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Remember to check the latest on the availability of the Wonder City Stories novel at judemclaughlin.com! We have eBooks up, but the Kindle version is still to come!





All the Secrets and the Mysteries You've Been Selfishly Withholding

Ira sat in the Guardians' waiting room with his coat folded on his lap. Andrea sat on one side of him, slowly and deliberately texting one of her friends with her Starphone. Suzanne sat on his other side, also texting, probably her beau Simon. Ira couldn't help but notice how Suzanne's hands had aged as she'd lost weight on the chemo. Only Andrea's knobby knuckles and age spots differentiated the two women, if he only looked at their hands.

He studied the watercolor landscape prints on the beige wall of the waiting room, and felt very much like he was in a doctor's waiting room. Possibly this had something to do with how often he was in doctors' waiting rooms these days.

The door opened, and a tall man in his 50s with short dark hair showing silver streaks at the temples emerged, wearing a grey pinstriped suit and metallic copper tie. He smiled and said, "Ah, Mr. Feldstein and Mrs. Morgenstern." His smile froze as he added, "Mrs. Feldstein."

Suzanne looked up from her phone and gave him a slow smile that did not reach her eyes. "Hello, Terry. Ira, Andrea, you might remember Terry Fillmore, the Copper Guardian."

Ira stood, putting his coat over his arm and extended a hand to shake. "Hello, good to meet you again. It's been a while."

"The pleasure is mine," Fillmore said, his smile unfreezing as he shook Ira's hand warmly, then turned to do the same with Andrea.

Andrea said, with what Ira knew was a wicked smile, "Unfortunately, you got the names a bit wrong. You see, I'm Mrs. Feldstein nowadays, and Suzanne is Ms. Kimber again." She shook Fillmore's hand as he flustered.

"Ah, I see," he said, looking back and forth between Ira and Andrea with confusion. "Congratulations?"

"Thank you," Andrea said, as grandly as a duchess. Ira merely smiled. It had been the logical thing to do, really, and Lady Justice had gone and become a Justice of the Peace just to marry them. He didn't think his long-gone (and possibly never-existed) Lizzie would ever object, though she might have questioned his sanity.

Fillmore cleared his throat. Ira had never been fond of this man, and was not interested in making this easy for him, especially since he didn't seem to be on good terms with Suzanne. Finally, Fillmore nodded to Suzanne. "You're looking… well, Suzanne."

Suzanne smiled grimly and said, "No, I'm looking like hell, but I appreciate you attempting to lie." She touched the turban on her head to check it, and said, "So, shall we get on with discussing our reason for visiting?"

Fillmore said, uncomfortably, "Yes, yes, of course, if you'd just come into my office." He led the way through the door and down a very beige corporate hallway to one of the corner offices. Once behind his massive desk, he appeared to relax. Ira wondered how often he encountered people without the props of his office these days, and why he'd greeted them personally instead of sending an assistant to fetch them.

"Can I get anyone tea or coffee?" Fillmore offered, not moving from behind his desk. "I apologize, my admin is off today."

They all refused and he steepled his fingers and said, "How can I help you today?"

Ira glanced at Andrea, then said, "We'd like to know what your investigation of these young people has turned up. Since one of them is, we guess, a version of me."

Fillmore cleared his throat. "Well, our investigation is, understandably, still in the initial stages, and we don't want to jump to any premature conclusions…"

"Cut to the chase, Terry," Suzanne said tiredly. "Some of us are dying faster than others here."

He looked momentarily alarmed, then cleared his throat again and said, "Well, uh, our initial investigations indicate that these young people are all about twenty years old, give or take a couple years, and they appear to be, uh, clones. We think."

"Any idea who by yet?" Andrea said.

"No, no, we've sent a request to Professor Canis to analyze the equipment, of course, but that will take some time," Fillmore said.

"Of course," Andrea said in a tolerant tone.

"Would it be possible for us to talk to them?" Ira said.

"I, uh, well, they've been questioned pretty extensively," Fillmore said.

"It's only that we were friendly with the Riveter," Andrea said, "and Vern's father Punchout, and we had at least met Grace. If they have their originals' memories, they might like some friendly faces."

"Well, we've called Lady Justice in," Fillmore said, flustered again in a way that clearly made him irritable. "She's agreed to visit day after tomorrow."

"But we're here now," Andrea said persuasively.

Ira gave the Guardian his very best smile, which he knew was very good indeed. "Just a few minutes to let them know they're not alone?"

Fillmore's resistance collapsed into a nugget of just being done with the situation. "Look, they're in quarantine right now, being gone over by the medics and psych people and whatnot. We'd really rather not have folks in before we're sure they're not, you know, sleeper agents of any sort. Can't you come back when Lady Justice comes?"

Andrea's mouth flattened into a stubborn line. Ira put a hand over hers and squeezed gently. "All right, Mr. Fillmore," he said, rising. "We'll come back the day after tomorrow. What time?"

Fillmore looked briefly relieved, stood up, and said, "About ten, I think she said. Thank you, Mr. Feldstein. Mrs. Feldstein. Ms. Kimber."

Andrea and Suzanne got up, exchanging a look, and both nodded to Fillmore as they followed Ira out the door of the office, down the hall, and into the waiting room. Ira put his coat on and held the door for the women.

In the car, Ira said, "Andrea, would you please call Lady J? I'd like to know when she really said she'd come."

Suzanne grinned at him, then turned on the car. "I didn't even have to tell you that he lies like a rug."

Ira snorted. "That's easy enough to see. Also that we threw him for a loop by showing up. Those kids aren't in quarantine, they're under unofficial arrest." He snorted again. "I think Lady J and the Gold Stars need to know that the Guardians are getting above themselves with some important potential witnesses to a supervillain who was either cloning heroes or mucking with the timeline. Or both. Don't you?"




Date: 2015-12-07 05:47 am (UTC)
kore: (Default)
From: [personal profile] kore
Ira couldn't help but notice how Suzanne's hands had aged as she'd lost weight on the chemo. Only Andrea's knobby knuckles and age spots differentiated the two women, if he only looked at their hands.

That's a really beautiful and sad detail. Very nice.

ANDREA <333


(NO KILLING SUZANNE. OMG.)

Date: 2015-12-07 04:44 pm (UTC)
heavenscalyx: (Default)
From: [personal profile] heavenscalyx
ANDREA. :)

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