I sat on Grandpa's old brown couch. Haley had said it would be somewhere between eleven and twelve, but I was beginning to wonder if she was coming at all.
Inviting her along had seemed like a good idea for a couple different reasons. First, she was Night Wolf's granddaughter and outside of Ghostwoman, he was the best at sneaking around. Second, as dense as I sometimes am about people, it had occurred to me that she might like me. She'd gone out of her way to speak to me after the meeting couple nights ago. Way out of her way, actually. I'd had to borrow my mom's car to drive her home.
That's when I'd had the semi-brilliant idea of inviting her along for the bugging. It wouldn't be a date because it was "work," but at the same time it would allow us to hang out and give me the chance to figure out what was going on. She'd seemed enthusiastic at the time.
I waited longer, flipping through the channels on the TV, grateful that the monologues were over on Letterman, Leno, and Kimmel. It's easier to feel like you're not dragging your grandfather's name through the mud when you aren't hearing people joke about it.
12:10 am, Saturday morning. Maybe, I thought to myself, she wasn't coming. I'd blundered pretty seriously when I'd started trying to check for fangs. Obviously she was sensitive about that. For that matter, the bit where I assured her that at least she could change back? If you thought about it, that statement assumed that her change was creepy which was what she was worried about in the first place. In reality, she was cute either way. It's just that when she monstered out, she was cute with murderous claws and an inhuman skin tone.
Not that I had ever used the phrase "monstered out."
She arrived at 12:16 am (or so said my cell phone), dropped off by a fortyish blond woman in a rusty Honda Civic.
I opened the door as she walked up. She waved at the car and turned to me. "Hi, Nick!"
"Hey. Who was that?"
"Terry. She's another waitress at Leo's. I nearly got stuck closing tonight. That's why I'm late."
Haley's (and Travis' and Marcus') family owned a small chain of Italian restaurants, a couple dine-in and a few take-out pizza places. Everyone in the family did their time as staff.
"Do you mind if I shower before we get on costumes? I reek of pizza and grease."
I hadn't noticed, but whatever. She's the one with better than human senses. We had to go downstairs to HQ for her to shower because there hadn't been soap in the actual house since Grandpa died.
While she showered, I got on the stealth suit, went into the hangar and readied another thing I thought we might need. When you're not trying to hide it under your clothes, you can use some additional accessories. For example, there's a more powerful jetpack that can't fit in a backpack and a utility belt full of tools. Also, pants, a jacket, a helmet, and gloves that give a little extra strength, protection, and warmth. Warmth comes in particularly handy at night in October. The color? All black. Grandpa mostly used the stealth suit when he needed to break into buildings.
She came out of the bathroom in costume (all black with a grey wolf on her chest).
It felt awkward in a way that it hadn't when we went out on patrol. Part of it was simply that then I was thinking about her mostly as Travis' younger sister (who, to be honest, Daniel, Travis and I had tried to ditch as quickly as possible as little kids). The other part of it is simply that your average superhero bodysuit is form fitting for purely practical reasons (it makes it harder to get a grip on your clothes, for example), but for a teenage boy, well, even the most modest bodysuit is distracting. Hers didn't show much of anything, but still.
After a moment of mentally flailing for words, I said, "Half of us still haven't come up with names, how about you?"
"No, but I should. Did you see the paper after we fought Man-machine?"
The Grand Lake Sentinel's headline had been "ROCKET AND SIDEKICK DEFEAT MAN-MACHINE."
We left in Night Wolf's car. She drove. I had pulled it out of mothballs at Travis' suggestion, but she had as much right to it as he did. More than I did for sure. After the last debacle, Isaac had arranged three separate license plates for it, none of which had any connection to the Heroes League.
Bugging the mayor's office went easily. She scaled City Hall and let the roachbots in through the boarded up window.
His house turned out to be another matter.
Back in the 1800's, local lumber barons built houses on a hill near downtown. Mayor Bouman bought one a couple years before he ran for office. It's a Victorian (like a lot of houses in Grand Lake proper) with two turrets and a large lawn.
A police car parked in front of it. Above the house flew a woman who appeared to be on fire.
Haley drove past. I looked out the window (which was now tinted dark enough that no one could see inside).
"This doesn't look easy," I said.
"Be optimistic," she said. "We'll think of something."
If love is blind, are teenage crushes unrealistically hopeful?
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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.