Dyson Street was the closer of the two locations, a short 15 minute drive, but it took us a bit longer to get there because we didn’t want to park too close to the front. Dyson Street was the stretch of road between two busy intersections, which each connected to several residential areas, and there was a set of train tracks that bisected the street between numbers 8 and 10. With its proximity to residential areas and the now rarely-used train station, quite a few little shops had cropped up along the street, including an amazingly successful sandwich shop.
We’d spent some time trying to decide if we wanted, and if we had time, to throw disguises together before we left, then Devin remembered the masks his Grandmother had made years ago for halloween. She hadn’t seemed to understand the holiday.
“Ho-lee crap, is it hot,” said Rey, and it was. The first real day of summer, it was actually hot. The heat was uncharacteristic of Redlake; usually the lake kept it cool. Today, though, sweat was already starting to bead on my face from the heat of the air alone.
“You got that right,” said Devin.
I just nodded. To say I was feeling a bit tense would be understating it. I found myself fidgeting as I walked, my fingers twitching not quite voluntarily around the grip of the stun-gun hidden in the large cargo pocket of my shorts.
“Which one is it?” Rey asked me.
“I uh… I don’t actually know,” I said, furrowing my brow. “I think it’s-“
“Guys,” interrupted Devin, stopping by a brick building and touching his fingers to the red brick. “I’d bet it’s this one.”
Rey and I stopped and backtracked to look at what Devin was pointing at.
“Yeah, I guess it is,” said Rey.
Carved into the brick was the four letters, “CTRL.” I glanced up at the name of the store. It was not, as I had suspected the sandwich shop, but a store called “Valise de les Fleurs.” If I remembered right from french class, meant something along the lines of “Bag of Flowers.” I assumed it lost something in translation.
When we entered, the strong, sweet smell of flowers hit us like a wall- it was, as the name suggested, a flower store, but the air-conditioned interior was a relief after the heat outside. A bell tinkled as the door swung open and shut. We glanced around the store at the aisles of flower racks slanted away from us, displaying their wares and, interestingly, hiding the counter from the windows on the street.
“Sup,” came a man’s voice from around the counter when the bell finished tinkling.
We glanced at eachother, then in unison pulled the masks on. I suppose Devin’s grandmother’s intention had been to make the masks frightening, and they were that, in spades. They were made from wood, painstakingly handcarved and painted. Rey’s was green and yellow, carved with intricate scales. It had no mouth or nose, but the eyes were narrow vertical slits, extending well below his nose and up to the top of his forehead. At their widest point, they were only as wide as his eyes, narrowing to a point at either tip.
Devin’s had the appearance of a stone face, totally impassive. His had a mouth and eyes, craggy gaps like cracks in the mask. Mine was different from the others. It was solid white apart from black circles outlining the perfectly round eyes. Apart from the eyes, it was completely smooth, giving it an eerie and inhuman demeanor.
We turned the corner around the display of flowers. The leather chair creaked as man running the shop sat up, pulling his feet from where they had been resting on the waist-high counter.
“Aw shiiit, you guys heros?”
He tipped up his mirrored aviator sunglasses to get a better look at us, then dropped them back into place on his nose with a ‘click,’ his hand remaining where it was. “Shit. What you want?” He ran a hand through his greasy hair nervously. I saw his hand reaching slowly under the counter, for a gun or a panic button, I couldn’t tell, and I raised the Herokiller level with his head.
“Don’t.” I said. His hand stopped, then he raised them above his head.
“Yeah, okay, not heroes. Uh… What do you want? You, you still haven’t told me. Dammit, I’m not qualified for this…”
I glanced at the others. They weren’t saying anything. I took their silence as my cue to speak up.
“Control. Tell us what you know.”
I could see the muscles of his face move as his eyes widened behind his sunglasses.
“Jeez, I dunno if I can help you, I’m just a front, I, I just get shipments and I’m supposed to sell ‘em, I dunno what you expect me to- Ah, there you are,” All at once, his voice sounded much more casual. I recognized the voice as Commandant immediately “I was wondering which ones Slugger told you about. Thought the flower shop was a nice one, though Opiate disagreed. Pity slugger called the RHA here ‘cause she knew you’d show.”
“Agh, dammit. You are getting really annoying, you know that?” I said. He focused his eyes on the Herokiller I held level with his face.
“Sorry kid, I know that baby’s out of juice.” He reached out to grab the gun with one hand.
“Want to bet?” I asked, and pulled the trigger.
The light “pop” that accompanied the stun mode never came, instead just a “beep,” and the display on the butt of the gun flashed the words: “UNAUTHORIZED USER” in red.
“Pay up,” Commandant said insolently. “Oh, and here they are!” The bell on the door rung gently behind us.