The Widow of Craxton Park.

A new collaborative with ricegoddess.

The Widow of Craxton Park.

Razor:

 

Few ever dared to go this deep into the darkened forest after the sun had set. Only the most courageous or stupid would hire a coach to take them north of Flinders Peak. But there had been a change in the guard, and while the roads were often only used by farmers that needed to get their crops and herds to market, it would be now that a blackened coach that was pulled by a team of four jet black horse, galloped along the gravel track. Death, which was not uncommon to the down trodden, happened at the Craxton Park. Whispers from the local village had spoken of how the Late Lord’s estate had been to a left to a mysterious cousin, who had been out of the country for well over decade. The red satin curtains that lined the windows, hid the face of this newest heir to the Lord’s estate.

Would they suffer…the same fate?

And what of the young widow, that had not left Craxton since the funeral? Yet another mystery to be unraveled.

 

RG:

 

This was possibly the stupidest idea in the whole world. Well, maybe that was an exaggeration, but it made it to the top five at least. Children always joke about walking down the path heading to the north towards the “haunted” estate, even daring their friends to take the journey. Of course, no one ever went through with the dares. Except today. Ethan anxiously gripped his dark trousers, releasing it and then gripping it again. He can hear his friends howling at him, trying to “encourage” him to walk down the path and to “check things out for them”. Ethan was terrified of the forest but he never admitted it aloud. It’s just a scary story, right? It’s not really… Cursed, right? Rumors always circled Ethan’s village about murders, ghosts, curses, and deaths related to this estate in the dark forest. The story was always changing, so no one ever knew what had actually happened to the Late Lord. And a bet was made today that Ethan would be the one to find out what happened and report back. When Ethan finally gathered up enough courage, he took a timid step onto the hard road, and then another… Before he knew it, he was far into the darkened forest. A lone crow’s cry causes the young man to jump in fright, quickly looking around before continuing to walk slowly. He couldn’t hear his friends’ loud voices anymore, whether they ran away when his back was turned or he was just too far away, he didn’t know. Glancing around the forest, the setting sun’s lights only helped in creating large, intimidating shadows around Ethan. He wrapped his arms around himself, his short, dark blond hair being ruffled by a passing wind. His honey colored eyes dart at each subtle movement, darting at each sudden sound he hear. He shook because of the fact that he forgot to bring a light jacket with him, being cold in pale blue t-shirt, and also for the fact that was he was scared out of his mind.

 

Razor:

 

Amazing how much the landscape changes, just by the setting of the sun. Shadows stretch on forever, and this is also the time when the night creatures come out from their burrows and knotted stumps. Under the cloak of darkness, and only bathed by the moon’s light when it peaked out from behind a grey cloud – the many small creatures went about their evening as per normal. But this place. This cursed place was not for the faint of heart. If the signage did not warn off the curious, than the narrowing of the path, and the overhanging branches that encroached upon the winding road only made the trip forward very hard going. Was someone going to dare to make it through? Children and the young at heart often egged on the weak, to test their spirit and their resolve. Tales told by travelers and merchants around the fires of the local inn – fueled by drink and bravado, were not favorable of the terrible Lord of Craxton Park. He did his farmers and workers no favors, and often kept pretty much to himself within the walls of his Manor. Only sending out his man servant to pay wages and arrange business dealings on his behalf. The more one keeps to themselves, the likelihood of gossip and innuendo spreading across the lands. He could be just a miserly recluse, but there were other events, strange and terrible that happened every time he returned from abroad. On his last trip, he did not return alone. Bringing with him a new wife. The only knowledge of her, was when she had come into town with a black veil to order a dress to be made at the seamstress. She already looked as though she was dressed for a funeral. It was not long after this time, that it was said that he passed on from this earth to the next. Though the villages were not welcome to the funeral. The hearse had passed through the town, with just the widow and the man servant following the hearse. Even then, her face was covered and it all seemed to be so strange. There was no autopsy, no word on how he died. Just a simple parchment hammered to a tree in the village square.

But back to this night, when a young lad decided to take his chances and see just how far he got, on the road to Craxton Hall.

He had long left his friends behind, and he carried no torch or light. His colorings however did illuminate in the light of the moon. Just enough to be seen by those with exceptional vision at night.

“Only the brave or foolish dare walk this path.” It was a feminine voice, that spoke as the mist enveloped the roadway. A cool breeze nipping at the boy’s neck. If he did turn, he would see the prettiest girl he had ever seen, though she had a haunting smile. Dark flowing hair that was tied back fashionably, and wearing a flowing black gown of the age.

“Which are you?” She asked.

 

RG:

 

The young man felt a sharp chill run up his spine at her voice, slowly peeking over his shoulder at her. The images of haggard, old witches quickly dispel from his mind when his eyes fall on her, put off by her beauty. The question came back to his mind again, gathering up enough confidence in that moment to reply to her, “I-I’m brave enough to walk the path!” Ethan felt mild embarrassment at his stutter, but he took the moment to examine her appearance. Despite her dress blending in so well with the shadows and being shrouded by the sudden mist, he can still see her practically perfect figure clearly under the moonlight, and… Was that a sparkle in her eyes? He shivered at the realization, unsure whether the shine was a bad sign or a good one. He tugs on the sleeve of his tunic, having become nervous when they lock eyes for a brief moment, looking away quickly after. The quiet cry of a crow seems to mock his nervousness, but Ethan stands his ground, hesitantly speaking up again, “May.. I ask why you’re out here? Are you also brave…?” Just pulling out questions that came quickly to his mind, he momentarily forgets about the cursed estate and its widow, shifting on his feet while he holds the edge of his sleeve, still trembling slightly from his nerves and the chill.

 

Razor:

 

If Florina had meant to startle the young man on his trip into the forest, she did a good job. Though, he may never admit his fear it was easy to tell by the way in which he stuttered out that he was in fact brave enough to walk this way. “Mhmmm.” Was all that the strange woman said in return as though she was mocking his answer. Her crimson stained lips curved upward into a smile that was both wicked and fun. It was almost as though she enjoyed toying with the man. Funny how the moon’s soft light brought out a sparkle in her eyes. Collecting the edges of her lace and silk skirt, she circled around the young man, looking him up and down, as though he was intriguing. It may well make him all the more nervous. A crow’s call only added to the mix, making the scene even more bizarre. Ethan stood his ground however, and was bold enough to ask of her what she was doing out here. Why was she also brave? The reaction was for Florina to stop in her tracks and whip out an ornate black fan. Snapping it open with the flick of her wrist, and fluttering it about like one of those fine ladies of the royal court.

“I wouldn’t say I am brave…just I prefer to walk beneath the light of the Moon. You see I am very fair and burn easy under the heat of the Sun. Think of this as my daily stroll.”What she just said could have been taken a different way from what was offered. Perhaps there was more to the Widow of Craxton Hall then met the eye. She did have porcelain skin that seemed to be radiant underneath the starry night sky. It even heightened the colour of her eyes, and the red rouge of her cheeks. Almost like a fine china doll. Perfection. Yes that was the word you would use. Florina could see that the young man was feeling the cold, having just come out in a light tunic. It was enough to have Florina ask of him.

“Craxton is but a short walk up this road. Care for a night cap? A hot beverage?” The black haired vixen then lowered her fan closing it slowly and offering her gloved hand. Should he take it? Or did he need to know just who she really was?

 

RG:

 

Her circling did make him more nervous than he already was. It almost felt like she was a predator hunting and cornering its prey. But he did perked up at the mention of her fair skin. It did make sense with how her skin glowed under the moonlight, looking incredibly smooth and soft to the touch. The color of her lips and her cheeks complimented her appearance well, making her look very beautiful in Ethan’s eyes, but it was also a very sinister appearance. It made the young man uneasy, but he couldn’t take his eyes off of her either way. Her movements were graceful and elegant, the fan being a nice touch. Craxton? The name rang bells in Ethan’s mind, but he couldn’t quite place where he heard the name from… He looks at her small, gloved hand, tempted by her beauty to accept her offer, but his heart thumped loudly and nervously. He didn’t know who she was, but the hot beverage was very welcoming on the chilly night. “May I ask for a name at least?” Ethan looked back up at her face, “My name is Ethan…”

 

Razor:

 

How delicious. Florina thought, as she watched the young man’s chest rise and fall sharply. Each breath he drew was making his heart beat faster. If it had been any louder, it would have echoed out from his chest. All this from the simple gesture of offering her hand for him to take. She noted how he appeared timid at her suggestion. Begging the question as to what her name was. This would unravel the mystery of her identity. Dare she keep him further in suspense? Curling in her bottom lip, she made out as though it was a great secret. Leaning forward to whisper her name so softly that he may barely hear it. “Lady Florina Craxton.” Only when he had said his name, did she draw back with a cat like grace. Her bottom lip released from the bite of her teeth and it appeared more plump than before.

Ethan. Such a wise choice of name by your parents.” Her smile grew as she continued with a tit bit of trivia. “I do believe it means strong.Florina had to be the Queen of small talk. Knowing that the young man still may be wary, she lowered her hand and then snatched up the edge of her skirt, in order for her to be able to walk on without getting the lace edge caught on the ground. “Well, I am ready for that night cap. You are welcome to follow, or return to the village. I shan’t tempt you further.”

And with that, she continued on down the path, leaving the young man to his thoughts.

“Good eve, Ethan.”

Strangely enough as she left the scene, so to did the rolling mist. It was almost as though it traveled with her.

 

RG:

 

Lady Florina Craxton… Ethan thought, the name was very fitting for her he believed. He felt his cheeks grow warm at the indirect compliment of his name, unknowingly giving a tiny smile. But when she left, his heart relaxed its beating and his shivers reduced to trembles as his body is now only trying to keep him warm. He blinked his eyes, noticing how much clearer his surroundings became as the mist left with the Lady. Ethan didn’t get a chance to wish her a good night, but he glances over his shoulder back towards his village, then looks back to where Lady Florina had walked. Would he follow her? He was tempted to, oh so very tempted to. The young man’s mind was practically screaming at him to run since he had the chance, but his heart yearned to know more about the mysterious, beautiful woman he just met. Ethan had meet many women in his life, his parents always trying to set him up and even arrange marriages for him, but none of them ever stirred emotions in his heart like how Lady Florina did. He didn’t understand what he felt, maybe it was fear, anxiousness? Or maybe even… Love? He shook his head at the silly thought, but he knew he felt something. He decided that he would go back home for the night and return the following night. Maybe fate would bring them back together, he thought hopefully. And maybe he would be smart enough to bring a small lantern with him next time, along with his leather-like vest. At that resolve, the young man nodded slightly and turned back to his village with almost a small skip in his step, the shadows and thin, gnarly trees no longer causing him fear as he walked. The lone crow that was mocking him earlier just watched Ethan this time, quietly observing before taking off into flight into the clear sky.

 

Razor:

 

Did the Widow of Craxton expect the young man to follow her so easy? She tested him to some extent, only to find he was still not sure of her – refusing to take her hand and be led into the unknown. That being Craxton Park. Few dare go past the wrought iron gates and come back. Even those making deliveries know that it is best to leave the parcels and the outer perimeter and ring the large bell, that alerts the man servant of the arrival of goods. This was part of the gossip of the town. Did Ethan realize that he was one of the first to actually speak to her? The Seamstress was on a confidentiality clause, if she wanted the Widow’s business, and so she had to refrain from speaking about what they had discussed in the shop. Why would someone go to that extreme? It only adds to the mystery. And what of the new Heir? Since the late Lord’s wife did not bare him a son, his estate and holdings went directly to the next in line among his family.

There were those that spoke of a black carriage that had passed through the town not long after the funeral, but it never left the estate. Did the Widow have something to do with this?

Florina’s dress swept along behind her as she entered the grounds, the gates closing in behind her as though to lock her in. Few lights were seen in the darkened windows, but enough to light her way. Waiting at the entrance, was the former Lord’s faithful servant and now the one and only that was to care for the Widow. He bowed low as she lifted her skirt enough to climb the stairs.

“Enjoy your walk, M’lady?” Curious to know why she was out so very late. Florina stopped, as though to ponder this very question. “I had no idea that the locals were so…nice.”The way she said the last word was done with a mischievous tone. Bertie blinked. “You actually met one?” He knew that few dare venture down the dark forest road, as the gossip was enough to keep people away. Florina’s eyes sparkled as she recanted in her mind, the meeting with the young man. “A young male. Handsome too. Almost had him come back for…a drink.” There she went again. Speaking with double meanings. What she said, when mixed with that gleam, that smirk on her crimson lips was enough to make the man servant shudder. But what could he do? Did he want to end up like his Lordship?

“He turned you down, M’lady?” Bertrand was now going into dangerous territory, with his questioning – but he just had to know.

“Would you accept the offer of a night cap from a stranger, Bertie?” The Widow took out her fan, with the edge of the lace touching just under his chin, causing him to gulp.Only if the stranger was you, M’lady” The Widow chuckled lightly at his response, and she gave his cheek a little…playful swat with her fan. “And that is why I keep you on. Now…get me a drink, and make sure its…freshly squeezed.” The man servant bowed and raced inside as the Widow glanced back over her shoulder at the darkened forest, where she had met what she hoped would be her newest friend.

“You won’t turn me down next time….Ethan.”

Smiling to herself, she started up the stairs, the doors closing when she had gone through into the majestic foyer.

Darkness – The Hub : Part Two.

 

This is the second installment of lpstribling’s and my collaboration of “The Hub” – Darkness.

 

LP – “Lock it down!” The man standing over Rory belted out the words as he straightened up and twirled an index finger in the air, giving some signal to a larger group of people.

Everything stopped. Everything. The music, the lights, the clinking of the glasses, the dancing. The occupants of the Hub now followed some strange automatic call and moved from wherever they were to huddle around a still-frantic Jacinta and her not-so-conscious birthday boy. The only sound holding in Jacinta’s ears was the ringing from what sounded like Duster, the band she was hoping to see with Rory, yet under slightly more normal circumstances.

She watched them crowd around and a strange chill scurried down her spine, almost to the steady buzz of the fading ringing from the now non-existant music.

As she knelt over Rory they were looking down at her – all of them. She turned her head, looking at each of them in the eye, and then moving on to the next one.

“This is the girl?” The tall bearded man asked. Jacinta had seen him before in the Hub. He hadn’t been there all that long, but he wasn’t a newbie, either. He worked behind the bar and, from what she had heard from people, he was pretty good at what he did. She didn’t have any complaints. After all, she usually managed to leave the place drunk, so he must have been doing something right. But she didn’t know his name. Worst of all, she didn’t know why he was asking about her, especially now, here in the middle of the Hub with the doors locked and the sound off. What exactly was happening?

“I guess.”

Jacinta’s head snapped around to the girl who answered – a short redhead dressed in black. Her creamy white face looked all-business above two arms crossed at her front.

“I don’t really know. He said he was waiting for some girl named J. I don’ know; I’ve never seen her before.”

“You J?” The bartender’s finger dropped down to Jacinta with a stern lock.

Jacinta’s eyes fell from the bartender’s and drifted again around the room of all the Hub-goers. They were all there, all the regulars. The bartender’s staff (how many times had she seen these people there) the cocktail servers, the bussers and the band. And then there was everyone else. Everyone. The patrons, the guests, the daily drunks, and business men, the hookers and the first-timers. It was just a regular crowd. Just regular people.

Then a slow smile grew across Jacinta’s lips. “Oh ha, I get it. Right? Right? I get it. This is a joke, right?” She stood slowly as she looked around more. “Like this, all of this is a joke..Ha ha!” She clapped twice and walked around slapping a couple of shoulders and pinching cheeks. “Even you Rory, you sick fuck.” With her foot she nudged the quiet tip of one of her heels into his ribs, waiting for him to laugh. “Right? I can’t believe you fucked me like that.”

Rory’s eyes were glazed over, glaring in a vague wide loose grasp at whatever the view from the ceiling brought him. His lungs still rose and fell in a calm rhythmic repitition.

“C’mon birthday boy! it’s over. I’m done. I got it. Let’s go. No more.”

No one moved. Not an eye, not a smile, not a subtle reach for a cigarette.

The clear drinks on the bar still held their shape within the glasses they’d been given.  What happened to the Tongan bouncers?

It was frighteningly quiet.

 

“Lights,” the bartender said.

 

Everything went dark.

 

~

 

RB – Why wasn’t anyone speaking, other than the bartender and the ginger haired girl?  Surely this was some sort of stitch up.  People all playing along to make the prank seem so real.  Jacinta practically fell for it that was until Rory didn’t yell out “Surprise!”  He just lay there.  HIs eyes had this  glassy look about them.  Had he been drugged?  This wasn’t funny anymore.  “Heh..”  A nervous half hearted chuckle escaped Jacinta’s lips, but no one cracked a smile, let alone moved.  After the experience of being chased down, then having the homeless man tries to attack her; this was now the icing on the cake of what was a dreadful night out. Why wasn’t the band playing?  Why was everyone staring at her?  She had tried to get the stains out of her dress.  No, that can’t have been it.  Where was Trevor?  Why were the doors closed?

Jacinta swallowed hard as a wave of shock raced through her system.

“This isn’t funny anymore.” A light waiver in her voice as her courage all but left her.  Eyes turned to that of the bartender, but he stared at her coldly then simply said…”Lights.”  The club then fell into darkness, which made the whole situation all the more terrifying.

 

“Rory?  Please…get up.  Say…something.”  Jacinta could no longer see any of the faces of the patrons and staff.  All they were was shadows. Hovering.  Close.  Too close.  Jacinta backed up just a step and felt something or someone big in behind her.  She suspected it was a male, by the feeling of their body in behind her.  But what she hadn’t anticipated was how cold his flesh was.  There was the chilling touch of his breath on her shoulder, that made her jump in surprise.  Without warning, a large set of hands seized Jacinta by the arms, locking her in place.

“Let me go!” Jacinta screamed in protest, kicking and struggling from her captor’s grip – trying in vain to wrestle herself free.  But the harder that she struggled, the tighter the man’s fingers bore into her flesh.  All she could do was lash out and kick with her feet, one foot accidentally kicking Rory who was still on the ground.

 

“Ahaha, she is feisty.”  The Cinamon haired girl let out a twisted laugh at Jacinta’s expense, like she was actually enjoying the show that the frightened girl was putting on.  Jacinta’s hair was now partially covering her face, but she could just make the outline of the girl that spoke.  Jacinta heard her when she first found Rory on the floor.  Why was she laughing?  Jacinta had never seen her before in her life.

“You think this is funny, bitch?”  Some of Jacinta’s spark had returned as she fumed at the treatment she was receiving.  None of this made any sense.  It was supposed to be a night out to celebrate Rory’s birthday, but everyone was acting like extras from a horror movie.  Jacinta snapped her head towards the bartender and screamed “Turn on the lights!”  It was amazing what adrenalin could do. Her eyes darted towards all the shadows that were standing there, silently.

“Rory did say that I’d like you, J.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”  Jacinta hissed back.  She looked down to where Rory lay on the floor.  Had Rory been drinking and socializing with this bitch before she got there?  How did she even know who she was?

“You drugged him!?”  This was the first thing to come to mind.  It was the only reason as to why he would be on the floor like this.  Kim stepped over Rory and came to stand right in front of Jacinta, cocking her head to the right slightly.  “Maybe..” A cruel smile was forming upon her lips.  For some reason, she was easier to see in the darkness.  Why that was however was a mystery.  A slender hand, again cool to the touch graced the right side of Jacinta’s face causing her to inhale sharply.  She tried to draw her head back but it hit the man’s chest behind her.  That was enough for her to jerk forward again.

One of the bar staff handed Kim a champagne glass that was filled with a clear liquid.  She placed her finger in it and gave it a swirl before glancing up through her long eyelashes at the well restrained Jacinta.  “You can join him, you know J.”

Without warning, Kim gripped Jacinta’s jaw and tried to make her drink from the champagne glass.  Her nails cutting deep into Jacinta’s flesh. There was a burning hatred in her eyes.

“Rory!” A garbled cry coming from the poor girl who was being forced against her will.

 

~

LP-  As scattered as they were, Rory forgot his dreams as soon as his eyes blinked open. Things blurred for him. A deep heavy blur. There was consciousness and sound, and there was a mix of dreamy memories.

He remembered screaming, something with struggle. There were solid voices, stable, those which spoke of confidence and promise. They mixed with the fearful, the unsure, and the timid. Something was wrong with the second set of voices – they were unstable, although they were few. Or was it just one. He heard J’s voice. It sounded good. And he saw her too. She was running. She was running to him and it was outside. But she was running not because she wanted. She wore walking clothes, business clothes, clothes she wouldn’t use to run. And it was dark, and it was outside. Her eyes showed her to be afraid. Rory tried to look behind her in the blur of his dream, but there was a point at which his vision dropped off – low beams in the woods at midnight.

“…sure no one knows. Not one bit of what….”

 

That girl was there then. He smiled when he saw her. Something in his heart felt bad when the thought of J while he was still with her. But what she gave him was good – it felt so good. There was her color, her smile, her wit. There was the way she walked right in and moved his social borders to the side, as though they had no purpose whatsoever. It was as if she said, ‘We don’t need these here, do we?’

“…the two of them. I don’t need another Shastin brothers incident. As soon as he wakes up, I want you to…”

The cinnamon girl was there too. She smiled with her big bright teeth, clean teeth, and her laugh…her lips were just so natural and she knew it, didn’t she? She wore black, and Rory was helpless. In his warm slumber a gurgle escaped his mouth.

‘Simmen grrl.’

The sound and quick rumble of his own vocal chords brought him back into a state of fuller waking. He let the weight of his head drop to one side and saw another form there. J was sleeping in the quiet dull of a rusty yellow ceiling lamp, the wires of which were lost in the dark above it. Her body lay recumbent on a table, a white blanket covering her. ‘That’s good,’ Rory thought. ‘There’s a lot of scary things happening in this place. Sleeping’s best.’

“He’s awake.”

The incoming footsteps brought Rory closer to full consciousness.

 

“Mornin’, Sunshine.” The man’s voice was gruff; it matched his stature and color of his blurred form as Rory’s eyes made blinking struggle to give his body clarity. His stature loomed in the dim room, his head almost brushing the hanging light as he and a shorter girl crowded in on J’s resting form. The blur of Rory’s eyes eased into a slow clarity and the man’s dirty trench coat and worn boots gave him the away – a street man, someone who lived outside, survived on the concrete. And from his beard, unkempt and frayed, there was something worrisome about him, something that showed he wasn’t concerned with how others perceived him, moreso how others felt in general.

“Mmm?” J stirred as the two stopped over her.

“She’s still out for a bit. We can still get some work done, enough for starters anyway.” The large man’s form was blocking the body of the girl who spoke, but Rory recognized it without having to see her. “You sure this is the girl, though? The one you chased?”

“Yeah,” grunted the man. “‘At’s her. A real runner, too. I would have had to chase her more, but when I realized she was still headed here, I figured I’d save the energy.” He bent down to J’s face. “Probably got all your runnin’ for the week tonight, didn’ yeh?”

Rory listened and looked. The voices inside him were too scared to make a sound. He wanted to yell at J, tell her to look out and to find someway to get her out of there. Things were too scary. He wanted to get out of the scary parts of the night. They could talk about it later, but right now his dreams and things he was seeing weren’t very…where was this place? Things were wrong, but Rory didn’t quite know where.

 I hear you, he thought. I hear you when you tell me this is bad. Every one of the voices in his heard were pounding. They told him, screamed at him to do something. I know, he thought. I’m trying.

And he was trying – he was trying to move his body, but all he had to himself were his eyes, his mouth, this throat and the automatic breathing of his lungs. Yet his arms weren’t working, neither were his legs. Not his toes, his fingers or his torso. In several instances, he made a full body trial. ‘Where am I not working?’ was the thought. Nothing moved.

Frustrated, he began to sniffle. Tears formed in the ducts of his eyes, and one rolled over his cheek and dropped to the surface. He sniffled again and murmured through a pair of semi-functioning lips, “J-j-Jacin-ttaa.”

Another sniffle, and the tall man turned from J’s quiet form to face him. In the background, the girl behind was visible as well. It confirmed what he already knew.

Again, he tried to speak. “Simmen grrl.”

 

~

 

 

RB –  “Hello……Hello?”  A room without windows, without doors. The walls were like glass – black glass.  Shiny and smooth to touch.  Jacinta ran from wall to wall – pressing her hands up to the glass surface but she could only just make out her own reflection.  She was still dressed in the same clothes as the night of Rory’s birthday.  A strangled cry came from the very pit of her stomach as she continued to smack her palms to the glass walls.  There was nothing to grip onto.  No handles, no latches.  Just the cool smooth glass that formed the four walls, ceiling and floor of what was a prison.  Surely this was a dream  A dream from which Jacinta had no way of knowing how to wake.  This was one of Jacinta’s fears.  Being trapped in a  glass box with no way out.  Her heart started racing as the wave of panic started all over again.  “Why is this happening?”  The girl brought her curled fists up to the glass and beat at it repeatedly, till her hands were swollen and bruised.  The glass remained unaffected by her efforts however, and soon the girl turned and pressed her back to the glass – sliding down slowly into a crumpled heap.  Her head soon resting on her knees with her arms curling around her legs as she rocked back and forth.

The reality was far different from being trapped in a glass box.  Jacinta was laying still on an observation table beneath a rusting yellow ceiling lamp, much like the kind you would have seen in an old World war two movie,  like old war bunkers.  It was a far cry from the strobe lights of the Hub.  Whatever happened after Jacinta had been forced to drink from the champagne glass was all but a haze.  The last thing Jacinta remembered was the room spinning as she was consumed by a terrible darkness.

An assortment of coloured wires that were from several monitoring machines, were fed up and under the white blanket that covered most of her body up to her neck.  Her head was resting on a small u shaped support.  Jacinta’s face looked calm, serene almost.  How looks can be so deceiving.  Though the scruffy bearded man enjoyed seeing her like this.  Different from how she was when she was practically sprinting down the main street to get away.  Fast and in such serious footwear.  Jacinata made a sound, like she was rousing.  Perhaps it was due to the scent of his breath as he leered over her.

“Yeah, this is the one.”  A certainty in his voice when he looked over at Rory, who was now mumbling what sounded to be Jacinta’s name.  The trail of a single tear down his face indicated that he was starting to come around, and knew that his friend J was there.  It was the other name he said, that got Kim’s attention.

“Simmen grrl.”  That was what he called her.  Almost like a pet name, a nick name. It was almost cute.  His quiet sniffle brought Kim from her place at Jacinta’s side to walk over and caress the forehead of the incapacitated Rory.  “Shhhh.  You’ll only wear yourself out.   Don’t worry about J, she’s in good hands.”  A light head tilt and Kimmy assumed a more caring expression.  “You’ll thank me later.  I know you will.”  The corners of Kim’s mouth curled ever slightly as she continued to stroke the top of Rory’s head, before leaning in to plant a soft kiss on his lips.

 

“Miss Lloyd?  I thought I told you to bring me the Kenner file.”

The sheer glass walls warped and changed into that of her boss, Mister Hinkley’s office.  Jacinta had gone from being curled up near one of the glass walls, to standing in front of her boss’s desk.  She couldn’t remember why she was suddenly there, and why he was looking at her so oddly.

“Miss Lloyd?  Are you alright?”

“I…uhm.  I…”  Wide eyed, the young secretary looked at her reflection in the mirror, and she looked just as she had before she’d left the office the night of Rory’s birthday.  Why was this like experiencing a repeat of the same day?  Jacinta was completely lost.  Clueless as to what was happening.  Where were the glass walls?  Her breathing became shallow, as she fumbled with a folder that she was now clutching in her hand.  It was marked “Kenner Inc – Classified.”

“Jacinta…this is highly unprofessional.  I really did expect more from you.”  Her boss rose from his chair, and made his way slowly around his desk.  Raising his hand to button his jacket as though taking on a more formal appearance.  Jacinta was ready to hand over the file that was until the body outline of Mister Hinkley flickered.  Much like the way a television screen does with bad reception.

“Hand it over, Miss Lloyd and and then you can make a start on those presentations.”

“J-j-Jacin-ttaa.”  It was another voice and not just any voice.  It was Rory.

“Rory?”  She could not help but answer him.  Why did he sound like he was crying?  Better yet, where was he?  Jacinta clutched the file closer to her chest and took a step back from Mister Hinkley, who was now scowling at her angrily.

“Hand it over, Jacinta.” His voice had a gravel like consistency, which was nothing like how she knew him to be.  Her boss went to snatch the files, but it was at that moment his face changed to that of the man that had chased her through the streets.  That horrid man.

“Probably got all your runnin’ for the week tonight, didn’ yeh?”  The smell of his breath made her want to be sick.  The room started to swirl and break away, as a bright light shone from above.  Jacinta could feel the grip of a man’s hand upon her and though she tried to pull away, she was incapable of moving.

It was like she had no control over what was happening, but instead of going back into the glass walled room, she found herself lying flat on what must have been a table.  The steady hum of machines that blinked rapidly, along with an array of lights and stats started to come into focus.  Her eyes were opening, ever slowly.  Jacinta’s pupils changed to try and adjust to the light of the room that was directed down upon her.  There were tubes in her arms, IV’s and all across her chest and abdomen; small sensor pads that were stuck to her with a special tape.  Only when the face of the hooded man came into view did the true horror start to set in.  Had she been operated on?

“Simmen grrl.”

Jacinta turned her head towards the sound of what was Rory’s voice and what she saw made her physically sick.  It was the girl from the club and she was leaning over Rory, kissing his lips.  Was this another nightmare like in her boss’s office?  A surreal kind of dream?  Jacinta struggled within a body that simply would not obey her commands.  All she could do was turn her head.  Turn her head and watch the cruel display of Kim being affectionate to what she thought to be her man.

“J’s awake.  Just enough time for one last test.”  Again the bearded man spoke, and what he said made Jacinta’s blood run cold.  ~Test…what test?~  Kim glanced up from Rory, who was still unable to move or respond to what was happening to him. She took in the terrified look on the young girl’s face and smiled in triumph.  All she did to respond to the bearded man was nod…..and only once.

A quiet whimper was all that Jacinta could muster, as the bearded man was handed a needle from an unseen accomplice.  He forced the tip into the saline drip and started to press down to release the clear liquid that ran down the tubing and into Jacinta’s arm.  There was a sharp stinging sensation, before Jacinta’s eyes rolled into the back of her head.  If only she knew what they were doing.  Why she replayed her day before the party.  Who was this evil man and the cinnamon haired bitch?

As Jacinta once again lost consciousness, a door opened and a well dressed man in a grey suit entered the room. He looked like a banker, or lawyer.  Clean cut, perfect hair and chiseled chin.  Steel blue eyes coldly surveyed the room and then the two that were layed out on the tables.

“Good work.”  His words were curt as he closed the door behind him, only to face Kim who had stopped preening Rory’s hair.  This man in the suit.  He must have had some authority, since Kim backed away from the tables for him to inspect.

In the crook of his arm were some files, and on the one that faced outward was a snap shot, similar to a government photo.  The woman in the photo had much lighter hair, but the eyes were unmistakable.

It was Jacinta.

~

 

Heads or Tails – GS.

 

https://i0.wp.com/www.hollywoodreporter.com/sites/default/files/imagecache/modal_800/2014/09/gotham_police_station_set_design.jpg

Scene setting: NYPD Police headquarters.

co-written with Chor.

 

Razorbackwriter:  Sitting in behind his desk, the Commander was smoking a cuban cigar and staring out the office window. He seemed a million miles away, a carefree look on his face. You’d think after the night before, then having to attend to the crime scene of Joey Patone’s murder that he would be still showing some annoyance about the whole affair, but surprisingly he wasn’t. A knock at the door broke his concentration and he took one last puff of his cigar before shouting “ENTER.”

A young constable opened the door, then in behind him was another officer who was holding one of the evidence boxes from Joey’s apartment. “You wanted this brought here, Sir?” The first officer asked, motioning to the second to bring in the box. Not even bothering to get up from his desk, Commander Bracks simply motioned with his right hand for the box to be set down on the right hand side of his desk where there was enough space. The second officer tread into the room and set the box down carefully. Both officers then stood there silently for a moment. News was buzzing around the office about the morning operation, the fact Detective Malone was there when Joey got shot. Rumors were rife, but the Commander was quick to discipline anyone who spoke about it. The Commander then stared angrily at the two men, as though they were loitering. “Haven’t you two clowns got better things to do than to stand there with your mouths open ready to catch flies. DISMISSED!” He roared. Neither men waited for a second time to be berated, hurrying out of the office and closing the door. The Commander leaned over slightly in his chair to see if anyone was trying to look through the office door glass, then when he saw the close was clear, he tore the evidence tape off the box and lifted the lid. Reaching in he took out a handful of photographs that were taken from Joey’s dark room. A smirk appearing on his face as he held one of the more….erotic photos up…..till the phone rang.

The Commander set down the photograph on his desk and reached for his phone, picking it up.

“Bracks.”

“Nice work this morning, Commander. I must say, you earn your commission.” The voice on the other end had a slight accent to it. Italian. “You got done fitting up Malone for Joey’s murder yet?”

The Commander then remembered that Isa was yet to submit her report. “I’m working on it as we speak.” He lied. The man on the other end was no fool. “Uh huh. Well, maybe I didn’t emphasize the importance to get rid of Malone.” The Commander coughed and tried to keep his cool. “I understand, I do. Look, if I have to squeeze a certain forensics officer to fudge the evidence I will.”

The man on the other end of the phone laughed. “You better, or that pretty young wife of yours is going to be a new star in one of my snuff films. Got it?” The phone call ended, with the Commander sitting stony faced in his chair. He had only recently gotten married to a young Thai mail order bride. She was innocent to all of the Commander’s back room deals.

“Shit.” The Commander muttered, slamming down the phone. As soon as Isa had done her report, the Commander was going to have a few words with her.

~RB~

 

Chor:  Isa entered the building as she normally would, except her body was shaking like a wet cat. One of the guards asked if she was alright after she was buzzed in, to which she replied she was ‘just dandy’. Not that he cared. He’s never spoken a word to her in all of her time working in the department. Isa’s eyes grazed across the room as she bee-lined for the elevator. The Commander was on the phone and the look on his face was a mix between terror and anger. He slammed the phone down in such a manner that she jumped. The sour smell that perforated the department was now infiltrating her lungs. One push of the button labeled “1” and down she went. The entrance level was actually level 2, as this was a converted building.
She’d hyperventilated the whole ride back, much to Khalil’s demise. He kept asking if she wanted to pull over, thinking that the putrid smell of the decaying body was getting to her. Little did he know…

“Isa,” someone called her name and she nearly died of a heart attack. Her eyes shot toward the sign. It was Ricardo; he would attempt to apologize. Isa read it in his eyes and didn’t have time for this.

“Look, Isa, I…” He began, but she cut him off with a raised palm.

“Ricardo, forg-” She began, but quick realized something. Ricardo still believed in the goodness of the force. He thought if the Commander knew he’d tampered with evidence, that might be the end of the career. She fought the urge to just laugh right there. Poor boy, didn’t know what he was getting into.

“Okay, Ricardo, I promise I won’t let anyone know if you do me a favour?” She countered, acting sincere. His face softened and eyes brightened. He was like a puppy who just happened to be working the evidence locker. Usually she could try to squeeze visits to the locker out of Molly, the normal ‘keeper of the things’, but with her being on Maternity leave that left Ricardo here alone. His eager nod just brightened her whole day.

“I need any files on Frank Malone. Not by him, on him. Also, those of Claura von Goethe. G-o-e-t-h-e. Got it?” She was hoping to get the report that claimed Frank as a suspect and study it. She also knew what other things would be in there. He set on his way to the back through the shelves.

“Sure thing. Hey, I’m sorry about-“ He started again, Isa rolling her eyes.

“Really, Ricardo, just get to it,” She interrupted, but that didn’t stop him. He was intent on apologizing about the earlier debacle.

“No, it’s the files. The ones for…G-goethe?” He said, struggling with the pronunciation like he was staring at a card that said it. Isa’s heart stopped.

“What about them?” Isa uttered passively, but shakily. He snaked back to her with one file in his hand…and it wasn’t her sister’s.

“They’re not here…can’t read the name, so no idea who took ’em out,” He said regretfully, taking in the look on her face. Suddenly it hit him.

“Oh shit, that’s your sister, isn’t it? The one who went missing? I’m so so-“ He began, but Isa ripped the file from his hand and stormed back to the elevator. She couldn’t get downstairs fast enough. Claura’s file had been removed, probably destroyed. They knew closing it wouldn’t have been enough. As the elevator made its final ‘ding’ on the Morgue floor, the doors grumbled open and she near burst out. Khalil was down the hall in the break room and she saw him watch her dash to her office through the large windows. He knew better than to follow, so she spent the next thirty minutes alternating between crying and throwing things across the room. Once her fit had finally receded, she sauntered with her evidence to the lab. The gun was already there, so she set immediately into her ballistics report. This would be the best damn report she’s ever written.
After a total of two hours and three minutes continually firing and searching weapons on the database and comparing the bullet found in the woman and the deceased male, she finally was able to put it to rest. There was no possible way that Frank Malone’s gun shot the bullet that killed that man, no matter her motives. Not that there were any. Everyone seemed generally shocked about the assassination, the woman Isa imagined because she was going into shock.

Sitting back in her tall wheeled chair, Isa’s eyes finally pulled back from the microscope. The proof was solid, the facts complete and the report bulletproof. A burning sensation in her chest, though, told her something terrible was going to happen. She sighed and wheeled over to her computer and searched the database for ‘Frank Malone’. Taking down his number on her yellow, coffee-stained legal pad and printing her report, she almost wheeled away to give her report to the Commander. However, she thought better and saved the report file, including all of the data files and photos, onto a small, clear flash drive. Snatching up the report from the printed, she left the office with more confidence then she’s had in a long, long time, to deliver to the crooked man upstairs what he needed to see…
‘knock knock’

 

Razorbackwriter:   ~Knock knock~

The sound of someone’s knuckles rapping on the office door brought Bracks out of his dazed state. The man was still staring at the phone handle he had just set down. He stared at it as if it were infected. It was not the phone of course, but rather the man on the other end that made the Commander feel physically sick. Truly stuck between a rock and a hard place, the Commander had to find a way to incriminate the Detective and his hopes that the testing and subsequent report by Isa were high. Little did he know that the woman was not going to bring him the smoking gun report. The ballistics tests and follow up report would show inconclusively that the detective was innocent of the crimes that the Commander was trying to fit him up for. The Commander pushed back in his chair which groaned in protest due to the Commander’s bulk. The idea that cops lived on a diet of soda and donuts seemed to be accurate when you took in the Commander’s obese state. When was the last time he ever passed a fitness test? Was he even fit for duty as a member of the NYPD? Probably not. The only reason he still held the position was because he was nothing more than a pawn of power. Those with total control liked to have lackeys like Bracks in charge of what would become a bent operation. Numerous reports, and evidence had gone missing over the past six months. Millions of dollars worth of narcotics and weapons vanishing from the evidence rooms. Many young cadets were often put in charge of these facilities, later to become scapegoat in the Commander’s schemes. If only there was someone brave enough to speak out. Someone with the balls to face up to what was a corrupt force. So long as Commander Bracks was in charge, justice was not even going to shine it’s light upon the city.

Seeing the female outline of Isa through the distressed glass door pane, Bracks barked “Enter”

As the door opened, the Commander rose to standing as though he was going to use his size and height as a way to intimidate the young woman. Staring down at her, he noted she had a file in her hands. No doubt this was the long awaited report. It had taken a few hours, and now it was time to learn of its contents.

“Took you long enough.” The Commander grumbled. There was no smile or real emotion on his face. He wanted to appear cold and detached. It was no secret of his hatred for Detective Malone, the whole office knew. How on earth Frank lasted this long was a miracle. Tapping his toe on the wooden office floor, he then lifted his chin and snorted like a malley bull.

“So….did Detective Frank Malone shoot Joey Patone and Elissa von Pourtales?”

~RB~

 

Chor:  

Isa liked to pretend the possibility of being murdered in her sleep didn’t scare her. The fact that it very much did made it difficult for her not to fear this conversation. Bracks held power, and not just power with the NYPD, but power in much higher, more dangerous places. She’d completely dissolved into her thoughts until hearing Bracks’ loud mouth calling her in. The knob was cold, since no one really used this door except him. He doesn’t get many visitors. The door creaked furiously, as if upset about all the evil it has seen. Isa’s heartbeat quickened at the sight of the commander, but she repeated a single line in her head again and again as she walked over to the chair in front of his desk; facing him. For Claura, for Claura, for Claura. It made her calmer, more ready for his backlash. Obviously this was only half true as she was also doing this for Frank, who didn’t deserve this kind of betrayal. She’d read his file, she knew the good he’d done for the force. It’s a damn shame that the good ones are the ones who get this kind of shit.

Bracks’ spoke and she raised her brows. Has he ever even read a ballistics report, let alone done one? Isa worked so thoroughly that it would take others’ hours upon hours to finish. More proof of unappreciation for Forensics in a whole. Maybe you should do it next time, she thought, then immediately recanted it. That would be about a billion times worse by far. Isa couldn’t even imagine Bracks doing any real police work at all. By the look of him, he didn’t do much of anything except eat and lie. The fact that he was standing was very apparent to her. It was intimidating only because of Isa’s seriously under-nourished size. He was easily two or three times her weight and the way he was standing it was like he knew it. He purposefully made himself bigger, more scary so maybe she’d back down. The question that arose next was the question of the day. She held the paper in her hand out toward him, her other hand fidgeting with some forceps in her coat jacket.

“You will find that Frank Malone absolutely and unequivocally did not shoot Joseph Patone or Elissa von Portuales,” Isa replied, her voice stern and confident despite the situation. The only thing she had definite faith in anymore was Science. Science isn’t biased and cannot lie. You cannot bribe it and it does not fear.  

Razorbackwriter:  The rising red flush on the Commander’s face was like that of a pending volcanic eruption. Purple veins pulsing so close to the skin that they almost were protruding through his sickly pink flesh. Eye sockets drooped slightly to reveal wet watery chasms, from too much drink. Those words of finality in the answer to the question of Detective Frank Malone’s innocence were like a death knell to the Commander. Age lines appeared to grow as he stared down the forensics officer; the words of the man on the phone still going around and around in his head. The words that the Commander wanted to let fly simply went unsaid, as he had to just nod at Isa’s findings. The Commander reached out and snatched the report file from Isa’s hand and then rounded his desk; taking a seat. Again the chair groaned and protested with loud creaks as the Commander settled. He flipped open the file and silently read the report. Bracks didn’t even offer Isa a chair. He simply made her wait. Each turn of a page was preempted by a finger lick so he didn’t miss a thing. But by the last page it was clear that isa didn’t miss a thing either. Her report was solid and factual. Closing the file, Bracks tossed it on his desk haphazardly as though it was yesterday’s paper. There would be no words of appreciation or thanks for the speed in which Isa took to write up the report. The Commander glanced out the office window, deep in thought. Without looking at Isa he simply said….

“Dismissed.”

If Isa left the office without further word, it would only be then that the Commander would watch her go. Once she was well out of ear shot, the Commander picked up the file and tapped the edge to his bottom lip. His eyes narrowed into slits as he pondered, or rather plotted what to do. He needed Frank to be found guilty. He needed to pin a murder on him to appease the men upstairs. But how?

Glancing down at the file in his hands, he simply turned in his chair and dumped the file in the trash bin. Knowing full well that there would be a copy of the file in the forensics, it was going to be one hell of an operation to make it….disappear. Either that…or have something unfortunate happen to Isa.

The Commander eased back in his seat, drumming his fingers together as he mused on what to do. Taking a coin out of his pocket, he turned it over between his fingers before flicking it into the air. The coin spun and spun before coming down to land as the Commander said…“Heads…”

It landed tails side up.

Luck was on Isa’s side.

For now…..

~RB~

 

Chor:  Isa wore a look of complete and utter satisfaction: on the inside. She didn’t let him know how pleased she was with herself, mostly because the more sensible half of her was scared witless. What if he threatened her? Who would even believe her? Much to her surprise, he just read very silently through her report. Almost painfully slow…
He ordered her to exit and by jove she did. No amount of money in the world could have kept Isa in that dingy, pungent office any longer. With a nod of her head, Isa’s feet scrambled from the room and through the maze of desks until she reached the front door. The flash drive with all the information she needed was held tight in her sweating palm and the picture she’d confiscating illegally from the crime scene was burning a hole in her pocket and her character. It was unlike her to be so sneaky, but she’d stepped in a serious shit-pile with this case. If anyone else had been dispatched, the case would probably already be closed with Frank in jail and his cohorts at the bottom of the river.
The air outside caught in her lungs, the smell of cars and hot dogs filling and choking them. Her hands fell to her jacket pockets and the left found a crumpled paper. Pulling it out, her attention drifted down to read it. Frank’s number she’d written from his file. It was only seconds later the phone was ringing. He needed to know just how difficult things were going to be.
Hello?” She whispered, when the ringing ended and a voice broke through the silence.

 

 

There’s something out there – GS

Scene setting : Detective Frank Malone’s apartment

co-written with VunG.

 

Razrobackwriter:  Curiosity usually served a purpose in Tommy’s line of work, only this time his curious nature would get him the kind of reaction that made his face darken with a red hue to his cheeks. He had not meant to embarrass Elissa at all, he just spoke without thinking first. It was her eyes that said he had overstepped the mark. The hardness of ice, a steely gaze that sent a shiver down his spine as he looked back at her, almost apologetic in his facial expression. Slowly, Elissa lowered the scarf to reveal what could best be described as a horrific scar. Something, had attacked the poor woman in such a way it was a miracle that she survived it. Tommy’s jaw clenched and his eyes narrowed as he peered at the scar. His Adam’s apple running up and down his throat as the sight was such that it could turn a man’s stomach.

“God!…Elissa. I’m…I’m so sorry.” Tommy blurted, his voice a slightly higher pitch than before. His reaction was like a knee jerk, speaking again without thinking. Tommy was usually better than this. He raised his hand up to the side of his right temple and rubbed it gently. Talk about foot in mouth. To add to that, Elissa said simply ~I hate dogs.~ So it was a dog that did this? At least that was the deduction from the size of the wound and Elissa’s statement. Two and two makes four as they say. By the time Frank came back into his study with a tray that held three coffee cups and a small pile of twinkies still in their wrappers, Elissa would have put the scarf back firmly in place. Course, Frank missed the small drama and was completely oblivious to why Tommy and Elissa were looking at each other they way they were. Instead, he deduced it was from the apartment’s smell.

“I was going to get Rosetta to come in and clean for me once a week……but you know how finances are…and maintenance payments.” Frank was still obligated to pay for his son, and this took a big chunk of his pay. Sad to say though he didn’t have access to his only child. His ex wife made sure of that. Setting down the tray on the only clear space on his desk, he reached for a cup himself and urged the others to do the same.

“Really am grateful to you both. Kinda been a while since I had company.” This was the truth. Many of his friends lived and worked in the city, well the ones that hadn’t distanced themselves from him after the death of Rory. A slight sigh and he took a sip of the coffee and tried not to make a face. Frank made a shit cup of coffee. It was little wonder that he bought coffee on the way to work each day. Looking up at the wall one more time, the Detective’s lips thinned as his eyes scanned over the many pictures.

“In all my years, never seen shit like I did that night. There’s something out there.” He almost whispered this last part. On one of the tables was a pile of letters, bills and a large yellow envelope. The envelope was addressed to Frank as a Detective. He had just been too lazy to go through them. Not really thinking, he pushed back the pile of bills and brought out the yellow envelope. Frank tore off the seal, and inside there was some photographs. As he pulled them out, the man let out a scream as the images slipped from his hand and scattered like debris on the floor.

What was on the photographs? A large beast that resembled a snake but had a mouth like….a monstrous insect. Pincers and a golden mouth. Four sets of eyes….and green slimy skin. It was taken in the alley….the alley where Rory died.

 

~RB~

 

VunG:  Truth be told, Elissa wasn’t angry at Tommy for his curiosity, a touch annoyed certainly but this was something that she had to deal with pretty regularly whenever she suffered a wardrobe malfunction. And they happened a lot, considering she rarely used scarves before this. More than anything she just hated having to deal with this thing, it was embarrassing, frustrating, it reminded her of that horrible time in her life, and in her mind it basically ruined what beauty she had. Still, it was obvious that she might have gone a little too far with her response, and perhaps she should’ve just explained it to poor Tommy, because the poor guy looked like she’d just shown him what it looked like while she was headed to the hospital. Her expression would harden and she’d nod her thanks to his apology, even if she didn’t think the term ‘sorry’ was applicable here. There was a strange phrase that her mother always used: ‘don’t say sorry if you didn’t do anything.’

However, before she could say anything her attention would be drawn by Frank coming in with the coffee, the thought of drinking the stuff already helping wipe away the thoughts of her scar, at least for Elissa. She was a little thrown off by his comment about some woman coming to clean, but when she did realize she had to fight back a smirk at her own stupidity, and she’d find that tempered by a reminder of Frank’s financial situation. Oh if only she could do something to help the poor man. She would go ahead and grab a cup of coffee, though would find herself warned by the hints of a reaction that it wasn’t very good; and indeed it wasn’t, but thankfully she liked her coffee black as Stalin’s heart so it wasn’t as bad as it could’ve been. To his grateful words, she nodded calmly and continued to sip away at the coffee, trying to slowly whittle it down.

However, what she hadn’t been expecting was what came next. She would mostly just look up at the pictures, trying to spot anything she’d missed in either of their investigations… until she heard Frank scream. A bit of coffee launched from her cup in surprise (thankfully just onto the floor, not anything vital), and she’d let out a breathed, “Sht!” made just by mouth movements. Setting the cup down on the platter, she went to pick up the photos, thinking that the man had just burned himself or something and was so drunk that he was getting a delayed reaction. It took her a moment to actually look at one of them, but when she did she frowned and shook her head in confusion, as if to clear her head of some apparition, thinking she was just seeing things. Bringing them into the light, she spread them out of the desk in a line… and immediately found her hands shaking and eyes going wide with horror as she stared uncomprehending at the……. thingon the paper. Very briefly she forgot her vocal chords didn’t work, and tried to say something before leaning over to cough, pain racking her throat. She turned back to look back in that direction, and would promptly begin signing wildly WHILE mouthing the words along, ~WHAT IN THE ACTUAL FUCK IS THAT?! WHERE DID YOU GET THOSE?! MY GOD! I THOUGHT TOMMY WAS JUST CHASING SHADOWS WHEN HE SAID GHOSTS AND DEMONS WERE DOING THIS SHIT! WHAT CIRCLE OF HELL DID THAT THING COME OUT OF?!…~ and would go on ranting like that as she coughed to the side.