The elevator descended for much longer than Bell was comfortable with, but then he was standing in a shop of impossibilities and unlikelihoods so what did he know? It finally slowed and then dinged. The door opened to reveal a stone hallway and a single door.
“This way,” said Lloyd. Bell and Nobody followed him to the door where he selected another key from the key ring, this one silver, and unlocked it with a hiss and a click.
“What is this place?” asked Bell.
“It’s where I keep some things,” said Nobody. He said no more so Bell decided not to press the issue. Through the door was a long room filled with what looked like steel refrigerators.
“Locker 31,” Lloyd said, handing over a specialized key. Bell helped Nobody over to the locker.
“The guy who did this to me was built like a tank. Any word on the street about a giant in an army jacket and executioner’s hood?” Nobody asked Lloyd.
“First I’ve heard of it. But then, new faces are always popping up in this town,” said Lloyd. Nobody opened the locker and waved Bell back.
“He’s with the Order,” Nobody continued.
“Ah yes. They’ve been getting more active. The Spiders too. The criminal elements are very restless of late,” said Lloyd.
“The Order?” Bell asked.
“They’re a violent vigilante group who go around killing criminals for kicks. Got their start in Seattle but they’ve been franchising out,” said Nobody as he stuffed various killing implements into a black satchel.
“So why’d that guy have a beef with you?” asked Bell.
“They had a cell operating in Jet City. I took them out,” said Nobody.
“What do you mean ‘took them out’?” asked Bell. Nobody said nothing. “All right, so, now what?”
“Find the giant and take him down. See what he knows. Move up the chain to the next guy. Rinse and repeat until the Order is finished,” said Nobody.
“How? You blew up a car in the guy’s face and he barely felt it. I’m pretty sure I saw a hubcap sticking out of his neck,” said Bell.
“I’ll find a way,” said Nobody.
“Oh. Sure. Easy stuff,” said Bell.
Nobody zipped the satchel shut and closed the locker with some effort. The pain was starting to show on his face.
“He’s out there looking for me right now. I just need to lure him someplace where I have the advantage,” said Nobody.
“Can I interject here real quick?” Bell asked.
“What?” asked Nobody.
“Are these guys really your enemy? I mean, you both fight crime. It sounds like you’re on the same team. Sort of. More or less,” said Bell.
“I’m not doing this for kicks,” Nobody said in a tone that almost stopped Bell’s heart.
“Right no no yeah you’re right, I didn’t mean anything like… Ahem,” Bell checked his watch. He wondered what he would have told his significant other about where he’d been all night if he actually had one.
“Thank you, Lloyd,” Nobody said, handing back the key.
“Pleasure’s mine. Shall we?” Lloyd motioned toward the elevator.
Once they’d settled in for the ride back up, Bell noticed the little man wasn’t in the cage anymore.
“Hey, where’d the little guy go?” asked Bell.
“What do you mean? That’s just an empty cage,” said Lloyd. Bell nodded and tried to pretend he wasn’t going crazy. The silence was uncomfortable so Bell picked up one of the handbooks, the one titled Who Truly Deserves to Live? Lloyd cleared his throat.
“Oh, sorry. Just passing the time,” said Bell.
“I’m sure,” Lloyd replied. The silence continued. Bell shifted from one foot to the other.
“So, what do you guys think about this Spider business? Pretty messy, right?” he asked.
“They’re stirring things up in this town. The Order’s had a hand in that though,” said Nobody.
“What do you mean?” asked Bell.
“You know that Spider attack that happened yesterday?” Nobody asked.
“Sure. It’s all anyone in the know has been talking about,” said Bell.
“It was a team sent by the Order, dressed as Spiders,” said Nobody.
“A false flag attack?” Lloyd chimed in.
“Why the heck would the Order want to start a… a gang war? This could get way out of hand. It’ll be Chicago all over again,” said Bell.
“There are a bunch of reasons why they would want that. The most obvious being they want to get rid of two problems at once by making them fight each other,” said Nobody.
“But the collateral damage. The streets won’t be safe to walk. The mayor could call a state of emergency and have the city shut down until things get sorted out. It would be chaos!” Bell said.
“I wouldn’t worry about the mayor. He won’t be calling for anything anymore,” said Nobody.
“Whoa, hey, slow down, are you implying you had something to do with the mayor’s disappearance?” Bell asked.
“He skipped town. I found out he’s a member of the Order. In fact, he was the ringleader of the cell based in Jet City. He’s been using city resources to fund his crusade against crime,” said Nobody.
“Holy shit. The mayor? I mean, I knew he was a rotten apple to start with but this? This is… wow,” said Bell.
“I’d been keeping tabs on them for months. Their activities were coinciding a little too perfectly with gang movements in and out of the city. I thought maybe the Order had turned criminal, trying to get a slice of the pie but now I’m thinking they’ve been setting up this gang war for a while now,” said Nobody.
“Mayor Peterson. The man trying to rid the city of vigilantes is secretly one himself. And trying to start a gang war for some reason? I mean, it doesn’t make any sense. The high risk for the questionable reward. What’s the angle?” asked Bell.
“Perhaps they simply enjoy the chaos. They are a group of psychopathic killers, after all,” Lloyd offered.
“They have an agenda. It might have even worked until I showed up. I feel like I’m still missing something, though,” said Nobody.
“Oh I love a good mystery,” said Lloyd, thumbing the paperback he was reading.
“Well, as harebrained as it is, what you said before sort of makes sense. Why risk your own guys if you can make the problem take care of itself?” Bell asked.
“Optics perhaps?” Lloyd wondered. “With the gangs and the mob types weakened, the mayor could easily swoop in and clean up the streets. Look like a hero.”
“It is an election year,” Nobody agreed. “But still, that would only make sense if this was Peterson’s idea and my gut tells me that this was bigger than him. The manpower and logistics he’d need to organize this would require all of the Order across multiple cities and from what I’ve gathered so far, Peterson was just the trigger. Someone else is pulling it.”
“And let’s not forget the fallout,” Lloyd said. “If the united front of the criminal underworld were to wipe out the Spiders, or vice versa, the Order could potentially be left to deal with an even stronger enemy. Unless…”
“The Order found a way in,” Nobody finished the thought. “Negotiate peace or join forces with one to wipe out the other and suddenly they have a seat at the table,” said Nobody.
“This is all getting a little too complicated for me so I’ll leave you to it,” said Bell.
“The why doesn’t matter all that much. What does matter is I take the Order down piece by piece,” said Nobody.
“What about the gang war?” asked Bell.
“What about it?” asked Nobody.
“A lot of people are going to get hurt. Innocent people. Aren’t you going to do something about it?” asked Bell.
“If I can figure out some way to do anything. The criminal underworld isn’t my biggest fan and the Spiders are aware enough of me to recognize me on sight so it’s not like I can just knock on their doors,” said Nobody.
“But you’ll figure something out?” asked Bell. Nobody recognized the hopeful look in his eyes. The kind people get when they hope for the impossible.
“Hopefully,” was all Nobody could say.
“And here we are,” said Lloyd. The elevator dinged.
“Thanks again Lloyd. Let me know when the Quinceanera’s going down,” said Nobody.
“Take care of yourself,” Lloyd said somberly. The elevator door shut.
“Now what, boss?” asked Bell.
“You’ve done enough for me tonight,” said Nobody.
“You can’t go it alone. You need some kind of back up right? And wheels. I got wheels,” said Bell.
“Go home and get some rest,” said Nobody. He shot his grapple gun and disappeared above the rooftops.
Bell waited for a moment before heading to his car. Luckily it was busted up enough that no one had bothered with it. The adrenaline of the night was just starting to wear off and calling in sick tomorrow was sounding better and better. He was less than a mile from his home when police car lights lit up behind him. He pulled over to the side of the road. The officer strode up to the vehicle and flashed a light in Bell’s face.
“Good evening, Mr. Bell.”
“Hello, officer. Sorry about the mirror and the rear window. I’m getting it fixed soon as I can,” said Bell.
“License and registration?”
Bell reached for his glove compartment and then froze. How did the officer know his name?
“If you don’t mind, could I see your badge and credentials real quick, officer?”
“Sir, step out of the vehicle.”
“Now wait a sec. I’m not resisting here, I just wanted to know who I was talking to before we…”
“Let me see those hands.”
“They’re empty! I’m just opening my door so I can step outside and…”
“Gun gun gun!”
Bell hit the ground. He felt wet pavement. He heard boots shuffle. He tasted warm copper. The world faded away.