Well, it’s once again that time: now that I’ve published a new book, I’m going to be putting a new chapter online here each week so you can take a look at my work for yourselves! Of course I’m not going to give away the ending, because what kind of writer and businessman would I be if I did that? But perhaps this will give you some entertainment and help you decide if you’d like to read the full book.
And so I give you the first chapter of my brand-new novel Camp Ferguson. Enjoy! And if you’d like to give any feedback, I’d love to know what you think.
CHAPTER 1: YOU DON’T KNOW JACK
While the mid-afternoon sun, looking a bit more orange than usual in the hazy air, was beginning to sink in the sky toward the gleaming tops of the buildings, the symphony of the city remained largely unchanged: the wind rustling the bits of newspaper and discarded coffee cups down the sidewalks, the hum and rumble of traffic and the subways rushing down the tracks just underfoot, and the hundreds upon hundreds of voices swearing at or generally clamoring over one another in the endless pursuit of being noticed or otherwise recognized as special.
The truth was that the vast majority of those people really weren’t really special in any way. But while they would probably never accept it, a good piece of advice in that area might well be that one should be careful what one wishes for.
Cruising down the street at a not unlawful but purposeful speed, never bothering stop or honk at the multiple jaywalkers crossing in front of it, an unmarked dark sedan swerved to the right as it pulled over and slid smoothly into the indentation in the sidewalk marked by the wording on the pavement: LOADING ONLY, NO PARKING.
No sooner had the engine stopped purring than the driver’s side and passenger doors both swung open and two people emerged—one male and one female—both wearing nearly identical black suits. The man, who had been driving, strode over to the other side of the car, ignoring the strange looks he got from a handful of passing pedestrians and squinted in the glare as he looked up at the awning of the old and somewhat run-down building they had parked in front of, which bore the name UPTOWN PSYCHIATRIC HOSPITAL.
“This the place?” his partner asked, jerking a thumb up at the sign as she surveyed the bars on the windows and the peeling paint on the façade with critical eyes. “Looks like a dump.”
“Uh-huh,” the man confirmed, briefly opening up a manila folder he had tucked under his arm and consulting the papers inside. “Yeah, he’s here. Now let’s be careful this time, okay? No slip-ups. We don’t want a repeat of this morning.”
“Oh, please,” the woman scoffed, flipping her long red hair over one shoulder and glaring at him icily. “You know as well as I do that kid was unstable. She was giving me the eye. I felt the tremors coming on, and I did what I had to do before we lost containment.”
“By smacking her in the back of the head with her soccer trophy?” the man asked, equally irritable. “You probably gave her a concussion.”
“So what? God knows what could have happened if she wasn’t in control. It’s our job to get these kids to the Bureau where they can be taken care of. We don’t have time to hold their hands every step of the way.”
“Don’t quote the field handbook at me. I’ve had it a lot longer than you. Yes, it’s our job to acquire them, but the Bureau would prefer they be in one piece when we do it. So do me a favor and follow my lead, all right? And try not to hurt or maim this one. It really cuts down on the paperwork.”
Snapping the folder closed, the man brushed by the woman, who stared for a moment at the back of his grey, balding head before following him toward the doors of the hospital. Pushing through the glass turnstile smeared with dirt and fingerprints, the two found themselves in a sparsely decorated lobby that looked like it hadn’t been significantly changed since the 1980s. They shouldered by a few white-coated staff members to stand before the check-in desk, where the attending nurse looked up and gave them the smile she was paid to give.
“Good afternoon, sir. Ma’am. What can I do for you?”
“We’re here to see a patient,” the man said, without acknowledging the greeting. The nurse’s mandatory smile faltered.
“I see. Would you be friends or family?”
“Neither. Government business. We need to ask him a few questions.”
“Oh. I see. And may I ask what the nature of that business might be?”
“None of yours,” the woman snapped, folding her arms impatiently. “It’s classified.”
The woman behind the desk gulped nervously.
“Right,” the man said, pursing his lips with irritation but ignoring his partner’s attitude as he consulted his file again. “We’re looking to speak with—” He sighed and cleared his throat. “Hugh R.A. Dick.”
“Ah,” the nurse said, brightening again and without skipping a beat. “You must mean Jack.”
The man and woman looked at each other.
“Excuse me?” the man asked, trying to bury his confusion under his surliness.
“Sorry. Jack. Jack Ferguson?” The nurse laughed lightly to herself as she hit a few strokes on the keyboard of the computer before her. “That’s who you’re really looking for. He was admitted a few months ago and gave us that name when they first brought him in.”
“And you haven’t changed it in your database?” the female suit countered. “This is a federally-supervised facility, lady. Why did you keep a fake name on file?”
The nurse shrugged, smiling helplessly as a somewhat vacant look came over her.
“Well, I don’t know, really,” she mused. “He just seemed like such a nice young man. He didn’t mean any harm by it. Besides, it’s funny.”
“What’s funny, Shirley?” one of the doctors walking by asked, overhearing.
“Jack’s fake name. Hugh Dick.”
“Oh, yeah,” the doctor said, nodding with a goofy smile before both of them and a few others close by burst out laughing again. Shirley continued her work as the suited man temporarily turned his back to her and looked at his partner.
“Damn,” he muttered under his breath, reaching into the inside pocket of his coat and taking out a pair of sunglasses. “I’ve seen this before. Glasses on. We’re dealing with a telepath.”
“A what?” the woman asked, taking out her own pair of sunglasses and putting them on.
“Telepath. They get inside your mind. Mess with your head. Hypnosis, memory tricks, the works. Sneaky little bastards.”
“So that’s why everyone around here’s all—” the woman gestured around at the still chuckling staff. “—Jonestown?”
“Roger. We have no way of knowing how far the influence has spread. For all we know, this Ferguson kid could have turned everyone in the building into his drooling mind-puppets.” The man snorted. “Probably wouldn’t be that hard. We’re in the loony bin, after all. It just depends on how aware he is of what he can do.”
He turned back to the desk as Shirley the nurse looked up at him again.
“Sir, you’ll be able to find Jack on the fifth floor,” she said. “He’s with Dr. Adler at the moment.”
“Good,” the man said grimly, turning and gesturing toward the elevator bank against the far wall. “In case anyone asks, we were never here, and you didn’t see anything. Got it?”
He shook his head as he and his partner stepped into the first available elevator.
“Figures,” he muttered, massaging his wrinkled forehead. “Freaking telepaths. This day just gets better and better.”
“Should we call in Contingency B from the Bureau?” the woman asked as the doors closed behind them and she jabbed the button for the fifth floor.
“Look, I know it’s your first day on the job and all, but don’t try to make friends with me,” her partner said dryly. “I might have told you on the drive up that I’m not much for the city, but a carpet bombing isn’t going to solve anything here. Stick with Contingency A. If things get hairy, we’ll nerve gas the place. Civilian casualties could be kept to as little as 70 percent.”
“I like those odds.”
“But wouldn’t that—I don’t know—violate the Geneva Convention or something?”
“Screw the Geneva Convention. When all the bigwigs sat down around the table to talk about protecting human rights, I’m pretty sure they weren’t thinking about people who could incinerate someone by looking at them the wrong way.”
The two stood there in awkward silence for a minute, tapping their feet as a song played through the tinny elevator speakers. When the doors at long last dinged open, they stepped out again into a somewhat cramped hallway crowded here and there with small knots of staff conferring with each other and the occasional patient shuffling by, slack-jawed, in their bathrobes.
“Hey,” the man said, grabbing the shoulder of the closest doctor and spinning her around. “We’re looking for a Dr. Adler. Where is he?”
The woman’s semi-annoyed face at being interrupted instantly brightened.
“Oh, he’s talking with Jack right now. Room 19. It’s down that way on the right side.”
She pointed as the other doctors she had been talking to also smiled.
“Yeah, you really should talk with Jack,” a man with a Hawaiian tie chuckled. “That kid’s a pistol. I almost wet my pants the last time he told a joke, it was so funny.”
“What was it?” The female agent asked, raising an eyebrow.
“Uhh—” The doctor’s face went blank. “You know, that’s weird. I don’t really remember.” He smiled again. “But whatever it was, it cracked me up. He’s a funny guy.”
“And so sweet,” his coworker added, twirling a strand of her blonde hair around a finger. “You know, he thanked me for the chocolate pudding I brought him the other day because it was so good. And I didn’t even make it.” She sighed. “If I was ten years younger, I swear I’d—”
“No, no, no,” the male agent overrode her, raising a hand and walking away in the direction she had pointed. “I don’t want to know. We’ve got a job to do. Come on.”
“Tell Jack we said hello!” the second doctor called after them as the two agents resumed their trip down the hallway.
“Fat chance,” the man grunted under his breath. “He’s got all these idiots wrapped around his little finger already. When we open that door, you’d better be ready for anything.”
“Well, what about you?” his partner shot back, hands on her hips.
“I’m always ready for anything,” the man said, smiling with grim confidence. “We have no idea what we’ll be facing in there. If this kid has any degree of control over his abilities, we could be trapped inside our own minds, screaming to be let out again, or in some kind of illusionary hellscape of horrifying monstrosities that rip your very sanity to shreds.”
“You sound like you have experience. Has that happened to you before? You know, getting your sanity ripped or whatever?”
“Once or twice.”
The woman snorted. “That explains a lot.”
The man gave her a withering look before lifting his foot up and resting it against the door.
“Ready? On three. Three.”
He drew his leg back and kicked the door open, charging inside with his partner hot on his heels. But they both blinked in surprise as what greeted them was not a hellscape of any variety, but rather a plain and ordinary room with blank, windowless walls and a single barred window in between two metal-frame cots. Sitting on the edge of one was an adolescent boy, his brown hair disheveled and messy as he grinned like a maniac, and on the other sat a balding, grey-haired man with horn-rimmed spectacles and a sweater vest who was laughing fit to burst.
“And then,” the boy continued, struggling to keep from laughing himself, “they asked me, ‘What do you call that?’ And I said, ‘Nothing. What did you think I was going to say?’”
He snickered and snorted, the straight-jacket he was wrapped up in keeping him more or less immobile, while the other man howled with laughter and beat the squealing cot with his fists. The two agents gave each other a look of complete and utter bafflement before the man cleared his throat loudly.
“Excuse me,” he said, staring the older gentleman down from behind the cold, impersonal lenses of his sunglasses. “Are you the shrink around here?”
The boy looked over at them, his grin just getting wider as he evaluated the newcomers with his eyes—one a deep blue and the other a hazel brown.
“Looks like they’ve got you pegged, Gerry. You been trying the meds again?”
“No, no,” the older man wheezed, trying to compose himself as he rose to his feet and nodded at the agents. “Hello. Yes, I’m Dr. Gerald Adler, resident psychotherapist. Can I help you?”
“I don’t know,” the woman said, raising an eyebrow over the rims of her glasses. “Can you? Do you spend your sessions cracking jokes with all your patients in this nuthouse?”
“Well—err—no,” Adler said, shifting uncomfortably from foot to foot and adjusting his bow tie. “Not as such. My shift today actually ended several hours ago. But I just wanted to stop and check in on Jack anyway.”
“So you’re Jack?” the man asked, looking over at the boy. “Jack Ferguson?”
“The one and only,” the boy replied, giving him a head nod. “I’d shake your hand, but I’m kind of tied up right now. Get it?”
He chuckled to himself and the agents shared another uncertain look while Adler’s face fell.
“Oh, I’m so sorry, Jack,” he said. “I never thought to ask if you wanted me to take it off. You know I’d be more than happy to—”
“Relax, Doc,” Jack said with a smile. “It’s cool. Don’t worry about it. Yeah, I’m Jack. Who wants to know?”
“That’s classified,” the man snapped, his sharpness arousing Adler’s ire further.
“You can’t talk to Jack like that,” he huffed, folding his arms. “You know, you barged in right in the middle of one of our highly important therapy sessions, discussing personal information. In the interest of doctor-patient confidentiality, I’m afraid I’ll have to ask you to leave until we’re through here.”
“Sorry, guys,” Jack said with an agreeable shrug. “You heard the doc.”
The woman nudged her partner’s shoulder, jerked her head toward Adler and Jack, and then pointed at her temple.
“What do you think? In his head?”
“Right.” She took a few steps toward Adler, who subconsciously backed away. “We’re government agents, so you can take your confidentiality and cram it, Doc. Who was giving who information here, huh? Well, why don’t you tell us? Name one major breakthrough you’ve ever had talking to this kid.”
“Well, I certainly—” Adler trailed off in mid-sentence, his wrinkled brow furrowing as he struggled to think. “I—umm—I can’t seem to think of one right now. But if you really must know, here are my notes from today’s session.”
He offered a small notebook in his hand to the woman, who snatched it away and scanned the pages with the man looking over her shoulder. Only a handful of notes were chicken-scratched haphazardly across the lines, all of which read “JACK IS GREAT”.
“Uh-huh,” the man said. “That’s what I thought. Doctor, we’ll be needing some time alone to speak with Mr. Ferguson. Now.”
“Hey, okay,” Jack said. “Whatever you say, man. I’ve got nothing but time. Besides, you guys seem like a barrel of laughs.”
“Just a minute,” Adler interrupted, bristling at the lack of respect in the agent’s tone. “I don’t think so. You say you’re government agents, and if that’s true, I’d like to see some identification. And furthermore, Jack is my patient. Anything you can say to him, you can say to me.”
“Okay,” the woman said snidely. “We will. Get out.”
“Doc, we’re from a federal organization so secret, not even Congress knows we exist,” the man added, pursing his thin lips. “If you think we just carry IDs around on us all the time, you’re dumber than I thought. And if you don’t stop obstructing this investigation, we’ll bury you so deep in red tape you’ll never see daylight in your very own quiet, padded cell ever again. Now do yourself a big, fat favor and blow, okay?”
The doctor fumed as he looked first to the man, and then to the woman, but the emotionless stares of their sunglasses brooked no argument. With a final grumble of protest, he edged his way past them and out the door, closing it behind him. The two agents then sat down on either side of the cot facing Jack, who gave them a knowing grin.
“Hey, nice one,” he said. “You guys have got to teach me how to do that sometime. I mean, the doc’s a nice guy and all, but sometimes he just starts going on and on, you know? Agent Mulder. Agent Scully.”
He nodded to both of them and chuckled to himself, but stopped as he registered no change in their expressions.
“That was a joke.”
“We in the government don’t joke, Mr. Ferguson,” the man said, folding his arms. “In fact, we don’t even have a sense of humor that we’re aware of. Leave the jokes to the terrorists. We’re here because we have reason to believe that you may be in possession of certain—talents.”
“Well, talent is kind of my middle name,” said Jack, shrugging under the straight-jacket. “You’re going to have to get way more specific.”
“We’ve actually been looking for you for a few months,” the woman spoke up. “We had a bead on you after the incident, but then you just dropped off the face of the earth. It’s probably because you ended up here. Under a fake name.”
She accented the last sentence with judgmental irritation, but if Jack noticed her tone, he didn’t show it.
“Oh, yeah. I forgot about that,” he said. “What name did I use this time?”
“Hugh R.A. Dick.”
Jack snorted out a laugh.
“Yep. Classic. That’s a good one.”
“So, minor crimes aside, could we talk about what happened to you now?” the man asked, but Jack cocked his head in curiosity, not listening.
“A lot of stuff happens to me. Can I ask you something? How come you guys are wearing sunglasses inside? You know you’re not on NCIS or something, right?”
“If you really must know, it’s to stop you from reading our minds or otherwise screw with us, that’s how come,” the man growled, losing patience. “Inexperienced telepaths can’t affect people unless they have direct eye contact with them. Hence the mirrored lenses.”
“Come on, kid,” the woman added. “You have to have noticed that everyone in this place loves you. Didn’t you think that was weird?”
“Not really,” said Jack. “People just kind of do. I’m cool like that.”
“Think about it,” the man insisted, leaning closer to him. “Is there anything strange or unexplainable that happened to you recently? Anything you’d like to talk about?”
Jack chewed at his lip for a moment, thinking, before brightening again.
“Actually, now that you mention it, yeah, there was. The last time I was out at a bar, there was a girl who wouldn’t give me her number. So that was pretty strange. You’re not taking notes on this, are you? I’m pretty sure it’s, like, against the law for you to self-incriminate me or something. So if you are taking notes, that definitely didn’t happen. Going to the bar, I mean. Well, and the girl. I’ve got a reputation to maintain.”
He smiled innocently as the agents both looked at each other.
“What do you think?” the woman asked in a lowered voice. “Does he know what he is yet?”
“Of course he doesn’t know,” the man snapped back. “Does it sound like he’s got a clue? But I swear, he’s got to have ADHD or something. Either that or he’s just messing with us.”
“But the effect that he’s had on the staff—”
“Yeah, I know exactly what effect he’s having. He’s pissing me off. You have anything constructive to add?”
“Actually, yes,” the woman said, with no small amount of satisfaction, as she flipped the doctor’s notepad that she had kept over and turned back through several pages. The further back the dates on the notes got, the more coherent they became. Some of Adler’s hurriedly scribbled speculations included:
Memory problems. Raised in foster homes. Childhood trauma?
Evasive. Often deflects personal questions with humor.
Narcissist? Depressed? Both?
Addictive personality. Needs others for validation.
“Great. Just great,” the man muttered, rolling his eyes. “The power to crack the world like an egg in the hands of an idiot. God help us all.”
“Right,” his partner replied, shaking her head. “I bet if there is a God out there somewhere, he’s laughing his ass off right now. But also, what’s with the whole different-color eyes thing? It’s freaking me out.”
“Probably got dropped on his head a lot as a kid,” the man smirked. He cleared his throat, turning back to the expectant Jack. “No, Mr. Ferguson. Frankly, the BMA could care less about your underage drinking shenanigans.”
“BMA?” Jack asked. “What’s that?”
“Bureau of Magical Affairs.”
“Anyway,” the woman persevered as the man clenched his jaw tightly, “we know you’ve been in this institution for around four months now. Would you care to tell us how exactly you got here?”
Jack sighed, as though bored by the suggestion.
“Okay, fine,” he said. “Me and a couple other guys from the neighborhood broke into the community pool one night over in Brooklyn, and we invited a bunch of girls to swim with us. You know?” He winked at them before continuing. “I mean, we never even got wet. We just kind of sat there while they jumped in. It was pretty sweet.”
He chuckled and smiled at the pleasant memory, but the female agent cleared her throat.
“Oh, right. Well, I don’t know if it was the filters or what, but right then, some kind of crazy water current ripped around the pool and pulled off everything they had on. Like, seriously everything. Just gone. And that was when the really weird thing happened.”
“The water. The rest of the water. It just kind of, like, evaporated.” Jack shook his head. “No, not evaporated. More like it levitated. It was still there, but it just floated up out of the pool and onto the ceiling. All the girls were just stuck at the bottom of the pool, running around and screaming at us to get them out. I mean, we were going to. Eventually. But that was when we got busted.”
“And that’s not all there is to the story, is there?” the woman prodded him. “Something else odd happened, too. Tell us.”
Jack hesitated, clearly reluctant to talk about it.
“So the cops came in, telling us to get down on the ground, and then—” He made a confused expression, shifting in the straight-jacket. “I don’t know. One second I was inside the pool building, and the next thing I knew, I was standing outside on the sidewalk. I mean, there were still cops out there, and they got me, but I don’t remember running.”
“That’s because you didn’t,” the man finally spoke again, having regained his composure. “You spontaneously teleported. About a hundred yards through a solid wall and a chain-link fence. Not bad for a first-timer.”
“I did what now?”
“That same gravimetric anomaly that you noticed with the water was still present nearly 72 hours later before it finally collapsed,” the woman said. “Of course, neither your so-called friends, any of the young women present, or the local police corroborated any part of your story. So they did the only logical thing and shipped you off to the nut farm where you proceeded to lay low with a fake name for months. That about the size of it?”
“Pretty much, yeah,” said Jack. “Hey, how did you know about all that stuff? I don’t remember you guys being there.”
“We didn’t have to be. Someone posted the whole thing on YouTube,” the man replied, barely disguising his scorn. “Of course, we took it down almost immediately. We can’t have the general public getting wise to what’s really going on out there. But it gave us the clues we needed to track you down.”
Jack nodded, his differently-colored eyes gleaming with mischievous interest.
“Okay, you got me. I’ll bite. So what is really going on?”
“Mr. Ferguson, what we’re about to tell you is classified at the highest levels of government security,” the man began, folding his hands on his lap. “Also, you probably shouldn’t try to wrap your head around it all at once, because it might make your brain explode. Not that I’d be completely opposed to that. In addition, you may have noticed that people seem to like being around you. It’s called reverse empathy: you projecting your personality onto others.”
“Well, sure. But I never really thought about it too much. I mean, I’d want to hang out with me.”
“What we’re getting at, Mr. Ferguson, is that you have abilities far beyond the range of what most people can do. You’ve probably been experiencing it for a long time, but you don’t have proper control over the things you can do, or you just didn’t notice. It’s because you, to put it simply, are magical. You have the potential to train in the mystic arts. We work for a body that deals especially with people like you. And that’s why we’re going to need to take you with us, both for your safety and the safety of everyone else. Do you understand?”
The agents stared at Jack expectantly, and Jack blinked back at them as the only sound in the room was the muted music still coming out of the speaker grates in the ceiling overhead.
“Oh,” the boy said finally, nodding. “Magical, huh? Okay. Cool.”
The man and woman gave each other a quick, incredulous glance.
“Cool?” The woman echoed. “What do you mean, cool? We just told you everything you thought you knew about yourself and how the entire universe works is wrong, that magic is real and that you can use it, and that’s all you have to say?”
“What?” Jack asked. “It is pretty cool. Besides, I think they made a Spider-Man musical at one point. Stranger things have happened. So where is it I’m supposed to go, exactly?”
He raised his eyebrows at the agents expectantly, who were frowning in confusion and struggling with how to proceed.
“Umm—that’s classified,” the man said bluntly. “But let’s just say it’s somewhere you’ll be able to learn how to use your magic without blowing the rest of us normal people up.”
“Would you like us to get you out of that first?” the woman asked, her lip curling as she gave an imperceptible nod toward Jack’s straight-jacket. The boy blinked for a moment, uncomprehending, but then nodded back.
“Huh? Oh, yeah. Sure.”
The female agent glanced over at her partner, who just stared back at her, saying nothing. With an irritable grunt, she got up and stepped over to Jack, quickly undoing the straps holding his arms behind his back. The jacket came apart and the boy pulled it off over his head, cracking his neck as grinning.
“Thanks,” he said, looking down at his jumpsuit. “If I’m getting out of here, mind if I change into my own threads again?”
“Be our guest,” the man said as the woman stepped back and leaned against the wall next to the door. “But hurry up. We don’t have all day here.”
Showing no hurry whatsoever, Jack got up and strolled over to a small dresser next to the head of the cot, pulling open a drawer and pilling a wad of clothing into his arms.
“So tell me, man,” he said as he kicked the drawer shut casually with the heel of his foot before walking into the room’s tiny bathroom. “What happens now?”
“We take you downtown,” the woman said matter-of-factly, but gritted her teeth as Jack snorted from behind the door jamb.
“Good one, Serpico. We’re already downtown.”
“What she means is that we’ll be taking you to the BMA offices, where you’ll have to do a series of tests to determine your initial aptitude,” her partner explained, rising to his feet as the bedsprings creaked with the removal of his weight. “Then, we’ll be giving you an assignment to one of our training camps before you’re shipped out. After that—” He gave an indifferent shrug. “Well, just try not to get yourself killed or whatever. The Bureau spends a lot of money on you kids. It’d be nice if they weren’t blowing it.”
“Sure. Uh-huh,” Jack called. “Sounds like fun. Quick thing, though. Let’s say I don’t care about any of this government crap. Like, I really, really don’t care. What happens then?”
“You’d rather we just left you here?” the woman demanded, hands on her hips. “In a mental hospital? You were trussed up like an animal, and now you know you’re the sanest person in here. You really want to stay?”
“Hey, for the record, I was just fine before you guys got here,” Jack said breezily. “I mean, I didn’t think I was crazy, but I didn’t have a better explanation for stuff. Everyone’s nice to me, I get free chocolate pudding every Thursday, and even the straight-jacket thing wasn’t that bad. You know when you’re in those things, people have to do everything for you? I didn’t even have to feed myself. All I had to do was play Connect Four with my mouth, sit on the couch, and watch TV. It was a pretty sweet deal.” He chuckled to himself. “Plus, the meds they have here are awesome. And anyway, I’m not an idiot, dude. I watched Schoolhouse Rock: I know I’ve got rights. What are you going to do if I don’t do what you want? Disappear me?”
He waited for a response, but didn’t get one.
“Oh. Right. Duh. Because it’s a bunch of magicians we’re talking about here.”
“They prefer the term ‘wizards’ nowadays,” the man corrected him. “It’s more PC or something. Even the women. Apparently ‘witch’ isn’t progressive enough.”
“I’d call anything that costs us taxpayers more money than burning them at the stake progressive,” his partner muttered under her breath. “And anyway, you lost your rights when you got the ability to cause tsunamis with your mind. You done applying your makeup in there, or what?”
In response, Jack stepped out of the bathroom again, now dressed from head to toe in his street clothes: sneakers, jeans, and a t-shirt covered by a buttoned-up flannel. He took a worn and faded baseball cap and jammed it onto his head, giving the agents a smile as he tipped up the brim and his wild hair poked out from under the edges.
“Well? What do you think?”
The woman eyed him critically. “Think you could go back to the straight-jacket?”
“Oh, okay. You guys can talk. I mean, where do you get those suits? Oh, oh, I know. Nordstrom Hacks?”
He cackled with laughter, slapping at his knee as the two agents ground their teeth.
“So, just to be clear,” the man growled, self-consciously straightening his tie. “You’re not going to cooperate?”
“Come on, bro,” said Jack, throwing up his hands and grinning apologetically. “It’s not like that. Well, kind of. I get where you guys are coming from and everything, but I can’t do any of this stuff you’re talking about. At least, not yet. So people think I’m cool. I mean, they’re right, but still, big deal. It’s not like that hurts national security or whatever. Plus, I’ve got a life. I’ve got important stuff to do.”
“Like?” the woman asked, tapping a finger on her sleeve.
“I don’t know. I haven’t done it yet. Stuff. The burden of proof’s not on me. At least, I don’t think it is.” Jack shrugged. “It’s just something I heard on TV once. But I’m peacing out. You guys have fun keeping the world safe from unicorns and whatever. Besides, like you said, everyone loves me here. Who do you think they’ll listen to? Sorry to mess up your plan, but I just can’t come.”
“Can’t, or won’t?” the man asked, taking an accusing tone.
“Meh. Either.” Jack snickered again. “But Nordstrom Hacks. Man, that was a good one. I’ve still got it. You guys have a pen or something? I have to write that down.”
Turning their backs to him, the agents put their heads together in conference.
“What are we arguing with this loser for?” the woman hissed. “He’s a moron, and he’s probably already putting us into overtime. Let’s just Taser him and drag him down to the BMA for processing.”
“We can’t,” the man said disapprovingly, running a hand through his thinning hair. “Haven’t you been listening to anything I’ve said? That’s against procedure. We can only use force to subdue them if they’re violent.”
The woman pulled down her sunglasses and looked at him frankly with her pale blue eyes.
“I’ll say he attacked us if you will.”
“Hey, Least Interesting Man in the World,” said Jack, grinning insolently and motioning with his hand. “You mind getting out of the way so I can blow this popsicle stand? I’d like to get back to my life while I’m still young enough to enjoy it. You know, unlike you.”
His mouth turning slightly up at the corner in an uncomfortably sadistic manner, the man gave him one more glare and turned back to his partner, reaching to his hip and pulling the loaded and waiting stun gun out of its holster.
“Yeah. All right.”
Check out Kyle Robertson’s new novel, Camp Ferguson, available online now at Amazon.com and via Kindle devices!