My tail twitched angrily. It still surprised me how it responded to my emotions rather than moving according to my direction, as I am used to my limbs doing. Well, I had a reason to be angry. My best friend was in the hospital, my other best friend was grounded for who knows how long for being involved in whatever he’d been involved in, and I had been left in the dark. I hate being left in the dark. And since I had no other way of figuring out what was going on, I’d only have to be creative in order to figure out what was going on.
Focus, Angie, I told myself. You’re practically an Olympic level gymnast, now act like it. My tail twitched again, and I stared at the open window I was aiming for. The light was off inside, so presumably it was empty and no one would notice a cat launching itself inside from a tree outside. After all, who would?
What kind of a police officer would leave a window wide open at night, anyway? The same police officer that wouldn’t suspect a cat to jump an almost ten foot gap into a two-story window, I guess. But I wasn’t just any cat. I was a cat that was also an elite gymnast. I lowered myself against my balance beam of a tree branch. The branch wasn’t going directly towards the window, so I would need to compensate in my leap. I charged along the branch. I kept my claws retracted; the added traction would slow me down and I would need the forward momentum to make the jump. I launched myself toward the window, swelling inside with that feeling I get when I know I’ve done my routine perfectly and all that’s left is my dismount.
About half-way to the window it occurred to me that all of this would be so much easier if I could just fly across. But that would almost feel like cheating to me. I mean, I know how to get across a 10 foot gap without wings. So why bother?
I landed on the window sill. Perfect ten.
The room seemed to be a storage closet. I looked around for a security camera. Nothing. I let myself slide back into my normal form and tried the door. Of course it was locked. That was why the window was open. I sighed. The movies and TV shows Kerry and Robbie watched made breaking into the police station for information seem so much easier.
It was then that it occurred to me that I had no idea where to go once I actually got into the police station. Or where to find the information I wanted. Maybe I just never paid enough attention when the fake superheroes did it.
I heard footsteps and shifted down into a cat again and hid under a shelf. Shifting was so much easier now than when I first started. It was almost second nature already. And big changes were easier than small ones. They took less focus to maintain. Someone unlocked the door and came in. I streaked through the open door while his back was turned. Since it was so late, nobody was around, and most of the lights were off, which made hiding from the people who were there much easier. I found a deserted hallway and stopped to think about what to do next.
Robbie would know what to do. Kerry would probably be able to figure it out. I sighed. They had had the whole superhero thing figured out since they were kids. After all, they grew up with it. They didn’t grow up training and going to competitions—winning most of them, but you know. It would have been nice to. . . never mind. My tail whipped back and forth again.
I supposed that if I had been one of the superheroes on TV, then I would have had to figure it out on my own too, but the storytellers would have cut past the awkward “I don’t know what I’m doing so I’ll just improvise really poorly” phase. I told myself that I can use my wits just as well as any other superhero.
We’re in the information age, I thought, so all the information I wanted would be digital. I needed to find a computer. I could assume that the station’s computers probably had a centralized network or a database that would store all incident reports. I would only have to go through the last two months or so, and it would be even easier if there was a search function. Arsonists are pretty unusual here, so there wouldn’t be very many cases like this. I found an empty officy area with a lot of desks and computers. I stopped. I would need a password. Probably one to get into the computer and another to get into the system. Great.
One of the desks had a “World’s Greatest Grandpa” mug. Score. I hopped onto the chair. Fingers, I thought. I need fingers. I shifted into a lemur (if I must be a monkey, I will be a cute monkey). I’ve known a few older people who are remarkably tech savvy, but by and large, this has not been my experience. My dad—my parents had me later in life, so my parents are in their 60’s—is absolutely hopeless with computers. And he keeps a list of all relevant passwords in his desk at home and at work. We can’t have the head doctor getting locked out of the system, now can we? I rifled through the desk, but none of the papers looked anything like a list of passwords. On a hunch, I turned the keyboard upside down. There it was—a list of passwords taped to the bottom, all clearly labeled and spelled out. From there it was a fairly simple matter of getting into the right program. Fortunately, this world’s greatest grandpa found it easier to leave his computer locked but not off, leaving all the programs he used on a regular basis running, which includes the system’s incident database. I considered leaving him a note explaining how dangerous keeping that list of passwords was.
According to the database, the arsonists began setting fires more than a month ago—shortly after we got our powers, in fact. As far as I could tell, Kerry had been the first one to be injured in one of the fires. All of the fires had taken place in empty or abandoned buildings, many of which had working fire prevention systems. The reports confirmed that they all started the same way—kerosene and a match. The last case report, filed earlier this evening after the mill fire had been put out, suggested that the fires were part of an initiation to a local gang called the Flaming Spiders. Ew. They sounded like the right people. The database wasn’t very helpful in telling me who the Flaming Spiders were or where to find them, and I dearly would have liked to know who exactly put my best friend in the hospital.
I hadn’t had a chance to talk to Robbie (his parents had him under lock and key for letting Kerry walk into a burning building for no apparent reason), but I was guessing that he’d seen something about these fires and that we needed to get to the bottom of this. That they started right after we got our powers confirmed my suspicions.
The rest of the information I needed I would probably be able to Google for. I decided to leave. And, as it turns out, getting out was much easier than getting in. I merely followed someone out the front door. No one noticed the black cat streaking into the night.