Thunderbird Falls - By C. E. Murphy Page 0,1

feel it wrapped around my insides, waiting for me to give in and use it again. Having it crop up so sharply made me feel as pale as the girl. My hand, without any conscious order from my brain, reached out to touch her forehead. Her skin was cold and sticky with sweat.

For the first time since I’d nearly burned out in March, I lost the battle with the energy within me. It shot through me, making silver-tinted rainbows beneath my skin, and strained at my fingertips, trying to pass from me into the chilly-skinned child. Had she been an adult, I might have been able to pull back and refuse yet again to acknowledge its existence.

But she was a kid, and whether I wanted the power and responsibility I’d unintentionally taken on a six-year-old didn’t deserve to suffer for my stubbornness. Silver-sheened magic told me in the most simple, nonmedical terms possible, that the girl was suffering from near heatstroke.

To me—a mechanic by trade, even if I was a cop by day—that meant her engine had overheated.

Fixing an overheated engine’s not a hard thing. You pop the hood, pour new water into the radiator and try not to get burned by the steam, then do it again until the radiator’s full and the engine’s cooled down.

Translating that to a child sick with heat was surprisingly easy. The energy inside me boiled with eagerness to flow out of me and into the girl, but I made it drip instead of pour, afraid of what might happen if her system cooled down too rapidly. I could actually envision the steam hissing off her as heat gradually was replaced by my cool silver strength. It seemed a wonder that no one else could see it.

I was glad she was asleep. At her age she probably had very few perceptions about how health and illness worked, but it was a whole lot easier to heal somebody who couldn’t consciously disbelieve that what you were doing was possible.

The bitter truth of the matter was that I had to believe it was possible, too, and I didn’t want to. What I wanted and what was, however, were two very different things. Right through the core of me, I knew that cooling down an overheated little kid was only the bare edge of what I was capable of I let my hand fall off the girl’s forehead. There was a little color in her cheeks now, her breathing somehow more steady and less shallow. She was going to be all right, though an IV drip to help get her fluids back up would probably be a good idea. From the outside, it looked as if I’d touched the girl’s forehead as an assessment, then said, “I’ll escort you out.” I was the only one who knew better, and I was grateful for that. Headlines blaring Cop Turns Faith Healer! would not endear me to my boss.

The girl’s mother, bright-eyed with tears, whispered her thanks. I led them through the crowd, radioing for an ambulance as we walked.

Watching them drive away half an hour later, I realized I could breathe more easily than I’d been able to in months. I rubbed the heel of my hand over my breastbone again, irritably, and went back to work.

I left at nine, which was cutting it way too close to expect to get back to the university by nine-thirty. The traffic gods smiled on me, though, and I slid my Mustang into a parking spot outside the gym with a whole two minutes to spare.

I have never been what I would call the athletic sort. Not because I’m uncoordinated, but because I was never very good at working with a team in high school. I hadn’t improved at it since then, for that matter. The basketball coach had been endlessly frustrated by me. Alone I could shoot hoops till the cows came home, but put nine other people on a court with me and I got sullen and stupid and couldn’t hold on to the ball.

So fencing, which I’d started shortly after wrassling a banshee to ground, was the first sport I’d ever really pursued. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it, even with sweat leaking into my eyes and my own hot breath washing back at me against the mask.

Metal clashed against metal, a twitchy vibration running up my arm, even through the heavy canvas gloves. Block and retreat, block and retreat, lunge and attack. I blinked