According to police standards, a typical person is not considered missing until at least forty-eight hours have passed. Drake Weston, however, is not a typical person.
Oh sure, he’s invisible when he wants to be, but he’s always reachable to his closest associates. And no one is closer to him than Elizabeth Stokes.
Just yesterday, I would have sworn to you that I’d never set foot in this building again. And yet here I stand, less than twenty-four hours later, in Weston Tower. Once again, I’m greeted by Elizabeth, but this time, there’s no Drake Weston sitting at his desk behind her.
I’m about two seconds away from turning around and walking right back out when I see a very unnatural look on Elizabeth’s face. It’s a look of genuine concern, and it takes a lot to make this woman concerned. Which is why I decide to hear her out.
“And that is the problem,” she says after an abbreviated salutation. “It has been nearly a full day, and I have been unable to reach Mr. Weston.”
“Maybe he slept in?” I propose. “Maybe he decided to take a day off from masterminding insidious schemes and just chill? Even the notorious Drake Weston must take a day off every once in a while.”
“I have at least a dozen different ways to contact him when it is urgent,” she deflects. “He never takes longer than three minutes to contact me back when I utilize any of them. Since you and I last spoke, I have used all of them…twice…and received no response.”
The tone of her voice becomes graver.
“A man like Drake Weston does not simply vanish,” she continues. “That means he has come up against something that even he cannot overcome. And that would be something that I have never seen. Nor would ever wish to.”
“Look, I get it: You care about your boss,” I say in a manner that defies my own fears about someone (or something) that could make Weston disappear. “And I don’t mean to sound insensitive, but honestly, I kinda think the world might be better off if the great and powerful Drake Weston is gone.”
“Mr. Weston always said he thought you were a smart young man,” Elizabeth says with daggers in her eyes and bullets in her voice. “Clearly he misjudged you. Have you learned nothing about how important he is to the world in the past five years?”
“What I learned is that he’s responsible for very bad things happening,” I counter. “In fact, he had me help him do some of them.”
“You know nothing,” she snarls.
“He’s the hand that steers the supervillain community,” I growl back. “I fail to see how the bad guys having less guidance is a negative.”
“You have worked with a number of Post-Humans on the wrong side of the law, yes?” she asks, getting frustrated with me. I nod.
“Have you developed many friendships during those jobs?” she asks.
“Of course not,” I reply.
“There are not many who have,” she says. “Do you know why?”
“I’ve got some ideas.”
“It is because they hate everyone. The so-called good guys, the government, the other so-called bad guys,” she explains with some condescension. “That is why they are criminals,” she continues. “What do you think happens when there is no one keeping them occupied and employed?”
“They’ll keep committing crimes,” I reply with no surprise, “and nothing will change.”
“It is not just the villains,” Elizabeth states. “Mr. Weston was the liaison between more Human/Post-Human affairs than anyone else on the planet. Heroes, villains, the government –”
“I get it. He had his fingers in a lot of pies,” I cut her off.
“I am talking about the man who is the single most significant part of the entire Post-Human infrastructure of society, and you are throwing pastry-based clichés at me?” she says coldly.
“Listen, even if you’re right and it’s a problem that Weston is missing, what makes you think I’m even the right guy to look for him?” I ask. “I’m no gumshoe.”
“But you are the one person who still has strong connections to both sides of the Post-Human community,” replies Elizabeth.
“You’re joking, right?” I scoff. “I’m Judas to the superhero community, and the supervillains never really trusted me; they just worked with me because Weston told them to.
“Trust me, if I’m anything, then I’m the guy most likely to get my ass kicked or killed anywhere I go!” I exclaim. “You need to find someone else. I know I’m not the only one to flip sides at one point or another.”
“Mr. Weston’s other allies will give you the information you request because I will tell them to. When he is not present, I am his voice and his hand,” she says in a way that’s, admittedly, a little intimidating.
“And you had a close bond with a number of the others from your days as LightBlast — the sort of bond that does not just disappear after a little time has passed,” she argues. “These people you cared about will not be immune to the fallout.”
I don’t like what she’s insinuating, especially since I know exactly who she’s talking about. I clench my fists and almost subconsciously try to power up. But Weston’s power-dampening fields keep me from doing anything more than getting red in the face.
“Even when you’re asking for help, you can’t stop pushing it, can you?” I say in a threatening tone of my own.
“You know that I am right,” she says, intentionally softening her approach.
“What I know is that I’m done here.”
I turn and head back to the elevator, stopping at the closed doors. A few long moments pass, but the elevator doesn’t appear.
“I may not have my powers up here, but neither do you,” I turns to face her again. “And I may not be the type of guy who hits women, but you and I are gonna have a big problem if you don’t let me out of this office right now.”
She pushes a button on Weston’s desktop, and I hear the elevator moving into position.
“You will be back once you see what happens out there without Drake Weston,” she warns as the light above the elevator dings and the doors slide open. “Believe me, Thomas, it will not take long.”
“Yeah, well, good luck getting someone to find your boyfriend,” I retort as I step inside and the elevator doors close.