Masks 13: Part 17

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Masks Thirteen: Chapter Thirty-Three


Rodford Edmiston

The insurance agent replied in kind to Joline's texted message, saying he was glad they weren't hurt. He told Joline to bring the car by his office the first working day. That was one concern dealt with, at least partially. Meanwhile, Vic called Agent Gordon, who set up a conference call with Ray. Vic's call took a little longer than Joline's texting, but was still completed quickly. Another concern partially dealt with.

They found a store where they bought nutmeg and a few other items, so that concern was completely settled. Then it was back home, where they had a long and emotional talk with their parents.

"Agent Gordon and Cosmic Ray said this doesn't sound like Mr. Truth," said Vic. "They also said they would send someone here as soon as they could, but that would take at least two days."

"I'm not surprised," said Arnold, rubbing his hair in aggravation. "Holidays and all. Well, neither of you should need to leave the house before then. None of us, actually."

He grinned.

"Not now that we have nutmeg."

"That's a good idea, honey," said Alissa, putting a hand on his arm. "We'll make it a purely family Christmas! Just stay indoors and let the world turn without us for a while."

* * *

The dinner that evening was a bit late, but quite tasty. Alissa had gone all out, as usual for such occasions. The turkey was moist and delicious, with Alissa expressing her usual disbelief that Vic preferred dark meat over white. They ate until they couldn't hold another bite, and then had desert. The entire family - including Coco, who had been given multiple treats during the meal - was moving slowly as they cleared the table and put things away. Then they migrated to the den. As was the family tradition, they found new pajamas from "Santa" on the couches, which they would wear that night.

The evening passed with games and movies and chatter - and lots of holiday music playing in the background - seasoned by snacking on the leftover deserts and speculation about what was in all those colorful packages under the tree. They were all soon yawning, but persisted for a while. Finally, even Arnold had to call it quits, and they wandered off to their individual preparations for bed.

* * *

With everyone in the house being reasonably mature, Vic assumed that they would sleep in the next morning. Still, the day had been a tiring one, so she went to bed early. She drifted off quickly, though she soon woke to the sound of the rest of her family likewise ending their night.

Naturally, Arnold and Alissa were up shortly after Six.

Vic tried to ignore the signs of breakfast preparation. However, a little before Seven there was a quiet knock at her door.

"Gluh?" said Vic.

Joline took that as permission to enter, and opened the door. Coco slipped through and jumped on Vic's bed.

"Umph..." said Vic, not otherwise reacting to the dog's presence.

"Can you believe our parents? They're bigger kids now than we ever were."

"Did you wake me just to complain?"

"I was hoping for some commiseration. I mean, who can sleep with all those delicious smells wafting up from the kitchen?"

Vic pushed herself up and stared blearily at her sister, made suspicious by that almost poetic language.

"You're hungry, aren't you?"

"Aren't you?"

Actually, Vic was starting to feel a bit peckish. With a show of reluctance, she pushed the covers aside and rose, scratching. Coco - irritated at being displaced from the warm bed - jumped off and trotted out the door.

"Oog. You already been to the john?"

"Yeah. It's all yours. Just don't wait too long. I'm heading on down, and might just eat your share if you don't claim it quick."

With an impish grin, she exited.

* * *

Breakfast was too large, too elaborate. Vic actually wasn't very hungry, due to that huge meal and all the snacking the evening before. Given that both her parents had made their specialties, however - Mom her famous French toast, and Dad delightfully crisp if a bit heavy waffles - Vic had to do more than just sample everything. Then she had to praise every dish... not that this was hard to do. Finally, her parents relented. Alissa at first wanted to clean up from breakfast right away, but Arnold persuaded her - by the simple act of making a show of walking out of the kitchen and heading for the den - to leave that for later.

With breakfast out of the way, the presents were next. Full bellies and warm, new pajamas meant no-one felt rushed. They took their time, Arnold documenting the event with his camera, itself a gift from the previous year. Vic very carefully kept her sense of perception on idle, just to play fair.

Most of Vic's gifts were clothing - which she reluctantly admitted she needed - and school supplies, also needed. Especially since the latter included a new laptop. She managed to express her enthusiastic gratitude for each item, while vowing silently to never wear either of the pretty dresses or the frilly nightgown. A gag gift from Joline was a set of sheer underwear, complete with crotchless panties. Vic managed to hide this from her parents, pretending there was nothing special in the package and quickly concealing it among her other loot before they could get a good look at the contents.

Vic gave her sister a quick, dirty glare while their parents were busy with Arnold's next gift. Joline gave Vic an innocent look, which would have instantly let their Mother know something was going on if she hadn't been distracted.

Finally, they were finished. Just in time for lunch. Despite the recent huge breakfast they were all in surprisingly good appetite. The meal was mostly leftovers, but there are few meals in the world better than a hot turkey sandwich for lunch on Christmas Day, after presents have been opened.

"I can't move," said Arnold, finally, pushing back a bit from the table and slumping in his chair. "I'll need to play three hundred games of racquetball just to work off this, much less what I ate before."

"I am officially full," said Alissa, nodding.

"Well, I'm going to go hook up the Wii," said Vic. She melodramatically tried twice to stand, and gave up. "In a bit."

Joline laughed, and stood, grabbing her sister's arm.

"Come on, lazy."

Mock complaining, Vic let herself be led into the living room.

* * *

The morning after Christmas was spent cleaning up the debris from the previous day's celebrations and organizing their gifts, as well as recovering from their excesses. In the afternoon the family drifted apart, each to his or her own interests. Vic and Joline were in their rooms, calling people to find out how their holiday had gone. Vic spent over two hours talking to friends, and was chatting to the twins - Jillian and Julian - when she got a notice of an incoming call. The siblings said goodbye and let Vic get the new call. She felt a surge of mixed hope and dread when she saw who it was.

"Ray! I hope this is good news."

"Some of it is. The van which chased you was tracked to some local members of a neo-Nazi group which puts up a front of promoting the rigorous enforcement of law and order while actually breaking laws to practice their bigotry. The fact that you're a lesbian is likely the motivation, though they definitely have no love for supers, either. They didn't even seem to know about the reward. They did admit to being encouraged by a guy offering to pay for information about you. Instead of just following you, they decided to 'get' you. So far we don't know the details of what they planned to do with you."

"I'm actually not eager to hear those," said Vic, feeling a bit queasy.

"I don't blame you."

"So, they have actually arrested these people?" said Vic, hopefully. "I guess so, if you're talking about what they intended."

"Most of them. We got the van owner and the members of the group who were hiding it until it could be repaired, plus a couple of others. Rounded them up this morning while they were still passed out drunk from celebrating, yesterday."

"That is very good news."

"Well, there's bad to go with it. Besides the guy who talked to the neo-Nazis fitting the description, we have a definite sighting of Mr. Truth, as well as his vehicle. It's a full-size late model van, in urban cammo pattern. Luggage rack on top, loaded with cases, and two or three boxes attached directly to the roof. No plate, no make or model; he's apparently made enough alterations to confuse the issue. It should be unmistakeable, though. Unfortunately, most of the local police are still on holiday, and we still don't know where he is staying. However, he was seen driving around your neighborhood two days ago."

"It took this long to tell me?!"

"Sorry, but we didn't get the report until two hours ago. Holiday slowness, I'm afraid."

"Okay," said Vic, calming herself. "So, what do we do?"

"We have people on the way. They'll be there - and I mean at your home - tomorrow by two at the latest. Just stay inside."

"Already planning to," said Vic, nodding reflexively.

* * *

Vic ended the call and was about to put the cell phone down, when it rang.

"Vic?" said Linda. "I'm worried. There was a strange man here, earlier, asking about you."

"What man?" said Vic, alarmed.

"He said he was a reporter - Vince Flores, I think he said - but he didn't look or talk like a reporter. He seemed more like a professional wrestler."

Vic remembered the photos and description Agent Gordon had given her.

"Tall, with greying black hair in a widow's peak, really muscular, scar on the back of his left hand?"


"What did he want to know?"

"He said he was working on an article about you. Wanted to know your habits, your friends, stuff like that."

"Okay," said Vic, nodding. "Thanks for telling me this. Yeah. If he shows again, don't open the door and do call the police."

"So he really is dangerous?" said Linda, voice squeaking. "Mom tried to poo-poo the idea, but she wasn't very convincing."

"Yeah, but I'm the one he's after. I don't think he'd hurt anyone else."


"He's a bounty hunter, and a hate group posted a reward for me," said Vic, hotly. "Don't worry. I'm going to handle this. I have some people I can contact in federal law enforcement who will get this guy."

I hope...

Ray was surprised when Vic called back so soon. He was appropriately angry when informed of Linda's call.

"Damnit! Well, we can't get people there any quicker, even if Doro and I were to fly out ourselves. I'll call the local police and the State Troopers and see what they can do."

"He's talking to people who know me, gathering intel," said Vic, her voice quaking. "I have to admit, I'm worried."

"Just stay inside!"

"You better believe it."

Chapter Thirty-Four

"Why can't you find this guy?" said Vic, annoyed but trying not to show it.

"He's a super," said the FBI Agent, as he sat at his surveillance equipment, trying to be casual but looking worried.

There were three agents in the house, watching carefully from three different windows. This guy - Adams - was the team's field boss. He seemed a bit young for the job, but Vic assumed he knew what he was doing. Only, so far, they weren't actually doing much. Agent Gordon was in town, but at a hotel suite the FBI had rented, managing the overall operation. Coco, not sure about all these strangers in the house, was spending most of her time in the basement.

"So when do you bring in supers to catch him?"

"I, uh, don't know if they're planning to. We're all trained in anti-super measures. Don't worry."

Vic did worry. However, she was also becoming increasingly angry.

Hell, I'm a super! I should act like it!

Feeling a need to do something, Vic put on a dark green hoodie, went outside by the kitchen door - locking it behind her - and walked out onto the back deck of the house. The structure sat on a slope, so that the basement was actually at ground level around back. Vic hopped onto the porch railing and jumped from there onto the roof, landing with hardly a sound. She moved quickly and deftly to the peak and looked out over her neighborhood.


A bit embarrassed, Vic climbed down. However, she was also still angry, and growing increasingly determined. She dropped onto the deck, swung under the handrail and onto the parking area behind the house, and used her keys to let herself into the basement. She found her binoculars, then went back outside, making sure to lock the door behind her. She jumped onto the railing, again, this time into a one-handed handspring from which she vaulted onto the roof, instead of making two, separate jumps.

The FBI people were all being discreet, those not actually watching from inside the Peltior house parked in a couple of innocuous vehicles nearby. Vic wasn't worried about discretion. Besides, who looked on the roofs of the houses they drove past?

Still, there as no reason to be blatant; that was why she'd picked the green hoodie, to blend in with the tall, old evergreen trees around the house. Vic stood behind the chimney, actually resting her elbows on the top bricks to help steady her. She put the binoculars to her eyes and started scanning streets and reasonable parking places. The air was a bit cool for what Vic was wearing, but she could take it for a while.

"A while" turned out to be forty minutes. Vic was starting to get cold, figured she'd better go inside soon, and took a final look around. As she passed a particular spot, though, she thought she saw something. When she swung the binoculars back, there was nothing there. Moving her view away, she again got a glimpse of... something.

Vic put her binoculars back on that spot, and fine-tuned the focus. Nothing. She let her gaze go distant, as if viewing a mountain on the horizon, an old martial arts trick for catching movement. There was a blur, there, like a giant heat shimmer. The trick was to not look directly at it, but to just let it appear. It was definitely a van, painted in vague patterns of medium greys and browns.

Got you! thought Vic. So that's it, why only one person spotted you driving around town. Some sort of stealth power, I bet.

She didn't know if she could see it because of her vantage point, her heightened senses, her sense of perception, or some combination. However, see it she could, and more clearly by the second.

After a couple of minutes she could make out details. For example, the sun roof had been replaced with a clear dome. Inside of that she could see the head, shoulders and hands of Mr. Truth. He was using much better binoculars than Vic's, and was staring straight at the house.

Vic crawled backwards down the roof, keeping the chimney between her and the van. She figured he either hadn't seen her, or was so confident in his camouflage that he discounted her efforts at reconnaissance. She had a feeling he hadn't been there long. She also had a feeling he wouldn't be there for much longer. Something about his body language, his movements, spoke of a short visit.

Vic dropped to the deck and quickly went inside.

"Were you up on the roof?" said Alissa, startled.

"Yeah. Good thing, too. I found the guy."

"What?! Vic! Get back here!"

She hurried into her Dad's corner office, where one of the FBI Agents was set up. Of the three, this one had the best chance of having a view of the van's location. As the Agent looked on, puzzled, Vic peered carefully through the curtains.

"Yeah," she said. "Don't know how he's doing it, but Mr. Truth is parked in the driveway of that empty house for sale over there, second back from the corner. There's some sort of stealth effect. I can barely see it, and I have enhanced senses."

She moved back and let the Agent look. He tried his eyes first, then the spotting scope. He couldn't see it and glanced at Vic doubtfully. She silently urged him on. He next tried his IR scope... and became excited.

"Yeah, there's something there. Can't see what, it's just a blur, but there's something there."

Relieved, Vic left him to try and figure out how to see it more clearly. She went into the first floor bathroom next to the office and looked out the window. The bottom half was frosted, but the upper part was clear. By standing on the edge of the tub she could see out through that, with little likelihood of being spotted in turn. She could hear the FBI Agent the next room over talking on his radio, trying to convince the others he was actually seeing something.

Whether because of the activity, or simply because Mr. Truth felt he had stayed long enough, the van pulled out of the drive and began moving slowly away. He probably couldn't move quickly and maintain the effect.

"He's leaving!" Vic shouted.

"Damn," came the voice from the next room. "None of the car teams have spotted him yet! Their portable IR gear isn't good enough."

Vic felt a surge of anger, as well as determination. Enough of hiding from this guy, enough of him scaring her friends. He was a super, and a super was needed to do something about him. He thought she was a target; she was going to reverse their roles. She hopped backwards off the edge of the tub, spinning in the air to face the door of the bathroom. She sprinted through the house - passing her Mother who was just reaching the office - and out the kitchen door, over the deck railing, onto the concrete of the parking area below. She jumped into her Corolla and started it.

Vic had a moment of panic when she pulled out onto the road and couldn't see the van. However, there were only three ways out of the neighborhood. She headed the way she had last seen the van going. Sure enough, within a few seconds she spotted it ahead, quite clearly, the blur gone, driving along at just under the speed limit. It was leaving by the rear exit to the subdivision, which let out onto a country road at the edge of the city.

"Okay," muttered Vic, as she met the bare minimum requirement of the stop sign, then turned left after the van, "let's see just how good a job Grandpa did on this thing."

Monstro would have had no chance against the supercharged (according to the notes, he always installed one) van in a straight-line race. However, Mr. Truth was not expecting pursuit. He certainly wasn't expecting a plain, brown station wagon to be doing the pursuing. When he did see the speeding car he thought it was simply someone in a hurry. He did a double-take as it passed his van, recognizing it as the target's vehicle, but still didn't realize the target was after him until it swerved back into the right lane too close ahead and locked brakes, to slide to a stop sideways in the road in front of him. Close in front of him.

Mr. Truth frantically braked, realized he couldn't stop in time, and went onto the shoulder. He managed to keep the van out of the ditch, but only until Monstro - in motion again - rammed the left rear.

The top-heavy vehicle spun a quarter turn until it was going sideways, then toppled over onto its right side and slid to a stop.

Vic put the Corolla in park and jumped out, running towards the van. Before she got there the driver's door flew off, apparently from a kick by the man inside. Who popped out right after the door, not looking at all phased by the wreck. Though he did look very, very angry.

Vic suddenly realized she might have bitten off more than she could handle. Mr. Truth was stronger, faster, tougher and far more experienced. He was also wearing armor. Mostly soft, but with some hard inserts, probably ceramic composite plates. Vic smiled.

She charged in, straight towards him, and he set himself in a fighting stance to meet her. Only, at the last moment Vic dodged right, hopped up, kicked off the bottom of the overturned van, and caught Mr. Truth with a hard left side kick in the ribs.

This was just a normal leaping kick, but the blow obviously hurt him; he staggered back with a grunt, but kept his feet. Before Vic could do more than land, he retaliated. The next several seconds were full of him attacking and Vic barely defending. She didn't try to do anything else, focusing on protecting herself.

There were sirens in the near distance. Vic figured they were from the FBI cars. Mr. Truth seemed to feel that, too. He feinted, making Vic duck, then tried to dodge around her. Vic literally jumped in his way. Mr. Truth scowled, and threw a hard side kick. This was the first long technique he had used in the fight. Vic spun out of its way and swung her left fist in a rising backfist hard into his crotch.

He was wearing a cup, or something similar. That should have protected him. Thanks to the Purple Art, it didn't.

Two FBI cars came careening around around the turn onto the country road to see the stopped wagon, the overturned van, and Mr. Truth lying curled tight on the ground.

* * *

"You are insane," said Agent Adams, giving the impression of someone barely keeping his anger in check, as he exited one of the two FBI cars and came hurrying to Vic.

He had jumped in one of the cars keeping watch outside, and ridden with the two agents in it. The other car was just the two who had been working in their stakeout car. All four of the other Agents had their guns out, covering Mr. Truth, while Adams checked Vic.

"I was mad," said Vic, quietly. "Listen, this guy was a threat to my family, my friends and me, and I was in a position to stop him. So I did."

"You could have ridden with us and given us directions," said Adams, flatly.

"Oh," said Vic, abashed.

"As it turned out, even that was probably not necessary. However he created that blurring effect he had obviously turned it off by the time you caught up with him."

"Okay, point," said Vic, reluctantly. "I jumped in, because I thought he would get away. With professional drivers in cop-tuned cars, that was less likely."

"This is the difference between supers and law enforcement. Supers - alone or in small groups - jump into situations. Law enforcement officers work as a team, and to a plan. That's something you need to learn if you do want to join the BSR."

"Yes, sir," said Vic, meekly.

He held the stern look for several seconds longer, then relented.

"That dealt with, good work. You beat a guy with a history of taking out norms by the dozen. Probably saved us from some bruises and broken bones."

"You're welcome," said Vic, with a shy smile.

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