“Hey, check this out.” Daniel waved Anna over to the laptop. Ash followed. “This town has actual superheros.”
“Seriously?” Anna’s eyes widened.
“They call themselves…” Daniel snickered. “The Crimson Crusaders.”
“That’s an awesome name.” Anna glared.
“Arf?” Ash gave her a look that suggested she was insane. And from a man that thought he was a dog half the time, that was saying something.
“Seriously?” Matthias glanced over from where he was grilling them all hot dogs. “Superheroes?”
“A couple of masked vigilantes. First sighting was apparently when they rescued a bunch of teenage girls from a sex trafficking ring, and well…” Daniel shrugged. “That certainly fits my definition of superheroes.” He grinned over at Matthias. “Come on, I bet you’ve wanted to do the superhero thing.”
“I did do the superhero thing.” Matthias turned the hot dogs over. “Told you about it. Batarang, Nazi bunker.”
“Yeah, but you weren’t wearing a mask. These guys have masks.” Daniel waved a hand at the laptop.
“I was, actually. Gas mask.” Matthias rolled his eyes.
“So doesn’t count.”
“Do they have capes?” Anna began scrolling through the article. “Superheroes need capes.” She glanced at Daniel. “We need to get Matthias a cape.”
“No.” Matthias shook his head.
“Come on.” Anna gave him a beseeching look. “What’s cooler than a ten foot werewolf with a swirling black cape?”
“She uh…” Daniel shrugged. “Does have a point on the cool factor.”
“My luck, I’d end up blown of a building by a gust of wind.” He started putting the dogs into buns. “Ash, grab plates?”
“Woof.” Ash went into the camper to retrieve a stack of paper plates.
“Oh, and they busted a dog fighting ring.” Anna giggled. “It says here when the cops showed up they found the guys running it all shoved into a dumpster half full of dog waste, and the Crimson Crusaders had locked it shut.” She giggled again. “It had been moved into full sun, and the police didn’t receive the anonymous tip about it’s location until six hours after the dogs had been rescued by the humane society.”
“My kinda heroes.” Matthias took the paper plates from Ash, who was snickering himself.
“He was hiding something.” Magda exhaled.
“He was definitely hiding something.” Stephan bowed his head, then frowned. “The really disturbing part is…” He looked up at her. “I raised his suspicions before I asked about Rosa.”
“No.” Magda shook her head. “That doesn’t make any sense. There is no way the cabal knows about you.”
“They ID Matthias, trace his history back, learn about you…” Stephan shrugged. “Trace you forward…”
“Except records show that I’m dead.” Magda leaned back.
“They might not believe that.” Stephan shook his head. “Or they might figure that Matthias needed help dealing with cop trouble, he might have thought to call up a friend of his mother’s…”
“Who went off grid about the same time Rosa sold the kids out.” Magda exhaled. “Shit.”
“I suggest we start watching for tails. Last thing we want to do is lead them back to Anna.” Stephan took a deep breath. “Alright, so, how to we warn Matthias we might have trouble without him…” He glanced back in the direction of the police station. “There is no way him going after a cop is going to end well.”
“Neither will keeping secrets from him.” Magda started the car. “I’ll convince him to let us run down information the proper way. Just because the cop knows something doesn’t mean he’s Cabal.” She pulled out of the parking lot. “But we still need to know what he knows.”
“Would Matthias stop as just intimidation?” Stephan raised an eyebrow.
She checked her mirrors. She didn’t spot a tail, but it was possible all that meant is the tail knew what they were doing. The campground was north. She headed south. “Depends a lot on what information we get. He decides anybody is a threat to Daniel or Anna and well…” She glanced at him. “Lisa survived the explosion. I had to finish her, or she’d have recovered within a few hours.”
“You didn’t tell me that.” His voice was quiet. Stephan exhaled, then leaned the back of his head into the car seat. “I fell for her.”
“I know.” She could remember the way he’d smiled whenever he’d headed out to meet her. Her stomach lurched a little every time she realized how easily Lisa could have taken him from her. “I figured you’d been through enough, and…” She sighed, and put her hand on his.
He squeezed her hand before releasing it again. “Daniel’s good people, and in a lot of ways, he’s the one calling the shots.” Stephan took a deep breath. “Then there is Anna.”
“You want to bring Anna into it?”
“Simplest solution would be to throw a bag over the guy’s head, drag him out somewhere, let Anna pull the intel out of his brain, then take off before he gets a glimpse of us. Leave town, regroup, plan the next phase.” He glanced at her. “It turns out the guy is full on Cabal, well…” He shrugged. “Not sure I’m going to get all bent out of shape about Matthias gutting somebody who’d do that to a little girl. Especially…” He looked away.
“Especially when they have the nerve to do it while wearing a badge.” She nodded. That the kids’ stepfather had been a police chief was something she found more than a little offensive.
“Yep.” Stephan shrugged. “And if the guy is innocent, Daniel heals him up, Anna tells him he was sleepwalking, we go on with our lives.”
“You know it’s not going to be that easy, right?” She smiled.
“Nothing ever is.” He sat up straighter and pointed. “Hey, Drive thru coffee and donuts. Be my hero.”
Matthias had to take a few deep breaths before he could process Daniel’s words. “Alright, Boss…” He slowly nodded. “I’ll play it cool until we know for sure.” He forced his hands to return all the way to human, making the claws vanished. “But if it turns out he killed her…”
He could tell from the look on Daniel’s face that his lover still didn’t like the notion, but Daniel reluctantly nodded. Magda and Stephan both looked a little relieved. Daniel turned back toward them. “We wait until dark, grab the guy, take him…” He looked around. “I assume not here?”
“We’ve scouted a couple areas. There are some old warehouses downtown, but uh…” Stephan glanced at Magda.
“I think our chances are better if we head out to the woods. Worst case scenario, can always use the ‘attacked by a bear’ story.” Magda nodded.
“And nobody outruns a couple wolves in the woods.” Matthias folded his arms.
“So who grabs the guy?” Daniel shifted his weight from foot to foot.
“Stephan and Matthias will take care of that part.” Magda glanced at him. “Well, mostly Matthias. Stephan will drive, plus if we are dealing with witches his power will keep Matthias shielded.”
“We have a plan.” Daniel nodded. “Or something resembling one, anyway. We should fill Ash and Anna in and…” He sent a glance over his shoulder. “Is Ash going to be alright with everything?”
“That’s why I’m staying.” Magda smiled. “I’ll get him settled before anything gets chaotic.”
“When do you want to head out?” Matthias turned toward Stephan.
“I’ve got an address. We can stake the place out.” Stephan frowned. “Depending on layout, might be better to nab him as he’s going in or coming out rather than try breaking into the place.”
“Yeah, a cop is going to be armed.” Matthias nodded. “Let’s go.”
Ash made a slight whimpering sound, and Magda ran her fingers through his hair. “If he’s a good cop, everything will be fine.” She smiled at him, and he nodded, then he sent a worried look at Anna. “I know, I’m not happy about her being involved either, but it’s either have her peek in the guy’s head or let Matthias…” She exhaled. That was not a path her son needed to go down again.
A look at Daniel’s face told her that he was thinking along the same lines. It was likely the only reason he was allowing his sister anywhere near this mess. She was almost as reluctant about letting Stephan go with Matthias, and had to keep reminding herself that Stephan was capable of deciding what level of risk he was willing to assume. Ash, however, was a different matter. “Once we have him here, I want you to stay with Stephan.”
“She’s worried about her angel. Wants to go into the town and look.”
“Once we know what’s going on here, we may be able to do that.” Magda nodded. “It’s part of why we are doing this. If Rosa’s vision was right, then whoever killed her might know something about the broken angel.”
“You think they might be after the angel too?” He frowned. “Anna is certain the angel will know what to do to keep the baby safe.”
“I hope she’s right.” She petted him, and looked over at where Daniel was fussing over Anna again. The young man had very definite mother hen tendencies. Then again, he managed to get Matthias to eat his vegetables, which was something she’d never been able to do. She kept her ears firmly closed whenever he and Matthias disappeared together, but outside of their bedroom activities Daniel took the lead. Matthias even affectionately called the young man ‘boss’.
“She said the baby is going to be a girl.” Ash laid down, putting his head in her lap as he curled up next to her. “She can’t think of any names.” He hesitated a bit. “If it was a boy, I would suggest she name him after my dad.”
“Your dad was a good man, Ash.”
He started to whimper, then managed to nod. “I know.” He took a deep breath. “You killed Lisa.”
“Yes.” She rubbed his neck. “I tore her heart out.”
For a moment, he was quiet. When he spoke again, his voice was fierce. “Good.”
They’d both been in their share of stakeouts, and managed to refrain from annoying each other. Stephan offered the bag of licorice to Matthias, who took a couple pieces before looking at the clock again. “It’s almost 3 AM.”
“Just our luck he spent the night somewhere else.” Stephan pulled up his tablet again. “This is the right address.”
“There is somebody inside. Female.” Matthias frowned at the house.
“Men and women smell different. And it’s, uh…” Matthias shrugged. “Her time of the month so yeah, I’m sure.”
“Sometimes I envy you guys the enhanced senses…” He shook his head and winced. “And sometimes I don’t.”
Matthias was quiet again for a few minutes. Then he finally shrugged. “So we haven’t had the chance to talk about…” He trailed off.
“About?” Stephan asked after Matthias went quiet again.
“About you and my mother.”
Stephan blinked. “What about me and your mother?”
“You’re a nice guy and all, but she is my mother.” Matthias shrugged. “And you’re about three hundred and fifty years younger than she is so…”
“Wait…” Stephan choked a little on the bite he’d just taken of licorice. “You think Mags and I…”
“You uh…” Matthias looked genuinely startled. “But you guys live together. And you hug each other like all the damn time and snuggle up next to each other on the couch and…”
“Well yeah, because we are friends but uh…” Stephan snickered. “I’m not sleeping with your mom.”
“Look I’ve got enhanced senses, and she was definitely with…” Matthias paused. He tilted his head to one side, then tilted it to the other. Almost a full minute passed before he turned to look at Stephan. “Seriously?”
“You’ve been around us for a couple months now, and you are just now catching on to…” Stephan stared at him.
“Huh.” Matthias went silent again. Then he shook his head. “Really?”
“You could try asking her if you don’t believe me.” Stephan took another bite of licorice.
“How old is he?”
“Okay, considering Daniel —”
“Fine, fine.” Matthias exhaled. He was quiet again for under a minute this time. “Stephan please tell me my mother is sleeping with you and not with a guy that thinks he’s a dog.”
“Well to be honest…”
“Please…” Matthias gave him a hopeful look.
“I’ve never even seen your mother naked.”
There was another long silence. Finally, Matthias sighed. “You’re gay, aren’t you?”
“You hitting on me, Matthias?” He snickered.
“I’m going to hit you.” Matthias glared. “I mean, come on, you…” His eyes narrowed. “Ten o’clock.”
“That’s our man.” They both opened their car doors.
The guy had no shirt on under his windbreaker. According to Anna’s recent monologue on pop culture, that qualified the guy as a ‘level two douche-bag’. Both he and Daniel had declined to explain to her exactly what the term ‘douche-bag’ actually meant. And the guy was whistling. That might bring him all the way up to level one. Though he might be a bit biased.
Matthias glanced over his shoulder to make sure Stephan was still in range. Over short distances, the guy could move quickly enough even with the cane. The douchebag was putting his keys in his doorlock when Matthias stepped out of the shadows. Immediately, the guy was reacting, reaching for a holster that wasn’t present in his current attire. “Detective Michaels?”
“Can I help you?” The man started to narrow his eyes, then they widened again and he kicked off the porch to start running.
Fucker did know something. Matthias caught him before he’d made it more than five steps, tackling him to the ground. The guy tried fighting, and had Matthias been an ordinary man, might have made a good show of it. Matthias caught his arm and flipped him over, making short work of securing his hands behind his back.
The porchlight came on. A young woman’s voice called out from inside. “Michaels?”
“Laura, run!” The man on the ground tried to leverage Matthias off him.
Whoever was inside didn’t hesitate. She slammed the door closed and he heard a lock click home. A moment later, he heard her fumbling for something and muttering ‘please pick up’.
He grabbed the guy off the ground, then threw the bag over his head before dragging him toward the car. They could deal with whoever Laura was later. They needed to get clear before reinforcements showed.