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The Wooden Stranger

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1

Logan Major studied the regional papers at his dining room table. He owned an
interest in most of them. He leaned back in his chair.

 

The front pages covered a series of thefts in Wisconsin. No one had seen anything,
no one knew anything.

 

What could he do about it?

 

“I’m going now, Dad,” said Brady Major. “Will you need me after school?”

 

“I don’t know, Brady,” said Logan. He looked out the window of the dining room. “These thefts are something new. Someone with a power is out there. We’re going to  have to look into things but not until we know more.”

 

“All right, Dad,” said Brady. “Let me know when you’re ready.”

 

“Thanks,” said Logan. “Have a good day, son.”

 

Brady smiled as he walked to the front door. He vanished out the door to catch his
bus to school.

 

Logan stood. There had to be more information than what he saw in the articles. He
needed to talk to his investigators and find out if they knew anything more than what
was printed.

 

There had to be something there he could use.

 

He stacked the papers together and placed them on the table. He pulled his phone. He
checked the time on the face. His editors wouldn’t be in the office for another two
hours.

 

Logan put the phone away. He headed for his room. He needed to get his suit and
head into the office. He should get in at the same time as some of the staff.

 

Once he had a better picture of things, he could decide what to do about the thefts.

 

Logan dressed and went to the garage. He climbed into his old Datsun and pulled
down his driveway. He paused at the motorized gate so it could open for him to drive
out.

 

He turned and headed into the city. The paper sat in the middle of Walton Pond,
opposite the city hall and police center. That saved time for when the crime reporters
needed to follow up a story.

 

He pulled into a slot in the public parking lot that serviced several of the businesses
around the paper. He got out of the car and headed into the office.

 

He waved at some of the writers and editors as he went to his work space in the
middle of the staff area. He put his suit jacket over his chair as he sat down. He

checked the paperwork in his in box before he called over to the editor.

 

“Hey, Ken,” said Logan. “Who’s covering the Mercury Diamond theft?”

 

“Phillips,” said Ken Hanson, the city editor. “He’s covering all those strange
robberies.”

 

“I would like to talk to him,” said Logan. “I want to know more about these thefts.”

 

“I’ll tell him to come up and talk to you,” said Hanson. “What’s your interest?”

 

“I want to pressure the police into stopping these thefts,” said Logan. “Maybe we can
get mileage out of the scenes of the crimes.”

 

“They won’t like that,” said Hanson.

 

“We’re not here to make the police happy,” said Logan.

 

“I’ll tell Phillips to talk to you,” said Hanson.

 

“I’m going over financials at my desk,” said Logan. “I’ll be here for a while.”

 

“All right,” said Hanson. “Do you need anything else?”

 

“Not right now,” said Logan. “I may need more later.”

 

“See you later, Logan,” said Hanson.

 

Logan hung up. He leaned back in his chair. He checked his calender. He had
meetings with the board, financial advisors, and had to look into buying into another
radio station in Minnesota.

 

He could put some of that off if Phillips could give him some lead to the thief.

There had to be something everyone was missing that he could use.

 

He went through his paperwork, sat through his first meeting, and then went over how

much money he had flowing through his holdings with his advisors. Phillips arrived
while he was ushering his hedge fund manager out of the conference room.

 

“You wanted to see me?,” said Phillips.

 

“Come in,” said Logan. He gestured at the conference room. “You are just in the
knick of time.”

 

“I got held up,” said Phillips. He wore a jacket and tie with jeans. He settled at the
table and pulled out a small tablet from its carrying case. He set the tablet on the table
so he could reference it. “I was in court when Ken called.”

 

“I want to know how much you know about these unsolved thefts that are going on,”
said Logan. He sat down at his place at the table. He had paperwork to fill out. He put
that aside in a small stack.

 

“The police have some forensics details they aren’t sharing,” said Phillips. “The gist
is our guy can take locks and protective measures apart and then escape.”

 

“How is he getting in?,” asked Logan.

 

“I think the police think he can fly, or he has some kind of swing line he uses,” said
Phillips. “Some of those thefts took place in high rises with cut out windows.”

 

“Do you have pictures?,” asked Logan.

 

“Some,” said Phillips. He opened a file on his tablet. He showed Logan the illegal
entries he had taken pictures of with his phone. “I couldn’t get pictures of some of
them. The police had cordoned off the scenes and the victims fixed the damage as fast
as they could.”

 

“I want you to go around and take pictures of the scenes,” said Logan. “Leave them
on my desk.”

 

“What’s going on?,” asked Phillips.

 

“I’m interested in how these thefts are being done,” said Logan. “I can’t ask the
police to give me a tour of everything. You, on the other hand, can go in and look
around and ask more questions. Eventually the government will take an interest.
There will be problems, and conflicts of interest. If we can identify this thief, and how
he’s operating, maybe we can stop things from escalating.”

 

“The government will want to take over the investigation,” said Phillips.

 

“And they will tell us less than the police,” said Logan. “I don’t want to verify a press
release from some suit.”

 

“Do you want the pictures I already have?,” asked Phillips.

 

“Yes,” said Logan. “Print them out and put them on my desk. I’ll tell Ken that I want
you to examine the scenes of the crime before I have to get to this other meeting.”

 

“All right,” said Phillips. “I have some other stories that I am working on.”

 

“Are they life and death?,” asked Logan.

 

“I don’t know,” said Phillips. “I’m trying to verify that someone in city hall is
embezzling money for one. Then there is the Garret murder. I’m still trying to find
someone who will talk to me about it.”

 

“The kid on Thirteenth Street,” said Logan. “He took a stray bullet. No one wants to
come forward to say which gang fired the shot.”

 

“Exactly,” said Phillips.

 

“They’ll stonewall you too,” said Logan. “Go ahead and get those pictures for me.
It’ll give your embezzler time to steal more money, and Buddy Garret isn’t going
anywhere at the moment. If someone comes forward, go back to it and cover it.”

 

“You don’t think I can find anyone who will?,” asked Phillips.

 

“You aren’t threatening enough,” said Logan. “People fear the shooter more than they
fear you. If you haven’t dug up anything by now, you never will.”

 

“All right,” said Phillips. His expression said he didn’t agree, but he wasn’t going to
argue with his boss.

 

“Did you dig up anything about the shooting?,” asked Logan.

 

“Not much,” said Phillips. “The police think the Ardvarks and the Razorbacks started
squabbling for turf. Guns were pulled and fired, and one bullet hit Buddy Garret in
his chest. He died at the scene.”

 

“Do you know who the shot callers are in either gang?,” asked Logan.

 

“My source said they think a Deshawn Barden runs the Razorbacks,” said Phillips.
“The other name they gave me was a Buck Clinton for the Ardvarks.”

 

“Did they give you street addresses?,” asked Logan.

 

“Sure,” said Phillips. He wrote down the addresses and handed over the sheet from
his notebook.

 

“I’m going to give this to someone and hopefully he will be able to do something
about one of these gangs,” said Logan. “Don’t tell anyone I did this. I don’t want the
police thinking we’re interfering in their investigation.”

 

“I understand,” said Phillips. “Do you think he can get someone to talk?”

 

“I don’t know,” said Logan. “If he can’t, at least we tried to crack this.”

 

“All right,” said Phillips. “Is there anything else?”

 

“I might need to talk to you when you have the pictures to get your opinion on
things,” said Logan. “Let me know if you dig up enough to identify the embezzler.”

 

“I thought you just published the paper,” said Phillips.

 

“My grandfather and father helped build the city,” said Logan. “I try to help protect
it now that they are both gone.”

 

“I can see that,” said Phillips. “You thought about going into politics?”

 

“Politicians have to answer to someone else, generally a lot of someones depending
on where they got their money,” said Logan. “I only have to answer to myself and
whomever owns part of the papers. And since I publish the paper, I don’t really have
to answer to anyone else unless someone buys enough of the others’ holdings to
have me removed.”

 

“How likely is that to happen?,” said Phillips.

 

“I don’t know,” said Logan. “But I have some things that I am trying to get done and
this thief is stirring up trouble. So he has to go. Then I can try to get the money I need
for my projects.”

 

“What projects?,” asked Phillips.

 

“I’ll let you know when I have them in the bag,” said Logan. “Go get the pictures. I
have to make my meeting.”

 

“All right,” said Phillips. He packed up his tablet. “Why the concentration on the
entry points?”

 

“No one knows who this thief is,” said Logan. “We all suspect he is powered up. If
we can match the power to a known villain, we can identify the thief and help the
police with their manhunt.”

 

“And if we can’t,” said Phillips.

 

“Then he’s someone who’s never been caught, or totally new,” said Logan. “Let’s see
what we can find out before worry about that.”

 

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2

Logan thought about the two gangs. He would not be able to pressure any information
out of them as himself. No one wanted to talk about a shooting to a newsman unless
they were stupid.

 

How did he crack them?

 

He decided the only thing to do was put on his other face and see if he could do
something to get some information. If he could get the name of the shooter, he could
call that in as a tip and let the police focus on that person. He would also give the
name to Phillips to follow up on after he was done checking out the burglary scenes.

 

The city didn’t need his other face all that often, but sometimes it was the only way
to deal with things that balked normal methods used by the law.

 

He doubted that becoming a vigilante would get his father’s approval, but it helped
protect the city.

 

The answers he got sometimes led to the exposure of rot in the system. Cutting that
rot away allowed the city to operate better.

 

He knew it was an ongoing process. Like any gardener, he knew that pests and weeds
had to be removed to let the flowers bloom.

 

Logan decided to leave his battered Datsun in the parking lot for the paper. He didn’t
want anyone to see it and connect it to his two lives. He had one more thing to do
before he started asking questions.

 

He pulled his phone from his holder and dialed his home. He had to let his wife know
what was going on.

 

Gloria and Brady was the only ones who knew what he did some nights. They needed
to know what he was doing so they could cover up his extracurricular activities from
his own papers and radio stations.

 

“Hey, Log,” said Gloria. “How are things at the paper?”

 

“I have to talk to some people before I come home,” said Logan. “Do you want me
to bring in anything?”

 

“You’re not taking Brady?,” said Gloria.

 

“I’m just swinging by to talk,” said Logan. “I will be glad to take him when I need
something blown up.”

 

“All right,” said Gloria. She laughed lightly. “He loves the sidekick life.”

 

“One day he will be protecting the city,” said Logan. “I hope that I have shown him
some basic skills and a good outlook on life.”

 

“I’m sure,” said Gloria. “Bring home some pizzas. That will make up for you not
being home on time.”

 

“Will do,” said Logan. “I love you.”

 

“I love you too,” said Gloria. “Don’t do anything reckless.”

 

“I’m just having a talk with a man about his friends,” said Logan. “You couldn’t get
more boring.”

 

“And how dangerous is this source?,” asked Gloria.

 

“Not as dangerous as me,” said Logan. “I will be home in a bit.” 

 

Logan hung up the phone. He put it back on its holder. Night drifted outside the
window. He put the photos from Phillips in a folder as he looked around the nearly
empty room. He walked out of the room and headed for the roof.

 

He stepped through the rigged roof door. It only rang when someone else tried to go
out on the roof. He looked over the city with the file of pictures in hand. He
concentrated to call on his other face.

 

A wooden sheathe covered his body, masking his face with another appearance. A
cape of leaves dropped from his shoulders. He stood like a statue for a moment before
he walked to the edge of the roof.

 

Logan slid the folder inside his wooden body before he leaped from the roof of the
paper. He extended a pole to the ground and used that to land on the roof across the
street from the paper. He shrank the pole and ran across the roof and pole vaulted to
a building across that street.

 

The address for Clinton was just off Downtown in a neighborhood slated for
gentrification which would drive the residents out. Clinton might have enough money
flowing in from the Aardvarks not to have to move when richer people moved in.

 

The Aardvarks were prominent on the local scene, but he couldn’t recall any mention
of them in national reports. They might not have a longer reach than the city.

 

Logan dropped down to the street when he ran out of roofs. He used the shadows as
much as possible as he walked through the neighborhood. He paused when he
reached the address he wanted.

 

How should he do this? Should he knock on the door? Should he break in? Should
he wait outside until someone showed? He decided the direct approach was the best
approach.

 

Logan walked across the yard, stepping around a small tree. He climbed the three low
porch steps to stand at the front door. He knocked on the door with a wooden hand.

The door opened to reveal a sixty year old woman in a hairnet and bathrobe. She
frowned at the apparition knocking on her door.

 

“What do you want?,” she asked in a shaking voice. A tremor ran through her body.

 

“I’m looking for Buck Clinton,” said Logan. “Does he live here?”

 

“He’s not home right now,” said the woman. “He’s hanging out with his useless
friends.”

 

“Would you know where that would be, ma’am?,” asked Logan.

 

“No,” said the old lady. “Sometimes they hang around that burger place on Barlow.”

 

“Thank you very much, ma’am,” said Logan. “I’ll let you get back to your bed. I’m
sorry to have bothered you.”

 

“Night,” said the woman. Her shaking hand closed the door on Logan.

 

Logan turned and walked through the yards toward the end of the block. He turned
again and headed away from Downtown toward Caskill and Barlow. A huge amount
of strip malls, stand alone stores, and restaurants lined those two streets. One end of
the street went toward Downtown. The other vanished out in the county on the way
to the next county and the little towns between Walton Pond and the next city over.

 

He vaulted to the roof of a strip mall and worked his way down Barlow until he found
a Bowzer’s with a bunch of young men standing around in the parking lot. He
decided to ask which one was Clinton so he could ask his questions.

 

Logan dropped down in the parking lot. He looked at the group. Someone would do
something. They all had that look. It was easy to believe that one of them had shot a
little boy by accident because he didn’t have the proper training with a weapon.

 

“Who’re you supposed to be?,” said one of the gangsters. His totem animal, the
aardvark, was a tattoo on his hand.

 

“I’m looking for Buck Clinton,” said Logan. “I heard he was a coward and a
blowhard that needs to be put in his place.”

 

“I’m Clinton,” said one of the men. “What do you want?”

 

“I want to know which one of your gang shot the little boy last week,” said Logan.

 

“Why should I tell you, freak?,” said Clinton. He pulled his pistol in one move.

 

Logan extended his hand. A log leapt from it. The piece of wood spun in the air until
it crashed into Clinton’s face. The gang leader went down. He still kept a grip on his
pistol. 

 

The wooden hero swept his arm in a circle. A wooden stick beat on the gang members
within striking distance as he advanced on Clinton. The gang leader tried to raise his
pistol to shoot his nemesis. The end of the staff came down and disarmed him. It
reversed back and struck him in the face.

 

Logan picked up the pistol and absorbed it into his wooden shell to take with him.

 

Maybe the police could match the gun with other crimes in the area, even if it wasn’t
for the dead boy.

 

“Anybody want to talk to me?,” asked Logan. “One of you must know who shot the
little boy when you had your fight. Why don’t you say something?”

 

They all glared at him. Some of them had their hands close to their weapons. They
were ready to fight if pushed, but in close quarters, most knew they would probably
shoot themselves trying to shoot the wooden target in front of them.

 

“I want you to leave the city,” said Logan. “If I see you again, I will hurt you. You
want to live here, I want to know who killed the boy. Until I do, any of you I see, I
am going to hurt. That’s what’s going to happen. I’m giving you until sundown to
leave town and not come back.”

 

“You can’t do that,” said one of the gang.

 

“Either I get the shooter, or I make examples,” said Logan. “That’s the deal. Sundown
tomorrow is all the time I am giving you. After that, expect a stay in the hospital.”

 

Logan backed away from the mob. If they went for their guns, he would have start
throwing logs at them.

 

He had one trick that he didn’t use very much that could wreck a car. He had no doubt
it would put a man in the hospital, or the morgue.

 

Logan walked around the burger joint. He climbed up to the roof and sat down. He
listened as the gang got themselves together.

 

Most of them didn’t like his disrespect. Some didn’t like his reputation as a meddler.
And Clinton didn’t like the fact that he had lost his sidearm. He shouted for everyone
to load up so they could find him and shoot his tree butt.

 

Logan wondered if this was how the gunfight with the Razorbacks had started. Words
had been exchanged, then everybody had started shooting.

 

He had to look them up. He couldn’t put pressure on one gang, and let the other one
slide. Maybe the hogs would be more cooperative.

 

Someone had shot the boy. He wanted to know who. Once he knew, he could turn the
guy in and help settle the city. Clearing the gangs out had to be done on principle. He
should have had a talking with them before this.

 

He regretted not doing something about them sooner. He had spent too much time
chasing other bad guys the ones he hadn’t kept his eyes on had multiplied.

 

He called up the address for Deshawn Barden. It was across town, heading for the
North Point. He wondered how they would take his demands.

 

He supposed that they would say that no caped freak was running them out of town.
He might have to use a little more force on them.

 

They were going if they couldn’t tell him who had shot the boy. He had already made
up his mind about that. He couldn’t stop all crime in the city limits. He could make
two groups of lowlifes miserable.

 

He could even take time out of his schedule with the paper to keep making them
miserable until he had an answer.

 

Logan crossed the city using a bus passing his way, then an eighteen wheeler heading
north. He dropped down into the North Point and walked through to where his
suspect lived.

 

He was rewarded with a party with too much booze, too many people, and too loud
music. No one would call the police to shut this down. The Razorbacks would make
them miserable if they did.

 

He decided to walk in. You can’t make people afraid of you if you were afraid of
them.

 

Logan crossed the porch, saying excuse me as he pushed through the crowd. One guy
tried to punch him. He blocked, then jammed his staff into the guy’s gut, then he
pushed the guy over the railing. The onlookers never saw the staff appear and
disappear.

 

He asked for Barden. One of the women pointed to a shirtless man with five
necklaces and a bandana tied around his head. He thanked her and walked into the
house.

 

“What do you want?,” asked Barden. The music still played but all eyes were on the
two of them facing off.

 

“I would like to know who killed the Garret boy when you faced off with the
Aardvarks,” said Logan.

 

“I don’t have nothing to say to you,” said Barden.

 

“I have something to say to you,” said Logan. “It’s the same thing I said to the
Aardvarks. Either I get the name, or you all get out of town and don’t come back by
sundown.”

 

“You think you can make us,” said Barden. He grinned at the demand.

 

Logan pointed at the stereo. A cascade of wooden missiles flew across the room like
a stream of hammers. The thing fell to the floor with dents and broken parts
everywhere.

 

“The name or sundown,” said Logan. “Otherwise I will make you miserable until I
get what I want.”

 

Logan made a small salute like he was tipping a hat and walked out of the house.

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3

Logan sipped his coffee as he sat at his kitchen table. He checked paperwork for his
holdings before he headed into the paper. He wondered how the Aardvarks and the
Razorbacks were taking his demand and warning.

 

They were probably not going to get out of town.

 

“Hey, Dad!,” said Brady. “I’m heading out.”

 

“I need you to be ready tonight,” said Logan. “We’re going to have to talk to
someone.”

 

“I’m always ready,” said Brady. “What’s going on?”

 

“I’ll have to talk to some malefactors,” said Logan. “I might need a backup.”

 

“I can do that,” said Brady. “What are we going to do?”

 

“I have asked some gangs to leave town,” said Logan. “I don’t think they will.”

 

“All right,” said Brady. “I’ll get ready as soon as I get home.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. “I’ll call your mother to let her know.”

 

“Thanks, Dad,” said Brady. He ran out of the house with his back pack slung over his
shoulder.

 

Logan finished his coffee. He put the paperwork in his bag. He could work on it later
at the office. He walked into the garage and got behind the wheel of his Datsun. He
triggered the door and backed out on the driveway.

 

He drove into town and parked in a slot at the paper. He went inside and settled at his
desk. He found an envelope on his desk. He put his bag on the floor. He opened the
envelope and dumped out photos on the wooden top.

 

Logan spread the photos out. He opened his desk and pulled out a magnifying glass.
He looked the photos over.

 

He scratched his eyebrow as he went over the pictures.

 

He sat back in his chair when he was done. He had seen this stuff before. He had
thought the user dead. Did he have the old guy getting back into business, or a new
guy with old equipment? How did he find out?

 

A relative taking on the family business seemed to be the best option in his opinion.

Logan decided to start with a search. Maybe putting in slick villain thief would
prompt a memory to bob to the surface. Then he could narrow down his search,
maybe use the electronic morgue to search for stories.

 

The first few answers gave him the name of Teflon Billy Burke. He leaned back in
his chair. Billy Burke was a name he hadn’t heard in a long time.

 

He looked up the number for Phillips. Maybe he could point his reporter at Burke. A
little digging might turn up something.

 

“Hello,” said Phillips.

 

“This is Major,” said Logan. “I think Teflon Billy is our thief from the pictures you
left me.”

 

“Teflon Billy?,” said Phillips. “I don’t know that name.”

 

“He’s a low level villain that can control friction,” Logan said. “See if you can get
some background on him. Maybe you can turn up something we can turn over to the
police.”

 

“What made you think of this guy?,” asked Phillips.

 

“The pictures you took,” said Logan. “I did a search for frictionless thieves.”

 

“Really?,” said Phillips. “I’ll look into this Teflon Billy. Maybe there is something
there.”

 

“Did you narrow the embezzler down?,” asked Logan.

 

“Not yet,” said Phillips. “I got a lot of public paperwork together and asked an
accountant to look things over for me.”

 

“Thanks, Phillips,” said Logan.

 

“I heard Log Man threatened the Razorbacks and Aardvarks,” said Phillips.

 

“Good,” said Logan. “Has anyone come forward to tell the cops what happened?”

 

“Not yet,” said the reporter. “They don’t think Log Man can run them off.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. “Let me know. I want to keep the pressure on so we have
something to report.”

 

“Clinton is reported as wanting to kill Log Man,” said Phillips.

 

“I wish him the best of luck as long as we can cover the story,” said Logan. “Let me
know what you find out.”

 

“Right,” said Phillips.

 

Logan cut the connection as he considered what he should do to bend the gangs to his
will. He wanted one of them to confess. If he had that, he could axe part of the gangs
and send them to prison.

 

Logan worked through the day, going over the finances and anything else that
required his attention. He felt that the newspaper would be able to ride out any
economic downturn at least for a while.

 

He checked the time. He had to get home to pick up Brady. They had to talk to the
gang members. Once he had a handle on that, he could try to force a confession.

He hoped Brady would be able to help him with that. He wanted to get them together
to force something out of them.

 

Logan reclaimed his Datsun. He took the expressway home. He wasn’t going to beat
his son’s bus.

 

He pulled up to his gate. He opened the gate and drove in. He parked his car and went
inside the garage.

 

He went into the house and put his case inside his office.

 

“Hey, Brady!,” he called. “Are you home?”

 

“I’m here, Dad,” called Brady. “I ready to go when you are.”

 

“We have some time before sundown,” said Logan.

 

“That’s cool,” said Brady.

 

“Let’s get a snack,” said Logan. “We don’t know how long we’ll be chasing these
guys tonight.”

 

“I have school tomorrow,” said Brady.

 

“We’ll try to get them all before ten,” said Logan. “If we can’t, we’ll work on it
tomorrow night.”

 

“Don’t forget you and Mom have to go to that event the day after,” said Brady.

 

“The Charity Ball,” said Logan. “I forgot.”

 

“Don’t tell Mom that,” said Brady. “She will skin you alive.”

 

The two had walked into the kitchen while they were talking. Logan got ingredients
out of the refrigerator so they could make sandwiches before they left on their rounds.

 

“How much effort do you think this will take?,” asked Brady. He chowed down on
his sandwiches after getting a can of Coke from the pantry.

 

“I don’t know,” said Logan. “I want to make them so miserable, they would rather
leave than conduct business here.”

 

“We might be following these guys around for months,” said Brady. “There’s no way
they are going to just let us interfere in their gangbanging.”

 

“Until I get a name, they will not work in my town,” said Logan. “And they might not
work in my town if they do give me a name.”

 

“We would have to stop doing our patrols to harass these guys,” said Brady. “We
wouldn’t be able to help other people if we did that.”

 

“Good point,” said Logan. “Let’s see what happens when we have our visit.”

 

They finished their meal, watching for the sun to go down. They didn’t want either
of the rival gangs seeing them when they moved in.

 

“Looks like it’s time for us to go,” said Logan. “Let’s get the Log Mobile and get to
work.”

 

“Right, Dad,” said Brady.

 

The Majors walked into the garage. Wood covered their bodies as they moved.
Leaves formed capes. Logan pressed a hidden lever. A wooden car dropped down on
a cradle from the ceiling.

 

Logan climbed behind the wooden wheel. He extended his will and the car rolled off
the cradle. He backed out of the garage and down the driveway to the gate. He pulled
out on the street and headed into town.

 

“Someone is going to see us doing that one day,” said Brady.

 

“I hope not,” said Logan. “It would be really embarrassing.”

 

He drove to the fast food place Clinton favored. He doubted the gang leader had
stayed home in the face of a threat. He would want to show that he wasn’t scared even
when he should be.

 

“There they are,” said Logan. He drove to the back of the fast food place. “You
ready?”

 

“Yep,” said Brady. “Pinecone, the boy exploder, is always ready.”

 

They got out of the Log Mobile and walked around the restaurant. Clinton’s gang saw
them coming. Some of them reached for weapons.

 

Pinecone exploded into a shower of thin disks that flew right at the gang. The
suspected criminals dove for cover as their vehicles captured the flying missiles.

Log Man darted forward. Logs flew in a shower of wooden pain at the cars. The
sounds of smashing glass and bending metal filled the parking lot.

 

Clinton looked at the destruction. He turned to glare at the Log Man. A fist put him
on his back.

 

“I told you to get out of town,” said Logan. “Why are you still here?”

 

“You don’t tell me what to do, you freak,” said Clinton. “I do what I want.”

 

“That’s fine,” said Log Man. “I can keep coming back until you have nothing left.”

 

“Isn’t this illegal?,” asked one of the other members of the gang. “You wrecked
our stuff.”

 

“I guess you’re right,” said Log Man. “Don’t be in town tomorrow, and I won’t wreck
your stuff.”

 

“You can’t do this,” said Clinton. “I’ll kill you first.”

 

“I will start putting people in the hospital until I hear something,” said Log Man.
“Your best bet is to sit down with the police and figure out who shot the little
boy. I won’t have a reason to come around then.”

 

“None of us did that,” said Clinton. “We were shooting at Bardem’s guys. They were
shooting at us. They must have shot him.”

 

“How do I prove that?,” asked Log Man. He smiled at a sudden idea. “I’ll see you
tomorrow.”

 

“You can’t keep coming back,” said Clinton.

 

“I’m going to talk to Barden,” said Log Man. “Then I have some things to do. I’ll be
back to talk to you this time tomorrow.”

 

“I hope he kills you,” said Clinton.

 

“I hope you get a little smarter,” said Log Man. “This is my city, not yours, not
Barden’s. I make the rules, I call the plays. If I don’t get what I want, there will be no
room for Aardvarks, or Razorbacks. And no one will miss you.”

 

“I’ll find a way to get rid of you,” declared Clinton.

 

“I already have a way to get rid of you,” said Log Man. “Let’s go, Pinecone.”

 

The wooden duo retreated to the Log Mobile. Log Man drove away from the burger
place with a wave for the gang as he went.

 

“So we’re going to talk to this Barden?,” asked Brady.

 

“I have to be an equal opportunity villain beater,” said Logan. “It’s in my contract.”

 

“You know how to prove what happened,” said Brady. “I could see it when you
paused.”

 

“It’s not definite proof,” said Logan. “It’s a possible thing that we can use to crack
the case.”

 

“Do we let them off the hook?,” asked Brady.

 

“No,” said Logan. “They’re not giving us anything. We’re taking it from them.”

 

“All right,” said Brady. “What are you going to do?”

 

“We’re going to check on our other suspects, then we’re going to do a patrol to see
if anyone needs us,” said Logan. “Then we’re headed home unless we have an
emergency to deal with first.”

 

“Sounds good to me,” said Brady. “What are you going to do to crack this?”

 

“I’m going to think about what I’ve read,” said Logan. “Then I am going to do some
research.”

 

The Log Mobile rolled into the night, lights made of plant chemicals glowing from
it.
 

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4

Logan Major rolled into the paper’s parking area the next day. He had to do some
preliminary work and research before he turned his attention back to the Razorbacks
and Aardvarks. He felt he had a solution in their testimony.

 

Phillips waited by his desk as he made his way through the office. He seemed excited.

 

“What’s going on?,” asked Logan. He put his case on the desk.

 

“A lot,” said Phillips. “Things started popping last night.”

 

“About Teflon Billy?,” asked Logan.

 

“Some, but not just him,” said Phillips. “I talked with my accountant guy. We have
things narrowed down to three people stealing from City Hall. I need some way to
push things out in the open before I can say it’s one of them.”

 

“I know a guy,” said Logan. He grabbed a pad from the top of his desk. He wrote
down a name and phone number. “Take whatever evidence you have, and maybe your
accountant if you can get him to go, and talk to this guy. He works in financial crimes
for the Feds. He might be able to point you in the right direction.”

 

“There’s a chance that none of this will lead to anything,” said Phillips.

 

“If you can prove embezzlement, we can pull this guy out of his office,” said Logan.
“If we can pull this guy out, maybe we can get a more responsible person in.”

 

“I can see that,” said Phillips. “Your tip about Billy Burke has stirred the detectives
into looking for him from what I can tell. Even if he isn’t doing the burglaries, they
feel he knows who is.”

 

“He’s a pro,” said Logan. “He won’t make it easy on them. He probably has an alias
that covers any straight task he has to do between break-ins.”

 

“They said he wasn’t on their radar at all,” said Phillips. “He’s been inactive for a
while.”

 

“I guess get with Ken and see how he wants to handle that end of things,” said Logan.
“I’ll clear you to chase down the current investigation until we have something solid
to hook into.”

 

“This thing that you were asking about, the Garret shooting,” said Phillips.

 

“The gang shooting,” said Logan. “What about it?”

 

“Log Man has taken an interest,” said Phillips. “He’s leaning on both gangs from
what I hear.”

 

“Anyone willing to come forward?,” asked Logan.

 

“No way,” said Phillips. “They would rather do their time than turn in their own guys.
Snitches get more than stitches from these guys.”

 

“Stay on it,” said Logan. “If we can get a confession, or some solid evidence, we can
run one of the gangs out of town.”

 

“Maybe not the whole gang,” said Phillips.

 

“Anything is better than nothing,” said Logan. “And right now, we have nothing.”

 

“I’ll keep trying to dig something up,” said Phillips. “No one wants to talk.”

 

“Do what you can,” said Logan. “But don’t do anything dangerous. We don’t know
how dangerous this gang is, and I can’t afford the payout if one of my employees gets
killed in the line of duty.”

 

“Thanks,” said Phillips.

 

“Don’t worry,” Logan said. “I think I know how to solve the Garret killing. I just need
to talk to an expert about some things. There’s only one real problem with the
scheme.”

 

“What’s that?,” asked Phillips.

 

“I’ll need to get the two gangs in the same place while we hash this out,” said Logan.

“I don’t think they’ll like that.”

 

“So we are going to invite them to shoot at each other again?,” said Phillips.

 

“I don’t know,” said Logan. “That’s why I need to think about the plan before I try
to use it.”

 

“Let me know when you get the bugs worked out,” said Phillips.

 

“I’ll see what I can do,” said Logan. “Let me know if you find out anything else. I
have to talk to some of the editors, and some more money people.”

 

“Someone wanting to buy the paper?,” said Phillips.

 

“No, I’m looking at a deal for a paper south of us,” said Logan. “The outlook doesn’t
look good from my point of view. The others on the board want to at least see what
the demand is.”

 

“What is the demand?,” asked Phillips.

 

“Don’t know, but I’m sure it will be for more than the paper is actually worth,” said
Logan.

 

“I’ll let you get to that,” said Phillips. He turned to leave.

 

“If you have any trouble, let me know,” said Logan. “I’ll try to smooth the way for
you.”

 

“Thanks, boss,” said the reporter. He waved as he kept walking to the exit of the car
lot.

 

Logan made sure he had everything before heading upstairs to his desk. He had a long
day of financials ahead, with some research on the side. He would be ready to go back
out as Log Man when the sun went down.

 

He wondered if the police could track down Teflon Billy. They had more manpower
than he had, but that didn’t mean much. He could do things they couldn’t do.

 

The government could still move in now that a power had been identified as the thief.
He knew they had a sanctioned operation to take on powers when the local heroes
couldn’t get things done. The location of their head seemed to be in the Department
of Defense’s civilian administration but he didn’t know where.

 

And he didn’t expect them to make it easy for reporters to find them so they could be
asked how they dealt with things when heroes didn’t show up to do the job.

 

The rumors of secret prisons and an island full of monsters was already out there but
no one knew where they were, or how to find them. And he didn’t want to vanish
when he had so much to do in his own city.

 

Logan settled in his desk and started reading the comments captured by his reporters
about the Garret shooting. Billy could hold on until this case was closed. Catching a
killer outranked a thief any day.

 

He went over the pictures of the scene and the testimony for hours. He thought he had
a clear picture of what had happened. How did he get it all together to prove it? And
he would need the two gangs in the same place. He doubted he could do that without
some kind of police help.

 

He could round up everyone himself, but that would take a lot of time. He didn’t want
to spend that much on getting them together. On the other hand, he didn’t see any way
he could get them to a central meeting place on their own.

 

If he had some way to trap them, that would make things go so much easier.

Logan thought about that as he picked up his phone. He needed to make a
presentation. He knew some people who could help him do that.

 

Maybe that would help clear up some of the things about the shooting.

 

“Hey, Hillary,” said Logan. “This is Logan Major. I was wondering if you could do
an animation for me.”

 

He listened quietly.

 

“I understand, but this is a rush job,” said Logan. “I have some testimony from a
shooting and I need to know what it looks like to a computer. Do you mind? I need
to get this done as soon as possible.”

 

He listened again.

 

“I’ll be at your office in a few minutes,” said Logan. “I’ll bring the paperwork and
pictures so you can look at everything first.”

 

Logan hung up the phone. He gathered the reports and pictures his people had got
from the police and put them in his case. He looked around. No one had an eye on
him. He stood, grabbing the case by the handle. He headed for the parking lot and his
car.

 

If Hillary’s animatic could explain what happened at the shooting, it would give him
someone specific to go after instead of pressuring both gangs. Then he could have the
police take the shooter and whomever else they could prove was there in for the
murder of the Garret boy.

 

Then he could concentrate on Teflon Billy and take him down before he committed
any more burglaries.

 

Then the city would be quieter so he could concentrate on improvements that didn’t
need his masked face.

 

Every garden needed constant weeding and other work. His garden just happened to
be the city.

 

Logan drove over to the Hillary Musgrove Animation and Digital Media School, and
parked in front of the low building. He grabbed his case out of the back and walked
inside.

 

A counter kept people from walking back into the school. An office for administrative
work had been set up behind a glass wall. Hillary Musgrove bent over paperwork on
his desk. His computer ran some cartoon that Logan didn’t recognize.

 

Logan knocked on the counter. Hillary looked up. He smiled as he stood. He came out
of the office with a hand out. They shook.

 

“You said you were having problems with some testimony,” said Hillary. His hair had
a red streak among the gray and silver.

 

“I need an exact showing of where the physical evidence went,” said Logan. “Then
I need to match up what I can to that. I’ll pay double the usual rate.”

 

“This won’t hold up in court,” said Hillary. “The animation can be manipulated too
much to be allowed as evidence.”

 

“I don’t need it to hold up in court, I just need it make some things clear in my mind
so I know who I can target better,” said Logan. “I have a bunch of uncooperative
witnesses with no leverage.”

 

“All right,” said Hillary. “Let me see what I can do.”

 

He led the way to the back of the building. They passed several rooms where teams
of students were working on various projects. They walked into a room set up with
several computers, and scanners. The illustrator sat at the desk and held his hand out
for the paperwork and pictures he would need.

 

Logan handed them over and drew up a chair.

 

“This might take a while,” said Hillary. “I’m going to have to build some models and
so forth of the scene before I can put in the animatics.”

 

“I’ll call Gloria and let her know I’ll be late,” said Logan. “I need something to give
my reporters. I can wait until you’re done.”

 

“This might take some days,” said Hillary. “I could maybe rope in some of my
students to help out, but I don’t see it going faster than the day after tomorrow.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. “I hadn’t realized it would take that long.”

 

“Don’t worry,” said Hillary. “It will be as accurate as I can make it if the reports are
accurate.”

 

“They’re copies,” said Logan. “I’ll leave them with you, but try not to let them leave
the building. The police will frown on this stuff getting out in the wild.”

 

“Don’t worry,” said Hillary. “I’ll call you when I get done.”

 

“I guess I have to go back to leaning on people to see if I can get one of them to
crack,” said Logan.

 

“If you can do that before I get done, I will still want to be paid,” said Hillary.

 

“It won’t be doubled then,” said Logan. He smiled as he waved and walked out of the
office.

 

Logan walked out to his Datsun. He had hoped that Hillary would get him answers
sooner, but he had to live with what he could get.

 

He decided to head back to the paper and check in before thinking about what he
could do after work. Dinner with Gloria and Brady would be nice for a change, maybe
a movie. He could go back to the grindstone tomorrow.

 

If everything remained quiet, he might be able to let things fester while Hillary put
his cartoon together. Once he had that, he could work out how to get the two gangs,
or at least their leaders, together.

 

He hoped Teflon Billy would take the next few days off while he tried to deal with
the other mess.

 

He had a feeling he was hoping for too much.
 

 

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5

Logan enjoyed the time with his family. After dinner, they watched television until
it was time for Brady to go to bed. He snuggled with Gloria on the couch.

 

“We have to go to that ball tomorrow,” said Gloria. “You’re going to have to take
another night off from being Log Man.”

 

“I didn’t give a beating to my problem children tonight,” said Logan. “I don’t know
if I can skip two nights. They’ll forget me.”

 

“No, they won’t,” said Gloria. She smiled from her spot on top of him. She sipped a
small amount of wine she had poured when Brady went to bed. “If anything, they’ll
get more scared if you showed up randomly to wreck things and weren’t on a
schedule.”

 

“Creating fear through absence is a tried terror tactic,” said Logan. He hugged Gloria.
“I have Hillary trying to turn the testimony at the scene into something usable. He
said it would take a couple of days.”

 

“What do you think that will show?,” said Gloria.

 

“I’m hoping it will show who fired the fatal bullet so I can make whichever gang
responsible give up that member if they want some peace and quiet,” said Logan.

 

“And if none of them do?,” asked Gloria.

 

“Then it’s back to wrecking their stuff until I get something I can use,” said Logan.
“Such is the way of the power mad super vigilante.”

 

“The ball is a little more important than your street gang problem,” said Gloria.

“They’re setting up the display for that jewelry exhibit tonight.”

 

“They’re putting the jewelry in tonight?,” asked Logan. “I didn’t see any mention of
that in the coverage.”

 

“As far as I know only the people like me know,” said Gloria.

 

“I have to get over there,” said Logan. “When are they installing things?”

 

“They’re doing it right now,” said Gloria. She sat up and put her wine glass on the
table.

 

“So I have some time,” said Logan. He stood up. He bent down and kissed Gloria as
hard as he could.

 

“What’s going on?,” asked Gloria.

 

“Teflon Billy is going to hit the exhibit tonight as soon as they are done setting things
up,” said Logan. “He has someone inside telling him things.”

 

“I think you’re trying to get out of date night,” said Gloria.

 

“I need you to call the committee and see if you can find out who’s in charge of
things,” Logan said. “Call me when you know.”

 

“It’s ten at night,” said Gloria. “Everyone else has gone to bed by now.”

 

“Everyone?,” asked Logan.

 

“Maybe Lois Carstairs is still up,” said Gloria. “Are you really serious about this?”

 

“If he doesn’t hit tonight, he’ll hit tomorrow around the ball,” said Logan. “This guy
is slick. I wish I had thought of this earlier. I could use some help if I’m right.”

 

“Let me make my call,” said Gloria. “I’ll go out with you.”

 

“Are you sure?,” asked Logan.

 

“He better show up is all I’m saying,” said Gloria. She pulled out her phone as she
walked from the living room.

 

Logan wrapped himself in his wooden body and leaf cape as he waited. He hoped he
was right about this. He had been a hero for a while, and Gloria had supported him,
but ruining date night would put him in the doghouse for a while.

 

He didn’t want to work his way out of the doghouse while trying to take care of his
other business.

 

Gloria returned. She had exchanged her clothes for the leather suit she wore as
Diamond Spear. She fitted her mask in place with gloved hands.

 

“Lois said that Lane Gentry is in charge of the setup,” said Gloria. “He should be
there watching things for the committee.”

 

“Let me make a call,” Logan said. He pulled his own phone out of his wooden body.
He looked up Ken’s number and pushed the contact button.

 

“What does Lane Gentry have to do with anything?,” asked Gloria.

 

“I don’t know, but I would be interested in finding out,” said Logan. He waited for
an answer as he thought about the name. He didn’t know Gentry, so he was interested
in what he did for the Committee.

 

“What you want?,” asked Ken after a moment of the phone ringing. He sounded
irritable at being disturbed while trying to get the paper together for the night.

 

“I need you to call Phillips and ask him to dig into a guy named Lane Gentry,” said
Logan. “Can do?”

 

“Why the interest?,” asked Ken.

 

“He’s setting up the exhibit for the ball tomorrow,” said Logan. “I just want to make
sure there’s no skeletons in the closet.”

 

“This is about Teflon Billy, isn’t it?,” asked Ken.

 

“I don’t know, but it never hurts to verify someone’s credentials,” said Logan. “And
if everything goes right, we can turn it into a puff piece on the organizer of the Grand
Charity Ball and the charity itself.”

 

“But you think Teflon Billy is going to hit the exhibit,” said Ken.

 

“I don’t know, but it would be great to see if there are any leaks we can plug before
things go south,” said Logan.

 

“I’ll call Phillips and put him on it,” said Ken.

 

“Thanks, Ken,” said Logan. “I’ll see you in the morning.”

 

Logan put the phone back under his bark skin after he hung up. Gloria pulled on her
gloves to make sure they wouldn’t come off while she was in action.

 

“You think Gentry is giving your thief inside information?,” asked Gloria.

 

“Don’t know,” said Logan. “Maybe there’s a connection. Maybe there isn’t. I can see
Billy hitting the exhibit tonight instead of after the ball tomorrow. So we’re going to
take a look around first.”

 

“I haven’t been on a stake out in forever,” said Gloria.

 

“It’s just like riding a bicycle,” said Logan. “You never forget.”

 

“All right,” said Gloria. “Let’s do this before the wine wears off.”

 

“At least I’m the one driving,” said Logan. “To the Log Mobile.”

 

“That’s hilarious,” said Gloria. “I hope Teflon Billy does show up. I want to pay him
back for ruining my night.”

 

“Don’t worry,” said Log Man. “If he doesn’t show up tonight, he’ll be there
tomorrow.”

 

“How do you know?,” asked Gloria. They walked to the garage where Logan created
his wooden vehicle to carry them.

 

“Because the value of the collection is in the millions and it’s only going to be
together for the next few days,” said Logan. “We’ve been covering it for a while.
Billy likes to hit stationary targets. He’s not going to try for an armored car, or
courier. He’ll go for the showroom.”

 

“And he only has the next three days to do the job,” said Gloria.

 

“When you reminded me about the ball, that made me think of the coverage of the
ball,” said Logan.

 

“So you had a Poole moment,” said Gloria.

 

“Exactly,” said Logan. “The problem is what if I am wrong, and he’s hitting some
other jewel collection while we’re looking for him at the showroom.”

 

“If that happens, you owe me another date night,” said Gloria.

 

“I will gladly pay that,” said Logan. “I know a place that has the best hamburgers in
the world.”

 

“I’m not talking about hamburgers, mister,” said Gloria. She swatted him on the arm.
“You know darn well what I’m talking about.”

 

“I will do whatever I can to make you happy,” said Logan. He smiled.

 

“You will,” said Gloria. She nodded her head. “Now, I have to start making plans for
something grandiose and complicated.”

 

“Can’t we stay home and cuddle on the couch,” asked Logan.

 

“That’s what we were going to do tonight,” said Gloria. “Not anymore.”

 

“That’s fair, I guess,” said Logan.

 

“There’s the Hoxton,” said Gloria. She pointed at an almost triangle of a building.
“The show room is at the rear, facing out on the parking lot and pool area.”

 

Logan pulled the Log Mobile to the curb as he looked around. How would Billy get
into the hotel? He probably checked in as a guest. The hotel would not give him the
names of everyone that had checked in. That would be against the law.

 

Billy would probably violate the door somehow. His power should allow him
to take out the hinges and drop the door to the ground.

 

Did he have a room in the Hoxton was the bigger question. If he did, he could just
hide the jewels, go back to his room, and pretend like he didn’t know what had
happened and walk away. The police wouldn’t be able to hold him without proof
that he had taken the merchandise.

 

Had some kind of guard been hired to watch things? Would he be able to stop Billy?

How did he and Gloria want to set up so they could watch things? If he had his
brainstorm earlier, they could have taken a room and walked down to watch the room
from the inside of the hotel themselves.

 

“Let’s see how the other side looks,” said Log Man. “Maybe we’ll have a better view
of things.”

 

He pulled away from the curb and circled the hotel to enter the parking lot.

 

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“Are you sure he’s going to go tonight?,” asked Gloria. Her black costume let her
hide in shadows cast by the dim security lights in the exhibit room.

 

Logan hid on the other side of the room. He stood as motionless as a tree. Only his
eyes moved as he watched the room.

 

If Billy didn’t show up, they would go to the ball and stake things out afterwards. The
third night would have a crew come in and take everything back to their vaults under
armed guard.

 

Somewhere in those three days, Logan expected the thief to take action. His only
other chance was during the transportation phase of things. So far he hadn’t done
anything like that.

 

He liked motionless targets he could sneak in and out of without anyone seeing him.

 

“I hear something,” said Gloria. “I think it’s the window to my right. Can you see
anything at my four?”

 

Logan focused on the window. He spotted someone crouching outside. He couldn’t
tell what was going on, but it looked like he had been right about Billy hitting the
show.

 

“I see someone outside,” said Logan. “It looks like he’s taking the window apart to
get inside.”

 

“Do you think he can see me?,” asked Gloria.

 

“I’m not sure,” said Logan. “You might want to move so the stand is between you and
the window.”

 

“Right,” said Gloria. She waited until the person at the window looked down. She
flipped back around a display counter and dropped down. “I think we’re good.”

 

“I don’t think he saw you,” said Logan. He frowned as the thief kept working. “Either
that, or he isn’t concerned.”

 

“He will be,” said Gloria.

 

After a few more minutes of working, the infiltrator pulled the window out of its
frame. He looked around before entering the room. He reached up and turned on a
small light attached to his helmet as soon as he was inside the room. He turned his
head to look at the jewelry on display.

 

“Hey, buddy,” said Log Man, stepping into view. “You know you’re not supposed to
be in here, right?”

 

The thief headed for the empty window frame. He skated along the floor, sliding on
goo dropping from his boots. He saw a figure in black flying through the air. He
raised his arms to brace for impact. Diamond Spear slid off of him and hit the floor.
He slid across the room, towards a wall. He caught himself and used a hand to change
his direction of travel toward a door to the inside of the hotel.

 

“No,” said Log Man. He flicked his wrist. A staff hit the door with one end while he
held the other end in his hands. “We’re not chasing you all over the city. Give up and
we’ll turn you over to the cops so you can hand over the loot you haven’t got rid of
yet. Take the easy way out.”

 

The thief turned to look at Log Man across the room. He glanced at Diamond Spear,
blocking his entry point with the crystalline weapon that was her namesake in hand.
He seemed to be judging his chances.

 

He lunged for Diamond Spear, pushing off the staff holding the door shut. He slid
across the room like an ice skater. At the last second, he dove to the floor and slid
right at his living barrier.

 

The spear came down to block him. It was too late as he knocked her feet out from
under her. She hit and rolled across the slippery floor.

 

The thief hit the frame, stopped by the raised edge. He grabbed the sill to pull himself
through the empty space. Once outside, he was faster than either of his opponents.

A weight dropped on his legs. He tried to yank them free of whatever had seized
them. His power should make it impossible to grab him.

 

Teflon Billy looked at his legs. A giant log had fallen on them. He tried to pull his
legs free. A frictionless surface should allow that.

 

“Go to sleep, Billy,” said Diamond Spear. She slammed the butt of her spear into his
face. She stepped back when he stopped moving.

 

“All right,” said Logan. “Time to call in the police and have our culprit turned over
to the proper authorities.”

 

“How did you pin him in place?,” asked Gloria. She dismissed her weapon with a
movement of her hand.

 

“Billy can slip out of any grip,” said Logan. He pulled his phone out of his wooden
skin. “He can’t slip out of a bunch of hooks in his clothes.”

 

“You didn’t,” said Gloria.

 

“I pinned him to the floor through his boots and pants,” said Logan. He dialed the
number for the central police station’s front desk. “If he wants to get out of that, he’ll
have to leave his clothes behind.”

 

“That is kind of brilliant, and crazy, at the same time,” said Gloria.

 

“I have been doing a lot of reading the last few days,” said Logan. “How’s it going,
O’Toole? This is Log Man, masked man of mystery. Guess what I have for you if you
hurry.”

 

“No, I don’t have scoliosis,” said Logan. “I have Teflon Billy, or his imposter, pinned
down at the jewelry exhibit. Do you want him, or do I toss him back?”

 

“I will be waiting for you to pick him up,” said Logan. “You better bring something
that can’t be slipped out of as soon as he wakes up.”

 

“I’m going to head home,” said Gloria. “You better get home before the night is over,
or we will have words, mister.”

 

“As soon as O’Toole’s pack of law dogs show up, I will be glad to come home and
snuggle,” said Logan. He put his phone away.

 

“You better,” said Gloria. “You can beat up your gangs tomorrow.”

 

“The ball?,” said Logan.

 

“It’s not going to be held now, is it?,” said Gloria. “If I didn’t know better, I would
say you planned this on purpose to get out of wearing a tux.”

 

“You know I’m not that smart,” said Logan. He smiled under his wooden mask.

 

“Okay,” said Gloria. “I agree with that.”

 

“I don’t think you’re supposed to agree with that,” said Logan.

 

“It’s better this way,” said Gloria. “I’ll see you when you get home.”

 

“All I have to do is hand this guy over,” said Logan. “How hard could that be?”

 

Gloria smiled. She slipped through the empty window frame and headed into the
night. She was still mad, but not as much now with one of the city’s problems under
control.

 

Logan looked down at Teflon Billy. He shook his head. It was true he hadn’t wanted
to go to the ball, but he hadn’t wanted to ruin it either.

 

A lot of the charity mavens would be screaming for their heads. Logan frowned.
Maybe he could get Gloria to reschedule things, and set up some new exhibit.

 

Blue and red lights appeared outside the window. Policemen arrived. They looked at
the mess that used to be a ballroom.

 

“How’s it going, officers?,” said Log Man. He smiled under his wooden mask. “This
one’s slippery.”

 

“The Robbery guys are going to want to talk to you about this,” said the senior man,
Crookshanks. He waved a hand at the mess. “What happened?”

 

“I caught this guy breaking in and then I caught him,” said Log Man. “The problem
is that once I unpin him, he’s slippery enough to get out of anything that isn’t a solid
barricade.”

 

“Let’s get the mask off,” said Crookshanks. “Then we’ll have to get something to cart
him around in until we can get him processed.”

 

The police tried to maneuver the mask off. They gave up when they realized it was
attached to the neckpiece forming a collar around Billy’s neck. They couldn’t
disconnect what looked like a gas mask that covered the bottom of his face.

 

“We’re not getting that off without a cutting tool of some kind,” said Crookshanks.
He brushed his hands off.

 

“I could get it off, but I think it would violate his rights,” said Log Man. “And I think
it would hurt a lot.”

 

“We’ll have to get a warrant,” said Crookshanks. “Letting him remove it himself will
go a lot better than putting him in the hospital.”

 

“I can see that,” said Log Man. “How do you want to get him out of here?”

 

“I don’t know,” said Crookshanks. “If we had a cage, we could put him in that.”

 

“I can make a cage,” said Log Man. “Maybe put some wheels on it so you can roll
him around. You wouldn’t be able to take it anywhere.”

 

“Do that,” said Crookshanks. “Then we’ll get down to taking a statement. You will
probably have to come to court to testify.”

 

“I can’t testify,” said Log Man. “That’s out. You have cameras here in the ballroom.
You’re going to have to use that for evidence.”

 

“A prosecutor is going to want a witness to show the jury what happened,” said
Crookshanks. “You’re going to have to make a statement, and testify in court.”

 

“I’m an unlicensed vigilante, Jerry,” said Log Man. “I can’t testify before a court.
There would be demands on who I am. I can’t give up my identity. That’s just not
going to happen.”

 

“Just hold on until we get the camera footage,” said Crookshanks. “Then we can talk
about what the prosecution is going to want.”

 

“Go ahead,” said Log Man.

 

He shouldn’t have hung around. The police were going to want him to answer
questions about what happened. He wasn’t sure that would be in his interest.

He couldn’t afford to have his family become known to the enemies he had made,
and would make if he kept chasing bad guys.

 

Crookshanks left the scene with another uniform. They looked enough alike to be
brothers. He wondered if the police academy tried to do that on purpose.

 

Logan waited in place. He had to be there to let Billy loose when the police was ready
to take him away. He didn’t want them having to call a tree surgeon to cut the pin
log apart so they could put Billy in cuffs.

 

He stood in the shadow as the technicians went over the scene. Pictures were taken
of the damage. He winced at the fact that he couldn’t get any for his paper. That
would throw the secret identity in trouble there.

 

“All right,” said Crookshanks. He waved Log Man over. “There’s a full documentary
of what happened on the security footage. We’re going to need you to get rid of the
log.”

 

“All right,” said Log Man. “Be careful with him. He’s slippery.”

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7

Logan returned to check on the animation he had commissioned. Teflon Billy had
gone through his arraignment calmly. His trial was in a couple of months according
to the court calender.

 

His lawyer had filed a motion to keep them from cutting off his mask because it
would endanger his face.

 

Logan understood the desire to keep anonymous. Fingerprints had been taken in case
he had been arrested earlier so they could identify him from criminal records and to
compare to other crimes around the country. If that came out, the paper would cover
it.

 

Hillary stood at the front counter and gestured for him to enter the school. The
animation teacher smiled.

 

“What does it look like?,” asked Logan.

 

“Let me show you,” said Hillary, gesturing for the publisher to follow him. “It’s all
stick figures right now, but I think we have a clear picture of what happened from the
reports and things.”

 

Hillary led the way into a classroom set up as a viewing room. He went to the
computers set up on one side and called up the animation file. The loading ring
started on the big screen.

 

“The first thing we did was assemble a model of the crime scene,” said Hillary.
Models of the houses appeared on the screen. “I sent a couple of students down to
take measurements and pictures. I put their footage in the computer so I could add in
what we needed to do with the physical evidence.”

 

“Then we took the crime scene photos and marked in where the bullets hit,” said
Hillary. Red spots assembled on the houses. “We also put in bystander cars with their
bullet damage.”

 

Models of the cars in the pictures appeared. Bullet damage marked one side of them
from the attack.

 

“I went over the accounts with my students,” said Hillary. “There was a lot of
confusion, but the gist is that a lot of the one gang was here in front of the target
house. Two cars drive up. Words were exchanged. Then they started shooting at each
other.”

 

Two cars rolled to the middle of the street. More stick men appeared. Red lines
connected each of the stick men to bullet holes in the environment.

 

“How do you know who shot what?,” asked Logan. He peered at the stick men as if
trying to see who they really were.

 

“We don’t know really,” said Hillary. He froze the footage after rewinding it back to
where the stick men first started shooting. “We made guesses based on the pictures
and the information the police gathered. The boy you’re interested in was shot with
a rifle. Most of the aggressive shooting was done with pistols and submachine guns.
The only rifle bullets the police found were behind the two cars.”

 

Logan processed the information as he stared at the frozen scene on the screen. He
felt that Hillary had a theory. If he was right, it changed everything for the case.

He also didn’t know how to use it to his advantage.

 

“What do you think happened, Hillary?,” Logan asked. He already had a fair idea, but
he wanted it confirmed beyond a doubt.

 

“I think the rifle started out being pointed at the cars on the street,” said Hillary. He
rolled the footage forward slowly. He pointed to one shooter on the defenders’ side
that was in front of the murder house. The stick man turned in a circle and shot
through the house. “I don’t know why that happened, but I think that’s what
happened.”

 

“Do you know which shooter this was?,” asked Logan.

 

“No,” said Hillary. He made a face. “The police didn’t really know who did the
shooting. We just put it together from the reports you provided.”

 

“Can you get me a copy of this?,” said Logan. “If we can identify that guy, we can try
to get the police to find him. You said he was the only one with a rifle out there?”

 

“According to the police reports, most of the casings recovered were pistol and
submachine gun rounds in nearly the same calibers,” said Hillary. He went to the
provided information and looked through it. “The round that killed the boy was a rifle
round from what they think was an Ay Kay.”

 

Logan nodded. It meant that one of the Razorbacks had done the deed. He already
knew how to find that person from the animation. How did he get the gangs to send

that person forward? That was his first real hurdle he had to jump.

 

He decided the best thing to do was see if any of the Razorbacks had been hurt during
the shooting. That would give him his prime suspect. Then he could think about
separating him out from his gang so he could take the consequences of his deed.

Maybe he could get the Aardvarks on his side by telling them he knew who had killed
the boy. He doubted Clinton would stand knowing that he was being pressured
because of another gang’s mistake.

 

On the other hand, Clinton might decide to take things into his own hands.

 

Logan wondered if a misleading story in the paper could put pressure on things for
the gangs so they would step back from the violence. He doubted it. If there wasn’t
this, there would be something else. He was better off escorting them to rented planes
and shipping them to other countries so they couldn’t mix together again.

 

“Thanks for your help, Hillary,” said Logan. He pulled out his phone. “I know this
will never stand up in court but it might have given me an idea on how to shut things
down.”

 

“What are you going to do?,” asked Hillary. He shut his computer down.

 

“I’m going to find out who the shooter is and then I’m going to try to pressure him
to come clean,” said Logan. “If I can do that, I can let the gangs go back to a slow
boil where they aren’t hurting anyone. Right now, they are close to open warfare. Log
Man has been on the scene, and having a vigilante actively in your business might
slow things down, but he can’t watch them forever. And the police aren’t doing that
great either. More attention will help hurt their business as far as I can tell.”

 

“And hurting their businesses will make them go elsewhere to earn their money,” said
Hillary.

 

“It might drive them out of business if the paper can keep the pressure on,” said
Logan. He called Phillips on his phone.

 

“This is Phillips,” said the reporter.

 

“This is Logan Major,” said Logan. “I asked a computer animation teacher to go
through the crime reports and put together an animation for me about the shooting.
We think one of the Razorbacks shot the Garret boy accidentally. I need to know if
any of the Razorbacks were wounded in the shooting.”

 

“Paul Winfrey was shot,” said Phillips. “He claimed to be an innocent bystander.
Everyone I know in the neighborhood said he was one of the ‘Backs. The police let
him go because they couldn’t find a weapon on him. And everyone on the street was
covered with gunpowder residue, so that wasn’t a good reason to hold him at the
time.”

 

“Is Winfrey in the hospital?,” Logan asked.

 

“I don’t know, but I can find out,” said Phillips.

 

“Let me know,” said Logan. “I have to do some things, but maybe we can put this
story to bed tonight, or tomorrow if we get lucky.”

 

“It shouldn’t be that hard to find out,” said Phillips. “I’ll call you back as soon as I
can.”

 

Logan cut the connection and put his phone away. All he needed was a way to force
a confession. He wasn’t seeing all of a plan for that yet.

 

“Hillary,” said Logan. “We might have to do this for a bigger crowd. I think you have
had the key to this in these reports the whole time. I just need to get some things
together.”

 

“Let me know, and I will be ready to roll,” said Hillary. “I’ll put everything in the safe
until you need it back.”

 

“Thanks,” said Logan. He headed out of the school. He needed to make another call,
but he didn’t want Hillary to hear who he was calling. That would make things
complicated for maintaining his secret.

 

He climbed into his Datsun and pulled out on the road. He dialed the number for
O’Toole. He needed some official backing for what he wanted to do.

 

“O’Toole here,” said the detective. “Who’s calling?”

 

“This is Log Man,” said Logan. “There was a rifle at the Garret shooting. Did you
guys find it?”

 

“No, and we looked everywhere around the scene,” said O’Toole. “What’s this
about?”

 

“I think the wounded Razorback shot the boy by accident then got rid of the weapon
before he could be taken to the hospital,” said Logan. “I’m going down to look for it.”

 

“Where do you get this?,” said O’Toole.

 

“One of my contacts hired an animator to put the scene back together. He just called
me with the news of what it looked like from the reports,” said Logan. “That rifle has
to be there at the scene of the shooting.”

 

“All right,” said O’Toole. “It’s possible that it has been retrieved. It’s been a while
since the shooting.”

 

“I think it’s still there,” said Logan. “We just have to find it.”

 

“I’ll get a crew to come down, and we’ll help you look for it,” said O’Toole. “Good
job on Teflon Billy. The hotel put your fight on Youtube.”

 

“Great,” said Logan. “I’ll see you at the scene of the crime.”

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8

Log Man met the police outside the scene of the crime. The police tape had long been
pulled down, but the damage done was still present. A piece of plywood covered the
window where the bullets had went through the Garret house and killed the little boy.
Divots from other missed shots dotted the rest of the neighborhood from where he
stood.

 

“What are you thinking?,” asked O’Toole. He had brought a few city cops and some
sheriff deputies with him to help with the search.

 

“The animation said the Razorback was standing about right here,” said Log Man. He
walked over to where he remembered the wounded shooter had been marked down.
He made a staff to act as a rifle for him.

 

“He was shooting this way,” said Log Man. He tried to visualize the scene. He
thought he saw where bullets had gone through things in the way to hit houses on the
other side of the street.

 

“Then I think he got shot by an Aardvark,” said Log Man. He turned and pointed his
fake rifle at the window of the Garret house. The trail of holes supported that much.
He seemed to be a few feet off from his estimate. “Then he fell down.”

 

The policemen spread out in a half-circle around the front of the house. Log Man
stood there, looking at the scene.

 

“We know he fell down here while the rest fled,” said Log Man. “We know that he
didn’t have the rifle when they took him in. We know he won’t admit to anything
while we don’t have the rifle. And we don’t think the rest of the gang will turn him
in. So where did he hide it while waiting for the police to get here?”

 

The police shone their lights under the house. Nothing was apparent in the
crawlspace. He hadn’t left it on the ground. Where could he have put it?

 

Log Man knelt down. He looked under the house. He dropped on his back and looked
up. He saw there was a ledge that ran around the edge of the porch floor. He thought
he saw something braced on the ledge.

 

“I think I found it,” said Log Man. He scooted out from under the house. “It’s on the
ledge that runs along the edge there.”

 

“All right,” said O’Toole. “Let’s get the crime scene people down here to take
pictures of this.”

 

Log Man pushed to his feet. He couldn’t get the dust off without taking apart his
costume. He could wait until he was clear of the police before he did that.

 

“It might not be the right weapon,” said Log Man. “It might be some other weapon
from that night.”

 

“Then we run it and see what we can get out of it,” said O’Toole. “Until we match the
weapon to the bullets, we don’t know. But if the bullets match, then we can ask our
wounded victim some questions. Maybe we can get him to flip on some of the
others.”

 

“Good luck on that,” said Log Man. “I’ll call my friend to get the animation for you.
That will be something extra to use in court if you need it.”

 

“All right,” said O’Toole. “Maybe we can use it against the rest of these lunkheads.
The defense is going to say you framed the guy. You might want to take off so you
can avoid any questions.”

 

“I know,” said Log Man. “Maybe you can turn up something else you can use.”

 

Log Man walked over to the Log Mobile and drove away. He thought it would have
been better to confront both gangs at the same time with what they now knew. Maybe
they could have forced something else to the surface.

 

He decided it was better to let the police work on it. They had the manpower and the
resources to make connections that he didn’t have. He would need to have Hailey
deliver the animation and any documents that went with it.

 

He wondered what his reporters would make of this. He didn’t ask them to favor his
exploits. Some actively blamed him for everything wrong that happened in town. He
couldn’t fire for them for that even if it irritated him.

 

He needed to dump his car and costume and take his real self home to pick up his
wife for their date. He wanted to hassle the gangs again, but why bother until after
O’Toole was done.

 

He wondered how long that would be. The wheels of justice ground slow.

 

He pulled the Log Mobile into a parking garage a few buildings over from the paper.
He discarded the car and his costume. He headed down to the public access door and
walked to the paper.

 

Logan had left his Datsun at the paper before going out on his errand. He would do
one more check in, then he would head home.

 

He headed up to the bullpen. He looked over shoulders as he passed. No one had
heard about the finding of the rifle yet. He thought that was good. He didn’t want to
scoop the other papers if it revealed his double life.

 

One day he would write all this down and let it be published. There was no need for
a mask when you were dead.

 

“Have you heard?,” asked Phillips, rushing into the bullpen from the street entrance.

 

“Heard what?,” asked Logan.

 

“The police found the weapon in the Garret shooting,” said Phillips. “They’re
pressing charges.”

 

“Can you verify any of this?,” asked Logan.

 

“Yes, I can,” said Phillips. “I have time to write the story before the deadline.”

 

“Go ahead,” said Logan, checking his watch. “Any progress on your embezzler?”

 

“Not really,” said Phillips. “Maybe I’m on the wrong trail. I was sure, but the money
seems to all be there.”

 

“Write your story,” said Logan. “I have to talk to Ken, and then I have to head home.”

 

“You get your financial thing worked out?,” asked Phillips.

 

“Not really,” said Logan. “I don’t want to lose too much money taking on another
paper. I’m trying to talk them down.”

 

“Good luck with that,” said Phillips. “If something wrong comes up, let me know.”

 

“Sure,” said Logan.

 

Logan found his editor and exchanged words. The city had some rough spots, but
there was nothing Logan could do about it at the moment. Settling the Garret shooting
would do something, but there were more that needed to be answered. He couldn’t
solve all the problems on his own.

 

Ken assured him that everything was running smoothly. The paper would be out on
time.

 

Logan went down to pick up his car. He thought about what his schedule had to be
in the next few days. He thought Gloria had a few things she had to do over the next
few days. Brady had a field trip to Minnesota.

 

He didn’t know if he was supposed to be a chaperone for that trip. He should check
to make sure.

 

He didn’t know if he wanted to ride with a bunch of teenagers while they were on a
trip for the school.

 

He thought about it, and realized he didn’t know what class was going.

 

He chided himself for not remembering the source of the trip. He should know that.

Logan drove home. He decided that he should ask Brady if he was supposed to ride
along as a chaperone.

 

Logan pulled into his driveway and parked his car. They would be taking it back out
when Gloria was ready to go on their date.

 

He hoped something would come from finding the weapon under the house. He had
seen cases where the defense had tried to use him as a reason to dismiss a
prosecution.

 

He expected the same would happen in this case.

 

Logan walked into the house and listened. He heard Gloria singing somewhere. He
nodded as he decided that she was getting ready. Where was Brady?

 

“I’m home,” said Logan.

 

“In the kitchen, Dad,” responded Brady.

 

Logan walked through the house and found his son eating cereal at the kitchen table.
He had a number of books spread out around his bowl so he could read while he ate.

 

“Homework?,” asked Logan. He went to the refrigerator and opened the door. He
searched fruitlessly for something to snack on among the food on the shelves. He
settled for a piece of cheese and getting some milk to put in a glass.

 

“Yeah,” said Brady. “I have to read a bunch of stuff. We’re having tests on this at the
end of the week.”

 

“Don’t you think it will be easier to read all of one thing at a time, than some of it for
a little bit of time, then another bit from something else?,” said Logan.

 

“It’s all boring,” said Brady. “I’m trying to get through it fast, then go back to read
what I think will be relevant more slowly.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. “Don’t let me interfere with your process.”

 

“Where are you taking Mom?,” asked Brady. “She seems to be in a good mood for
your date.”

 

“I don’t know,” said Logan. “The ball is on hold because we busted Teflon Billy
trying to steal the display. Maybe somewhere quiet and intimate.”

 

“Mom might want to go to a movie,” said Brady.

 

“What’s playing?,” said Logan. He had seen ads in his paper, but had just glossed
over them.

 

“I don’t know,” said Brady. “Maybe Mom would like some romantic thing.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. It sounded boring to him. He had enough problems dealing
with people in real life. He didn’t find watching people doing courtship all that
interesting.

 

“Don’t take your phone inside the theater,” said Brady.

 

“Maybe I’ll need to make a call,” said Logan.

 

“Mom will be mad if you do,” said Brady. “Just leave it in the car. The city can do
without you for a bit.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. “Maybe you’re right.”

 

“I know I am,” said Brady. “You’ve trained me to observe people and I think this is
the best course since you blew your original date night.”

 

“I didn’t blow it,” said Logan. “It might not have counted as a date, I’ll give you that.
We still went out and had fun.”

 

“We have different ideas about fun,” said Gloria. She wore a shiny red dress, a
necklace and heels. Her hair was secured behind her head with a silver clip. She
smiled at his reaction. “We’re not going to a movie. Go get your tuxedo and get ready
to go.”

 

“You look great, Mom,” said Brady. “Where is Dad taking you?”

 

“We’re going to a show,” said Gloria. “Go get ready. The curtain time is in an hour.
You’re going to have to hurry.”

 

Logan finished his milk and put the glass down on the sideboard. He kissed his wife
as he passed. He headed for their bedroom to get ready for the night ahead.

He laid out his clothes. He showered and shaved before dressing. He checked himself
in the closet mirror. He looked all right.

 

He went downstairs. Brady had finished reading one section and his cereal. He had
placed the bowl in the sink while he went over the rest of his homework.

 

“You look okay,” said Gloria. She straightened his bow tie. She tugged on his jacket.

 

“Okay?,” said Logan. “I think I look better than okay.”

 

“Self delusion is the first marker of old age,” said Gloria. She smiled at him. “Still
you look almost like James Bond if he was a little less handsome.”

 

“Which one?,” asked Logan.

 

“Woody Allen,” said Gloria.

 

“I bow before your sharp wit, Hon,” said Logan. “I happen to think I resemble
Brosnan.”

 

“No,” said Gloria. “You’re definitely a Woody Allen. All you need is the glasses.”

 

Brady sat at the table. He seemed to be coughing. Logan gave him a look.

 

“Enjoy your date,” said Brady. He waved at them.

 

“The show is over at midnight,” said Gloria. “We’ll see you tomorrow. Don’t stay up
too late.”

 

“Okay,” said Brady.

 

“Come on, Dear,” said Gloria. “You have to drive us downtown.”

 

“What is the show about?,” asked Logan. 

 

“A giant turtle attacking a city,” said Gloria. “They say it’s based on facts covered up
by the government.”

 

“It would almost have to be,” said Logan.

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9

Logan sat at his desk. Things seemed to be quiet in the city now, but he still had to
visit the animal gangs on his way home. They hadn’t left town, and they hadn’t given
him anything. So he had to make their staying in town as painful as possible.

 

He wondered how far he could push them before they broke and pulled out the
hardware. He decided it wouldn’t be long. Then they could see how many of the
weapons matched up with the Garret Shooting.

 

The police hadn’t caught them with weapons yet. Maybe pushing them would get that
much. And just randomly showing up was letting him take their money and destroy
any drugs he might find. That wasn’t making him any fans, except to the charities he
was giving the money too.

 

The only thing that looked outstanding on his billet was the embezzler Phillips
was chasing. If they could nail that down, it would have been a sweet few days
of street justice handed out.

 

He wanted to talk to Phillips about that, but decided there was no use pushing the
man. Either his reporter was chasing it, or he wasn’t. Standing behind him wouldn’t
make the story write itself faster.

 

And financial crimes was one of the most complicated things to unravel and report
on. Even if Phillips had the guy, they might not have all the evidence to do anything
about it.

 

Logan didn’t like the silence. It was his paper’s reputation on the line if Phillips
messed up.

 

At least Teflon Billy was in court. They hadn’t been able to unmask him, but he had
been kept under guard since being in jail.

 

Logan expected his power was allowing him to keep his mask on. It was the only
explanation that jumped to mind. Maybe he could reverse how slick he made things.
If that was the case, the mask could be glued to his face until he wanted to take
it off.

 

And there was no proof of a connection to Lane Gentry.

 

That would have been something to hang everything on. Billy hadn’t talked about
how he had known about the security arrangements, his fence, or if he had been
commissioned to rob the displays for the money.

 

Gentry could still be involved in all of that.

 

And as long as Billy didn’t talk, he could still walk away without worrying about
the law coming down on him.

 

Logan put that out of his mind. He had nothing but suspicion. He couldn’t chase after
a man just because he felt the man was an accessory to a string of thefts across the
country.

 

Maybe he should ask Phillips to check where Gentry was when the other thefts
had taken place. It might link him to the moving of the gems.

 

That was another thing to put on his to do list.

 

Logan thought maybe he could swing enough to buy the group of papers downstate
as long as Buffy didn’t get involved. If that happened, the price for the papers might
be out of reach.

 

Whenever he got involved, sellers thought he would give them a better deal than the
one they were getting from other buyers on the field. It didn’t always go down that
way.

 

There was nothing he could do about that other than beating Buffy with a log. He
smiled at the thought, but put it aside. He couldn’t abuse the power of the wood on
an innocent man’s noggin, no matter how much he wanted to avenge the losses he had
already taken in fair play.

 

On the other hand, if Buffy was cheating somehow, then a whacking was in order.

He looked up as a shadow filled his vision. His editor stood there, looking around
the bullpen.

 

“You seen Phillips?,” asked Ken.

 

“No,” said Logan. “Why?”

 

“He said he was going to call in after he spoke with some people down at City Hall
about a story he was chasing,” said Ken. “I haven’t heard from him. I know he has
been digging for you on some things, and I was wondering if you had talked to him.”

 

“Not today,” said Logan. “He was still trying to nail this embezzler thing the last
I talked to him.”

 

“Embezzler in City Hall?,” asked Ken.

 

“That, or the county office somewhere,” said Logan.

 

“You don’t think he went down to brace the guy himself, do you?,” asked Ken.

 

“I don’t know,” said Logan. “What’s he driving? I’ll go down and check if his car is
in the city lot.”

 

“Thanks,” said Ken. “I’m probably worrying over nothing.”

 

“It’s no problem,” said Logan. “I was going to have to go by there on the way to the
lawyers anyway. What’s he driving?”

 

“It’s an old Crown Victoria,” said Ken. “He bought it off the police department at
an auction.”

 

“Does it still have the police colors on it?,” asked Logan.

 

“They had all that taken off,” said Ken. “It just looks like an old car now.”

 

“All right,” said Logan. “I’ll go down and tell him to call you before I head over to
the lawyers. It should be a snap.”

 

“Thanks, Logan,” said Ken. “In the old days, we wouldn’t have worried if one of our
guys had gone off the grid. Now they might wind up in a trunk somewhere.”

 

“They could have wound up in a trunk in the old days too,” said Logan. He stood and
packed up the papers he had been reading. “We just didn’t care that much if they did.”

 

“You’re right about that,” said Ken.

 

“Don’t worry, Mother Hen,” said Logan. He smiled. “I’ll look out for your lost
chick.”

 

“Thanks a lot,” said Ken. He glanced at one of his other reporters. “Looks like I have
another fire to put out.”

 

Logan took his briefcase full of papers and went down to his parked Datsun. He
stowed them in the back. He headed for a street exit. The government center wasn’t
that far away. He would walk over, look for Phillips, grab something to eat, and then
come back for the papers to go to his lawyers for review.

 

Had Phillips actually tracked the embezzler down? If he had, he would have to prove
things in court. The paper would have to decide on how much they could print before
they were making statements that could be slurs and defamation. Things might get
messy.

 

Logan wasn’t worried about that. The paper had dealt with a lot of people who had
tried to sue for the damage to their careers. Unfortunately for them, the truth won over
any hurt feelings.

 

Logan paused when he saw a build up of police around City Hall. What was
going on? He hadn’t seen any television crews yet. This must have just started.

He walked over to a cop putting up a ribbon barricade. The cop refused to
acknowledge his presence.

 

“Hey, bud,” Logan said. “What’s going on? I’m supposed to talk with some people
about my rotifer.”

 

“You’re going to have to move on,” said the cop. “Nobody is going to be able to talk
to you about your rotifer right now.”

 

“Thanks, Officer,” said Logan. He walked away, looking for concealment on the
street.

 

He wondered at the chances of Phillips being at City Hall and this going on could be
unconnected. He thought it unlikely.

 

A SWAT team should be on the way. After that would be waiting around and hoping
nothing bad happened.

 

He would rather go in and look around for himself. If it was something he couldn’t
handle, he would be glad to give SWAT their chance.

 

The first step was getting in the building while the police seemed to be clearing
everyone out so they could deal with the problem.

 

Logan found a narrow alley between a book store and a coffee place. He gathered
his wooden form over his body, then the cape of leaves. Once the mask was in place,
he had to get across the street and inside the City Hall.

 

Log Man extended a staff out of his hand, using it to get to the roof of the book store.
He leaned it against the building as he looked over at the government center. He
needed to get over and punch through one of the windows to get inside.

 

That part should be easy enough to do.

 

He backed up from the edge of the book store. Then he ran for the edge, summoning
his power. He ran on a platform growing under his feet above the crowd below. He
used a thrown log to bust the window before he got to it. Then he was inside and
listening for anyone who might have heard him.

 

Log Man sighed at the broken glass he had spread over the office. He couldn’t do
anything about it now.

 

He went to the office and looked outside.

 

The police had either cleared this floor already, or the staff had cleared out on their
own when the problems started. It didn’t matter which since the hall seemed empty
so he didn’t have to worry about bystanders getting in his way when he started
punching people in the face.

 

He went to the stairs. SWAT would be setting up soon enough. They would want to
call and open a line to negotiate through. Would their criminal take that chance for
a peaceful resolution?

 

Log Man didn’t know. He expected a shootout in the works if he let things get to
where the police were tired of trying to talk down someone in the middle of having
some kind personal crisis.

 

He went to the stairs. Elevators would just give him away, and he could listen at
the stairwell doors for the police and the bad guy. He decided that the problem was
above him somewhere. He could hear people heading down to the lobby.

 

He worked his way up, checking at each landing. Finally he heard someone ranting.
This had to be the place.

 

He checked the hall. No one else seemed to be around. He crept down the hall,
pausing at the office door that blocked most of the rant that was going on. The
pebbled inset window didn’t block sound, but it concealed the hall from view.

 

Log Man frowned when he heard Phillips trying to reason with his captor. He didn’t
think that was a good move at all.

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Log Man decided the best thing to do was to get the other man to come to the door.
If he could do that, then maybe he could use his power to change things around. How
did he get that to happen?

 

He decided that he should knock on the door. That should get things started. If he
could get the man talking, that would give him a location to target.

 

Log Man knocked on the door. That was the easiest thing for him to do. Hopefully
the guy didn’t just start shooting.

 

“Who’s there?,” said the other voice.

 

“Mr. Fabreau?,” asked Log Man. He hoped it was the same man that belonged to the
nameplate on the door. “This is Log Man. The police are cordoning off the building.
I expect they will come in after you in a few minutes. Why don’t you come out before
things get worse.”

 

“Why should I make it easier for them?,” said Fabreau. “I have a hostage. I can shoot
him if I don’t get what I want.”

 

“I don’t think that will help you exactly like you think it will,” said Log Man. He
listened, trying to pinpoint where the man was in the office. “Shooting your hostage
will just make it where they will want to shoot you instead of talking you down. Why
don’t you tell me what’s going on? I can call somebody and see if I can get you some
kind of leeway.”

 

“My life is over,” said Fabreau. “This guy is going to expose me and the deals I made.
I can’t let that happen.”

 

“It’s too late for that,” said Log Man. “You could have bluffed things out if the
building hadn’t seen you pulling a gun.”

 

Log Man didn’t know if that was what had happened, but someone must have seen
what was going on. Then they had called the cops. The rest of the building had fled
to the exits.

 

“What was I going to do?,” said Fabreau. “This guy was all in my face, asking me
about the land I bought. He wanted to know why there was a discrepancy in the
money moving through the office. He said he had copies of the receipts. I couldn’t let
him wreck everything. It’s not like I could invite him to lunch.”

 

“I know,” said Log Man. “Reporters. They’re the worse. Don’t you think this is a
little overboard. You might been able to explain everything away in a court. Now you
might be shot. You don’t want to get shot. The police don’t want to shoot you. Why
don’t you come out here and we’ll go down and talk to one of the officers
surrounding the building.”

 

“I’m going to make it worth it going to prison,” said Fabreau. “I’m going to shoot this
guy first. That will get me a good stretch for something major. That way I don’t have
to worry about picking up the pieces of my life when I get out. There aren’t any jobs
for a bookkeeper who went over the line.”

 

“I think that’s just adding on to your problems, Mr. Fabreau,” said Log Man. He
raised his hands to point at the inset window of the office door. “I think you should
just leave the gun on the desk and come out of there.”

 

“What if I don’t?,” said Fabreau,

 

“I’ll come in and get you,” said Log Man. “You don’t want that. I’m a vigilante. I
might use excessive force.”

 

“I would like to see you try that,” said Fabreau.

 

“All right,” said Log Man. “I’m coming in.”

 

He blasted a stream of wood through the window. He heard someone scream. He
hoped he had hit the right guy.

 

Log Man opened the door and shouldered it out of the way. He raised his hand and
pointed it at the stricken accountant. Phillips stood in a corner. He had his hands up
to protect his face however much that would stop a bullet.

 

“You might want to get out of here before he tries to use you for a hostage again,”
said Log Man. He used a thumb to indicate the doorway.

 

“I didn’t think he would try to shoot me over a land grab,” said Phillips.

 

“Go,” said Log Man. He kicked the pistol from Fabreau’s straining hand. “The police
might shoot you. Look non-threatening.”

 

“All right,” said Phillips. “I need to call this in to the paper. I’ll be on the front page
tomorrow.”

 

“Would you just get the heck out of here already?,” asked Log Man. “Otherwise, I’m
dropping you out the window.”

 

“Can I get an interview?,” asked Phillips. “The editor would love that.”

 

“All right. Out the window you go,” said Log Man.

 

Phillips went out of the door. He looked over his shoulder as Log Man waved at him
to keep going.

 

Log Man shook his head. At least he didn’t have to move the wood out of the way.
The police and emergency services could do that when they got there.

 

He should have asked Phillips how much money was involved in this before he had
given his okay to chase the story. He had a feeling he had thought a penny ante sum
was there, when it was really in the millions.

 

He still had to get his bag and head over to the lawyer’s office. Phillips would be
calling the office to report everything first hand. Log Man saving the day would be
in the headlines unless he squashed it somehow.

 

And he didn’t see how he could do that.

 

Log Man made sure Fabreau couldn’t get to his pistol before he left the office. He
looked up and down the corridor. He thought he heard footsteps. If Phillips had
reached a policeman, this might be them coming to ask him questions.

 

He needed to get by them and head out of the building before someone decided to
lock him down. He didn’t want to reveal his identity to the world. That would cause
a lot more trouble than just the threat to his wife and son.

 

He doubted he could hide in one of the offices until things were cleared up. He still
had to get across town. He decided to head to the stairs. The police would have it
cordoned off, but maybe he could slip by.

 

He didn’t see anyone in the hall as he rushed the stairwell. He heard the elevator.
Phillips must be taking it down to the lobby. The police might not know it was safe
to enter the building yet. That gave him some time.

 

Log Man entered the stairwell. He created a pole to carry him up to the roof door, and
stepped outside. He didn’t see any helicopters in the sky. That was good. He ran to
the edge of the roof and dropped down to the ground on another pole hooked to the
rampart of the roof. He walked to the edge of the lot he was in and created the Log
Mobile, and drove away.

 

He pulled into a public parking garage and covered any cameras that looked like they
could see where he parked the Log Mobile. He took it apart and headed into the
public stairwell. He discarded his disguise and walked out of the public entrance. He
headed back to the paper to get his Datsun, and his case.

 

Logan walked along, keeping his eyes open. City Hall would be surrounded by
police. He needed to get his Datsun out of the garage and around all that. He should
call Ken to let him know that he had tried to get into the building and been rebuffed.

 

He hoped that would cover his secret well enough for him not to be on the front page
with everything he had ever done on both sides of the law out for everyone to read.

 

He pulled out his phone and called his editor. If he was going to construct a lie,
he might as well do it.

 

“I don’t have time to talk,” said Ken. “Leave a message.”

 

The phone beeped in Logan’s ear.

 

“I couldn’t get into City Hall to track down Phillips,” said Logan. “Something is
going on. We might need to cover it. Call me back when you have a minute.”

 

He hung up the phone. That went easier than he thought it would. He supposed
Phillips was filling him in on what had happened, and everything that had led up to
it.

 

He used the public access to get into the paper’s parking garage and got behind the
wheel of his Datsun. He drove out of the garage. He still had to worry about the
potential buying problem, and if Buffy was going to drive the price up. He didn’t
need that headache to get worse at all.

 

He was glad that his city didn’t have major villain problems wanting to take him on.
He would be busy all hours of the day and night putting out fires.

 

Logan drove around the mess that Downtown had become with the police on duty
and rolled to the office building his lawyers rented space in. He found parking at a
nearby hotel and went into the building.

 

Ken called as he stepped into the elevator. He went to the back of the cab after
pushing the floor button.

 

“Go ahead, Ken,” Logan said.

 

“We have a first hand account of Log Man trying to talk this guy down from killing
Phillips,” said Ken. “We even have pictures. I’m running this on the front page
tomorrow.”

 

“Do we have turn any of this over as evidence?,” asked Logan. The police were going
to want to shore up their case. Pictures of the crime in action would draw their
interest.

 

“I don’t know,” admitted Ken.

 

“Give them copies anyway,” said Logan. “That way it makes us look good, and it puts
the guy in jail.”

 

“Got it,” said Ken. He hung up.

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epilogue

Buck Clinton and Deshawn Barden met at Maulton Mall. It was neutral ground for
all of the gangs, not just the Aardvarks and Razorbacks. No one wanted to get kicked
from the Mall.

 

“What you want, Clinton?,” asked Barden. His group had spread out in a rough
crescent around him. He frowned at the number of Aardvarks that had arrived with
their leader.

 

“I want to get rid of Log Man,” said Clinton. “He’s hurting my business, and I know
he’s hurting yours.”

 

“Do you really think that’s a good idea?,” said Barden. “The cops will be all over you
if you try to make that happen.”

 

“He’s all over me now,” said Clinton. “And I want him gone.”

 

“So what you want from me?,” said Barden. He didn’t like the look of this.

 

“I feel like I need something to draw Log Man out,” said Clinton. “Then I can get him
to come after me on my terms. He won’t be able to back down even if he knew it was
a trap. He’ll still have to do something.”

 

“And what do you think you can do that will make him hound you more than what he
is already doing?,” asked Barden.

 

“I was thinking I could wipe all of you out,” said Clinton. “That would send a
message. Then when Log Man comes at me, I could wipe him out. All I would have
to do is get rid of the weapons and any witnesses after the deed’s done.”

 

“So you’re drawing down on us here?,” said Barden. His hand reached for his
waistband.

 

Clinton raised a hand. More cars lit their lights. Gangsters got out, hauling serious
hardware with them. They pointed the weapons at the Aardvarks.

 

“I know a guy,” said Clinton. He waved a hand at the light machineguns he had
procured. “He steals weapons from the Army and Marines. I told him about my
problems with you and Log Man. He gave me these to deal with it. They fire a couple
thousand rounds a second. They’ll chew up that wood gimp, just like they’re going
to chew you up. What do you think of the plan now?”

 

“I have one question,” said Barden. His hand never strayed from his waistband. If he
got a chance, he was going to put one in his rival’s head.

 

“What’s that?,” asked Clinton.

 

“Did you tell Log Man about your plan?,” asked Barden. He pointed at the other
group of Aardvarks.

 

Clinton turned to look at what he was pointing at across the parking lot. He growled
in anger as he saw the Log Mobile rolling right at the triggers on the Razorbacks.
Some of the group turned to fire at the wooden car coming right at them.

 

A silent explosion of discs slicing through cars and people sent some of the gunners
ducking for cover. Then the Log Mobile rolled over one of the cars, crushing it under
the wooden shaft of a wheel.

 

Clinton turned. He couldn’t let this chance get away from him. He had to at least get
rid of Barden. That was the end goal for this.

 

Barden shot him before he could get his weapon out and ready. The distraction had
been enough for him to draw his own weapon and start shooting and his first target
had been the other gang leader.

 

Barden felt an explosion of pain in his leg. He started limping away. He had to get
looked at before something else happened. He fired into the general melee to cover
his escape.

 

Clinton sat up. Foam dripped from his mouth. He fired at Barden until the bullets
stopped coming out of his gun. He jumped to his feet and charged his enemies with
the empty gun to be used as a hammer against anyone in his way.

 

The bullet holes in his shirt weren’t bleeding. Crushed bullets dropped to the ground
as he moved.

 

“I’ll teach you,” said Clinton. He dropped the magazine out of his pistol. He reloaded
with a snap of his hands. “I’m going to be the one running things now.”

 

He fired into Barden as the other gang leader tried to get into his car and make his
getaway. He fired until he ran out of bullets. He threw the empty gun at another
Razorback trying to get to his own car and drive away. He needed more bullets to
shoot.

 

Clinton looked around. There had to be a gun he could use. He needed to kill Log
Man before he ran for it. Everyone else was trying to get to their cars and drive off.
Flying wood was everywhere.

 

Clinton had Barden’s car right there. All he had to do was get behind the wheel and
take off. He could ditch it somewhere else and claim he had lent his car to one of his
friends who had been dropped during the fighting.

 

It wasn’t a perfect plan. It was better than getting hammered by the flying logs raining
down on the lot.

 

He ran to the driver’s side of the Cobalt and pulled open the door. The keys hung
from the ignition. He smiled.

 

Let them try to prove he had shot Barden. How were they going to do that when he
fixed himself an alibi across town.

 

Clinton slipped inside the car and slid the seat back. He turned the key and listened
to the engine. He dropped the gear into drive and pushed the gas pedal all the way
down. He needed to head for the exit and run from the mall as fast as possible. He
couldn’t claim to be innocent if he got caught driving a dead man’s car from the scene
of a gunfight.

 

Something exploded behind him. He ducked his head, and kept going. Other cars 
ahead of him ran for the street just like he was. None of them got hostile with him as
they all wanted to escape.

 

Clinton glanced at his rearview mirror. He grimaced as the Log Mobile filled the
glass. He wished he had something to deal with the masked man.

 

He spotted a whirling piece of wood flying through the air. He yanked on the wheel.
The log bounced off the rear passenger fender. He knew he had saved himself from
a takedown. If that thing had come through the window, there was no telling what it
would have done to him.

 

Clinton decided to split off from the running group. Log Man couldn’t chase them all.
He would probably go after the ones that stuck together. By the time he got back
to chasing a lone driver, the gangster planned to have dumped the car and gone
somewhere he couldn’t be touched.

 

The Log Mobile rolled up on his left. He looked over. That kid waved at him. Then
the kid exploded in a storm of wooden discs slicing through the air. His tire came
apart, dropping the car on its rim. The wheel jerked in his hand. He hit a telephone
pole before he could put on the brakes.

 

Clinton pushed the air bag out of his face as he tried to get out of the wrecked car.
He hated vigilantes. They were worse than cops. He hated them more than anything.

Why couldn’t they have left him alone? Now everything was in ruins thanks to
two geeks in wooden costumes.

 

He got out of the wreck. He could still get away from the scene if he could get away
from Log Man. He still had a chance.

 

“It’s over, Clinton,” said Log Man. The vigilante climbed out of his strange car with
his cape waving around him. “You killed Barden, and you’re going to jail over it.”

 

“You’re not taking me anywhere, puppet boy,” said Clinton. “I’ll take you apart.”

 

“I don’t have time for this,” said Log Man. He pointed his hand at his enemy. A
stream of logs flew across the feet separating the two men. Clinton went down under
the assault. “I told you to get out of town. You should have listened. Now the police
are going to hand you to people to cart you out of town. Congratulations.”

 

Sirens filled the air. Log Man dropped a column on Clinton to keep him from going
anywhere. He shook his head as he walked back to the Log Mobile and drove off
into the night.

 

Clinton struggled to get out from under the weight. He swore as he pushed on the
wood. He had to get away before the police arrived and took him away. Everyone
would say he killed Barden. He was in deeper trouble than just a prison sentence if
he went in.

 

He tried to push to one side. If he could get most of his torso out of the way, he could
just roll it off his arm. Then he could get up and run.

 

Flashing lights told him he was too late. Uniforms approached. They examined his
situation without saying anything.

 

“How you doing?,” said one of the uniforms. “I’m Officer Crookshanks. It looks
like you have a problem, bud. You want to tell me how you wound up under what
looks like a telephone pole next to a wrecked car?”

 

“No, I don’t,” said Clinton. “Can you get this thing off me?”

 

“I think we’ll need firefighters to do that,” said Crookshanks. “Call this in, will you,
Jerry? We’ll get someone out here who can lift that log up and take him down to the
ER. I think he’s going to be booked and put in a cell after that.”

 

“I’ll say,” said Jerry.

The End

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