People will surprise you. Or maybe it’s that situations will force people to do things that you don’t expect or that they don’t think they’re capable of, and that’s what surprises everyone. Clayton, of course, was always talking about how he wasn’t a hero. He wasn’t superhero. He couldn’t seem to get over that concept.
What I wish I’d been able to convince him of was that it didn’t matter.
No one is a superhero, and really, when it comes down to it, who would want to be one?
The main thing that he should have remembered was that he was by no means an ordinary man, and while that might have made things more difficult, it didn’t mean he was horrible or useless or anything like that.
Of course, hindsight is twenty-twenty, and Clayton was a stubborn idiot sometimes. Okay, maybe most of the time.
I still loved him, though. I married him for a reason.
“Larabee, I’m going to kill you.”
“I know you’re worried, April, but this really isn’t helping,” Larabee muttered, smacking his fist against the hand-held unit for the tracking device again. Typical of Larabee’s inventions, it didn’t work. Right now, she was kicking herself for listening to him at all. She’d had a bad feeling about Clayton doing this, and she’d known better than to let him do it. She’d been glad that he’d stepped up, wanted to take charge and do something proactive again, but she had known better.
It wasn’t that Clayton was helpless. Maybe hapless, though she didn’t believe much in luck, didn’t think he was cursed by fate or anything like that.
He was accident prone, though.
“If something has happened to Clayton, I really will kill you. First, I’ll rip apart all of your costumes in front of you, and when they’re lying in shreds, I will finally give you the mercy of a slow death.”
“You’re scaring me right now.”
“Good! Damn it, get that thing working already,” she snapped angrily. She looked over at Clayton’s boss again. “You owe us answers. What is going on here? Who are they? Why did they take Clayton? Is this really about researching some kind of fountain of youth, or is there more to it? What part do you play in any of it?”
“Don’t even try and placate me,” April warned. “I’m not in the mood. Clayton is a good man, and he didn’t deserve any of this. And if you people knew what was going on with him, you had no right to keep that from him. Do you have any idea what he has been through since he discovered what he could do? Do you know what that’s like? Of course not. You probably don’t even care.”
Larabee touched her shoulder. “We’re going to need their help. Try not to get too worked up.”
“I am beyond worked up, Larabee. We’re talking about Clayton here. My husband. Your best friend. And we still don’t know if they had anything to do with the accident that killed my parents. I am not going to lose Clayton, is that clear? I don’t care what they think. I want him back, and I want answers. We’ve all waited long enough for that.”
“You didn’t have clearance—”
“Clearance? That is unbelievable. Clearance. That’s—that is bullshit, and you know it. I don’t care what the project was or who thought it up. It was—it is Clayton’s life. You can’t put clearance on his life and tell me that he didn’t deserve to know. Absolutely not.”
“You know, Clayton’s right. You’re incredible when you’re angry.”
April narrowed her eyes at Larabee, taking the device from him and smacking him in the head with it. It started beeping again. “Unbelievable.”
“Wow. They must have really sped off to get there,” Larabee said, shaking his head.
“And yet no one tracked them with all the traffic cameras and local authorities or anything like that? I hate you people. You’re all idiots. I’m going to find my husband without you.”
“That wouldn’t be wise.”
“Why not? Like you people can do better.”
“Give me a bit, April. I think I can fix the radio, too.”
“We are leaving. Now. They’ve already had Clayton for way too long. He could be hurt. He could be… He is in trouble, and we are going to help him.”
“We’re getting close.”
April looked over at the suit, a nice dark go to hell look, and turned her attention back to the road. Larabee tapped her on her shoulder. “I think I got it.”
“What, the tracking device that stops working every two minutes or—”
“It’s been stable for the last half-hour, April, and I was going to say that I think I fixed the radio. Here. It’s kind of bad reception, but since we’re getting closer, it should get better. And he should hear your voice. It’s what he wanted last time.”
She took the radio from Larabee and held it up to her ear, wincing at the static and feedback. It cleared a bit, and she let out a breath when she heard Clayton’s voice. It wasn’t as reassuring as she’d hoped, though. He sounded terrible.
“…Have to tell April I love her. And tell Larabee he was the best friend I ever had. And then I guess if you have to, you can do whatever you’re going to do—I can’t stop you—but do that, at least. I want them to know that much.”
She grabbed the mic, not liking what she was hearing. “I swear, Clayton, if you give up now, I’ll hurt you myself.”
It almost sounded like he’d tried to laugh. He did not sound good. He was scaring her. “Not sure it’s about giving up, April. I was kind of brave for a while, though. Was nice. I did good. Was almost a hero for once.”
“Clayton, don’t do this,” she heard herself beg, and she knew she couldn’t afford to lose it now. She could do this. She could stay strong again. She was Ninety-Nine. She was his hero—heroine—and she would be that for him again. “Listen to me. Stay with me.”
“Love you. Hey, if you find my body, can you bury me with some gummy bears? Let the worms eat them instead.”
She felt the tears on her cheeks. “Damn it, Clay. Do not give up.”
He didn’t answer. There was only silence on the other end of the radio.