“Crap,” I muttered, realizing as I did it that everybody could hear me and not just Vaughn, Tara, and Daniel who were sitting at the table with me, but also everyone showing on the big screen.
Up in the right corner of the screen, Travis said, “What happened?”
I looked up toward him, noticing that he was sitting in a van on a dark, city street somewhere wearing a dark suit. He was visiting a team in Philadelphia. He’d told me, but I couldn’t think of their name—except that my implant then supplied it—the Bells.
Taking in how everyone now seemed to be waiting for bad news, I gave them the bad news, “You know how I made Cassie puke on one of the engineers back on Renewal Island? Well, that guy died. He died this morning and he wasn’t far away—he died in Columbus, Ohio. That’s half a day’s drive from here. They could be on their way.”
“Someone should go down there,” Travis said, “Izzy might find something.”
On the bottom left, Izzy stood in her apartment’s bathroom in front of the shower. She hadn’t been taking a shower. She wore a green t-shirt and jeans from what I could see. Her long, dark hair wasn’t wet. She must have taken the call there to increase her privacy. Taking off her glasses, she said, “I can go. I didn’t have plans tonight.”
Her clothes reconfigured into her costume which was blue like her codename. As the mask covered her face, she said, “I’ll go now and listen in.”
The stream disappeared, replaced by a picture of her in costume.
“Unless Izzy discovers something, I don’t have anything else,” I said. “I just wanted everyone to know what’s going on. If you’ve got ideas for what we do next, that’s great. Let me know. We don’t have much of a target yet, so finding Magnus is the long-term plan, but obviously surviving whatever happens next is first.”
People continued to throw out ideas as Izzy’s view changed from her picture to stars and clouds and an ever-changing landscape. Traveling at several times the speed of sound, the view darkened as she flew toward Ohio, leaving California behind and crossing most of the country to arrive in Columbus, Ohio.
I wasn’t familiar with what the city looked like at all, but I did see skyscrapers lit up in the night and a river.
Hal had pulled the address of where Louis Starkey (the guy’s name) had been killed as soon as we knew Izzy was going. Where he’d pulled it from, I didn’t know. He might not have even gotten it himself. As part of an informal association of the world’s AIs, he might have asked a friend.
Regardless, Izzy aimed to the east of the skyscrapers, descending to land in a residential area. It could have just as easily been a neighborhood in Grand Lake, one of the newer ones. In a nutshell, it had wide, mowed lawns, trees that would have been shady if the leaves hadn’t fallen off, and two-story houses with long driveways and big garages.
One house stood out from the suburban monotony, but more because of what it didn’t have. It was missing the front door and the wall around the front door, all the way up to the second story. Wooden beams, insulation, metal ductwork, and electrical cables were visible through the destroyed section. White siding and chunks of drywall lay on the ground in front of the house.
To be fair, the house also had things that the other houses didn’t. First among them? Police tape and plastic sheeting covered the house’s doorway and the missing bits of wall. There weren’t any people around at this point except for Izzy and all the people staying in their houses and not coming out now that an obvious super had landed on the front lawn.
Izzy whispered, “I just looked through the house with sound. There’s no one inside. Most of the damage seems to be in the hallway behind the door. I’m going to pull open the plastic sheet and look inside.
We watched as the view shifted to show the plastic sheet and then Izzy’s blue-covered arms reached out to pull the plastic out of the way, revealing what lay behind the front door.
The hallway would have been nice normally. Family portraits hung on the wall—Louis, his head as bald as I remembered from Renewal Island, standing next to his curly-haired wife and their four children. The pictures followed the children from early childhood through to high school graduation. Some included even older people that I assumed must have been grandparents.
If it had been just that, it wouldn’t have been bad at all. Shrines to someone’s family life might be boring, but they’re not disturbing.
You know what is disturbing though? If someone gets hit hard enough that bits of them are splattered all over the floor, walls, and ceiling of their house.
Many strong supers have enough power behind them to hit someone hard enough that the person dies instantly or all but explodes. Most, even including supervillains, don’t do that. Whoever killed Louis Starkey had. Blood and other bits of Louis stained the floor, walls, and ceiling.
Along with Louis, fragments of wood also stuck out of the walls. I guessed that might be the remains of the door. That wasn’t the only damage. The killer had left footprints in the wood of the shattered floor.
Well, we knew that the killer was strong at least.