“We’ll deal,” I said. “The Heroes League fought a legion of immortal soldiers last spring. This can’t be worse.”
“I don’t know,” Rod said. “This is D.C. Every superpowered nutcase in the world gets it his head to kidnap the president, or take over the country’s nukes at least once.”
“Seriously,” Sam said, “only the worst of it makes it into the papers. You’ve no idea how much I missed at Duke.”
“Double V doesn’t miss much though,” Rod said. “Follow their boards. You’ll see how crazy it gets.”
“You’re not saying we should go hide somewhere till it’s over, are you?” Because if he was, I’d walk.
“No, just that it’s good to know your place. When I’m in troll form, I’m tough, but against a Class A threat, I’m just going to die.”
The sirens stopped, but the voice on the radio continued to give instructions.
Outside, people were disappearing from the sidewalks, but the cars seemed to get a little slower, and closer together. I thought for a second it might be my imagination, but Sam said, “Did you notice that no one’s turning off on side streets?”
“Yeah,” Rod said, “given what they said about light, that’s probably a good idea.”
“Except that we’re all going slower now,” Sam said. “Remember the Helldogs?”
I’d never heard of them. “Did they chase cars?”
“And caught them,” Rod said, “and ate the people inside.”
Almost interrupting himself, he said, “Hey, look ahead.”
Several intersections in D.C. were circular parks surrounded by roundabouts. On K Street, the outer two lanes went around the park. The middle two lanes took a tunnel underneath.
With most of the traffic, Rod moved into the outer lanes.
“You’re going the slow way,” Sam said.
“She’s going to want to look at this,” Rod said. “Cassie, look at the park.”
He didn’t need to say anything. I’d already seen it.
Lights illuminated statues of the League’s World War 2 unit—the Rocket, Multitude, Red Lightning, C (then Hotfoot), Night Wolf, a few others who died or never became heroes after the war, and Dad.
I knew about the memorial. They finished it just after Dad died. We could have attended its dedication, but Mom didn’t want to, fearing the stress might trigger whatever Dr. Mind had put into my DNA. And maybe her own grief felt too raw to consider attending.
I’d wanted to go. I think that may have been the first time we’d had a big fight—the first time we’d fought that I’d intentionally said something that made her cry.
I’m not proud of it.
Along with that, I remembered the midnight call, and Mom telling me he was, “Dead, Cassie. He can’t come back from this.”
His last words to me hadn’t been anything special (“I’ll be back on Friday.”), but in remembering them, I felt like crying.
I didn’t, but maybe I made a noise.
Sam twisted around. “Are you okay?”
Everything would have been so much better if he’d lived.
* * *
We didn’t talk much for the next few minutes, and that was okay because I needed a few.
Instructions came over the radio, but they were the same as before. We ignored them. In the time we’d been driving, the sky had turned from “shortly after sunset” to “nearly night.” I could still see a hint of light in the west, but not much.
Less than a mile from the building, we got on the highway. We could have stayed on the street that ran below the highway, but Rod had decided we’d get there faster even if we did double back when we reached the exit.
After crossing a section where the highway crossed at least three different roads, turning into a mess of entrances and exits that made me glad I wasn’t driving, the traffic slowed to 25 miles per hour.
“We should have stayed on K Street,” Sam said.
“The freeway’s usually faster,” Rod said, coming to a complete stop. “Who’d believe we’d have a traffic jam here on a Thursday night?”
We sat there, burning, white headlights behind us, and red, rear lights ahead of us. On either side of the freeway stood the third and fourth stories of office buildings.
Most of the windows were dark.
Ahead and to the left, a few tree branches rose higher than the freeway. Past them, a few gleaming, modern buildings rose above the Potomac River.
Outside, a scream rose, and then stopped, cut off midway.
“We need to find out what happened,” Sam said, opening the car door.
“That’s not a great idea,”Rod began, but I didn’t hear the rest. I was pushing her seat forward, and following her out the door.