Sean Drucker stepped out of the Uber in front of the building. He didn’t know the place. He’d never been there in his life, but now it was all the home he had in Grand Lake.
At least six stories tall and red brick, it looked like a big rectangular block with a smokestack—like the factory it must have once been. Now a bronze metallic sign identified it as Cityview Luxury Condominiums.
It seemed like a dumb name, but he wasn’t going to complain. His family had a forty-nine percent stake in the business that owned the building and the Hardwick family owned the other fifty-one. Complaining about the name in front of the wrong person would cause no end of trouble and his family had had enough of that in the last five years.
The Uber driver, a lumpy, sixty-something man wearing a worn blue jacket opened up the trunk, “Your mom lives there? She must be doing pretty well. I like how they turned the old Karlson factory into something nice.”
“Yeah,” Sean said, taking his suitcases out of the trunk, “she says it’s nice. I’ve been out of town.”
The man grinned, waiting until Sean had removed the second suitcase and closing the trunk. “She moved while you were away? Good luck, betcha all of your stuff is still in boxes.”
Sean imagined blowing out the car’s electrical system. It wouldn’t be hard, but he didn’t. Losing his temper over small things wasn’t worth it. It caused too many problems and it wasn’t like the guy deserved it.
“Could be,” he said. “Thanks for the ride.”
The man gave him a wave, got back into the car, and drove away. Sean opened up his phone and pressed the tip button.
He found himself staring after the car and then, after the car disappeared into city traffic, at the city park across the street. Some other factory had been there, but now it was all green lawn with picnic tables, trees, paths leading from one flowerbed to another, and a cast iron and steel gazebo. Past it rose more factories and the highway that ran through Grand Lake’s downtown. Past that, though he couldn’t see it, lay Grand Lake itself and the city’s beach.
It wasn’t a bad view, but it wasn’t home.
It did come with perks, though. He wasn’t far from Chuck’s Pizza, a restaurant owned by an ex-girlfriend’s family. Haley had been dating Nick for years now, but Sean remembered visiting her when she worked there. He’d liked the pizza.
Whatever. There was no point in thinking about any of that, he told himself and walked toward the apartment’s front door. Holding his phone up, he tapped on it, found the program for unlocking the door, and tapped on it. Facial recognition activated and the door unlocked.
He could have flown up to the roof, but he walked inside, finding the elevator to the right of the lobby, and pressed the button for the roof level. The elevator car rose more slowly than he would have flown. He occupied himself by looking out the windows as the elevator rose.
By the time he reached the top floor, he could see Grand Lake and further in the distance, the darkness of Lake Michigan.
The door opened and he turned around, leaving and walking down the dark red carpet to a door marked with the number 801. Clicking the notification on his phone, he reached for the doorknob as he heard the click, opened it and walked in.
Ahead of him lay a wide room with tinted glass walls, a wooden floor, and thin, elegant furniture that might have appeared in the background of pictures in a fashion magazine.
“Sean?” His mother’s voice came from the left, out of his sight.
In a few steps, he passed the short section of wall and closet to his left, standing in the main area of the room.
His mother walked toward him. In her early fifties, she had light skin and blond hair beginning to turn gray. She wore dark gray and purple exercise clothing.
“You’re home! I didn’t know you’d be here so soon. I just came back from a run and I was about to shower. I was hoping not to stink when I showed you around the new place.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll go and sit on the couch. Maybe I’ll watch tv or something.”
She smiled, “Wait for me before you go looking around. Half of our things are still in boxes. I don’t want that to be the first thing you see.”
“Don’t worry about it. I’ll wait,” he said.
“Good,” she grinned and walked down the hall.
What was he going to do to kill time? He opened his phone and held down the button long enough that it changed modes, wiping the screen and replacing the apps with the ones he used professionally. He clicked on the “Communicator” app, finding that someone he wanted to talk to was in town.
He clicked on a name and the comm opened a channel. Vaughn picked up, “Hey, Sean. How’d your internship go?”
Sean groaned, “Boring. Nothing happened. I told you I was assigned to the Southwestern Defenders Unit. I thought it would be crazy. You hear all kinds of stories about the border with Mexico, but it was quiet. We saw some action in the cities, but, it’s not like we fought any major supervillains, just a bunch of also-rans. Oh, and we also visited the cities where the zombie plague started in Arizona? That’s been over for 15 years.”
Vaughn laughed, “Maybe quiet is good. I heard Nick fought a bunch of vampires in Detroit. Me, I ended up with Cerebus—it’s this team out of Texas that watches over the Dreadportal. They keep on fighting a magical weather guy and they wanted to see if I could help.”