A copy of the Grand Lake Sentinel lay next to a command console. I picked it up and looked at the front page.
The headline said, “Mayor Denies Influence” while the article argued that the mayor had received money from a group called “Michigan Citizens for Business” and then hired members of the group into his administration.
Much of the evidence came from an “anonymous source”—Daniel, probably. Telepathy seemed tailor made for gathering dirt.
The next story’s headline was “Storm King Continues War on Local Drug Pushers.” The picture showed police leading handcuffed men out of a house’s shattered doorway. As a former client, Vaughn would have some insight into the local drug culture.
I skimmed the article, but put the paper down as News 10 covered the same story on the TV.
Vaughn grinned widely while a reporter interviewed a round-faced woman in a bathrobe about what had happened.
“The fog came out of nowhere and surrounded the house across the street and then lightning shattered the front door. I always knew something was wrong over there, but I never did know what.”
“Got ‘em,” Vaughn muttered. Then, “Hey Nick, is that cool or what?”
“It’s cool,” I said, giving it just enough enthusiasm that hopefully Vaughn wouldn’t ask me again. Meanwhile, I checked through our voicemail. We had about forty, some of them two week old complaints about my ride in Night Wolf’s car. Why didn’t anyone else bother to check for messages? It wasn’t as if it was hard.
The most recent one had come just ten minutes ago. Mayor Bouman had left a voicemail asking me to drop by his office because he had a few questions for me. I called him back, letting him know that I was coming, put my suit on, and flew downtown.
For someone who can fly without help, I imagine flight must be all about air on your face and the roar of wind in your ears. For me, it’s the warmth of the rockets on my back, and the smell of plastic, metal, and my own sweat.
The city of Grand Lake blurred beneath me, all lights and suburban lawns at first, but ending in the mixture of glassy, modernism and turreted Victoriana we called downtown.
Within minutes I stood in the mayor’s office.
He shook my hand, thanked me for coming, and said, “I did what I could to make sure you could sit down this time.”
The chair in front of his desk had no arms.
He gave me a smile as he walked around the desk and sat down in his own chair. The sight of him in a high backed chair in front of windows that showed a dark sky gave me a sudden flashback to scenes with the Emperor in Return of the Jedi or Revenge of the Sith.
I suppose that ought to have frightened me.
Not that Mayor Bouman looked at all like the Emperor. Despite being in his forties, he could pass for thirty. Tanned, he had no wrinkles to speak of. I wondered if he used botox treatments.
Next to the window hung a framed copy of the Grand Lake Sentinel. The headline read, “DynaChem Loses Appeal.” Before he became mayor, he had been a lawyer, successfully suing DynaChem after people began to die of cancer near one of their storage facilities.
“It was one of my best moments,” he said, glancing toward the framed paper. “They’d gotten so big, they didn’t imagine an ordinary person could do anything to them. They thought they could hide evidence and lie on the stand. It turns out that they couldn’t.”
Inside the helmet, I rolled my eyes. Even two years after the election, he still couldn’t stop campaigning.
“But enough about that,” he said, “I imagine you’re wondering what I wanted to talk to you about.”
I had been.
“You’ve heard about the scandal,” he said. “I’d like you to talk to your friends and see if you can find out who’s behind it.”
“I can talk to them,” I said, knowing that I didn’t have far to look to find the culprit. Turning him in was, of course, a completely different thing.
“Great,” he said. “That’s all I can ask for.”
As he spoke, I felt something in my mind. Growing up with Daniel as a friend, I’d long ago learned to recognize the feeling. Everyone in his family from his parents to his younger brother and sister had probably been in my head at some point.
Whoever it was lacked their skill.
I felt pressure, not a painful pressure, but a solid if slightly clumsy touch.
Mayor Bouman had stopped talking and held the edge of his desk with both hands.
I tried to think of what to do next.
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Bio: Jim Zoetewey grew up in Holland, Michigan, near where L Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz and other books in that series. Admittedly, Baum moved away more than sixty years before Jim was even born, but it's still kind of cool. Jim didn't attain his goal of never leaving school, but did prolong his stay as long as possible. He majored in religion and sociology at Hope College, gaining enough credits to obtain minors in ancient civilizations and creative writing—had he thought to submit applications to the relevant departments. He attended Western Theological Seminary for two years. He followed that up by getting a masters degree in sociology at Western Michigan University. Once out of school, he took up the most logical occupation for someone with his educational background: web developer and technical support. Simultaneously, he finished all but three credits of a masters in Information Systems, a degree that's actually relevant to his field. He's still not done. In the meantime, he's been writing stories about superheroes and posting them online at http://legionofnothing.com. He's still not sure whether that was a good idea, but continues to do it anyway. He's also not sure why he's writing this in the third person, but he's never seen an author bio written in first person and doesn't want to rock the boat.