Just over 28,500 words. A healthy bit over ‘par’.
Chapter Sixteen — Betrayal
Russ hated coming back to his downtown apartment. He stepped inside to find it in pristine condition. Some came by to clean it weekly, which was easy work considering how little time he spent there. His first order of business was setting up the information for public digestion. HE had to find a way to spin it so the public could best see the necessity of the lie. One hell of a stretch.
He dialed up Phinneas, who answered on the third ring. “Mr. Belken.”
“I’m all for making this happen, but we’re doing it my way.”
“No complaints. I suspect you have a specific plan?”
“Of course,” Russ said. I just haven’t thought of it yet. “The way I see it, the longer we wait, the more likely people will dismiss the evidence as fake. If we show it in a sympathetic light even the Macro Corp’s. biggest fans will respect us.”
“…and they’ll push for a plea bargain.”
“Exactly. The Macro Corp. will be humbled, with no choice but to admit they’re just people too. Let me level with you Phinneas. I don’t hate the Macro Corp. I see them as dangerous weapons, we treat them with disrespect and they’ll go off.”
“Sounds reasonable. My resources are yours should you need them.”
“I should be alright, but I’ll keep you informed. Later.” Russ clicked off the phone before he could answer. He wasn’t sure he wanted to hear any protest.
He watched the video thirteen times in a row, each time hoping he could find something to work with. The more he watched it, the more he suspected Kari. He came to realize every moment of missed opportunity. Eventually he came to despise himself thanks to the could-have should-haves.
The main problem lay in the fact Kari was a cold-hearted bitch. If she would have blown the guy’s hand off, it wouldn’t have been a problem– or rather a whole new set of problems.
A phone call interrupted his train of thought. He glanced down to see ‘J. Flint’ on the caller ID. Russ quirked a brow and answered it. “Jett?”
“Russ. Hey, uh… I’m in town for a comic-con and my hotel plans fell through.”
“I can guess why,” Russ said. “Half the city is shut down right now. Why you calling me about it?”
“Cause Ray isn’t answering his phone.”
Russ clenched his jaw. “Well, I’m not exactly his secretary.”
“Look, I know that. Figured it couldn’t hurt to try calling you.”
“I’m just busting your balls, man,” Russ said. “I’m pissed at Ray, not you. So you need a place to stay?”
“Yeah. Ray’s always saying he has extra rooms at the Plantation, but then he turns around and blows off my calls.”
“What a jerk,” Russ said, smiling. “My place is downtown anyway, closer to the con. Besides you probably wouldn’t want to stay there right now. Joyce is in town.”
“I… see,” Jett fell silent. “I could always make a connecting flight to Seattle. It’s nice this time of year, right?”
“Haha… relax. She doesn’t even know you’re in town and I’ll keep it that way. I’ll text you my address.”
“Thanks, but no thanks. I’ll take my chances with a flight home.”
Russ chuckled, but realized he could use Jett to his benefit. Time for a little hardball. “We both know it would take you hours to book a flight and Joyce would be really excited to see you. It would be a shame if she caught wind of you being in the airport.”
“Are you blackmailing me?”
“No. Not at all. You never know when JJ could take a random trip to the airport.”
“Fine, send me the damn address,” Jett said.
“Great, and you can look for a Detective Comics volume twenty-seven while you’re at the con. Looking forward to seeing you again, Jett.”
Russ clicked off the call and sent him the text message, along with ‘need a cab?’. There was something to said about good old fashioned luck.
Jett responded with a ‘yes’, so he sent him a ride. Russ offered to pay extra if they would send a lady cabbie ‘the scarier the better’, but they wrote it off as a joke.
Russ spent the wait copying the video into as many formats as he could. He needed this to go viral ASAP. Jett could help him with the details, if he could convince him the campaign was a good idea. Ray’s old roommate was a fellow geek. It was a tough sell to screw over a group of superheroes.
He arrived within the hour, carrying nothing more than a backpack. Jett Flint was short, with long black hair. He had a healthy amount of Native American in him and the rest some sort of Euro-merican leftovers. Poor guy probably planned a day trip. “Come into my palor.”
“I swear to god, if she’s in here I’m going out the window.”
“We’re on the thirtieth floor, bud.”
“Did I stutter?”
Russ laughed, Jett did not.
“Relax, I just need your help with something. You coming to the Big Easy is a Godsend for me.”
“No, first explain why Ray didn’t answer his phone.”
“Well, he’s in a rough spot. Suffering heavy migranes. He also… fired me.”
Jett raised a brow. “No shit?”
Jett relaxed. The guy had great senses. A spoonful of truth went a long way with him. “Sorry to hear that. Maybe I can talk to him, you know– if she isn’t planning to stay in town long.”
“She’s not Voldemort, man. You can say her name.”
“First off. ‘He who shall not be named’. Second, she is like friggen candle jack, bro. If I start inviting the devil into my house she will come with bells on.”
“Alright, I get it,” Russ said.
“So answer my question. Also, tell me why Ray fired you.”
“Political differences I guess.”
“Bullshit. Ray has been firmly on the wrong side of the line since he was in high-school. I don’t think anything you can say could piss him off. I did it all and intentionally.”
“Well this might be a special case. I can’t tell you the details, but he’s pissed at me. By the way, how much do you know about codecs?”
“Enough. As long as you’re not throwing a Apple at me.”
“No way,” Russ said. “I think you’d even find the video really interesting.”
Jett raised a brow. “Color me interested.”
Russ showed him the video on his desktop. Jett watched the whole thing with undivided attention, rewound it and watched it three more times through.
“Holy crap, this is real. Nothing edited at all.”
Russ nodded. “I need to release this to the world.”
Jett glanced over at Russ, then back to the video. “So this is about your website. Not sure I want to help.”
“I understand man, but bad things have gone down. Some guy has this video on deck and if he puts it out there it’ll be a hundred times worse.”
Jett tapped the desk, working through something. “I see your point. Fine, I can help, but you should point out what’s weird about the guy who gets capped.”
“What’s weird about him?”
“You didn’t notice? He’s got serious nerve issues. He’s got an angry look on his face right? No signs of tension through his neck and shoulders. This is straight up Sociopath shit.”
“Huh. I didn’t notice that,” Russ said.
“When people go off the deep end, it’s a surge of emotion right? Well this guy is cool as a cucumber. He’s acting.”
Russ re-winded the video and played it through; now that he saw it, he couldn’t un-see it. “Jett you’re a friggen genius.”
“Watch a few cop dramas too many and you see this stuff. I’d get it checked though, I’m no shrink.”
“I know someone who is one though. Or rather she knows the ins and outs of it.”
“Not she. I’m talking about the chick that got me fired. Ray’s girlfriend.”
“Ray has a girlfriend. That traitor.”
Russ chuckled picking his phone and dialed out. Kari answered the phone on the first ring. “What?”
“Good news. A friend of mine pointed out something really interesting about your video.”
“The victim was completely calm.”
Russ fell silent. “What do you mean… I know.”
“You called me for this? I knew that from the gate. Look, the guy was obviously being controlled, but if we used that angle he would have been stamped a closet Sociopath. What do you think that would have done to his family? We have no way to prove that to a court of law.”
Russ rubbed his temples. “So you’re saying you held your fire… because you knew this guy could be blamed.”
“Are you an idiot? We had a huge wave of people facing a wave of violent behavior. Of course we knew this. For the record? I was against it from the start. Now we have you planning to post that damn video. To do what? Pin the blame on the real victim of the crime? This is why I hate the damned legal system, cause pricks like you only worry about covering their asses.
“But I… didn’t…”
“Oh right, your buddy Phinneas is bringing this to light out of the kindness of his heart. Open your damn eyes Russ. Who do you think is Phinneas’ connection?”
“If I knew that, I wouldn’t have pointed fingers at you.”
Kari sighed. “You’re an idiot. If you want the answer to that, why don’t you think about what happened in the swamp, speedy.”
She clicked off the phone.
“What happened…?” Russ looked down at his phone in a daze.
Jett grinned. “Um. So, was I right? I was right wasn’t I?”
Russ nodded vacantly.
“Nice. Who says you can’t learn anything from T.V.”
It came to Russ in a rush of realization. Negator can imitate powers.
“Hey Jett, can you housesit for me for a while? I have something I need to take care of.”
“Naturally, you have any food in the fridge?”
“No, but here.” Russ pulled his credit card from his wallet. “Order whatever you want. Just make sure there’s plenty left over for me. I have a feeling I’m gonna be really hungry when I get back.”