100 Words A Day by Hydrargentium

Well, at least 100 words — best served random….

Tag: Mason

“What’s your name, little one?”

Mason stood for a moment, looking at the little dog, letting it get used to his presence. It didn’t seem like it was going to try to bolt, but its grey-black fur quivered with nervousness.

Crouching down in the tight space. His knees pressed against the walls on either side of him. He held a hand out, knuckles first. The dog shied away, pressing itself into the corner. No growling, but it kept its gaze on his hand, alert black eyes darting furtively up to look at him when it felt brave.

“Hmmmmm, it’s okay,” Mason muttered in low, soothing tones.

He pulled his hand back and tapped it on his calf.

“C’mere, puppy. C’mon over.”

The dog cocked its head, one floppy ear lifting up.

“Come on.” He tapped again.

The dog leaned forward, back no longer pressed into the safety of the corner.

“It’s okay. I’m one of the good guys.” Mason smiled a little stupidly as he spoke. He knew he was, one of the good guys, that is, but he still felt a little dorky saying it like that.

The dog took a couple of tentative steps toward him. Its fur still quivered, and its head hung low as it came forward, but something about its tail seemed to tell Mason that it was a little more relaxed. Mason let his hand hang loose between his knees as the dog approached.

A sniff, a step back, forward, some more sniffs — the back of his hand, under his thumb, and his wrist were all points of interest. Finally, Mason felt the dog was comfortable enough, and he carefully raised one finger to scratch behind a floppy ear.

The dog leaned into it, and he scratched more. Just as carefully, he brought his other hand down and began to scratch the back of its neck. His fingers found a collar under the matted fur, and as he moved it, he heard a jingle. Still scratching with one hand, he found the tag hanging down below, and tilted it into view. The metal was scratched and dirty, but he could read the letters etched into it.

“Well, hi there, Zuzi,” he said, smiling broadly. “I’m Mason.”

Zuzi made a low groan of pleasure as he found a good spot under one ear.

“Nice to meet you.”

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It smelled like mango.

Mason wasn’t all that fond of mangoes. He thought they tasted okay in yoghurt, but fresh, ripe mangoes always smelled faintly of puke to him. And smoothies? He didn’t even like to think about it. It was fine, other people were welcome to them, but mangoes just weren’t his thing.

Yet, it was definitely mangoes coming from the crack. Despite the wind, flying at high speed, he could smell mangoes.

He lifted the football-shaped casing up to his face, turning his back to the wind to provide some shelter, and gave the long, thin line a good sniff.

Yep. Definitely mangoes. Except, not pukey.

Facing forward again, he poured on the speed. In the field below, a farmer looked up at the sonic boom, shielding her eyes against the sun with the peak of her cap to get a better view. Mason just wanted to get this thing to Nevada and get back to his vacation. It was easy to avoid mangoes in Nantucket.

“Do you smell smoke?”

Mason sniffed experimentally, his large nostrils flaring above his moustache.

“No. You?”

Arrow rubbed his chin, drew a long breath of the evening sky through his nose, holding it like a fine wine.

“I think so. Hard to tell from where, though.”

“Hmm.” Mason pulled a cellphone from its holster on his belt. “Let me make a phone call.”

Arrow floated a little higher into the wind, trying to get a feel for the currents, to see if the smell got stronger or weaker. After about thirty seconds, he heard Mason finish his call.

“So?”

“Called a fireman buddy of mine. Says there are no calls in tonight.”

“Weird. Must just be someone’s chimney or something.”

Arrow watched as Mason put the phone back in its pouch. It was the only thing Mason seemed to carry, attached behind his back, on the left side, closer to his hip than his spine.

“Is that some kind of hardened device? Did Larry put it together for you?”

“What, this?” Mason pulled out the phone again. It looked normal enough. “Nah, it’s just a Samsung something-or-other.”

With a flick of the wrist, Mason tossed his phone up to Arrow. Without really thinking about it, Arrow caught it, only realizing after that it ended up right where it would be easiest to catch, in exactly the right position for his hand to grab it.

He looked at it, turning it over in his hand. It had a simple plastic cover on it, and a film of screen protector that held tiny air bubbles in one corner. Still looked normal.

“How do you keep it from getting wrecked? I’ve seen you take some pretty big hits.”

Mason smiled a lop-sided grin.

“Easy. I don’t let it get hit.”

“Give me the transcoder.”

“Give me the whip!”

Mason blinked. “What?”

“I said, ‘Give me the whip!'”

The fact that Catseye’s grin was clear and obvious under his full head mask was enough to make Mason grit his teeth. He raised his arm, intentions for a back-handed slap also clear.

“I’ll give you the whip.”

Catseye shrugged. “Okay. Not a movie buff. More like a movie gruff.”

With a quick motion, the small device appeared, glittering, in Catseye’s gloved hand. “Say please!”

Mason was fast. His raised right arm struck out to grab at Catseyes shoulder, and at the same time, his left hand was a blur as it snatched at the transponder.

Somehow, Catseye was faster. Mason wasn’t sure he’d seen him move, there was no shoulder in reach to grab hold of, and his left hand closed on empty space. There was about a foot more distance between them, now.

So it was Mason’s turn to shrug. “Fine. Please?”

“This… is disturbing.”

Mason took a swig from his coffee. “Mm.”

“Who would do something like this?”

Ice-Kool rubbed his hands on his thighs. His breath condensed the humid air into small clouds that hung in front of him, and dissipated as he stood up.

Mason looked at him. “You’re asking me?”

“No, I guess I already know.” He looked around. “Think we should look for clues?”

Mason threw back the last of his coffee. “I’m not really a clue guy.”

“No, I guess that’s Ranger’s thing.” Ice-Kool made himself look back down at the bodies. “Where is Ranger, anyway?”

Mason ran his fingers through his beard.

“Looking for clues, probably.”

When he opened his eyes, everything had turned black.

Mason only had a moment to wonder if everyone else was blind before something smashed into the side of his head hard enough to make him see stars.

He shook his head, vague thoughts about functioning optic nerves mingling with an acute awareness of the sound of heavy steps off to one side. It was the same side that just got pounded.

Mason dropped flat, then started rolling — toward his attacker. Something like a size fifteen combat boot caught him in the ribs. He gasped at the pain. He hadn’t cracked a rib since high school football.

At least they were on the same footing, he and his assailant. What sounded like a half-ton bag of potatoes hit the hardwood a few feet away.

Crossing his fingers that the ribs were only cracked, and not broken, he shoved against the ground with one arm, and launched himself at the person he hoped was now sprawled on the floor.

The old woman’s wavering voice held her last note surprisingly long, before fading into the church’s rafters.

“Amazing Grace — always brings a tear to my eye.”

Mason looked over his shoulder, and wondered why he hadn’t noticed the small man lounging against the wall behind him.

“Not a fan. I prefer the old hymns.”

With a shrug, the man pushed off the wall and stepped up beside him. Mason noticed his brown suit and matching shoes: older style, almost vintage, but still clean without signs of wear.

“Catholic?”

Mason shook his head, wondering if he should know who this guy was. He felt like it should be ringing a bell, but nothing about him seemed familiar.

“Episcopalian.”

“Mm. Were you close to the deceased?”

Now Mason really wondered who this guy was, and why he was here at all.

“More of a old acquaintance.”

“It’s been a while since I needed a tie.” Mason tugged awkwardly at his collar, and fumbled again with his half-windsor knot.

“You’ll be fine, Mason.” Jessica brushed a bit of fluff off Mason’s shoulder, then put her arms around his waist and squeezed him from behind.

“Besides, I think you look pretty good in a tie. Even though you didn’t shave.”

“Any monkey can look good in a tie,” Mason grumbled. “That’s why men wear them.” Tug. “Maybe the only reason.”

He turned around in the circle of her slender arms, returning the embrace. The simple act of hugging this wonderful woman relaxed him more than a six-pack of Export ever could.

“And the beard is part of my look. What would the United Heroes think if I showed up for the interview having bent that much to convention? I don’t think they’re looking for someone who folds under peer pressure.”