* * *
Arriving at Madison Park, Massey told Joaquin to stay put in the car along with Andy. He made haste and Joaquin saw him slip underneath the yellow line of police tape. Then he was gone, absorbed by the crowd of bystanders and journalists. Doom merchants, Joaquin thought watching the journalists photograph the scene from every angle. For convenience, Joaquin was sitting in the backseat, and no one was going to bat an eye at him just now. He had to convince himself he was just playing a part, and people who would look at the police car would see just another thug. He had to know better than that. He wasn’t that person anymore.
Andy whistled low from the front passenger seat, and the harmonious sound broke Joaquin from his bubbling thoughts. “There certainly is a lot of attention on this one,” Andy declared. “Crazy shit huh? That Doctor Globe guy makes a speech warning us how dangerous you supers are, and whaddayaknow, soon enough, BAM,” Andy clapped his hands suddenly, and it made Joaquin wince, “there’s a fatal massacre and a super is blamed for it. What’re the fucking odds?” Andy raised his eyebrows and nodded conspiratorially toward Joaquin.
Joaquin bit his tongue and pretended not to hear Andy’s question.
“I tell you what, Joaquin, I’m gonna pop out of this here paddy wagon and see what the fuss is all about. You stay here and guard the car yeah?”
Joaquin wished he could reach from the back seat and grab Andy by the neck. There was something messed up with the guy and the way he talked about supers. As if he knew anything about the powers and what they meant to people like Joaquin. The constant need to prove ones self-righteous and that those powers weren’t wasted on a petty thug from the Seattle projects. Joaquin knew that he was so much more than that punk kid who stabbed a man on a rainy night to get a few bucks from his wallet. He would be better than the bumbling idiot who left destruction in his wake. Destruction so obvious, that an old-ass police detective tracked him down and turned him into some sort of sidekick. I ain’t nobody’s sidekick, Joaquin thought and realized that Andy was staring at him, waiting for a response.
“Whatchu so excited ’bout?” Joaquin sputtered, “You heard them kids got killed, right? Plus, Massey said ‘you stay put.’”
Andy smiled and met Joaquin’s eyes. “I didn’t know your moral compass pointed that way, Joaquin. I’m thrilled to know that it does.” He crossed his arms over his scrawny chest and nodded. “And you needn’t worry about me ’cause I have this.” Andy reached into his inner jacket pocket and flashed Joaquin a press card with his name and picture on it.
“Man, that shit’s so fake!” Joaquin exclaimed.
Andy grinned from the front of the cruiser. He turned to sit in the seat properly, and after he had adjusted the rearview mirror, he regarded Joaquin’s reflection. “Yeah, but they don’t know that.” He gave Joaquin a small salute, a gaping smile, opened the door, and stepped out.
Joaquin didn’t protest not being allowed to go with them. He watched Andy lazily jog toward the officers trying to corral the spectators and show them his counterfeit credentials. Like Massey before him, Andy disappeared beyond the crowd of gawkers. Joaquin kicked the passenger seat and slumped down in the back of the police cruiser. This was far from the first time that he had been in the back of a police car, but today’s situation was radically different from anything he’d ever experienced.
Unlike his life before gaining superpowers, Joaquin wasn’t used to being helpless. Yeah, sure, he didn’t always have the best of plans, but when the shots were fired, he was ready for action. But, back then, the situation had always been clear and the desired outcome was always predictable. You shoot you score; you get shot at, you either dodge it or take it and bleed out on the street. Well, he thought, I don’t bleed out. But still, the code of the street was alive and well, battling the ideas he learned from Peter during his stay in the Canadian wilderness.
After staying in the cabin with Peter and after Major Globe’s little assault in the forest everything had changed. Not only for Peter and Kristof but anyone they came into contact with. Even that stupid hillbilly and his ridiculous cigarette smuggling ring couldn’t escape the long arm of Major Globe.
The game they all seemed to be forced to play was no longer predictable; at least not for Joaquin. There was no longer a need to steal cars, to rob shops, or to even point a gun. Joaquin was smart enough to realize that he was a weapon all by himself. But what had being a weapon gotten the father and son duo? Disappeared, was the answer that echoed in Joaquin’s mind.
So maybe Globe was right, and he had seen it before anyone else. People were turning crazy by the hour and maybe shooting someone cold dead on the street wasn’t enough for some of them. People had these powers, and they were sure to abuse them. People were going to use any leverage that they had over others even if it meant starting a fucking civil war. It only just clicked with Joaquin that he was now a part of this minority that people were going to notice, to fear, to hate, to seek to destroy, because they were bad blood. Throwbacks to a bygone era. They were the real murderers because they possessed some kind of superiority that they were bound to use against the common folk.
Maybe it was time to step into the light and do some proper shit for once: help turn the tables, help keep bad supers off of the street and out of reach of hurting someone. Sure it wouldn’t be easy, but none of them had the temper Joaquin had, and none of them had tough skin. Maybe the idea that kicked his brain earlier was good enough to make real. Maybe it was time for a real vigilante to fight against these monsters.