Val stepped out of the car, glancing up and down the seedy Chicago street. It was dark, and the area looked deserted, but that didn’t mean no one was watching. Val crossed the sidewalk quickly, her heels stepping over crumpled bags of chips and cigarette butts, two bodyguards right behind her. She telepathically scanned the old brick building, and even though she didn’t sense any danger, she let one of the bodyguards go in first.
Blueblood had set the meeting place. That meant she needed to be more cautious than usual.
They stepped inside a pool hall. It was big enough to hold six pool tables, a bar, and a dozen or so stools. Two of Blueblood’s men were playing a game, one of them lining up a shot with his cue. No sign of Blueblood himself or Joey, and that made Val worry. Not out of personal concern for Joey’s well-being, but out of the knowledge that if he hadn’t made it back, then the job had gone very, very wrong.
If things had gone wrong, it would benefit Blueblood. He just needed to make a show of trying to help her father so no one suspected him when he made his murder attempt. (Or more likely maneuvered Val into making the attempt. She doubted he’d risk doing it himself.) He may have ordered his men to fail, or set them up to without telling them. Either way, if something had happened to Joey, it was because Blueblood wanted it to. And him eliminating Val’s minions without her permission didn’t bode well for their future partnership.
Then Val noticed a third figure in the room: JB. He was hunched over on one of the barstools, sucking soda out of a glass through a straw.
“Hey, kid,” she greeted. Then she turned back to the men. “Where’s Blueblood?”
“Back room.” One of the men pointed, and Val recognized him as the gorilla who’d been beating on JB.
Val slipped inside his head. He knew the theory of blocking out telepaths and had rudimentary skills, but he’d built a sturdy iron gate out front while neglecting the rickety wooden fence that went around back. Blueblood really needed to hire better help. Mind-controllable minions were such an exploitable weakness.
She found the contempt he felt towards JB and was about to reshape it when a thought occurred to her. JB was going to be stuck with Blueblood’s men for the foreseeable future (no pun intended), and Val wouldn’t be around to telepathically smooth out every trouble he had. If the kid was going to survive, he needed to learn how to take care of himself. Maybe it would be better to turn this into a learning experience.
Val perused the brute’s thoughts until she found something useful: he’d skimmed off the top of the gang’s loan sharking profits. Naughty boy. She sent the information straight into JB’s head.
JB jerked and nearly fell off the stool.
Easy, Val told him as she walked to back room. I’ve just handed you a weapon. All you have to do now is use it.
What? He set down his glass and put a hand on the bar to steady himself. What am I supposed to do with this?
Blackmail him. Tell him you’ll go to Blueblood with it unless he keeps his hands off you.
Are you crazy? I can’t pull that off. I can’t even scare a first-grader, much less Cleto.
Val poured reassurance into her thoughts. Do it confidently and don’t back down. You’re not helpless, JB. Brains are more important than brawns in this business, trust me.
The last thing she felt was his complete and utter disbelief before her telepathic sense turned to static. She found the reason when she opened the door to the back room and caught sight of Distortion standing along with the Fox Woman.
“Val.” The Fox Woman spotted her immediately. “Good. Maybe you can help me talk some sense into him.”
That didn’t exactly sound promising, but Joey materialized in front of Val before she could ask.
“I’m sorry,” he said. “We failed.”
“Failed?” came Blueblood’s voice. “Let’s not be pessimistic. I wouldn’t call this a complete failure.”
Joey stepped aside, giving Val a glimpse of a room that looked like it was still under construction. The walls were cracked and bare, and there wasn’t much in the way of décor: just some cardboard boxes and cheap folding chairs. Blueblood stood in the center of it, his back to them, and his body blocked someone kneeling on the floor from her view. Then he stepped aside, and Val went perfectly still. Chained to the filthy concrete floor, face bruised and white suit torn, was Dave.
“True, this isn’t the person we sent you for,” said Blueblood, “but as a consolation prize, he’s not half bad.”
So, I forgot to do the damage tally for the last episode. It was basically just a couple of hotel rooms and a laundromat, right? Did I miss anything? Property damage has been on a decline recently. I need to have a character blow up something to make up for it.