We didn’t break into the house, though we did think about it.
“No,” Daniel said. “We don’t have any justification for it. Sean’s mom and little sister are home anyway, and they don’t know anything.”
We left and went home.
* * *
I ended up going through the whole story with Lee after practice. It wasn’t an official team practice. I happened to know that he was going to be at the studio and rode there after school.
After chaining my bike to the bike rack, I went into the back of the building, glimpsing the kids karate class on the lower level.
Walking up the stairs, I found Lee throwing ping pong balls into the air and slicing them in half with a sword — not a katana either — just a medieval, Western style sword. The sword and scabbard both looked worn.
A number of severed ping pong balls lay near his feet on the wooden floor. At least as many whole balls lay scattered around the room.
Unfortunately, Lee wasn’t in the mood to talk. When I began to say, “I’ve got a little bit of a problem,” he handed me a broadsword and said, “Later.”
We sparred for the next two hours. I use the word “sparred” somewhat loosely because I was only one step above completely incompetent. Lee stopped me all the time, showing me with as few words as possible what I was doing wrong, and then started up again.
His tendency to change form while we fought didn’t help. I saw him as Viking warriors, medieval knights, a long haired man who could have come straight out of the Three Musketeers, and warriors from civilizations too ancient for me to name. I suspected a few of them had to be from other planets.
I don’t think he did it intentionally, but it was distracting.
By the time we stopped, I felt tired, beaten, and had a small cut on my cheek. I wanted to believe that he’d cut me, but couldn’t rule out the possibility that I’d managed to do it myself.
Lee pulled out the first aid kit and cleaned the cut. “You need to learn how to do this yourself,” he said. “You need to learn how to put in stitches, set bones, all of it.”
From the studio downstairs, a host of children shouted, “Hai!”
“You don’t have a doctor on the team. First aid will make the difference between life and death one of these days.”
Lee shrugged. “You’re training to fight. Someone’s going to get hurt. Plan for it.”
He stopped for a moment. “Which reminds me. You’re going to have to make sure that more of your team shows up more often. You’ve got nine people. We need to practice with nine people. You need to start fighting like a small group instead of a group of individual fighters — that went out with the Sumerians.”
He went on for a while about which small group tactics might work for us before asking me what I’d wanted to talk about.
I told him what we’d done the night before, ending with, “… So we lost them. I don’t know where they are and it’s not like Daniel’s a bloodhound. If there’s not enough of a threat to tweak his prescience, he’s not going to get anywhere.”
“I’ve heard of them. They’re just a bunch of thugs. Listen to the police band tonight and you’ll catch them. I bet they’ll rob a bank.”
* * *
I didn’t have much homework that night. That was a good thing for a lot of reasons.
First of all, I had to phone the whole team and ask them to make it to Lee’s studio tomorrow. While I was at it, I ended up telling them to be ready if I sent a yellow or red to their homing device, and if they could, could they listen to police band?
“God,” Jaclyn said from the other end, “Didn’t we just do this last night? I’ve still got two hours of homework to go.”
As I opened my mouth to reply, she said, “I’m not saying I’m not coming, but last night was enough of an interruption.”
“You don’t have to if you don’t want to.”
“Nick, don’t guilt trip me.”
“I’m not trying to.”
Haley was at work. I left a message with her phone.
By the time I finished that, it was about 7:00 PM. I spent the next hour or two reading up on Spike and his friends, while listening to police band in League HQ and drinking Coca Cola. Sometimes I’d get distracted and think about things totally unrelated, wondering for example, why my grandfather hadn’t ever invented something to stop HQ from smelling like a musty basement.
Anyway, I really did learn a couple things while reading through the FBI’s files on Spike. I learned that he and his twin brother Skewer had started a group called “Blood Money” five years ago and specialized in robbing banks.
Disappointingly, the other two guys in the group didn’t have names that followed the “sharp pointy objects that start with ‘S'” theme. They were called Cold Cash and Payback.
Presumably Spike and Skewer handled the “Blood” portion of the theme and Cold Cash and Payback dealt with the “Money” portion.
Cold Cash apparently had ice powers and Payback manifested some kind of weird force field. A physicist working for the FBI had written a paper on it. I pulled it up and while I was absorbing the finer details, Haley touched me on the shoulder.
I didn’t jump exactly, but I did kind of move upwards. I didn’t leave the chair though, so it didn’t really count as a jump.
Haley giggled. “I wasn’t even trying to sneak up on you. Honest.”
“Crap. I think I spilled Coke on my pants.”
We walked to the kitchen to grab paper towels and I wiped the pop off. It had landed on and around my crotch.
While we were at it, I heard the elevator hum and the door open. Seconds after that, Cassie walked into the kitchen, finding me next to the counter, paper towels in hand, and Haley looking apologetic.
“I don’t even want to know what you’ve been up to,” Cassie said.
Haley and I both said, “Nothing,” simultaneously. Then she started laughing.
“Did you hear me asking?” Cassie said. “Hear anything from the police yet?”
“Nothing,” I said, putting the paper towels in the trash.
“No,” Haley said, “they’re saying something right now.”
So Lee turned out to be wrong about the bank part at least.
Over the HQ’s speakers, I heard the dispatcher’s voice saying, “Suspected masked felony at 2225 138th Street.”
When we looked up the address it turned out to be for a business called “Chemical Supplies, Incorporated.”