“Hold on,” said Esther, staring in turn at Sullivan and Pavelec. “Walter Carton is dead?”
Detective Sullivan nodded in confirmation. “His neighbours called in a disturbance on Saturday night, and when we responded we found him dead in his kitchen.”
“And Caleb couldn’t have gotten his powers from someone else who could do the same thing?”
“No,” said Pavelec. “Each of the individuals in this class of special has a certain combination of abilities that they confer. Flight and strength are–were–a combination unique to Carton.”
“I see,” said Esther. “How did he die?”
“I’m afraid that’s classified information for now.”
“Why?” Esther frowned. “Do you think Caleb had something to do with it?”
“I really can’t say,” replied Pavelec. “That investigation doesn’t concern you. What matters to us right now is that we know Caleb received his powers on or before Saturday night.”
“But if the powers Carton gave people only last for one night,” said Esther, as she thought it through, “then how did Caleb still have his powers early this morning, at the end of a second night?”
“We aren’t entirely sure,” said Pavelec, “but we have an educated guess, based on what Max has told us.”
“A few years ago,” continued Pavelec, “we had a couple of undercover officers approach Carton as potential clients to find out how he works. When he explained his ‘deal’, he said that the powers would disappear ‘when the sun came up.'”
“Yeah, in the morning,” said Esther. “You already told me that.”
“Right, except that, if you think about it, the sun comes up at a different time every morning, doesn’t it? So what that suggested to us was that the powers weren’t time-limited, per se. In other words, it isn’t like the person would have the powers for eight or ten hours, or something like that. Plus Carton was always very specific that his powers lasted for one night, not one day, or half a day, or a certain amount of time.”
“So what does that mean?”
“We’ve never confirmed this,” said Pavelec, “but we think that Carton meant his warning about sunrise literally, meaning that it was something to do with the sun itself that undid his work and took away the powers he had granted.”
“How does that make sense?” said Esther.
“How does any of this make sense, really?” countered Pavelec. “How does Max do what he does? How do any of us do what we do?”
Esther conceded the point. “Are you saying that if Caleb avoids sunlight, he can keep his powers as long as he wants?”
“Either sunlight or something related to sunlight.”
“Then he might be hiding in a cave somewhere, or even in a basement.”
“Possibly, but even that might not be enough,” said Pavelec. “He could be doing something even more drastic.”
“Like circumnavigating the globe, counter to the Earth’s rotation, keeping the Earth between himself and the sun so that the planet blocks whatever sun-related emission it is that would wipe away his powers.”
Esther gave Pavelec a dubious stare, and looked around at Sullivan and the other two officers as well. “You realize that sounds completely insane, right? Flying around the planet?”
“Yes, it sounds insane,” said Pavelec, “but does Caleb seem entirely sane to you right now? We aren’t basing this on complete fantasy. Max said Caleb told him that it’s ‘always nighttime somewhere,’ and he also reported that Caleb’s clothes were heavily wrinkled, his eyes were bloodshot, and he seemed jittery. The physical signs point to extreme sleep deprivation, which aligns with our theory. Caleb would have to fly incredibly quickly to keep pace with the rotation of the Earth, and that wouldn’t allow much time for sleep, especially if he had to spend time searching the city for Max.”
Esther took a moment to think this new information through. “If this is true,” she said, “then right now, if Caleb isn’t dead, he’s flying at high speed over the Atlantic Ocean or the East Coast or something, and as soon as night falls he could be back to continue where he left off?”
“Correct, though he may not make it back until partway through the night, depending on just how fast he is and what latitude he travels at. If he flies further north he could shorten the journey and arrive shortly after dusk, but that might increase the risk of being exposed to the sun and losing his powers. A more conservative flight path might not bring him back here until 4 or 5 AM.”
“You seem to have all kinds of information, so what are you suggesting we do?” demanded Esther. “Do Max and I have to hide every night and only go out during the day until Caleb just gives up and goes away?”
Sullivan put his hand on Esther’s shoulder to reassure her. “Of course not,” he said. “Caleb’s powers may be pretty fantastic, but he’s far from invincible. He’s already carrying one bullet wound. We’ll have officers on guard tonight–not you, Wu, you’ve done enough. If Caleb comes after you we’ll defend you with whatever means necessary. If it isn’t resolved by tomorrow, we’ll keep working until it is.”
“Besides,” said Pavelec, “eventually he’s bound to collapse from sheer exhaustion. No matter how long he tries to put it off, the human body requires sleep.”
“Except yours,” grunted Callahan, speaking for the first time.
Pavelec glared at her partner. “That’s hardly relevant right now.”
Esther said, “Does this mean that I can take Max home? He doesn’t need to stay here tonight?”
“Unless you’d feel safer here,” said Sullivan.
“No, I’d rather go home,” said Esther. “Max will feel safe wherever I am, and he’ll be more comfortable in his own bed. Plus if Caleb does come back tonight, it would be better if he didn’t go on a rampage in the middle of a hospital, don’t you think?”
Sullivan nodded. “True.”
Esther turned towards the door to go tell Max the news. She grabbed the handle.
“Actually,” said Pavelec, “there is still something I want to ask you.”
Esther looked over her shoulder. “What?”
“We know that Max can draw signs and pictures in the air. But what can you do?”
“Excuse me?” said Esther.
“What’s this about, Mia?” said Sullivan. “Are you accusing Esther of being a special?”
“That’s exactly what I’m doing,” stated Pavelec coldly.
“I’m sorry, Esther,” said Sullivan. “This is really inappropriate.”
“Caleb said something else to Max,” said Pavelec, ignoring Sullivan’s warnings. “He said that he was trying to get Max alone, to separate him from you. I can think of only explanation: even with his new abilities, Caleb feels he has to avoid you. Maybe he even fears you. So, Esther, what can you do?”
Esther stared at Pavelec for several long seconds. “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” she said at last.
Sullivan looked awkward. “Mia…”
Pavelec stood her ground. “The more you tell us, the better we can help you.”
“I’m leaving now,” said Esther, eyes burning, “and I’m taking Max with me.” She stomped off towards the nurse’s station to get help checking Max out of the hospital.
Pavelec stared at Esther’s receding back. “She’s hiding something,” she stated bluntly.
“You might’ve tried a little tact,” countered Sullivan. “People don’t tend to react very well when they’re accused of being specials.”
“She is one,” said Pavelec, “I guarantee it. And I don’t like it when people hold out on me.”
“Even if she is, that kind of thing is really private,” said Sullivan. “A lot of specials are still closeted these days.”
“Not my problem,” said Pavelec. “I’m a federal agent, not a psychiatrist.”