Shadow Unit

Case Files

Teasers & Deleted Scenes

Ashton, VA, July 2009

Chaz ran into Dyson Cieslewicz at the foot of Idlewood's main staircase. He'd just come down the stairs, and Cieslewicz was coming from the direction of the elevators. It hadn't been a good day in Hafidha's world, and when Cieslewicz said "Hi, Agent Villette," shyly, as if he expected Chaz to blow him off, Chaz said, surprising himself nearly as much as Cieslewicz, "Hey, you wanna come get some coffee or something? The cafeteria here isn't bad."

"Sure," Cieslewicz said and smiled at him. It was cliché to talk about unattractive people being transformed by their smiles, and it wasn't accurate anyway. But Cieslewicz's smile made you see something beside the acne scars and the ugly glasses.

Chaz chose the table in the back corner of Idlewood's basement cafeteria, where he could have walls on two sides, and Cieslewicz didn't argue. Coffee for both of them, and Chaz got the lasagna. They knew him here; the woman working the counter gave him a smile and damn near half the pan. Cieslewicz bought a muffin, which he then proceeded to pick apart into crumbs while Chaz ate.

They didn't say anything for a long time.

Finally, Cieslewicz said, apparently to the remains of his muffin, "Sometimes, when I can't sleep, I wonder why it wasn't me, y'know? I mean, I'm the one Dad almost killed, I'm the one he was ragging on twenty-four-seven about how evil being left-handed was. So how come it was Eddie who went crazy and got superpowers?" He glanced up. "And I thought maybe you might be wondering the same thing."

Chaz raised his eyebrows, doing his best to look puzzled and incredulous, but Cieslewicz pushed ahead, "Because of your friend. Because"--with a pointed look at Chaz's empty and practically shining plate--"you eat the way Eddie does, and, well, people have said some things. Nothing bad. Just...things." The glasses were still almost distractingly ugly, but the eyes behind them were calm and sad and lonely.

"I..." Isn't that why you're here, cowboy? Because you're lonely? He stopped, took a deep breath, and said, "Yes. Yes, I do wonder." And, God, it was like a boulder had rolled off his chest and let all the words out: "There aren't any answers, you know. Not real ones. We've got theories and speculations and correlations, but D--a friend of mine says 'correlation is not causation,' and that's where we get hung up. We can correlate until the end of time, but we still don't know what the cause is. We don't know why it hit Eddie and not you. We don't know why it hit Hafidha"--he forced himself to say her name without stumbling, but it was hard--"and not me. We don't know why Hafidha and I have a...have gone a different..."

"Why you're a superhero instead of a supervillain."

"Um," said Chaz.

"Sorry, that's a lousy way to put it. But I mean, you got a thing like Eddie's hand, but you aren't running around killing people with it."

"Not yet," Chaz said. "That's what happened to my friend who's here. It's not likely it will get you, you know. Like being struck by lightning. I mean, trauma is a risk factor. There may be a genetic link. But still. Even though it doesn't feel like it when you're here"--and he waved his hand to indicate Idlewood in all its ridiculous Kirkbridian splendor around them--"this is a really, really rare thing to have happen. One in...millions. But me... It's already got me. I wonder sometimes what it's waiting for."

"I don't know very much," Cieslewicz said, "but I have figured out that this thing is greedy. It doesn't wait. So, y'know, you must be doing something right."

"I eat my spinach," Chaz said. "I do a good deed every day."

"Hey, man. Whatever works."

Cieslewicz reached for his coffee--left-handed, Chaz noticed, and the hand looked better.

"Yeah," Cieslewicz said, and Chaz twitched a little, realizing he'd been caught. "I got whatchamacallem, benefits, because of Eddie. So I figured I'd better use 'em."

"That's good," Chaz said and winced.

"Well, I was never any good at the violin anyway," Cieslewicz said comfortably, and Chaz said, "You know, I really need some of that disgusting fruit jello. You want some?"