He turned back to Mr. B in the speech.
Not Mr. Tucker said, scribbling furiously. Oh, yes. His name.
Fascinating, really. You hardly ever hear a name like that, you know. She did, though.
Because Hieronymous was the most notorious Outcast of the whole Protector race. And for some reason, Hieronymous Black was helping her father. The wind had kicked up, and even now in the middle of August, the air this high was chilled. Mordi hardly noticed, though. His favorite propulsion and invisibility cloak was wrapped tight around his shoulders, a barrier against the elements and a shield against prying eyes. Of course, this high the only prying eyes would be the tourists with their zoom lenses peering straight up or passengers in low-flying aircraft looking to see if King Kong was home.
He bit back a grin. Fun to think about, but probably a little too flamboyant for a stakeout. Better to sit quietly and invisibly up here and wait for his quarry to appear below. And so he waited. And waited. And waited some more. He was thrilled to no longer be on probation, to be a full-fledged one-hundred-percent member of the Council. But he had to admit that on some days a life of legitimacy could be exceedingly dull. Not that Mordi had any regrets. A little tedium was worth the price for knowing that now, finally, he was doing the right thing.
And besides, the moments of tedium were usually counterbalanced by unexpected flurries of pure adrenal excitement. He stifled a yawn. At the moment, some of that excitement would be most welcome. Forcing himself to focus, he once again aimed his binocs at the street below. Lacking either, he instead adjusted the high-powered binocs, arming them at the street. Several mortals, actually.
Hieronymous would have no trouble at all simply exterminating their entire race. So many times the brilliant Outcast had almost succeeded.
Scary, really. And now, with the Council and the mortal governments renegotiating the Secret Mortal-Protector Treaty of And for every stunt that Hieronymous had pulled, Clyde had been right there. The perfect soldier, ready to do whatever Hieronymous might ask. Or, barring that, he wished he could think of Hieronymous only as an Outcast.
He tried; really he did. Not anymore.
Mordi had moved on. A place where not only was he useful, he was appreciated. An ironic twist of fate, all things considered. Now that very status had elevated him to the upper echelons of the Council.
Showing Did you? She had to report it. No ideas at all? The elders and their staff had access to exclusive spa facilities on Olympus. And for a very good cause And then, without any fanfare Hale appeared, looking picture-perfect as usual.
Instead of being scorned, he was needed. And that, frankly, had been a long time coming. Right now, though, he was determined not to think about his father or the negotiations. He was here to watch Clyde. And by doing so, Mordi would catch himself yet another traitor.
Lucky thirteen this one would be. As if his thoughts had conjured the man, Clyde appeared on the street below, his hulking form emerging from one of the office buildings and loping toward Thirty-fourth Street. As a member of the Protector Oversight Committee, Mordi had been privy to recent intelligence suggesting that a certain well-placed Protector had been assisting and passing information to Clyde and other Outcasts. Today, Mordi was hoping to catch Romulus Rothgar in the act. A Protector First Class, Romulus was the last person that anyone would think was a traitor.
Anyone, that is, except Mordi. Watching his face in particular. And his shuttered expression Mordi recognized. No, Mordi had no doubts at all. Romulus had something to hide, and Mordi intended to figure out what it was. Unfortunately, on this mission he was on his own.
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Romulus had a perfect record and an upstanding family, and that knowledge enveloped him, a solid blanket of protection. So now Mordi was here unofficially, gliding through the sky, his propulsion cloak set to silent mode as he followed Clyde, hovering a good twenty feet above the Outcast and at a respectable distance behind him. If Romulus did meet with Clyde, then Mordi was golden; interaction between Protectors and Outcasts-on-the-lam was a punishable offense. Mordi was certain a meeting would take place No such luck, for after a few more blocks Clyde did just that, disappearing into the subterranean bowels of Manhattan.
Damn it to Hades! This was most inconvenient. Mordi swooped down, still invisible, leaving in his wake a rush of wild air. The stairs were narrow, and he brushed against a woman, her startled cry from being thrust aside by something solid and invisible echoing through the corridor.
As soon as he reached the inside of the station, he stopped, glancing around until he saw Clyde, who was biding his time on the platform. Romulus, however, was nowhere to be seen. In the distance, a train started to rumble. Mordi leaned against a tiled pillar and waited, foot tapping. As soon as Clyde got on that train, Mordi would follow. Forgetting he was invisible, he frowned at her. Mordi glanced down and realized that she was right.
The power cell on his cloak must be fading, because its power of invisibility was fading right along with it, leaving him looking like some sort of specter. He nodded politely to the woman, then moved to the far side of the pillar. As he walked, he shifted forms, turning himself into a sleek black Labrador retriever. He padded back out, this time finding Clyde more by scent than anything else. Mordi plunked down on the cold concrete and started scratching. In front of him, the approaching train rumbled to a stop.
Mordi tensed, preparing to follow Clyde onto the train. But Clyde stayed perfectly still, and soon, Mordi saw why. Romulus, tall and blond and dressed in jeans and a black T-shirt, a backpack slung casually over one shoulder, stepped off the train and onto the platform. With what sounded like a sigh of annoyance, Romulus crossed to the pillar near Mordi, pulling out a stick of gum as he walked and popping it into his mouth. As soon as he reached the pillar, he dropped his backpack on the ground.
Mordi fought the overwhelming urge to lift one leg and mark the thing. Dignity, remember? In all things, dignity. Romulus stood and unfolded a street map of Manhattan, holding it up to the light and twisting and turning. Mordi yawned, a deep doggie yawn, but neither Romulus nor Clyde seemed to hear or otherwise notice him. Clyde walked toward the pillar, then reached into his pocket and pulled out an old candy wrapper.
He dropped it into the nearby trash can. And, Mordi noticed, he did a little bit more than that. In fact, had Mordi not been watching the two of them so closely, he doubted he would have caught the subtle act. But right after dropping the candy wrapper, Clyde dropped a single slip of paper into the now-open backpack. Then Clyde kept on walking, right toward the stairs that led out of the station. A bone-deep desire for revenge urged him to follow Clyde. But, no. That urge could wait. He was only one dog, after all, and his self-appointed mission was to catch Romulus in an act of treason.