“Okay,” said Esther, interrupting what appeared to be a heated conversation as she stepped out of Max’s room into the hallway. “Who here should I be furious with, and who,” her voice softened, “should I be thanking?”
There was a quiet moment as Esther looked each police officer in the eyes.
She continued, “Max said a police officer saved his life this morning. Was it one of you?”
Detective Sullivan nodded towards the other uniformed cop, the one who had been standing outside the door when Esther arrived. “That was Officer Wu.”
Esther shook the officer’s hand. “Thank you, Officer Wu,” said Esther. “Thank you on behalf of myself and my family for protecting my brother when he needed you.”
“Speaking of family,” began Pavelec, “about your other brother…”
“I don’t consider Caleb Merton a member of my family,” said Esther, icily. “Not anymore.”
“I’m not finished speaking with Officer Wu yet, ma’am.”
Pavelec bit her tongue sullenly.
Esther turned back to Officer Wu. “Please tell me if there’s anything my family can do for you, officer.”
Wu looked at the floor. “No, thank you, miss,” he said.
Sullivan added, “He’s been here with your brother all day since the attack, even though we’ve been trying to send him home.”
“Your brother has entertained my kids down at the sea wall a bunch of times,” said Wu. “They really love him. Staying nearby was the least I could do. Besides, the guy who attacked him might come back.”
“Caleb? You think so?” said Esther. “Even though he was shot?”
Wu winced at the memory.
“It’s a difficult thing, shooting someone,” said Sullivan. “Psychologically, I mean. Standard procedure when an officer has been required to fire his side arm is a prompt and thorough debriefing back at the station and a couple of days off duty, but he won’t have it.”
Wu said, “You didn’t see the look in the guy’s eyes before I… shot him. He wasn’t done yet, not with the sign-writer and not with me.”
“That’s precisely why Callahan and I are here,” cut in Pavelec. “We’ve got to figure out how we can stop your brother before he attacks someone else.”
Esther whirled on Pavelec. “And you thought waiting several hours before calling to tell me my brother was in the hospital might help with that?”
“Please, Esther,” offered Sullivan, stepping in, “they’re just trying to do their jobs. We all are.”
Pavelec said, “We needed to be the first ones to speak with Max when he woke up. Every little detail is important, everything he can remember about what happened, everything Caleb said, how he looked, the way he acted…”
“And they’re based in Vancouver,” Sullivan added, “so they had to take the ferry over once we alerted them, and it was already mid-afternoon by the time they were able to get here. The delays just kind of piled up.”
“You had to take the ferry?” said Esther. “You couldn’t have chartered a float plane or something, at least?”
Pavelec shrugged. “Take it up with the budget committee. They even make the bomb squad ride the ferry to Victoria.”
“It’s ridiculous, I know,” said Sullivan. “But it is what it is.”
“Fine,” said Esther, “I’m here now, and Max is going to be okay, and I guess that’s what matters… So have you at least used your time effectively? Have you done anything to find Caleb?”
“We have… some theories,” said Pavelec, glancing at Callahan.
“What kind of theories?”
“Well there are a couple questions we’re trying to answer. First, we have to work out the nature of your brother’s abilities and where they came from. We understand your family has never seen any display of them in the past.”
“No,” said Esther. “He’s always been completely normal. That was the original source of tension between him and Max.”
“Right, we gathered that from the files we pulled on your family’s court proceedings from a few years ago. Our second question is where he is now, and what he plans to do next.”
“Well he was shot,” said Esther. “Hasn’t he showed up at an emergency room somewhere?”
“Not that we’ve heard, but we have the word out.”
“Maybe he’s dead.” A wave of mixed emotions briefly swept over Esther as she said the words. But so what if he was? He’d tried to kill Max!
“It’s possible,” agreed Pavelec, “but Officer Wu believes his bullet hit Caleb in the leg, so unless it struck a bone or major artery he may simply be in pain, and suffering from some blood loss, of course, depending on what he’s done to treat and bandage the wound.”
“And if he can fly and throw cars, that probably won’t slow him down too much,” said Esther.
“So basically,” said Esther, “you have nothing. He could be just about anywhere, and he could show up again at any time.”
“Well, that’s not entirely true,” said Pavelec. “We think the answer to our first question may have some bearing on the second.”
“What do you mean?”
Pavelec looked hesitant. “It isn’t my usual policy to share these kinds of details about an ongoing investigation.”
“She’s the victim’s sister,” prompted Sullivan. “This is information she deserves to know.”
Pavelec mulled this over. “Fine,” she said. “I can give you a limited overview, I suppose. Part of what I do with the Specials Unit is research related to a few very unique individuals who are capable of transferring new special abilities onto otherwise normal people.”
“What kinds of abilities?”
“All kinds of things, including flight and enhanced strength, in certain cases.”
“I see,” said Esther. “You think this is how Caleb got his powers?”
“Probably. Sometimes these services are sold privately.”
“And there’s one of these people in Victoria?”
“Why don’t you shut them down?”
Pavelec shrugged. “It isn’t illegal to exercise a special ability unless you’re directly violating some other law by doing so. What people do with their new powers isn’t the responsibility of the person who gave them those powers.”
“Wait,” said Esther, “if anyone can just go to one of these people, pay some money, and start flying, why aren’t there people flying around all over the place?”
“Two reasons,” said Pavelec. “First, they charge a lot of money for it, and second, in every case we’ve found the powers only last for a single night.”
Relief flooded through Esther’s body. “Then that means he’s back to normal now, doesn’t it? He had his powers last night and attacked Max early in the morning, and now his powers are gone.”
“That’s how it normally works,” said Pavelec.
“What do you mean, ‘normally’?”
“Well… we don’t think last night was the night Caleb acquired his powers.”
“The man in Victoria who could do this was named Walter Carton,” said Pavelec, “and he’s been dead for 48 hours.”