“But,” Haley continued, looking up at the man, “my guess would be that they may have threatened his family, but he doesn’t think they’d really go after them. They mostly threatened him.”
His eyes zeroed in on her. “That’s not true.” At the same time, Haley and Travis both said, “He’s lying.”
Then they both laughed. It didn’t seem that funny. I wondered how much of it was a family thing.
The man grimaced, and looked toward the front door. I didn’t think he could possibly have a realistic escape plan, but I tensed anyway.
Vaughn must have noticed something either on the man’s part or mine. “Hey man, what should we call you? If you don’t have a name that you like, I’m going with Tigershorts seeing as how they’re at eye level.”
“Call me whatever. It doesn’t matter.” The man muttered.
“He’s lying,” Haley said to us. Looking up at him, she said, “If you don’t like it, you could tell us a codename you do like, or even your real name.”
Tigershorts didn’t say anything.
“Come on, guy” Travis began, flexing his right forearm. “It’s not as if we have to ask. The Mystic may not be here, but we can get him with one phone call, and if he’s busy, we can get Mindstryke. Got that? All you get out of keeping silent is a telepath rooting around in your head. Now, if you do talk, well, we’ll know if you lie, but as long as you answer the questions truthfully, we won’t get much more.
“In your position, I’d talk. It’s better than giving someone a free look at all your memories. In fact, I might ask him to give you some kind of compulsion. Like maybe you email us every time something interesting comes up.”
That got his attention. His eyes widened and he stared at Travis. “You can’t do that. That’s against the law. They passed laws against all that shit after the Dominators got that senator.”
Travis nodded. “You got me there, but here’s something to think about. You never hear of heroes being prosecuted for it do you? It might be that they don’t, but it might be that no one cares when we do it. But… let’s bring this back to you. You’ve got a choice. You can find out first hand whether or not heroes get prosecuted for telepathic coercion, or you can answer our damn questions truthfully.”
Tigershorts lowered his head and took a breath. “Ask your questions.”
“Great,” Haley gave a quick smile. “We already know they contact you. How do they do it?”
Tigershorts scowled. “They put an envelope under one of the plants on my balcony. I’ve never seen it.”
“Balcony?” Camille asked. “How high are you?”
“Fourth-floor apartment.” Tigershorts didn’t even look at her as he replied.
“That wouldn’t be hard for Accelerando,” Travis said. “Gotta be their speedster.”
“Unless the speedster gets his speed from manipulating time or distance, ” I pointed out. “It’s still possible, but the height might be more of an issue then.”
Travis shrugged. “Could be. So what were you doing out in your mask?”
Tigershorts’ face tightened. “I was out for a run until that asshole,” he pointed at Kid Biohack, “showed up. I wasn’t doing anything illegal.”
Travis glanced over at Haley. She gave a quick nod.
He shook his head, apparently not able to believe it. “Then what were you doing in the mask?”
“I keep it in my fanny pack in case stuff like this comes up!” He finished louder than he’d started, probably because Vaughn started laughing when he’d said the words “fanny pack.”
I hadn’t noticed it earlier, but he did have a fanny pack. I’d never been completely sure what was wrong with them. If you thought about it, they were simply a temporary pocket, but somehow they’d become something people thought was funny.
Maybe it was because of the word “fanny?”
Ignoring Vaughn, Travis stood up, looking directly at Tigershorts’ face, “What’s your next assignment?”
Tigershorts sighed. “I don’t have one. I’ll probably never get one again thanks to you. You caught me. Even if they don’t think I gave you anything, they’ll never trust me again because instead of catching me quietly, you made it a big, fucking deal!”
He stared at Kid Biohack during the last sentence.
Maybe if it had been one of us, I might have argued with him, but there was no denying it, Tigershorts was right. Kid Biohack had broadcast the chase, and out of the hundred plus people watching the final capture, one of them must have uploaded it to the internet by now.
If we’d known a little more and had time to think it through, the smart play would have been to let him run somewhere unpopulated, and then take him down.
Haley broke the silence. “Do you have any clues to where they are?”
Tigershorts shook his head. “I never make my deliveries to the same place. I’ve never gotten to talk to them. Sometimes I bring them to a park, and other times a parking lot or an abandoned building. They stay away from people.”
Travis tapped on his comm. “Tell me exactly where you delivered each package that you can remember.”
As Tigershorts began listing them, sometimes stopping to talk through where he’d been (“It was on 47th street. I’m not sure which building, but it had a statue and a fountain…”), I got an alert on my comm from Kayla. I answered.
“The police called. They wanted to remind us that holding someone against their will is kidnapping and that if we have any reason to hold him, there’s a metahuman cell open. They also told me to let you know that they can’t hold him very long without evidence.”
“Uh… That’s okay,” I said. “Tell them it’s a mistake. Kid Biohack caught the wrong guy.”
Haley turned toward me. “Nice.”
It wasn’t a sure thing, but it was worth a shot.