Mitchell staggered with exhaustion as he collapsed face down into his bed. That… that had been a mistake. He could hear his aunt’s shower so he’d been right about the travel time, but he hadn’t realized how boring the trip would be. And he was tired! Why the hell was he so tired? He was a Strong type, powerful enough to send someone through a wall with a punch and rip the hearts out of seven people wearing t-shirts with hearts on them. He wasn’t supposed to get tired. Right?
If he’d learned anything today it was that he needed to spend more time experimenting, he still didn’t understand what he could do well enough. Tomorrow, he’d- oh crap. Tomorrow, he couldn’t spend time experimenting because he’d have to go back to Boise and do another seven or it’d stand out. Why did Spree kill twice in this city but only once in that one? Let’s investigate the hell out of it and catch him! He could practically hear an operative say it.
Disgusted with the idea, Mitchell gave a sigh and rolled over. Wait, that felt wrong. What-?
He reached back and felt around. There was a… a rip in his shirt? He pulled it off to get a better look at it. The thing was pretty much ruined at this point. Sweat stains, dust and blood he’d expected. The four inch- not a rip, more like a cut- across the back was a surprise. He held the shirt up by its top and tried to picture it. Looked like that would have been somewhere around his middle back, just below the shoulder blades.
There wasn’t any way he could have done that himself. Well, Mitchell didn’t think so anyway. He couldn’t picture the movements that would have done it. Besides, the cut- yeah, definitely a cut- was really smooth. He’d used a pair of scissors on clothes before and it never came out looking that neat. This was… this was really weird.
Mitchell shook his head and decided to think about it later. Right now, he needed to get cleaned up. He stripped off the rest of his clothes and tossed them into a trash bag he’d stuck under his new bed. Even the shoes, they were worn almost all the way through and that would definitely get noticed if he wore them again. That still left him caked in the same dust, sweat and dried blood that had messed up his shirt and jeans so bad.
He wanted a shower but Aunt Jan was still using it. The idea of waiting politely to use it floated up, followed by the image of her response to seeing his blood covered hands and forearms. Yeah… not happening. He spent the next few minutes with a washrag in front of the kitchen sink, doing his best to get rid of the dried brown stuff. When he’d gotten everything he could see, the rag went into the trash bag along with the rest of the evidence.
The shower cut off.
Mitchell accelerated, just for a moment, so he could get back to his room and into a clean set of boxers before she noticed him. He made sure to ruffle his hair and wrap a towel around his shoulders so it’d look like he’d just woken up when he came back out a moment later.
“Mornin.” he mumbled at her, keeping his face down and his eyes half open.
She stopped walking and he could hear her breathe in through her nose. “Uh… good morning Mitch. Are… are you okay? Did you sleep alright?”
He nodded. “Yeah. I mean, I’m still a little weirded out by everything, but…” She was making a face, wrinkling her nose like… Oh. He stank. “Sorry… I, uh, I had a few nightmares and…”
Jan looked away and he could practically see the shame on her face. Good, that should do it.
“Oh, I’ll… I’ll let you get your shower then.”
Face still down, faking the signs of discomfort and morning grogginess, Mitchell headed for the bathroom. On the way, he tripped on something. Luckily, his face hit something soft instead of Aunt Jan’s hardwood floor but there were a bunch of pains all over his body, like a bunch of paper cuts. He couldn’t seem to move right and there was a sweet smell and Jan was screaming and tired and…
Mitchell couldn’t keep his eyes open any more.
OhGodohGodohGod it was Spree he’d come back for Mitch it was Spree ohGodohGod-
“Ma’am, please calm down. You’re safe. I’m not here to hurt you. He’s still alive. The police are on their way. ”
She stared at the man in the corner, the one who hadn’t been there until he’d just- just appeared. There’d been some kind of weird… flicker… around Mitch and then he’d fallen down and there was blood all over him and thin grey ropes around his wrists and ankles and neck and something on the ground between the floor and his face and-
Jan started coughing and her eyes and nose burned and she smelled something really bitter. When she finally finished, she felt better. Not calm, there was still an Empowered serial killer in the room with her and her nephew, but she felt like she could think now.
He was young, maybe a few years older than Mitch. It seemed so weird to think about it like that but he looked like someone who should be old. He was standing completely still, despite the oversized backpack he was wearing that looked like it was completely stuffed. Not to mention all the pouches attached to his heavy white shirt, carefully placed so the pack’s straps wouldn’t catch on them, and the bulging pockets on his black pants. The man stood there and it wasn’t the length of rope around his waist, the same thin grey type that bound Mitch, or the gun on one hip or the knife on the other that she noticed.
It was his eyes. They just looked so tired, like he’d seen too much and done too much but he wasn’t going to stop. Vegas was a party city. People went there to cut loose and get away from the stress of their ordinary lives. Jan worked in real estate but she’d met more than a few tourists and his eyes, they looked like… like that one vet, the one who’d spent too long on border patrol and had had to…
She saw the symbol on his chest, stylized white tower in a black circle. That face, it was a killer’s face, the face of a man who’d taken lives when he’d felt it necessary, but not a madman’s face. She looked down at her nephew. The cuts, they were on the back of his arms and at the tendon at the back of ankle, she saw more here and there but… but they were all muscle. None of them were bleeding much. She didn’t think they were fatal, just disabling.
Mitch wasn’t dead and the young man with ancient eyes probably could have killed him. She wasn’t dead and she was certain he could have killed her. Jan thought about the little inconsistencies. How her nephew had been scared or sad, but only when he knew she was watching him. How he hadn’t been at all surprised when Spree struck a second time or…
Jan looked back up at the stranger, the operative, and spoke. “It was him, wasn’t it. My nephew, he’s Spree.”
He nodded. “Yes ma’am. My name is Drew Stasis. Fifteen minutes ago, he killed seven people in Boise, Idaho. I was lucky enough to encounter him after the second, but I underestimated his durability. I’m sorry I had to do this in front of you.”
She looked down at her nephew again. “He’s not- not bad. Could it- can a power make someone do something like this?”
Drew nodded. She’d caught glimpses of… of something, in between his sentences. Like he was flickering in and out? Maybe, it was almost like those old stop motion films, but not quite.
“It can happen. If we can, if it’s safe, we’ll check and I promise you that if it was the fault of his Empowerment, your nephew won’t suffer for it.”
She didn’t say anything for a time. There were sirens in the distance, barely audible but getting closer. “You don’t think that’s it, do you.” It wasn’t a question.
“It’s possible but not likely. I’m sorry ma’am, but I think he was only recently Empowered and let it go to his head. I’m afraid it’s not uncommon. When someone has felt helpless or trapped for long enough, maybe even just frustrated, it’s far from rare to see them lash out as soon as they come into a bit of power. Especially if it’s something that lets them feel safe from consequences.”
Jan didn’t say anything after that, just waited and listened as the sirens got closer.