Part of Apex of Creation
The thugs stopped in their tracks. Or rather, I stopped time in its tracks. Either way, Emily and I were the only ones able to move.
“Shit.” Emily swore. “They’re already after me.”
“It would seem so.” I tugged at her hand. “Let’s get out of here.”
Emily paused, and walked up to the first frozen assailant. He had a baseball bat in his right hand, and a hankerchief over his face. Tattoos covered both hands and his neck.
With a scream of fury, Emily punched him in the face. There was a crack, and a spray of blood that quickly stopped mid-air.
Alright, I really should have seen that one coming. “Emily!” I called. “What are you… doing…” I trailed off, as I realized that she couldn’t hear me through the rage.
Emily wrenched the bat from his hand, and casually walked over to the second attacker - the one with the tire iron. She wound up, and swung it into his hands. His knuckles shattered with a sickening crunch, crushed between the bat and the iron.
I could have stopped it. At any moment, I could have simply shoved Emily back into the normal flow of time, then dragged her away from the impending conflict. But even if these men hadn’t hurt Emily directly, they were clearly working for someone who had.
And Emily was punishing them for it. Her adrenaline-fuelled strength was awe-inspiring, and suspended droplets of blood soon filled the air. Hell truly hath no fury like a woman scorned. I should know - I’ve been there.
Sometimes, it wasn’t about being perfectly fair or just. Sometimes, it was about sending a message. Considering the trauma that Nigel Butler had put his daughter through, this was evidently one of those times. The message to Emily’s abusers was clear: your sins are known, and your days are numbered.
The third and fourth attackers fared no better than the first two. Emily made short work of their noses, knuckles, and ankles, before turning to me.
For a moment, I thought she would attack me. But her face softened and she dropped the bat. Then her expression turned into shock, as she looked at the scene around her and realized what she’d done. “Oh God.”
“Yeah… about that… we should probably go.” I glanced from Emily, to the group of adult delinquents that were about to experience new worlds of pain.
Silently, Emily walked around, surveying her handiwork.
“Emily” I repeated. “We should get out of here.”
“...Yeah.” Her voice was quiet. “Let’s go.”
As we left the scene, I took a picture of the van. It wasn’t until we were far away - and out of the sight of anyone else - that Emily and I quietly slipped back into the regular flow of time.
Officer Dakota Jackson
“Dispatch to forty-nine. We have a caller reporting an assault. Multiple victims, on the west edge of campus.”
Why did it always have to be me? I reached for my radio. “Forty-nine to dispatch, ten-four. I’m on my way. Running lights and siren.”
I hit the switches, pulled onto the highway from my speeding trap, and floored the gas.
Nine minutes later, I pulled up to the scene, edging in behind a van that was idling with its doors open. On the right, I could see figures lying on the ground. But an idling vehicle with open doors was a huge red flag.
I punched the license plates into my computer. Stolen. Of course. I radioed dispatch to send a tow truck, and got out of my car. With one hand on my sidearm, I approached the van. “Show your hands!” I shouted.
A wide loop to the left, and I could see why: the driver’s seat was unoccupied. A quick glance through the door revealed that the van was empty. With the van posing no immediate threat, I was comfortable heading towards the apparent crime scene.
Four men lay on the ground. A variety of questionably-legal weapons were scattered around. Blood was everywhere, but they were all breathing.
“Forty-nine to dispatch, I need four ambulances to my location.”
A brief moment of radio static, then my request was acknowledged. “Dispatch to forty-nine, ten-four.”
Victim number one. Hispanic, male, middle-aged, heavily tattooed. Face concealed with hankerchief. Blood around head and hands. Incoherent.
Victim number two. Hispanic, male, middle-aged, tattooed. Face partially concealed. Blood around hands and feet. Coherent but uncooperative.
Victim three. Hispanic, male, possibly upper twenties. Face fully concealed. Tattoed. Blood around head, hands, and feet. Unconscious. Brass knuckles wielded in right hand, will need to arrest.
Victim four. Hispanic, male, probably upper forties to lower fifties. Face partially concealed. Blood around head and feet. Incoherent.
Just what exactly the fuck had happened here? Gang fight? Drug deal gone wrong? I looked at the academic building behind me. Sure enough, there was a security camera covering the nearby loading dock. Depending on the exact angle, it might have recorded the crime.
I pulled out my cell phone and called Detective Sanders.
“I don’t know what came over me.” Emily whispered, as we left the next class. “I don’t think I listened to anything during that lecture.”
“It’s alright. Really, it is.”
“You sure?” Emily was uncertain. “Because all of a sudden, I had a way… a way to get back at them. At my father.”
“I figured it was something like that. And I’m okay with it.”
Emily stopped short. “What?”
“I mean it.” I answered. “There are some things - and people - that are just straight up evil.”
“But… I…” Emily looked at her hands, flexing her fingers.
I did something bad she was trying to say.
And sure enough, as we exited the building, I could see the flashing red and blue lights of emergency vehicles in the area we had come from.
“Emily.” I said. “You saw something evil, and you stopped it. What’s that quote from Winston Churchill? The only thing necessary for evil to thrive is for good men to do nothing? Something along those lines, I think. Those guys were probably being paid to do the dirty work of richer people. And if we hadn’t taken them out, they would have gone on to attack someone else. Someone with less ability to fight back.”
Emily was quiet for a few minutes. We took a wide circle around campus, staying away from the flashing lights. “What if one of them dies?”
I shrugged. “Odds are they were headed to Hell anyways. If they get there ahead of schedule, I doubt anyone will complain. Maybe they can get built into a new toilet seat for Lucifer.”
“Huh.” Emily seemed to agree, and from there the conversation turned towards electron orbital filling orders and spin states. Despite the change in topic, I couldn’t get rid of a nagging feeling in the back of my head.
Was I really trying to convince Emily that she was in the right? Or was I really just trying to convince myself?
Detective Darren Sanders
I pulled up to the scene, squeezing my way in between three ambulances and Officer Jackson’s cruiser. I shut my car off, waited for a backfire that never came, and got out.
Officer Jackson herself was in the back alleyway. “Good afternoon, Detective.”
“Nice to see you too.” I looked around. Blood-stained snow had been tracked all around, and teams of medics were working on the victims. “The fuck happened here?”
“Four victims.” Jackson responded. “All middle aged, Hispanic. Lots of weapons, too.” She held up a tire iron in one gloved hand to make the point.
Goddamn ethnic gangs. “Gang fight.” I suggested. “Or maybe a gang hit?”
Officer Jackson shook her head. “No idea. Only one of the victims is lucid, and he’s not cooperating. They got beaten up pretty badly.”
“Ah.” I scratched at my beard.
Officer Jackson pointed at the people on the ground. “I called you over because I wanted to see if you know any of these guys.”
“Well, let’s see.” I made a circuit of the victims, peering over the shoulders of the medical personnel as they worked. “Νοpe. ‘Course, that one’s face is too bashed in for me to say for sure, but I definitely haven’t had to deal with the other three.
“Any security cameras?”
“One over there by the loading dock. Another at each end of the alley.” She pointed. “Think you could get the tapes?”
“Yeah, shouldn’t be an issue.”
“You really think we had a gang fight on campus?” Jackson asked.
“I dunno. Gang fight, you’d expect at least one victim in the other gang. These are all Hispanic.”
“Hmm, good point.”
I can’t sleep
My mind won’t stop
Is Kevin there?
It’s easier to sleep when you’re around
Officer Dakota Jackson
I looked up to see Darren Sanders approaching. “Good morning. You get the security footage from the school?”
He grinned and held up a clear evidence baggie with flash drive. “Right here.”
“Excellent.” I slammed my laptop shut. “To the media machine?”
We went to the digital media room - a setup isolated from the rest of the network, for viewing digital evidence. Darren ran the virus scanner on the flash drive, then opened it. “All the external cameras, starting from one hour prior to the attack, up through the end of the on-site activity.”
We pulled up the camera with the best view: the loading dock.
“No stolen van.” I noted, scrolling forward through the footage. I had been hoping that it might be visible.
Shortly before the one-hour mark, it pulled up to the spot I had seen it at. I slowed the video down to regular speed.
On-screen, the van doors opened. “We got you now, motherfuckers.” Darren said.
Four figures climbed out. “Hang on - are those the victims?” I asked, turning to Darren.
“Looks like it.” he answered. “And they’re the ones holding all the weapons. I hope you got extra cuffs, because you’re gonna have to make a run up to the hospital and cuff the fuckers to their beds.”
“Yeah, geez. Okay, so our four Hispanics had the stolen van and- oh shit, we missed it.” The four victims were lying on the ground. I hit the rewind button. “Let me back up… hang on…”
There was no fight. The four victims walked up the alley, approaching the loading dock. There was one frame of static, and then all four fell to the ground, bleeding.
“Are we missing footage here?” I wondered out loud. “No… the timestamps line up… hmmm…”
I turned to Darren. The detective was frowning, stroking his beard, and muttering something to himself.
“You okay?” I asked.
He seemed to snap out of his trance. “Yeah, um… how about the other end of the alley?”
I shrugged, and pulled up another video file from a different camera. “Oh, hey, I think that’s the van.” I pointed at the screen. The stolen van had been at the other end of the alleyway, before presumably driving around the front side of the building and stopping in its final parking space.
I fast forwarded until a few moments before it pulled out. Two figures - probably students, judging by the backpacks - crossed the street. One of them stumbled into the front end of the van, before continuing through the alley. The van pulled away immediately, and reappeared at the other end. The two students walked out of view of the camera as the four Hispanics climbed out of the van.
Then a flicker of static, and the four Hispanics fell down. “Do we have a camera on that blind spot?
“Darren?” I turned to him. The detective was white as a sheet, matching his beard almost perfectly.
“Darren? Are you alright?”
He pointed, and I realized what he was looking at. “Holy shit.”
This chapter was produced with the support of my Hybrid patron:
- Olli Erinko