Ray kept the gun pointed at my mom, but acted as if we were making small talk at the Christmas party.
“So you know I’ve done jobs for the Chicago Outfit, right? I got a job to kill Night Wolf a few years back. Night Wolf had been retired for years by then, and the client was old, so I took it because it sounded like easy money. If he was still alive, he had to be in his 80’s.
“So I drove up to Grand Lake, and started looking around. After a while I connected him with a doctor, and I found out that the doctor was part of some big, Italian family. In an interview a few years back, Night Wolf had said something about Italian families that made it sound like he was part of one. So when I heard that the doctor’s family’s Christmas party was open to everybody, I dropped by. And do you know what, no one knew a damn thing about Night Wolf. A couple days after the party, I finally connected him with some guy named Chuck who’d married into the family after World War 2, and died earlier that year. After that, I dropped by every couple years. They had good food, so why not?
“And besides I thought I might find League members. Somebody would pay to know who they were.”
Rachel very calmly, and without a trace of irony in her voice, asked, “How’d that work out?”
Ray gave a short laugh. “Not too well. I didn’t get any hints until late last year, and even then I didn’t figure anything out until a few weeks ago. I couldn’t believe I missed it, but then I thought about all the things that no one talked about. No one talked about who Chuck’s friends were. No one talked about his hobbies. It was like he only existed for family and business. How’d they miss the other stuff? They’d known him for years. And then I realized the obvious. The Mentalist, the League’s telepath, had been working on everybody the whole time. I only figured out the Rocket because I guessed right on Haley and Travis.
“And that explains this,” he turned toward my mom. “Your son’s the Rocket. Hell, your father was the Rocket. What do think of that?”
Mom blinked, and mumbled something unintelligible through the gag.
“Take my word for it,” Ray said, “she doesn’t know what I’m talking about.”
I don’t know what I ought to have done then. I felt like screaming, or maybe attacking, but he still pointed a gun at Mom’s head.
And besides, I’d noticed something he hadn’t. Mom was clenching and unclenching her jaw. Dad did that sometimes when he was upset or worried.
I’d never seen Mom do it.
Not sure what that meant, I didn’t say anything.
“I’m not a big fan of supers, but I’ve got to respect the first League,” Ray said. “They put up a wall between their identities, and it lasted longer than any I’ve ever gone up against. But, it’s over now, and I’ve got other plans for today.
“Nick, say your good-byes, we’re leaving in a minute.”
I managed to find my tongue. “We’re back to the plan where I’m going to design stuff for Syndicate L?”
“That’s about right.”
I thought about arguing with him, but I knew where it would go–another reminder that he could blow my mom’s brains out.
A look from Rachel told me she could see the same thing. Well, that’s how I interpreted it–her white mask covered the top half of her face, and her mouth had set into an expressionless line.
Outside, something exploded. It was hard to tell the exact distance, but it might have been within a block of us.
“OK,” I said, “then let’s go now.”
Ray smirked at me. “What, you don’t want to say good bye to your mom and sister? Sorry, but no. I’ve got one more thing to take care of.”
Behind him, one of the men in powered armor said, “A car’s parked on the road. Two people got out.”
A moment later, the man said, “They’re coming in.”
The door to the house opened, blowing in the smell of the lake, and Gunther walked through, sword in hand.