by Toni Jackson
Having Engels appear in a flash of light from thousands of miles away is pretty much on track for the way my day had been going. His showing up solidified the idea that something pretty serious was going on. After a quick huddle, Hitman led us into his own personal ‘Batcave’ below the house and managed to find a message hidden within our separate texts. We’d already established that Dispatch had to be behind this.
But why? And after all this time?
After a huddle about the next steps, we decided to split up and see if we could determine the problem. It had to be huge.
I volunteered to check out the coordinates that were embedded in the messages.
Leaving the others, I went upstairs to check on the kids, while sending a text to James to meet me here. I had to smile as I heard steady laughter coming from one of the rooms upstairs. Sticking my head into the room, I smiled as Ashton and Chase played a game of tag, superpower style. Ashton would try to teleport somewhere in the room, only to find Chase waiting for him when he reappeared. The two of them would be seriously dangerous when they got older.
Kara played silently with Xavier and Naomi on the other side of the room, showing him how she made things grow. Naomi sensed me before the others did.
“Mom?” Kara frowned when she looked at me over her shoulder. “What’s wrong?”
“Nothing yet. I’m about to make a quick trip. Hitman and the others have to leave out, too. Can I trust you guys to keep an eye on things?”
Kara exchanged a glance with Chase, then nodded. “We’ll be fine.”
I nodded then stepped out of the room. My cell beeped as I walked downstairs to meet up with the rest of the team. James was out front waiting for me. I could have traveled by other means, but until we got a handle on what was happening, I wanted to keep a low profile.
“Everyone knows what they’re doing?” Hitman asked. I almost laughed. This felt like the old days with Dispatch giving out assignments. “We’ll rendezvous back here. Let me know if you guys run into any issues.”
With a nod, I left and slipped into the car. “Hello again, Ms. Stone. Where are we headed?”
“Start driving. I’ll let you know in a minute.” I pulled up one of the GPS locators on the phone and punched in the coordinates. “We’re going back to town. 1355 Mellon Street NE.” James nodded and signaled to take the highway.
A lot of things had changed since I left. Roads and bridges had been redirected, street names changed… It’s going to take me a while to learn my way around the city again. I kept one eye on my GPS and one eye on the GPS James was using, just to be on the safe side. At this point, it would be careless for me to assume he was sent by Dispatch, although this is definitely the cloak and dagger methods he liked to employ.
“Your destination is ahead on your left.” The message on the screen surprised me. I looked up to see...nothing. The address was an empty lot. The houses on either side of it looked abandoned, the porches sagging into a nest of weeds that grew around them. The lot looked like it had been empty for some time. The grass came up to mid-thigh on me and lord knows what was crawling around in it. Behind it was nothing but woods. The trees grew in so thick, that barely any sunlight managed to shine through its leaves.
I started to leave, but someone or something wanted us to come here. I needed to find out what was going on. I stepped out of the car and walked over to James’ window.
“James. Go get something to eat. I’ll call you when I’m ready to leave.”
From his expression, he clearly thought I lost my mind. “Here? Are you sure? This isn’t the best part of town, and there’s nobody around for blocks.”
“Trust me, I’ll be fine. I’m much tougher than I look.” I could tell he didn’t believe me, but he pulled off anyway. I waited until I saw him turn the corner before stepping into the weeds. From the moment my feet touched the lot I noticed that none of these weeds were real. With a frown, I moved forward until I reached the first line of trees, then stopped as I heard a familiar voice.
“Elemental. Long time, no see. So you guys figured out the signal.”
I turned to find Bitter tossing snowballs from hand to hand.