“So…” Liz set down her phone and looked back at her two friends. “What are your plans for summer break?”
Becca brightened up instantly. “I’ll be spending the summer in plaid.”
“Plaid?” Liz snorted. “Plaid won’t go well with that hair.”
Becca’s pout didn’t extinguish the excited twinkle in her eyes. “I’m going to cut it. I’m thinking a pixie cut, but I haven’t decided anything yet. Pigtails are so last year ya know.”
“I think they’re adorable.” Anika stepped in with her own smile. “And I think you’ll look great in plaid.” The last bit was delivered defensively.
“Ok,” Liz held up her hand in surrender. “But why plaid?”
“It’s what everyone wears in Montana. Plaid and blue jeans. I’m gonna look like a lumberjack.” Becca was daydreaming in her own fantasy world.
“Not everyone wears blue jeans and plaid all the time.” Anika looked exasperated. “Just like not everyone from your town has a buck tooth, has made love to their sister, and sits on the porch all day with their shotgun.”
“I think you’re thinking more of the South than the Midwest.” Liz came to Becca’s defense.
“Thank you, Liz.” Becca gave an exaggerated nod. “And only old man Wilkes sits on his porch with his shotgun, but that’s because he’s too old to go hunting in the winter, so he just does it from his front porch.”
Liz couldn’t help but giggle. It seemed like both of the women had valid points.
And that’s when the lights flickered and died.
“What the heck?” Becca looked around.
Windows ringed the dining hall so there wasn’t a risk of injury due to the sudden blackout, but everyone on West’s campus knew the mayhem that followed the last city blackout. As if on cue, every cellphone started to beep, vibrate, flash, or ring as the school-wide information system kicked into high gear.
Liz had two messages.
You’re on. Was the first from an unknown number.
Shelter in place. Was the second from the school.
<Yeah, no chance in hell I’m doing that.> Not only would it make her job even harder, it would certainly blow her cover.
Liz got to her feet and gathered her bags.
“Where are you going?” Becca asked, as she read over her own text message.
“I’m going back to the townhouse,” Liz stated firmly.
“Didn’t you get the text?” Anika was on her feet too, but she hadn’t moved to block Liz yet.
“Of course I got it, and that’s the last thing I’m going to do.”
Becca looked utterly confused at Liz’s refusal.
“Look around,” Liz waved at the good little boys and girls that were staying in their seats and watching their cell phones religiously. “I’ve seen how this movie ends. A bunch of students sitting in a dining hall is a juicy target that just about every movie villain can’t pass up. For all we know shit’s going down on the other side of town and this is just precautionary.” Liz didn’t back down as Anika finally moved in front of her.
“That’s stupid. This isn’t a movie.”
“Exactly,” Liz nodded in agreement. “Because when shit finally goes down and you two need to do something about it you’re gonna get busted. It won’t matter that you saved a bunch of people. You will have broken a rule and that’s gonna get you the boot. Maybe you’ll get into another program, but there’s no guarantee that you’re both going to get admitted together, or even remember each other. Seth said something about a memory wipe. Think about them apples for a second.”
Becca’s eyebrows had nearly climbed into her hairline, and Anika looked like she’d bitten into something sour. But it didn’t take more than a few seconds for both Supers to come to the conclusion that Liz was right.
“What’s your big plan then?” Anika crossed her arms defensively.
“We go back to the townhouse,” Liz repeated. “It’s not far, so I’m sure we’ll all make it in one piece. We’ll hunker down there and wait for things to settle back down. Plus, I think we’ve got some leftover pizza in the fridge.” She gave the two HCP students a big, toothy smile.
“And if something bad happens?” Becca had already taken a few unconscious steps toward the door.
“If something bad happens then you two can get physical. On top of that I’m sure Mason, Kyoshi, Seth, and Angela are going to turn up at some point. I wouldn’t want to be the bad guy who walked into that townhouse with all of you there.”
The last sentence put Anika over the top. She actually grinned a little. “Ok, let’s get going before they lock us all in here.”
Since they were the only people moving they drew a lot of attention. Thankfully, no one got in their way until they reached the door.
“I’m sorry girls, but no one is allowed to leave.” An older guy, probably a grad student, whose job it was to swipe the meal cards stepped in their way.
“Yeah.” Liz put a hand on his chest and pushed him out of the way. “I don’t think so.”
The guy wasn’t tiny, but Liz being so aggressive took him by surprise.
“Hey! I’m calling campus security.”
“Whatever!” Liz yelled back with a laugh. “I’m safer where I’m going.”
They exited through the front door of the student center and walked down the street at a quick pace. They could hear explosions in the distance, but nothing was close to the school. Less than five minutes later they were shutting the townhouse door behind them. No one had tried to stop them on the street and they hadn’t been attacked.
So far, everything was going according to plan.
“So, what now?” Becca stood in the living room with her hands on her hips.
“Now we eat and wait for everyone else to get here.” Liz went to the fridge and wiggled out the box of pizza.
Whoever had put it there was a Tetris master and it took some finagling to get it out, but by the time she got it out Becca and Anika were sitting on the couch.
Liz took a deep breath and made sure her mental defenses were up.
<No one else is home, good. Now I just need to separate them, make the grab, and make it look like someone came in here smashed up the place and took her.>
Liz didn’t like that she was being put in this position. Becca being a speedster was a big problem. She could move around faster than Liz could see. The blue-haired Super needed to be dealt with before Liz could make the grab.
<And even then, it won’t be easy. Anika isn’t exactly slow.>
That didn’t matter as much. All Liz needed to do was get a hand on the woman.
“Do you want me to heat it up?” Liz called back to the two women in the other room.
“One cold, one warm coming up.”
Becca wanted the warm one, which gave Liz the opportunity she needed. She grabbed a couple of pills from a little plastic baggy she had stored in her pocket. If a cop had seen her with these pills she’d be in a lot of trouble. She quickly got some of the frozen cheese away from the crust, crushed the pills as best she could and sprinkled them into the sauce. Then she put the cheese back down, popped it in the microwave, and hoped this would work. The guy she got the pills from said they were super potent and could knock out an elephant in a minute.
<Now we’ll see how it works on a speedster with a super metabolism.>
Liz didn’t need too long, just a few seconds.
“Hope you’re hungry.” Liz put the slices on plates, because they weren’t animals, and brought it back into the living room. “Who am I kidding you’re always hungry.”
Becca grinned happily and devoured her piece. Anika just nibbled at hers. Her eyes were on her phone and the TV they’d turned on while Liz had been in the kitchen.
“Any new information?” Liz settled in the seat next to Anika.
If Becca wasn’t around, Liz could have made the grab right then, but with the speedster around it was just too risky.
“They’re saying terrorists are attacking Orlando.” Anika had gone still, and her voice was almost robotic. “They’ve hit the power plant, IEDs have blown up a lot of roads, they brought down some planes and took a chunk out of the airport, and there is a huge silver fire spreading to the north of us.”
“Every Hero in the state is jumping in to help, and the news is just telling everyone to stay home or stay where they are.”
“Well we’re home and were safe.” Liz smiled.
“Huh…” Becca’s face crinkled as she looked down at her phone. “Something is also going on at Lander. There’s…”
A man in camouflage and armor appeared in front of them.
Becca screamed like a stereotypical girl.
Anika was on her feet and in a combat stance.
Liz had her gun in her hand before she knew it and was pointing it at the new arrival. <What the fuck!>
Whoever this guy was he’d just ruined everything.
“Geez, relax!” He held up his hands defensively. “Ms. Kemps, it’s me, Corporal Fuentes. We met a couple of months ago.”
“Anika, who is this guy?” Liz asked, playing the protective friend and not lowering her weapon.
Anika remained in her combat stance for a second before relaxing. “It’s ok everyone, relax.”
Liz slowly lowered her gun, but didn’t click the safety back on. Becca took a few deep breaths and braced herself against the couch.
“You scared the bejesus out of me.” She steadied herself.
<No…no…no!> Liz was mentally pulling her hair out. <This fucking asshole is ruining everything.>
“Ms. Kemps, I’ve been ordered to get you out of here for your own safety.” He held out his hand. “Please come with me.”
Anika reached out for the ForceOps operator, but then hesitated, and retracted her hand.
“I’m not going anywhere without Becca.” She stated in a voice that made it clear it wasn’t a suggestion.
“I’m not going anywhere without Becca.” Anika repeated, her eyes fixed on the military teleporter.
The man’s gaze was conflicted, but only for a second. “Yes, ma’am. You’ve got three minutes to get anything you need for the two of you. We’ll be going to an undisclosed location for an undetermined amount of time. Please prepare accordingly.”
“Ok cool.” Liz decided to make a scene. “You two get whisked off the safety by Sergeant America over here and little old me gets to stay in the city that’s under terrorist attack. Awesome.” Liz rolled her eyes at the end to add the necessary teenage sass.
The corporal didn’t say anything. He just looked at Anika for confirmation.
“Whatever is going on has got something to do with me.” Anika stated hesitantly. “It’s safer for everyone if I get out of here. Once I’m gone the madness should stop and you’ll be fine. Plus, you don’t want to leave Seth again. Right?”
<Oh, you’re good bitch.>
Anika had maneuvered Liz into a corner.
If Liz continued complaining she’d tip Anika and the corporal off that something was wrong, and who knew where things would escalate to from there. It left Liz with only one choice.
“Fine.” She pouted. “But if I die I’m going to come back and haunt your ass.”
“Good enough for me.” Anika grabbed Becca by the hand. “Let’s grab some clothes.”
“Okeydokey.” Becca gave a huge yawn as they headed up the stairs. “Gotta grab some plaid.” They disappeared leaving Liz all alone with the corporal.
<Three minutes.> Liz’s mind went into overdrive. <Three minutes to make sure this whole mission doesn’t get FUBARed.>
There were three pieces to the puzzle: Anika, Becca, and the corporal. She needed to grab one, remove the other, and leave the third not knowing what the fuck happened. That part of the plan was already in motion. She just needed to figure out the other two parts.
The corporal stood there and watched her like a hawk, so to look casual Liz walked back over to the couch and sat down. Pretending to watch TV gave her the cover she needed to think quickly.
Her father had taught her from an early age to be able to think on her feet. On top of that, she had a natural gift for it. With the added teleportation, she’d inherited there were very few problems she’d come across that she couldn’t solve.
<If all else fails I’ll just brute force this bitch.> It was Plan F, but A thru E weren’t looking too good.
Two minutes later Anika and Becca reappeared, with Becca moving noticeably slower.
“I don’t feel so good.” The blue-haired speedster was gripping her stomach and looking a little green.
“Baby?” Anika looked genuinely concerned, and Liz saw her chance.
“Don’t just stand there all macho man, GI Joe. You’re in the army, you’ve got medical training, help a lady out. Anika, I’ll help you with the bags.”
“Um…yeah sure.” The seemed to snap Anika out of protective girlfriend mode. “Thanks, Liz.”
“No thanks necessary.” Liz was being completely truthful with that statement.
Liz and the corporal both moved toward Becca and Anika. Becca slumping down to her knees made the corporal run to catch her. He managed to grab her before she hit the floor. Anika’s eyes were wide with fear at the sight of her girlfriend. She was so focused on Becca she would have missed an elephant marching through the room.
It was exactly the moment Liz had been waiting for. The corporal had his hands literally full. Becca was out of commission, and Anika’s focus was elsewhere.
Liz didn’t even think, she just acted.
The pistol she’d first pointed at the corporal had been tucked into the back of her jeans. In a fluid motion, she drew the weapon, pointed and fired. The hallow point round hit the corporal just above the forehead. The entry-wound was small, only the size of the bullet, but the exit wound blew most of the man’s skull and brains out around where his neck met his spine.
To Anika’s credit her training got her moving before the shock could set in, but it was already too late. Anika just whirled to face where the shooting was coming from.
Liz was already close enough to reach out, touch the other Super while she was turning, and teleport.
A blast of darkness surged through the living room. When it vanished all that was left was Becca, barely conscious on the ground, and Corporal Fuentes’ corpse lying on top of her with a big chunk of his head missing. Blood splatter covered both of them, and a growing pool of blood was going to make sure the occupants of townhouse 117 never got their deposit back.
Liz and Anika were gone.
“Let’s go people, let’s go!” Daisy felt like a traffic cop trying to wrangle a bunch of three-year-olds on a sugar high.
Her charges really weren’t doing that bad, but she was growing more and more impatient with the tinniest delay.
“Abney, Fletcher, get your heads out of your collective ass and get up here.” She snapped at the freshmen who were moving too slowly for her current mood.
Daisy had been sitting in the control room and rapping up Abney and Fletcher’s last trial when the lights had flickered, died, and then come back to life on emergency power. Her first move was to call Topher. This type of situation wasn’t exactly new, and she needed to make sure it was safe if this was really the start of the shit-storm she’d been fearing for weeks.
Her call never got through.
<They’re taking out communications, making it harder to call for help.>
It would throw the city’s defenders off for a heartbeat, but they had special satellite phones, and a dedicated DVA satellite, for just this type occurrence. Still, the phones really weren’t supposed to be used for HCP instructors to call their boyfriends.
<Too bad. Rules were meant to be broken.> But that had to wait. There were other procedures in place she needed to follow.
Step one was to gather all of the HCP students and visitors in one centralized location. That location was the giant gym she routinely kicked the crap out of freshmen in. Having everyone in one place was a good way to make sure nothing happened if big explosions targeted the school in attempts to bury the HCP. That was more of a Cold War mindset, but it could apply to other situations. Also, it gave the staff eyes on everyone. Meaning, that if someone was there that wasn’t supposed to be there, or had harmful intent toward the school, they’d be trapped. They’d have a lot of human shields, but they’d still be trapped.
<If any of my kids ends up a human shield I’m going to fail their asses.> Daisy chuckled. She’d trained her freshmen better than that.
Her real concern was the DVA contractors she was charged with. As if by the power of her will alone, the contractors and a masked Fiona Richardson popped around a corner ahead of them. Richardson had been completing her own final trial when the power went out.
“That’s everyone.” Daisy did a quick headcount and motioned for everyone to hurry up.
A few minutes later they were all in the gym, which despite having about fifty people routed to it was still abundantly spacious. Once there, she found Sanderson and Grace who were checking people over. Sanderson for any injuries sustained, and Grace for any intruders who weren’t supposed to be here.
“John!” She called out, leaving her small group to intercept the HCP Dean.
He held up a serious finger that screamed “DON’T Interrupt”, so she sat back for a minute and waited.
“Understood.” The small man practically growled.
Daisy heard what sounded like an explosion from the other end of the line, but she was too far away to confirm that.
He hung up and spun to face her. “What?”
This was stressed out John. This was the John that Daisy had seen back when she was a member of the Patriots. When he was like this there was no arguing. Shit was serious. If he asked her to jump, she didn’t even ask what building she needed to jump over.
“What do you want me to do?” Her own resolve settled. If he was like this, then it was more than simple gang violence.
“Right now I need you to sit tight and wait for deployment orders.” John didn’t even speak about her current non-certification, which meant she’d be getting another rundown from Dispatch about what she could and couldn’t do while being a temporary Hero.
“Yes, Sir.” She almost stopped it there, but she couldn’t. “John, can I get one of the phones. I need to make a call.”
It came out more pleading that what she intended, but that might have helped her case. John’s face softened for a moment as he handed over his own phone. “Make it quick. And if you get an incoming call you need to hang up and get me ASAP. Got it.”
John spun around and headed over toward Grace while Daisy quickly dialed a number from memory. Kids today relied too much on numbers saved into their smartphone. They were always shit out of luck if their phone died and they had to call someone. But not Daisy. Being old-school helped sometimes.
The line connected when anything else would have received an error message.
“Hello!” Topher’s voice was stressed and there were blaring sirens in the background.
“Topher, it’s me Daisy.”
“Daisy. Thank god. Are you ok?”
She almost laughed. “Don’t worry about me. I’m in an underground fortress. What about you? Are you ok?”
There was a worrisome pause. “I’m fine. Not hurt or anything, but things are…bad out here.”
“Tell me.” She hadn’t been briefed on anything yet and this was a chance to get a firsthand account.
“IED explosions all around the city have cut off most of the roads in and out. Power plant is down again. Armed teams have taken radio, TV, and blown up a lot of communication’s towers. They’ve got their manifesto blaring on anything left broadcasting. We’re trying to hunt down and reinforce some strategic locations, but these guys are like fucking cockroaches popping up everywhere. They already took down most of the airport, SWAT’s engaged now.” Topher stopped there to collect himself.
“Now we’ve got a huge fire up north that we can’t really get to because the roads are out. They’ve got all the uniformed officers consolidating through the city so we can respond and recon in force.”
<Good that’s a solid tactic. Keep my boy in blue as safe as possible.> Ideally, she’d liked him stuffed in an underground bunker, but she knew Topher couldn’t run away from helping people any more than she could.
“Please promise me you’ll be safe.” Her voice wavered as she left the fear show. “I can’t lose you.” She blinked her eyes rapidly to clear the tears. She couldn’t have any of her students seeing this.
“Don’t worry, Babe. I’ll be ok.”
It was a lie. They both knew it. There was no safe with what was out there. There was just the illusion of safety you projected around yourself so you could keep doing your job to the best of your ability. You’d worry about the danger when it came up and stared you in the face, but not before then. Normal people needed that from you, and you had to deliver. It was literally the difference between life and death.
“I love you.” Was all the Daisy could say before getting choked up.
“I love you too, Daisy.”
A beeping on the line announced on incoming call on the satellite phone.
“I’m sorry, I’ve got to go.” Daisy had to tear her heart away from the conversation.
“Me too, I’m responding to a call. See you soon.”
They left it there because there was nothing else to say.
“John!” Daisy yelled, holding up the phone for him to see before tossing it to him.
The she turned around to compose herself. A few tears had leaked out despite her efforts, so she wiped them away and took a few deep breaths.
<Everything is going to be fine. Topher is a good cop. He’s well-trained, experienced, and can get through anything he puts his mind too.> She specifically didn’t think about the amount of luck that went into surviving an encounter with a Super if that Super intended to do you harm.
“What do you mean they aren’t…!”
“No, I understand. But it’s not like we’re just having a fucking picnic over here either.”
John’s cursing surprised Daisy. She hardly ever heard the stoic shifter drop a four-letter word.
<This can’t be good.>
“Yeah, ok.” John deflated a little. “Just get them here as soon as you can.” He hung up and his shoulders sagged.
“What’s going on, Boss.” Craig blurred to his side just as Daisy walked over.
John looked around to make sure there was enough separation between the staff and the rest of their guests. “Lander went dark about fifteen minutes before all of this started.”
“Coincidence?” Daisy didn’t believe in them.
“ForceOps and DVA don’t have any connection, but they’re scrambling Heroes to get there. Worst of all. Most of the heavy hitters are there for Intermurals and the afterparties.”
West’s own crop of seniors still hadn’t returned. Normally, John would have gone, but with things so uncertain here he decided it was a good idea to stay. Robin and Marshall had taken them instead.
<Really could have used Force Field about now.> Containment would have been a hell of a lot easier with the seasoned Hero.
“Hopefully, the situation there will get sorted out soon, and they can redeploy assets to us. But right now it’s just us, the Protectorate, and the ForceOps troops Colonel Ford detailed to us.” The phone started ring again. “Speak of the devil.”
John turned around the answer, but only made it a few steps before he froze. “Are you sure?” He nodded his head a few times to whatever the Colonel on the other end was saying. “Ok, I’m on it. Reaper.”
<And here we go.> Going from Daisy to Reaper was always a good sign that shit had hit the fan.
“The teleporter they sent to grab Ms. Kemps is not responding. Her last reported location was her townhouse. I need you to get out there and assess the situation.”
Daisy nodded, accepting the plain gray mask he handed over to her.
“Let me help.” Seth Abney stepped forward from where he’d clearly been eavesdropping. “I live there, my friends live there, and my girlfriend is probably there. Let me help.”
“Yeah, me too.” Fiona Richardson stepped forward next to Abney. “I’ll be able to get you there in the blink of an eye.”
Daisy looked to John for his input. She knew what she would do, but she wasn’t calling the shots.
“Go.” He said throwing two more masks to the freshmen. “But no combat. If things go wrong you get Mr. Abney back here, Ms. Richardson. Let Professor Meyers handle anything unpleasant.”
Both freshmen looked a little upset that they were going to miss the action, but they realized they were lucky to get off the leash in the first place. They hurried to get their masks on and secure. They were both in their black uniforms already, so no regular person would mistake them for anything less than a Hero. Even if that wasn’t true yet.
“Let’s go, Richardson.” Daisy grabbed the girl’s shoulder and motioned for Abney to do the same.
Fiona Richardson had the potential to be a top tier teleporter when she was fully trained up. But she still had some work to do. Currently, her teleports were accompanied by a pop that sounded like someone was bursting a balloon, and there was minor disorientation for her passengers when they arrived.
Daisy made sure they didn’t arrive in the house because of the side effects. Abney had to bend over and try not to puke while he got his bearings. Daisy just had to take a few deep breaths to regain her equilibrium. It wasn’t the worst teleport she’d ever experienced, but if Richardson wanted to make it to Hero she really needed to figure it out.
<Game time.> Daisy extended her sixth sense toward the townhouse only a hundred feet away. She felt one lifeline inside, and it had the slipperiness of a speedster.
Still, she approached cautiously. There could still be someone there hidden by a nullifier. Armsman had tried that trick before and she had taken a bullet because of it.
“Stay here and keep an eye out.” She instructed the two freshmen as she climbed the porch steps and kicked in the front door.
<They can bill me.>
The door went flying, but she didn’t just charge in. She used the doorframe as cover, accelerated her mind, and peaked around the edge to get a quick view.
Two bodies were on the floor and one was clearly dead.
“Shit.” Now she rushed in. Trying to keep an eye on as much of the room as possible. “Abney, Richardson, get in here now.”
Both freshmen ran in and Richardson went green in the face before rushing back out to puke in the bushes. Abney didn’t run, but he didn’t look great.
“Liz!” He yelled out, taking his eyes away from the dead uniformed man and a blood-covered Becca.
“Whitfield?” Daisy knelt beside her and shook her shoulder gently.
“Wha…goin’ on? Why room spinnin’?” Becca moaned.
“You’re ok. Keep your eyes closed, take my hand, and let’s get you onto the couch.
Daisy helped the speedster up off the blood-soaked floor. There was a lot of blood that had spread far, which meant some time had passed since the shooting.
She studied his posture. <It looked like he was bent over Whitfield when he got shot.> That much she could tell from how he’d tipped over from a kneeling position to lay next to the speedster.
“Liz!” Abney appeared in the stairwell, panic on his face.
“Abney!” Daisy snapped to get his mind focused again. “Any sign of Kemps?”
“What?” He looked at her like a deer in headlights.
“Kemps!” she shouted. “Did you see her?”
“No,” He replied. “No one else is here.”
“Guys, someone is running this way.” Richardson informed from a position she’d taken near the door. “They looked freaked.”
“Seth…Seth…SETH!” Liz tore up the little sidewalk that lead up to the porch.
“LIZ!” Seth flew back out the door and wrapped her up in a bear hug.
Daisy gave them a few seconds before she stepped in.
“What happened?” She gently pushed Seth aside.
“It was horrible.” Liz sobbed. “Anika and Becca were getting ready to leave. The military guy there came to get them. Then some guys busted through the door. They shot the soldier and grabbed Anika.”
Daisy saw the girl hyperventilating and gave her a chance to steady herself.
“I just fucking ran.” Liz looked down at the floor trying to hide the shame on her face and not succeeding. “I ran out the back, up the block, and hid in the alley. When I saw you three arrive I came out?”
Daisy gave the girl a pat on the shoulder, and felt her life thread. “You’re a teleporter?”
“Um…yeah.” The girl looked embarrassed again. “I mean I’m not HCP powerful or anything, but I can move small objects.”
“We know she’s a teleporter.” Seth stepped in. “She’s on record and everything.”
“And she knows about the HCP?” That much was clear from the short conversation.
“I trust her completely, and she hasn’t betrayed anyone in this townhouse all year.” There was no hesitation in Abney’s voice, and the way Liz looked at him was clearly with love.
<It’s your funeral if she fucks you.> Daisy shrugged. People had to make their own mistakes.
“Ok.” She refocused her attention on the dead body in the living room. “Dispatch.”
“Inform Iron Giant that we’re at the scene. The ForceOps teleporter is missing a big chunk of his head, and Kemps is gone. A witness says a bunch of people barged into the house and took her. Another witness seems to be drugged or poisoned.”
“Acknowledged, Reaper. Please stay on scene and wait for Orlando police to arrive. I’ll relay any follow-on orders from Iron Giant.”
“Thank you, Dispatch.”
“Who are you talking to.” Abney’s girlfriend looked confused.
“Don’t worry about it.” Daisy replied gruffly. “Just try and remember everything that happened. The police are on their way to get your statement.”
“Oh…ok.” The girl took a deep breath and grabbed Abney’s hand tightly.
He returned the gesture and Daisy couldn’t help but smile. She just felt sorry they both had to endure all of this.