Chapter 169

              “The man is good; I have to give him that.” Nick rifled through a set of papers, one of countless that were spread across his dining table. There were stacks of folders on the ground, smushed into white banker’s boxes that were piled atop one another. Many of these documents were highly sensitive and would have set off a frenzy of activity if people realized they were missing. Fortunately, the originals were still perfectly intact at their respective storage locations. Eliza couldn’t get away with copping constant attitude without being as a valuable an asset as she was.

                “Mid-level grunt on a path to the Senate, then he suddenly changes course and routes himself toward the DVA,” Eliza said. “Once there he manages to trade favors and schmooze his way up the ladder in only a few years. He definitely knows how to play the game; if he hadn’t switched goals he might very well be in that Senate seat by now.”

                “Instead, he’s personally indicted no less than eighteen Heroes on reckless endangerment charges, and managed to get the sentences for several others ratcheted up beyond what was originally proposed.” Nick folded his current stack shut and set it on the table. “Despite the fact we make a living from illegal activities, I’m pretty sure this guy loathes Heroes even more than we do.”

                “It’s not like Heroes come busting down the casino doors or anything. Long as we keep the violence to a minimum they aren’t much of an issue,” Eliza pointed out. “But yeah, this guy hates them with some kind of passion.”

                “Obviously it’s tied to losing his daughters,” Jerome added. He’d been reading through the files slowly and methodically, the way he approached every task given to him.

                “Clearly. His career jump occurred only days after Raze accidently destroyed the San Rafael bridge. My guess is he thought the DVA revoking Raze’s Hero Certification wasn’t harsh enough, and decided to take an active hand in keeping other Heroes in line,” Nick said.

                “Didn’t Raze go off the reservation anyway?” Eliza dropped a manila folder onto the stack already accrued at her feet. It landed with an audible thud, which would have made a room of people with less self-control jump. Instead, Nick merely rolled his eyes.

                “That’s the official story. He refused to take the punishment, destroyed the building he was in, and went into hiding. Since then there’s only been sporadic sightings here and there.”

                “The official story? You say that like you think there might be something else.” Eliza cocked an eyebrow. Something about Nicholas still seemed off to her, but as long as the job was done she didn’t plan on pushing the issue. Besides, he’d given her leeway when she decided to stay on the job despite discovering Vince was nearby. The least she could do was show him a little trust in return. For the moment.

                “Let’s just say I’m not inclined to take anything I read about The Class of Legends at face value,” Nick replied. “Too many secrets, too many mysteries. For all I know that could be the case with every Hero every to don a mask, but it’s at least true with those ten. At any rate, they aren’t our problem right now. The grief-crazed father bent on tearing down as many Heroes as possible is; given that he’s set his sights on my… asset.”

                Vince was, of course, far more than that to Nick, which was precisely why the pretense of detachment was necessary. Neither Eliza nor Jerome were particularly adept at putting pressure on someone’s most vulnerable spots, but they were perfectly capable of making reports to Ms. Pips. Having things he cared out, especially outside the family, made them weakness that could be targeted. His Lander friends were powerful, but they’d never be prepared for the sort of attacks Ms. Pips would use against them. They were all too innocent, too decent. That was why Nick had to be the one who kept them safe from the things that lurked in the dark.

                “Here’s what I don’t get: Globe shouldn’t be too high on Chapman’s list in the first place,” Eliza said. “Sure, he killed his teammate, but the rest of his team immediately tried to kill him in response. When he popped up again, it was a surprise to everyone. Based on his record, Chapman usually goes after Heroes who got off light, or who he thinks will only get slapped on the wrist due to their popularity. Neither of those cases applies to Globe, so I don’t know why he’s got such a hate-boner for the guy, let along his son.”

                “My working theory is that he harbors a grudge against the Class of Legends as a whole, since it was Raze who destroyed the bridge that killed his daughters, but I have to admit that’s a bit thin,” Nick said. “Perhaps he sees the amount of destruction Vince could cause and wants to stop him before he ever gets the chance.”

                Eliza snorted, shaking her head and sending her dark curls sailing through the air. “If that’s really his game plan, then this guy is a lot stupider than I would have expected.”

                “How so?” Nick asked. He agreed with her assessment whole-heartedly, but was curious to know the reason behind why Eliza had formed it.

                “Taking Vince out of the program just robs him of the opportunity to get his power under control. It won’t stop him from using it.”

                “Non-Hero Supers getting involved in stopping criminal ones is a serious crime, especially if other people are hurt or property is damaged,” Jerome pointed out.

                “And Vince will completely understand that, right up until he actually sees someone in trouble. As soon as that happens, he’ll jump in, and no laws or regulations are going to stop him.” Eliza glanced out the window, looking at the Lander campus that was only a few blocks away. “That big moron can’t help himself, even when he really should.”

                “I agree completely,” Nick said. “Vince is many things, but capable of ignoring people in need probably isn’t one of them. And since having a jailed vigilante with ties to us is far less lucrative than having a renowned Hero, we’ll just have to stop whatever Chapman is trying to accomplish. The next step in that will be finding out exactly why he’s coming after our silver-haired acquaintance so hard.”

                “Unless you know of a place with more files, I doubt we’re going to stumble over anything new,” Eliza said.

                “No, nothing typed on a page will answer this mystery. I think it’s high time we took the direct approach.” Nick pulled a single piece of paper from the pile and tore off the top corner, then set it down in front of him.

                “Let’s make plans to pay Ralph Chapman a visit and ask him for ourselves.”