Mitchell had a problem. That wasn’t anything new. Lately, Mitchell’s life was full of them. Luckily, he had a method to solve them.
His dad had had a temper. The guy wasn’t a drunk or an addict, nothing that might excuse it. Instead, there was a simple process. Mitch comes home with a C on an English paper? Twenty minutes of yelling. Mitch doesn’t make the team? Five minutes of yelling followed by a few slaps.
Mitchell knew other kids in school that had it worse. He usually didn’t even get bruises. How could he complain about it when there was a girl in Algebra that wore long sleeves in September and a guy who sat out Gym three days a week. Nobody talked about the reasons why, but people knew. Still, that didn’t stop him from getting frustrated.
Monday, he’d told Dad he wanted to try out for Track. Dad thought that was stupid. Said that if Mitch couldn’t play football, there wasn’t any point in going for something else. Besides, he wasn’t good enough to make it. Try outs would just be a waste of time and an embarrassment. He barely raised his voice, didn’t even give a hint of violence. Mitchell was good at spotting those. Even so, it was just one thing too much.
Mitchell threw a punch.
It wasn’t a good one. He’d never been in a fight. The stuff with Dad didn’t count. Mitchell never fought back. His balance was off, thumb inside the fist instead of out, anything you’d care to name. It wouldn’t have surprised him a bit if his Dad blocked or ignored the blow then beat him black and blue. Even as his arm moved, Mitchell was already flinching away from what he expected to happen next.
Mitchell threw a punch and his Dad didn’t move at all until it hit him in the chest. Mitchell watched in awe as his dad’s crumpled body flew back and through the wall of their house. He just stood there for a moment, watching. Eventually, the young man walked forward to examine what he’d done.
There were pieces of wood and plaster hanging in the air and a cloud of dust. None of it was moving, just… just hanging there. His father’s… his father was lying in their yard. He’d- he’d killed him.
He didn’t- didn’t regret it, didn’t understand it either.
His dad was dead.
He didn’t want to go to jail.
Mitchell just stood there and thought about it until he knew what to do. The whole time, there was a piece of wood, a little sliver of his house, hanging in front of his face. By the time he was done, it’d moved about an inch, twisting as it fell in slow motion.
An hour later, Mitchell was at the school gym. He’d spent fifty nine minutes of that hour on the treadmill, just jogging at a slow pace. It had taken a deliberate effort to keep himself from accelerating but that would have ruined all the work he’d put into the first minute.
The school’s principle, Mr. Whitewater, and a pair of police officers came in. They explained that his father was dead. An Empowered serial killer had murdered seven men, all in their forties, with receding hairlines and glasses. Their best guess was that the killer, they were calling him Spree for now, was a combination Speed and Strong type. The men had been killed at almost exactly the same time and in the same way, their chests crushed by a single blow.
While they told Mitchell his Aunt Jan was driving in from Vegas to pick him up, he tried not to smile. They told him they needed to ask him some questions but it could wait till she got there. He wished he could have made himself cry. That would’ve been perfect but the best he could do was to hold his face in a picture of shocked confusion.
Tuesday, Mitchell woke to find that his aunt had made him breakfast. Well, she’d bought breakfast for him from a fast food place. They hadn’t gone back to her place in Las Vegas yet- the police still wanted to do an interview with him- but they weren’t going to stay at Mitchell’s house. Crime scene, bad memories or hole in the wall, take your pick. They’d spent the night at a cheap motel instead.
After a quick shower, they made small talk, just mumbling at each other really, while they ate those weird scrambled eggs that came in a square and the TV played the news in the background. After they’d finished, just before they left for the police station, the story changed. The reporter, a slim black man whose name Mitchell didn’t know, began talking about Spree.
He started by reminding people about the previous day’s victims then moved on to tell them about the women who were killed less than an hour before. Seven of them, all redheads in their twenties, had been found with their throats slit. Best guesses put the times of death at about the same time Mitchell was waking up. Aunt Jan tried to comfort him while Mitchell concealed his mouth with his hand. He’d started giggling and managed to fake sobbing well enough to fool her.
During the interview he’d barely done more than mutter vague responses to the questions they asked. It was pretty obvious that he wasn’t a suspect at this point, just one more innocent hurt by ‘Spree’s’ random acts of violence.
That brought him to his problem on Wednesday. He’d decided that Spree should branch out, start hitting other cities. Travel time shouldn’t be a problem. Mitchell had tested himself as best he could and he was damned fast. Hours of sitting still in front of a camera while in his accelerated state had yielded him less than a second of blurry footage of himself.
No, the problem was picking the city but he had a way to solve that too.
He threw a dart at the map of the Western States that his aunt had hanging on the wall of her guest room, his new bedroom. The first city that turned up was San Diego.
“Nope.” he whispered to himself. He wasn’t crazy enough to do this in the same city as the Hero. Anyone that could take on Monster was someone he didn’t want to mess with.
The second city he picked was Boise. A quick internet search showed it only had three operatives, Marsha Down, Greg Warp and Drew Stasis. A little more research and none of them seemed too impressive so Boise it was. On the jog over, Mitchell tried to decide what Spree’s victims would have in common this time.