* * *
Joaquin lingered in the threshold of Frank Massey’s apartment even after Betty’s silhouette faded into the distance of a bustling city street. Joaquin closed and locked the front door, tossed the envelopes in his backpack, left via the back door and made his way to the bus stop perched at the end of the long lane. He didn’t see the black SUV creeping up from anywhere, and he wondered whether it hadn’t been waiting on Betty. He didn’t know if his self-reassurance was far-fetched and lamented the fact that he just didn’t know what was going on. Before he had super powers, it was easy to know who he had to watch out for. Now, he just didn’t know.
It was getting dark, earlier than usual, a nasty trick of the month. Joaquin measured the sky, saw how it darkened inch by inch, a layer of blue melting away to add purples and reds and oranges until it went indigo. He caught the bus by the tail and loaded himself. As it pulled from its stop, Joaquin looked around, but he didn’t spot anyone acting suspicious or spending too much time with their eyes glued to him.
He sighed. He was overwhelmed, and every shadow or invisible threat spooked him. Joaquin thought that that was pretty stupid for a guy who couldn’t get hurt, but still… It was like the paranoia Massey and Betty carried had transferred onto him and was now crawling up his spine making him nervous. Even those glorious days in the Canadian wilderness with Peter seemed somehow less dangerous. Joaquin rested his head rest against the bus window, watching humanity stroll by on the sidewalks, gather in front of bars, and seat-dance in their cars.
The curved glass of the window distorted the night sky injecting fast growing city lights into the mix. Red streaks broke into his view, the color crashing into his peripheral vision. Joaquin blinked at his reflection, hollow eyes twinkling with that dreadful color. The intruding shade disappeared as the bus gained speed. Joaquin pulled his hood tighter over his head and disappeared into the anonymity he used to take for granted.
When the bus groaned to a halt ten stops later, Joaquin jumped out of its bleak interior dismissing anyone staring at him from the steamy windows. He kicked up his pace, hands in pockets, eyes set firmly in one direction. The city lights were full in their illumination of the night now, neon greens, yellows, blues and pinks erupting from every commercial corner, selling booze, selling smokes, dealing drugs, dealing porn. They gave away some sort of warmth and comfort, and Joaquin felt more at home as he rushed down the curb, dodging people, avoiding eyes. His ears picked out music, but it died out in the cacophony of a city gearing up for the nightlife and was too scant to be identified or remembered. The halting thump-thump of dance music blared out of a few open doors. Blues, country, and rock also competed for his attention. He could make out brief snippets of conversation. They were small words from smirking mouths. He relished the slang and accents constructing one giant jibber-jabber in front of food carts. He smelled the curbside popcorn, gamy kebabs, hot dogs and ice cream right by weed smokers exchanging signs and currency. Hard drinkers crushed brown paper bags between calloused fingers. They watched him with watery eyes from hollow sandpaper faces. He knew them all, their nature, their tricks. He felt like he could breathe again alone and assured in the bizarre mundanity of the Seattle urban sprawl.
* * *
Globe’s phone rang, and he pried his eyes away from Kristoff’s tank.
“What?” he snapped at the caller.
A gruff voice paused and replied, “You told me to keep my eyes open for anyone sniffing around the Jensen case.”
There was no need to try to discern the voice, only Batiste would call that number. Globe cursed silently. He didn’t have time to play counsel to the FBI right now. He sighed. “And?” he demanded of his FBI contact.
“One of Seattle PD’s officers managed to sneak out the file and copies of the tapes.”
“What?” Globe hated that he had to repeat himself, but his anger had a short fuse right now, and it was close to burning out again.
“Officer Betty Patterson. She’s a clever one. Copied the file, destroyed the original and went on her way to mischief. Legally that slows us down, Doctor Globe.”
“I thought I was paying you to not allow any problems with this case, Charles, and this is a big fucking problem. I need that case built! Find her!”
“Relax future Mister Mayor. My men are already on it. I called to let you know she’s outside Detective Frank Massey’s house right now, talking to a young black male. Massey is not here, though. What do you want me to do?”
Globe halted, his tongue darting out to lick his parched lips. “Keep close and keep me posted. I want to know who that young black male is and what Massey plans to do with those files. God knows he won’t prove Jensen innocent any day soon with all the information you manufactured on him.” Globe paused to allow his plans to coalesce. “I’m not taking any chances with that nosey detective.”
“And the female officer?”
“Do whatever you want with her. If she’s so keen on helping Massey, she can suffer the consequences. I don’t want any loose ends in the SPD. In the meantime, you do your job and make sure Jensen’s prosecution isn’t compromised by such hiccups.”
There was a light chuckle from the other side, and then Batiste hung up.
Globe paused to compose himself then dialed Anne. His voice found the liquid calmness he liked to use with her.
“Anne, sweetheart? I’m going to send Silas to meet with you. I want you two to track down Joaquin. Can you do that for me?”
Next: Phantom Moon