January 27, 2012
Monday, October 25, 03:16 PM
Once the police and the crowd pushed him away from the scene, Elroy crossed the street to the McDonald’s parking lot across from the High School. He figured he had seen all the interesting stuff already. The flare of the girl’s aura still burned in his mind’s eye, brighter than the sun, way brighter than Charlie ever had been. Certainly brighter than Charlie was now.
When he reached the gray van, he could hear George yelling, “What the fuck happened? Will someone just tell me what the fuck happened?”
Elroy slid the door opne and stepped outside. Mr. Jackson watched out the rear windows with a pair of binoculars. The last ambulance had pulled away. “Apparently, our Mr. Wilson wasn’t satisfied with threatening policemen.”
Jane sat at the consoles lining one side of the van, typing on a computer keyboard and listening through a set of headphones. She didn’t seem to notice Elroy had stepped into the van. “Elroy identified the male as Charlie, and I’m picking up police traffic that confirm that. Attempted rape, apparently.”
“What’s Charlie’s condition?” George asked.
“He’s hurt real bad,” Elroy said quietly.
Jane spun around to look at him, and he could see a sharp white flicker of surprise flicker across her aura. It didn’t reach her voice. “According to the Medic’s radio, our girl did something fairly drastic. Severe lacerations, both femorals, crushed testicles—”
“Shit,” George whispered.
“—broken pelvis, severe internal hemorrhaging, pupils fixed and dilated.” Jane looked at George, who was visibly wincing. “Can’t say I blame her.”
“Shall we dispense with the editorializing?” Mr. Jackson said from the rear of the van, putting away his binoculars. He turned around to face the rest of the occupants. He looked at Elroy, “Did you sense anything about what happened?”
“See eye, not much. Lots of cops. Lots of kids. Girl’s the same one I picked out of the yearbook, Allison Boyle. The guy bleeding all over the place was Charlie.” He closed his eyes and remembered the sun-flare of power he had sensed through the concrete walls. “See head,” he whispered, “I saw both of them do something pretty head-powerful. But she’s way beyond him. Blew him out like a candle.”
“What did she do?” Jane asked.
Elroy opened his eyes and shrugged. “Nothing I saw before.”
That silenced the whole van for a few long moments. After a while, Barney, who’d been silent in the driver’s seat, asked, “What now, boss?”
Mr. Jackson said, “This complicates things.”
“As if they weren’t complicated enough,” George said. “We should have gone for the mother as soon as we ID’d the girl. We could have pulled her out of school before—”
Mr. Jackson stared at George, “Doctor, your expertise is not in covert ops, and I am sick of your second-guessing. I’m security. You and Jane are the Ph.D’s and the baby-sitters. Remember that.”
“We should have talked to her mo—” George began, but before he could get the words out, Fred had slammed him into the wall of the van.
Mr. Jackson leaned in, calm demeanor dissolved into an angry scowl and glaring eyes. “I will say this once, Doctor. I will not jeopardize the Institute by confronting a subject’s parent on the strength of a drive-by sighting and a yearbook photo. Snatching the wrong kid is much worse than losing the right one.”
“But losing this one—” George managed to croak.
“Is infinitely preferable to what I’ll have Barney do to you if you make one more contrary comment during this mission. Understand?”
George nodded, slowly.
He released George, and turned to Jane. “How’re the tails going?”
Jane sighed. “They’ve followed both of them back to University Hospitals. Everyone feels that we’re going around in circles.”
“Can’t be avoided,” Mr. Jackson said, maneuvering to ride shotgun in the front of the van. “If anyone starts complaining too much, tell them what I told George.”
“Great,” Jane whispered.
Elroy was a little afraid of Mr. Jackson, especially when his aura flared with red ripples of anger like it did right now. But he knew if he didn’t say something about what he saw now, Mr. Jackson would be that much angrier. He sucked in a breath and asked, “Mr. Jackson?”
“What is it Elroy?” The scarlet rage in his aura barely leaked into his voice, but at least it wasn’t directed at Elroy.
“It’s Charlie,” Elroy said. “He’s gone.”
“He’s critical,” Jane said. “But if they lost him, I’d hear—”
“Breathing,” Elroy said. “But gone.” Elroy pointed to his forehead. “Blew him out like a candle,” he repeated, trying to make it clear what he’d seen.
Jane watched him for a minute, then shivered and returned to facing the console.
Fred shook his head. “We counted him a loss anyway. To the hospital.”
Barney peeled rubber out of the parking lot to belatedly follow the ambulances.