Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Fight Song Chapter 17

Hey'a, everyone! After a two-week hiatus, Fight Song is back— with good news: I've finished editing the novella! Now all that remains is to post it all on here. Last time, Callie and Jonathan tested Callie's theory that she could interfere with the Death Song, or at least with Welsh's version, by singing its opposite. This week, Callie and her friends make plans and enjoy food. Because food is important.

As always, comments, critiques, suggestions, and questions are welcome. I'd love to hear what you think! Thanks for reading!

Chapter 17: Challenging Plans

Baskin and Robins was so crowded that the line stretched out the door, despite the fact that the sky had turned from blue to indigo and the streetlights would turn on any minute. Jonathan seemed ready to brave the crowds anyway until I convinced him to instead hit up the corner store for a pint of rocky road, along with bowls and spoons to eat it with. We headed to the park and found ourselves a bench, then divvied up the ice cream.

While we ate, Jonathan gave me another piece of good news: he finally found someone who had video of one of Welsh’s attacks. “It’s not good footage—” he shrugged and scooped up another spoonful of ice cream— “but it’ll work. It’s from a small hotel in Ohio, not the one you worked at, but probably a similar situation. An older couple owns it, and they seemed more confused than anything about why I wanted a copy of their security camera feeds from a particular date. Then I told them that I was a reporter tracking down a murderer who had slipped past the cops, and . . .” He shrugged. “I guess they’re mystery fans, because they said they’d send it over.”

“Thank God.” I meant it too. “At least now we have two videos besides whatever we take ourselves. When they send it, can you forward it to me, please? Like, as soon as you get it?”

“Of course.” Jonathan started to take another spoonful of ice cream, then paused with the spoon halfway to his mouth. “Why the rush? Are you . . . Callie, how soon are you planning to confront Welsh?”

“Um . . . Soon?” I shrugged, hoping that my nervousness didn’t show in my smile. “I just don’t want to wait longer than I have to, you know? Now that I know my plan will work, and now that we have video to back up our claim, I just don’t see a point in putting it off. And I’m worried that if I do hold off, I’ll chicken out.”

“I can’t imagine you chickening out of anything, Callie.” Jonathan contemplated his ice cream for a few minutes before adding, “Are you sure that acting this soon is wise?”

“I don’t know.” I shrugged. “It won’t be this soon by the time I actually compile everything and convince Welsh to actually face me and all that. And . . . I guess I’m just wondering, is it wise to wait at this point? I know what I’m doing about as well as I ever will.”

“What are you doing, then?” Jonathan set down his ice cream on the bench between us and leaned forward. “I know about once you’re facing Welsh. But before then?”

“You’re going to send me the video feed you got and copies of any other information that I don’t already have. That’s the first thing. And I’m going to compile everything we know along with a letter of some kind explaining what happened to me and what I’m going to do, and I’m going to give copies of that to people who I trust, just in case.” I paused. “You should probably do that too. And after that, I’ll contact Welsh somehow— that’s the one thing I haven’t figured out how to do, especially without giving him a way to trace me— and send him a still from one of the video feeds and a warning that if he doesn’t meet me at a particular place and time, I’ll release everything to the police.”

“Maybe we should do that anyway. Try one last time.” Jonathan rested one arm on the back of the bench, watching me. “Maybe the video feeds will be enough.”

“Maybe.” But I didn’t think so, and my voice said as much. “If you want to, you can try. I still don’t think they’d believe us, though. Anyway, once I contact him, and he responds, it’s just a matter of meeting him and getting video of him trying to kill me.”

“That sounds terribly safe.” Jonathan’s tone was drier than Death Valley itself. “Just so you know, I’m calling the police as soon as it looks like Welsh is going to make a move. It’ll take them time to get wherever we are, and I don’t want you to have to deal with him longer than you need to.”

“Call away. I don’t want to have to deal with him longer than I need to either.” I paused, staring off into the treetops as I thought. “We should probably try to have more than one camera going. I have a little point and shoot that can be controlled by remote, and it’s got pretty good battery life. We can set that up somewhere and hope it doesn’t turn itself off by the time Welsh gets here. Your fancy camera takes video too, right?”

Jonathan gave me a mock-offended look. “My camera is a Canon 5D Mark III. Until the Mark IV came out last year, it was one of the best cameras on the market, and it honestly might still be. Its predecessor was used to shoot parts of The Avengers, among other things. Yes, it takes video too.

“Oh, give me a break. I know instruments, not cameras.” I shoved his shoulder lightly. “Anyway, that’s good. Any chance that your best-camera-on-the-market will automatically upload your video to some kind of non-local device?”

Jonathan hesitated, then shook his head. “Er, no. The developers haven’t gotten to that yet. My phone takes decent video too, and that does automatically upload, but only if you have a WiFi connection.”
“I guess that’s better than nothing.” I wouldn’t count on WiFi, though. While I didn’t know where I’d tell Welsh to meet me, I doubted it would offer an internet connection. “We’ll just work with what we have.”

Jonathan and I stayed long enough to finish our ice cream, then I headed home. As I walked, I texted Uhjin to let her know I needed to talk to her tonight or tomorrow. She texted back within a few minutes: K. Tomorrow. Not ideal, but at least that would give me time to think about what I’d say and how much to reveal.

And that’s exactly what I did— all night. My thoughts kept me awake late into the night, late enough to hear Uhjin sneak in well past midnight and stumble into her bed. I finally dropped off, only to wake to my alarm what seemed like mere moments later. I groaned and rolled out of bed. Darn it, why’s worship band practice got to be so early?

By the time Uhjin and I headed home after church that afternoon, though, I knew what to say. And once we sat down to our lunch of sandwiches and apples and peanut butter, I couldn’t wait any longer. “I tested my theory of how to counter Welsh’s ability. It works.”

Uhjin looked up from her sandwich so quickly that her fancy hairdo nearly fell over. “What? Really? So does that mean you’re going to make a move soon? Did you and Jonathan make up yesterday?”
“Yes to all three. Jonathan was able to get ahold of a second video source besides yours, so we’ll have both of those and then what we capture.” Once again, I explained the plan I’d outlined to Jonathan, though Uhjin already knew some of it. “And there’s one last thing you should probably know.”

Jonathan already knows, after all. And if I’m going to take the step I plan to take, I want Uhjin in on it too. I can trust her, I know. Uhjin knows how to keep secrets. “See, I . . . How do I say this .  . . I’m not exactly normal. Maybe it’s better to just show you.” I sang a brief series of notes. The water in my glass flowed upwards in a twisting column, started to burst out in a fountain, and just as quickly backtracked the way it had come.

Uhjin whooped— and I mean actually whooped, fist-pump and all. “I knew it!”

“What?” I groaned. “You too? Who’s next, Rebecca revealing that she knows all?”

“You don’t live with Rebecca, silly.” Uhjin wrinkled her nose at me. “You live with me. Even if I’m not here that much. Anyway, I did make it to most of your concerts and recitals and stuff last year, and there was that one— the lights kept being weird, and they were always the weirdest during your solo bits.”

“Yeah . . .” I winced, remembering that concert. The songs our instructor had chosen had all been dangerous ones for me, so full of power that I could barely keep it under control. “Do you think anyone else realized based on that?”

“Probably not.” Uhjin shrugged. “I knew something was up, but I only noticed because the lights in the dorm room also did weird stuff when you were practicing for the concert. And then I started looking, and I started seeing other stuff, and then you kept staying out late with your violin once we moved to the apartment, and every now and then you’d come back all beat up like you did the other night, and . . . yeah. I guess I didn’t actually know it, but I guessed. So you’re an actual legit superhero? Really?”

“I have powers. I’m not an ‘actual legit superhero’ . . . not yet, anyway. Maybe soon.” Definitely soon. But I don’t feel quite ready to say  that out loud. One step at a time. “You know you can’t tell anyone else, right?”

“Duh. That’s basically the first rule of being a superhero’s . . . what am I?” Uhjin made a face. “Oh. Ew. I’m probably basically your Jarvis or Alfred or whatever, since mostly I’ve just fed you and patched you up and listened to you plan.”

“You’re my friend is what you are. Anyway, do I look like Batman or Tony Stark or anyone like that? If we’re going to make comparisons to fictional superhero companions, you’re more of . . . um . . .” I paused, realizing that I couldn’t think of a good comparison that didn’t involve romantic connotations, the death of the companion, or both. “You’re beyond compare. Let’s go with that.”

“Oh, fine.” Uhjin pouted a moment, then bounced back up with a wicked grin. “Oooooh. Wait. You’re a superhero. Jonathan’s a reporter. Does that mean he’s your Lois Lane?”

“What the— Oh, shut up!” I flopped back in my chair and smacked my forehead with my palm. “Jonathan is my friend. Like you. Nothing else. Anyway, I’m not even remotely like Superman, and aside from the newspaper bit, he is nothing like Lois Lane.”

“I’m just saying.” Uhjin shrugged, completely unapologetic. “Anyway. So how do I fit in with your plan?”

“You . . . uh . . .” I grabbed a slice of apple and scooped up some peanut butter with it. “I figured you’d probably stay here? Where you won’t be in danger?”

“Jonathan’s going to be there, isn’t he?” Uhjin’s mischievous look suddenly hardened into determination. “I have as big a stake in this as he does. Maybe bigger.”

“Jonathan’s been helping me with the search longer than you have, though,” I pointed out, taking a bite of apple. “And he’s only there because he has a camera and I need someone to call the police when necessary.”

“I have a camera too. And a phone. And a camera on my phone.” Uhjin crossed her arms. “Welsh killed my sister, and because of that, not only did I lose my closest friend, I spent years wondering if I was crazy. I want to help you take him down.”

  “Yes, but . . .” I hesitated. “It’ll be dangerous. And you do realize that I’m not going to kill him, right? The point is to get proof and put him in custody.”

“I know. I know.” Uhjin waved her hand as if dismissing my contradiction. “And I know it’s dangerous, but I’m not scared. Or, I’m more mad than scared. If Jonathan can risk it, so can I.” She paused, leaned forward, taking on a pleading look. “Please, Callie. I don’t have to be right up there, but let me be nearby, helping you somehow. One more person to take video and call the police can’t hurt, right? Jonathan will probably be close to the action; what if something happens to him? You need a backup.”

She made a good argument, enough that my determination wavered. “Well, yes, but . . . I . . . I’ll see what I can do, ok? I still need to figure out where to tell Welsh to meet me; if there’s a location near there where you can see safely, you can come.”

“Yes!” Uhjin sat back, fist clenched in satisfaction. “You won’t regret this, Callie. Wait and see.”

“I hope not.” I smiled weakly, sending up a silent prayer. Please, God, protect Uhjin. Protect Jonathan. Don’t let me regret bringing them. And, please, protect me too.

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