Meet me at 483 Eastlake Ave East in 30 minutes.
This is too easy, he thought. It hadn’t been twenty-four hours since Anne called him and offered a truce. Even then she hadn’t been certain of when or how. She was always cautious. Then, overnight, the Madison Massacre happened. Anne was silent about it, but now she voiced urgency through an untraceable number. She wanted a quick meeting, no questions asked. Massey could tell that something significant had happened; something had stirred loud and scary enough to drive Anne to this meeting. That something was prone to be bad.
By the time Massey pulled over at the given address, it was nearing dusk. Old bones groaning, he sat on the tight seat of the black cruiser. The sky was an angry purple, a raw bruise spreading over the city. Massey put a calloused hand over his heart. This madness would be the death of him. He thought about Denisha. His baby girl was always busy these days; catching her voice on the phone had become as much a rarity as seeing her. To protect Joaquin, Frank had made personal sacrifices. He hoped they wouldn’t blow back on him.
The I-5 express running above rattled with the dull rhythm of rasping car engines speeding by as Massey crossed the street. His eyes frantically scanned for Anne, but the street was empty. Gray buildings erected shoulder to shoulder glared with empty windows – rental and available signs decorated their corners. The dust and smudges on the glass told him they were long forgotten just like the other half the avenue’s length – tarnished and halted by renovations. The posters glued crooked to the lampposts were dated last March. The neighborhood reeked with ostentatious poverty. To Frank’s surprise huddled between a shutdown bar, Bud Light sticker still crowning its entrance and a garage, its heavy black door closed for the day, was a second-hand clothes store, pale mannequins stared at him armless and headless through the frame. A bird feeder hung from a cast iron pole. Massey drummed his fingers on his holster as he approached the door. He clicked the gun free from the leather strap and wrapped his hand around the grip, but keeping it out of view.
“Are you going to shoot the mannequins?”
He spun toward the voice, and had his weapon out.
Anne took stock of it. “You need to reload, cowboy.”
When Massey lowered his weapon, she moved around him, took out a keychain and after selecting the right on, she stuck it in the keyhole. The chain fell away with a rattle against the doorframe. Anne picked up the dangling chain and pulled until it was free and the door swung wide open. The small space was crowded with chairs and sheet covered salon chairs. An unattached sink was placed on the tiled floor, and beside it, a large mirror stood propped reflecting whatever radiance touched its surface.
“Do you own this place?” Massey asked stepping over mannequin hands as he followed Anne inside. “And what’s with the plastic?” he nodded toward the sprawled mannequins.
“No.” Anne smiled brazenly at him and showed him her keychain. To Massey’s surprise it didn’t hold keys at all, but all the necessary tools for lock picking. Anne gave him a smug smile. “I get myself where I need to be. I eyed this place earlier. I guess the owners needed some vigilance. Dead eyes can create the illusion of watching you. I prefer that to having actual eyes and ears here. I need to speak to you unadulterated.”
Massey nodded. The naked dummies blocked most of the view from outside, hiding the duo behind their perfect skinny bodies. He turned to her with a cheeky smile. “You do know I can arrest you for this?”
Anne threw her head back and laughed a genuinely beautiful and scary sound. “I believe we’re past our cat and mouse days, Frank. We don’t chase each other anymore, we chase others, bigger and badder cats.”
Anne dusted off the makeshift counter with her finger. “The one and only.”
Massey leaned against the counter watching as the shadows in the store deepened when Anne moved through them. She seemed at home in the dark whereas he could feel the hairs on his neck stand at attention. His mind reached for his gun, but his hands stood perfectly still matching his countenance. “You told me you want him out of the game, that that he is concocting some kind of monstrosity requiring my help to stop. Why should I trust you?”
“Because of today. Because you came.”
Massey rubbed his tired eyes. “The last time we met, you got me drunk and stole sensitive information about Joaquin. I got a headache from that experience so forgive me if I don’t want a repeat.”
Anne slumped down on a white leather chair opposite Massey. “Oh please. I extracted that info in the least painful way. And I needed it at the time.” She shrugged. “Different days, different foes.”
Massey let the quiet that fell between them settle him. He needed his head clear. He grabbed another wrapped chair and slumped into it, his shoulders relaxing. “I did come because of what happened today in that park. That was his business, right? Miles Jensen?”
Anne wore an unblinking mask up until that moment. Massey saw it slip off of her features. Anne looked angry and tired too. “I had no part in that. I didn’t know he was going to use civilians to further his campaign against supers. Jensen is not one of his super powered bodyguards, not as far as I know.”
“If that information goes viral people will step down, they’ll shun their votes. Globe will be brought from his high seat in cuffs.”
Anne shook her head. “Law and justice won’t work here Frank. You can’t just go up to Globe and arrest him. Any evidence you have against him, he’ll deny and with a good alibi. He’s well connected. This has to happen our way.”
Massey shook his head fearing the truth in her words. He could picture it vividly in his mind, a whole city ablaze and his hands idle at the rising threat, the badge and the gun no longer stirring fear into the heart of the enemy. War was written on Anne’s face, and it softened only a fraction when she peered at Frank. He took that opportunity and fueled his own distress, his own fury. His city wasn’t going to burn if he could do something, anything about it.