Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Fight Song Chapter 8

First of all, a quick request: if you're a book blogger or a self-publishing author, could you take take five or ten minutes and fill out this questionnaire about what programs, if any, you use to create graphics for your blog or your books? It's for one of my class projects, and your input would be super helpful.  

And now, back to the fun bit. Last time on Fight Song, Callie's gig was interrupted by a holdup at the cafe! This week, she must figure out a way to stop the robbers— without drawing attention to herself. Enjoy! And don't forget that if you feel like interrogating any of the characters, you can ask whatever questions you want in the comments of last week's Hero's Perspective.

Once again, Lannis appears courtesy of Erin of The Upstairs Archive.


Chapter 8: Stolen Breath

I couldn’t sing. That was the first problem. Couldn’t sing; couldn’t play my guitar. Not if I wanted to stay unnoticed. That meant that the only way to harness the songs was to hum them. Not great.

I tried for steel first, hoping to jam the guns somehow. That way, no one would get hurt no matter what happened. But metals aren’t meant to be hummed; the notes are all wrong. With my violin, I could’ve managed. With a wind instrument that I knew how to play, I would’ve been set. As it was, the song’s power stayed out of my grasp as I failed to even hit a single note.

A particularly sour note squeaked higher than the rest, causing those nearest me to glance my way in alarm. I cut off my song and hoped that the robbers hadn’t noticed. The second man, the one standing ready to shoot, was looking my way, but not at me— thank God— and the other two were still busy grabbing what they could. Good. I was still safe.

Time for a new plan. I needed speed and I needed subtlety and I needed effectiveness. Sinking their shoes into the floor wouldn’t cut it this time; while I might be able to do it before they noticed, I’d probably cost the café owner more than he’d lose to the robbers. What can I do with air? I could think of plenty of tricks, but either they weren’t subtle enough or humming wouldn’t give me enough power for a long enough time.

“Hurry up!” The lead robber grabbed his bag of cash off the counter. “I got the cash. Let’s go.”

Y’know, forget subtlety. I didn’t have time for it anymore. I hummed air as loudly as I dared, putting the currents of breath and breeze at my command. I pulled hard on one in particular, drawing it backward, keeping any new air from taking its place. The lead robber’s voice turned to gasping as air drained from his lungs. He doubled over, fell forward, sprawled on the ground unconscious.
One down. 

The other two robbers exchanged frightened glances across the room. “What the—” the remaining man muttered. Then both made a dash for the door.

I released my grip on the air around the leader. Oh no you don’t. I went for the girl first, yanking the breath from her lungs and holding it back as she choked, staggered, and finally tripped over a person in her path before going limp. The last robber made it to the door before I started to tug. He shoved his way out, gasping—

And ran straight into the cops who’d just arrived. I released my grip on his breath immediately but didn’t stop humming until the police cuffed him and walked inside.  One opened his mouth to say something— probably “Police! Put your hands up!” or something like that— but stopped and looked around. His gaze stopped for several long moments on the robbers, who were slowly waking up. “We were told there was a robbery going on here?”

“There was. And now there isn’t.” The counter girl shrugged. “The one in charge—” she indicated the unconscious man—“told the others that they needed to get going. Then he started choking and went unconscious, the other two went to run, and the same thing happened to the lady.”

“I see.” The speaker, who seemed to be in charge, turned to his companions and gestured at the robbers. “Cuff them before they come to.” He returned his attention back to the counter girl. “Maybe you’d better start at the beginning, Miss . . .” He peered at her name tag. “Lannis?”

She did, but I didn’t listen. The name had caught my attention. Lannis . . . I sat up, staring towards the counter. Where did I hear that name before? That’s right. The fire-girl. What was her name? Audrey. Audrey’s friend works here? And Audrey’s friend had noticed that something was going on while I was busking. Which meant that if she put that together with tonight . . . My cover is so blown.

I glanced around, searching for an escape route. No chance of getting out the front door. Could I sneak out the back way? Not with my guitar. And if the police notice, they might think that’s suspicious . . . Could I make an illusion like I did the other night? But then they might hear the sound . . .
“I don’t know who it was, officer.” Was it just me, or did the counter girl just raise her voice? I refocused my attention on her and the policeman. Lannis rested her hands on the counter and met the policeman’s gaze squarely. “I didn’t see anyone doing anything to make the robber choke. Who knows, maybe there’s a Jedi in the house tonight?”

She laughed. Forced herself to, I thought. It didn’t sound quite real. She knows. But she’s not telling. And the cop— the cop grumbled a bit, but moved on. Accepted her denial. Of course. He had to accept it. With all the superheroes running around, there’s always the chance that one will be present incognito when trouble starts. And everyone knows that you can’t just force a super to reveal herself. So, most likely, my secret is safe. No one here knows who I am . . . except, that is, for Miss Lannis.
The police made their way around the room, taking names and getting additional statements from people. Finally, they left, taking the would-be robbers with them. The manager on duty announced that the café was closing for the night, and people began to drift out. I lingered, packing up my equipment now that I knew I was done for the night.

I wasn’t surprised when Lannis made her way over to me as I closed my guitar case. I was surprised when she handed me a steaming, cinnamon-scented latte overflowing with whipped cream. “Here. On the house. Sorry about . . . all that.” She lowered her voice. “And thanks for what you did.”

“It’s fine.” I sipped the drink. How caffeine can be calming, I still don’t know, but in that case, it definitely was. “And you’re welcome . . . Lannis, is it? Friend of Audrey?”

“You know Audrey?” Lannis’s eyes widened slightly, and her eyebrows rose.

“We met a few nights ago. Nice girl, though it seemed like she had a . . . fiery personality.” I wrapped both hands around the cardboard coffeecup, waiting to see if Lannis would catch my hint. If she picked up on my secret just by seeing me play a few times, I suspected she’d know Audrey’s as well. “How did you know about me?”

Lannis shrugged. “I notice things. Don’t worry, your secret’s safe with me. Just like Audrey’s are.”

And since I’ve never heard a word about Audrey in the papers, that seemed like a pretty good guarantee. “Got it.” With a smile, I took another drink of coffee. “Thanks for the coffee and all.”
“No problem.” With a wave, she returned to her counter to clean.

I picked up my guitar case and headed for the door. Audrey and Lannis. One person like me, one person who— well, she isn’t like me, but I can trust her. Two people who I’d like to be friends with if I get the chance. It would be nice to have someone to talk to who knows my secret. Who I could speak a bit more freely with.

I reached the door, but someone else opened it before I could grasp the handle. “So. Callie Anne Heartwood? Nice to see you . . . again, How’s the investigation going?” a familiar voice said.

I turned, and there he was, suspenders and Clark Kent glasses and all. “It’s going fine. Hello, Jonathan.” There was no point in playing dumb or trying to pretend I was someone else. If Jonathan could see through two very different styles of thick makeup to recognize the same face under both, he’d probably see through whatever story I could come up with on the spur of the moment too. “Did you need something?”

“No, just saying hello and confirming my guess.” Jonathan followed as I stepped outside. “So, since I know your real name now, can I use it? Or do you prefer Ava?”

I considered. “When we’re investigating, yes, I prefer Ava. But when we’re not . . . Callie is fine.” It wasn’t like refusing to let him use my real name would make him magically not know it anymore. Anyway, from what I’d seen of him the past couple weeks, I thought he’d earned that much trust. “I didn’t notice you in there earlier.”

“It was crowded, you were distracted, and a good reporter knows how to be unobtrusive. Want help with your guitar?” Jonathan offered a hand to take the case.

“It’s fine, thanks.” I turned down the sidewalk. I’d parked Uhjin’s car, which I borrowed for the night, a couple blocks away, unable to find parking closer. “And I think I still would’ve noticed you. It’s not like you’re that hard to miss.”

Jonathan shrugged and tucked his fingers into his pockets, keeping pace with me. “Like I said, it was crowded. Anyway, since you’re here, want to hear about the lead I found for us to talk to this weekend? I was thinking we could meet here and then go to her home. We should talk to her together; I think this could be a breakthrough in the case.”

I raised my eyebrows at him as I stepped over a dip in the sidewalk. “Oh? What’s so special about this person?”

Jonathan stopped walking, and his next words made the world go silent. “She’s a survivor.”

5 comments:

  1. I love how this chapter shows us in an interesting and intense way what Callie can and cannot do with her power.
    Looking forward to the next chapter! This person escaped Welsh? How?!

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    1. That was the goal! And good; I'm glad you're excited! As for your question, you'll just have to wait and find out. :D
      Thanks for commenting!

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  2. She's so sensible about the practicalities of a secret identity! (tries to be subtle, drops that when it's not working, is mostly fine with Lannis having guessed, doesn't try to bluff her way out of Jonathan's approach because he obviously knows.) I love it!

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    1. And the way he gave his explanation of how she didn't notice him and Callie questioned that, I'm wondering about Jonathan now... (Invisibility, maybe?)

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    2. Haha, yeah, she really don't see the point in wasting time and energy on something she can't fix. Though, as far as she knows for certain, Jonathan only knows that she was using a false name with him- not that she's the one with powers. As far as Jonathan goes . . . wonder away.
      Thanks for commenting!

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