Despite my anxiety, I understood how the Nine had failed to find her. The girl in the picture resembled Cassie the way a picture might if, hypothetically speaking, they didn’t have any idea what Cassie looked like, and instead had to resort to gender-flipping an exact clone of her father in Photoshop.
Cassie could thank Dr. Mind, and splices of DNA from unknown (possibly alien) donors for not having a cleft chin, for lighter blond hair than her dad, and other small details that made her not quite the same.
Of course, we were all still wondering what else he’d hidden inside her.
Courtney glanced at me out of the corner of her eyes as I said, “No. Never seen her in my life.”
“Me neither,” she said. “Hey, thanks. I’ll call you.”
She gave him a smile, and we walked out.
It was a nice night for walking. September in Grand Lake still felt like summer, or at least it could. Tonight was one of those nights where you couldn’t tell the difference. I felt warm air, and a little bit of a cool breeze.
The moon and stars shone through the trees.
Once we got a few houses away, Courtney checked behind us, and turned to me. “Was that Cassie?”
Then it was my turn to check behind us. Courtney had been right. We were alone.
“It looked a lot like her, but not quite.”
I tried to keep my tone casual. Maybe she would buy it.
“You’re right, but you have to admit it’s close. It could have been a picture of her sister… Wait, does she have a sister?”
I fought back an urge to pull out my League communicator, and check people’s positions. Haley, or Travis could easily still be watching the house, and who knew where the others were.
It all depended on “Davis” and whether that house was his base of operations, or whether he’d just borrowed the kitchen for the meeting.
For now, my job was to get Courtney away from the place before anything happened.
She took a breath. “Nick, I think we should tell Cassie. I don’t know who he represents, but I’m betting it’s one of the big organizations—Syndicate L, the Mafia, or if she’s really unlucky, one of the powered organizations like the Nine, or the Dominators.”
I nodded, and we crossed a street, and turned right. We weren’t more than half a mile from campus by then. Given that most of the houses around here were rented by students, you could argue we were there already—just not officially.
“I’ll tell her, but it’s not going to do her much good.”
Courtney furrowed her brow. “Why?”
“Well, if you’re going through with it, you can’t set the police on them. If you’re not going through with it, you still probably can’t, not without risking revenge.”
Speaking quietly, she said, “I’m not going to do it.”
“Well, you heard him. I’d pay, but afterward I’d be in hock for any favor they’d want for the rest of my life. I’m not that desperate.”
“Yeah. That didn’t sound good to me either. Not that I have the option, but if I did, it wouldn’t have sounded good.”
We walked without saying anything for a little while then, our footsteps audible in the darkness.
We were going to have to tell Courtney something soon, but I wasn’t going to tell her I was the Rocket without Daniel vetting her first. I’d been that cautious about telling Chris last spring and I knew him better than I did Courtney.
What a pain that Daniel went to school in Chicago.
Noting something about Courtney that had been nagging at me, I decided to try to clear it up without telepathy.
“What’s with the over-sized sweatshirts? You’ve been wearing them a lot lately.”
She’d worn her Grand Lake University hoodie.
Giving a short laugh that sounded a little uncomfortable to my ears, she said, “I’ve been feeling like I get a little too much attention, so I’ve been dressing down for classes, and not wearing makeup all the time.”
“Oh.” I could see how that might happen.
She bit her lip. “There’s also another reason. You remember why Keith and I broke up?”
I did. She didn’t want to use her powers as a superhero. He did.
“If I changed my mind,” she said, “I could hide a lot under a sweatshirt, so I thought I’d let people get used to seeing me that way.”
I rolled that around in my head, not sure what direction I should go with questions—if any.
I didn’t get to ask anything though, because then my phone beeped. I pulled it out of my pocket, and checked who’d called.
It was Haley.