“It’s a human.”
Staring at my oldest child, I sank down onto the couch. Slowly, as if I was a thousand years old, and carefully, as if I or the couch might shatter at too rough an impact. Blindly, I felt for their hands, all the while chiding myself.
How can I pretend to be this enlightened soul, this all-creatures-in-one-neighborhood advocate, and then be so much more horrified when the monster on TV is of my species?
“Human?” I heard myself say, despite the screaming of my internal censor. “They’re sure?”
“Stands upright, two legs, two arms, generally human-shaped and sized.” My oldest child is not known for tact or empathy; then again, it may simply be that teenagers in general cannot handle these things. “Yeah,” came the clarification, before my aggrieved sigh could become an actual complaint. “Human. As far as the news is telling us, garden-variety white-bread normal sort of human.”
“Normal,” my husband coughed. “There is nothing normal about this.”
Handwave. “You know. Not a Special Projects sort, not a White Tower sort. Doesn’t go zzzapp with his fingers. Just… appears to be holding hostages in case he gets the munchies.”
My husband was, by this point, nearly out of his seat. I sensed the breaking point was close; soon, it would either devolve into a fight, or he would stalk out angrily. With that going on downtown, he’d end up beelining there, retired or no. And this one looked bad.
“All right.” I set one hand on my husband’s knee, one on my child’s. “Start at the beginning.”
Sage took a deep breath, pulling himself back from that place. “It’s been on for about twenty minutes. The first they showed was a scrying of the inside of the bank, and then that went black, and they went to this footage.” He gestured at the TV, where police and reporters loitered around the bank as if waiting for someone to give them orders.
Jin picked up the thread, sounding, for once, almost like a kid again. “The scrying was pretty bad. He had the bank manager stretched over the marble counter, backwards, like an Aztec altar. Everyone else was hogtied, and he’d gotten apples somewhere…”
“There’s no trace of magic about it,” Sage continued. Knowing him, he hadn’t taken the TV’s word for that, either. “No accomplices. One corpse already – the security guard. I used to work with him, when I was on the force.”
“Eviscerated,” Jin murmured, and then, with a note of beginning hysteria, “ketchup.”
I gave Sage a look: do something. There was a time for territorial disputes, and a time to be a parent. With an eyeroll: duh, he moved around me to pull our oldest into a tight hug.
“The police will come up with something,” he murmured reassuringly, “or we will, for them. Someone always does.”
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