Once the rescue workers had cleared away as much of the rubble as they could, Dave pushed himself up, shrugging off the final slab of concrete from his back. It landed on the rest of the debris with a loud thud, and Dave fell into a sitting position beside it. It took a lot of self-control to keep his back straight and not just lie down in the middle of the disaster zone. His arms felt like silly string, his back and legs as stiff as a corpse with rigor mortis. Then there was his nose, which was throbbing so strongly he was starting to worry it was broken.
The workers clapped and cheered. Dave would have to thank each of them personally once he was actually able to stand up. Then another pair of hands started clapping, slow and deliberate. The Black Valentine had sat up, posed atop the rubble like a model in a photo shoot, never mind that she was covered in gray dust. It sat in her hair like powder and stuck to her clapping hands, hiding her deep burgundy nail polish. Dave looked down and found it covered him, too. His uniform could no longer be called white by any definition of the word.
“Well, look who’s not dead,” Moreen said.
She was standing on the rubble to Dave’s right, sleeves rolled up and hands scraped and dirty.
Dave returned her grin. “I’m surprised, too.”
“I knew we’d be fine,” said Val—the Black Valentine. When Dave gave her a look, she winked at him.
“Which reminds me.” Moreen signaled a couple of police officers behind her and led them across the rubble to the Black Valentine. “Valentina Belmonte, you’re under arrest.”
“Ugh. Way to kill the nice moment we were having. What are you even charging me with, anyway? All I did was help you guys.”
“For breaking the Prophet Kid out of police custody.”
“Oh, right. I did do that, didn’t I?” She stood up and tried to beat some of the dust off her pants—a waste of effort, really.
“Is the Prophet Kid okay?” Dave asked Moreen as he stood up on shaky legs.
“Fine. Just shaken up. I left him with Agent Capello.”
Moreen took a pair of handcuffs from one of the officers. “Yeah, you know. Big guy. Lots of tattoos. Agent Capello.”
Something about her tone was off. “Does he work with the Falconer? I didn’t think there were any other DSA agents in Ft. Lauderdale.”
Moreen paused, the cuffs partway to the Black Valentine’s wrists. “He…” She blinked several times. “You know him, right? He’s…”
Dave glared at the Black Valentine, who was trying hard not to smile. “What did you do?” he demanded.
She stopped trying. “Don’t worry about it. Eddy Capello is good people. He’ll take care of the kid.”
Moreen’s nostrils flared as she took a sharp breath. “You’re lucky I don’t have my taser right now.”
Dave breathed slowly in and out as he clenched his fists, dampening his anger before it even got started. Of all the stupid emotions to be having, he didn’t know why he felt betrayed. She was a supervillain. This was what she did, and he couldn’t let a few instances of them working together make him forget that.
“So the Prophet Kid is going to work for the Belmonte family now?” he asked.
“Can’t tell you.” She winked. “It’s a secret.”
“We can talk about it in Washington,” Moreen said, moving to slap on the cuffs.
The Black Valentine stepped deftly out of the way. “I’d rather not.”
The two police officers put their guns to Moreen’s head. Dave jerked forward before stopping himself, afraid to make any sudden moves. Moreen stood still, her shoulders tight. The police officers stared ahead with glassy eyes while the Black Valentine smirked.
“Did you really think it would be that easy to arrest me?” she asked. “I’m honestly a little insulted, guys.”
“I’m adding psy-assaulting two police officers and threatening a DSA agent to your charges,” Moreen informed her.
“I mean, did you forget I have superpowers?” Val went on as if she hadn’t heard her. “You know you’re going to have to knock me out or drug me, right?”
“Just punch her, White Knight,” Moreen said. “Right in the face. Do it for me.”
“Mo, I’m not—” he started.
“I don’t think I’m asking for much.” Val raised her voice to talk over them. “I’d just like you to come prepared. That’s your job, isn’t it?”
“I mean it,” Moreen said. “You’re good against mind-control. She won’t be able to stop you. Just punch her.”
Dave ignored Moreen and focused on the Black Valentine. “Ms. Belmonte,” he said firmly.
“Val,” she corrected. “First-name basis, remember?”
“Val,” he tried again. “I don’t appreciate you pointing guns at my friends.”
“Then why don’t you arrange a getaway car for me? Oh, and I should probably ask for some money as long as I’m making demands.”
“You’re not going to shoot her.”
“You’re not.” Dave looked her in the eyes. The brown of her eyes was so dark that it nearly looked black. “I know you. We’ve been through this part before at the bank, remember? You told me you were bluffing.”
“So you’re calling me on it, huh?”
“I’m asking you nicely to have them lower their guns. I’m sorry this arrest isn’t up to your high standards, but no matter what happens, we’re taking you in. Let’s do it the way where no one gets hurt. Please.”
The corners of her lips turned up. “Well, I suppose since you said please… You put the handcuffs on me, though. Getting arrested by White Knight sounds much more respectable than some random DSA agent bringing me in. I have a reputation to think about.”
Dave held out a hand. “Agent Lee, the handcuffs, please.”
Moreen fumed. “You’re not actually going to—”
“Humor her, Mo.”
Moreen tossed him the handcuffs, muttering about how ridiculous this was. Dave walked up to the Black Valentine, who turned around obligingly and put her hands behind her back. Dave hesitated then snapped the cuffs on her as quickly as he could. The brief touch of her skin made his heart speed up, and he stepped back as soon as he was done.
The two police officers lowered their guns, blinking in confusion like people who’d just woken up from a nap.
“Come on,” Moreen said, “Bring her to the car. The sooner we get her pumped her full of power-nulling drugs, the better.”
She started picking her way across the debris, leaving him the job of escorting the prisoner. Dave took hold of Val’s upper arm. Her stolen police uniform was short-sleeved, but he did not think about how soft and warm her skin felt. Not at all. He focused on his footing atop the unstable rubble.
“Watch your step,” he told her. “You’ll be off balance with your hands cuffed behind your back like this.”
“I’m well aware of that, thank you,” she said, her tone such that he wasn’t sure if she was mocking him or not. “Catch me if I slip?” she asked.
He gave a vaguely affirmative grunt. And then White Knight escorted the Black Valentine off the wreckage of the bombed building and into a waiting police car.
I hope those of you who had the day off yesterday enjoyed the three-day weekend.
We’re getting close to the end of Episode 1. Next update will be Monday, September 12.