Chapter 49: Moral Dilemmas
Renee got out of work at nine. David was waiting up for her on the sofa in their scant living room when she came through the door. She cast him one glance before sitting at the kitchen island.
“What’s up?” Renee pulled out her tool kit and rested her left arm on the counter top. She had wrenched her shoulder at work and it was squeaking at the socket.
As she waited for David’s response, she peeled back the edge of the latex skin that covered her shoulder. Renee let it flop over her shoulder and down her back to reveal the smooth metal of the cover plate.
“Nothing.” David’s monotone response quirked Renee’s eyebrow and she paused.
David did not continue for a minute, so Renee turned her attention back to her arm. She pulled out a small flat-head screwdriver and wedged it into the penny-thin notch that circumvented her arm. A quick flick of her wrist and the metal cover plate snapped off, revealing the chem.-powered contraption beneath.
“Nothing? Sure.” Renee grumbled. From the corner of her eye she saw David flinch. “What’s the problem?”
Renee poked around inside her shoulder, slowly rotating her arm until she heard the squeak.
“I said nothing.” David slunk deeper into the sofa and crossed his arms.
He was acting particularly petulant. Renee felt her eye twitch with the strain.
“Did you drink your Super Soda today?”
“Yes, mom.” David scoffed.
Renee clenched her fist, and heard the squeak again. As upset as she was getting, at least now she had a better idea of where the squeak was coming from. “Stop acting like an idiot, David, that’s the matter?”
David was quiet again.
Renee rolled her eyes and poked at a set of coils. When her finger pressure moved them together, she heard the squeak again. Renee smiled and retracted the screw driver and her hand.
“Pressure coil?” David asked from the couch.
Renee gave him a short look – though he couldn’t see it with his back slumped away from her – and shrugged. “It’s nothing.”
David sighed with elaborate agitation and scooted around to face his sister. “Sorry.”
Renee favored him with a relieved smile. At least that was a short lived tantrum. Which also proved that he had taken his Super Soda today, which made Renee even more comfortable.
“It’s fine. And yeah, Pressure coil cluster. It just needs some oiling.” Renee fished out a small tube with a long nozzle.
“I’ll get it.” David got up from the sofa and snatched the bottle from her hand.
Renee relaxed her arm and her fist uncurled. She leaned forward on the counter so he could see inside the cavity of her shoulder. David peered into the workings and she could feel him start poking around.
“Wait for the squeak.”
On queue, he poked the coils and the squeak made them both chuckle. It was a nice shift from the harshness of her job and whatever hard day David was having. After he was done oiling the pressure coils in her shoulder he tapped her on the shoulder, and she began to reassemble the metal cover plate and the latex skin cover.
She only regretted that it didn’t cover the thin boning that went down both arms. It gave her away every single time.
“Renee?” There was something in her little brother’s tone that made her turn to face him.
David sat at the stool opposite her and balled his hands into fists. They rested on the counter top, perched as if to fire off any second. Renee could see the tension in his shoulders.
David caught Renee’s eye with a sharp, desperate gleam. Renee felt her face falling into concern.
“I think Lenora’s in trouble.”
“Good job, Useless. Wait here.” Giselle slipped from the car with a graceful clatter of high heels and the door slammed behind her.
Useless was still gripping the steering wheel with both hands, large knuckles white with tension. He peered up at the dark window overlooking the street. In a matter of moments, the lights had turned on, and immediately thereafter, Giselle waved with a snake’s grin down towards the car.
Useless didn’t want to know how she had gotten in. Or where she learned how to.
An exhale wheezed out of his nose and Useless cast his eyes about the street. Giselle had chosen a parking spot across the way, to make it less obvious that he was lurking Lenora Whitmore’s particular apartment.
Useless swallowed uneasily.
While driving, Giselle hadn’t told him much. All he knew was that Giselle was going to surprise ‘this Lenora Whitmore girl’ with a visit, and hope to catch ‘that deliciously psychotic bastard’ in the same instant. She had given him express orders to wait, and then as soon as she got back to the car he was to drive to Vixen’s.
That must be where Mr. Jones was.
Giselle had also told him to stay low in the driver’s seat.
“Like you could, you hulk.” She had gently snorted in irritation.
Useless sank down in his seat, knees pushing against the steering wheel uncomfortably. When he got as low as he could, he wrapped his arms around his chest and let his head rest there on top of them.
It seemed like forever. Useless felt his legs cramping up. When he shifted he felt the car shift with him. After the first jostle he remained still. Small beads of sweat were starting to form on his brow, and he wished he had his black hat.
After more time, Useless’ eyes began to droop. He tried to fight the rocking back and forth of his heavy head, but eventually the warm, cramped car won, and his eyes shut.
A startling crack and a vivid dream of lightning woke him. His eyes burst open only to be blinded by a flash, clearing to the crackle of burst power lines and their reflection on the dampened streets.
Useless froze in the seat – although he wouldn’t have been able to jump or run if he wanted to, with how cramped he was. His eyes darted to the window across the street, now dark. In fact, the whole block was dark. Power lines flickered and died the next block over too.
Useless thought he saw a shape move behind the darkness of the window – but another sound caught his attention and he very slowly turned his attention to the noise.
Amidst the residual spattering of wires, a figure staggered to his feet, one arm thrown over his face, body racked with coughs.
It was him. It was X.
X staggered to the side and caught his balance on a dead car, the sudden weight making the cement blocks holding it up creak and groan.
Useless watched as X pounded the hood of the car, one for each fit of wet, painful coughs, and then he braced himself with both hands, simply breathing.
Something caught Useless’ eye again, from the window. He swallowed back fear.
He could have sworn he saw Giselle behind the glint of a blade.
Useless felt like a trapped animal. He couldn’t decide if he should be warning this sick (and crazy) man to run for his life, or if he should wait like Giselle (the most frightening person in the world) told him to. Instead of deciding, knuckled once more white on the steering wheel, Useless watched as X strode purposefully to the door.
His heart was beating a mile a minute as someone eventually rang him in and he disappeared out of sight, the front door wide open and gaping like a hungry maw.
Useless uncoiled himself very slowly from his crunched up position, every motion sending tiny static shocks through his knees and legs. His mouth was dry and his eyes hurt from gaping.
He blinked slowly and tried to think.
What should I do, mother? What should I do? Like always, Useless heard her in his head, saw the gentle smile and felt the cool pat of her hand.
“You do what you think is right, sweet heart. You do what you think is right.”
Something banging on the hood of the car made Useless jump in his seat. He almost tore the wheel off in the process, a protesting groan preventing any permanent damage.
Useless’s eyes widened when he saw the mechanical CAT perched on the front of the car, looking at him with impatient eyes. It’s patched tail scraped on the hood with every angry swish.
“Mrow.” It insisted.
Useless slowly reached over and opened the passenger door.
He wasn’t sure why.
However, the CAT leaped from the hood and climbed its damaged way up onto the passenger seat. Useless carefully closed the door behind it.
When they were both situated, the CAT batted at the dangling keychain and ‘mrowed’ with more insistence.
Useless spared one more look at the window before he started the car and made his way towards Vixen’s.
“If anything,” Useless started, “Mr. Jones should know what’s going on.”“Mrow.” The CAT responded, so very bored with Useless already.