The sound of footsteps coming from inside the restroom kicked me into high gear. Quickly, I moved past the door and stepped to the far side of a vending machine there, pressing myself up against the wall to be out of sight. There, I listened to the sound of the restroom door opening, then Paige’s footsteps crisply moving away as she walked back to join the rest of the party.
Which left me standing there by myself, silently digesting what I had heard a moment earlier.
And what the fuck did I hear? No, really, what the fuck did I hear? Paige’s dad was in Breakwater? As in the inescapable prison for Fell-Touched?! No, he wasn’t! He wasn’t! He was right here in Detroit! I knew he was right here in Detroit, damn it. I saw him at the club every once in awhile. How could he be in Breakwater? If Amos Banners had ended up A: being a supervillain and B: going to the most infamous prison for supervillains in the world, I’m pretty sure I would’ve known.
Well, okay, they actually didn’t always unmask supervillains who went to Breakwater. Correction, they didn’t always publicly unmask them. That was done to protect their families from retaliation by angry victims or families of victims who wanted someone else to blame and strike back against for their pain. Still, he couldn’t be in Breakwater because he was here in Detroit.
Unless the man I knew as Paige’s father wasn’t really? That didn’t make sense, I’d never heard anything about her being adopted or anything, and I’d known her since middle school.
That was dumb. Of course Paige could be adopted without me knowing about it. Kids were adopted younger than that all the time, yet… yet… how could this make any sense? It obviously had something to do with how she knew about my family, and how much she knew. But there were still so many pieces I just didn’t have. It was impossible to figure out how it all fit together. I needed to find out more about all this first.
The library. I had to go to the library tonight. In three hours and– I checked my phone. Three hours and four minutes, apparently. If I wanted to have any idea of how this all fit together, I had to be there when Paige would apparently talk to her father, who was on Breakwater. The fuck?
Okay, right now I had to get back to the party before I was missed. But I also had to get home with Izzy soon enough that I could sneak back out again to get to that library. Without raising any questions from either Izzy herself or my parents. Or from Amber, come to think of it.
At least there was plenty of time, so I didn’t have to rush anything. The party should be over long before three more hours had passed. So, I did my best to just… focus on the party, hard as that was. There were so many things going through my head that I lost several games of air hockey to Izzy, only managing to focus and win one at the end. Still, she had the most wins, and Amber gave her a high five after laughing at me. “Dude,” she announced after taking a sip from her soda, “if we ever do a tournament like we did that one time, this kid’s totally gonna be on my team.”
“No way,” I retorted. “She’s living with us. Hell, she’s living practically next to my room. I get dibs on people living close enough to hear me snore. That’s gotta be in a rulebook somewhere.”
“Which is it, next to your room or close enough to hear you snore?” That was Damarko, stepping over to join us. “Because from the look of your house, your bedroom is probably like… the size of all this.” He gestured around the arcade room we were all standing in. “I bet you actually could be in the same room and not hear someone shout from one end to the other.”
“It’s not that big,” I insisted before looking to where Izzy was squinting at me. “What? It’s really not!” The tips of my ears felt a little warm, and I added a mumbled, “I didn’t say it wasn’t close.”
I let Damarko take a shot at Izzy, and she beat him too. Which made me feel a bit better. Amber stayed close too, and Jae came by. We talked about what happened in Utah, and some other attacks we remembered while taking turns with the hockey table. Izzy didn’t win every game, and we definitely weren’t just letting her win. But she won enough that it was clear she really was that good at it. It was, considering both the fact that everyone was still digesting the new Collision Point, and my own distraction about this whole Paige thing, still a pretty fun time.
About forty minutes later, things were really winding down even more than they already had after the news about Utah. Izzy had been yawning a few times, and I used that as an excuse to speak up. “Right, we don’t want to turn into a couple pumpkins by staying out too late. Thanks for the party, Amber.”
She actually embraced me. “Hey, thank you guys. Those are awesome… okay, completely ridiculous and absurd presents. Still, I knew making friends with you would pay off eventually.” Winking, she then embraced Izzy, taking a second to whisper something in her ear that actually seemed to make the younger girl smile for a moment. It was pretty cool, how well Izzy already got along with the others despite barely knowing them.
We said some more farewells, while I made the call to Jefferson for a pick-up. I knew it was just for show, my family’s people had to be watching this place like hawks to make sure nothing happened while Izzy was here just like Simon’s friends had followed us around the mall. So they’d know the second we stepped out. Still, I wasn’t supposed to know that, so I called, and Jefferson had Henlein waiting right out by the curb for us by the time we walked out a few minutes later. I didn’t see anyone watching as we got in, but that was probably the point.
So, we were driven home. I watched Izzy stare out the window for awhile before asking, “You okay? I know you didn’t really know anyone there except for that one time meeting Amber and the others for the movie, but I guess you made a good impression because she thought you were pretty cool. Then that… the news came in and…” I trailed off uncertainly, watching her.
She turned, glancing to me before offering a smile. “I had fun, thanks. It’s just… it’s a lot.”
“Yeah, it’s definitely a lot,” I agreed. “But hey, imagine how crazy her eighteenth birthday is gonna be. She’ll probably rent out a whole theme park. They might have to call in the cops.”
Izzy snickered a little, and the sound made me smile. We talked a bit more on the way back, but it was clear she was too tired to really carry on for much longer. Once home, we had a brief conversation with my dad (Mom was apparently already in bed) in the hall before heading up. There, I let Izzy use the shower first, and the poor kid was practically asleep by the time she was done, as she trudged to her bed and basically fell in. I covered her with the blanket and watched for a second, asking myself for about the millionth time just what could have happened to put her in our house like this. Then I quietly backed out and closed the door behind me.
“Long night, huh?” That was my dad again, his voice making me jump as the door clicked shut.
“Wha–oh, oh.” Flushing a little, I gestured while keeping my voice low. “Yeah, long night. You um… you heard about Utah, I guess? Don’t you have a building there somewhere?” I tried to keep my tone as casual as possible, like it had just occurred to me. Which was easy, considering it actually had. Okay, not just. I remembered on the way home, but still.
“Good memory, kid,” Dad replied with a smile, beckoning me away from the door so we wouldn’t wake up Izzy. The two of us moved down the hall a bit, as he confirmed, “Yeah, we’ve got a building in the area, but nowhere near where the attack happened. I…” Pausing, he looked to me. “What about you? You don’t know anyone who lives there, do you? Any online friends?”
Shaking my head, I murmured, “Nope. But umm… but still, seeing it on the news like that, are those people gonna be okay?” I swallowed hard, adding, “The ones who are still alive, I mean.”
In response, Dad reached out, pulling me into a hug that I returned despite my complicated feelings. Part of him disgusted me, horrified me. He’d been okay with killing a teenage girl. More than one teenager, actually. And the casual way he’d mentioned it made me realize that it wasn’t the first time things had gone that far. Not to mention all the others he’d clearly killed. He was a monster, a villain, a psychopath who somehow seemed to run basically the entire Detroit criminal world.
Yet, he was my father. He was my daddy. I’d always gone to him when I had trouble. He and Mom were my everything. They were my parents. What was I supposed to do when I couldn’t trust my parents? What was anyone supposed to do when they couldn’t trust their parents?
Dad dismissed himself after another moment, making me promise to go to bed soon. Which, I supposed was a promise I was just going to have to break immediately. But given that the fact that he basically killed people for a living and got rich off running the entire criminal underworld, I was going to count myself as being pretty much in the clear as far as our moral points went.
Anyway, I was left alone, so I took the bag with my costume out from its hiding place beneath the floor under the mirror and made sure the door was shut. Then I slipped out through my open window onto the balcony. Checking around to make sure I had the timing of the cameras and the guards right, I took a breath, then jumped down while using orange and black paint to land soundlessly and painlessly. From there, I quickly left the grounds and headed on my way to find the library where Paige was supposed to be in… right, one hour. I had one hour left to get to the library.
Whatever ended up happening there, this was almost certainly going to be an interesting night.
So, it turned out that using these upgraded shoes of mine made traveling across the city a hell of a lot faster and more convenient. Which I’d assumed from the start, but it was still pretty incredible. Just the fact that I didn’t have to spend paint on sticking to things freed it up for other uses. Basically, it just sped up my entire process. I ran along the side of a building without thinking about exactly how much paint I had left. I used red paint to yank myself to the next building, but didn’t have to immediately use a line of the stuff to keep running. I just… ran. Or skated, in that case.
And the fact that it shifted my gravity with me no matter which direction I was facing helped almost as much as the whole sticking to things bit did. No matter which way I was oriented, my body acted like I was right-side up on the ground as soon as my feet touched a surface. That was seriously huge. Unbelievably huge. I could run and skate upside down under bridges, along the bottom or sides of billboards, whatever. It didn’t matter. Saving red paint for only needing to pull myself to places or whatever meant I was just… so much faster at all this. I may actually have squealed and shouted with joy for a little bit there when I was first getting into it, and figuring out how to adjust to that whole thing. So sue me, it was fun. Jumping from the roof of one building, using red paint to yank myself a good hundred feet to the side before landing with feet against the wall of another building, then just running flat out along it before using blue paint to bounce to a third building, popping my skates out on the way and then rolling along that one sideways as easily as if it was flat ground? All without actually using the red paint the way I would’ve had to before to keep myself up there?
Yeah, Wren did good work. I really needed to give that kid a hug, that was for sure. She was awesome. This was awesome. And it was a great distraction away from what I was actually supposed to be doing out here. For a few minutes, anyway.
The library, of course, was closed at this hour. I got there pretty early given my newfound quicker traveling ability, landing on the roof after taking a long leap off a nearby office tower and red-painting my way to the exact spot I wanted. The library building itself was old Italian Renaissance style and was something like a hundred years old. Of course, it had been remodeled and upgraded over the past century, particularly in the last couple decades with the emergence and rise of superpowered criminals and fights. The library, like most places in Detroit, had taken its share of knocks.
There was a small memorial garden with a fountain that was supposed to commemorate one of the other libraries and the three employees within it who had died like eighteen years ago during one of the early Collision Points, before anyone really knew anything about what they were.
Paige’s meeting place was down in that garden. I saw her arrive, walking crisply down the sidewalk in front of the library before turning onto the cobblestone path up to the garden. The whole way, she was looking around herself, clearly alert and suspicious of anything untoward. If I wanted to actually find out what was going on, I would have to make sure she didn’t see me.
So, I stayed low, listening to the sound of her footsteps as she walked right up to the fountain. There, she stood around for the next couple minutes. Carefully checking my phone, I counted down the time. It was kind of weird that Paige still didn’t have any bodyguards or anything, right? Weird that she was out here in the middle of the night to have a phone conversation with her… supposed father, who was in Breakwater, while the people I thought were her parents were just… apparently at home and didn’t know enough about any of this to send bodyguards with–Okay, yeah, this entire situation was positively fucking weird, it definitely wasn’t just me.
My musings about all that were interrupted by the sound of a cell phone ringing softly. Peeking over the edge of the roof, I saw Paige take the phone not from her pocket, but from a spot near the base of the fountain where it had apparently been hidden. Also didn’t look like an ordinary cell phone. At least not a current one. The thing looked almost more like a walkie talkie-type radio. It was–oh wait, I knew what that was. I’d seen Dad use them. It was a satellite phone. Which made sense, if her… ‘dad’ was calling from Breakwater, as impossible as that was.
“Yes, I’m here.” That was how Paige answered the phone, in a flat voice. So, I clearly wasn’t the only person she was abrasive to. And this was, apparently, her real father. Or something.
She continued a second later, after listening briefly. “Yes, I’m alone, Dad. Yes. I know, I get it. I can’t help it if the people you sold me to aren’t as together as you thought they were.”
Wait, wait. People he ‘sold her to?’ What the fuck? No, really, what the fuck was going on? What was she talking about? What did any of this mean? The people I’d thought were her parents had bought her? Bought a girl, and her father was on Breakwater? How did that even… what?!
“No,” Paige was saying, “the Ministry doesn’t know that much. If they did, they wouldn’t have tried to have me killed like that.”
Okay, Ministry. I heard the capital M in that. And she said they were the ones who tried to kill her. So that had to be my parents’ group, right? Was that the official name of it? I could… maybe find out more with that…I wasn’t sure how, exactly, but hey, it was more than I’d had a few seconds earlier. At this point, any information was potentially useful. Even if most of it left me with more questions than answers.
There was silence as Paige apparently listened to the man on the phone before speaking again. “No, they don’t know. They have no idea.” A pause, then, “Because if they did, they would have done something more definite than shooting me in the head, that’s why.”
More… definite than shooting her in the head? What the fuck could possibly be more definite than–
“I told you,” Paige retorted to something the man on the phone had said, “I’m taking care of it. I’m on it. We just have to be careful. Remember what happened when you rushed things? Yeah, didn’t turn out too well. But you had a back-up plan. Me. Let the back-up plan do its job. They think I’m just some busybody teenager with too much information, a snoopy kid. They don’t know where I came from, Dad, or why I’m really doing this. They probably haven’t even thought about the name Anthony Tate in years.”
Who the hell was Anthony Tate, and why was that name so familiar?