Samuel Reynaldo Garcia had been a cop long enough to know that sometimes normal cops just fail. For everyone’s sake it was the police’s job to minimize those failures, but there were always bigger and badder forces working against them. Before he’d been murdered he thought those forces were just rich criminals and corrupt politicians. Now he knew that the cops were up against things they would never, ever have stood a chance against.
Naturally, the police had given up on the only witness – a kid just shy of seven who spent most of the twelve hours since his parents’ disappearance screaming, crying and shaking. Garcia had read the statements the kid made about the kidnapper’s glowing eyes and booming shout. Twenty years ago he would’ve discarded it too – chalked it up to trauma and the boy being half asleep. Thing is, the suspect Asylum had him and his partner chasing had glowing eyes, a booming voice and an elephant’s bulging, leathery hide.
Twenty years ago he would’ve thought that description insane. He’d now been with Asylum long enough to know that it was about as useful as “male, black, mid-20s.”
His partner Huck was convinced they were grasping at straws. “A hundred people disappear in this city every day, “ Huck said. “All we’re going on is a child’s description that could be me for how accurate it is.”
Something in Garcia’s gut knew it was a lead. He’d seen the effect that changing forms or using powers had on most witnesses. The lucky ones just panicked but some people got hit much, much harder. Those cases reminded him too much of PTSD. He hated how it lingered, made people make up stories or pick up bad habits to keep getting by.
The BOA officially labelled it “Outsider-Induced Shock Syndrome” though a lot of people thought it pinned the problem unfairly on Outsiders. They had a point; his own ghostly form could do the trick nicely and he was born in Jersey. Whatever you called it, it made him real careful about being a ghost in front of anyone.
“The kid saw a monster,” said Garcia. “He’s showing classic signs of OIS.”
“The child might have witnessed a crime taking place. The hospital is reporting conditions that could be,” Huck prefaced the next two words with a very slight throat clearing and firm stare, “Bystander Shock or any number of other things. The least likely of which is a. . . monster.”
Garcia winced. “Okay. Yes. Bystander Shock. I'm. . . I'm sorry, Huck.” There was a beat of awkward silence before Garcia spoke again. “We don’t have anything else since the informant thing went south. Just. . . humor me? I've come through before, right?”
Huck regarded him with a deep, calculating stare. It was an intense reminder that a centuries-old dragon rode behind that smooth human face. Huck nodded once, “As you people say, ‘I’ve got to give you credit. Just this once.’”
Garcia smiled, “What do you mean, ‘You people?’”