“Nick,” Isaac said, “I’ve got two more things for you. First of all, I’ve arranged training on how to fly the jet for any of you that want it. I’ll send you the information on that along with the evasive driving I mentioned before. Second, I need you to let me know if you’ve got any hint that Magnus or any of the Cabal’s people are in Grand Lake. Some of my people think they might drop by to remove any evidence they can from the Mayor’s house.”
“I thought you got basically everything,” I said.
Isaac shrugged. “We tried. Thanks to the powers that be deciding that I couldn’t talk to you at the time, I’ve no way to guess what we missed because we didn’t coordinate.”
“Which reminds me,” he said, “do you have any more information on what your grandfather did to make Red Lightning’s powers permanent?”
“Sorry,” I said. “I don’t know anything about that. You might talk to Vaughn.”
“Yeah,” Isaac said, “I’ll try it, but I’ve got a feeling he’ll be less than helpful. His family and the original team hushed everything up. ”
“Really?” I said.
* * *
Haley didn’t work on Wednesdays most weeks.
It made for an extremely low pressure date, low pressure enough that we didn’t even call it a date. I would call her on Tuesday and talk and ask her if she were off. We’d meet at my Grandpa’s house, go down to League HQ, and go on patrol. Typically we’d borrow Night Wolf’s Corvette from the hangar and drive around town listening to the police band, pretending that what we were doing had anything at all to do with making the streets safer.
I’d wear the stealth suit with the helmet off. It was more comfortable in a car than the full Rocket suit.
The car turned out to be ideal for hanging around. The darkened windows gave us privacy and the fact that people now recognized Night Wolf’s car meant that if we stopped somewhere people assumed it had to be a stakeout. If we’d been in a normal car, they’d have called the police or just told us to go somewhere else.
Not that we were making out or anything. We were just talking. Honestly, we hadn’t even kissed yet.
On that particular Wednesday, we met at Solid Grounds after school.
Walking up to the counter, I recognized the barista. She’d been here the last time we’d come.
Haley walked up to the counter and said, “Hi, Shannon” in a tone that was clear and completely without any hint of annoyance.
I lined up behind Haley.
Shannon looked both of us over. She blushed. “I’m really sorry,” she said. “I didn’t even know Julie had taken that picture.”
“It’s OK,” Haley said.
I wasn’t quite convinced that it was OK, but didn’t argue.
Not too long after that we went to Grandpa’s house, suited up, and started the patrol, this time with more of a focus than usual. We were going to the Mayor’s house.
We arrived around four, got out of the car and started walking around the yard.
It looked deserted.
Broken windows had been boarded up. Peering in through the unbroken windows showed that all the unbroken furnishings had been removed. The table still sat in pieces in the dining room. No one had fixed the floor above it where Vengeance and the Hangmen had broken through.
The swing set in the backyard had disappeared.
Soot covered the bricks above the windows where the gas had exploded.
I wondered whether or not they were keeping the heat on or at least draining the pipes. If water froze and then expanded, making leaks all over the house, they’d ultimately have to pay so much more to get things fixed up and sell the place.
I turned away from the window toward the backyard. Haley stood next to one of the holes left by the swing set’s removal.
“Hey,” I said, “do you suppose we ought to break in?”
“Just a second,” she said, “I’m getting something.”
She had her nose in the air as if sniffing the wind.
“I think someone’s here,” she said. “Or maybe someone has been here. I’m going to climb the tower.”
She climbed up the wall.
Starting up the jet pack, I flew past her, stopping near the top of the tower. Hovering in front of a broken window, I guessed it had to be recently broken by the fact that I couldn’t see any snow inside the Mayor’s study. I stepped inside.
Haley stepped in after me.
The study had been ransacked. Most of the books were gone. The ones that weren’t lay on the floor in disorganized piles, some open, some closed as if they’d fallen and no one bothered to pick them up.
It felt cold. I could see my breath.
Haley held her hand up to her lips and then stood still.
We waited silently for a minute, maybe longer. Then she said, “I don’t think anyone’s here now, but someone was.”
“I wonder why,” I said.
“I don’t know. What was the mayor’s mission here in Grand Lake anyway?” She said.
“I’m not sure,” I said. “I assumed it had to be connected with Red Lightning somehow. Maybe to do with making the powers connected with the potions he made permanent instead of temporary? That would be my best guess. Isaac was digging for exactly the same thing just yesterday.”
We looked around the study for a little while after that, but didn’t find anything, not even a conveniently located secret compartment containing the mayor’s plans.