Chapter 3 – Not with a Bang

The police station where Whisper and High-Cap were being held was not the closest one to the scene of the bank robbery. It was a larger station set on a block where offices were interspersed with apartments.

While not the size of the mammoth buildings surrounding it, the station had ample jail space to accommodate two prisoners taking up individual cells for a couple of days. I centered my View at the front of the police station and moved in on a single uniformed clerk solemnly keeping watch from a central desk. A dozen desks were stationed behind the clerk’s, with only one of them currently having an occupant, also in uniform.

In the present, I watched a large, inebriated man led by two much smaller men in uniform. The drunk walked in an exhausted sway. He was pushed to the right with a nod from his captors to the desk clerk. The unflappable sentry pressed a button on the desk that opened a pair of doors on the right side of the room, and the trio moved through into processing.

I skipped past the rooms where prisoners would be fingerprinted and searched and into the holding area proper. One side of a wide room was sectioned off by floor-to-ceiling vertical bars into two large jail areas, each with an open toilet and three beds bolted to the wall. Stretched out on beds in the same cell were two older teenage boys. Folding chairs sat open against the opposite wall, outside the cells.

I headed down the corridor past the holding area and saw heavy doors on both sides. At the end of the hall facing towards me was a desk that could have been cut off of the desk out front – the same height and features, but much shorter. I angled around to confirm that, as I suspected, there were buttons on the desk to lock and unlock each room in the corridor. This desk was currently unmanned.

The six individual cells each had a bed, toilet, and sink, as well as a small fold-down writing surface at the end of the bed. In the present, only one was occupied. High-Cap had a small stack of paperback books on the floor next to her bed and one in her hands where she sat cross-legged on the bed, her back supported by the wall. She had her hat on the bed beside her and her wingtipped shoes kicked off, but otherwise was in her full costume. She looked relaxed.

I opened my eyes briefly and glanced over to Paris, who was doing something on her tablet. “Told you it was boring,” I shot at her.

“No kidding,” she looked up. “Your eyelids don’t glow or anything. It’s just my baby brother with his eyes closed. You could be napping for all I can tell.” Her eyes narrowed at me, suddenly suspicious. “You weren’t napping, were you?”

“I literally can’t do that.”

“Oh, yeah, the one-size-fits-all sleep thing.”

“Are you sure you want to stick around? Spinner’s on the ground in…” I glanced at the clock widget on my , “fifty minutes, and I want to have as much info for him as possible when he lands.”

Paris shrugged. “I want to see how this plays out. I know where the kitchen is. I can make myself a sandwich if I get bored.”

“Just please put the bread away properly.”

“Yes mom.”

Without thinking, I reached for my amphetamine salts and took two pills. Paris watched me swallow them, and I looked back at her defiantly, fighting down my impulse to cringe in embarrassment. She broke eye contact first, looking back to her tablet. I closed my eyes and sank into my View.

Spinner’s info was that Whisper had been seen at 10 pm the previous night and was missing by 8 am the next morning. The procedures for checking on non-violent prisoners were very lax, and because prisoners were often moved for additional processing or questioning, the alarm wasn’t raised until several hours later. That’s how Spinner found himself on a plane late in the afternoon, and how I found myself Viewing an NYPD jail cell on Thanksgiving.

I placed my View looking down from the ceiling of High-Cap’s cell and rewound it. I skipped past visits by uniformed officers, which were most likely questions about Whisper’s whereabouts, and kept rewinding until sunlight no longer illuminated a patch of the cell bed. In the pre-dawn glow, I halted and took a look around. The suited super slept fitfully. The hallway was silent and empty. None of the other rooms were occupied.

I rewound further, focusing on High-Cap’s restless bedbound figure. It was around midnight, by my estimation, when I saw that Hi-Cap was sitting up in bed, and not alone.

The girl who sat on the opposite end of the bed gave off an impression of mousiness, even in her form-fitting mauve and burgundy costume. The body suit included oddly-shaped headgear: a flexible upper-face mask with chin strap that left her short, frizzy dark hair free. None of Whisper’s visible features were noteworthy; she might have been a white girl with a tan, a light-skinned black girl, or any of a dozen other things.

I let my View flow forward normally, watching the two supers on the bed. They chatted amicably, both sporting weak smiles that looked forced. High-Cap pulled one leg up to her chest and hugged it.

I fast-forwarded the scene just a little bit, stopping it at the moment where Whisper appeared to vanish. Her diffuse form was easier to see when I let the scene play at normal speed, distortions in the air rippling and shifting around her position. She moved into the ventilator grille above the cell door, and a moment later exited the grille in what I took to be her own room.

“It’s almost one,” I said for Paris’s benefit, “and Whisper is still in her room. She used her power to go over and talk to Hi-Cap at around midnight.”

“She was out of her cell, but she didn’t leave the station?” Paris always seemed louder to me than I did to myself, and this was especially apparent in contrast to the humming electronics that were usually the only soundtrack to my Viewing.

“Not yet.” I watched her perch on the end of her bed where her table surface was already folded down. A single manilla folder sat next to a picked-over microwave dinner tray. She opened the folder, and I moved to read over her shoulder.

“She… that’s…” I inhaled sharply. “She got the file for the woman she killed.”

“Oh geez,” Paris moaned.

I felt a surge of frustration toward whomever decided giving her that file would be a good idea. I can’t imagine sitting in a locked room reading details about someone you hit, and who died as a result, was healthy – even if the woman was a criminal and the death was accidental.

After about twenty minutes of flipping through the file, she abruptly looked up toward the door as a policeman opened it and entered. She nodded as he spoke, and I noticed from my vantage that he was palming a small unmarked bottle in his right hand.

Whisper faced toward the wall and placed her hands on the fold-out table as the uniformed man approached. He gave no warning before raising the bottle to her face and releasing a long spray. Whisper jerked back, whipping her head toward him, and her outline started to blur… then reverted to fully solid as she slumped forward unconscious.

The man had Whisper’s limp form over his shoulder and was exiting the room when a second uniformed officer met him. The two of them shared Whisper’s weight to quickly move out into the holding cell and through a service door into a back corridor. The rear entrance to the station abutted a small garage; all the nearby spaces were taken by NYPD cruisers, slumbering as soundly as their owners no doubt were.

An ambulance waited at the door. Its emergency lights were off. The two policemen placed Whisper on a gurney escorted by a single EMT, a woman, and helped her roll it into the vehicle.

The ambulance pulled away with only two technicians and Whisper aboard, the cops returning to the station. The woman rode in the back with the unconscious super and performed her duties with the assurance of long practice.

The woman searched and found a zipper on the neck of Whisper’s form-fitting costume. Undoing it down the side, she bared the super’s flank to jab and depress a small syringe in it. The colorful outfit, mask and all, was removed completely and replaced with a nondescript patient gown. Whisper had not worn any underwear, and none was provided.

Once the unconscious girl was dressed in hospital wear, the EMT strapped her properly to the mobile examination surface and began what I expected was a standard field exam: pulse, temperature, and the like. An oxygen mask was attached to Whisper’s face, and she could have been any generic girl receiving emergency care. From her facial features I guessed she was Hispanic.

The costume folded into a surprisingly small bundle. The EMT placed it in a bag marked with the symbol for biological waste and threw it in one of the ambulance compartments. Just as she was taking Whisper’s pulse for the second time, the ambulance pulled to a stop.

The hospital entrance did not have the red markings of an emergency room. The female EMT and her male partner wheeled Whisper’s gurney through a double set of automatic doors and past a security guard that made no move to stop them. The ground floor rooms all appeared to be offices, but a large elevator took them to patient rooms on the twelfth floor.

They deposited Whisper in a private room that was set up for a new patient. Within minutes she was in bed, hooked up to an IV and monitoring equipment. The EMT’s left. I jumped to the present; Whisper was still there and still unconscious.

“They took her,” I said as I opened my eyes.

“She didn’t run?” Paris asked, surprised.

I shook my head. “Nope. She was knocked unconscious and taken to a private hospital room.”

“Wow. Who would do that?”

“I don’t know,” I closed my eyes, “but it’s time to find out.”

I only had twenty minutes until Spinner landed, which wasn’t enough for a background investigation but could at least give me the names and current locations of the two cops and two EMTs (if they really were any such thing).

With Spinner’s plane five minutes from the ground, I dialed a number.

“Delphic,” answered Lady Liberty. “I take it Spinner called you, despite my request?”

“He did. And I have found Whisper.”

****************

The hospital elevator opened on the twelfth floor where an older man in a tie stood flanked by two security guards. “I can’t let you go any further. This is a private facility.”

Out of the elevator stepped Refraxx, a reedy boy in an odd suit checked in multiple shades of blue. My friend, Spinner, in his green and silver costume with his prominent visor, followed along with two NYPD officers. Lady Liberty came last; her helmet camera supplied the video feed for me to see everyone else.

It could have been a stand-off, but it wasn’t. Refraxx put his hand out towards the three men in a vertical chopping motion, and they all slid rapidly toward the left hallway wall, hitting it with three loud thuds. They stayed pressed against the wall, their breath knocked out of them, as the supers and cops quickly moved down to the room number I had specified.

I don’t think the door was locked, but with Refraxx there I couldn’t be certain. The one hospital bed in the room was surrounded by monitoring equipment, a breathing machine, and two intravenous drips. The super in blue was at bedside, and Spinner wasn’t a second behind him.

The girl occupying the bed would not be recognized as Whisper without her costume. To any casual observer, even a medical professional, she would appear to be a normal young woman kept unconscious after some internal trauma. Private hospitals like this one held hundreds of patients seen by dozens of doctors; there was no reason for anyone to look for her here or see she was out of place.

Liberty herself didn’t cross the threshold into the room, but she was ready to stop the man in the tie when he recovered and tried to enter.

“You can’t just-” he started, but Liberty’s feed showed her long oversized bronze fingers laid gently against his chest, and he wisely stopped talking. Gently, indeed – a punch by that same suited hand could pulverize concrete.

“The woman in that bed was kidnapped and kept her against her will,” the Lady said, her voice cool and clear. “This is a crime scene now. Bring her records, and get your boss.”

The man paled and shook his head. “We would never… I’m the general manager here.”

“When this young lady sues the hospital into receivership, are you the one she bankrupts?”

“Uh, no… the actual owners…”

“Get me one of them. And her file. Now.” She never did raise her voice; if anything the tone became more conversational. But the manager went away, and he waved his hired muscle to come along with him.

Refraxx took Whisper’s hand while Spinner studied the set-up. “They’re keepin’ her under. This is sick.”

“Well, let’s get her out of here, then.” I still wasn’t used to Refraxx’s jarring voice – it seemed too nasal and grating for his bulky physique.

“No,” Liberty replied. “We’re not going to touch any of this until we get a doctor in here. And we’re not leaving without a medical transfer.”

Refraxx’s fury was visible around his asymmetrical mask. “They snatched her, drugged her. We can’t just-”

“I want to make sure,” Liberty talked over him, still not raising her own voice at all, “that any harm she suffers is traced to the scum that did this, not to us. I don’t want any room for doubt.”

He swallowed, nodded, and turned his attention back to the intubated woman. In the hospital gown she looked pale, underfed, and fragile. “Hold on there baby, I gotcha,” he said under his breath, but the channel picked it up anyway.

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