Two police cars came roaring up the street soon after that. The FBI came with them. Two of them came in a nondescript white van followed by two more in a separate car.
The men in the van started collecting pieces of the destroyed robot.
The police and FBI agents started another round of questioning while Solar Flare stepped up to the counter and ordered a latte.
“Do you think we’ll be able to go soon?” Haley checked her phone. “I should get home.”
“I don’t know,” I said. “This seems to be getting bigger by the second.”
“Do you think they’ll do anything if we just walk out?” She stood up.
The FBI agents appeared just as I began to say yes.
The taller of the two, a middle aged woman with touches of gray in her brown hair said, “I’d like to talk to you outside.”
The other agent, a short, bald black man said, “It’s nothing bad.”
We followed them out. I’d wondered if they knew who we were, but the answer seemed self-evident.
Once we got outside, the woman herded us down the sidewalk, stopping about twenty feet from the entrance to the coffee house. The police appeared to have blocked off the street while the men in the van photographed the scene and picked up the machine’s pieces.
“I’m Agent Brecker and this is Agent Satterfield,” she nodded toward the other agent. “We work with Agent Lim in the Superhuman Affairs Branch.”
She held out a leather case with her badge and identification.
“We’d like to hear anything anything you know about this.”
“I don’t know anything,” I said. “We were in the coffee house and Haley noticed it floating above the building across the street so we went out to get a closer look.”
“I didn’t know what it was,” Haley said.
Agent Brecker looked each of us over, but didn’t follow up. Either she’d decided we were telling the truth or that getting it out of us wouldn’t be worth the effort.
“We’re assigning agents to watch you — and I mean all of you — and your families. Try to stay out of costume until after the New Year. It will be safer.”
“Why?” I said, trying to sound as surprised as I could.
“I’m not authorized to say. Take it up with Agent Lim.”
“Okay,” I said.
“Good,” she said, “Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to speak to someone.”
She walked down the sidewalk toward one of the police cars.
The other agent turned to follow her, but said, “Talk to Isaac. You know he’ll tell you. Just don’t let him say too much or you’ll get the man in trouble.”
“No problem,” I said.
We stood next to each other on the sidewalk for a little while, watching the people from the van pick up pieces of the machine and the police redirect traffic down a side road.
Agent Brecker and Agent Satterfield stood next to a cruiser and talked with a couple police officers.
“They smelled weird,” Haley said.
“Like the mayor,” she said. “Red Lightning’s lair smelled of it too.”
“Smelled of what?”
“I don’t know. It smelled of chemicals, but I don’t know which chemicals.”
“‘Drink of the Gods’ probably,” I said. “The stuff that gave Red Lightning his powers and everyone in the Cabal theirs… Isaac as much as told me they were experimenting with it. I didn’t know they were giving it to agents in the field.”
She frowned and put her hands in her coat pockets. “What did we just step into?”
“I don’t know. On the bright side, it sounds like they plan to protect our families until the Executioner is out of town.”
“That’s something.” She stopped talking for a moment. “Nick, I need to get home.”
“Right,” I said. “Let’s go.”
We started walking toward where I’d parked my mom’s car, but only moved a few steps before one of the policemen started shouting at us.
I ended up driving home with a police escort. We drove toward Haley’s house first, traveling south, the sky growing darker by the second. She lived just north of Fillmore, the nearest suburb. I took the highway, merging into three lanes of heavy traffic at about seventy miles per hour.
Haley turned around, stretching to check the rear window and then slipping back to a normal sitting position at a speed I felt sure wasn’t normally humanly possible.
“They’re still behind us,” she said. “I can’t believe it. Do you think they’ll park in front of the house? My mom’s going to freak out.”
“They don’t have their lights on. Maybe she won’t notice.”
“She’ll notice,” Haley said. She folded her hands across her chest.
“I wish Cassie hadn’t ever seen anything about the Executioner. She needs to understand that when you start things like this real people can get hurt. Not just people on TV.”
I could have pointed out that outside of the cartoons even the people on TV were real, but I didn’t. I had some degree of common sense.
“Yeah,” I said. “I guess we all need to learn that.”