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between the shadow and the soul

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  1. 1947, Los Angeles

 

“She looks like you.”

 

Peggy’s eyes snap to Thompson. He’s looking at the body on the slab in front of them. His arms are crossed, his brow is furrowed. “The last one looked like you, too. And the one before that.”

 

Peggy scoffs. “I don’t see what that has to do with anything,” she gestures towards the body - a brunette woman, young, covered from her shoulders to her toes with a white sheet - the third victim of a killer the newspapers have taken to calling the werewolf . “Anyway, her face is… Her face is… How could you even tell.”

 

Peggy feels the bile rise in her throat. The woman’s face has been cut deeply on both cheeks; the medical examiner says the cuts alone could have killed her, were it not for a litany of other injuries. Even now that she’s cleaned up, it’s an unbearably grisly scene. The room suddenly feels too close. The stink of antiseptic and formaldehyde turns her stomach. She knows what it will look like if she rushes out of the room - it would be an unforgivable sign of defeat and delicacy.

 

Thompson looks at her, and he must see how pale and clammy she’s gone, because he grabs her by the arm and pushes her out of the room and into the cooler air of the hallway.

 

“Could it be her?” he asks as Peggy tries to clear her lungs. He’s leaning towards her, putting himself into her space like he always does. “Dottie? Or whatever the hell her name really is?”

 

She shakes her head. “It’s not clever enough. Just to cut up a girl like that - that takes a butcher, not an assassin.”

 

“Maybe it’s a sign. Maybe she’s trying to get your attention.”

 

Peggy huffs and rests her hands on her hips. “Then she has it. But it isn’t her. It isn’t about me.”

 

“Don’t be stupid, Carter,” he says, pulling a carton of Lucky Strikes out of his pocket and tapping the package against the palm of his hand. “It’s always about you.”

 

She doesn’t believe him. She doesn’t.

 

She doesn’t believe Thompson until she wakes up in an empty bathtub in a place she’s never been before, cold and wet, heavy and weak and paralyzed, dressed only in her slip, and with only a hazy memory of a brutal fight and a noxious-smelling handkerchief pressed against her face. Next to the tub, Dottie sits on a chair, perched, poised. Peggy feels like a fly caught in a spider’s web. She closes her eyes and tries to wiggle her fingers against the cool ceramic.

 

An hour later, SSR agents charge in with guns blazing. By then, Dottie’s had enough time to bruise and bloody her. Peggy nearly gets the feeling back in her hands and feet, is nearly ready to try...something. Anything . But then a bullet pierces Dottie’s chest and Thompson sweeps into the tiny bathroom, lifting Peggy’s limp body as though she were a ragdoll and rushing her out of Dottie’s squalid apartment, filled with dark-suited SSR agents, and down to the street.

 

She’s hauled into the back of an ambulance and laid down on a stretcher. Jack clambers in after her. Every bump on the road to the hospital sends a fresh wave of nausea and shooting pain through her.

 

“You never fucking listen to me,” Jack says, low and angry. He takes her hand and squeezes lightly. Peggy watches his face in the flickering light from passing street lamps. His jaw clenches. His eyes grow red and watery, but he doesn’t cry, and he doesn’t look at her.