Part of Apex of Creation
I doubted that I would ever quite get over the surreal feeling of watching time stopped in its tracks. The dust, frozen in the air. Clocks, silent and still. People, suspended in positions that would ordinarily be impossible to keep for longer than a moment.
And Mr. and Mrs. Nigel and Allison Butler, halted in the entrance to their hotel room.
I dug through my backpack and found the gloves I’d swiped from the chemistry labs. There was no reason to leave fingerprints in places that, theoretically speaking, I’d never been.
I laid out the tools I had lifted from the police station. Handcuffs, flashlight, baton, sidearm. When I’d first decided to come here, I had intended to kill Nigel Butler: blow his brains out, and get back to my dorm before his body hit the floor.
After all, I’d (sort of) done it once before, at the bank.
But now, with nobody else to actually pull the trigger, I found myself chickening out. And Allison had seen me, in the few seconds it had taken to wedge myself in between passing moments of time.
After what felt like an eternity (but what was literally no time at all) I unloaded the handgun and stuffed it back into the bag. I surveyed the remaining equipment. I didn’t have to kill Nigel Butler - there were other ways to make sure that he received justice.
With a bit of effort, I roughly dragged Nigel’s frozen body over to the bed and handcuffed him to the headboard.
That left the question of what to do about Allison. She was, as near as I could tell, innocent and unaware of Nigel’s misdeeds. However, she had seen me, and would undoubtedly be sharing that fact with the police.
I hemmed and hawed around for a few moments, before ultimately deciding to leave Allison as she was. I could use the dormitory security cameras to establish an alibi. It would be inconvenient to deal with any investigators, but it wasn’t like people could travel miles in just a few seconds.
I packed up everything, did a once-over to ensure I hadn’t left anything behind, propped the door open, and left. I found an empty hotel room, and picked up the room phone.
With a moment’s concentration, I slipped back into the flow of time. I dialed.
“911; this line is recorded. What is your emergency?”
Three-quarters of a second after hanging up with 911, replacing the master hotel key, and returning all of the police items to their proper places, I was in my dorm room. I changed my clothes and took a very quick shower, then left my dorm with a pile of books and notes to go study in the ground floor common area. More importantly, I’d be seen on camera several miles away from the hotel only a few minutes after the 911 call was made.
I spread out my notes and homework, pulled up three Wikipedia pages, and got to work.
Officer Dakota Jackson
One more hour, and I would have been able to go home for the night without getting a call for anything worse than a fender bender. The day had been mostly speeding tickets and accident reports. That was the good thing about the day shifts - they mostly avoided the calls for drunk drivers, loitering vagrants, drug deals, and domestic violence.
The assault-in-progress call ruined the otherwise uneventful day. I had expected to have to deal with a violent husband, mugger, or some other form of everyday trashiness.
I was thoroughly unprepared for the scene that I found in the hotel room.
On one queen bed was a man, handcuffed to the headboard, laying still. On the other bed was a woman, presumably his wife, sobbing her eyes out. The source of the distress was readily apparent: a laptop, running a slideshow of images that nearly made me vomit.
I almost turned away. Almost. But I had a job to do. I radioed dispatch to send forensics and medical.
The man wasn’t going anywhere any time soon, so I escorted the hysterical woman down to the hotel lobby. “Let’s get you comfortable, Mrs-?” I prompted.
“Butler. Allison Butler” she responded, still crying.
“Nice to meet you, Allison. I’m Officer Jackson.”
Allison Butler mumbled out something that sounded vaguely like “nice to meet you too.” I sat her down at one of the breakfast tables and found a box of tissues.
“I have to go take care of a few things, but I’ll be back soon, alright?”
Allison nodded and began blowing her nose. Profusely. I went back upstairs to the room.
I steeled myself, and took one more look at the slideshow to be sure. Yup, it was the man on the bed. Much younger than now, but it was him.
I took out my own handcuffs. “You’re under arrest for… that.” I said, pointing at the laptop. “You have the right to remain silent, you have the right to an attorney, and anything you say may be used against you in a court of law.”
The man on the bed groaned and rolled over. He was responsive, but seemed to be in pain. But the man - thankfully - didn’t resist. I brought him to the squad car, taking the side exit so as not to upset Allison any further. One pat-down later and he was locked up. His driver’s license identified him as one Nigel Butler.
I walked back to the hotel breakfast area, where Allison Butler was steadily working her way through the box of tissues. Time to break out Sweet Mama Officer Jackson.
“Would you be able to tell me what happened?”
Allison nodded, and I got out my notepad.
Half an hour into doing homework for the security cameras, I had - somehow - managed to actually accomplish something. The calculus homework was done, and my English paper was finished. The Insight helped out with the homework, though I did take the time to make sure I actually understood the material without divine assistance.
“Nicely done, James.”
I looked up to find Cael sitting across from me. “Thank you.”
“I mean it. That was a horrendous situation you found yourself in, and you dealt with it in a way that I couldn’t have.”
“What do you mean? You’re a freaking angel.”
Cael smiled. “On Earth, angels - and demons, for that matter - are limited to indirect intervention only. Guiding a surgeon’s hand, for instance. You, however, did much more - you set up Nigel Butler to face justice, with clearly presented evidence that’s so incriminating, he doesn’t stand a chance at walking free.”
“I did it for Emily.”
“I know. You like her, I can tell.”
“Yeah,” I confided. “I hope that someday, we’ll have a chance at being together.”
“Well, I know I’m not very good with the personal advice, but the only thing I’d say to you is, be honest with Emily. You know, perhaps more than anyone else, how much she’s been through. The last thing Emily needs is someone keeping secrets from her.”
“What do you mean, tell her about getting her father arrested?”
“Getting both of them arrested, actually. The prosecution is going to have an airtight case against Nigel Butler, thanks to the photos on the laptop, but...” Cael’s eyes glazed over for a moment. “...yes, Allison Butler is still being held for questioning.”
I fidgeted with my pencil. “Is she guilty too? I couldn’t tell on my own.”
Cael tilted his head and stared past me. “Thats… a tricky question. In a strict sense, by your laws, yes. From our standpoint, though, it’s a lot murkier. Clever people like Nigel are excellent at manipulating those around them. Allison Butler is almost as much of a victim as she is perpetrator.”
It would be nice to not have to lie to Emily. But I also didn’t want to be a creepy freak to her. “I’ll think about it.”
“Excellent.” Cael stared off into the distance for a moment. “I have to go. I’ll see you around.”
The next day, I awoke to miserable, cloudy weather. , I caught Emily in the cafeteria. “Good morning.”
“Oh, hi James.”
I shuffled my feet awkwardly. “So, how was the day out with your parents?”
“It went okay.”
“Um, we toured campus, walked along Main Street, went out for dinner.”
“And today we’re going to the art museum and the mall off exit 1.”
I froze. I would need to come clean to Emily after all. Or at least, I would need to break the news gently.
“Emily… I need to talk to you.” I blurted out.
“What about?” she asked with a quizzical expression, as we found an empty table. Damn, that face was cute.
“I called the police on your dad. He had child pornography.” I said bluntly. I didn’t bother to explain how I had figured that out.
The blood drained from Emily’s face. “Oh… Fuck.”
Emily put her head in her hands. “This is why I wanted you to drop it, James.”
“I don’t follow.”
Emily took a deep breath. “I don’t want to talk about it here. We need privacy. Your room or mine?.”
“Um, ok. My roommate Kevin was out again all night, so my room is free.”
We abandoned our mostly-uneaten breakfasts and returned to the dorm tower. We rode up together in the elevator, and I swiped both of us into my floor. Sure enough, Kevin had not yet returned from whatever all-night bender he’d gotten into. I hastily shoved a small mountain of clothes into my laundry hamper.
“Tell me what’s eating at you.” I prompted, as we sat on the beds.
Emily took a moment, presumably to collect her thoughts. She seemed like she was on the verge of crying. “My dad” she began, “is not the only horrible person out there. He knows people, other people. People that he shared pictures with.”
“Oh” I said dejectedly. I started to have an idea of what was going on.
“My dad were arrested. Someone - one of the other creeps out there - will think that I was the one who turned them in, and that it’s only a matter of time before they’re caught too..”
“And you’re worried that you’re in danger?”
“Is that why you haven’t told anyone?”
Emily nodded again. I handed her the box of tissues.
“You’re the first person to ever figure it out. All through grade school, my whole childhood, nobody’s known. Then I meet you and hardly a month later you’ve figured it out.” Emily sighed and looked around the room. “God it feels so good to get it out. I’m probably screwed, but it’s good to get it out.”
“Well, I’m glad I could help.”
I paused for a moment. It was my turn to collect my thoughts. “Also, Emily, that brings up something I need to tell you. Because I haven’t quite been completely honest with you.” This was the big moment. “Now, this is going to sound absolutely crazy, but promise me you’ll hear me out, and then I can prove it all at the end.”
Emily tilted her head and screwed her eyebrows together in that adorable way, like she always did when she was unsure of something. “Go on.”
“You remember the car accident I said I had over Christmas break?” I asked.
“I was almost completely dead.”
“Oh geez. I’m so sorry, James.”
I shook my head and stood up. “Hang on, Emily. That’s not the crazy part. I came back from that… but I brought something back with me. Some divine power. I don’t fully understand it, but I’ve been able to do things.”
“You’re fucking with me.”
“Please Emily, please, hear me out. The bank. I turned the robbers’ ammunition around backwards, in the instant before Daniel drew his own gun. I saw your dad’s sins, burning in his eyes when we met. And in another instant, I stole equipment from the police station, ambushed your dad in the hotel room last night, and called the cops.”
Emily jumped up furiously. “Seriously, James? I pour my heart out, share my darkest secret with you, and that’s what your response is? Some bullshit about being a superhero?”
I didn’t know what else to do. Heaven I thought, as I opened my closet door. The holy light of the heavenly entrance hallway illuminated the room.
Emily stood in the center of the room, slack jawed. Her anger seemed to dissipate as she processed what she was seeing. “Holy shit.”