A cough of a laugh, an amazed exhale.
But even if it had been louder, no one would have heard it, not over the sirens.
The two squad cars screeched to a stop in front of him, and Victor hardly had time to process their arrival before he was thrown to the concrete, cuffed, and a black hood thrust over his head. He felt himself being shoved into the backseat of the cop car.
The hood was an interesting touch, but Victor supremely disliked the sensation of being blindfolded. The car would turn, and his weight would shift, and without any visual cues or physical discomfort to orient himself, he’d nearly topple over. They seemed to be taking the turns purposefully fast.
Victor realized that he could react. Fight back without having to touch them. Without even having to see them. But he restrained himself.
It seemed unnecessarily dangerous to hurt the cops while they were driving. Just because he could turn his own pain off didn’t mean he wouldn’t die if they wrecked the vehicle, so he focused his attention on staying calm. Which was, again, too easy, given all that had happened. The calm troubled him; the fact that the physical absence of pain could elicit such a mental absence of panic was at once unnerving and rather fascinating. If he weren’t currently in the back of a cop car, he would have wanted to make a thesis note.
The car turned hard, slamming him against the door, and Victor swore, not out of pain so much as habit. The cuffs dug into his wrists and when he felt something warm and wet run down his fingers, he decided to lower his threshold. Feeling nothing could lead to injury, and he wasn’t Eli. He couldn’t heal. He tried to feel. Just a little and—
Victor gasped and tipped his head against the seat. Hot pain tore through his wrists where the metal dug in, and magnified, his threshold plummeting. He clenched his jaw and tried to find balance. Tried to find normal. Sensation was nuanced. Not on and off, but an entire spectrum, a dial with hundreds of notches, not a switch. He closed his eyes despite the darkness of the hood, and found a place between numb and normal. His wrists ached dully, something closer to stiffness than sharp pain.
This was going to take some getting used to.
Finally the car stopped, the door opened, and a pair of hands guided him out.
“Can you take the hood off?” he asked the darkness. “Don’t you have to read me rights? Did I miss that part?”
The person guiding him nudged him to the right and his shoulder clipped a wall. Campus police, maybe? He heard a door open, and felt a slight change in the sounds of the space. This new room had almost no furniture and smooth walls, he could tell by the echo. A chair screeched back, someone pushed Victor down into it, uncuffed one of his hands and recuffed them both to a place on a metal table. Footsteps faded, and were gone.
A door closed.
The room was silent.
A door opened. Footsteps drew closer. And then at last the hood came off. The room was very, very bright, and a man sat down across from him, broad-shouldered, black-haired, and unamused. Victor looked around at the interrogation room, which was smaller than he imagined, and a bit shabbier. It was also locked from the outside. Any stunt in here would be an utter waste.
“Mr. Vale, my name is Detective Stell.”
“I thought those hoods were only used for spies and terrorists and bad action movies,” said Victor, referring to the pile of black fabric now sitting between them. “Is it even legal?”
“Our officers are trained to use their judgment in order to protect themselves,” said Detective Stell.
“Is my eyesight a threat?”
Stell sighed. “Do you know what an EO is, Mr. Vale?”
He felt his pulse tick up at the word, the air buzzing faintly around him, but swallowed, willed himself to find his calm. He nodded slightly. “I’ve heard of them.”
“And do you know what happens when someone shouts EO?” Victor shook his head. “Every time someone makes a 911 call and uses that word, I have to get up out of bed, and come all the way down to the station to check things out. Doesn’t matter if the call-in’s a prank by some kids, or the ravings of a homeless man. I have to take it seriously.”
Victor furrowed his brow. “Sorry someone wasted your time, sir.”
Stell rubbed his eyes. “Did they, Mr. Vale?”
Victor gave a tight laugh. “You can’t be serious. Someone told you I was an EO”—he already knew who, of course—“and you actually believe them? What the hell kind of ExtraOrdinary am I supposed to be?” Victor stood but the cuffs were locked firmly to the table.
“Sit down, Mr. Vale.” Stell pretended to examine his papers. “The student who called in the report, a Mr. Cardale, also said that you confessed to the murder of student Angela Knight.” His eyes flicked up. “Now, even if I want to overlook this EO business, and I’m not saying I do, I take a body pretty damn seriously. And that’s what we’ve got on our hands over at Lockland’s engineering school. So, is any of this true?”
Victor sat and took a few long, deep breaths. Then he shook his head. “Eli’s been drinking.”
“Is that so?” Stell sounded unconvinced.
Victor watched a drop of blood fall from the cuffs to the table. He was careful to keep his eyes on the one, two, three drops as he spoke. “I was at the labs when Angie died.” He knew the security cameras would show as much. “I needed to get away from a party, and she came and picked me up. I didn’t want to go home, and she said she had work to do … it’s thesis time and all … so I went with her to the engineering school. I left the room for a couple minutes, just to get a drink, and when I came back … I saw her on the floor and called Eli—”
“You didn’t call 911.”
“I was upset. Distraught.”
“You don’t seem distraught.”
“No, now I’m pissed off. And in shock. And cuffed to a table.” Victor raised his voice, because now seemed like an appropriate time to do so. “Look, Eli was drunk. Maybe he still is. He told me it was my fault. I kept trying to explain that it had been a heart attack, or a malfunction in the equipment—Angie was always messing around with voltage—but he wouldn’t listen. He said he’d call the police. So I left. Made my way home to talk to him. And that’s where I was heading when the cops showed up.” He looked up at the detective, and gestured to their current situation. “As for this EO stuff, I’m as confused as you are. Eli’s been working too hard. His thesis is on EOs, did he tell you that? He’s obsessed with them. Paranoid. Doesn’t sleep, doesn’t eat, just works on his theories.”
“No,” said Stell across the table, making a note. “Mr. Cardale neglected to mention that.” He finished writing, and tossed the pen aside.
“This is insane,” said Victor. “I’m not a murderer, and I’m not an EO. I’m a pre-med student.” At least the last one was true.
Stell looked at his watch. “We’ll keep you overnight in a holding cell,” he explained. “Meanwhile, I’ll send someone over to see Mr. Cardale, test his blood alcohol level, and get his full statement. If, in the morning, we have proof that Mr. Cardale’s testimony is compromised, and no evidence ties you to the death of Angela Knight, we’ll let you go. You’ll still be a suspect, understand? That’s the best I can do right now. Sound good?”