Detective Daniel Simmons hung up the phone and stood up. His partner, Raymond Mercer, followed suit. Ray didn’t need to be told; the look on Dan’s face was all he needed. Only after they were in the car, with Dan driving, did Ray say anything.
“So let me guess. The blue giant again?”
“I think they’re calling him Smash this week.”
“Smash? Really? Haven’t these journalists ever read a comic book? What kind of superhero name is Smash?”
“He’s not a hero.”
“Come on, Dan. I know he’s not by the book, but you can’t deny that he has helped us out.”
“I may not have read as many comics as you have, Ray, but even I know that it never ends well for average citizens when freaks like this guy come to town. They tend to attract other freaks. Before too long, they’re destroying the city. I don’t care about vigilantes, but people are going to get hurt.”
“So you’ve said before. I think you’re worrying for nothing.”
“I hope you’re right.”
They pulled up in front of an apartment building. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary.
“So where’s the scene?”
Dan pulled the key out of the ignition and opened his door. “Inside. I forgot to tell you that this isn’t about Smash. Teenager. Some kind of accident.”
“Oh.” The disappointment was obvious in Ray’s voice.
Inside the building, they were met by the building’s manager. “This morning, a couple of tenants complained about noises and a smell coming from the basement. When I went to check… Well, I better show you. This way.”
He was nervous and twitchy, but that wasn’t unusual when someone who isn’t used to it confronts death. The detectives followed him down a flight of stairs. A foul odor became obvious before they took five steps. It smelled like a high school chemistry lab that was in dire need of some cleaning. At the bottom of the stairs, an open door was clouded by a thin veil of haze.
Dan tried to hold his nose against the stench. “What was he doing down here?”
The manager shrugged. “You tell me.”
Inside the room, beakers and test tubes littered a make-shift workbench. Several of them were broken. Others contained unrecognizable fluids of various unnatural colors. Notes were scattered about the area. Legs on the floor protruded past a shelving unit. Dan went to investigate the body.
Despite the number of dead bodies he had seen in his career, he wasn’t prepared for this. A teenage boy lay on the floor, but half of his torso was misshapen and colored a bright shade of blue. An expression of pain contorted his face. Whatever had happened, death had not come quickly enough.
“Dan, you’d better look at this.”
“Same here, partner.” Thankful for a reason to turn away, he headed back to Ray who was looking through the notes. “Be warned, it isn’t pretty.”
“I bet.” Ray shoved a paper in his face.
“What does it say?”
At the top of the page, in a very careful, handwritten lettering, was written: “Recreating the Blue Giant: Attempt #4.”
Dan looked up at Ray. “This means…”
Ray nodded. “Yep. The kid was trying to make himself into another blue giant. He has notes on how the guy we know was transformed.”
“How does he know that?”
“Looks like a bunch of speculation from the internet. Different crackpot, pseudo-scientific theories. He was testing them out, one by one.”
“So all these chemicals…?”
“We better call a hazmat team right away.”
Dan looked around at the laboratory equipment. Had he and Ray been exposed to something toxic? For that matter, what about the other tenants in the building?
“Still think he’s a hero, Ray?”