The Eyes of Someone Else
"Wait a minute, we might have something," Al continued. "It says here that Ark Corporation's Chief of Please?" Al smacked the hand-link. "Oh, Chief of Police, Marty Voyt, dies in a couple of weeks on March 11. Right now, Ziggy figures there's an 83.47% chance that you're here to save him."
Dana Faraday coughed.
"Mister… Cape? You still haven't told me what it is you need help with." Sam nodded, slowly.
"Can I use your bathroom?"
"My bathroom?" Dana asked in confusion. A minute ago the vigilante made it sound like he needed her help in a matter of life and death, and in reality he had a bathroom emergency?
Beside her, Trip's mouth hung open. Evidently, he had also been expecting something different.
"If you wouldn't mind," Sam said, struggling to keep a straight face.
"Way to ruin the moment, Sam."
"What?" he asked.
"You just blew the Cape's chances with this broad. Ladies may fall for a masked man on a rooftop, but not when the guy's pickup line is that nature is calling," Al explained.
Was hitting on women all Al thought about?
Dana blinked. She still wasn't quite sure whether to trust this man and he was asking for access to her apartment… But Trip trusted him and he did seem to be who he said he was (as impossible as that seemed, or at least he did until he had started acting clueless a few minutes ago). Okay, she could let him in. If he tried anything funny, she could always grab a frying pan from the kitchen and call 911.
"Of course not," she said aloud. "Come on in."
Soon, Sam was inside her apartment. He closed the bathroom door behind him. He was alone with the hologram.
"How does he die?"
"Some slime named Scales," Al thwacked the handlink to see if there was an error, but the name didn't change, so he continued, "shoots Voyt. He's charged with first degree murder. Looks like he was caught red-handed."
"Okay, if the chief isn't going to die for a couple of weeks," he whispered to Al, "then what am I doing here now? And who is she?"
"Uh, what did she say her name was? Mrs. Faraday?" Al asked as he started tapping buttons on the handlink. "That would be Dana Faraday, hmm, that must be the Dana that the Cape was referring to."
"What? Al, that woman has never seen the Cape before in her life!"
"Well, he obviously knows her. Let's see, it says here that she's the mother of a ten-year-old son, right, you knew that already," Al kept reading.
"She recently started working in the public defenders' office after she was widowed… Oh my god, Sam!"
Sam had removed his mask so that he could take a look at his host's face in the mirror. Due to the aura that clung to him, everyone else would see this face when they looked at him (at least, they would if it wasn't hidden underneath a mask). Blue eyes stared back at him from the face of a handsome man in his mid-thirties. Curly hair covered the head that was no longer covered by a hood.
"What is it, Al?" Sam asked.
"That face, I've seen it! I know that… but that's supposed to be Chess," Al fumbled with the handlink for the parallel hybrid computer Sam had invented.
"Chess was a super villain that plagued Palm City. He was supposed to have been unmasked last month as Vince Faraday-Dana's husband-who died in an explosion when they caught up to him…
"But that can't be right because you are Vince Faraday. Your face has been all over the news since January.
"Ain't that a kick in the butt? You look pretty good for a dead guy, Sam."
"Gee, thanks, Al," Sam said as he replaced the mask. "First you tell me I'm a hero, then you tell me I'm the villain, would you mind making up your mind?"
"You've got to be the hero, Sam." Al couldn't really pinpoint what had convinced him of that, but he knew it was true. "Faraday must have been framed. Want me to have Ziggy calculate the odds of you being here to clear his name?"
"Later; first thing's first. Why did he come here as the Cape to ask his wife for help?"
"I don't know," Al frowned, "but I'm sure Ziggy can find out… Okay, there's this blog called Orwell Is Watching and ah, geez!"
"What is it?"
"A friend of the blogger posted a message that Orwell went missing days ago. As of nine a.m. this morning, Orwell was still missing." The handlink squealed.
"Ziggy says there's a 93.35% chance that the Cape is Orwell's friend and that the Cape was in the process of trying to find and save him from kidnappers when you leaped in.
"Now there's a 43.87% chance that help won't get to him in time and he'll die." Al winced. "The odds are rising to 53%…54..."
"I don't suppose the next blog entry explains where Orwell was found or how the Cape saved him?"
"That would've come in handy," Al admitted as he pulled out a cigar. "Unfortunately, no dice.
"Tomorrow morning's entry is supposed to say that Orwell is back, some nozzle named Conrad Chandler is behind bars, yadda yadda, and thanks for the concern."
Sam looked at his best friend.
"Al, do you think that maybe Chandler was the kidnapper?"
"Oh! Well, that would make sense," the observer mused as he puffed on his cigar. Sam frowned. He really wished his friend would quit smoking already. He had been smoking for… Sam didn't know how many years. He had trouble keeping track of the passage of time as he was leaping around through it and his Swiss-cheese memory didn't help matters any.
"So all we need to do is find Chandler. Is Dana supposed to know where he is?"
"I don't see how she could. No one knew Chandler existed until Orwell dug him up…"
"See, Mom? I told you I wasn't crazy," Trip said. He gave her his best I'm-feeling-really-betrayed look. Dana sighed. If he had that look down pat now, what would it look like when he reached his teen years?
"You're right. I'm sorry I doubted you. You're not crazy…but your friend in there might be. Is he talking to himself?" Dana asked as she heard a voice coming from the other room. Trip rolled his eyes.
"Mo-om! He's the Cape. He's obviously talking to his sidekick via a two-way radio."
Well, that would be a logical explanation, but Dana wasn't ready to rule out the possibility that the man in her bathroom was a nut job.
"What sidekick? There's no sidekick in the comic books." Dana processed what she had just said and nearly slapped herself. Damn it! This was real life, not a comic book! Trip, meanwhile, shrugged.
"Lots of heroes have sidekicks. Besides, it must get awfully lonely without one," especially when you've lost your family like he has.
Dana noticed her son's melancholy expression. The passing of Trip's father had left a hole in the boy's life-one that the Cape had evidently tried to fill. That still seemed creepy to her, but maybe she shouldn't judge the man before getting to know him.
"Want to go eavesdrop on him?" she asked. Trip's eyes grew wide.
"Seriously?" Dana nodded.
Trip felt a little guilty about eavesdropping on his idol. He knew that eavesdropping wasn't polite or something, but his mom had said it was okay! And, alright, he was curious, but who wouldn't be?
"Al, that woman has never seen the Cape before in her life!"
He talked about himself in the third person? Weird; Trip hoped his mom was wrong about the Cape being a bit loony.
So, he was talking about her. Well, she could have met him before, but the Cape had never asked to see her until tonight. Just as well, in Trip's opinion. Their meetings had felt special, like their own little secret. Although, at the same time, he was glad his mom no longer thought he was seeing things. He was pretty sure she had started looking up shrinks…
"First you tell me I'm a hero, then you tell me I'm the villain, would you mind making up your mind?"
The young Faraday scrunched up his nose. What was that supposed to mean? Of course the Cape was a hero! Was his sidekick, Al, jealous or something?
"Later; first thing's first. Why did he come here as the Cape to ask his wife for help?"
Trip's mouth opened and closed. He was pretty sure his brain had stopped functioning. There was quite a bit wrong with the visitor's question. For one thing, Trip was no longer convinced that the man was speaking about himself in the third person. Maybe that wasn't the Cape in there after all, just some imposter who had somehow gotten his hands on the hero's outfit. The boy had never seen the adult's face. Couldn't anyone wear a mask and a hood? That thought alone was seriously disturbing…
Trip tried to puzzle it out. The man's behavior had been off tonight. First he'd asked to see Trip's mom. The Cape never did that. Then he seemed to abruptly forget why he was here… But, no, he was being silly. The man in there wasn't just wearing the cape; he'd shown that he knew how to use it. Surely no one else could do that…
Okay, Trip breathed out slowly and quietly. Okay, so there was still a good chance that the Cape was in his bathroom, but: his "wife"? Mom? There was no way! Mom was Dad's wife and Dad was dead and he certainly wasn't the Cape…right?
If anything else was being said, it went in one ear and out the other. He was still lost in his thoughts when the bathroom door swung open. The Cape (if he was the Cape), seemed nonplussed for a moment.
"Were you spying on me, buddy?" the man teased. Trip didn't answer him and didn't make eye contact with Sam. He just stared over the leaper's shoulder, where Al happened to be standing.
"Sam, do you think he can see me?" Young children could see Al; they knew that from experience. There was no set age at which children just stopped seeing Al. Apparently, age wasn't the only factor. It was more about innocence and… Sam shook his head.
"No, I suppose not," he murmured. From what Al had told him, the boy had lost his father. Or rather, the boy believed he had lost his father in an explosion. In Sam's opinion, he had been through more than any ten-year-old should have. Whatever childish innocence he'd had had been blown to smithereens in the blink of an eye. He was probably a lot more grown up than anyone was giving him credit for.
"Come on. Why don't we go talk with your mom?" Sam gestured for his host's son to precede him. The boy just nodded slowly and started walking on autopilot. The quantum physicist followed him into the living room where Mrs. Faraday was waiting on the sofa.
"Hey, you were in there a long time. Did you fall in?" Dana joked. She frowned as she looked from one somber face to another and pulled Trip onto her lap. "What's wrong?" she asked.
"A friend of mine has been kidnapped," the masked man replied.
"I'm sorry to hear that, but why would you come to me? Why not go to the police?" Dana questioned him.
"She mean the same police that wanted to barbecue her husband for something he didn't do?" Sam ignored his friend.
"This coming from a defense attorney?" Sam countered. "I didn't think you would be one to put your faith in the police."
"Well, I admit I have my issues with ARK…"
"So do I. That's why I came to someone that I knew could be trusted."
"But why me? What could I possibly do?"
Author's Note: *Gasps* Was that an update? Whoa. How'd that happen? Eh. Put it down to me taking a renewed interest in the PQL 'verse recently. If you haven't noticed I've revised the first chapter a bit (mostly chopping off the end of it to use as the start of this chapter).
Thank you to IronAmerica for reviewing!
No beta this time, so I am prepared for quibbles.
So, what'd you think? Don't want Sam to blow Vince's secret? Worried that he won't get to Orwell in time? Upset that there isn't any pence in here? (I know; I feel your pain.)