- Heroes Reborn — Event Series
- Book 4: Catch and Kill
- The Author
- Catch and Kill
Heroes Reborn — Event Series
The Heroes Reborn event series consists of six short thrillers based on the fascinating characters and rich mythology of NBC’s world-wide hit TV series “Heroes”, and the highly anticipated “Heroes Reborn”. The new season picks up five years after the finale of the original series and finds those with special powers in a precarious and dangerous world where they are feared, persecuted and attacked.
Book 4: Catch and Kill
A nationwide tragedy took away their son, and now they roam the country in search of those they feel were responsible for his death. Their goal is simple: catch and kill.
Duane Swierczynski is the author of several crime thrillers, including the Shamus Award-winning “Fun and Games”, the first in the Charlie Hardie trilogy, as well as the Edgar-nominated and Anthony Award-winning “Expiration Date”. As a comic book writer, his credits include “Judge Dredd”, “The Punisher”, “Godzilla Birds of Prey”, “Godzilla” and “Black Widow”. He also collaborated with CSI creator Anthony E. Zuiker on a series of bestselling “digi-novels” which include “Level 26: Dark Origins”, “Dark Prophecy” and “Dark Revelations.”
is pissed because, weirdly, the traffic is bumper to bumper. A shimmering sea of cars stretching all the way up I-75 to the horizon, as if everyone were driving straight into the sun.
It isn’t supposed to be this way. Not in this direction at this time of day. Luke squints, trying to make out the problem ahead. An accident? Lane closed due to construction? Or something worse? The only reason he’s driving is because Joanne’s jaw hurts. Usually she prefers to be the one behind the wheel. But Luke questioned the wisdom of driving one-handed while holding an ice pack to her face.
“You okay?” he asks.
“Can’t you find a way around this mess?” she asks. “We shouldn’t be stuck here like this.”
“There’s nowhere to go.”
Luke wishes traffic were moving for a number of reasons. For one, they really need to get out of Atlanta as quickly as possible. But it would also give him something to do other than replay the last hour in his mind over and over again, wondering if they missed something.
Memory’s a tricky thing. After a while, you can’t be sure if you’re inventing certain details, maybe subtracting others. Even now, his memories of that frenzied, 10-minute span inside the Shelby house seem to contradict one another.
And that uncertainty triggers his obsession with all the tiny forensic details. Luke can’t help it; he’s a detail man. Always has been. Seeing the little things everyone else misses has always been the key to his success. Some of his patients, he knows, come to see him instead of an M.D. If something’s going wrong in the rest of the body, Luke is almost always able to see the earliest indications somewhere in the mouth. He’s sort of a modern-day soothsayer with a D.D.S. A toothsayer.
So where’s that keen eye for detail now? Come on, think, buddy. You’ve got nothing better to do. You’re stuck in traffic.
The wife—did she bite one of them? Scratch her nails across his arm?
Did Luke step through the remnants of dinner and leave a boot print?
Sure, they set everything on fire. But would fire be enough to erase all the traces of those they left behind?
The car ahead of them lunges forward a few feet, then stops dead. Then it begins to roll forward a few more feet, and a few more. Luke grows hopeful. Here we go. Finally. But then, without warning, the taillights flash deep red and Luke stomps on the brake a little too hard. Joanne bucks in her seat. Almost immediately her hand goes to her mouth.
They crawl forward another few feet, then slam to another halt. This is insane. This is purgatory on asphalt. This, Luke thinks, will never, ever end.
“I was wondering,” Luke finally says.
“If we forgot something. You know, back at the Shelby house.”
“What do you mean, forgot something?”
Luke can hear the annoyance build in her voice. She hates it when he dances around the point. So he comes out and says it.
“I mean something forensic. Like a hair, or skin under fingernails.”
“The bitch didn’t claw at me. She got in a lucky punch.”
It was a frenzied couple of minutes, that’s for sure. The idea was to catch the Shelbys right before they sat down to dinner. If somebody was going to kill us, when would they do it? Joanne had asked. Luke had understood what she was getting at right away. The best time to kill a distracted, childless couple is in the hurried time between arriving home from work and preparing dinner.
So the two of them watched the Shelbys long enough to establish their pattern. They both arrived home between 5:45 and 6 p.m. The wife would open a bottle of wine or mix a pitcher of martinis while the husband took care of dinner—which either meant pulling something from the freezer and microwaving it or ordering something online. This meant that dinner a.) would be ready within ten minutes or b.) would not arrive before 6:30 at the earliest. Which was a generous window of time, considering most murders barely stretch beyond the 10-second mark.
Tonight had been a wine-and-microwaved meal kind of night. Joanne knocked on the front door, doing her best to look like a concerned neighbor, while Luke went around back to the deck that led up from the pool area right to the kitchen. The distraction, and then the kill.
The husband was the Evo. The rumor was that he could manipulate microwave and cell-phone radiation and wireless signals. He liked to impress people with his tricks at cocktail parties and barbecues, which is how Luke and Joanne first heard about him.
(Pro-tip: if you’re an Evo, don’t show off to friends with Facebook accounts. No matter how cool you think you are.)
And sure enough, there he was, standing in his fancy kitchen, his hands stretched out palms down over a frozen dinner resting on the counter. He looked like a faith healer trying to exorcise demons from his supper—eyes closed, hands trembling a little. The creepy thing was, the dinner was cooking under his hands. Plastic cover trembling, sauce bubbling. Luke could smell the heavy aroma of cheese, even through the glass.
Luke saw the box on the counter and noticed that the couple was eating vegetarian tonight. Pasta, brie, and asparagus. Trying to keep the middle-aged flab off, he supposed. Well, consider the battle won. You two won’t gain another pound.
Especially after you’re brain-dead.
The hit went off just as planned—at first. Joanne knocked, distracting the wife, sending her to the front door. The moment she walked away, Luke slid open the deck door, startling Mr. Microwave. His hands shifted away from the frozen dinner, and the surface of the counter beneath them began to ripple.
Luke lifted his gun and fired twice—two chest shots—before the guy could even think about raising his mitts and sending some of that heat Luke’s way.
The double impact of the bullets sent the husband flying backwards. He reached out towards his half-cooked supper as though it might save him. His fingers caught the edge of the plastic tray and pulled it off the counter, sending cold pasta and congealed brie flying. Meanwhile, he smacked the back of his head on the edge of the Formica countertop on his way down. His body landed among the remains of his intended meal.
Dinner’s ready, honey.
Mrs. Shelby, however, was much more quick-witted than her husband. She’d just opened the front door when the shots rang out. The plan was for Joanne to do the same to the wife—take her out with two torso shots. But before Joanne could lift her gun, the wife slammed the door shut in her face. Joanne pulled the trigger anyway, firing through the door, with no way of knowing whether the bullets had found their target.
She lowered her gun and blasted apart the doorknob, then kicked the door in.
The wife was waiting for her.
Knocked the gun out of her grip with one hand, then landed a lucky punch on the left side of Joanne’s jaw. Which just pissed her off. This Evo-harboring bitch was going down.
But Luke had already cleared the distance between the kitchen and the living room. He took out Mrs. Shelby with a shot to the chest, and one more to the head just to be sure. As far as they knew, Mrs. Shelby didn’t have any powers. But that might just mean she was better at hiding them.
Five minutes later the house was on fire and Luke and Joanne were peeling away from the scene of the crime … right into hideous traffic on I-75.
So the double murder is fresh in his mind as they inch along the highway. Luke feels no remorse about the Shelbys. Maybe they were perfectly nice people, but that doesn’t change the fact that they were too dangerous to be allowed to live.
But because the hit went a little sideways, he finds himself endlessly picking over each moment. In his haste to reach the wife, did he step through some of that brie and pasta crap on the linoleum floor? Perhaps even leave a useable shoe print that the police could trace back to him?
(No, the fire would take care of that … right?)
Round and round he goes until the sound of panic in Joanne’s voice snaps him out of it.
“Oh, bloody hell,” she says.
She’s craning her neck out the window to see down the road, but Luke’s view is obstructed by a delivery van.
“What is it? I can’t see …”
“A police checkpoint.”
“Oh shit. Already? How is that even possible?”
“Calm down,” she says. “We don’t know it’s for us.”
“Should I try to find an exit?”
Joanne looks. “There are no exits. Besides, that would look more than a little suspicious, don’t you think? Careening through traffic in a desperate bolt for a ramp?”
“Maybe one of us really has to use the bathroom … Aw, shit! This is not good. Not good at all.”
“Will you calm down?”
As they edge towards the checkpoint—Luke can see it now—it’s impossible for him to remain calm. On the plus side, he’s no longer obsessing over the crime scene. Instead, he finds himself imagining ways they might escape a police checkpoint. There was the ram-our-way-through method, in the hope that the cops haven’t set up strips of spikes on the asphalt. There was also the shoot-our-way-out method, though they’d almost certainly be outmanned and outgunned.
Or there was simply surrender and arrest. But that wasn’t a real option, because that would be admitting that everything—including his marriage—was over. This road trip is the only thing keeping it together.
“We’ve got to do something,” Luke says.
“Just wait until we’re closer,” Joanne says. “See what we’re up against.”
“We’re up against the police, that’s what we’re up against!”
But as they inch closer, they see that isn’t quite the case. Sure, it’s technically the Atlanta PD bringing traffic to a crawl. And they’re stopping every third car—or fourth. The selection seems random.
Each cop, however, is accompanied by a worker in a lab coat holding a pouch of sterile swabs. A window goes down, and the lab rat hands the cotton swab to the driver—and the passengers, if any are present. Then the swab is handed back to check the result. The test seems to work fast.
The test to see if anyone traveling along this highway happens to be an Evo.
“What are they doing?” Joanne asks.
“I’ve read about this,” Luke says. “They’ve just started doing it in major cities. Random searches for Evos.”
“They can tell that with a swab of your cheek now, huh?”
“Yeah. I wish we could get a hold of some of those testing kits. It would make our job a lot easier.”
Job. As if this is what they do for a living.
In a sense, though, it is.
They lurch forward, three car lengths at a time, then one, then three again, since the cops only seem to be stopping every third or fourth car. They were probably told to make it random, but Luke can already tell that they’ve fallen into a predictable pattern. And with some quick counting, he realizes they’ll probably be fine.
And they are. They pass through the checkpoint without a swab or even a lingering stare. No one suspects a thing. A cop waves them on. Luke stares at the boxes of Evo tests piled up on the side of the road, wishing he could grab one or two.
They continue up the highway. All of Luke’s fretting about being arrested was for nothing.
Of course, the point isn’t merely to stay free.
The point is to stay free so they can find their next target.
is late for work.
She doesn’t know she’s the Target. To her, she’s just another 16-year-old high school junior who—unless she pulls off a miracle in the next few minutes—is going to be looking for another after-school job in the near future.
Mr. Baraniuk made that much clear during her last “employee evaluation.” If she’s late one more time, even by a single minute, she’s gone. And she can pretty much forget about a recommendation.
Right now it’s 60 seconds until Mr. Baraniuk will be expecting her to appear in front of him, ready to don her apron and dish out candy by the pound to the working folks and tourists who stumble off Euclid Avenue looking for a sugar fix.
Baraniuk’s Sweet Shoppe is inside Cleveland’s famed Arcade Building, built in 1890 as the first indoor shopping mall in America. (It’s true; the Target wrote a school report on it last year.) The Arcade is one of her favorite things about the city—well, when she isn’t running late.