through any surge of adrenalin that I might have experienced long ago, and I was tired.
The goodnight kiss after the hug made me wonder about the tiredness, but Haley smiled at me. “Some other night,” she said. “Kayla might be right about the two AM wake-up call.”
“I hope not,” I said, but moments later, we were heading to our respective rooms.
When I stepped into my room, Jeremy woke up enough to ask, “Did it go okay?”
Not wanting to go into it, I answered, “Mostly,” and he fell back asleep.
I found myself lying in bed, eyes shut wondering where Reliquary had been taking the creature, and worrying about where it was now. It didn’t seem likely that it was in Grand Lake, but I had a bad feeling that I ought to be calling Amy soon.
Maybe we could get every team member one of her wards against the creature? Samita had effectively turned HQ into a trap for it. I needed to ask her about more details. Depending on how it worked, we might be best off living there while it was loose.
Of course, that assumed it would know how to find us, and would care. That might not be true.
However tired I’d been feeling when I got into bed, my mind refused to let go of the problem.
Haley had told Kayla to tell Agent Lim. Isaac would know who in the superhero community to tell. He’d know better than I would at least. I didn’t know the magical side of things very well at all.
I hoped his “appropriate response” would work.
I did get to sleep eventually but didn’t get much. My League phone started ringing, pulling me out of a sound sleep. I checked the time. It was 2:33 am.
Who was calling? Haley.
I picked up the phone. “Nick?”
Some part of me picked up on the alarm in her voice, but I couldn’t manage a more coherent reply than, “Yeah?”
Words tumbled out of her mouth so quickly I could barely catch them. “Kayla called me just a minute ago, and do you know who’s standing outside the downtown headquarters wanting to talk?”
Thinking of the person I least wanted to see, I said, “Kid Biohack?”
“No. Worse. Remember the guy who stabbed Vaughn?”
That wasn’t something I could easily forget. During our fight with the mayor, Vaughn seemed to spend half the night missing. It turned out that he’d been stabbed by Vengeance, a vigilante whose knife judged the guilt of anyone he stabbed. If they were judged worthy, they lived. Otherwise, they didn’t.
Fully awake in that moment, I said, “Vengeance?”
Haley said, “Vengeance. And the Hangmen are with him.”