Ash breathed deep from the oxygen mask. Whoever gave him fire power should have been smart enough to also give him invulnerability to smoke. At least he wasn’t coughing anymore.
And what was the deal with the blanket? Why did the firemen cover him with it? He wasn’t cold.
After Ivy had pushed him out of the club, they struggled to the curb where all the looky-looks gathered. Paramedics and fire-trucks showed up moments later and helped anyone who looked like they needed it. The carbon scoring on Ash’s face had made him a prime candidate.
Ivy’s car pulled up to the police barrier. She got out, now fully clothed, and joined him on the fire truck bumper.
“The cops said I could take you home whenever,” she said. “Here’s your Adravil.” She poured out the bottle in his hand.
“Thanks,” he said and swallowed four tablets. The smoke had given him a pounding headache. “Sorry about your club.”
“Pssh, fuck it. You did the world a favor. Burn it to the ground, I say.”
Ash smiled. He could still see flickers of orange in the windows as the fire department continued to spray.
Ash waved his index finger and the flames simultaneously rose. Firemen shouted and scattered back with renewed vitality.
Ivy and Ash giggled. “Oh, do the sign,” she said.
Ash looked toward the unsinged VoRTEX sign and made it smolder. Now it looked like a sign to hell. The ‘O’ teetered off and crumpled on the ground.
“Neat,” she laughed.
A police officer walked up to them. “Excuse me, were you in the club at the time of the fire?”
“Yes, I was,” Ash said.
“Can you tell me what happened?”
Ash described the obnoxious guys in detail, and how he confronted them. “Then when I was on the ground, the wall burst into flames. Then the other wall did.”
The officer nodded. “So you’re telling me you threw a guy twice your size across the bar?”
“Pretty big feat for someone of your size, huh?”
“Yeah.” Ash didn’t know how to respond. Of course, a third party’s eyes wouldn’t find his story plausible, but he wouldn’t lie.
“I’ve got some eyewitnesses that say you started the fire. Care to explain that.”
Ash cocked his head, ready for this question. “How could I have started the fire? First, I was in the middle of a fight. Second that fire started like that,” he snapped his fingers. “I would have had to have a flamethrower to do that. I think maybe they were having electrical problems. Maybe the building wasn’t up to code.”
The officer nodded. “What’s your name?”
“Um… Lombardi,” Ash said. He’d forgotten the alias he was using before.
“You got any ID on you?” the officer asked.
“Uh, no, not with me. I left it at home.” Another lie. Shit, he was going to have to start getting some documents together if he was going to live in this world.
“They let you in without an ID?”
“Yeah, my girlfriend works here.” This irrelevant questioning was ridiculous. Were they going to accuse him of something? Was this going good or bad? The power he felt when he had described the fight, the righteousness, was being drained away from him like a still.
“Who’s your girlfriend?”
“Her,” he jabbed a thumb next to him. “Ivy.”
“Ivy? Is that your real name?”
“What’s your real name?”
She leaned in and mumbled something to the cop.
“What was that? I’m sorry,” the cop asked.
“Peggy,” she said louder. “Christ, let’s have the whole world know about it. I got an image, you know. A stripper needs to maintain a certain persona-”
“Calm down, ma’am, I’m just trying to get some information here.
“Christ…” Ivy muttered.
Another cop shouted and waved at the officer. “Stay here, please.” He walked away.
“Your name’s Peggy?” Ash asked.
“Yeah, don’t judge me. It’s my name. I didn’t pick me.”
“Calm the hell down,” Ash glowered at her.
“Well, why do they need it? Are they gonna do a background check?”
“Why would they do a background check on you? There was a fight, and there was a fire. Nothing they can arrest me for. I think they’re just getting information for their report.”
Another cop pulled up in his car. The first bent his head into the car window and talked to the third. The roar of the bystanders and the fire trucks drowned out their words.
After what seemed like an hour-long conversation, the first cop came back. “Ash, what’s your address?”
“My address?” He hadn’t stayed at the same place for even two days. “I, uh, live with her,” he pointed to Ivy.
“What’s your address?” the cop said.
Ivy flashed her bleached teeth. “I’m not giving you my address. I’m not the one on trial.”
“Ma’am, I’m just getting information.”
“He only stayed one time. I don’t know why he’s saying he lives with me.”
Ash gnashed his teeth. He suppressed his urge to slap her upside the head.
“You can give me it now, or you can give it to me at the station house,” the cop said, “Your choice.”
“Station house,” she sneered.
“All right that’s fine. Do you have any past history with either of the two men you were involved with?”
“No, never seen them before in my life.”
“They wouldn’t have any reason to be angry at you? Either of you?”
“Not at all,” Ivy said.
“Never seen ’em before tonight,” Ash said.
“Now what if I told you that those guys said you antagonized them before they got rowdy?”
“I’d say they were lying,” Ash said. Then he realized the cop was talking to Ivy.
“Those assholes. They would say that,” she said.
“What?” Ash said. “What are you talking about?” She didn’t answer so he turned back to the cop. “What happened?”
“Seems that this lady here promised them a lap dance earlier tonight. Then drank their drink. When they protested she threw it back in the guy’s face.”
“That’s such horseshit,” Ivy said. “They deserved it.”
Ash turned to Ivy, “You didn’t tell me that part.”
“So?” she said. “What difference does that make?”
“Uh, the difference of motivation?” Ash said sarcastically. “They probably wouldn’t have been such shits if someone hadn’t shitted on them in the first place.”
“Hey, don’t judge me. We’ve got to watch out for ourselves. I did what I had to do. You don’t have any right to judge me for that. Besides, I didn’t hear you asking a lot of questions about what their ‘motivation’ was.”
“Oh, sorry, next time I’ll get a detailed report from you. I’ll make up the forms and everything.”
“Whatever,” she crossed her arms and looked away.
Ash grunted. This all could’ve been different if he’d understood why they were behaving like assholes in the first place. He could have settled them down with a peace offering instead of riling them up further.
“So she told you to beat these people up?” the cop asked.
“No,” Ivy said.
“Yes,” Ash said, but tried correcting himself. “I mean, no, not really. Not exactly. I don’t know.” He held his head, starting to get another headache. What did they want to hear? What responses would keep him out of jail? “She said to go over and say something to them. But they were drunk, and all they wanted to do was fight.”
“Right, but you made the first move.”
“Well, no.” Ash clenched his jaw. Not going well at all. “He poked me. He spilled his drink on me. I didn’t do anything to them before. I’m not lying. Everyone saw it.”
“Don’t worry, we’re going to get statements from everyone. I just want to hear your story.
“Hey, Geoff,” the cop in the car said. “Wanna take a look at this?” Ash’s officer walked away again, and bent his head into the car.
Ash turned up to Ivy and glared. How dare she use him as her personal goon. Using his power like a gun. Manipulating him. Why was he even with her in the first place? Everything was always a big fight.
She glared back. “What? Why are you staring at me?” she said. “Don’t judge me. I didn’t do anything wrong.”
The officer came back. “Ash, can you stand up for me?”
“Sure.” He did.
“Turn around, please. Do you have any weapons on you?”
“No,” Ash shook his head, as the officer patted him down. What the hell was this? Was he back in the White Knights?
“So I won’t find anything that’s going to stick me, any knives or needles or things like that?” the cop said.
“No. I have nothing.”
“All right, Ash. Why don’t you turn around for me?”
Turn around? What did that mean? Did that mean what he was being detained? Should he comply? Should he run away? Without knowing what to do, he obeyed.
“Put your hands behind your back for me.”
Ash did, knowing what was happening. His eyes glistened with tears as he darted them around, looking for some kind of escape.
“You’re arresting him?” Ivy screamed and got in the cop’s face. “What the hell for?”
“Step back, please, ma’am.” He pulled Ash upright by his arms.
“You can’t do that,” Ivy said, dancing around them. “You can’t do that. What the hell? You have no evidence. Arrest the other guys.”
“Ma’am, please step back. I’m not going to tell you again.”
Ash could only pay attention to the cold metal rings around his wrists. His mind went blank, like a deer in headlights. What was he going to do? How would this affect his life record? What was going to happen to him? How would he get out with no money, no identity, no friends?
“Ash, don’t let them arrest you,” Ivy said.
Being addressed by name snapped him back to reality.
“Don’t let them arrest you, you dumb fuck. Break free,” Ash said.
A bad thought occurred to him, and from lack of better ideas, he followed it.
Summoning strength to his arms, Ash pulled his wrists apart. The plastic stretched and snapped. Ash stood with his hands in the air like a triumphant bodybuilder.
The cop fell back. He started yelling, “Get on the ground! Get on the ground!” and reached for his gun.
Ash yanked Ivy’s arm and started running. The officer in the car emerged as the other spoke into his radio.
Ash pulled Ivy ahead of him, forcing her to run faster. “What the hell are you doing?” she protested. “Get off me. Don’t bring me into this.”
Ash kept silent–no time for an argument. The surprise and chaos of the emergency workers let them get ahead of the cops and past the police barrier.
Ash shoved Ivy against the driver’s side door of her car. “Open it.”
She rifled through her purse for her keys, mumbling cuss words.
Ash turned back to the street and saw the two cops coming at him, guns drawn. “Get on the gr-“
No choice. Ash waved his hand, and they ignited with red-orange fire. Their commands became high-pitched screams of terror.
He turned back to Ivy, who was staring at the men on fire. “GET THE CAR OPEN!”
She looked at him, eyes filled with fear, something he’d never seen before. She got the key in the door, and opened it.
Ash jumped in. One of the two cops was running around in a circle, bumping up against objects and people. The other rolled along the pavement. Ash kept his eyes on them until Ivy started the engine and they drove like a bat out of hell.