On Thursday night, Courtney and I walked up to a house near campus. A brown two-story, it had to be around a century old.
The lawn hadn’t been mowed in the last few weeks. The bushes in front of the houses hadn’t been clipped either, and had grown high enough that they partially blocked the windows.
Courtney knocked on the front door, and a college-aged guy opened it. Square jawed with obvious muscles showing through his t-shirt, he fit every stereotype I had about football players.
Of course, I had no reason to believe he actually was a football player, so every part of the stereotype but that.
Courtney smiled uncertainly, and said, “I’m looking for Davis?”
“Sure, come in.” He stared at Courtney for a second, and then glanced toward me. “Both of you.”
He led us through the house. A couple guys were playing video games on the big screen TV in the living room.
They ignored us.
We followed the guy through the dining room (or so I guessed from the chairs, table and two mountain bikes), and into the kitchen.
A dark haired guy stood next to the refrigerator. He was about our age, maybe a little older, but better dressed. His purple, button down shirt shimmered a little in the light.
Giving a sly grin, he said, “I’m Davis. Good to see you again, Courtney.” Turning to me he said, “And you’re her boyfriend?”
“No, her bodyguard,” I said.
Davis gave a small laugh. “Sure, I should have seen that right away.”
Courtney said, “You know why I’m here. How do we get started?”
She sounded a little nervous to me, but that might have just been my imagination.
“You’re direct,” Davis said. “I like that. Here’s how we get started. I’ll tell you a little about how we do things, and you can decide whether you’d be comfortable working with us.”
Courtney raised at an eyebrow. “I’m not looking for a job.”
Davis gave a wide smile. “Hear me out. This isn’t so different. You’re looking to make your powers permanent. We can do that, but there’s a cost. For normal people, we’d say one hundred thousand dollars—”
Courtney’s eyes widened, and she began to say, “I can’t—”
Davis held up his hand, “Don’t worry about it. What can you do?”
“I,” she started, and paused, still probably thinking what I was thinking.
One hundred thousand dollars? Who could afford that?
“I can change my appearance,” she said, “but not my shape. Not in a big way.”
She took a breath. “I can make myself stronger and faster, but only by comparison to normal people—not supers.”
Davis nodded. “Do you have any skills?”
“I’m a chemistry major. I can make power juice, but so can anybody if they’re careful.”
Davis grinned a little. “Don’t underestimate yourself. We can work with that. You can make yourself very useful.”
Courtney said, “To who?”
“Ahh,” he said. “I can’t say. We’re a large organization, and not strictly legal in all of our areas of business. You’ll find out after you go through with it.”
“So, if I decide to work for you, it’s free?”
He shook his head. “No, we’ll have you pay what we think you can afford, and then we’ll have you do us a few favors.”
“Oh.” Courtney stood still for a second, and then said, “What if I decide not to do it at all? No permanent powers? Nothing. We’re okay, right?”
Davis smiled. “We’re okay. Sure. If you did decide not to get involved with us, we’d all want you to keep quiet about tonight. You don’t tell anyone about us. Not unless they can be trusted.”
Davis turned to me. “You understand that?”
“Sure,” I said, hoping he wasn’t a telepath because if he was, he stood a good chance of knowing that I was recording the entire conversation.
I did my best to keep that, and the other precautions I’d taken, out of my mind.
“If I said yes,” Courtney said quietly, “how soon could it happen?”
“Tomorrow, if you wanted.” Davis opened the refrigerator, and pulled out a can of beer.
“What’ll it be?” He asked. “Are you interested or not?”
“I’m interested,” Courtney said, “but I need a little time to think it over. Its a big decision.”
He pulled out a card, and handed to her. “Call this number. You have two days. After that, it’ll never work again, and you’ll have to find me another way.”
Courtney put the card into the pocket of her jeans. “Thanks. I guess we’d better go.”
“Sure,” Davis said. “One question though. I’m trying to find someone in Grand Lake. Have you seen this girl?”
He held up a photograph. It looked like it had been modified or created by a computer, but I knew the subject.
It wasn’t exactly right, but the girl looked an awful lot like Cassie. I had a sudden intuition as to who Davis represented, and wanted to get away as soon as I could.