Third Man In

Who Killed Walter Carton? Chapter 2

Pavelec led SMS outside, where she had parked a ratty-looking grey sedan. Seeing the dubious expression on SMS’s face, she said, “Like the paint job? You’d never know there was a 400-horsepower engine under the hood, eh?”

SMS acted more impressed than he was. It seemed like the best way to get on her good side.

During the 45-minute drive north to an isolated prison near Shawnigan Lake, Pavelec filled SMS in on the details of Walter Carton’s murder and Caleb Merton’s involvement. SMS had heard Innis muttering something about Carton once or twice over the past couple of weeks, but he’d just assumed that it was someone he was trying to recruit. He’d never heard of a special with the type of ability that Carton had, where he could grant new powers to people, but only overnight, until their abilities evaporated like fog in the morning sun. It seemed like the kind of thing Innis would be interested in knowing more about.

Merton, apparently, had been the last person to receive Carton’s “gift,” as far as anyone knew. He’d used his new capacities for flight and incredible strength to terrorize his estranged siblings, out of some kind of irrational jealousy, since they were specials and he was not. He’d nearly killed them both, and when Carton was found dead in his home the first suspicion had obviously fallen on Merton. The easy assumption to make was that Merton had killed Walter Carton to prevent anyone else from acquiring equal power to his own. The theory made sense when you put it in context with the clear signs that Caleb was suffering a mental breakdown. Apparently he’d been so desperate to hold onto his “single night only” new powers that he’d flown around the world at an incredible speed, staying on the night-time side of Earth to avoid the effects of the sun, which would strip him of those powers.

Now his powers were gone, Pavelec told him, as was the better part of his sanity. Apparently they’d spent hours trying to piece together what had happened on the night Carton had given Merton his powers, but Merton spoke only in jumbled half-phrases and inane ramblings. “You can have your 10 minutes with him,” she said, “like I told Innis you could, but it won’t do any good.”

SMS just shrugged. If Innis wanted him to see Caleb Merton, he’d go see Caleb Merton. Following Ian Innis’s wishes as exactly as possible was near the top of SMS’s priority list. How else could he hold onto Innis’s trust?

When they pulled up to the gates of the prison, another car was waiting. A man with curly hair, olive skin, and piercing silver eyes opened his door and stepped out. SMS slumped down a little in his seat. It was Cyber.

They hadn’t spent much time together since that day a few months ago when they’d first met. SMS remembered opening his door to find the man standing there, staring at him from behind that disconcerting smile. He remembered the way Cyber had held up his cell phone, pressed his thumb to the USB port on the side, and sent a text message straight to SMS’s brain without even pressing a button.

Cyber was one of the more uniquely useful specials SMS had ever met: he could interface with any computer system as if his skin was a universal adapter, through USB ports, video or audio inputs, even Ethernet connectors. Innis had been wary of Cyber, at first, and SMS had been similarly unsure how to interpret the man’s arrogance and his half-cocked little smile, in light of the things he was capable of. Cyber had been working his way up Innis’s hierarchy of trust pretty quickly, though. Despite the fact that Innis had been warming to Cyber so quickly, SMS still wasn’t a fan of the computer geek. He didn’t like the way Cyber’s eyes said “I know something you don’t know.” Worse, he didn’t like the feeling that Cyber was constantly trying to unearth the secrets of everyone else around him. SMS had secrets he couldn’t afford to have revealed. Not yet.

Why did Innis send Cyber? SMS thought to himself. He knows I don’t trust the guy, and don’t get along with him very well, either. What kind of message is he trying to send?

Cyber sidled up to Pavelec’s car, and SMS rolled down his window. “Good morning,” he said. Half a second later SMS felt a familiar buzz at the tip of his ear lobe as a text message arrived. “Good morning, Mr. Scott,” it read. SMS didn’t dignify the sarcastic formalism with a response.

“You’re Innis’s other man?” said Pavelec.

He nodded. “I’m Cyber. Nice to meet you.”

“What kind of a name is ‘Cyber’?” said Pavelec.

“I do electronics.”

Pavelec shot a glance at SMS. He shrugged, too. He’d never learned Cyber’s real name. Innis probably knew, though.

“Hop in,” said Pavelec. She used her badge to gain the group entry through the front gate into the prison and drove them around to the Visitor parking lot. On their way through the front doors they were frisked, scanned, and IDed. SMS tried to get a peek at the computer screen to see what would come up when they processed the driver’s license Cyber handed them, but the screen wasn’t facing the right direction for him to see it. The ID was probably an elaborate counterfeit, anyways. SMS’s was.

A guard led the three of them down a series of hallways lined with heavy doors painted in sterile white. Their footsteps echoed along the walls. They ended up in front of a door marked “MU143”.

“What does the MU mean?” asked SMS, out of a general sense of curiosity.

“Mentally Unstable,” said the guard as he unlocked it with a key card.

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