Lotta dads on this page. All for you, dear reader. Thanks for reading, son. I love you.
The rest of the night would become a blurred well of faint imagery and half-remembered words in Spender's mind, overshadowed by the climax of emotion that preceded it.
A campsite safely circled by the ghost train like a snake around its clutch.
Jean and Mina, silent and reserved.
Fireflies courting reflections in the lake.
Isabel had asked him, half-awake, if she'd be like him when she grew up. She was asleep before he answered. Spender would surprise himself, wiping a welling black tear away in the quiet where he sat with her question. He promised night air that he'd never disappoint her.
Elsewhere, as calm descended on the camp, fragments of Mayview's truth and future clicked into place under the cover of the thin moon's darkness.
Three vampires resumed the search that Jean abandoned. When they found nothing but a trace of blood and fur where the great white werewolf had fallen, they panicked and bickered... but with another week of searching, would report with some reluctance that the beast had been dispatched. The terms of their command allowed some leeway with the truth—as far as they knew, it was "taken care of" just as Mr. Jones had asked. Paige would note a twinge of disappointment on their malefactor's face, but whether his chagrin was with his minions or their quarry was unclear. Neither party pressed the issue, and Jean, newly distracted, would hardly notice when the teens all quit their jobs at Camp Lakeside a few days later.
Davy Jones, of course, had had a productive night of his own. With none of the airs one Bill Spender had grown accustomed to in his deals with this particular devil thus far, the vampire had outlined the terms of his largesse now that the fool had fallen safely and deeply into his debt. Appointing Davy chief of police (and treasurer and that year's Mister Mayview and tourism czar and head of the zoning board) was just the start. Any debt you owed to Davy came with interest, and that interest was his own. The new mayor would grease the wheels of his machine... the one shaping Davy's Mayview into the seat of a kingdom with him on the throne. A kingdom he could bleed dry endlessly... of money, of servants, of literal blood... and then, revenge, so sweet, would be within his grasp, upon his hook. But of course, Davy told himself, all of that was secondary to his TRUE dark purpose: being the world's best single father. "Come along, Cody," he said to his plus one, and held out the less lethal of his hands.
Miles away, Agent Scabs hit the floor of the Guerra household's training hall with punishing force. She felt the power of her spirit fusion abandoning her, wafting away in one great plume of spectral smoke.
"Get off me, you meatheads!" Agent Scabs snarled at her captors. They'd pinned her firmly to the ground. "Don't you know who I am? Don't you know who I work for?!"
No answer. Not from them. The great shadow of Master Guerra loomed closer until she was half-eclipsed.
"Hmph. Pulling rank after you're beaten?" came the great ghost's gravelly appraisal. "You'll need more training than the rest."
"Master," said one of the students holding Agent Scabs down. "We found this one sneaking around the upper floor
Scabs squirmed for an angle that would let her spit blood in her face, but couldn't budge an inch. That one and two others, they'd defeated her without breaking a sweat, without using any powers, only spectral energy. It was absurd... spirit fusion gave her unmatched strength, and yet with just a few punches and kicks—
"Another Consortium spy," Master Guerra remarked. He almost sounded bored. "They're wasting you on burglar's work. That scar... you're a fighter. You should have challenged me head-on."
"Traitor!" Agent Scabs hissed up at him. "You're everything we thought you were! Scheming against the Consortium, brainwashing everyone we send to bring you in—"
"We?" The old ghost squinted down at her. "Brainwashing?" He scanned his students, almost a dozen of Scabs' former fellow agents standing at attention around the dim-lit room. Slowly, terrifyingly, Master Guerra's scowl became a grin. The deep, bellowing laugh that came next shook the walls, a feat of poltergeist power that would elude a lesser ghost.
"What is it that you think you're PART OF, girl? What am I a TRAITOR to??" His mirth became fury in a dizzying instant. "EVERYTHING I've done, I've done for you. For US!" He swept his hand around to indicate his ranks of silent students, then past them, as if to include something greater. "I'm the one who knows what he is loyal to. And THEY do too, now that I've shared with them the truth."
Agent Scabs was breathless from her struggle to escape. "I..." She grit her teeth. "Boss Leader's not gonna let you get away with this...!"
Master Guerra's face went flat. Silence reigned for a stretch of unsettling seconds. "Boss... Leader." He formed the words with affectless disdain, staring up and off into the distance. Then his gaze fell back down on Agent Scabs like a naked blade held to her neck.
"Let me tell you... about your precious liege BOSS LEADER..."
When morning came, a brand new student joined the drills outside the dojo.