Trouble in the South.
Somewhat reluctantly she decides, "How 'bout you take a quick look first? If things are quiet, all well and good. If not, we can either plan from there or," she glances at her watch, "if you're not back in, say, a minute and a half? I'll assume there's some serious trouble." She gives him a questioning look.
Victor Dumas, the Specter, finds that the lights are on but nobody is home. There are signs of a struggle in what must be Delta V's home office, including a large blood stain on the carpet. Upstairs, in the master bedroom, dresser drawers and the closet are open. Obviously, the family packed in a hurry, taking only the bare essentials. The same scene is found in William's room. On his way out, Dumas notices the family photos. In one, Connors has his wife around his wife, Martha, while their son stands between them. The most striking thing is that, in this and the other pictures, Connors has only one arm.
Victor begins to worry a bit over this and goes back to wear the blood stain is and liberates a dish towel from the kitchen and quickly dabs the blood on it and wraps it before putting in a inside pocket on his cloak.
Then he phases back through the ground and over to the car where he moves back up into the passenger seat.
Even though she was expecting his appearance, Bethany jumps a little, then gives him a questioning look.
"It appears as though their was some sort of struggle and then they hastily packed and left the house. No bodies, but their was a blood stain on the carpet."
Dumas pulls out the cloth. "I managed to gain a sample, though I'm not sure what good it will do us. It appears we have come too late and I'm sure the house is probably be watched. So I suggest we move on."
"Huh." She restarts the car and drives on, turns the next corner. "Well, if they had time to pack it might not be all that bad. For all we know there was an accident and things are fine. Well just have to hope that Dr. Connors manages to contact us, I guess."
"That seems like the best we can do, unless their is one among us who can somehow track the family's movements with their powers."
Unconsciously nibbling at her lower lip, she considers possible scenarios. By far the largest part of her is simply irritated with the whole thing, with these uniformed Neanderthals poking their noses where they're neither needed nor wanted, before their little proto-group can even get things off the ground. _Heck, we don't even know if there's going to BE a "group," and now we've got people trying to co-opt us, and maybe people being intimidated, or worse...._
"Were you planning to head back to Stark, or shall I drop you off somewhere?"
"Well you can either drop me off at Stark, where I can call for my driver or if its not to much trouble, perhaps you could leave me at my residents. Its only about twenty minutes into Long Island. I live just North of Glen Cove on the coast. I can give you directions, but if I'm imposing then by all means decline."
Dumas was watching her to gauge her reaction.
A shrug. "It's no bother." _What the heck, it's going to be a long night anyway. No reason to roust the guy's poor chauffeur at--good grief-quarter to two in the morning._ Her sense of time is still a bit muddled thanks to the trip to Never-Never Land. _Wonder if Ling's home yet. Might be time to discuss some things._
After a short twenty minutes driving through Long Island, they arrive at the open gates of the drive that leads to a dark castle which lies right on the coast of Northern Long Island. Victor prompts her to go up the long driveway to the front of the building.
As they arrive in front of the huge structure, Dumas turns towards Bethany.
v"I am in your debt for the...'lift.' I would invite you in for some coffee and conversation if I didn't think that it would seem incredibly forward to such a modern American woman as yourself." He lets the offer hang there just for a moment.
A red brow arches slightly, surprised. "Thank you, but it is pretty late, and there's a lot to be done," she demurs politely. "Perhaps on some other occasion. Have a pleasant night, Doctor." Nodding farewell, she returns to the car, momentarily amused by the contrast between the shabby vehicle and its current environment.
"Well, that was unexpected," she says aloud to herself, back on the road beyond the gates.
vA butler comes out to greet Dumas.
"Master...is everything all right?" The man asks worried at seeing 'that car' driving away.
Dumas walks over and puts a hand on the butler's shoulder and turns him around and starts walking towards the castle with him.
"Everything is fine Alfred. The woman works for Stark. She's....a..ah..security specialist." Dumas comments.
"She wears the Aegis armor master?" Alfred asks.
"Actually yes, she does. She wears it well too....in more ways than one." Victor says to his faithful manservant. They walk a bit and enter the castle and close the doors behind them.
"These America women...I've still yet to figure them out. In my country they would be falling over themselves to be with me. Here, they take offense to my bearing and stature. Its truly puzzling. I never had this problem when I was in Latveria. These women here in America, well some anyway, seem to act with the arrogance of a man. They even direct men in working environments in some instances."
"Yes Master. I have been in this country for twenty years and it is all quite scandalous. Back in Britain, this would not be proper." Alfred adds.
"I guess times change. I'm sure even in Latveria, the land of my forefathers, the women would probably even dare to wear slacks."
"Master, now that is unlikely. I'm sure they are staying with the old and proper ways." He says hoping to cheer his master up.
"Yes. Well I'll be down in the subterranean area, in my lab specifically if you need me."
"Quite good Master Doom." Alfred replies.
Dumas turns back towards Alfred. "Be sure that if I have some of my new associates over here, that you refer to me as Dumas and not my family name of Doom." Victor says.
"Of course Master." Alfred bows humbly.
Sam Wilson set the newspaper aside, a troubled look on his face. With Dr. King in jail, Sam's father would probably be on the front lines in Birmingham now. He had tried to talk the elder Wilson out of going to Alabama. Things were bad enough in New York, but to go stomping around in "Bull" Connors backyard was too much.
Folding the paper, Sam turned back to the paperwork that made up this mornings work. It never seemed to be enough, but at least it made some difference. Or that's what he tried to tell himself, although it seemed less and less so.
Suddenly, the phone rang, and immediately Sam felt the cold ice of fear in his gut. Who'd be calling this late?
Picking up the phone, "Department of Social Services. Sam Wilson speaking."
"Sam, this is Fred," the deep, cracked voice announced.
The Reverend Fred Shuttleworth, one of King's organizers, was a long time family friend of the Wilsons. He went to Birmingham along with Sam's father to help coordinate protests in that Southern city.
"There's been trouble," Fred continued. "Your father's in the hospital. He was attacked, beat up real bad. He's in and out of consciousness. When he's awake, he asks for you. And for Adrian. I think you both should come."
Adrian Toomes, one of father's old friends. Sam remembered him well enough. A White man, idealistic, helped father organize one of the city's first Negro unions after World War II.
"Hurry. He may not live."
"I'll be there as fast as I can."
Hanging up the phone slowly, Sam tried very hard not to think about what he'd just been told. Just find the phone number, just make the call. Don't think about why yet. Flipping through the directory, he soon found the number he wanted. Queens exchange, nicer than Harlem, but not rich by any means.
_What the...? I can't have been asleep for more than a minute. How could the alarm be going off?_ Adrian lifted his head from the pillow and looked groggily at the clock while slapping the snooze button to stop the ringing. The clock made a liar of him by showing the time of 11:50a full half hour after Toomes had gone to bed. For its vengeance, it rang again.
"Oh, bother, it's the phone." The covers tangled around the old man for a moment, then released him suddenly, almost tumbling him to the floor as he grasped desperately for the receiver before whoever was calling him gave up. _What's wrong? Are the Vikings back? How would they even know to reach me here?_
"Hello, is Adrian Toomes in?"
"This is he"
"This is Sam Wilson."
"Sam? Sam Wilson?" Memories came flooding back of Adrian's younger days, fifteen years ago now, while he was still working with Roxxon's electronics department. Paul Wilson had been an idealist, a true believer in brotherhood and solidarity, and Adrian was still riding the emotional high of his wartime experiences. Paul's faith had caught the embers of Adrian's own, and the obvious truth and justice of the cause had brought Toomes back out of the lab and back into the church for the first time in years.
Sam had been little more than a child then, but Adrian had seen him grow over the years, and watched Paul's pride at his sons athletic and scholastic accomplishments. He hadn't seen the boy in nearly a decade nowsince before Roxxon had let him goand hadn't seen Paul in five years. The lab work had become too pressing, and then there was the Bestman affair, and then...time slipped away. _No excuse, Ade, no excuse, and now something had happened, something must have happened for me to get a call this late._
"What's going on Sam? What's wrong?"
The tension in Sam's voice is easy to hear. "Father has been badly injured in down in Birmingham. He's asking for the both of us, when he's conscious. Do you think you can manage to come with me to Birmingham?"
"Dear Lord. Yes, yes definitely I can come with you." _The store is already hurting this month, but I should have enough saved to cover even if I have to close it for a couple weeks. If not, there's always a bank loan, or,_ Adrian's mind flashed to memories of the massive complex of Stark International, before jarring back to the present _ but it won't come to that._
"But Sam, what happened? When?" The fatigue of a very long day had already been blunted by the suit, and was now being replaced by the shock of the news. He needed to know more, and from the way the young man sounded, he might need to talk, or to see a friendly face.
Sam settled back into his chair, "I'm not entirely certain. He was in Birmingham, working with Doctor King's people. It had been several days since I heard from him, and I got the phone call about his being in the hospital. That's all I know. Should I meet you somewhere, or would you prefer to drive?"
"What?" Shock was still making Adrian groggy, "No, I don't have a car. Do you mean right now here, to talk, or meet me in Alabama?"
"I had hoped to get moving as soon as possible."
"Was Paul attacked?" _How violent had it gotten down there?_ Adrian started pacing the room, trying to see if he could find the Bugles for the last few days, then realizing that they would still be on the front step (assuming they weren't stolen), Since Union had come back in through the roof.
"Yes, he was. I don't really have any details, they just told me to come as soon as we could."
Adrian shook his head. _Stop, get a hold of yourself I need at least some sleep, and I could probably make much better time just flying down on my own power than we could ever make in a car. I could offer to carry him, but that would mean...Oh hell with it. If I can't trust Paul Wilson's son then I can't trust anyone. It's 950 miles to Birmingham, assume 60 miles an hour as an average, it would take a car sixteen hours to get there. Assuming average high-tension lines, I should be able to do it in four, six at the outside, maybe as little as two and a half._
"Sam, just be waiting at your father's parish for me at," Adrian glanced at the clock, and figured how much sleep he would need, plus phone calls, "five o'clock this morning. I should be able to arrange some transport down there that would be much faster than trying to drive to Alabama."
For the first time, a slight bit of humor creeps into Sam's voice, "All these years and you never told Dad you had a plane? Shame on you."
Adrian smiled, "Well, it's not *exactly* a plane..."
Adrian suddenly thought of the wind and cold problems Sam might have at being carried at 200+ miles an hour. _I should be able to rig up something to help him out, but even still,_ "Oh, and Sam? Dress warmly. A good leather or denim coat if you have one."
"I think I can manage that. 5 a.m. at Father's church it is. And thank you, Mr. Toomes. It has to be bad for him to be asking for the both of us like this."
"I hope it looks worse than it is, son. And you don't have to thank meyour father would have done the same in a heartbeat, as, I'm sure, would you. Try and get some sleep.
Hanging up the phone, Sam realized that he had things to do as well. Although no one was at Social Services this late at night, a call to the night service left a message for his boss that he would have to be away for several days, due to his father's hospitalization. I'm probably not going to have a job when I get back, Sam thought to himself, smiling grimly. Well, we'll have to see about that when it happens. Family comes first. And maybe, if I can find who beat my father, maybe I'll have the chance to discuss their ideas about hospitality with them.
It quickly became obvious he wasn't getting back to sleep. Even the normally calming exercises his judo teacher drilled into him failed to bring him any peace. Finally he got up and began packing. Lifting up the bed, Sam pulls out the kit bag containing the outfit he'd been wearing nights, the one that had people calling him Malachi. He slid it, as well as a couple changes of clothes, into a duffel and pulled on his coat. Maybe, he thought, someone will try to mug me tonight. And so Adrian found him, at 5 am outside the church, waiting with his duffel.
Hanging up the phone, Adrian resets his alarm and climbs back into bed, forcing his mind to a more placid state. He knows he needs to sleep quickly and soundly, giving the events of the last day, and the events to come. He's kept engineer's hours before, and he needs less sleep than he did, but he has another long day ahead. Sleep comes mercifully quickly.
The alarm pulled Adrian awake at 4:00, after a deep, restful and apparently dreamless sleep. _Fatigue must have been worse than I thought,_ Adrian thought as he quickly ate breakfast in his small apartment, scanning yesterday's bugle. There was no mention of more violence in Birmingham by press time the day before yesterday, but that didn't mean much. Sam seemed to think that his father had been beaten, but that doesn't mean there was a direct fightnot in Bull Conner's Alabama. _Sam probably called right after he got the news, and he was probably called right after Paul went into the hospital. That means it took place sometime mid-afternoon yesterday._
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