Click here to read Part 1 – Boy Meets Girl, Girl Meets Fridge
DeShawn Wallace had been a detective with the Los Urbanos PD for 12 years and during that time he’d worked with quite a few of the capes. Some of them were good people, some of them were assholes, just like everybody else.
None of them he liked better than Captain Obvious. Obvious had a well-deserved reputation of being everyone’s favorite superhero to have a beer with. He was a chill guy, laid back and cool and funny, treated the fans good, quick with a selfie or a visit to a dying child. The authorities appreciated him since he followed the letter of the law like he was supposed to. And Detective Wallace, who had had a few beers along the way with the guy himself, even went so far as to consider the Captain a friend. And cops didn’t often befriend supes, so.
He took care to keep the crime scene locked down real tight cause of the secret identity factor. Only sent up a few cops he trusted and told em not to get nosy and to forget the address when they were done, thinking to disrupt the Captain’s life as little as possible. But once he got a look at the inside of the apartment he knew the guy would be moving houses anyway, nobody could’ve got a good night’s sleep in that place again seeing all that even if it hadn’tve been someone he knew.
When Detective Wallace entered the apartment Captain Obvious was sitting at a table with his dark eyes molten and furious, flicking around like he was watching something pass by in the air around him. His jaw muscles spasmed as if he was grinding his molars to dust. He sat up suddenly and wrote something down on a notepad and when Wallace got close enough he could see it was a list of names. “Cap,” he prompted and the guy looked up, blowing air out of his nostrils like a mad bull and his mouth was all crunched up in the front. “You ready to talk?”
Captain Obvious sat back sprawling with his knees jutted up like he was a gangly teenage boy, all full of attitude like the kind of punk-ass kids Wallace got in the interrogation room at times. There was something so incongruous about seeing a superhero sitting like that, especially a by-the-booker like Captain Obvious, Wallace found it mighty concerning.
Obvious was wearing his full-on costume, even the cape, and Wallace wondered if the supes just lounged around around dressed like that, or if he’d felt like he had to go put it since a crime had been committed. He nodded just once and breathed a puff of air out of his lungs like he was clearing his throat, then he ground his teeth some more. The detective slid into the seat across the table. As he did, Cap must have thought of another name, and wrote it down on the list he was making.
“Who’s the girl?” Wallace asked, even though he felt like he ought to offer condolences or something for the guy’s loss before getting down to business. Then again, for all Wallace knew, the Captain was the perp. He doubted it, but always tried to keep it in mind, the heroes could be just as guilty as anyone.
He swallowed a couple times before he spoke. “Zoe Rose.” And then he rocked in the seat a couple times like he was trying to keep his emotions under control.
“The girl on TV? Damn.” Wallace felt mildly annoyed to hear it – Obvious and Zoe goddamn Rose. The capes could have anyone they wanted it seemed like; it didn’t seem quite fair to the regular schmoes like himself. Then he wondered if it was an inappropriate thing to say, all things considered. Probably. He ran a hand over his shaved head and smothered a wince. He’d been on the job so long he sometimes forgot the niceties.
If it was inappropriate, Cap was too far gone to notice. He pulled at his ear absentmindedly and nodded. “Damn indeed.” Then he thought of another name and wrote it down.
“What happened to your wall, there?” There was a huge scorch mark across the painted brick of the living room wall. Wallace recognized it as the result of Cap’s eye beams and wondered if it might have happened when he was fighting with the girl. Although that wouldn’t have been much of a fight; super speed, super strength, impenetrable skin, and flamethrower eyeballs versus the ability to banter charmingly with one’s fellow co-anchors.
“I was upset, when I…when I. I lost control.”
When he found her, Wallace filled in the blanks. Obvious had got so upset his eyeballs went off. “Jesus, bud, I didn’t even know that could happen.” Sometimes Wallace wondered how safe it was keeping these freaks around who could accidentally kill hundreds of people if they sneezed.
“It hasn’t, not for a long time.” His brow furrowed and he wrote down another name. His fingers were stained with spots of black ink.
“What you writing there?”
“Possibilities.” Wallace could see a flush of color rise in the Captain’s cheeks. His eyes glinted with anticipation and he swallowed. Not the guy, Wallace was suddenly sure. Captain Obvious was not the guy.
Which meant, of course, that he was gonna go after the guy at the first available opportunity. And that created a whole ‘nother set of problems for DeShawn Wallace. “You’re not thinking about anything stupid, now, are you, Cap?”
“Stupid?” He licked his lips and wrote down another name.
“Stupid, like, maybe round some folks up and forget to bring them in for a trial by a jury of their peers?” It happened sometimes, one of the capes got fed up with the system or pissed off at the world and decided to go full vigilante. Detective Wallace did not want to have to bring in Captain Obvious, not only because he was one of the stronger capes and he’d undoubtedly put up a hell of a fight, but also because he flat out liked the guy.
Captain Obvious smiled, a big wide toothy smile that gave Wallace the creeps, and he had seen more than his fair share of creepy people over the years, just sayin. It was like watching a crocodile smile, or a wolf – the hungry smile of a predator. He shook a finger at Wallace a few times as if he’d told a really funny joke. Cap looked away and stared out into space for several seconds. But that smile, it never faded. If anything it got wider.
Then Wallace felt a gust of wind and his ears detected a faint ripping sound.
He was alone at the table.
The noise he heard, he realized, was the sound of a piece of notebook paper being torn loose. Obvious had written up his kill list and took it with him wherever it was he was going.
Well, that ain’t good, Wallace thought, as he took out his phone and made a call. “Yeah. DeShawn Wallace, LUPD? I think we got a rogue on our hands,” he said. The person on the other end of the line said something and Wallace replied, “Captain Obvious, believe it or not.” Then the person said something else and he said “Girlfriend in the ‘frigerator,” and hung up.
He didn’t need to explain any more than that. About the oldest story in the book, for superheroes.
The weirdest part of being dead, Zoe decided, was how aware of everything she was. She hadn’t been quite dead when she’d been shoved into the fridge, but at some point she died, she knew she died because she felt her heart stop and thought welp, I’m dead now. But her awareness never faded. She just kept on knowing things and thinking things even though she was broken in two and sliced to ribbons.
When Sanjay had found her he screamed and cried and threw up on the floor and she ached because he was in such anguish. She longed for him, longed to comfort and be comforted by him; even though she wasn’t feeling physical pain any more her non-beating heart still felt emotional pain as acutely as it ever had. She couldn’t believe how unfair it was that right when they found each other they were getting ripped apart forever but at least she was dead and didn’t have to deal with life and its cruel and unusual bullshit any more. Sanjay wasn’t so lucky.
Zoe wanted to reassure him that she was ok now, not to worry, she didn’t hurt anymore but her voice wouldn’t work. She thought about how she had been so scared she couldn’t scream and she felt like such a moron, because maybe someone could have saved her if only she had screamed. Maybe Sanjay would have heard her if only she had screamed, even though he didn’t have super hearing.
But she didn’t. She didn’t even scream.
After a while some people came and took her body out of the fridge and unfolded her and put her in a black plastic bag and zipped it. She went in a car and it occurred to her they were taking her to the coroner’s office and they’d probably be cutting her up to look inside her. Now that she knew people stayed aware after their deaths, autopsies seemed incredibly cruel. Even if it didn’t hurt at all, since nothing seemed to hurt her any more, getting cut up into pieces by uncaring scientists sounded intolerably awful. Then she started to worry that once they started chopping her into pieces this strange lingering sentience she seemed to possess would evaporate and she really would cease to exist forever.
People’s hands were on her again, lifting her, moving her. She felt herself being pushed into a building, down an elevator, into a chilly room. The cool air seeped through from the outside of the bag and felt delightful. That had been one nice thing about being in the fridge, at least it was cool in there. It was way too hot inside the body bag. Muggy and stifling.
The motion stopped and she knew she had arrived. She was in the morgue. They were going to chop her up now, probably cut her into pieces and take parts of her out like her brain and heart. Dread swallowed her, followed by outrage.
How could a person get sliced up two times in one day? It was so unfair!
She tried to scream, even though it was a lost cause since she was dead; she tried to scream and scream and scream but nothing happened just like nothing had happened before, and then the bag was unzipped and some hands flopped her over onto a metal table. What kind of an idiot couldn’t even scream?
She couldn’t see anything but she could hear, and she heard an old man’s voice say, “Gosh Milo, isn’t it cold in here?” It was, it was cold, frigid, even, but the colder it got, the better Zoe seemed to feel. The blissful refreshing coldness of the morgue made her feel almost like she was still alive, but of course that was ridiculous because her heart had stopped. “I’m gonna get my sweater. Can you begin?”
There were footsteps and rustling and clanking metal and running water and Zoe knew that they were about to start doing the autopsy. To take her mind off her rising panic, Zoe considered the nature of screaming. She thought maybe she hadn’t been able to scream earlier that day because she was holding her breath out of fear, so when it came time to scream she had no air. And now, she couldn’t scream because she was dead, but then again she was thinking, and she was dead.
Didn’t that mean she was able to do some things she had done when she was alive? She wondered what might happen if she tried to take a breath, if she took that nice icy wonderful air down deep into her lungs, so she did and much to her surprise she actually felt her chest rise with the effort. “Ho-lee hell,” said the younger man standing over her. She took another breath and he continued in a quavering voice. “Dr. Bonaventure? I think we got a live…”
Zoe screamed finally and the sound that came from her throat was so high pitched she could barely hear it, but Dr. Bonaventure and Milo grabbed their ears and writhed like they couldn’t stand the sound. That was how she realized her eyes were open, too, because she could see them doing it. Zoe sat up suddenly and kept screaming long past the point she should have run out of air. She kept screaming till Dr. Bonaventure struggled his way over to her and patted her on the arm gently. He had his head tilted against his shoulder trying to plug his ear with it, and he patted her soothingly with his free hand. He had a kindly face and gray hair and black-rimmed eyeglasses balanced precariously way down on the tip of his nose. He was wearing a ratty-looking Mr. Rogers cardigan sweater over his lab coat. He looked huggable, like somebody’s grandpa or something. He looked so sweet and dear and trustworthy that she stopped screaming and him and Milo, who was a plump nerdish guy with dark brown skin and a round Afro and a bow tie, unplugged their ears. “Am I a ghost?” she said once she caught her breath.
Dr. Bonaventure considered it and then shook his head. His assistant Milo stared at her with wide eyes through clear plastic safety glasses and she realized that if anything, he looked even kindlier than Dr. Bonaventure. Though it was hard to imagine someone looking more kindly than Dr. Bonaventure. She realized she was in good hands, whatever she was. “Are you…are you sure she’s not a ghost, Dr. Bonaventure?” Milo asked in a worried tone. “Or maybe a zombie?” he continued.
“Quite, Milo my boy, because ghosts aren’t real. And neither are zombies.”
“But I have to be a ghost though, or something, because I’m dead!” Zoe protested.
“Why are you so convinced you’re dead, Dear?”
“Because my heart stopped beating, and I died.”
Dr. Bonaventure looked her up and down and she suddenly realized she was naked. Before she could get too shocked about that, she realized that her wounds had healed up considerably from what they had been, and surely healing wasn’t something that dead bodies did. “Can you get us a blanket, Milo?” the doctor said. “Or two?” Milo hurried to obey, going into another room attached to the morgue by a swinging Plexiglass door that kathunked noisily as he went through it. “Your heart may have stopped beating, but I don’t think you did die. I think, Miss Rose, that you’re still alive. Your heart stopped because it ran out of blood to pump, but you’re still very much in the land of the living.”
“How? How is that possible?”
Milo, who was now wearing a parka for some reason which made no sense since Zoe thought it was the perfect temperature in the morgue even though she could see everyone’s breath except for her own, held out a blanket to her. Dr. Bonaventure took the other blanket and wrapped himself up in it. Zoe used the blanket to cover herself for modesty’s sake, but she wasn’t cold at all. If anything she was kind of too hot with the blanket on. Snow started falling and while in a corner of her mind she knew that wasn’t supposed to happen, for some reason snow felt like her best friend in the whole wide world and she was glad to see it. Dr. Bonaventure stared upwards at the snow falling out of thin air. “Miss Rose, does it often snow indoors, in your experience?”
“No, I suppose not,” Zoe admitted.
“Nor does a human being survive the kind of trauma you have just survived, not often. But occasionally, someone does. And do you know what we call those people? The people who can make it snow indoors and survive losing all the blood in their bodies?”
A superhuman. “But I’m, I’m not though?”
“Well, perhaps you weren’t, but I think you are now.”
“If you would be so kind as to make it stop snowing in here, I’ll try to explain.” And even though Zoe was not at all convinced she was the one making it snow, she concentrated and it stopped. The temperature rose several degrees and it felt to Zoe like going into a sauna after having been out in the snow. Dr. Bonaventure looked at her with an approving expression. “As I’m sure you’re already aware, a clever woman like yourself, 30% of all human beings have the genetic capability to become superheroes…”
“Or villains,” Zoe said emphatically.
“Or villains,” the doctor agreed. “…but only a very few ever do. That’s because the genes need some sort of catalyst to trigger a change. Have you by chance been exposed to any superhuman DNA recently? Bodily fluids, a blood transfusion, perhaps?”
“Well, yes,” she agreed, thinking of Sanjay and all the times they’d been together over the past several weeks. There were other things that she didn’t want to think about, that she would have preferred not to think about ever again, and she pushed those things away. Stubbornly they refused to go, kept coming back again and again. Her stomach roiled and tears peppered her eyes, but her intense journalist’s curiosity kept her from breaking down. Breaking down would be something that simply had to wait for another time, because for now she needed to get the story. She shoved the memories away with all her might, and this time, thankfully, they stayed gone. “…but Dr. Bonaventure, you can’t be saying that becoming a superhero is like catching an STD, can you?”
“No, no. No no no. Not at all. If it was, we’d be swimming in superheroes by now. The superhumans, they tend to be…well.” Dr. Bonaventure seemed to realize he was going off a tangent and cleared his throat. “No. Exposure to hero DNA helps prime a human body to make the change, it’s like seeding a cloud, you might say, or perhaps giving your body a recipe to follow. But it takes something else to trigger the metamorphosis. Hmm. It occurs to me, Miss Rose, that if you’ve been around superheroes…”
“Or villains,” she prompted.
“Or villains, you’ve been around superhero stuff. Radioactive waste, toxic chemicals, ion storms, electromagnetism, that kind of thing. Think back, does anything jump out at you?”
Zoe wracked her brain trying to think of anything. Inside Sanjay’s fridge, she recalled, he had all sorts of chemicals stored that he used for catching bad guys in one way or another. There was a whole shelf in his fridge set aside for chemicals, like other people had ketchup and mustard and salad dressing. He had warned her to stay away from them the first time she’d stayed over, and she always had, but when she’d been violently stuffed into the fridge a lot of stuff had clinked around and fallen over, and she thought it very likely that some of it had spilled on her. And plus, fridges were pretty gross anyway, for all she knew Sanjay had left some rancid disgusting Tupperware in there or one of those million-year-old boxes of baking soda meant to absorb odors. “Maybe,” she admitted, but then she recalled that Sanjay was out there somewhere thinking she was dead. She tried to jump to her feet, but her knees buckled. Dr. Bonaventure steadied her.
“Not so fast. You need blood, and lots of it.” He looked her over again. “And we’ll need to stitch up the rest of these wounds as well. It’s apparent your ability to heal has been dramatically accelerated, but it will work even faster if we assist your innate abilities.”
“Can I use a phone while you do?” she asked, and Milo handed over his. She dialed Sanjay’s number and it just rang and rang. Then she called his other phone number and was dismayed when it went to voicemail.
He had changed his voicemail message. “You’ve reached the phone of Captain Obvious!” he said in a voice full of smarm and fake cheer that was utterly unlike him. “I can’t come to the phone right now because I’m committing suicide by cop. Please leave your message, and maybe somebody will find it eventually. Peace out.”
She left a message anyway explaining that she was possibly alive still somehow and texted both phones too, but she had the sinking feeling he had probably left them behind someplace and wouldn’t ever get her messages. She had to find him before he did anything irredeemably bad since he’d have to go to Hellgate Island if he did, which was where they put the crazy superhumans.
Dr. Bonaventure started an IV in her arm to give her some blood and Zoe didn’t feel it. Well, she felt it, but it didn’t feel painful, just informative. The needle digging into her arm sent information to her brain, but it wasn’t unpleasant. It just, was. She explained this and Dr. Bonaventure poked and prodded at her with his medical instruments. They discovered she no longer felt pain, which seemed like a very handy ability to have especially given her recent very up close and personal experience with it.
They stitched her up without any anesthetic which she was glad of since it hurried the process along considerably. The more blood they put into her, the faster she healed, and by the time Dr. B put the last stitch into her, into a deep gash above her left eye which was ugly but not life-threatening, the first stitches in her abdomen where she’d been gutted were almost completely healed and so he and Milo pulled the stitches right back out again. By the end of it all she didn’t have a scratch on her at least on the outside.
Somewhere along the way her heart shuddered and flopped and then started beating again. She was alive, she was actually alive, after all. She finally started letting herself believe it even though it was like so totally unbelievable.
While he sewed her up, Dr Bonaventure explained that when it came to developing powers, particularly when the change occurred in a life-threatening situation as hers had, the body often seized on what abilities it thought it needed to survive. So in her case, she needed to heal quickly, she needed to be able to survive in the cold of the refrigerator, and she needed to be able to call for help. So that’s what her body had given her – healing powers, cold powers, and the screaming. The ability to withstand pain appeared to be a kind of a perk.
They were good powers, if all rather defensive. She wished she had something more in-your-face. She wanted firepower. She longed for the ability to charbroil stuff with her eyeballs like Sanjay did; if she did she’d hunt down that brick wall guy and fry a hole right through him. What could she do now, throw snowballs? Yell really loud?
They found her a set of surgical scrubs to wear and Milo let her borrow his car which was nice of him since she was a total stranger and he seemed kind of scared of her. But it had all taken so long, so long, and Sanjay was out there doing God only knew what. She desperately wished she knew where to start searching.
As she got into Milo’s car and adjusted the seat so she could reach the pedals, she looked down at her hands and realized her body had done something else for her, something neither she nor Dr. Bonaventure had noticed in the harsh light of the morgue. Her fingernails sparkled, refracting the light of the full moon into glinting rainbows. She turned on the overhead for a closer look and when she held them to the light, little specks of color bounced off of them and lit up the interior of the car like a disco ball.
Milo had discarded an empty glass bottle on the floor of his car and she picked it up. With her index finger she drew a circle on the bottle and popped out a round of glass easily, with a merry little ‘clink’.
Diamond fingernails. I mean, they were really more like claws if you thought about it. Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, a voice in the back of her mind whispered. And claws are probably an even better friend than diamonds, all things considered.
Her body had meant for her to fight after all.