Dave stared at the blinking cursor on his computer screen, which had been in the same spot for several minutes. Incident reports were never fun to write, but this one took the prize for being the worst. He tried to think of a way to type “Then I threw a plastic tiara at the suspect” that wouldn’t make his supervisor call him over for a very long and loud talking-to. He replaced “plastic tiara” with “projectile.” Yes, that sounded much more professional.
“Dude, is your nose broken? Can you even get a broken nose?”
Dave turned from the computer, feeling his eyeballs relax immediately after leaving the screen (he really should have paused for a break earlier), and found himself looking at Harris Holt. Better known as Supersonic to the world, Harris was tall and thin with wiry muscles and a runner’s build, which was appropriate given how he could outrun most cars. Not that most people would recognize him as a famous superhero right now. Like Dave, he wore slacks and a button-down shirt. If the DSA made them wear their costumes to the office, they’d have all quit by now.
“It’s probably just bruised,” Dave said. “The doctor’s going to check for fractures in a few days once the swelling goes down.”
“And you’ve got to wear that mummy bandage until then?”
It was a narrow, rectangular bandage that went across the bridge of his nose. Dave resisted the urge to reach up and touch it. “Dr. Ortiz said it was small and unobtrusive.”
“Yeah, she was lying, man.” The sentence faded into a laugh, and then Harris looked sharply to the right. “Hey, there he is.”
Dave turned to look. There was nothing special about the DSA’s offices. The room was wide and filled with the sounds of low chatter, the clicking of keyboards, and the occasional whines of printers and fax machines. Desks were arranged together in groups of four or six, no cubicles separating them. On the opposite side of the room, bypassing the desks and heading down the hall to the interrogation rooms, Moreen lead a sharp-looking man with blond hair so pale it was almost white.
“Who’s that?” Dave asked.
“The lawyer, Charles Meinhardt. Works for the Black Valentine. He’s the one who got her off for the Armati murder.”
Which explained the scowl on Moreen’s face.
“Yeah, but there’s no way she’s going to avoid charges this time,” Dave said, hating how it came out of his mouth like a question.
Harris shrugged. “Who knows? Lawyers, man. They’re worse than supervillains.”
“That’s kind of a blanket statement. One of my friends is a lawyer. She puts together care packages for homeless people in her spare time.”
Harris rolled his eyes. “You can’t let me have one lawyer joke, Del Toro? I’ll start making White Knight jokes next. Don’t think I won’t.”
Dave ignored him and gazed the way Moreen and the lawyer had gone, towards the room where the Black Valentine was waiting.
Val wasn’t at her best, and the exatrin in her veins was partly to blame. The drug had shut down her telepathy, and it was probably the reason she felt so drowsy—though sleeping overnight in a jail cell certainly hadn’t helped. She’d been stuck for hours in the clothes she’d been wearing when she’d been arrested, covered in dust from having a building explode around her. After she’d been allowed to shower—in the gross public jail shower—the DSA had helpfully provided her new clothes: a nice orange prison uniform. The fabric was rough and cheap against her skin, and the underwear was too tight. Still, looking good was mostly about being confident. And Val always looked good.
She leaned back in her chair, poised as the door opened and the exact person she wanted to see walked in.
“Charles. It’s about time. I was starting to worry.”
The lawyer looked her up and down with his pale eyes. “Oh, honey. Orange is not a good look for you.”
“Orange isn’t a good look for anyone. I pull it off better than most people.”
He made a noise like he didn’t agree with her and sat in the empty chair to her right. “Ready to start when you are, Agent Lee.”
Val didn’t need her telepathy to know that Agent Lee wasn’t happy. It was a shame, really. Val actually liked the woman. In another life, they could have been BFFs, and Val could take her shopping to replace her horrible wardrobe. Today’s outfit was a black-and-white checkered dress suit complete with shoulder pads, plus a blouse with actual ruffles on the collar. Yet somehow she still managed to be a credible “bad cop” as she sat down across from them.
“Let’s talk about Jean-Baptiste Dupree,” she said.
“Actually, let’s talk about what exactly you’re charging my client with before anything else,” Charles said, opening his briefcase and taking out a notepad and pen.
“Gladly. We can start with kidnapping—”
“I assume you’re referring to the aforementioned Mr. Dupree? You have absolutely no evidence my client was involved with that. In fact, I believe you were the one who turned the boy over to some strange man posing as a DSA agent.”
“Because I’d been mind-controlled.” It was impressive how she managed to get the whole sentence out without unclenching her jaw.
“Well, we only have your word for that, don’t we?” Charles glanced up from the notes he was scribbling.
“You have more than just my testimony for when she took over the minds of two cops and had them put guns to my head. That’s two counts of psy-assaulting a police officer and one of threatening a DSA agent, by the way.”
“And again, you have no hard evidence my client was behind that. It could have been any telepath.”
“There weren’t any other telepaths.”
“You don’t know that for a fact. The way I hear it, that place was crawling with supervillains. Take Pretty-Boy Jeffries and that gentleman with the four arms, for example.”
“This is ridiculous.” Agent Lee banged her hand on the table. “Do you honestly think a jury is going to buy this crap?”
“Mind-control is notoriously hard to prove in court,” Charles answered smoothly.
As much as Val enjoyed watching their verbal wrestling match, this was her cue to cut in. “So you can throw the charges at me if you want. Maybe they’ll stick. Maybe they won’t. But you’ll be missing out on a huge opportunity.”
Agent Lee gave her a flat look, and the seconds ticked by. Finally, she sighed. “Go on, then. Tell me. What’s this amazing opportunity?”
“To cut a deal with me, of course.”
“I seriously doubt you’ve got anything I want more than seeing you in jail.”
Val smiled, twirling a lock of hair around her finger. “Agent Carl Rundstrom. Found dead outside his apartment in Seattle three days ago. Bullet to the head. I know who did it.”
“And you think that’s going to save you?”
Oh, bravo. Agent Lee had an excellent poker face. It was enough to make Val reach out with her blocked senses and try to read her mind—an exercise about as successful as trying to hear music on a broken radio. Still, even without her telepathy, she was ninety-nine percent sure Agent Lee was interested. Okay, ninety-five percent. Ninety at the lowest.
“You’re right,” Val said. “I guess it was stupid of me to even bring it up. I probably shouldn’t even be talking, should I, Charles?”
“I’d advise against it,” he said. “Now, Agent Lee, to get back to—”
“Was it one of your people?” Agent Lee asked Val, ignoring the lawyer.
“Oh, no,” Val said. “Seattle isn’t my family’s territory. Not even close.”
“Neither is Ft. Lauderdale.”
Val made no effort to fill the growing silence, and Agent Lee kept her face blank as she did some fast thinking. Val had to resist the urge to tap her finger against the side of the chair. Not being able to hear the agent’s thoughts was about five different kinds of annoying.
“Let’s say I believe you,” Agent Lee said. “So who killed him?”
“I’d love to tell you, but I’m going to need some kind of written agreement that you’ll drop the charges against me first. Charles, you can draw up something for the prosecutor to sign, can’t you?”
“Of course,” he said.
“Don’t get too excited,” said Agent Lee. “I need to talk to my superiors first. And if you want me to convince them, you’re going to have to give me something besides ‘I know who did it.’”
Val looked idly upwards, making a show of considering it. “I guess that’s fair. I really do want to help the investigation, you know.” She took a moment to appreciate how Agent Lee looked like she’d just taken a swallow of expired milk. “Your shooter is male, Asian, medium build, short hair. I’d say five foot ten or eleven.”
“How could you possibly know that?” Agent Lee asked. “There were no witnesses.”
“Of course there weren’t.” Val didn’t even try to hide her smile. “He was invisible.”
I can’t believe it’s nearly the end of September already. I have no idea where this month went.
So begins Episode 2. Place your bets now on whether Moreen will try to strangle Val by the end of it. 😉 I’m excited to show the Black Valentine working on the same side as the good guys–at least on the surface. Expect personalities (and fists) to clash.