“You may leave now, thank you for your assistance.” Ass, she could not help but think at the man. They seriously thought she was here to contain two kinds who had not made any trouble since they had been caught.
“Are you in charge here?” she asked.
“No,” the man replied, frowning.
“I want to speak to who is,” Atalanta said.
“That really isn’t necessary,” he told her.
“I don’t care if it is necessary or not find her…or him. I want words.” Atalanta could feel herself practically spit on the man, who bustled away into the crowds of people at the station. Out of the corner of her eye, Atalanta noticed Strike enter the police station, and the hum of the officers went silent, all giving him a wide birth as he made his way over to her.
“IT told me that you were still here,” he muttered to her, as the hum of the station came back to life. “What’s going on?”
“I want to know what they’re going to do with those kids we caught,” she told him. “And I’m not leaving until I find out.” Atalanta took a good look at Strike. His clothes looked a little rumpled; though he did not seem that much worse for wear, save for a large scratch on his fore arm that she could see with his coat sleeve road up. He stank of dried sweat. “How did it go?”
“I suspect it went a little better for us than it did for you,” he replied. “Minor injuries to all of us, and Wormhole got us out all right. We’ll debrief later though.” They both looked up at the sight of a broad shouldered woman who was about the same height as Atalanta, which made her a little on the shorter side.
“I heard you wanted to see me,” she said.
“Are you the head of these Super Containment Officers?” Atalanta asked.
“Yes,” the woman replied.
“Then, yes, I wanted to see you. What is going to happen to Clara and Joshua?” The woman bit her lip and nodded.
“So, those are their names. They refused to tell us, the girl just sit there and sulks, and the boy stays as quiet as a mouse.”
“Joshua is deaf and mute,” Atalanta retorted. “Clara just has a bit of an attitude problem. You didn’t answer my question.” The woman sighed and ran a hand through her short hair.
“Look, a lot of the cases with the younger rogues are based on circumstance. If I had to guess, I would say these kids have had a rough time of it, but they won’t talk, and that isn’t going to help their case.”
“Let me talk to them,” Atalanta said. “I could get Clara to talk to me.”
“I know American sign language,” Strike offered. “I could talk to the little boy.”
“And who are you?” the woman asked.
“This is Strike; he’s a…colleague of mine.” Strike offered out his hand, and the woman took it with a seeming bit of reluctance. She regarded both of them with hesitance. Atalanta knew that bureaus like this often held a kind of contempt for super vigilantes (and that is what they were), for any number of reasons. She suspected that this woman might have been one of those who held the supers in contempt.
“You have five minutes to get them talking,” she said after a long pause. “After that, no more arguments.” Atalanta and Strike met their eyes briefly.
“Deal,” Atalanta said. The woman strode down the hall way, and Strike and Atalanta followed.
“The kid’s name is Joshua?” Strike asked.
“Yeah, as far as I can tell, he’s probably been deaf his whole life, though don’t call me any sort of expert, try and get him to talk about his sister and go from there.”
“And her name is Clara?” Strike asked. Atalanta nodded as they were led to two rooms that had two way glass installed in the walls. The siblings mimicked poses, both siting with their arms crossed, heads down and slouching away from the back of their chairs. “Suddenly, I’m not so sure I can do this,” Strike said.
“I’ll go in with you,” she said. “He knows me at least a little.” Atalanta entered Joshua’s room, and the boy immediately sat up and began signing at the two of them.
“He wants to know if his sister’s all right,” Strike said. Atalanta sat down at Joshua’s level and spoke very slowly to him.
“Clara is fine, Joshua. She’s just on the other side of that wall.” Here she pointed toward the room where Clara was confined. “This is Strike. He’s a friend of mine, and he needs to talk to you.” Joshua signed again.
“He wants to know if anything he says can be used against him, and if he needs a lawyer,” Strike said.
“Joshua, we just want to help you and Clara,” Atalanta said. “Strike wants to talk to you, because if we know why you did what you did, then the SCOs, the people in the black suits will be able to help you out more. All right?” Joshua nodded slowly, and Atalanta stood, letting Strike take the chair from her. He signed out to Joshua, and the boy almost seemed to perk up a little that there was someone who knew how to talk to him.
Atalanta left the room feeling a little more hopeful, until she saw Clara sulking again. Without turning to face the SCOs, Atalanta entered the room with the sulking teenager. Clara only looked up through her eye lashes at Atalanta, and then looked back down again, saying nothing.
“Clara, I need you to talk to me,” Atalanta said. Clara said nothing. “Clara you do know that if you don’t tell them anything, they will put you in prison and Joshua will be taken away from you.” Clara looked away from her, still silent. “Do you want Joshua to get into trouble?”
“NO!” Clara screamed, banging her fist against the table. “Jesus, woman, you are annoying and it’s so cliché what you’re saying right now.”
“It’s also very true, Clara,” Atalanta retorted. “I need you to talk to me, otherwise, they will have no defense to try and help you.”
“What do you want me to say?” Clara asked.
“How about why you tried to rob the bank?” Atalanta suggested. “We could start there.”
“Isn’t it kind of obvious why I tried to rob a bank,” Clara said. “I needed money.”
“Well, then, why did you need money?” Atalanta asked softly.
“Jesus, are you stupid?” Clara asked. “We needed money for food, to survive okay? We didn’t have any left!”
“What about your parents?” Atalanta asked.
“What about them?” Clara asked. “It’s not like they’re involved in any of this.”
“And what does that mean, Clara?” Atalanta asked.
“Are you stupid?” Clara asked again.
“Yes, now please tell me what that means,” Atalanta said.
Clara leaned back into her chair so hard Atalanta could hear it creak without even trying. She looked away from Atalanta and pursed her lips several times before she started to talk.
“My dad was a good guy, okay?” she said. “He was good, and he loved me. He never hit me, or even yelled at me much. But he had trouble getting a job, after he lost the one he had for a really long time. So, after a while, he and I got kicked out of where we were living. He was already on thin ice, because God forbid a man tries to raise his daughter alone. And when the state found out that we were homeless, that he couldn’t really feed me, they took me away, and put me in the system.
“That was around the time I started making things go invisible, and moving things just by looking at them.” Clara paused and bit her lip before she kept talking and turned to look at Atalanta. “People get scared, when you can do things that they never possibly could, you know? They look at you different, and no matter how many foster homes said it was okay that I was different, they would always look at me this one way. You know what I mean?”
“Yes,” Atalanta said. “I know what you mean.”
“And Jesus, you do, don’t you?” Clara asked. “I mean I just make things disappear. You and lift things that shouldn’t go over your head and crush stuff. You’ve seen it before. Eventually I stopped telling people what I could do, and I asked my social worker not to tell. I don’t think he stopped, I think I just ignored the look, because I thought if I hadn’t told them, there was no way that they could know. Then I met Josh.
“I think he was seven, we got place in the same home together. He’s been deaf since he was four, so he can’t really remember how to talk, but once you learn sign, you figure out how smart he is. I caught him one day moving earth out in the back garden of the home we were in, and he froze, like I was going to hit him or something. I think someone had before, because he really was scared. But then I showed him how I could turn things invisible, and move them, and he lit up like it was Christmas. And from then on, I knew, I just knew that I had to protect them, that he was my little brother from them on.”
Clara sniffed and wiped her face. Atalanta wished she had some tissues, but was almost grateful she did not, because she did not want to interrupt Clara’s story.
“That family, where we met, um, they started having money problems, and so they couldn’t keep us anymore. We told the social workers that we wanted to be placed together, and they saw the way Josh reacted to me, and thought it might be good if he could have someone who could teach a family sign, so they started placing us together and for a while it worked out. There were a couple of families who couldn’t keep us for long, but about a year ago, we got assigned to this really wealthy family who all seemed really nice. Well, until they found out what we could do.” Clara scoffed a little,
“I guess since Josh and I were hiding it so well, they actually decided not to tell them that we had superpowers, and one day one of the older boys spooked Josh while we were playing, and this block of dirt came and smacked him in the face. They started freaking out and then they went and told their parents who started freaking out. And they called us freaks, and for the first time since I met him, I was really glad that Josh couldn’t hear anything.” Clara bit her lip for a few more minutes striking at more tears that fell down her cheeks. “I got really scared that they might do something before the social workers got there, and so I took Josh and what we could carry and we ran.”
“How did you get by?” Atalanta asked.
“Well, at first, I had to use up all of this allowance money I had saved up,” Clara said. “It didn’t last long, but I got a couple of jobs. I could pass for eighteen pretty well, and explained that I had custody of my little deaf brother. Most people were pretty good about it, but then one of my bosses found out that I was too young to be working and to have custody of someone, and he called services on us. We didn’t really have enough money to make it long, so I got desperate. I told Josh to wait for me in the room we were staying at, and I wen tot the bank.
“He followed me though, and when the cops came, he was just trying to protect me. Hell, I don’t even know how he got onto that building all by himself.” Clara’s eyes were blood shot as she began to look around the room to find something else to focus on. “That’s all I’ve got to say really. There’s nothing more to it.” Atalanta stood up, but instead of heading immediately for the door, she walked forward, and held out her arms. Clara looked at her for a moment, probably resisting a question about Atalanta’s stupidity. But then she launched herself forward into Atalanta’s arms, finally letting her sobs out, as they wracked her entire body.
Atalanta hummed a low song under her breath and stroked Clara’s hair, but mostly she just let her cry. Clara held for a few minutes before he sobs quieted, and she pulled back, falling down into the chair. She sat a few minutes sniffling, and wiping at her face with her sleeve “You think they saw all of that?” she asked, head bowed. “They probably think I’m faking or something,”
“Yeah, well, I know you’re not,” Atalanta replied. “That will be good enough.”
“How can you be so sure?” Clara asked.
“Because I’m a superhero,” Atalanta said. “To me, that means I have to believe in miracles.” There was a buzzer, and Atalanta gripped Clara’s hand. “I think that’s my cue, but be strong. I think you’ve got inside of you.” Clara nodded, and Atalanta turned to walk out the door.