by SM Davis
photo by cichutko
It started with a tingle that morning, like the very tips of my fingers had fallen asleep. I noticed it while shaving, first in my left hand and then my right. I shook them to get the blood flowing and the tingle turned into a slow pulse, as blood rushed back into my hands. I finished grooming, dressing carefully in a crisp black suit and gathered the paperwork I’d need for today’s case. There was a beep from my phone and I ignored it, as I drew one precise line through yesterday’s date on the calendar above my desk. It beeped again from its charger. From where I stood, I could see that the message was from Morley. I capped the pen and put it in the inside pocket of my jacket. Grabbing the phone, I punched in a reply to the message, giving my current location and ETA. There was a flare of warmth in my fingers, but I could still hold a pen, could still type, and so I put it out of my mind.
The meeting place was across the street from a Chinese restaurant, the corner of a busy intersection. Morley was waiting in the parking lot of my apartment complex in a nondescript sedan that the agency provides for these assignments. He nodded as I opened the passenger side door and slid into the car.
“Morning, Alex. There’s a coffee for you. Grimes is already in position.
“Is he?” I picked up the coffee with the “A” scrawled on it and took a sip. It was black and the perfect temperature.
“Yeah. He’s checked in once already. The subject arrived earlier than we expected, it might work to our advantage.”
I mentally ran through the pros and cons. “She’s alone then?”
Morley grinned. “Yes, she went in the back and Grimes hasn’t seen anyone else arrive.”
I crossed one leg over the other and relaxed into the seat as Morley put the car in gear and pulled out onto the empty street. It would take only a few minutes to get there. I tapped my fingers impatiently on my knee and immediately noticed that each touch of my finger tips sent little shock waves of heat through my knee cap. I felt the area with my other hand and found the cloth hot to the touch. What the hell? Numbness was one thing, radiating heat was another. I shot a glance at Morley but, his eyes were still on the road. I wracked my brain, but there were no diseases or illnesses I knew of that covered these symptoms.
“We’re here.” I looked up, startled. I’d missed most of the short trip.
“I don’t see Grimes.” Sitting up straighter, I scanned the shadows cloaking the building in front of us.
“Neither do I.” Morley turned off the car. “Should I try calling him, or are we going in?”
“We’re going in.” We moved in unison as we checked our regulation firearms. He pulled his standard issue mirrored sunglasses from the glove box and looked at me.
“Will we need these?” I shook my head and he put them back. He obviously hadn’t read the dossier and odds were good that Grimes hadn’t either.
“She’s a screamer. Make sure you have your ear plugs.”
We crossed to the alley behind the restaurant. I waited, my back pressed against the rough concrete as Morley turned the corner first. After a few heartbeats he gave me the all clear signal. Together we checked out the rear entrance of the shop. There were a couple of badly dented trash cans, mostly empty, and a few cardboard boxes pushed against the wall. Suddenly, the light above the back door flickered to life with a dull buzz. We crouched low against the wall to the left of the doorway just before it opened. The subject, cast in shadow by the bright glow of the room beyond, tossed something into one of the trash cans, wiped her hands on the hem of her shirt and went back inside. She didn’t seem overly concerned and I began to wonder if she’d already taken care of Grimes.
We waited several tense seconds, but she didn’t come back. Morley relaxed onto his heels and turned to face me in the near darkness of the alley. “Now what?”
I crept over to the trashcan. I could see the broken pieces of Grimes’ weapon loosely wrapped in a bloody hand towel. “There’s no choice, we split up. You go in the front and I’ll go in from here. He might still be alive.” I heard Morley take a deep breath before he nodded. Then he crawled to the side of the building, slid around the side and melted into the shadows.
I checked and rechecked the ammunition in my gun, ignoring the warmth of the metal in my hands and the soft glow now emanating from my fingertips. Why me, why now? We knew that being exposed to freaks raised the odds of expressing an ability, but I’d never actually met someone who had. I should report it immediately, but where did that leave Grimes and Morley? Where did that leave me? I had no idea what happened to those agents who did express. There was no way I was reporting myself without knowing.
I stood shakily to my feet. Morley should be almost in by now. I tested the door knob, it was unlocked. I flung the door open and stepped inside, keeping my gun straight ahead. I was in a storage room off of the main kitchen. I could see the subject. She was facing the front of the restaurant where Morley had kicked in the door. Grimes was lying by her feet with blood still trickling from his ears.
She was younger than I expected, little more than a child, with short brown hair and stick-like arms and legs.
“Alana Porter, we’re taking you in.” I said it loudly, trying to get her attention so Morley could get to Grimes. She turned, she’d been crying and Grimes’ blood speckled her hands and shirt.
“Detective Alexion.” She hugged her arms to herself. “I’ve seen the car. I didn’t know it was you.” Her voice was hoarse, probably from the super sonic scream that had incapacitated Grimes.
“Ms Porter, this doesn’t have to be violent. Just come peacefully and we’ll get you taken care of at the station.”
“Ha!” It was more like a bark than a laugh and it echoed around the room and seemed to reverberate in my bones. “What a joke, ‘taken care of’, do you even know what happens after you bring us in, Detective?”
I didn’t, not really. It wasn’t my business to know. I could feel sweat pooling beneath my shirt and I wasn’t sure if it was from anxiety or from the heat that was now steadily creeping up my forearms.
“I never saw them again. My mom and sister, do you even remember? You’re the one who took them in.” Her words were rushed, each one louder than the next. I didn’t remember them. The name Porter had seemed familiar though, now I knew why.
When I didn’t respond she looked as if she’d been slapped. “You really don’t remember.” Her jaw dropped open, if she wasn’t a freak, I’d assume it was shock. “They’re probably dead and you don’t even care? Who’s the monster now, Detective?” She was roaring, the words twisted and howling, a spiraling wind that sucked at my clothes and caused the heat in my arms to rise and flicker across my chest.
“Ms Porter!” I shouted, trying to stop her onslaught, but the sound was lost in a terrible rush of exploding sparks as fire engulfed my body and caught at everything around me. The walls slowly crumbled as flames licked up from the floor and rolled like thunder clouds across the ceiling. I could still see Alana, her mouth nearly unhinged, frozen in a ghastly, silent scream. I was helpless to stop the fiery vacuum that sucked the air from her mouth like a kiss, incinerating her before arcing gracefully to consume both Morley and Grimes. I shuddered, horrified, and the building quaked and exploded around me.
Later, much later, I filed a report: faulty gas lines, gun fire, who could tell with these things. It was already burning when I got there, I told them, repeating it so many times that I almost believed it myself. A few higher ups in the agency insisted that there must have been another freak in the building, someone we missed. Maybe, I said, it did burn so fast, so hot. There was almost nothing left.
They closed the case and assigned me two new partners.
I don’t like the way their eyes follow me, the way they stop talking when I come in, the way they stare at my thick, new gloves.
I hope nothing happens to them.
Part time money sorter, full time cat herder, with two giant children, a baby that never sleeps, and an overly dramatic husband, SM Davis is amazed she has time to write anything at all.