|Fic: Imposition 3/?
||[Apr. 15th, 2009|07:54 am]
Title: Imposition (3/?)
Sequel to: Compromise
Disclaimer: I only own action figures
Rating: eventually NC-17
Warning: Graphic m/m sexual activity, dubious consent (in earlier chapters). Here, just naughty language. More importantly, unbeta'd and unrevised. Eep.
Summary: Plot! ...and apologies to the Boy Scouts of America.
Part 1, Part 2.
Sequel to Compromise.
Nite Owl spent the next few weeks shaking things up. He volunteered to take over the Comedian’s abandoned territory – by phone, telling a disappointed Nelson he wouldn’t be available to attend meetings for a while – and relished the challenge of spreading his reputation to new streets. He hit the gym with renewed vigor and upgraded his night goggles, finally finishing the facial recognition software he’d been tinkering with for months. Hacking into the new NYPD database and leaving an undetectable electronic spy behind to sync with his own records every night killed several days alone, and he was proud of his work. He took a glancing knife wound to one thigh, avoiding worse solely because the miscreant’s partner tried to kick Nite Owl in the groin simultaneously and got in the blade’s way, and met with Hollis Mason to brainstorm armoring options.
He followed Rorschach’s activities on police frequencies and the morning papers, sometimes stumbling on cordoned-off crime scenes left behind like a predator’s scat. Nite Owl varied his own patrolling routine, in no way giving these places a wide berth. Just…shaking things up.
Daniel, however, would be the first to admit that he usually left problems to fester. Better to not rip off the band-aid when the wound underneath could still heal on its own, and all that. Better to not even lift up a corner and peek, in case that broke the scab. But, (he’d follow up defensively) he was working on that. And he’d already made great progress on other fronts, making his daydreams of fighting crime a gritty and painful day-to-day reality – not to mention coming to terms with his heretofore completely unsuspected bisexuality, which was another biggie.
Is there really, definitely, absolutely no chance that there’s in fact a woman disguising her voice under all those layers? It would make a sort of sense to hide her gender from rapists and thugs, and Rorschach is pretty small to be a guy…could be another Sally Jupiter under there.
No. No, there was definitely stubble on that chin. And, you know, “Walter.” Dammit.
So, he’d accepted that he was apparently attracted to men as well as women, or at least ‘man’ more than ‘men,’ at any rate until he had any evidence to the contrary. That was already more personal improvement than most adults ever even attempted. How much could you expect a man to change all at once?
So Nite Owl listened to the reports that all seemed to hint at or outright declare the other vigilante had gone berserk, leaving nothing behind for the police that didn’t require a lengthy hospitalisation before a recognisable mug shot could be taken, and planned his routes accordingly.
Daniel was working on it – he wasn’t a complete bastard! It was just a matter of figuring out the right opening line.
Probably not it: Just by the by, I have this video recording here on my ship of you alternately fighting and having sex with a sociopathic sublingual reject of evolution – care to put this in a rational context for me?
Or: Sooooo…gay, huh? With your attitudes toward the entire range of human sexuality, that’s gotta be a bitch.
If you’re in some kind of trouble, why don’t you ask me for help? was a good one, but he’d already tried that without success.
Mostly, the trouble was that Daniel never asked a question if he wasn’t prepared to hear the answer. And he hadn’t yet come up with a possible response that wouldn’t drive him stark raving mad.
What could make what he saw something he could stand to have live in his brain?
Funny story, Daniel – the Comedian keeps asking to borrow my clothes and the mask I never, ever take off, and I let him, for some reason, but they’re returned to me smelling of scotch, cigars, and anonymous male prostitutes. How weird is that?
Even now, Daniel’s mind scrabbled to find some way to believe it, ridiculous as that was.
No, he’d seen a man in a mask, who could be anybody – but all he knew of his partner was a man in a mask, who could be anybody, who fought exactly like the man on the monitor had. It was him.
Just face that fact, Nite Owl: your partner had sex with the Comedian. At least once. How voluntary it was, given that they were trying to kill each other immediately before, is up in the air, but…
Some nasty little part of him clung to that idea. If it wasn’t voluntary, if he’d been forced into it somehow, that was sort of…better. In a devastatingly traumatic sense, of course. Daniel didn’t want to look too closely at his thought process there.
He raped me, Daniel, and it’s left me all broken. Please fix me with your magical healing cock.
Daniel flung the half-finished grappling gun he was attempting to construct to his workbench and rubbed the bridge of his nose. Nothing he tried to focus on had fully unseated those images from the back of his mind. Frustrated, worried, and unbearably horny, he was left more sarcastic (and more honest) with himself than usual.
He clung at least to the certainty that he’d already dragged himself through the worst possibilities again and again. There was nothing more belittling or horrifying that could possibly come out of his partner’s covered mouth.
Leather daddy veterans reeeeeally turn me on, not nerds in spandex.
Daniel groaned and wished for a length of piano wire so he could floss that idea right out of his brain. He decided it was time for a run, a little cardio to balance out all the weight training he’d been doing, and maybe if he ran fast enough and far enough, the nasty little thoughts would be left in the dust.
At least it would keep him from watching the recording. Again.
He changed into shorts and sneakers, thinking: You over-think things. You’re thinking about over-thinking right now. That’s just one level of pondering away from a complete mental breakdown.
Just talk to the guy. Don’t wait for the perfect opener. Jump in with both feet, probably firmly lodged in your mouth. Damn. How am I going to start this conversation?
Daniel tied his shoes so tightly his toes throbbed. This is why you can never pick up women. Even in singles bars, where every woman you see has gotten dolled up specifically in hope of getting laid with any man visibly no more than half-orc in bad lighting. You psych yourself out, stare at your beer, go home after an hour and jerk off to your own self-pity. It’s no way to live.
He decided to skip stretching and bounded out the door, nearly colliding with a man loitering practically on his doorstep. He disentangled himself, getting only a jumbled impression of a wool overcoat with the collar flipped and a panicked hrnk! before saying, “Excuse me,” in a tone that turned it into, “Excuse you, asshole!” and setting off uphill.
That’s it, he decided, I’ll try to run into him tonight, and finally have this out.
It was Nite Owl’s lucky night – nearly all the local masks converged on what had either been a multi-gang brawl that expanded into mass looting, or mass looting that spawned brawls over the best spoils. He saw young Laurie first, a fierce grin splitting her face as she grabbed the biggest offenders and spun them into a handy brick wall. The three young cops nearest her did nothing but handcuff the stunned looters and frog-hop them into the nearest wagon, tongues all but lolling out of their mouths as they watched her work.
His goggles picked out the main features of the faces in green dots and flashed information in his peripheral vision. The policemen were Officers Hansen, Edwards, and Keane. The man in Edwards’ hands was David Zellinski – Nite Owl toggled the wheel on the side of the lens to bring up a bare summary of his record in print too small to read.
Need to fix that.
“Where’s Jon?” he asked her, moving into a protective position.
“D.C.,” she called back. “Big meeting with Johnson’s top lab coats.”
Nite Owl tripped a Dog sprinting past with a handful of gold jewellery. It flew out of his fingers as he landed on his chin, much of it bouncing into a nearby sewer grate. Nite Owl winced and hauled him over to the police, hoping no one was paying close attention.
“Well,” he told Laurie, “I’ll watch your back then.”
The green dots briefly moved across her features and came back with no information. Good, he thought. No record, no recognition. Just as expected.
The teen rolled her eyes and jerked her chin toward her thin blue fan club. “Trust me, my ass is extremely watched right now.”
Nite Owl blushed under his cowl. “Er…I meant in a more – ”
“They could use a hand on the east end of this mess,” she insisted. “Ozy and Nelson have the local 5-0s organised to the north, but Rorschach’s trying to hold down the electronics strip – ”
Nite Owl took off in that direction, swerving to interrupt a nasty three-on-one fight and startle a looter (T. Tesler, his goggles informed him) into dropping the 20-inch Viking tucked under his arm. He heard it shatter on the street behind him. Laurie was right. The real riot was on the east, pure chaos as young men in leather jackets tussled over stereos, young men in riot gear used their billy clubs indiscriminately, and a handful of shop owners defended their property with whatever weapons they had handy. Names flashed by his eyes too quickly to read. Nite Owl thought again of armor as a bullet whizzed past his ear, and someone called “Sorry!” from an upper window.
“Stop shooting!” he yelled, and the window briefly disgorged a night-creamed Medusa with curlers in her hair and a 12-gauge, who flipped him off and lined up another shot. His goggles unsurprisingly drew a blank on the face.
He took a crescent-shaped throwing blade from his belt and flung it at the gun. She squawked as it clanged home near her hands and let go, the gun clattering to the pavement and somehow not going off.
“Cocksucker!” she screamed and slammed the window shut.
“You’re welcome!” he yelled back, handing the gun to a policeman for safekeeping, who snickered.
“Warms your motherfucking cockles, don’t it, the gratitude of the innocents?” the cop (Officer Suchitran) yelled over the riot noise. Someone threw a Molotov cocktail down the street, missing the storefront but making a nearby dumpster blossom into flame.
“Shit!” Nite Owl’s new friend hissed, grabbing his transceiver and calling for firefighters. He and most of the riot police dropped crowd control in favour of trying to contain the rapidly spreading flames.
More for me, a small part of Nite Owl thought gleefully, the rest of him running a rough triage on the smorgasbord of miscreants surrounding him. The kid, maybe fifteen, running away with a hi-fi? Leave him. The two Mohawks working out a grudge on a Dog via trash can lid? Break it up – knock out both Mohawks, check for a pulse under the Dog’s bloody and likely broken jaw – yes, it’s there, and strong. Woman in a dressing gown with two blenders in her flabby arms and a maniacal grin? Let her go, wish you had a camera.
As if his thought brought it on, Nite Owl was caught in a floodlight and the noise of screeching tires cuts through the melee. Ladies and Gentlemen, the media has arrived. We’ve saved.
Movement on the corner caught his eye: an elderly couple, dressed to the nines, possibly returning from a show, two Dogs grabbing at her beringed hands while her husband landed a wild haymaker on one’s ear. Both thugs turned on him, landed three hard punches. The wife grabbed one’s arm, planting her feet, but even with all her strength was unable to pull him aside. Nite Owl ran across the street, but he could already see brittle bones shattering, already read tomorrow’s headlines: Nice Old Couple Slaughtered For Costume Jewellery While So-Called Superhero Stands By.
No – there was a blur of motion, and the two assailants flew into the street. His partner, limping but still ungodly fast, pushed between the old woman and her assailant and kick both young men away from their victims. They leapt back to their feet, still liking their odds before they caught sight of the shifting face of their new opponent and backed away.
Right into Nite Owl’s welcoming arms.
He caught glimpses of his partner’s understated nod, checking the old man’s bleeding face and actually taking the man’s arm to lead them to the relative shelter of a stoop. Nite Owl wanted to marvel over that – he’s shaken hands with Rorschach once or twice but still would swear he’s never seen those gloves touch flesh without the intention to maim – but more rag-stuffed bottles flew down the block, the riot turning into a fiery rout, and his hands were full just trying to hold back a stampede.
The fire engines arrived, their noise and rough halt pouring oil on the more metaphorical fire, and he saw his partner speak briefly to a terrified young policeman, taking his club. He covered one side of the street in front of the terrified couple, simply breaking the knees of anyone who ran past him, and Nite Owl fell into place on the other side. They only managed to stop a fraction of the looters and fighters fleeing the scene, police clearing them into vans as reporters dove into the fray, protecting their hair and projecting calm excitement at their cameras.
They looked like alien abductees to Nite Owl, also caught in the strong light, and he resented being background to their career-defining moments. He lost sight of Rorschach, somewhere in the shadows made darker by so much light.
The flow of people slowed quickly. Most of them evaporated back into the warren of alleys that honeycombed the neighbourhood, and would never be arrested or charged. Nite Owl tried to be satisfied with the slap on the back he got from the bitter cop, who reminded him about the cockles again and laid a boot into the nearest body. Nite Owl couldn’t bring himself to care. He saw Laurie well down the block, talking to Nelson and Ozymandias, and tried to be happy enough that all his people are accounted for.
He looked toward his partner’s last location, like a compass needle jittering north, only to see him struggling with the old woman. She hung from his neck, and Nite Owl began to smile at his partner’s discomfort until he realised what she was desperately gesturing toward: her husband, dead white and clutching his left arm.
Rorschach motioned him over, leaning to be seen around another impromptu camera set-up. The police and the media were mopping up, and the heroes were now only obstructions, to be ignored until they went away. Nite Owl sprinted over to the old man just as he crumpled to the sidewalk.
“I need an ambulance!” he called to the nearest cop, but there was no time to wait for one to force its way through the chaos.
“Help him!” the woman demanded, managing to drag Rorschach closer to the fallen man. Later, Nite Owl would be impressed by her adrenaline-fuelled strength.
“I know CPR!” he told the world at large – for some reason, he couldn’t picture just pounding on an old guy’s chest while in uniform without letting the world know he’s trying to help, not arrest a dying man – and whipped off his cape, wedging it under the man’s head. He tipped the head back and put his cheek to the man’s mouth – nothing. Ripped off his glove and tried for a pulse – nothing. He wished he could see the man’s pallor, but the surrounding camera lights bleach out the skin, leaving it a blank canvas for the dancing red and blue lights.
Here goes nothing, Nite Owl thought, a little comforted by the sound of his partner’s growl for everyone to give the man some air, and started chest compresses.
Daniel would be panicking, faced with this situation. He’d dither about the correct amount of pressure to put on a fragile chest and the right ratio of breaths to compressions and generally hope someone else would step forward. Nite Owl was calmly satisfied not to feel the sternum breaking under his hands. Someone in the gathering crowd counted out the beats for him, letting him focus on the lifeless figure as he mechanically switched between chest and mouth, hoping for a groan, a twitch, anything.
He reminded himself that heart attack victims only miraculously start breathing on their own in the movies, but was still unhappy when a paramedic carefully pushed him aside to slip an oxygen mass over the unmoving man. Unhappy, restless and damned dizzy, even when the man’s wife pressed a distracted kiss to his cheek before leaping into the back of the ambulance with the speed of a new bride.
He jumped and nearly brained Rorschach when the man prodded him with his forgotten cape. “Sorry, sorry. Thanks.”
Green dots skittered briefly across the shifting mask before giving up in disgust.
“Perhaps an aerial view?” the other man suggested.
Nite Owl snorted at the other man’s tactful nudge that he take some time to regroup, but nodded. It would be good to take Archie up for a while. Peaceful.
“You coming?” he asked, hoping for a negative reply. The man dying by inches under his hands and lips had successfully driven the banal images of a two-backed beast from his mind. Another night, he’d beckon them back in hopes of exorcising them.
Rorschach nodded meaningfully at the well coiffed journalist pushing his way through the small crowd, towing a camera crew. “We should go now.”
“What, you don’t want to wave to your Mom on the 11 o’clock news?” Nite Owl groused, watching the retreating ambulance. He tried to picture a handsome tv doctor yelling clear! and defibrillating – chest heaves, monitor beeps and beeps again, wife cries tears of joy, curtains fall on the happy scene – but could only see a sheet being drawn over the jowly face.
He was also pretty sure he could see rolling eyes in the mask’s shifting pattern and led them back to where he’d hidden the owlship, doubling back through alleys to be sure they aren’t followed by prying cameras. Rorschach followed him up the fire escape and the noise of his footsteps – dun-dunk, dun-dunk – reminded Nite Owl that he’d been limping mid-fight.
“Are you hurt?” he managed to grit out as he climbed into the ship, biting back another sarcastic comment.
His partner didn’t seem to notice his irritation. “I’m fine. One of them got behind me early on, kicked the back of my knee. Nothing permanent.”
“You should probably call it a night, then,” Nite Owl ordered. “Not much good for anything, with only one reliable leg. Unless you plan to hop.”
Nite Owl ran impatiently through the warm-up routine, trying not to look at the monitor in the dash. “Dammit,” he complained, hating the whining note creeping into his voice, “this is too slow. I need something that can come on-line immediately. What if we needed to escape something right now? It’s more of a liability than anything else right now.”
Rorschach settled into the seat next to him, carefully stretching his right leg and rotating his ankle. “It’s not a car, Daniel,” he replied, his tone something approximating comfort instead of reproach. “Can’t expect – ”
“I know that better than – dammit. I know.” Nite Owl tried to rub his eyes, gloved fingers rebounding off his goggles. “Thanks,” he muttered, resenting the inborn need to be polite.
The old man was probably dead already. Ambulance pulling into the hospital with its sirens silenced, only the lights revolving, slowly. Funereally. He bit back the words that tried to escape – the exact language unimportant, as long as it told everyone nearby to fuck the hell off until he could stand to look at another human being.
Too bad I never came up with that perfect opening line, he thought darkly, and snorted, taking Archie up into the low clouds. Forget watching the city right now. Nite Owl wanted to look at the stars. He’d never appreciated his partner’s taciturn nature so much.
“You saved him,” Rorschach broke into his dire thoughts, fidgeting in the co-pilot’s chair.
Nite Owl checked the dashboard clock, surprised to realise he’d been staring into the black for almost a half hour. “Maybe,” he allowed.
“He’d have been dead on the sidewalk, otherwise,” his partner insisted.
Sure, I gave him the chance to die in bewilderment and pain instead, chest cracked open and defibrillation burns all up and down the sides…
He realised he’d said that aloud when his partner replied. “You gave him a chance to live.”
Nite Owl had kept his mask on, even though the drying sweat itched like an army of ants pitching tents in his hair. He wanted the extra layer, between himself and the world, between himself and the man underneath it.
“If it had just been me there, he wouldn’t have had even that,” his partner persisted. “Where did you learn to do that?”
Nite Owl rolled his head around, easing some small measure of tension from his neck. Rorschach mirrored the motion, perhaps unconsciously.
In a small voice, Nite Owl admitted: “Boy Scout merit badge.”
His partner stared, one hand on the back of his neck, forgotten.
Nite Owl went for broke. “Emergency Preparedness was one of the ones you needed…to be an Eagle Scout.”
He waited a long moment. “Look, just let it out. I’ve heard them all.”
Rorschach’s hand dropped down to rub his sore knee. “Doesn’t quite fit your theme,” he said.
Nite Owl wasn’t too disappointed at the serious response. It was predictable. Comforting. “There isn’t an Owl Scout, unfortunately. Maybe I should write to the Boy Scouts of America and have them make one. You can achieve it once you’ve completed your vigilantism merit badge.”
It didn’t come out in the sour voice that ran through his head. The nasty, impotent mood was lifting, just a little. Nite Owl touched the edges of his mask, comforting himself that it was secure. The woman’s lips had fallen half on the skin of his cheek, half on the reinforced cowl, he remembered suddenly. As if it was on purpose – although he knew she’d been thinking of nothing but the limp body being wheeled into the ambulance – but still, it was as if she made sure to thank both the invulnerable hero and the dorky teenager who’d given a throwaway afternoon CPR course the same focus he gave all his studies.
Daniel spoke from behind the mask. “I did my best, and it wasn’t good enough.”
Rorschach only stared again, stiffening in the seat. Nite Owl wept at Daniel’s pathetic tactical misstep. You want to unburden yourself on the guy who’s been an emotional bomb crater for weeks now? Go. Go ahead. Tap dance on that warhead. Don’t even think of defusing it first.
“It was good enough,” his partner suddenly insisted, playing with his glove. “Better than anyone else there – better than I did.”
Nite Owl heard the note of hero worship in the fierce tone, a not entirely unfamiliar sound from his partner – at least in between rants on sexual deviants and the criminal fraternity as twin cancers destroying the city. It never failed to light a warm little spark in the pit of his stomach.
If the guy who categorises everyone around him as a villain, whore, or useless appendage doesn’t condemn me, I can probably get away with forgiving myself.
“It’s just…I wanted closure, I guess. To know that the guy was going to be okay, or not. Things are usually so much simpler, you know? We get the bad guys, or we don’t. But thanks, man.”
Rorschach acknowledged it with an uncomfortable nod, rubbing his knee with more force than necessary.
Things are almost normal again – can’t we just go on this way? Nite Owl asked Daniel. Forget what you saw, let it just be one more mystery he keeps up, and just go on with things as they’ve been. It’s better than no partner at all, right?
Daniel thought it over, restraining himself from the friendly gesture – maybe just a pat on the shoulder that was even now inclining just slightly farther in his direction – that felt like the natural companion to a sincere thank-you. Especially since he now felt clear-headed enough to take the auto-pilot off and turn them toward home.
It was a wasted effort. Rorschach pulled away as if he’d read Daniel’s mind and stumped to the rear of Archie, pacing awkwardly.
“Knee’s stiffened up,” he muttered when his partner looked over his shoulder, and Daniel was glad his goggles hid his glance heavenward. Rorschach lied almost as smoothly as one of his friendly informants just before the phalanxes snapped.
Oh, good, the pacing, Daniel retorted to his better self, slipping through the cloud cover. You’re fine with that? And the distance thing, where I’m fighting at his side from a mile away? And the active effort to get himself killed?
He paused and tilted an ear. Oh, and the mumbling’s back, too. Right on time. This is all just fine to be your new business-as-usual?
Daniel took a moment to consider the madness that was lecturing one’s self-constructed superego on ethics while said superego tried to weasel out of the hard stuff in a very id-like fashion. He was so distracted with berating himself that he dinged the owlship settling down into the derelict warehouse that would take them into his personal subway tunnel.
“Dammit,” he muttered, patting the dashboard in apology.
“You’ve been avoiding me.”
The harsh voice came from directly behind his chair, and Daniel jumped out of his skin, loosening his hold on the controls just enough that he didn’t whip them into the bricks on either side. He set the ship down in its dock with exaggerated care, exhaling a long sigh of relief as it locked into place. Between the rough words and rougher treatment, he wasn’t sure Archie would ever forgive him.
Daniel made sure to unlock the exit before he stood and faced his partner. He wasn’t sure which of them the escape hatch was for.
Rorschach stood far too close, almost at parade rest, the picture of forced casualness. Daniel thought that he could probably feel the other man’s breath on his face, if the masks weren’t in the way. He leaned back against the window, crossing his arms and making a skritch noise along the glass, thinking that the two of them looked like badly posed dolls.
“I, uh. Yes. I have.” He bit back a reflexive apology.
The other man’s posture stiffened even further. An uncharitable part of Daniel wondered if Rorschach would pop like a tick if Daniel blurted out what he knew. If he hadn’t just watched the man take down a dozen hardened punks in succession, he’d have been tempted to experiment.
“Letting things fester,” Rorschach muttered.
“Hey, I tried!” Daniel replied defensively. “You…” are boning the goddam Comedian! “…er, don’t want my help. And I can’t stand to watch you…” riding a crude, sweaty partially shaved ape-man…more than the hundred or so times I already have! “…trying to get yourself killed out there.”
Rorschach looked away first. “You can’t help.”
“But the Comedian can?” Daniel snapped, and immediately wished he could take the words back. It was the opening line he’d been groping after, true. But it should not have come out in the voice of a 13-year-old girl in the throes of her first, obsessive crush.
Shit. That’s it. He knows. There’s no other way you can hear that. Now he’ll call me a perverted faggot and kick my teeth in…
Rorschach had indeed jolted at the words and started to pull back, only to snarl: “Why do you bring him up, Daniel?”
Daniel blinked, bit the metaphorical bullet. “You’ve been meeting with him. After patrols. I followed you once.”
Rorschach leaned forward, gripping the back of the chair in an interrogative posture Daniel recognised. He tucked his fingers in tighter into his armpits.
“You were investigating me,” the other man said, his voice suddenly thin, as if he’d been kicked in the stomach. “You…when? When did you follow me?”
He only wants to know how much I saw, without giving away anything I didn’t. So worried about his own secret he’s not even aware I gave mine away. And if I wasn’t so worried about keeping mine, I’d probably already know his.
Daniel tried to rub his eyes again, leaving smeared fingerprints on his goggles.
“God, aren’t we a pair,” he snorted.
Rorschach’s head tilted in confusion, the blobs sliding to make eyes behind round glasses before falling into sleepy crescents. He seemed to see his hands, his bent posture against the chair, and yanked himself upward. His hands flew from the headrest as if it were on fire.
“C’mon,” Daniel said, firmly grasping Rorschach’s shoulder, refusing to give when the man squirmed. “This is ridiculous. We’re going upstairs to have a civilised cup of coffee, for once. I won’t avoid you, you won’t kill me, and we’ll be friends again. Capische?”
He squeezed once and let go, brushing past the other man in hopes he’d follow him out. When he didn’t, Daniel called back uncertainly: “Rorschach?”
“No,” the other man sighed. “Far from it.”
Daniel turned out the lights in the ship. His partner waited another full minute in the dark before taking an audible breath. Daniel started to smile, for the first time sure that this could all work out.
A bare face poked out of the ship, pinched and glaring at the light, but Daniel barely saw it. Green dots danced, found targets, and presented a report in the corner of his eye.
“Walter Kovacs?” Daniel read, and blurted out: “You’ve got a record?”