Sam swiped one broad hand across his steamed-up bathroom mirror. He took a cursory glance at himself, and saw his usual buzzed black hair, stubble covering the lower part of his face, and dark brown eyes. But what he hadn’t noticed before were the dark circles under his eyes. He touched them gently and sighed. It had to be the lack of sleep. Damn dreams.
He rubbed the towel over his body and slipped into his uniform of dark jeans, maroon cotton shirt, and black work boots.
At 0815 exactly, his Talker began ringing. He pushed it into his ear. “Sam Harris, reporting for duty.”
“Interrogator,” a female voice said coolly. “We have another one for you.”
Sam sighed mentally. “Report.”
“Female, late 20s, talks to people who are not there. The man she was with at the time of her arrest said she read his past.”
Another young woman. He’d seen his share of men, elderly, and even a few children here and there. But the number of young women who’d been hauled in lately was growing exponentially.
“Report to Room 3 in 10 minutes,” the voice continued.
“Yes, ma’am.” Sam tapped the Talker and disconnected. He slipped his access stick into his back jeans pocket and walked out of his apartment.
As he took the usual monorail route to Central, Sam kept his eyes focused on the front of the train car. He ignored all the posters warning of supernatural activity as well as the guilt-laden glances that flashed from person to person all around him. His uniform was designed to help him blend in with crowds, but people weren’t stupid. They knew that anyone wearing this exact shade of red was an official, and that all Interrogators favored dark clothes. They may not know for sure, but everyone suspected him of being…well, what he was.
He got off the monorail and lengthened his stride to get into the unlabeled office building as quickly as possible. If he was going to ruin someone’s life, he wanted it done and over with.
Sam tapped the screen outside the door to Interrogation Room 3. A picture of a young woman came up. Hannah Miller, 28, was caught during a job interview. Damn. Another one trying to build a life.
He pressed the screen again, and the scanner read his fingerprint. “Please hold still,” the recorded voice said. A small needle came out and pricked his finger, drawing blood. “Enter, Interrogator Harris.”
Sam twisted the doorknob and went in, his face wiped of emotion. The girl sat in one of the metal chairs, trembling and trying not to cry. Sam sat across from her, folding his hands on the stainless steel table.
“Hannah Miller.” She looked up at him, her pupils dilated. “You have been charged with using supernatural powers. Mind telling me what happened?”
She clenched her lips tightly together.
“Of course you’re not going to say anything.” Sam leaned back. “But the next step is to bring in another Interrogator. And that means–”
“I know what that means,” she mumbled. “And I know you don’t want to do that.”
“What I want is irrelevant. The fact is, you broke the Law. And there’s only one penalty for that.”
Her trembling increased to full-body shivering. “And you want to know how I can do this.”
“No. I don’t care how you do it.”
Her gaze shifted just to his left. “Not now,” she whispered.
Sam looked out of the corner of his eye. There was nothing there. He sighed. “Hannah, there’s nothing you can do to distract me. There’s no way to escape.”
Tears streamed down her cheeks. “I know.”
“Then look at me.”
He stood. “I don’t have time for games. I’ll call another Interrogator–”
“If you’re so curious about us,” Hannah said softly, “why don’t you just talk to us?”
Sam shook his head. “I’m not–”
She caught his eyes again. The intense fear mixed with knowledge that felt ancient to him made him rock back on his heels. “You are. I didn’t hurt anyone. I’ve never hurt anyone!” She stood slowly, her arms and legs shaking. “You have! You’ve sent innocent people to their deaths, and you hate yourself for it. Why can’t you just let me go? I promise I’ll leave everyone alone.”
He narrowed his eyes. “I can’t let you go.”
She looked off to his left again. “You’re scared,” she whispered. “You’re scared that you might be doing something wrong.”
His skin tingled coldly. “Sit down,” he ordered through gritted teeth. She did. He took a long look at her. “What is it you do?”
“I try to live a life. Sometimes I See things and they can help people.”
He rolled his eyes as he sat down. “Supernatural abilities cannot help people.”
“So you’re told.” Hannah looked up at him. “All I want is to help people, show them the truths they’re running from, hear the fears, and let them move on.” Tears fell from her eyes, heavy and thick with terror.
Truth. All Sam could see from Hannah was unadulterated truth. His chest tightened in sorrow; Hannah Miller never meant harm to anyone.
Her eyes flicked to the side again. “Hannah,” he said, taking advantage of the moment, “what are you looking at?”
She opened her mouth, shut it, and finally said, “You. Your fear.”
Sam heard a quick trio of beeps in his ear, the signal to leave the room. He stood up and left without another word. But his heart was pounding as though he’d run a marathon, he sucked in air as though he’d gotten it kicked out of him…but the part that scared him the most was that he hadn’t realized how frightened he really was at that moment.