The door behind me swung closed. As soon as it latched I leaned back and blew out a long breath.
“You okay?” Sanders asked from where he stood by the observation window.
“Being okay implies I have something like normal to judge by.” I walked over to the window and stared out at Circuit, who was back to staring at the table top like the mysteries of the universe were written in the wood grain of it’s surface. “I’m not sure we’ve ever had anything like that. He was right about that much, even if what it drove him to was completely crazy.”
“He wouldn’t have been nearly as dangerous if he wasn’t right about a lot of things,” Sanders said, staring at Circuit with me.
I glanced past Sanders. Darryl was sitting at the far end of the window, leaning heavily on his cane and, like the two of us, contemplating the man in the other room. I nudged Sanders lightly and tipped my head in Darryl’s direction. Had he said anything? Moved at all? Did we need to get him an ambulance? Or would Circuit need a security escort out of the interrogation room?
Sanders shook his head twice, a negative response on all counts.
“I can hear you two, you know,” Darryl said, not looking away from the window.
“We didn’t say anything!” Sanders protested.
“I hear you thinking.” Darryl snorted and finally tore his attention away from Circuit. “Since when were you two so good at reading each other, anyway?”
“Since we became middle management?” I offered.
That got a chuckle from him. “You certainly don’t act like middle management, Helix.”
“They never sent me to any classes for it. Maybe that’s why.” I searched his face for some sign of what he was thinking but Darryl had been in the field before I got out of middle school. People say I’m good at reading people and maybe so but Darryl was even better at hiding his feelings. “How are you doing?”
“Breathing.” Darryl laughed a weak, shaky laugh and turned back to the window again. “I’m not sure I’ve done anything more than that in the last three years or so. Not sure that’s going to change any time soon. If it’s saving I need then I didn’t find it here.”
Sanders put a hand on Darryl’s shoulder with a light, comforting touch. “Sometimes all you can do is keep breathing, if that’s what it takes to survive.”
“Survive?” Darryl shook his head and pushed up out of his chair. “Some days surviving feels like it just takes me further away from Mona.”
Sanders and I watched Darryl slowly make his way out of the observation room, his steps shuffling along to the rhythm of his cane. When he was gone Sanders asked, “Do you think we should keep an eye on him 24/7? Or just during the evenings.”
“Round the clock,” I said without hesitation.
“You want first shift?”
“Sure. Grab HiRes and the sisters cold to help out, too. It will look better if his own team handles him during the day.” I looked back through the observation window to the interrogation room. Circuit had left the table and pulled all the way back into one corner of the room. His head was bowed and he may have been resting it in his hands. Maybe he just fell asleep in his chair, but I doubted it.
He’d tried to save us all, in a way. His wife, Elizabeth, from parents who didn’t see a person’s gifts as something to be celebrated. Teresa from a world that had been content to never tell her that her father’s killer was gone simply because keeping the killer’s unusual abilities secret was more expedient. Me, from a system that wouldn’t let me use my greatest gifts to rise in the world. Even people like Sanders, who had spent a huge chunk of their lives laboring in a world no one knew about and that they could never share. It all seemed so noble.
“Do you think he realizes he wasn’t passing it on?”
Sanders shot me a questioning look, clearly not following my non sequitur.
I gestured towards the back corner of the far room. “Circuit wasn’t looking to save us. Maybe that was a side effect, but I don’t think it’s what he wanted.”
A moment passed while Sanders decided whether he wanted to bite or not. “So what did he want?”
“I think he was looking to save a much younger man from a plane crash that took a lot more than working legs from him.” I shook my head sadly. “Too bad he’s still stuck here with the rest of us.”
I turned and headed towards the door. Two steps later Sanders asked, “You going to keep an eye on Darryl?”
“Yeah. I’ll get…” I ran through a quick list of people in the office who could take the second shift from me and stopped as I had a sudden idea. “Actually, can you take first shift?”
Sanders gave me a confused look. “I guess. What are you going to be doing?”
I smiled. “Looking for a way to save someone.”
I hadn’t helped set up for church in years but after the week I’d had, with all the power outages, kidnappings, smashing of buildings and incredible debriefings the simple action of setting up rows of chairs was soothing and distracted me from my impending First Media Interview. My ankles were still swollen and uncomfortable after my unpleasant experience with explosives but all in all the activity felt good. Good feelings when my boss snuck up on me and asked, “How are you feeling, Rodriguez?”
After nearly jumping out of my skin – and through the roof, super strength does have some drawbacks – I spun around to find Helix, looking like he was doing his best not to laugh. “Sorry, you startled me.”
“Sorry, not what I was trying to do.” He managed to say it with a straight face although I could tell he was still struggling. “But seriously, how are you? A lot of people, talented or not, who go into field work are ready to move on to something else after a week like the one you had.”
“I don’t know.” I sat down in one of the folding chairs I’d been setting up and sighed. “From what papa told me I knew not to expect anything like normal cop work. Taxmen get assigned to cases that need someone who can play hardball. I guess I didn’t count on getting abducted being part of that.”
Helix straddled a chair in the row in front of me, leaning with his arms folded over the back. “Honestly, I don’t think any cop or government agent who’s just finished training and been issued his sidearm and badge does. But it does happen, every once in a very long time. Being powerful doesn’t mean you’re not in danger and for someone who wasn’t even technically through training I think you handled yourself very well. But that also means if you want to stay in the field I’m going to assign you to cases like this again.”
I nodded. “I get that. It’s just kind of a daunting idea. And now Cheryl wants me to go and talk to the TV reporters. It’s kind of freaky.”
That got a laugh. “You can get used to the job, Izzy, but the media is something else entirely. And so long as you keep handling high profile cases I think they’re going to keep wanting to talk to you. Who knows? Maybe Cheryl will recruit you for the PR department and you can do it all the time.”
“How about I just get through the first time for right now.” I suppressed a shudder at the thought of dealing with cameras every day. Time for a subject change. “What did you want to talk to papa about?”
Helix grimaced. “Politics. That, and I need him on board as the man in charge of Project Sumter’s correctional and rehabilitation programs.”
There was only really one reason I could think of that he’d want to talk to papa about that. He’d talked about it often enough. “You want Mr. Sykes put in a special facility?”
“Actually,” Helix said, sheepish expression showing he thought what he was about to say wouldn’t make sense, “I was thinking of arranging for something more like work release. Partly because I don’t think he’d stay in any jail we could build for long unless he wanted to and I’d rather have him somewhere I can keep an eye on him. And party because it seems like a waste not to give someone so well intentioned a second chance. Either way I’m going to need Samson and Voorman in my camp if the idea is ever going to get off the ground.”
People who’d known him for a while said Helix used to be an idealist, back when he’d started, but I’d never reconciled that with the hard edged man I saw around the office. Looking at him now I could kind of understand what they meant. “Glad to see you’ve forgiven him.”
Helix sat up straight. “I’m sorry, what? Forgiving Circuit for what he’s done is way outside my authority.”
“For everything he’s done, sure. But he’s hurt you in the past and you wouldn’t be helping him now unless you’d forgiven him. God always forgave His people before He saved them.” I shrugged. “How could you help Circuit unless you’d forgiven him?”
Helix looked at me sideways, like I suddenly had two heads with three eyes each. “Your mind goes some strange places.”
I spread my hands. “We’re in a church, Helix. What were you expecting?”
He looked around at the polished wooden floors of the gymnasium. “We’re in the middle of a school, Rodriguez.”
“Come on.” I got up and straightened my chair out. “Papa’s in the office with some of the elders.”
Helix got up and followed me out of the gym. “You never said, but I guess I didn’t ask directly. Are you going to stay in the field?”
“Why’s it so important?”
He thought for a moment, then said, “You’re the first of the new generation, that’s all. Our first talent who came in after Circuit made us public. I’d feel better if I knew we’d done right enough by you that you’d stick around for a while longer.”
I smiled. “You know, Helix, I think you have.”