Moreen let the silence stretch. Silence made people nervous. It made them babble in an attempt to fill it, and that babbling often gave her the exact information she needed.
Mitchell Andrews, aka Lightblade, wasn’t bothered by the silence. He stared vacantly at his lap and looked as if he hadn’t even noticed she’d sat down. The stubble that had been on his face when she’d met him earlier that same day seemed longer and scruffier now, standing out starkly against his sallow skin.
The interrogation room was small and plain: a table in between them, two chairs to sit on, a locked door, and a two-way mirror. Moreen had been in dozens of rooms like this, and so had Lightblade, though he’d probably never been the one handcuffed to the table before.
“So,” she said. “Why’d you do it?”
It seemed to take him a great effort to focus his eyes on her. After a long moment, he asked, “Does it matter?”
“I’ll let you know after you tell me.”
His pause extended into a long, solid silence. When his eyes started to lose focus again, Moreen spoke.
“You know you have the right to a lawyer.”
He shook his head.
“Then why not talk?” she asked. “Help me understand.”
He leaned back his head and let out a long sigh. His hands tugged at his restraints, as if he wanted to bury his face in his palms. “I did it for the money.”
He looked straight at her for the first time. “How old are you, Agent Lee?”
She raised her eyebrows.
“I’m forty-five,” he said. “That’s not old, but it’s too old for this job. They’re retiring me next year. Or they were planning to before….” He trailed off, and Moreen didn’t think he looked old so much as lost. After a few seconds, he pulled himself back to her.
“I’ve had more concussions than I can count. I still haven’t recovered the full range of motion in my shoulder after the last time I got shot, and the doctors tell me my spine looks like it belongs to a sixty-year-old. I could bore with you more, but you get the picture. And you probably have a pretty good idea about my salary and medical benefits, and how those benefits are going to get even crappier once I’m not actively employed. So yeah, I did it for the money.” He paused, and the righteous anger left him like air flowing out of a punctured tire. “I didn’t mean for anybody to get hurt.”
“Whether you meant it or not, Carl Rundstrom and Bill Finch are dead because they found out your secret.”
Lightblade flinched. “They weren’t supposed to— I only ever tipped off the Kurodas when we were putting them under surveillance or about to raid them. I never helped them do anything violent.”
“And they were willing to kill to protect that nice little arrangement. You had to know you were helping them hurt people just by shielding them from the DSA. But what’s done is done. I’m here to talk about what happens next.”
He’d lowered his head as she spoke, but now he looked up.
“You’re going to prison,” Moreen said. “And there’s only one prison in the country that can hold someone like you.”
The color drained from his already pale face. “You don’t have to— I’m not dangerous.”
“This isn’t negotiable. What is negotiable is whether you spend the next decade sharing a communal shower with angry super-powered inmates, or a handful of years in a private cell. I can get you into solitary in level two.”
“What do you want in return?”
Moreen opened the manila folder on the table, showing him the damning photograph of him with Akio Yasunaga. “Will you testify that he bribed you?”
“Of course.” Lightblade snorted derisively, reminding her of the gruff hero he’d been when they’d met that morning. “You don’t need to threaten me for that.”
“Good. I want to move fast to apprehend him before he bolts.” She leaned back in her chair. “Any ideas on where we can find him?”
Moreen found the chief of the Seattle DSA branch in his office. She rapped her knuckles on his closed door and didn’t wait for an answer to walk in. But the scene inside made her stop before she took more than two steps.
The chief looked comfortable enough in his wide chair, though deep creases in his forehead betrayed the stress he must be feeling. Yuna, on the other hand, looked anything but comfortable. She sat in front of the chief’s desk, posture as stiff as a corpse, and her face was red with…was it humiliation? Anger? A mix of both?
“Lightblade’s spilling everything he’s got on Yasunaga.” Moreen plowed through the awkward silence without preamble. “He gave me a list of possible hiding spots. I want to send people to scope them out ASAP.”
“Of course,” said the chief. “Take as many men as you need. This is our top priority.”
Moreen gave him a clipped nod then turned to Yuna. “I know it’s been a long day, but I want you on standby for when we find him.”
“Sure.” The red had mostly faded from her cheeks, but her voice was strained. “No problem.”
The chief dismissed the Illusionist, trying too hard to be casual, but asked Moreen to stay.
“Keep an eye on her, will you?” he asked once Yuna was gone.
Moreen hadn’t worked with the chief before, so she bit back the first response that came to mind. “You don’t think she knew what Lightblade was doing?” she asked mildly.
“I’m not saying that.” His tone was equally diplomatic. “Just let me know if she does anything unusual.”
Moreen wondered what was usual behavior for a sidekick who found out her mentor was a traitor and a criminal. But all she said aloud was “Yes, sir.”
Hands up, everybody who hasn’t finished their Christmas shopping yet. *raises own hand* I can’t believe it’s December 12th already.
So we get a look at superhero retirement this week, plus a reference to the Inferno that anybody who read Villainous should get. Moreen is tying up loose ends from the last episode, and we’ll be checking in with Dave and Val next Monday. Until then, I hope you all have a great week!