Usually, the smell of burnt flesh did not go well with a breakfast of scrambled eggs after a fourteen hour plane trip from the dusty confines of the Sahara Desert. The Louisiana summer did not make things better. I stepped inside the police tape to assess the situation. I had a black trench coat on me, hoping to pass as a competent detective. I walked over where the forensic anthropology was busy at work, lifting the charred remains of the body from the sidewalk. The medical examiner had just finished zipping another dead man for the morgue.
I was called earlier today by Viktor when I stepped on U.S. grounds after my recruitment mission in Africa, he had asked me to investigate into the situation as much as I could and to determine if it was the doing of a 'high threat' individual. I was also to observe and be wary of the pharmaceutical corporation, Pharco, which could be seen arriving to the scene in their white SUVs with the insignia of a red cross with two snakes snaking around the shape.
"Any idea what happened to him?" I asked. I had to make it out of here as quickly as possible lest they should recognize me.
"Burnt, as you can see. There was a gun on the ground, ballistics took it to the lab. Another boy was dead some feet from him, his skin was warm, meaning there was somebody who held him before we arrived. Witnesses also said they saw a girl running away from the scene but the police have yet to find her whereabouts. Do you see these marks around this man's neck? They are finger marks, someone must have tried to choke him before setting this man on fire."
Or we have finally found our pyromaniac, I thought.
"Thanks doctor. Any I.D. on the kid?"
"Yeah, the police is currently contacting his parents." The forensic anthropology turned to face me. "Hey, aren't you a bit young to be a detective? Can I see your credentials?"
"I'm junior detective, currently working with the lieutenant on charge of this investigation." I lied.
At that moment, two scientists from Pharco stepped in.
"We have reasons to believe this crime was committed by an untouchable," the first doctor said. "We must ask you to let us see the body."
I cast a sidelong glance at these two individuals wearing identical white laboratory coats and thick rimmed glasses. They seemed to pay no attention to me, covered top to bottom and being too young to join the force. They were looking greedily at the charred remains.
"I'm sorry, I cannot allow you meddle with the investigation. I need to take it to my lab and make some investigation to determine the cause of death, then hand it over to the correspondent authorities." The forensic anthropology didn't seem to be very patient with these two.
"We'll talk to the lieutenant, thank you." With that, the two doctors were gone.
"Seriously, who do they think they are storming into the crime scene like that?" She muttered under her breath.
Murderers, that's who they are.
I watched them talked to the lieutenant, their voices raised in command. I exited the crime scene and took the train back to headquarters. Finally, after a month of searching for the pyromaniac, I was getting closer.
The headquarter was located a few miles from the National Mall in Washington D.C. It was the best location unimaginable, underground and fortified, stretching merely quarter of a mile in longitude. The father of an untouchable working under the rebellion used to be a former CIA agent and still had the agency tapped. Apparently, the US government didn't trust Pharco very much from the meetings the officers have had.
"We have to get the kid before she kills again or before Pharco catches up to her," Viktor said.
"She went under the radar for a month. I think that other boy was protecting her, something went terribly wrong today, and she acted out of instinct to defend what was taken from her and killed the man," said Rhea. "The question is, where is she headed?"
Viktor and Rhea looked at me.
"Liam, this is your recruit, act swiftly, we don't know how unstable she is," Viktor said.
I nodded. "I will bring her in by the end of the week."
My mother always told me to never make promises I could not keep. She was right most of the times, but this time, she was wrong. Katy sat merely 10 feet away from me on a park bench in Massachusetts. I was in awe at how fast she could travel, given how fragile she looked. She seemed to sleep poorly and eat rarely. Her expression seemed always on the verge of tears and the fatigue underneath her eyes made her look years older. I was able to track her down through the amtrak surveillance system.
Training with the rebellion had taught me survival tactics, self-defense, attacks, patience, and most importantly, stealth. So far, I had recruited two new untouchables. Katy would be my third if everything went well. I read her file, her aunt reported her missing, she claimed she escaped when her father was dropping her off at her house. Worst still, was that the state of Louisiana was looking for the girl who murdered the man in the alley. I prayed that the incompetent law enforcement hadn't caught up with her.
From the corner of my eyes I saw two men sitting on a bench, reading a newspaper, and casting quick glances at Katy. She was so tired she didn't noticed, but I did. I couldn't see if they had badges or guns, probably they had the latter. There was a black van nearby, possibly the feds. I had my earphones and pretended to browse for a song in my I-pod. I looked around, there were other men, equally dressed in black, that were surrounding the perimeter of the park. I inhaled. This was a tight spot. We were surrounded everywhere and I had to get her out of here. The feds weren't a problem, but Pharco would soon realized what the FBI was doing and quickly come to the scene.
I stood and jogged toward her, as I passed by her seat, I dropped my I-pod but continued jogging. She barely raised her head caused due to the sound of my I-pod crashing on the cement path. I could feel her eyes on my back, and my back burning. Did the extent of her powers included burning with her sight? It would be a first.
"Hey there!" Her voice was strained, as if shouting was the most tiring exertion her body could make. "You dropped something."
The two agents on the bench stiffened. I jogged back to her, painting an apologetic and mildly surprising face on me.
"My I-pod is broken!" I knelt to pick it up. "Hey, thanks."
She stared shyly at me and said in a soft voice. "Didn't you noticed when the music stopped playing?"
I could feel heat rising to my cheeks. Stupid me, I didn't consider that. The situation had rendered me illogical for a minute. The agents were slowly closing in.
"Sorry, I was busy with my thoughts."
She nodded, then noticed me tensed and throwing quick glances. "What is happening, are you okay?" Her voice had an edge of panic. I noticed her hands for the first time, gloved, like mine. And she noticed too. "Do joggers in Massachusetts run all covered up?"
"That's just me and my quirks," I said and reprimanded myself for not wearing appropriate gear. Finding her was so sudden.
She leaned closer to me and whispered in my ear. "You're watching them aren't you? Are they going to hurt you?"
"Not me," I whispered back. "You and your touch of fire."
She drew back and took a deep intake of breath. "How did you-"
"Please don't freak out because of what I'm about to say. I've been looking for you over a month but I can't give you any details of it-"
"What do you mean looking for me?!" She squealed. "Are you stalking me?" Her left hand found her right-hand glove.
"Wait!" I took her gloved hands. "Listen, you are safe with me."
"A total stranger?!" She squirmed in her seat, struggling to free of my hands. I sensed movement around me.
"These are federal agents and they want to take you in custody. Last I heard, they have worst methods of torture than Pharco. I can get us out of here alive, just trust me."
She looked into my eyes, like she was reading me, before she nodded slowly. "We won't leave any dead behind, right?" Her fragile self was back again.
"Not if I can help it," I said. "Ready?" She nodded. "Okay. Just pretend nothing happened, take my hand, let's get some coffee. We'll walk through the main entrance of the park, there will be a lot of people, they wouldn't dare raise an alarm. Can you stand?
She nodded and stood. We walked side by side.
"Make casual conversation. I'm Liam, what's your name?"
"Nice name. A cappuccino will definitely lift your spirits Katy." We were walking under the pergola that indicated the entrance of the park and we were immediately surrounded by a throng of people walking in.
"Liam!" Katy reached for my arm.
"Don't let go," I said.
"Out of my way! FBI!" a shout sounded from behind.
"Just walk as if nothing happened," I said.
"But they're closing in," she whispered, terrified.
I waited until we were about to cross the streets, then told her to run. We bolted through the traffic congestion. Both of us snaked through the interminable maze of cars. I led her toward the subway entrance. We ran down the steps but one agent caught up with us.
"Stop sir and leave the girl alone!" A hand reached out to grab Katy, but I spun us around and pushed her behind me. I swung my leg, which caught the agent under the chin. People screamed. I took Katy's hand and ran to the tracks. We were down on the tracks, on our way to the opposite track, going north. We waited at the interchange as the train approached, careful not to lose our step lest we should be hit by the train. When it came to full stop, we sneaked in from the back. The commotion outside hadn't settled yet. We bent low on the bench, breathing heavily because of the running.
"Is your name really Liam or was it a ruse?" Katy asked when she recovered her breath.
"It is Liam." I replied. "Now, I'll take you home."
"I don't have a home."
"You will have one with the rebellion. We literally live in an underground box that stretches horizontally for a quarter of a mile and you'll be surrounded with people like you, who share more of less equal stories of desolation. But there is hope, just wait and see."
After a silence that lasted forever, Katy said, "Okay, anywhere is better than nowhere."