A two-word text came in from Paris: “got em”. It was the best news so far today. I promised myself I would watch the raid later, but I was anxious to track down Yellow Rose and – if I was being honest with myself – spend some more time not thinking about the asset on call down the block that would happily slam a half-ton of metal into me if the right guy in a suit asked her to.
Like the DoJ, the RCMP greatly preferred to have the identities of its supers on file, although nowhere near all of the supers agreed to this. There was nothing like a master file (far too dangerous), but the electronic dossier on each team member included information locked to different clearance levels, with civilian identity available only at the highest levels of the organization.
It was with great civic pride that I promoted my admin account to such a lofty position.
Darla Trembly was a thirty-two-year-old florist (a little on the nose?) from British Columbia. She ran a little shop called The Petal Place in a Toronto suburb. The shop was half of a duplex with Darla and her dog living in the other half. She had married young but was four years divorced, no kids.
She was quite visible throughout the noon hour of two days prior, tending her shop with quiet concentration, until she received what I saw was an emergency message about the Lamarck shooting. She was quite clearly not on the roof of a building two hundred fifty miles away from her shop.
After I noted her location, I searched the list for other RCMP-affiliated supers without publicly-known identities. There were four, and three of them had their identities listed in their secure dossiers. Now that I knew what I was doing, it was taking me longer to cover my tracks than to get in and get the data I needed. I left my superuser account available on the system for the time being, but when this investigation was finished I planned to wipe the account. It was worth having to repeat the effort later in order not to leave such an obvious sign of a security breach discoverable long-term.
In a bit over an hour, I had cleared the other three Canadian supers in the same way as Yellow Rose: I found them working their day jobs at the time of the shooting. That left one active super without a known identity, even with respect to the Crown, and two retirees as the remaining Canadian suspects.
The “Équipe de la Justice au Québec” was one of the largest and most spread-out super teams in Canada owing to the fact that none of Quebec’s cities other than Montreal had a local team. The francophone supers (“les justiciers”) seemed to prefer acting as informal city subteams under a larger central administration, which admittedly was closer to how things were done in continental Europe.
Le Rêve had headed out on a patrol of Laval the day of the shooting. His costume was a tight-fitting body stocking of dull grey with a cloud logo in white on the chest, and it fully covered his face in grey except for a band of white at eye level. He vanished as he left the Laval local HQ at a bit after nine – or, at least, that’s what I assumed he meant to do. As I Viewed him walking down the street, he never completely vanished; parts of him were always visible in a pale green that flickered and danced around his form.
I froze my View to scrutinize his form in more detail. The pale green coated his head and one of his legs, the rest of him vanished, as though I were looking at sliced parts of a solid wax mannequin that had been suspended in their logical places. I allowed the View to advance slowly and watched the green wax migrate haphazardly while reshaping to follow a man’s silhouette.
I allowed Le Rêve to resume his walk down the streets of Laval, following him when he ducked down an alleyway and, as he traversed the unpeopled space, reappeared as a middle-aged gentleman in a suit and business outerwear. This fit the record on Le Rêve’s power set: fine control over the visible light immediately around his body. But parts of his body were still mottled in green.
It dawned on me what I was seeing: the part of my vision that extended into the near-ultraviolet. I already knew that my brain had re-normalized the parts of the spectrum outside my normal visual range into a palette of colors that I could understand, and usually I was able to ignore these false colors and focus on the visible light. But in this case it appeared the super was unknowingly including a frequency of UV in his crafted image that he himself couldn’t see, and therefore couldn’t control.
This made Le Rêve easy for me to track. Even though he changed disguises multiple times an hour and often without breaking stride, I was able to speed up my View without being concerned that I’d lose him in a crowd. I could easily spot the one person on the street with green patches sliding over his skin and clothes (or “her,” as his disguises were quite varied). When he turned invisible, the green patches remained. When I saw him stop and take a call that I could see was, again, an emergency alert about the Lamarck shooting, I was able to check him off the suspect list.
Twin brothers Tommy and Reggie Kilabuk were a harder problem. The Laser Twins, as they had been known during their time working for the Northern Canadian Super Team, had a registered address at a small village in Nunavut that, when I finally found it, was a cabin that had clearly not been used in quite some time. I would likely be able to track them down eventually; they were not particularly known for using their invisibility but rather other manipulations of visible light. I decided to return to them later.
Moving down the list, I was able to clear five American supers in the course of an hour by finding the ones that were on duty rosters that day and checking the relevant HQ. Since Diane could do the same with a couple of calls, this was hardly a ground-breaking accomplishment.
I was in the process of reversing the trail of a sixth American super when I received an incoming call from Diane. Answering it, I saw three people in front of a cloth barrier similar to what I had seen at the RCMP field office the previous day: Sergeant Waterford, Inspector Heathcote, and Spinner.
The Boston super’s deep green uniform, padded layers rather than skin-tight, had a sparse webbing of silver radiating from silver piping on the shoulders; I knew there was similar piping on the legs as well. He wore a friendly smile that bookended well with Diane’s on the other side of the Inspector, whose expression still looked strained and completely humorless.
Spinner wore a silver visor that wrapped past his ears over a coif the same material as his body armor, concealing his hair and wrapping around his chin. From the wrinkle lines visible on his face, I suspected a lot of his hair would match the silver of his piping.
“This is Delphic,” I opened.
It was the Inspector who spoke first: “Good afternoon, Mister Delphic. I had asked the sergeant to see if we could clarify a couple of things with you. Mister Spinner wanted to introduce himself as well,” she nodded to the man.
Spinner’s broad grin was more disarming than it should have been considering his hidden eyes. “Hey, man, it’s good to meet you.” His speech was a fast and very Bostonian staccato. “I talked to Silversmith and Selene before I flew out of Boston yesterday – they say hi.”
I remembered that the two of them were involved in a raid on a Vermont compound eighteen months previously where I had provided reconnaissance and support. We’d had a couple of days to plan, and with my help, the supers that had turned on the other residents of the compound were apprehended with minimal casualties. It could have easily been another Waco or Spokane, but instead it ended up being PR boosts to super teams as a whole.
I replied, “Hi, Spinner. I have been meaning to catch up with those two.” I hadn’t. “I’ll give them a call when I have a chance.” I wouldn’t. “How was your flight?” I didn’t care. I was on edge and my patience for niceties was low; I was fortunate I didn’t have to smile or try to keep a friendly tone of voice.
“It was nice. The Feds set me up on a charter flight. I don’t usually get the red carpet treatment.” He emphasized the first syllables of “charter” and “carpet” with a complete lack of “R” sound; his regional accent was thick enough that it sounded affected.
“I know the feeling. They’re always throttling my bandwidth,” I quipped.
The three expressions on the screen froze momentarily and Diane looked at the other two. “I think that was a joke,” she said, smirking a bit.
That got a chuckle out of Heathcote and Spinner, and Spinner said, “Ah, gotcha. Anyways, I know you’re in an odd place on the whole mobility thing. Can I dial you in later when I head to the scene? I wanted to take a look and talk it out with ya.”
“Sure.” No reason not to be agreeable. “Inspector, you said there were questions you were looking for me to clear up?”
Heathcote nodded. “We need more specifics on your analysis of the scene, and how you determined the sniper is an invisible super. There is still no digital recording that includes the roof during the relevant period. How do you know?”
I could see that Diane was nodding along with this line of questioning. Just like with Vivi Michaels, wanting the data analysis that led to my conclusion was a perfectly reasonable request. And just like with Vivi, I was not in a position to answer it. So, as usual, I lied.
“There were at least two visual records that included the relevant roof, in fact,” I replied, “neither of which are available to you by lawful means.”
“Please elaborate,” the inspector said flatly.
I sighed while typing the next response. “You recovered seventy-three recordings. I have recovered ninety-six, because my process does not involve asking people to voluntarily surrender them. Several people present at the scene had good reasons not to want to cooperate with police. I don’t bother asking.”
This put a smirk on Spinner’s face. Diane nodded agreeably while the inspector took a deep, shuddering breath. “Please provide copies of the files,” Heathcote finally said.
“I won’t do that,” I replied immediately. “And you don’t need them. The recordings show that the position from which the shots were fired was clear of any visible person at the time. I have carefully verified the bullet trajectories – I know exactly where the shooter was, and there isn’t anything to see there.”
“It’s possible there’s an artifact in the footage that you missed,” Diane rejoindered.
“You have the information you need,” was my cold electronic reply.
Heathcote’s frown deepened. “Mister Delphic, we respect your need to investigate in your own way, but you need to be sharing with us what you find.” She rubbed her mouth with one hand, clearly frustrated. “I must insist.”
I let the tension ramp in silence for a few heartbeats before giving my response. “Inspector Heathcote,” I replied, “I am happy to collaborate on this as much as possible. I have already confirmed airtight alibis for a third of the suspects on Diane’s list. I am unambiguously contributing to this investigation.” She reluctantly nodded. “I have to uphold my personal ethics when I perform these sort of wide-net, intrusive searches on private data. I won’t turn over the files. I won’t provide an innocent individual’s information to the government without their consent, unless there’s a pressing need.”
As the Delphic voice sounded, I was relieved to see that Heathcote was not becoming angry. Her hand had moved up to her temple and she had hunched forward slightly to accommodate it; her position suggested a headache that was getting worse. “I could get a warrant for the files. No,” she continued before I could respond, “I’m quite certain that will make no difference. All right!” She sat up fully straight and lowered her hands, the picture of a powerful senior officer. “Thank you for the clarification. And thank you,” a bit softer, “for your help with the investigation. The team is grateful.”
“No, inspector, thank you for understanding my unusual requirements,” I replied. This was the second time in so many days that those calling the shots had made the point but decided not to press it to breaking. However, if the visible signs of progress in the investigation ever abated, I was certain she would be much less lenient.
Heathcote pulled out and looked at her mobile device. “I have to run. Diane was going to fill you in on another theory that popped up today.” With a perfunctory nod she stood and left.
I caught a chuckle from Spinner as Diane typed onto her laptop. It was the sergeant who spoke. “First off, regarding the suspect list,” she said, sharing a file, “there’s the updated spreadsheet; I’ve uploaded it to your portal. Spinner says he knows some of the US supers on the list and can make some calls for us.”
The super nodded, “No biggie. They’re used to cooperating with investigations when this sort of thing goes down. Being a super,” this was directed more at me than Diane, “it’s pretty much guaranteed that if somebody gets away with a crime and the powers match yours, they’ll come looking for your alibi.” He shrugged.
“Thank you,” Diane continued. “Delphic, you said you had some results on the subjects?”
“That’s correct. I have cleared eleven Canadian suspects from the top of the list. Further analysis is needed on the other four.”
She looked up and down her own list again. “That’s all the Canadian names on the primary and secondary list, right? Leaving us with… thirty-one, I think?” She re-sorted the list again. “More than half are in the States.” She shrugged her shoulders and made eye contact with Spinner. “Crossing names off the list is two-edged. On the one hand, it seems like making progress. But on the other hand, you may just be closer to concluding the culprit isn’t actually on your list.”
“I will send a list confirming the suspects I have cleared,” I announced. “If you and Spinner can determine which suspects each of you wants to try to contact first, I can rearrange my own searching to focus first on the remainder.”
Spinner nodded. “I’ll shoot you a list when we get back from checking out the scene. I’d like to head out there now, if it’s okay.” He was asking permission of Diane. She gave a distracted nod as she continued to order and reorder the suspect list.
But as Spinner got up say goodbye, Diane raised her head and said, “Oh! One other thing,” she said, and gestured the man back into his seat. “Corporal Tackett brought up an unsolved case from a few months back that he thinks might be related. I’ve uploaded some files on it and I wanted to discuss whether either of you think it’s worth giving priority to.”
She shared a presentation which consisted of unlabeled pictures. “Bertrand Saxena was a member of BCST under the name Valour.” The first picture was visibly an excerpt from a larger photograph of supers. It showed a man in full articulated armor, the helmet’s faceplate open, the super’s uneven and toothy grin visible under a cloth half mask with eyeholes. “He lived alone in a Vancouver apartment, worked an undemanding dayjob in a private high school cafeteria.” The picture switched to a selfie taken by Bertrand with two older women, all three dressed in the same button-down shirt and slacks with prominent hair nets.
“Valour unexpectedly missed a duty shift with BCST and didn’t answer his phone. A friend on the team who knew his civilian identity went to check on him, found his door unlocked, and found him inside.”
The new picture showed the body of what was still identifiably Bertrand Saxena sprawled on a couch, his throat a mass of blood and flesh. The black handle of a kitchen knife protruded from his right eye socket. Congealed blood covered the right side of his face, his white shirt stained red down the front and sides.
The presentation changed to a four-way split of pictures. One showed the body at a wider angle, and the other three showed close-ups of the eye and neck wounds. “Forensics say the neck was stabbed six or seven times, with the same knife as the eye,” said Diane. Her voice was cold and she was not smiling. The presentation switched to a single, well-lit shot of a black-bladed knife on a specimen table, black-red fluid caked across the implement. “The weapon is a sharp ceramic kitchen knife, part of a mail-order set. Saxena had a different, metal set in his kitchen – it appears the killer brought the weapon.” The next picture showed the main area of the apartment, the end of the couch opposite where the body was found visible at the edge of the photograph. The visible walls had shields, swords, and medieval crests as decoration; the suit of armor in one corner did not look at all out of place. “The furniture was untouched and nothing appeared to be missing. The front door wasn’t forced. No fingerprints were found on the weapon, no leavings on the body. All DNA at the scene match Saxena and work friends.”
Diane closed the presentation as she continued her explanation. “The reason why Tackett brought this to my attention is that Saxena’s murder, which was officially closed as unsolved, has signs of super involvement. Valour’s abilities were ferrokinetic, and the killer had the foresight to bring a non-metallic blade with him. There are no defensive wounds; the signs of struggle are weaker than expected unless he’d already been stabbed when he started struggling. Everything is consistent with a cold, deliberate murder.” She took a big breath before continuing. “The apartment is on the second floor, and first and second floor camera footage show no unidentified persons that day. A super with invisibility or disguise powers fit the evidence. RCMP took over the case but never got anywhere; closed it after four months.”
Diane still wasn’t smiling as she turned her attention more directly to us, but as she spoke she allowed the beginnings of a kind smile to creep back in. “So, gentlemen, what do you think? Do we shelve this for the time being, or add a second murder to our investigation?”
“We’re, what, six or seven months out? Focusing on a cold case is prob’ly a waste of time,” Spinner shrugged.
“I will look into it a bit further,” I offered. “Colonel Tackett will speak with me if I need additional details?”
Diane nodded. “I’ll add the case file to your dashboard. Do send me your notes on the suspects, please, and I’ll let you know when I’ve decided who to tackle next.”
Spinner put a hand up to his visor, pressing something on the side. “Dinnertime,” he announced. “Wanna grab a bite before I head down to the scene?” he smiled at Diane.
“Sure,” she said, her own smile back at full wattage. “Thanks again, Delphic. Remember you can call me anytime if you need me.”
“Enjoy dinner,” I replied. “Spinner, you will call me from the scene?”
“Yep. Give it an hour or so.” He waved and Diane disconnected the call.
I took five minutes to change out the laundry and empty my bladder before pulling up the Valour file. I got a date and an estimate of the murder time, memorized the address, and checked my mental map of Vancouver against an online map before closing my eyes and opening my View.
The weather hadn’t hit the West Coast as hard this week as out east. The city had some of the same warmth I had started to associate with Ottawa, with a greater sense of bustle at least this time in the evening. Finding a bank with an outside 24-hour display showing the date didn’t take long, and I let the rest of the environment wash over me as I focused my attention on that date.
I rewound at my maximum speed, a few seconds per day, ignoring everything but the numbers in front of me, the gleam on the display surface flickering annoyingly in the changing light. The spring day that I soon Viewed seemed crisp if clear, a noticeable wind disturbing everything in sight.
Valour’s apartment was in a long building of three stories with a closed garage below. I watched residents approach the glass front door, most entering unique codes on a keypad while a few used physical keys on the lock instead. Half of the first floor was devoted to an office, mail area, and laundry facilities, plus twenty apartments. The second and third floors were apartments only, with a small trash chute next to the stairwell on either end.
I noted the position of the cameras. They were designed to catch comings and goings in the common areas and the stairwells, and did not record the stretches of hallway where the apartment entrances were. I set my View to approximately half an hour before the estimated time of the murder, and entered Valour’s apartment. He sat on his couch, wearing the same clothes as I had seen in his photographs, engrossed in a paperback. As I Viewed the super quietly reading, he occasionally took and sipped from glass of water on the table next to him.
The door wasn’t locked. I had positioned my view so I could see it around the corner from where Barnard sat. It opened smoothly, just wide enough to admit a person, and a moment later it shut as the handle turned from the inside. Bernard didn’t notice; he sat and read his book.
The invisible assassin took their time; it was at least another five minutes before the first deep puncture wound blossomed from the hero’s neck. Even as his expression changed to confusion and pain, a second and third and fourth wound appeared. Blood ran freely from the wounds down the shirt, and some spurted and hung flattened in midair, outlining the blade and some of the handle of a knife that plunged yet again to add another wound to the slick gore.
Even as the bloody blade moved up from the neck to a different target, its red coating faded to transparency and then nothing. The deep implosion of the eye was still horrifying even though I had been expecting it. What had been a human being so recently was now unambiguously a corpse.
The knife suddenly appeared in the wound just before the apartment door was thrown open and quickly shut. Rewinding and freezing the scene, carefully noticed that the same sort of half-knife was visible at the right moments: a cross section inky black where the rest of the knife should be, moving from the farthest corner to the door as the killer no doubt moved until the weapon was no longer within its range.
Although somewhat nauseated, I rewound further and watched the stabbing slowly and in detail. No blood got on any part of the killer other than the knife, so I never caught a glimpse even in silhouette of a hand or limb. The killer was careful and single-minded, taking no time to relish the kill or explore the apartment: in and out.
I spent a few minutes monitoring the stairwells and determining that one of the second-story doors to the stairs, which were recessed out of sight of the cameras, had opened slowly and slightly not long after the murder was completed. I saw no other unpeopled openings of any door, but there had been plenty of people returning from work to their apartments earlier. All of the doors had mechanical door-closers to make sure the doors shut slowly without slamming; anyone who opened the door fully would provide a convenient interval for an invisible intruder.
I withdrew to the present, intrigued by the apparent congruence between the two killings. Since I had seen the same or very similar powers at work during both events, it made sense to attribute both murders to the same person, at least provisionally. But where exactly did that put us? Who would be motivated to first take out a Canadian super on a provincial team, and then, six months later, a support super for USST?
The means and opportunity were evident, but the motive was still entirely elusive. And without that, I was starting to doubt how far we’d be able to get.