In a cage of steel and glass, Stanley Navidson set his glaring headlights ablaze in the hope of divining what lied ahead in the bleak gray fog that obscured his path. The flat tire limped along with its fellows as evidence to just how unkind the road had been so far. But now that he had reached the outermost layers of the forest surrounding his former friend's home, the hostile road had given way to a smooth and inviting dirt path, and despite the billows of dust that his cheap car churned up, it encountered no further resistance.
Then, the house came into view at last, the twisted branches and shadowy fog finally giving way to the recently... evacuated Wilkinson residence. It had only been completely empty for two and a half weeks, but some signs of decay were already present. The paint was chipping and starting to crack. Some of the floorboards creaked and sent echoes resounding throughout the forest, signalling to everything out there that someone was still there. Some shingles were starting to loosen, and would soon fall.
But there were still signs that this had once been a good place to live in. The paint, though chipped in places, still had an appealing sheen. The floors and walls were all still in beautiful oak boards and logs. The carpets and rugs were still in great condition, and the fireplace was still functional and sure to warm your bones on a cold and treacherous night. And of course, there were the stained-glass windows fresh from Mrs. Wilkinson's independent glassware artisan workshop, all of which told different parts of the same tale older than the country they were fashioned in.
Turning off his headlights as he parked next to the house, Stanley noted that there were five other cars already present, so at least five others had already arrived ahead of him. Truth be told, he'd had a feeling he wouldn't be the only one to pay their last respects to the Wilkinsons, and maybe find out what happened, what went so horribly wrong these past couple of months. But he had been hoping to have gotten an edge in. He just hoped that... never-mind.
He parked his car, locked it as he stepped outside, and looked around in the parking lot to see if anyone else was still waiting outside. He figured they had to be, as only he and the police had keys to this old place anymore.
"Hello?" he called out, "Whose here?"
Before any could answer, there was a strange, brief gush of wind that cleared the last dregs of dreary mist away, and seemed to convey a message to all that could or would hear it.
You were there.
Some distance away from Stanley, a pair of brothers sat together in a parked car. The elder of the two snoozed quietly behind the wheel of his car, resting after a gruelling drive. The younger was glued to his bright red 3DS, his pale face screwed up in concentration, a line of drool edging from his half-opened mouth to the green t-shirt below inscribed with the word's 'watch out for the creepers!' Cheerful music suddenly blared out of the console's speakers as a blue amphibian on screen was subsumed by bright lights. The boy's eyes widened momentarily before rolling with exasperation when the tune finished.
"That's it?!" Max muttered to himself, "What's with the tongue? I knew I should have gone with Chespin..."
He stared up at the house, looming like a giant gravestone in front of the setting sun. He was sure it hadn't been that foreboding last time they had visited. It was as if the soul of the building had vanished at the same time as it's occupants. He jumped and almost dropped his 3DS when he noticed a bearded man standing close by, also looking at the house.
"Hey Cory!" he nudged his older brother awake, "Some other people are here now! Maybe we can finally get in the house?"
Wilkinson Residence: Evening
"We're not going to get much done in this light." Leonora Minerva York muttered towards no one in particular despite the fact that her partner, Kursari Hou Karite, was seated next to her in the passenger side of the Black Standard Issue Dick-Mobile the two has used to get up to the Wilkinson Home. Turning off the headlights, Detective York took a moment to regard the decaying home and let its creepiness settle in her gut before opening to Dick-Mobile's door.
"C'mon Officer Karite, let's get this over with." Detective York suggested as she got out of the Black Sedan. Officer Karite and Detective York had been working on the Johnny Wilkinson Case for a number of months now and despite that little fact, Leonora felt she knew about as much about her partner as she knew when she had first met her. It wasn't surprising however since Leonora had made little effort to spend time with her partner outside of work, preferring to spend time at the Wilkinson House and helping the family cope with their young boy's disappearance.
As she waited for Officer Kusari Hou Karite to exit the vehicle, Leonora spotted someone that she wished she didn't see. Stanley was already there.
"Motherfu-" She started to say before the sound of a closing car door, not unlike the sound of a closing casket, startled the frazzled Detective. Turning, Ms. York noted that Officer Karite had exited the car and was waiting for her lead.
"Alright. Let's see who all these people are." York suggested as she made sure her Shield (badge) was outside of her long jacket and her H&K .45 Caliber Pistol was safely and securely tucked away within. Taking a deep breathe, Leonora Minerva York headed towards front door.
OOC: Placing this here for reference.
To say that it wasn't always easy to work with Detective York would be an understatement. There wasn't exactly anything wrong with the professional relationship, especially since they DID function well with her on the forefront of the investigations and Kusari as the back-up. It was just that it seemed to her that in all this time, the more-senior member of the police force never even bothered to use her first name...even though they were currently in their civvies. This wasn't really official business. This was off-the-clock stuff that had them out of uniform, but not out of equipment. They were still armed, still endowed with badges. You don't leave those alone. While they had been coming in, York made a remark about the darkness making their work here harder. It was more a personal mutter than an effort to converse. She did that sometimes. The detective would grab her attention when she needed her. 'Till then, she was alone with her thoughts while being driven around.
Alone and - let's face it - feeling bad about the boy. the Wilkinsons had been dropping off recently, quite a bit in fact. She remembered the Mister of the household, the POS director that she nevertheless worked for in order to further her career towards police work. Not much sympathy towards him, but his little boy disappeared and that always got to her. It got to her...like Aly. Never said outright, but they were...very good together. Aly helped her through bad nights and relapsed from The Incident. Little Johnny Wilkinson vanished the same way, without warning. Well...Kusari knew more about that than she did about Johnny. The car came to a stop and the door opened on Detective York's side. As soon as it did, there was a sudden rush of air and-
Come on, Kusari.
"What did y...?"
The Detective hadn't said that. She hadn't said what Kusari might've heard on the wind, that she turned suddenly to regard, almost convinced that the woman had called her by her first name, but that isn't what happened. The door had shut when she was about to ask, and the black-haired officer remembered: York had addressed her as an officer. Did she hear wrong? Maybe, but there were more pressing concerns right now, such as these other cars. She flicked the safety on the concealed sidearm in her inner coat pocket - same as the Detective's - and stepped out. Always be prepared, but don't prepare to be obvious. So, for the moment, Kusari looked entirely like she didn't have a gun or a badge to reach for, but she had both and...there was Stanley. This was already a banner day.
"Alright. Let's see who all these people are."
"After you, boss."
The supposed voice already forgotten, she was still the woman's back-up. There probably wasn't any gunplay to happen right now. These cars had been here for a while and nobody had gone in. Why? Because the Wilkinsons were either MIA or dead, and that left the two officers with the keys...unless somebody broke in. Kusari made a mental note to check for that later. First thing was first: What were these people doing here?
One could be forgiven for thinking a vandal out on a joyride had dumped a stolen vehicle outside the Wilkinson residence. The car was 'parked' only in the loosest sense of the word, stopped in a carelessly lopsided fashion, as if the driver had only the vaguest idea as to what he was doing. Then there was the graffiti, great slashes of orange paint and yellow starbursts defacing the once dark grey paint of the car. The bright colours seemed like a cry of defiance against the sombre environment, a ward against the darkness pressing against the car. The car was not abandoned however, nor was the man in it a vandal, well at least not intentionally. The car was stolen but the paint was just to drive out the residual negativity in the vehicle, not an act of malicious vandalism.
Aaron Weaver was slumped asleep in the driver's seat, exhausted by the manic episode that fuelled him on his journey here. An unopened bottle of medication lay in the passenger seat, next to a discarded hamburger wrapper and Styrofoam coffee cup. A crumpled note sat on the dashboard, reading; Aaron Weaver, take twice daily, avoid alcohol or other non prescribed medications. Various other documents were scattered around the car, legal and medical forms, defining the terms of his discharge but they looked mostly undisturbed, spread out across the back seat.
A voice sounded out in the darkness, startling Aaron from his awkward slumber. There were other cars here now, and some vague figures standing outside. An instant tension settled over him and Aaron had to remind himself that these people wouldn't know who he was, that they weren't casting fearful glances in his direction. With exaggeratedly slow movements, Aaron removed the keys from the ignition, retrieved his medication, stuffing it into one of his pockets. Next was the car door, he paused, having psyche himself up before leaving the car. It had been years since he had interacted with anyone outside the mental asylum and this hardly seemed like the best situation to get back into it. He couldn't hide in his car till they all left though, he had to hope he stayed in control. The car door crept open and Aaron slowly emerged from the vehicle, breaking the silence by slamming the door shut suddenly.
"Evening," he said, his voice little more than a murmur as he leaned against the front of the car with a sort of forced casualness.
"After you, boss." said Officer Karite in an official yet friendly tone. Detective York could sense that there was some confusion in the Junior Officer's voice and the Detective was able to sense the same thing radiating from the young woman that stood slightly behind her. You couldn't help but develop a sense of what the other was thinking when you worked with another person for as long as she and Karite had worked together. To do otherwise was dangerous, especially in the their line of work.
"Right." Leonora responded tersely as she starting closing the distance between her and the front door to the Wilkinson residence. The gravel of the driveway crunched loudly under the Detective's boots, far louder than it would have if Leonora was walking normally. The Detective wanted to ensure that everyone knew that she and Karite had arrived and they had all be on their best behavior.
"Strange that even suspects would show up tonight." York stated loudly enough for Stanley to hear. It was no secret in the department that Leonora and Stanley had once been an item, despite the fact that the Detective had never spoken on the matter. Scuttlebutt around the locker room made it known that Stanley had been caught with another woman and had soon appeared on the short list of suspects in the disappearance of Johnny Wilkinson. The rumors had ever made it further up the chain of command and enough stock had been put into the rumors that Officer Karite had been assigned as Leonora's partner, or babysitter if one were so inclined to look at it in that light.
Still, Leonora didn't hold Karite's assignment against the woman. An assignment was an assignment after all and you couldn't just refuse. It didn't mean that Leonora had to go out of her way to be friendly, especially after what happened to the last person she had asked to help her in regards to this case.
"(Poor Alexandria.)" York thought to herself as she remembered the time that she had spent with the consultant. They had been friendly, gone out for drinks, talked about life (especially since the two shared the bond of each having lost at least one of their parents) and in the end, there was a large amount of pain that had been caused by the consultant's grisly death.
Inserting the house key into the lock, the Detective unlocked the door to the Wilkinson home and pushed the door open. A swishing of air, not unlike a seal being broken, brushed past the detective and quickly rushed through the cracked door.
A voice from behind the detective caused her to turn quickly and spot a man leaning against the hood of a car.
"Excuse me?" The Detective asked, unsure of what she had heard.
The door of the Wilkinson home opened and Aaron felt his pulse quicken, he'd been obsessed with entering the house ever since he learned about the death of his sister, as if coming here would somehow answer everything. It was struggle not to move from the front of the car, to sprint straight inside that house, Aaron seemed to visibly shudder as he restrained himself. The woman who had opened the door had spoken to him, he had to reply didn't he? This wasn't the asylum, where he could ignore people as he chose, lock himself away for days on end.
"Evening," he said again, louder this time, before pausing as he struggled to find words. "It's the evening," no that wasn't any good, how had he ended up like this? Best to try and change the topic entirely. "Are you the caretaker?" he tried, taking a step forward before halting again, "I didn't think many people would be here, it was quiet when I arrived." Well Aaron assumed it was, his memory of arriving here was a little hazy, since he had practically collapsed from exhaustion right afterwards. He felt intensely out of place here, there was a lot of negativity in this whole area, Aaron could imagine it draining the colour out of his clothes if he stayed here too long. Maybe things would be better inside.
"Are you letting people in?"
If you were to ask Kusari whether or not her assignment to Detective York were to 'babysit' her, she would of course deny this. Not only did she see it differently than that, but there was an understanding between her and the chief regarding this topic. The truth was, when the higher-ups had gotten wind of her involvement with Stanley and his appearance on the suspect-list, the chief called her into the office and made clear the exact dimensions of the assignment.
The office was, as such rooms were, semi-quiet in comparison to the outside hustle-and-bustle of busy officers going about their daily routine. High-ranking law enforcement officials deserved a little peace and quiet for the pressures of the job and the weight of command. Kusari had not expected to be called in, as her performance to date had been decent if not slightly impressive when you considered her handling of the Weaver situation. The chief was a calmly-rational guy, a precision instrument of deduction and leadership finely-tuned over numerous years of service.
"What I say now...goes without saying, and I don't want to hear a word of argument. I'm sure you've heard a few things regarding Detective Leonora York in regards to the Wilkinson case...and her ex-relationship with one of the suspects. Much to my irritation, and soon to hers, I have been asked - and by that, I mean ordered - to assign someone to Detective York to keep an eye on her in the event of possible...unpleasantness. Now, in my eyes, anyone with half a brain who's seen her knows that the woman is as unlikely as any to break professionalism or do anything underhanded that would jeopardize things, but it is not my decision to give. I am assigning you to act as her assistant on matters...and you WILL keep an eye on her as per orders, but I think you and I both know that this won't lead to tears. Go forth and do your duty."
...and ever since that time, it had been 'Yes, ma'am', 'No, ma'am', 'I'll get right on that', and so on. York may have had some attitude towards her suspects and certainly her ex-boyfriend, but she remained on the level and - like the man said - it was unlikely that a problem would arise. So, the Detective made her presence known with a loud gravel strut, addressed Stanley with veiled suspecion, and then pulled out her keys. The doors opened, and...a car door slammed shut.
She turned and...wait, what? What was first a quick glance of officer training to have her scan the area and take in everything at once...then became a single start of some surprise on her face. Pushing back hair from her face for a moment, she recognized the man from the car. York had addressed him and there seemed to be some confusion, but...it was Aaron Weaver, the man she'd unfortunately been forced to arrest before, even though...what he did was not totally his fault. He had problems, ones she understood and sympathized with. She didn't expect to see him here. Actually, his presence relaxed her a bit from that jumpiness before.
"Are you the caretaker? I didn't think many people would be here, it was quiet when I arrived."
"Not in the official sense, but we have access. Weren't expecting anyone to be here either."
"Are you letting people in?"
She looked at the open door, then back at him, shrugged, and said...
"I guess we are."
She made no attempt to stop him, or anybody else for the time being. They were not here in the official capacity of police activity, per se. However, that power could activate at any point it became relevent, much like the guns...
But Aaron won't give me a reason to use it. He's a good guy...or tries to be.
"Not in the official sense, but we have access. Weren't expecting anyone to be here either."
It was dark, and Aaron had been locked up for some time, but he would never forget that voice. The same voice he had heard after each time he had been arrested, the same voice that had defended him at his trial. Officer Kusari... she was here, and for a moment Aaron felt powerless again, just as he had felt standing there in that courtroom. Here he was, breaking the terms of his discharge, an unlicensed driver in a stolen car. It seemed almost fitting that she should be here too, like she was any other time he'd broken the law, but Aaron wondered if she would be so understanding this time. He had to find out what happened here, and there he couldn't stay at home anyway, he hadn't been welcome there for a long time. Still... somewhere beneath his obsession, Aaron felt a twinge of guilt. He didn't want to be a criminal, he didn't want all those people back home to be justified in the things they said about him.
"I guess we are."
"Thank you," she hadn't mentioned him being a mental patient, so Aaron thought it best to keep quiet about her being a police officer until she wanted to reveal it. He wanted to enter the house, the open door was calling to him, but Kusari's presence gave him pause, even if she wasn't here in official capacity Aaron couldn't help but to defer to her. It was almost a habit, after the number of times the woman had talked him down from his mania, that her presence forced him to think. "I'm here to find some record of my sister, she used to work here," explained Aaron, not taking another step towards the door. "Some of her things but still be in there." Speech came easier now that there was someone he recognised, but his speech was still slow and sometimes stilted. Being out side took a lot of getting used to.
The Detective stood next to the opened door observing the interaction between the Officer Karite and the strange man that come up to the door. The way that the Officer looked at the man betrayed at least a passing familiarity between the two if not more and the way that the man seemed to shrink in front of the Officer offered more of a context for the pair's relationship. Meaning: At some point in time, Officer Karite had dealt with the man in a official capacity as a Police Officer. Given the fact that Karite was standing in a relatively relaxed manner around the man and the fact that she had allowed the man to approach them meant that the man was likely not a threat.
"I'm here to find some record of my sister, she used to work here," The stranger explained as he stood beside the partners, not moving to enter the Wilkinson household. It was a surprising confession from the man given the fact that the entire Wilkinson Family had either disappeared or been killed. A good majority of the Wilkinsons' documents relating to their business dealings had been gathered as evidence and was sitting in a box near the desks of Officer Karite and Detective York.
"Some of her things but still be in there." This was a slightly better explanation of why he was here but there was still the fact that she had no idea who this man was. For all she knew, the man could have heard about the tragedy surrounding the Wilkinson residence and been there to loot the place.
Curious about the man's motives, Leonora barged into the conversation by way of clearing her throat before addressing the strange in a manner that her Step Father had drilled into her when he found out that his Step Daughter wanted to follow in his foot steps and become a Police Detective.
"You know I had a friend that worked here also. Maybe she and your sister knew each other." The Detective commented, pausing for a moment look at the others who had yet to approach the front door, including Stanley.
"What was your sister's name? Oh! Wait. How silly of me. I'm Leonora by the way and you are?" The Leonora said as she turned to face the stranger and give him a good view of the Detective's badge that hung from her neck.
"You know I had a friend that worked here also. Maybe she and your sister knew each other."
Despite the casualness of the words, her voice had an almost hard, commanding tone. Aaron slowly turned about to face Leonora, in the shock of running in to Kusari right after getting out of the asylum he had almost forgotten the woman he had originally been addressing. She said something about a friend knowing his sister? Something about that could have been mentioned in her letters but Aaron couldn't immediately think of who she might be referring to.
"What was your sister's name? Oh! Wait. How silly of me. I'm Leonora by the way and you are?"
Aaron's eyes instantly snapped to focus on her badge as she turned to face him. A warning, she didn't trust him, thought he was dangerous. The fact he was a stranger at a crime scene was lost to Aaron, he was instantly convinced the display of the badge was the officer reacting to his behaviour. He instinctively took a step back before formulating a response.
"Weaver," he unconsciously blurted out the name he'd been referred to as in the asylum, he was always just 'Mr Weaver' there, never Aaron. "Aaron Weaver, that is," he hurriedly corrected himself, "and my sister was Sarah, worked here as a babysitter, I'm not sure if you would have come across her. I'm not from around here myself."
"Come on Cory!" Max whined, why was his older brother always so slow? "Fine, I'll see you in there," he told him grumpily and pushed open the car door, stumbling out into the front yard. He grabbed his navy blue rucksack from the car and sprinted over to the house, towards two women and a man talking on the front steps. He ran past them and through the front door one of the adults had opened.
As he stepped into the house a strange smell reached his nostrils, one that he couldn't quite place. The front hall was largely shrouded in darkness, an umbrella stand stood to Max's left and and to his right, a flight of stairs heading up into inky blackness. Instinctively he reached into his bag to retrieve his flashlight and switched it on, running the light over the walls and photos with a curious gaze. He noticed a door directly to his left and opened it gingerly, not remembering where it led.
It was the living room, or at-least had been. A leather couch sat by opposite wall, facing a new flat screen television. Further down the room stood a high bookshelf, a collection of dusty VHRs and DVDs and a display cabinet filled with Lois' glasswork creations. These were not what held Max's attention, however. A couple of boxes of Johnny's toys lay near the door and he crouched down to study them with his flashlight. He remembered playing with one last Christmas when him and Cory had visited the Wilkinsons, and another the year before, when his little cousin was barely more than infant. He had a hunch that Jews weren't meant to celebrate Christmas, but he wasn't going to argue with free presents, so he'd always let the question slide at the Kritzer-Wilkinson annual winter meetup. He pulled out a third and recoiled; it was Johnny's favourite plush bunny but the toy had been ripped in half so it's rear legs were missing and it's face torn to shreds. He dropped it back into the box, unnerved.
I'll help find you Johnny, Max thought and then he scampered back out into the hall and to the front door where the adults were still talking amongst themselves.
"Hey!" he waved to them to get their attention, "Is there any lights in this house... or WiFi?"
She could tell that Aaron still felt some of the sting of being arrested. It was something Kusari was use to, to be looked at with the expectancy of trouble...both in and out of uniform. The in part was obvious, though the out part was more about her neighborhood at times...though some remembered that she was a cop. It actually bothered her to see this instinctive reaction from Aaron, though. They hadn't been a simple case of booker and bookee. The way she handled him, relatively peacefully and with sympathy to his personal plight, she thought they'd almost be like friends. Still, he'd been institutionalized on her watch.
Guess there's always something...
Although...he wasn't exactly outing her or saying anything out of line either. Perhaps he was just on the fence, being polite because he knew her position, respecting her because she tried to help. Aaron explained that he was here to see if his sister - Sarah Weaver, babysitter of Johnny Wilkinson - had left anything of hers in the house. That was reasonable in Kusari's eyes, but unfortunately the brunt of that call was up to Detective York. She was the ranking officer and displaying her badge quite prominently. She addressed him by claiming she knew someone that worked here too. Kusari didn't know enough about the Detective to know if that was true or not. She then introduced herself, prompting Aaron to-
"Weaver. Aaron Weaver, that is. And my sister was Sarah, worked here as a babysitter. I'm not sure if you would have come across her. I'm not from around here myself."
-which he did. Alright, that was good. Jolly cooperation all around, as they say on the internet. Here, she decided to speak up through the Detective's actions for a bit of a reminder and clarification. It was, in fact, her job to do so as a back-up investigator in case the relevent data was not at the forefront of York's mind.
"Johnny Wilkinson's babysitter, ma'am. He is her brother, and would have claim to anything of hers on the premises if we're finished with it."
Just then, some kid pushed past them suddenly and entered the small receiving hall, which was dark and largely undisturbed since the last light of the Wilkinsons went out. After a moment of exploration with a flashlight, he came back out to find Kusari following him with the intent of finding out what he was doing here.
"Hey! Is there any lights in this house... or WiFi?"
"Power wouldn't have been disconnected yet."
She said that matter-of-factly without stating why she knew or on whose orders that statement would be made true. She decided to adopt a calm manner despite the kid's forceful nature.
"Now, tell me what you're doing here, okay?"
Stanley simply stood there, keeping eye contact with his ex for no other reason than he was afraid of what would happen if he turned away first. In spite of all of the veiled hostility she'd shown him in interview after interview following Stephen and then Ms. Linder's deaths, some part of him still loved her. And it was that part that would probably get him killed someday if he didn't learn to let go. He needed to, he knew it. He needed to move on. It would be so much easier if his emotions would listen to reason.
Eventually though, he disappointed himself, and turned away from her. Giving up. Somewhat. He decided to give her some time to get used to the idea of him being the area before approaching the house, and by extension, her. His head felt heavy on his shoulders, so he let it sag downward while he sighed and scratched his scalp. He walked briskly into the forest, just trying to forget his problems.
As he progressed through the woods, he failed to pay attention to where he was going, and so, he kept making turns on an instinctual whim, which should have been getting him more and more lost... and yet, somehow... he never managed to lose sight of the house. Curious as to how this was, he decided to experiment, and deliberately walk farther away from the house, paying very careful attention to where he was going.
After what seemed like ten minutes, he noticed a set of footsteps echoing his. This wasn't a mountain, so he shouldn't be hearing anything of the sort, especially since he could hear the distant scream of a freight train. Yet, there it was, a second set of footsteps matching him for every cracked branch and crushed leaf. His paranoia getting to him, he turned around, scanning the area for any sign of a pursuer. There was none. Eventually though, he decided to head back the way he came and back to the house. As he drew closer to his destination, Stanley couldn't help but notice that the echoing footsteps were grower quieter and quieter, as though they were now 'walking' away from him. Stanley let out a sigh of relief.
He made it back to the house to find it more or less how he left it. Looked like everyone was still hanging out on the porch, including Leelee. Shivering, Stanley headed for the porch, bracing himself for whatever vitriol his love might decide to throw at him. He was determined not to lash out, not to give in, he needed to stay calm.
Little hands. Cory didn't know what to make of it at first. His hands were so small and al the world was massive. This place was full of familiar colors and smells, but all the dimensions were off, skewed somehow. The countertops were granite oceans and the cabinets were the wooden underpinnings of the ceiling's snowy, white canopy. This place was a jungle, and this place was just a kitchen, his kitchen, part of a home he'd known for years. His hands were small, his body was small, and yet Cory knew no fear. The room was bright and warm after all, filled with dusty sunlight from wide windows and a familiar, soothing singing. The singer was not the most talented, but her voice was the stuff of every bedtime story and every soothing ditty. As far as Cory was concerned, that voice could've been the voice of God.
Sing a song of six souls,
All waiting to die.
Four and twenty vipers,
baked in a pie.
A little form knew what was needed, even if it couldn't recall what queer and crueler sorcery had wrought its current shape to begin with. Cory trundled off and retrieved the stool that he knew would be in the corner, waiting for him, waiting to be dragged off and set beside the woman who was his world. He would stand beside her and he would help her cook, even if 'cooking' was just an excuse to make an unholy mess. His mother never minded though, just dabbed his nose with flour and joined him in his play as soon as the meal was finished. All the necessary ingredients held true. The singer never faltered, never stumbled as Cory took his place beside her, her tune merely winding on and on and on as she went about her work, kneading the dough for a pie crust with steady, patient hands.
When the pie was baked off,
The vipers all did scream,
And the venom bubbled out
of every nook and seam.
All was as it should be, and Cory questioned nothing, even though much was strange. What did it matter? So long as the Singer sang... so long as her voice, her hair, her eyes, her smile, her hands all fit the mold so tightly. Every bone in his body ached with familiarity and filled him with the burning buzz that threatened to curry tears from his eyes, though Cory never let them fall. Tears would ruin this thing, would hang heavy on this woman's heart, and who knew how much yoke this particular idol could bear, before she shattered, before she left. So no, Cory would shed no tears and he would ask no questions. He would do nothing to break the magic of this place. What did it matter if so many other little things in this perfect place made less than perfect sense?
The police girl's in the gallery,
shooting bound and squirming dummies,
The jester works his puppet show,
and fills pretentious tummies.
Cory tried to block out the little problems, tried to push them out of his mind less they steal this little joy, but the little problems only grew and gnawed on the edge of Cory's mind. Every time Mother's hands worked the dough, the dough gave forth a sound, a little thing, a desperate thing, the mewl of something broken, something dying, something smothered beneath a pillow and snuffed out. The dough was dry and cracked, scarlet seeped from those cracks and bled away, through the bowl, onto the table.... The scarlet stained everything, stained the granite, the cutting boards and the knives lodged in that cutting board. There the red met its kith and kin, drip drip driping down stainless steel blades.
The detective's always underfoot,
telling fancy tales,
But now so many fancy screws,
twist neath her finger nails.
Cory knew what was in the bowl, knew it with terrible certainty, and the trembling started in his thighs. He edged closer to the Singer and looked past her hands as he she kneaded her dough, crushed it, shaped it and mashed it, over and over and over again. What was dough in the baker's hands, what was clay in the potter's? This dough was no different, even if for a moment, it seemed to have a little hand, reaching, begging, before it too was crushed and kneaded and molded and lost. Cory tasted bile at the back of his throat.
Sing with me my little prince,
And dry your teary eyes.
Ignore those nasty bloodstains,
And all your brother's cries.
The world was silent, poised on the point of a knife, ready to die from all the wrongness. Cory could not move, even as the warm euphoric blood buzz in his veins turned to biting acid. Every hair stood on end, and hackles rose in ancient memory. All was silent, the Singer sang no longer, the Singer was not Mother, and Cory could feel hot breath on the back of his neck. The breath was full of teeth,
"Momma, those aren't the wor-
Cory woke with a start, blinking and lost, stranded on an island of light in a bitter black sea. It took a moment, but the shapes grew clear and safe soon enough. Of course there was light, the car light blazing now that a door was ajar. And it was dark, dark because he'd overslept. Shit, that wouldn't do, he'd promised Max he just needed a few minutes rest before they headed to the hotel, and then the kid could go nuts. He'd done well, after all, survived the whole car ride without freaking out and doing something stupid to try to expend the energy pent up in his bones (though Cory suspected this had less to do with medication or good behavior and more to do with a certain quest to 'catch 'em all.') Three things clicked together in Cory's mind just then, and he groaned as he brought his head down on the steering wheel. Passenger door ajar, pent up energy, the ghost of words echoing in his mind....
What were the words? Momma, those ar- No, nothing. Something real, ' Fine, I'll see you in there."
Awww shit, Max!
Cory bolted out of his seat, rubbing the sleep from his eyes and slamming the car door, "MAX!"
The call echoed through the sleeping forest as Cory tore after his brother, the kid's destination no grand mystery for anyone with a halfway decent grasp of his rather erratic train of thought. Cory's steps slowed for a moment as he caught sight of the others, a cluster of people around the entrance to the Wilkinson home. Strange that... Cory couldn't quite conjure up a pleasant reason for people to gather outside the home of a missing family... in the dead of night. Then again, he didn't have too good a reason either. It felt like daylight had only been a few minutes ago. Cory had only wanted to drive by the house briefly before they found a place to crash and store their stuff, it was supposed to be a small thing, just a few minutes, time just seemed to slip away....
"Sorry folks, don't want to interrupt, just passing through," Cory mumbled his apologies and focused on the boy in the door way, and putting himself between said group and said boy. He shot his younger brother a glare half full of play and half genuine, calling to him from the base of the steps and beckoning with a finger, "Rules, Mad Max, rules, get down here. This is strike one. Bolt and I'll leash you like one of those sad, little grocery store moms, and nobody's having any fun after that."
Cory turned his focus back towards the odd group, two women and two women. The ladies held some air of authority, but the men seemed rather like ants waiting for the boot to drop. So married couples then? Not likely, but Cory chuckled softly at the thought of the tired cliché, "You folks need help or something? Normally wouldn't be any of my business, but I think I might own this place now...."
That was hardly a solid claim. Going through the Wilkinson family tree would take months of delicate pruning. As far as Cory knew, he was the closest known living relative, but they were a pretty tangled clan, and there was a host of legal woes to consider before anyone started talking about next of kin in earnest. In truth, Cory found the thought of staying in the house, much less owning it, revolting considering its recent, sinister history. Better to burn it and salt the earth if no trace of its original occupants could be found. Nevertheless, Cory didn't need some legitimate ground to stand on, something he could use to shoo these folks away if they were the gawking, murder junkie sort or ghost story fanatic. Disgruntled heir would do nicely, in that regard.
"Now, tell me what you're doing here, okay?"
"Me and Cory are here to help look for Johnny..." Max started in reply to the strange woman but before he could finish, his elder brother barrelled through the group and stood between them with a look of mock sternness in his eyes.
"Rules, Mad Max, rules, get down here. This is strike one. Bolt and I'll leash you like one of those sad, little grocery store moms, and nobody's having any fun after that."
"Hey, it's not my fault, I forgot!" Max exclaimed, "I'm not a baby any more, I don't need you to watch me in some stupid house anyway."
"Johnny Wilkinson's babysitter, ma'am. He is her brother, and would have claim to anything of hers on the premises if we're finished with it." Officer Karite had interjected on Aaron Weaver's behalf, an act which struck as strange given the fact that the man had shrank at the sight of the Officer, meaning that there was more to the two that the Detective had initially surmised.
Seeing that there wasn't an iota of chance in Hell that Weaver would voluntarily or inadvertently be able to provide any additional information on the disappearance of Little Johnny Wilkinson or the death of Sarah Weaver, the Detective changed her demeanor as she tucked the badge away, hoping that the small act would help the man relax.
"You're right Officer. Sarah Weaver's belongings've already been analyzed by the tech heads and since it looks like you can vouch for Mister Weaver's identity, I've got no problems returning them to her brother." Leonora stated with a nod and a slight smile.
It was at that point that the two young boys meandered into the growing group of adults camping out on the porch, one even being so bold as to have walked into the house before being coaxed out by his brother. It wasn't surprising to see a couple of boys wander into the house. A few days after the last of the Wilkinsons disappeared, the local boys had started using the house for a sort of rite of passage.
What did surprise the Detective was that one of the boys actually claimed to be the rightful owner of the Wilkinson Home.
"You folks need help or something? Normally wouldn't be any of my business, but I think I might own this place now...." The older of the two boys stated with what most likely passed for a authoritative voice in his age bracket. The boldness of the claim somewhat endeared the youngster to Leonora as the boy reminded the Detective of herself when she was his age, at least before her life took a left turn.
"Officer Karite. If I didn't know any better, I'd say that this kid just admitted having motive to have be involved in the recent tragedy that took place here." Detective York commented. Though it was a joke made in poor taste, especially since she had gotten to know the Wilkinsons during her time looking for Johnny, Detective York thought it would best to knock the boy down a couple of pegs.
"I think they'll be joining us for a ride down to the station when we're through here." The Detective said with a wink to her partner before wandering off towards unwelcome guest that was approaching.
The distance between Stanley and Leonora was quickly closed within a couple of brisk strides and was punctuated with a index finger jabbed to Stanley's chest as Detective York hissed her displeasure as seeing her former lover.
"You've got a lot of nerve showing up here, Stanley."
As cliched as it might sound, the index finger poking at his chest felt like a dagger aimed straight at his heart. And if there were any doubt that it held venom, Leelee made sure it hit its mark.
"You've got a lot of nerve showing up here, Stanley."
It took every bit of self-control to not shout back at her, or to avoid letting a single tear escape. What ended up happening, is that his lower lip quivered for a moment, while his eyes took on a decidedly watery look. It also took a good deal of self-control to avoid bringing up the baggage they were both carrying at this point.
"Le..." he began, but then thought better of it, "Miss York, I'm just here to figure out what happened to my friend. Even after everything that's happened... I still don't understand why he became so... unpleasant on the set in the last couple of years."
He held up his keys to the house, which he noticed, seemed to be a few more than what Leelee had on her.
"You see this," he shook his keyring for a moment before putting it back in his pocket, "Keys to this house. I really was a friend of Stephen's, hell, of the whole family. If I knew anything, anything at all to help you find Johnny or even just what happened to the rest of them, I'd tell you. If I find anything in there that might help, I'll show it to you. Even... even if it does implicate me in some way."
He sighed, and turned around, putting his arms together behind his back.
"Unless," he said, turning his head to try to keep in eye contact with her again, "You have a warrant for my arrest already."
After a moment, he turned around again.
"I'm sorry," he told her, bringing a hand up to her shoulder, but... stopping himself before actually touching her. He snapped his hand back to his side before making that mistake, "I don't know how else or what else to say about what happened between us but... I'm sorry. And, I honestly don't know what to tell you to convince you that I had nothing to do with whatever happened to the Wilkinsons. Do I really seem like a murderer or a kidnapper to you? Just... what do you take me for?"
Even though he'd managed to keep his tone even during all of this, he couldn't help but feel as though he'd stepped over some kind of boundary there. He waited for her to taze him, shoot him, hit him... something to show just how much she hated him now.
"Just... what do you take me for?" Stanley asked Detective York as he stood there trying not to make the mistake of touching her and winding up with a broken wrist or tazed or pepper sprayed or handcuffed in the back of the Unmarked Standard Black Police Sedan that she and Officer Karite had arrived in. The question that Stanley had posed had a myriad of different answers, none of them favorable nor pleasant.
Realizing that there were others in the area, Leonora bit her tongue and said nothing, letting her glare communicate whatever answer the cheat could glean from it, before turning around. There was a time and place for personal bullshit and a crime scene where people that she considered as close to her as family could be was not the time nor the place for her and Stanley to hash out their differences.
Walking towards the house, Leonora wondered if perhaps it was her that had caused the Wilkinsons to go through the string of bad luck that had cost them their lives or caused them to disappear. Lord knew that they weren't the only ones that the Detective had cared about that had died. There were her parents, her step-father (the very man that had rescued her from the clutches of a murderous child molester), Alexandria and the Wilkinson clan. Getting close to her seemed to be a death sentence. The fact that Stanley, the man that she had gambled her happiness on, was still alive and breathing made her resentment of him all the more palpable.
Walking back towards Officer Karite, Detective York wondered what the Junior Detective thought of the more senior officer and the fact that she made no move to be on friendly terms with her subordinate. Did Officer Karite consider her boss a cold frozen hearted bitch? Did Officer Karite know that Detective York was perhaps subconsciously protecting the younger woman from what seemed to be a life long curse that followed Detective York around? Perhaps she'd work up the guts to ask Officer Karite one day.
As the last rays of daylight disappeared behind the horizon, Detective York entered the Wilkinson Residence, turning on a few of the lights as she wandered through the house, pausing for a moment over the spot where Alexandria's body had been found.
"What in the hell am I even doing here?" Leonora muttered to herself as she walked over to the gas fireplace and lit it. Sitting down in an overstuffed chair beside the brick fireplace, Leonora couldn't help but feel that the light from the flames barely lit the room while the dancing shadows caused the Detective to shudder as she waited for the others.
"You're right Officer. Sarah Weaver's belongings've already been analyzed by the tech heads and since it looks like you can vouch for Mister Weaver's identity, I've got no problems returning them to her brother."
Good to know. The less pressure on Aaron here, the better. A bit of closure wouldn't hurt either. Now, as soon as the boy mentioned Johnny, Kusari felt a pang of sympathy for him. She herself felt bad about the kid's disappearance, but she wasn't even part of his family or a friend of his. Max and his brother, apparently, were an entirely different case. Not only did they know the family, but if Cory's claim could be believed...they had possible inheritance of the place as nearest next of kin. Nothing official on that had come down the pipeline yet, however. Thing about that is, though...taking ownership of this place was fast becoming the nearest equivalent to being owner and proprieter to the House of Usher...and it was about as gloomy as the Evil Dead cabin.
I swear to god if I see one thing from those movies here, I'm jacking the car and putting myself in a cell for insubbordination.
Not a realistic threat, but the atmosphere of this place would be intolerable if something like that came up here. Then again, she'd always heard Stephen compare or contrast himself along numerous other directors. Sam Raimi had been among them since he was a reputed B-movie man and Stephen was mediocre alot of the times himself. Still, it wasn't for Kusari to complain about her 'film career'. It was for cash and police practice, nothing more.
And yet, you put on quite the show...
"...this kid just admitted having motive to have be involved in the recent tragedy that took place here."
"I'd say he's a bit young for a criminal mastermind."
"I think they'll be joining us for a ride down to the station when we're through here."
"I still call shotgun."
Yes, Kusari had caught that the Detective couldn't possibly have been serious about that. A young man and his little brother was hardly the guest spot for Lifestyles of the Rich and Villainy. The chance to be a little more flippant about things was certainly welcome, but it kind of surprised her that Detective York would ever kid around here. The only worry she had with THAT was that the woman then decided to confront her ex, which sounded like she'd thrown in that comment before to make Kusari think she wasn't as irritated as she was a moment ago about Stanley. The Officer observed, but did not try to listen too hard. If something leaked, then it leaked, but she was only paying attention here because the chief wanted her to...or rather his immediate superior said so. Soon after, she walked past and entered the house, turning on lights as she went.
I'd pay good money to know what goes on in her head sometimes.
It was a subtle thing, but Aaron noticed Detective York concealing her badge once more. Whether it was his words, or Kusari's backup, the woman no longer felt the need to menace him, or whatever she had been doing. Aaron was used to observing irrational and aggressive behaviours in those around him and the idea that any action had a benign motivation was often lost to him.
"You're right Officer. Sarah Weaver's belongings've already been analyzed by the tech heads and since it looks like you can vouch for Mister Weaver's identity, I've got no problems returning them to her brother."
Aaron relaxed noticeably at this announcement, even if he found out nothing else here, at least he could ensure nothing of his sister's possessions were left in this wretched place to gather dust. Another individual emerged from one of the parked cars and forced his way through the group, Aaron shuddered away from him, startled by his sudden appearance. Even more startling was this newcomer addressing a boy in the doorway, who Aaron had not even noticed until that moment, lost as he was in his thoughts. There were never any children at the mental asylum, for obvious reasons, and Aaron seemed momentarily confused by the appearance of Max, his mind immediately darting back to another child he had known.
You left him
The sound of a trail bike hummed in Aaron's head and he spun about, searching for the source of the noise. "No," he murmured, "not here." Everything going on around him was muted and meaningless, some sort of confrontation, banter about taking someone away before the two police officers entered the house. His way finally somewhat clear, Aaron lurched through the entranceway and leaned against the wall of the hallway, the sound of engines still rumbling in his ears. Aaron struggled to steady himself, breathing deeply and closing his eyes. He couldn't afford to lose control here, not now.
"I'm going back inside, if you want to watch me you'll have to follow me," Max told Cory and he bounced back into the living room, this time illuminated by the fire which Leonara had lit. He pointedly ignored the police detective after the rude comment she had made to him and his brother and instead made his way to the shelf of VHR's and DVD's. He spotted a Toy Story video tape and pulled it out of it's case, dropping the box onto the floor. He'd seen the movie quite a few times before and although it was pretty old, made almost a decade before he was even born, it was one of the few movies the Wilkinson's owned that wasn't either too boring or babyish for him, so he went and slotted the tape into the video player. After switching on the television and rewinding the tape he pressed play and was very surprised when the video turned out not to be Toy Story after-all.
Instead, it was a film of the living room from somewhere high, most likely the bookshelf. His uncle Stephen and aunt Lois were sitting together on the sofa watching something off-screen on the television and Johnny was sitting on the carpet, making vehicle noises as he pushed a toy car back and forth. Amie was nowhere in sight. Max watched for a minute and nothing much happened, he was about to stop the tape when suddenly a dull thud came from outside the room. Johnny ignored the sound but his parents jumped, turning their heads towards the doorway in alarm. The door remained firmly shut however and a moment later they turned back to the television as if nothing had happened. Max stared quizzically at the screen for a while longer and then turned around to the adults behind him.
"What is this?" he asked aloud.
"Hey, it's not my fault, I forgot! I'm not a baby any more, I don't need you to watch me in some stupid house anyway."
"8 or 80, Max. 8 or 80," Cory smiled at the nearly bouncing boy, even when the words came out in a somewhat weary drone, obviously said many time before on a myriad similar occasions. There was still a playfulness to them though, even if they were bound to slight reproof. That was Cory's manner though, life was far to short to waste worrying and gripping and raising one's blood pressure," I'll still be there, poking you with a cane, telling you to behave and keeping the boogeymen at bay."
Cory's attention shifted back to the odd group in time to hear one woman name the other 'Officer Karite.' Cory's brow furrowed slightly as his mind tried to place the name. I tickled the fringe of his memory, and irked him something fierce. The little spell of aphasia wasn't enough to deafen him to the rest of the woman's comment. He cocked an eyebrow and the chuckle at the back of his throat grew a bit richer," Boy? Ouch.... I promise I shave, miss. At least... every other day or so. Also, while I'm sure the two of you are plenty trustworthy, I'd love to see a badge. I'd be a poor role model if I took a ride with any old stranger, would I, Officer?"
Cory spoke to the Karite woman, since the first now seemed preoccupied with a rather scruffy looking fellow on the groups periphery. Cory couldn't make out their words, but the facial expressions were hardly calm and cheery. A bit of vacant muttering brought Cory's focus back to the present. The young man the two women had been speaking with was talking to himself, hardly reassuring behavior. Less reassuring were his lurching steps up the stairs, past Max and into the house. Well, the suspect police woman didn't seem all too concerned by him, hopefully he wasn't some madman waiting to unleash stabbity death upon the lot of them.
"I'm going back inside, if you want to watch me you'll have to follow me."
The young boy's call pulled a sigh from Cory's chest, and the young man knew this trip wasn't going to be without its little bumps and bruises. He shook his head a bit, trotted up the stairs, and paused at the threshold. His gut twisted a bit as he peered into the home once full of so many warm memories. He tried to spy the echoes of those memories, the traces they must've left behind, but nothing came to him. This place was more than hollow, all the joy scooped out of it and replaced with something... something that made the hairs on the back of Cory's neck stand on end. He could see Max's outline in the glow from the television, and he spied the tape he was watching even as he hesitated to enter the house proper. He watched the strange scene play out. A worried murmur escaped his lips,"... the fuck?"
"What is this?"
"Something I'd rather deal with in the morning. Come on Max, lets go. We've all seen this how this kind of movie goes, and I'd rather deal with creepy shit in the daylight. Move it, Millions," A touch of urgency touched Cory's voice, and in truth, it was married with a touch of disquiet if not outright fear. Cory knew most of the ill omens in this place were born from his own mind, but that didn't mean he shouldn't pay them any heed. Hell, the human body was conditioned to survive first and foremost, it wouldn't prove healthy to ignore all the gut feelings it produced. Besides, people had died in this house, died horribly or disappeared completely. No need to test fate by blundering about in the dark.
Secure Mental Institution, Cognitive Therapy Session
"The bike engines are a defence, you hear them because it's easier than remembering why those engines stopped. Confront the memory, and the sound will go."
With his eyes closed, it was easier for Aaron to force himself to be somewhere else, somewhere far away from this house. Rocky, trackless ground surrounded him but Aaron forced himself to focus on the bike in front of him, fallen on its side, twisted and warped out of shape. The engine was dead, it would never run again. The rumbling in his ears gradually faded, fighting all the way, this whole process seemed immensely harder outside the asylum. Or maybe it was just this house? The atmosphere could be destabilising him. Aaron opened his eyes and collected his wits, pushing back from the wall to stand on his own strength once more. Others had entered the house while he had been distracted and lurking around in dark hallways probably wasn't earning Aaron any credibility. He warily made his way further into the house, reaching the lounge room where there was a fire going and some sort of home video playing on the television. Rather than watch the television, Aaron stared at the dancing flames as if hypnotised.
"What is this?"
Startled he snapped his head back around to look at the television, expecting to see something bizarre or unnerving. However, by the time he was looking, the scene was ordinary, just three Wilkinson's sitting in their living room. Instead, Aaron found himself more concerned by the camera angle, looking on the room from a height.
"Did they set that camera up? The Wilkinson's?" he demanded suddenly, as if anyone in the room would know that answer to that question. His sister had been in this house, and if some weirdo had been planting cameras around the place... "Is it supposed to be a home video?"
Wilkinson Residence | Interior | Living Room
A Discovery of Ill Portent:
Detective York looked at the Wilkinson Residence from the driver's seat of her grey Toyota SUV, dressed in her civvies, as she waited for Alexandria to contact the Detective on her mobile phone. It seemed to be an especially bright day, despite the reason that required Leonora to visit to the now empty home, one that saw only a hint of cloud cover in the sky and the incessant chirping of migratory songbirds that had taken to roosting in one of the large trees that towered over the Wilkinson's home.
"Come on Alex. The hell is taking you so long?" The Off Duty Detective muttered as she opened the door to her SUV and hopped out, the gravel of the Wilkinson's driveway crunching under Leonora's boots as she landed.
The day had started with a text message, a very short one that consisted of only 4 words total: "Wilkinson's House, 4 PM." And though there was no reason to feel uneasy about the message, Detective York did. It was unlike the unconventional consultant that had been brought on to the Wilkinson case to leave so short a text message. All the other ones Alexandria had ever sent were pages long and now that Leonora was standing at the requested location, 30 minutes past 4 PM, there was no sign of the usually punctual psychic.
With her patience expired, Leonora walked up the drive way and opened the front door with the keys that had been provided to her by the Wilkinsons themselves and as the door creaked open, the Detective was assaulted with the smell of blood, fresh blood.
"Alex?" The Detective called out into the forboding darkness, hoping that her newly birthed fears would be unfounded and yet, they rarely were.
The first sign that something was horribly wrong was the streak of blood that ran from the middle of the living room toward the fireplace. From the coloring of the blood, the Detective could tell that it was relatively fresh and there was a lot it, with the majority pooling around the red brick of the fireplace.
"Alex?" Detective York called out once again as she approached the fireplace, her fingers finally finding the LED flashlight that she kept around her key chain and when the bright white light was cast upon the fireplace, the face of Alexandria Decascos became visible. The rest of her, however, was not as her body had been stuffed inside the chimney. Pulling out her mobile phone, Detective York began dialing.
A commotion among the remainder of the "guests" that had were had entered the Wilkinson Residence broke Detective York out of her trance and allowed her to break her gaze away from the flames that danced within the home's fireplace. It was readily apparent to the Detective that the others had become unnerved by something. Turning to look, the Detective saw the recording that had been the source of the distress among the others.
"What is this?"
That was a fairly reasonable question and one that the Detective did not have a ready answer to. Instead she watched as the scene unfolded and, like the other, found herself curious as to who the video had been shot by.
Max didn't argue with Cory this time, he couldn't explain why but the odd home video gave him the chills, was still giving him the chills in fact since the video hadn't ended but continued with the apparently mundane family scene. Despite the appearance of normality though he could tell there was something not quite right about Stephen and Lois, their furtive glances at the door every now and again, their alertness to every sound and movement... it was almost as if they were expecting someone or something to barge in at any moment. He finally managed to tear his eyes away from the scene and slowly followed his older brother back out to their parked car.
"Where are we staying tonight?" he asked Cory, knowing he had asked before but not recalling the reply.
Detective York was also drawn to the video as much as the two boys who had been watching it and even though the look that floated on the surface of Stephen and Lois' face suggested that something was amiss, there was something that the boys had missed on their viewing altogether that the Leonora's trained eye and years of staring at surveillance footage did not. Grabbing the remote control for the old Sony VHS player, the Detective rewound the tape to make sure that she what she had noticed was really there.
As with most analog technology, the image on the tape was grainy and blips of static blurred the screen on occasion, forcing the Detective to muddle around with the tracking dial on the player in order to resolve the image.
"The - hell?" Leonora cursed with a hissing breath as she stopped the tape once again and rewound it before depressing the play button once again.
Standing in the corner of the shot stood the old grandfather clock, one that Stephen had complained to Lois about having to wind on a daily basis. The clock's pendulum was visibly swinging back and forth in the video playback except where it appeared to stop and float at the apex of its swing for a few seconds.
Looking down at the remote, Detective York located the display button and rammed a finger down upon it, bringing up the frame counter before resuming her review of the frames that left her vexed. The results left the Detective even more perturbed. As the scene played out once again, the frame counter diligently marched forth, never deviating from its sequential count. If someone had altered the tape to make it appear as the clock's pendulum had frozen in mid air, the frame counter would have frozen for the same few seconds.
Clicking the eject button on the tape, Leonora decided that she'd have to take it to the A/V boys at the station to get them to analyse the tape.
"Officer Karite!" The Senior Detective called out to her partner, "we're leaving."
As she said this, she had made her way out to the Black Sedan that she and Karite had arrived in and inserted the key into the ignition, giving it a twist to start the car's engine.
Only - the car would not start.
Twisting the key again, the Detective heard nothing as the Vehicle's starter remained silent. To make matters worse, it appeared that everything else within the vehicle was dead as well, most importantly the radio.
Cursing, the Detective pulled out her Mobile Phone to summon a Beat Cop to give her and her partner a ride back to the station and found that not a bar's worth a signal could be found.
"GODDAMIT!!!" The Detective yelled in frustration, punching her first against the car's steering wheel -
At least the horn still worked, though it almost caused the detective to jump out of her skin. It was a fortunate sign that there was still juice left in the car battery. It was unfortunate because it drew Stanley's attention and probable curiosity as Detective York had placed the VHS tape on the car's dashboard.
Upon hearing LeeLee yell in what Stanley thought sounded like distress, he ran over to her car as fast as he could.
"Are you okay?" he said, habitual worry creasing his brow, before he manged to collect himself. "Umm... look... I can uh... maybe help you out here... umm... my car has a flat tire, but I think its still running. Here. Take the keys."
Without another thought on the matter, or waiting for her response, Stanley tossed his car keys to LeeLee, and went to check on his car. When he finally got a better look at it, he saw that all four of his tires were now missing.
"Shit," he started kicking his car visciously over and over again, "Fuck fuck fuck fuck FUCK!"
As if to punctuate his frustration, on that last kick, the bumper fell off and landed on his foot, crushing it.
"GAAAAAH!" the pained gasp escaped his mouth before he could even try to clamp down on it. He gave up and flopped himself on the ground while he tried to pry his foot loose. After what seemed like several minutes of struggling, he finally managed to get free. That was the good news. The bad news was that he couldn't feel his right foot anymore. That couldn't be a good sign. And, sure enough, when he tried to get off the ground again, he just fell back down the moment he put any weight on his injured foot.
"Lee.. umm... Ms. York! Someone! I seem to have... broken my foot or something... could someone help me up?"
That was when he noticed that it had gotten dark a lot sooner than he had expected it to.
She noticed that Aaron was leaning off to one side against a wall, looking as though he were trying to compose himself. Kusari, of course, didn't blame him. She's seen him like this before. That he actively worked to keep his cool was something she liked to see in the guy. Any man who can recognize and adjust his own weaknesses was, in fact, strong in personality. It was her intent to check up on him in a little while, but then her attention was needed for a moment. The two brothers had separated, and while one began to view a tape, the other was addressing her.
"Boy? Ouch.... I promise I shave, miss. At least... every other day or so. Also, while I'm sure the two of you are plenty trustworthy, I'd love to see a badge. I'd be a poor role model if I took a ride with any old stranger, would I, Officer?"
She didn't want to play it that way, to have to be official and held at arm's reach while here and not technically on-suty. Not from people who were essentially harmless and hardly anyone of concequence. Okay, Stanley was a bit of an exception there, but you understand. Enough people throughout the day on her beat look at her like she's the enemy when THEY break the law. She didn't need that from random brothers, but Detective York had called the badge play while Kusari wanted to play it loose for now. Oh well. Kusari pulled out her badge, showed it clearly, and attached it to her belt.
"That having been said and done, we might have some questions, but...I doubt she was serious there. It may...have been the first real attempt at humor I've seen her do since we started working together."
She said as much with a smirk, trying to gain back some of the peace pipe that was left to appear more sociable and approachable, the way that she had gotten a bi-polar man with a penchant for violence to cooperate despite the fact that she'd had to arrest him. She had followed Cory as he went to keep an eye on Max. And, as it turns out, so did Aaron. They all saw...something on that screen, something wrong or out of place.
I c-clubbed him like a goddamn animal!
That sound, either slamming or pounding, possibly on wood... Nothing in the frame moved to account for it and Johnny didn't even flinch, yet Stephen and Lois DID. Did it come from outside? Upstairs? What was it? She wanted to rewind and recheck it, but she wouldn't have to herself in a moment. Right now, Cory was worried about something in the video, much as Max was, and wanted to leave. That was when Aaron spoke up.
"Did they set that camera up? The Wilkinson's? Is it supposed to be a home video?"
"It might be, but it's not mine, so I'm just inferring here."
She wanted to ask Max where the tape had come from, but already Detective York was on it. Well, they didn't have to follow them. They could always question them later - or rather, it would be her in follow-up as the Detective focused on other things in the investigation - and find out. Her partner was, by the by, heavily engrossed in the tape until she popped it out and spoke up suddenly.
"Officer Karite, we're leaving."
"So soon? Alright, but I think we should ask those two where they got that tape."
Kusari let York get ahead of her and she turned to Aaron for a moment.
"I'll make sure that everything of Sarah's gets to you quick enough. It was seeing you again, Aaron."
In any case, she headed off to join the great Sherlock York and then flinched as a loud honk came through. Damn, was she really that impatient? Ahhh...not exactly. Kusari came out to find that things were not going well. For one, the car didn't appear to be running. That would be an issue all on its own, but there was more. She came out just in time to see Stanley kick his tireless car and land the bumper on his foot. Again, wincing time. She didn't care if he was on her partner's shit-list. That had to hurt.
"Lee.. umm... Ms. York! Someone! I seem to have... broken my foot or something... could someone help me up?"
Wait... Wait. Kusari stood at the porch of the house by the doorway as her cop instincts took over. Think about it. The black sedan isn't working and Stanley's car has no tires. That isn't happenstance. That's an act of sabotage. The injured foot might be a comedy of errors, but only to those who find pain to be funny. The idea here is that Kusari did not trust her surroundings now. Out comes the sidearm from her jacket now, held up and at bay while carefully observing her surroundings. It was dark, though, which didn't help matters. In her heart of hearts, she didn't know precisely what this meant, but consider... If the Wilkinsons have been dying or disappearing in droves, wouldn't it be safe to say that anyone responsible would have staked out the actual home? The kind of people who would do this, whoever they were if 'they' was the correct pronoun, who would also disable two and maybe more vehicles in quick order, could be lurking out there...and perhaps armed. This was strictly paranoia on Kusari's part, but a few days had gone by more expediently due to caution. Even if she was wrong, it was better to be sure. So, after finding no immediate sign or sound or watchers, she carefully moved over to the gathering of cars, keeping low and using them for cover.
"Detective, Stanley...it is my opinion that being out in the open may be a bad idea. I have no proof we're being watched, but we have just been stranded, and that means something."
No one had a straight answer about the tape, it was all just guesses and evasions. Something was seriously off in this house, Aaron couldn't think straight, not that his thoughts were overly clear at the best of times, thanks to the meds he was on. Aaron reached down to check the bottle was still in his pocket, as if he almost expected it to have disappeared. He was going to need to take some soon, he'd wanted a clear head for the drive down here but the way this house was setting him on edge... if he exploded in rage here, he'd be back in the institute for good. Maybe even in the county jail, considering the fact he'd stolen the vehicle and broken the terms of his discharge.
"I'll make sure that everything of Sarah's gets to you quick enough. It was nice seeing you again, Aaron."
She'd make sure his sister's possessions got back to him? He wanted to get them now! Not leave them in this place for who knows how long. Not to mention that he didn't have time to wait for them to send him the items, he could hardly go back home and wait after the stunt he had just pulled. A brief flash of rage flared in Aaron's eyes before he got his anger back under control, breathing heavily. He was getting far too unstable with each passing minute.
"Thank you," he managed in a subdued tone, "nice seeing you too." but his message was probably lost in the sudden honk of a horn outside. Kusari left to investigate and Aaron darted after her, hoping whatever was going on out there had nothing to do with his father's car. Upon reaching the porch he was greeting by a distressing sight, the car the police had arrived in appeared to be dead or something while someone had stolen all the tyres of Stanley's vehicle. If those two cars were down... Aaron sprang into action, hurtling off the porch and running to check his father's car.
Every window on the vehicle had been violently shattered and the interior of the car appeared to have been mauled by a savage animal. The steering wheel was missing entirely and great gouges had been torn into the dashboard. The wires leading from the ignition had been exposed and ripped apart, the ends burnt and warped. Three of his tyres were missing, with one lone tyre resting on the hood. All of his medical documents and legal forms were stacked within the tyre, his discharge papers on top, seemingly accusing him. Kusari was saying something back on the porch but Aaron was past paying attention at this point, he collapsed to his knees in defeat.
"Enough, Enough, Enough," he chanted hollowly, "have you done enough yet?" It was unclear whether he was talking to himself or the universe in general. Either way, things were going from bad to worse.
"Detective, Stanley...it is my opinion that being out in the open may be a bad idea. I have no proof we're being watched, but we have just been stranded, and that means something."
Officer Karite was the one being pragmatic now. The fact that Stanley's tires had wandered off by themselves, as the long enough time span for anyone to have removed the tires was while everyone was in the house, coupled with the fact that somehow a well maintained Police Issued vehicle was disabled meant that Officer Karite's conclusion as to sabotage wasn't far out of the realm of possibility.
Nodding, The Detective drew her sidearm as well and reached under the driver's side seat to unlock the trunk of the black unmarked sedan. If they were going to be stuck here, Leonora would have preferred being stuck and prepared, plus that's where the first aid kit was. As much as she despised Stanley, she needed him to look at the tape and see if someone had tampered with it.
"Keep an eye out, Officer. Everyone else, back in the house." The Detective stated as she exited the vehicle and moved cautiously towards the trunk becoming aware of a sizzling noise that seemed to come from within. Slowly opening the trunk, the Detective was surprised by a cloud of smoke that sought to envelope her and although she moved away quickly, Leonora found her eyes, nostrils and even skin felt like they had been set ablaze by some invisible fire.
"What the FUCK?!" Detective York managed to sputter between coughs as she hacked out her lungs. The intensity of the pain eventually subsided a dull burning.
This was definitely a "what the FUCK" moment as Leonora Minerva York peered into the Sedan's trunk and saw yet another sign that someone was messing with them.
A car battery had been set upon much of the equipment that was contained within the trunk before it had been punctured, allowing the sulfuric acid contained within the car battery to leak onto the equipment, which included a canister of CS gas.
Keeping low to ground with her back against the car, Leonora blinked a couple of times, waiting for the sensation to pass. She had definitely suffered worse back in her academy days when the instructors had sprayed each of the trainees in the face with CS gas until they got used learned to deal with the discomfort and while Leonora hated that portion of their training, she was grateful for it.
After a few more moments, the Detective peered once again into the trunk and saw that the first aid kit was largely untouched, unlike the more useful equipment that she and Office Karite usually had access to. Grabbing the medical kit, the Detective went to where Officer Karite stood.
"See anything?" The Detective asked, her senses still a mess after the tear gas exposure.
Seeing that no one was going to help him, Stanley crawled over to the trunk of his car, and just as he managed to right himself, he heard someone scream.
"What the FUCK!" he heard his beloved detective cry out in pain and surprise.
"Leelee!" he yelled, trying to hobble towards her, "What happened? Are you okay?!?!?"
Not taking any time whatsoever to disguise the panic in his voice. And then, after about three steps towards her, he fell back down again, having put a little too much weight on his bad foot.
Then, another gust of wind blew in.
Take what you need...
Without doing much in the way of thinking, Stanley crawled back to the trunk of his car, opened it, and flung his equipment out of it, in the general direction of the house. As he did so, he couldn't help but notice, even through the sudden onset of night, that there was smoke rising from his car's engine... not a good sign. So, once his recording and editing equipment was out of the trunk, he started hobbling away, careful not to put too much weight on his bad foot again, and he'd made it a full five steps towards Ms. York when his car exploded, knocking him forward several feet, smacking his head right into the detective's car.
"Ow..." a simple pained groan was all he managed before he passed out.
Max watched the adults with interest as he waited for Cory to unlock the car. He smirked when he heard a couple of them cursing and saw them struggling with their cars, they didn't strike him as particularly professional for detectives. His smugness quickly wore off when he realised how many of their cars no longer moved, what if Cory's wouldn't either?
"Um Cory," he asked nervously as his brother approached, "What are we going to do if our car doesn't wor..."
Suddenly without warning Stanley's car exploded, blasting the man several feet in the air and scattering burning metal across the road. Max fell backwards and instinctively covered his head with his hands as the area around him was pelted with shrapnel, though most of it was small enough to be harmless. Once the smoke and falling debris cleared he took his hands away from his eyes and surveyed the scene in front of him, noticing in particular Stanley lying still on the ground.
"Is that man dead?" he asked loudly.
"Is that man dead?" Asked Max loudly from where he stood, thankfully unharmed by the series of unfortunate events that was taking place in front of the Wilkinson home and even though there were times that Lenora wished that the man would just fall in a pit and disappear out of her life forever, Detective York was relieved to find that Stanley still had a pulse when she checked on him.
"Get back in the house!" The Detective ordered as she checked to see if Stanley had any major injuries to his body, besides the gash to his head where it had struck the car.
"Kusari!" LeeLee called out, using the Officer's name for the first time since they had been paired up, before pointing at the boys and Aaron. There was no guarantee that the house would be any safer but for now it was safer than being near booby trapped vehicles. "Secure the living room!"
Turning back to Stanley, Detective York tried to get the man to wake up.
"Stanley? Wake up. You've gotta wake up." She ordered gently as she opened up the med kit and found a vial of smelling salts, that she broke open and used on her unconscious former lover.
"C'mon Stan. Wake up!" She said even louder this time hoping that nothing else would happen while she was out in the drive way with Stan.
Officer Karite's assessment of the situation was about to get a massive update. You see, her point in coming out like this - cautiously and with gun ready - was to allow the others to make their way back to the house, where it was less exposed, while she kept an eye out for immediate danger. The most-plausible situation was that people had come here or had been waiting here in a large enough number to sabotage vehicles in a short amount of time, organized people with a plan. Detective York understood immediately, armed up to get some things - probably the first-aid kit - and then would proceed with Stanley back to the house.
"Keep an eye out, Officer. Everyone else, back in the house."
"Yes, please go back inside."
She kept low and looked around for trouble, staying close to the police sedan closer to the front...when a proper WTF came from York. Looking back, Kusari was a bit surprised to see a cloud of gas. Whoever it was that sabotaged their cars had gotten into the trunk as well! Kusari would begin to wonder about her own sidearm at this point if it hadn't been in her possession the whole time. She heard Stanley panicking, but could tell that the Detective was in no mortal danger herself. Not unless you count the possible unknown threat of watchers. Even still, there was nothing to prepare her for the explosion. One minute, nothing. Next minute, she ducked instinctively as the engine to Stanley's car blew up, sending him flying to somewhere not far from her.
And that, my dear, is a blockbuster...
Get out of my head, Stephen. This is hardly the time.
Stephen Wilkinson, mediocre director of film, sometimes popped into her head from her brief days of acting. Now that Stanley had been floored by a Hollywood explosion - yet all too real - he decided to irritate her once more. She heard the young boy - Max - call out and ask if the man was dead. Well, considering that she'd heard him groan and he was clearly breathing from where she stood...
"No, he's alive."
Holy shit, she was using her name? Kusari stood up a bit more straight to see the Detective pointing.
"Secure the living room!"
This was not the time for surprise in regards to your colleague needing a shocking incident to break her professionalism a little. After all, Kusari was not the sort of vain woman who required recognition from her associates so brazenly that she would complain about such things. She didn't join the force to be noticed in or by the force by her peers or anyone else. She joined because the streets were unsafe, and so was this damn front yard. Moving double-time, she left Stanley to York and moved to the brothers.
"Come on, you two. Full officer mode now. Into the house where it's safer and quickly, if you please."
She spoke in a professional and somewhat patient tone, but the indicator was that she was coaxing them to get a move on ahead of her right-this-minute-thank-you with her eyes constantly scanning the area for other little surprises. Her eyes set on Aaron for a moment.
"Back in the house, Aaron! It's no good out here!"