I clicked and took the call. Lim sat at his desk at home. Blinds covered the window behind him, but the darkness of the night outside surrounded the edges of the blinds.
Lim sighed and shook his head as he saw me. “You struck pay dirt. Even though I want more detail and more proof, we’ve now got direct confirmation from Ryan and Hardwick’s own mouths that they’re connected to the Nine. We even know that they’re planning to do things that sound questionable once they’ve gotten out from under the Nine’s thumb as well as a near confirmation of the murder of Dean Whiteford.”
He stopped and looked directly at me or at the camera. “As of this moment, the investigation’s entered a new stage. We have to decide whether we arrest Ryan and Hardwick, raid their offices, or send someone in to gather more information in another way. By someone, I’m meaning you.”
I don’t know the exact expression on my face, but I felt myself frown.
Lim held up his hands. “I know. Sending you and Stephanie in to find more information isn’t the best option. We don’t even have a good target and I know I normally wouldn’t tell a civilian asset to go find something to steal. It would let them know someone’s on to them. At the same time, Stephanie, Vaughn and you aren’t typical civilians. You’re all trained by Stapledon in various specialties of superhero work. If you as superheroes chose to take some sort of action that got more information, I couldn’t do a thing about it.”
He paused. “You wouldn’t want to compromise the investigation, of course, but that’s the thing. If I want to go further, that’s going to happen anyway. Everything I choose to do to move forward will have to go outside my team for approval and that means that the Nine will have an opportunity to learn what’s going on. Almost the best thing that could happen would be if important evidence disappeared before the Nine destroyed it. The thumb drive full of evidence on Hardwick would be nice. There might be more in that office that would be worth a look.”
I looked at him through the screen, hoping that the means of encryption we were using was good.
“The Hardwick thumb drive is the only one I’m aware of. We could look for good targets. Honestly, we might be able to find more. For all I know, Stephanie might know of things I’ve never gotten a chance to ask her about.”
Nodding along as I talked, Lim said, “Good thought. Just remember, whatever the two or three of you do, it’s an independent Heroes’ League thing. It’s not something done at my direction. What I’m going to officially tell you to do is this—keep your eyes open for anything that looks like evidence and be aware of where it is. We want to know if there’s a risk that it will disappear. Don’t do anything that could put yourself at risk and keep on recording. At the point that we’ve gone through the additional recordings you sent, it might be all over for them both.”
Leaning back in my chair, I said, “That’s a little optimistic.”
Lim nodded. “It is, but a guy can hope. The other thing that I’m going to hope is that if the Nine have hooks in the FBI that they aren’t watching what I’m doing hard enough that they’re aware of what we’ve got here. It wouldn’t be a good thing if I or the people on my team got shot or disappeared.”
I looked at his image in my monitor. “Is that likely?”
Lim checked the windows behind him, reaching out to touch the ends of the blinds. “It’s likely enough that I’m going to replace the blinds with ones that make it harder to tell if anyone’s in this room—not to mention the rest of the house. I’m not expecting immediate assassination, but I don’t like to be watched and if someone is out there, I don’t want to make it easy.”
“Wow.” I stared into the room behind him. “I didn’t know we were that close to direct conflict with the Nine.”
Lim glanced back toward the window but turned around to face me. “Please don’t do that. You’re making me nervous. I’ve got a security system designed by contacts that I have and there’s every reason to believe I’m safe. We are close to one of their projects, though, and when that’s true anything can happen.”
Lim smiled. “Look, it’s not the first time for me. There’s a real risk, but it’s one I can live with. I’ve taken more precautions than you’re aware of. Anyway, I don’t have anything else to pass on. Good job getting the video. We’ll be going through all of it. Now, go out there and find out what else you can get before it disappears forever. My advice is that you don’t go off half-cocked. If it’s something that you can easily make disappear, it’s a good target. If it’s something everyone will immediately notice is gone, watch but don’t touch—unless everything goes to Hell. Then use your own judgment.”
We signed off shortly after that and I texted Stephanie, “Are you aware of any records the leadership is hiding? Something that might contain records of connections with the Nine?”
She wrote back, “I might.”