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The Price of Freedom

Chapter Text

The door of his office slammed open, hitting against the wall, the loud sound of it vibrating through the room. Frankenstein did not have to lift the head to know, that the intruder was his sometimes (emphasis on “sometimes”) beloved co-worker. This particular time he was a pain in the ass.

“Oh, the almighty from the Floor 12 has requested his mere servant to bless him with his presence! ” Tao loudly exclaimed, while bowing deeply, his nose almost touching the cheap parquet.

“What does he want? ” Frankenstein asked, his voice full of disinterest, as he flipped through the pages, signing a document here and there.

“Dunno...I’m just the messenger, man ,” Tao replied while he got comfortable in his chair, propping his legs on desk, arms crossed behind his head, eyelids slowly closing shut.
Frankenstein kept on reading the files, he had seen many times before, only to make sure that everything was alright in these ones. He would not want to rush something, because fixing the mistakes always took much longer time than doing stuff right in the first place. Sadly, Tao was not one to use such an approach, but thanks to the nature of their job, they don’t have to work together. However, the office...he had to share the office with the younger man. While Frankenstein was a meticulous man by nature, Tao...well, he was the definition of chaos. Files were piling on his desk, pens scattered between them. Instead of using coat rack, he kept all his wardrobe on his chair, where he was sitting.
The blonde slowly leaned back to his chair, taking of the glasses and massaging the bridge of his nose. The very last manila folder of files was finished and it did not matter how desperately he searched for another - that was it...He even considered helping out Tao, but quickly rejected idea- it would be impossible to do any work, as his colleague would keep on interrupting him by singing all radio’s TOP 40 or occasionally showing a silly meme on his phone.
Frankenstein sighed heavily and finally rose from his seat, his legs a little bit numb.Huh, he must have been sitting for the whole afternoon, but when he checked the clock above the door, it only showed 3.44 PM. Blood rushed to his toes, giving out the tingling sensation. He did not even manage to make three steps, when something caught his feet, almost making him to kiss the ground.

“Oh, shit, mate, I’m sor- ”
“GOD DAMMIT, TAO! WHAT DID I SAY ABOUT KEEPING THOSE WIRES AWAY FROM MY DESK?! ”

“Sorry, sorry, I forgot, sorry! ” Tao rushed to him, pushing the wires away with his foot, while Frankenstein regained his stability, brushing away non-existent dust from his clothes. He briefly glanced at Tao, who was hurringly trying to gather all the wires next to his side of the desk. The distressed look on the young man’s face immediately made Frankenstein to feel bad about his outburst.

“It’s okay. I...apologize about yelling...I...”

“No,no, it’s fine, I really should have secured them more! I really should invest in those cable holder thingies, ya know? ” Tao mused, his long fingers fidgeting with the connectors. He looked at his his co-worker and shot a smile. A smile that did not reach his eyes. A smile that morphed in on of those looks, the look , which Frankenstein saw so often, that it made him sick to his stomach. Before he could hear some variations of “Oh, you have been through so much!” or “Are you really okay? Maybe take some days off?” he turned all 180 degrees and almost ran out of the office,startling Tao, who was still sitting on the floor, clutching various kinds of cables between his slender fingers.
It was cold and quiet in the hallway, most of employees being out on duty, while some enjoyed a cup of steaming tea in the nearby cafe. The only light was coming from the late afternoon sun, which peeked through the window at the end of the hallway. A chuckle escaped his dry lips:

“~Hah, I escaped wolf in order to meet the bear...” he silently muttered under his nose and moved towards the elevator. As he got in, his fingers quickly pressed “12” button. A metallic door in front of him slid closed. He appreciated the fact that there was no annoying elevator music chiming into his ears. The floor beneath his feet vibrated-he was going upwards. Frankenstein mentally prepared himself for the meeting.

Floor 8.
Old man had left him alone for some time, not trying to force any kind of conversation.

Floor 9.
Of course, he could not escape condolences from him, not even talking about the father-like squeeze on his shoulder that one day.

Floor 10.
He hates man’s long speeches. Straightforwardness was not in his toolbox.Oh, no, instead he had to beat around the bush.

Floor 11.
What could he want now? All the files have already been completed, nothing particularly important was happening in his work life.

Floor 12.
The door opened, revealing the white walls of Floor 12, which made him squint a little bit. Frankenstein was not used to such brightness, after coming from his rathole floor, where some of the detectives were developing a habit of smoking inside, substances from their cheap cigarettes tainting the walls greyish.

Frankenstein stepped out of the elevator and was met by a beautiful young woman, sitting behind the desk. He has not seen her before, he thinks, but it’s not like he was a regular on this floor. He noted that she could not be older than twenty. Another intern, he guessed. As she saw him, she rose and bowed slightly:

“Good afternoon, Mr.Lee! Mr.Landegre currently is not at his office, but he wished for you to wait inside. ” Frankenstein suppressed sigh and instead flashed a quick, polite smile at the woman. It was not her fault after all. He followed her, as she led him toward the massive oak doors, her long silver hair swaying from side to side. She opened the door, letting him into the office.

“Would you like coffee? Maybe tea or water? ”

“No, thank you, I will be fine! ” he smiled. She took it as a cue to leave, silently closing the door behind her.

And he was left alone in a bear’s cave. Great.
The whole wall in front of him was made of pure glass, undoubtedly much clearer than one floors below. From here one could see over the land of Lukedonia, large parts of it hidden by the woods, where only those in power resided, while men like him were left in the city. It was not so bad in here, but it was not a candyland either. Especially the high crime rate here bothered him and he was not talking about small thieves.

A TV was loudly playing from his left. Something about a certain senator’s corruption case, nothing new. He took the seat at the large table half-heartedly watching the news special. All he picked out was that it was one of the case his organization was working on, as always with successful results. It’s hard to fail , when you can get inside the culprits’ heads.
He rested his cheek on his palm, eyelids slowly dropping shut. He.Was.So.Tired. Frankenstein was sure, that he was just about to slip in some light sleep, when his nirvana was mercilessly interrupted by the door, loudly closing behind him.

 

“You are late, Frankenstein, ” A deep voice accused him.

“You can’t be late, if you actually do not know when the meeting takes place! ” Frankenstein quickly retorted, not turning around. Still, he could hear a sigh and almost feel rolling of the eyes.
The man moved across the office, towards the window, his hands clasped behind his broad back. The beams of setting sun tinted his white suit orange, making usually cold man to radiate warmth, which weirdly contrasted with the worn out look on the man’s face, which reflected in glass. There were shadows under his eyes and the direct sunlight was not flattering him, making his wrinkles more noticeable than usual. Only then Frankenstein’s keen eye caught stray hairs on his head, which always were smoothed down with the help of a pomade, probably more worth than the shoes he was wearing.

“Your resignation letter has been looked through. The government had accepted your request. ” Oh, it was a lot sooner than Frankenstein had expected. He was sure that they would drag his case for months, just to keep him at this place. And yet, Frankenstein was convinced that there was more to it.

“I only need to sign it. ” ~Aha, there it is!
“Where is the problem? Should I lend you my pen or you would like to sign it with my blood? ” Frankenstein asked, not bothering to hide the cheek. Landegre finally turned his head and for the first time really looked at him:

“You are such a valued part of Central Order. If you had asked for promotion, you would have gotten it immediately. No doubt- ”

“Gejutel, stop! Nostalgia is not your colour.” Frankenstein quickly interrupted older man, before he entered into his “inspirational speech” mode, which he then could escape only via suicide or homicide.
Gejutel really went silent, his gaze focused on one of his bookshelves, a frown forming on his face. He drew a sharp breath, his deep red eyes sharp once again:

“I need a favour. ” He simply said, but Frankenstein felt, that it came out after a long internal struggle, so he decided to keep his mouth shut.

“If you do it, then my signature is yours, I promise.” Hmm, old man was trying to bargain with him? Let’s see…

“What do you need me to do? ” Gejutel turned his whole body away from the window and came to sit at the opposite of Frankenstein, his elbows on the desk, fingers clasped together. He slightly leaned forward, towards the blonde, like those conspiracy theorists, who were about to drop some juicy fact.

“There is a case, which requires a viewer...” Really, this man…

“And? We have dozens of them.”

“I sent them all, but they could not see anything...”

“How is that possible? Is equipment broken?”

“What? Ah, no, no, the Device is fine, ” Gejutel said, shaking his head, while his hand took out a whiskey bottle from his drawer. Well, that was unexpected- Landegre was not the type of guy, who would drink at the work, so it must be nerves, Frankenstein guessed. What had shook him so much?

“Would you like some? ” the old man asked, snapping him out of his musings.

“Ah, no, thank you, I’m fine! ” Besides he was driving, so it was a hard pass to that.

“Good for you. ” Gejutel said, while he proceeded pouring the golden liquid into his glass and then downing it all in one gulp. Holy shit. Frankenstein hated to say that, but he actually would love to have a drinking contest between them, since no one here was able to hold the alcohol like he did.

“Look, the main problem here is that no one could access the memories here. It’s only a white fog. Some claimed that they were able to hear something, but it is not enough for us! ”

“ That really is an exceptional case here, but what makes you so sure that I would be the right one for it? ”

Gejutel did not respond, only looked at the bottom of his glass, like trying to fish out a proper reply here:

“As an inventor of the Device, I’m sure you would be able to find the truth, Frankenstein,” man said, twirling the glass, remaining drops of whiskey dancing in it.

“Can I ask you something? ” Gejutel lifted his gaze, mildly interested:

“Of course...”

“Is it personal? ” The gaze dropped back to the glass and once again he was trying to see the answer in the whiskey:

“Yes, but it does not affect me directly...”

“And who does it affect? ” Frankenstein did not relent.

“A good friend of mine... You actually know him...” Gejutel briefly glance at Frankenstein, who only lifted an eyebrow at that.

“It’s Lord...”

“OH, FUCK NO, I AM NOT HAVING A SESSION WITH THAT LUNATIC! OH, HELL-”

“FRANKENSTEIN, CALM YOURSELF, IT’S NOT HIM! ” Gejutel yelled back, jumping from his seat, veins bulging on his neck. He breathed in and out for some moments and then continued, much quietly:
“ You will have to interview him, yes, but the session is for his nephew...”

“A nephew? Wait, was not he dead? ” A sadness flashed across Gejutel’s eyes and he quickly took out the bottle and filled the glass.

“There is other one, the deceased’s brother. Only the closest ones now about him, since he was not into politics and didn’t show up in the newspapers headlines.”

“So, he is the culprit? ” And, there goes the glass, empty again. Gejutel wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, not caring about etiquette:

“Not guilty till proven,” he whispered, more to himself than Frankenstein. The silence that followed afterwards did not lessen the overall awkwardness, so Frankenstein just clenched his teeth and:

“Where is the file? ” That startled Gejutel, the haze of booze already slowing down neurons in his brain:

“I’m sorry?”

“I need the full information of the subject. Medical files, criminal records, of course, the list of people I should interview. You know the drill, old man. ”

“Y-you agree?” Gejutel looked at him wide eyed, still not believing in him. Frankenstein laughed:

“Do I have a choice? And beside that, the case seems interesting...” Frankenstein admitted. He couldn’t care less about the rich people problems, but he needed that damned signature. So be it…

“I will make my secretary to send all the papers to your office! ”

“Alright, so I will go back to the work! ” Frankenstein rose from his seat, relieved that the conversation was coming to an end.

“...Thank you...”

“Don’t mention it! ” Frankenstein quickly dismissed him with a wave of his hand. When he hand reached the doorknob, barely a whisper, distressed came out of his employer:

“I have known him all my life. He must be innocent! He is!”

“I will do my best to rest your mind, but...I can’t promise anything...”. The door opened and closed and he was gone.

Chapter Text

     To say that he was mildly irritated would be a huge understatement.For the past half hour he was moving forwards with 21 miles per hour and still there was no sign of his destination. Only trees, grass and a road which had yet to see tax payers money. The continuing assault was harassing his lower back mercilessly. Thank God he had a health insurance!

 

     His fingers impatiently tapped the steering wheel as he drove through another sharp curve. Still, no mansion was seen . Actually, he barely saw anything - a thick fog stood like a wall, surprises hiding behind it, in it. The mist lurked all around him, it’s whiteness forming a dull pain in his eyes, which travelled to the back of his head, pulsing in the same beat as his heart.

 

It really is not the right time for this ,” Frankenstein thought, as he reached towards the glove compartment, not diverting his eyes away from the road. He opened it, his hand blindly trying to find the needed object.

 

“Where is it? I swear, if I fucking misse- Aha!”, finally his fingers skimmed over the tiny pill bottle. He quickly popped open its lid with his thumb and practically drank the aspirin, swallowing it dry. Frankenstein already started to feel the nasty burn in his throat as a result, but still it was better than the expanding pressure in his head. All those inconveniences finding the very best time to visit him.

 

     He regretted the promise he gave to Gejutel . He could have said “ no ”, he could have said it in at least twelve different languages,accompanying it with one finger salute and yet, as an explorer,as an inventor, and, foremost, as a detective he was intrigued . Frankenstein allowed curiosity to take over him, allowed it to beckon with its index finger, luring him into unknown, whispering sweet nothings into his ear. And for what? To sate his thirst for more knowledge, to feed his ego. While Frankenstein knew that he was intelligence and ambitiousness easily surpassed everyone else’s, he was not one of those who stroked themselves at the mere thought of it. He was aware of his mental and, no secret, physical advantages, however detective always remained relatively humble about them - boasting would not bring him any joy, especially now.

 

     The road before him suddenly started to clear out, the trees besides it reduced themselves to mere bushes, gradually disappearing completely, revealing a kept lawn underneath them. Iron gates emerged from the fog, closed, prohibiting him from entering. He could not see much behind them. Frankenstein stopped his black sedan in front of them. A quick look upwards and there it was - a surveillance camera. The blonde pressed a button to his left, rolling down the window. Cold October air entered car’s salon, making Frankenstein’s breath visible to the world. He took his hand of the wheel and reached into his pocket and fished out his badge. Putting his arm out the window, he raised the object towards the camera. A breath. Two breaths. A click and the gates slowly creaked open. Frankenstein closed the window, trying not to catch the cold and put his car in gear, slowly entering the territory. As he moved forwards, in the rear mirror he saw the rusty gate closing immediately, thus capturing him.

     The driveway was a welcome blessing to his back. He relaxed in his seat, laid back a bit, enjoying the smooth sail. Countless topiaries passed by, shaped to a meticulous perfection. Gardener’s paycheck must be a juicy one.

     The mist had started to lose its density, when he finally saw a silhouette of a building.The size of it was intimidating, shadow of it casting over him. Frankenstein suddenly felt an uneasiness within him.

 

     Frankenstein parked his car behind a brown Bentley (of course it had to be a Bentley) and turned car’s engine off. From the corner of his eye he saw a figure standing on the top of the stairs, next to the entrance. He checked the watch on his wrist - 8:58 . He was not late then, at least.

 

     With his right hand he took the bag from the passenger’s seat, while his left one discreetly skimmed over his holster, checking if the gun was at its place. He briefly contemplated leaving it in his car, but quickly dismissed the idea. It would not be very smart to leave a firearm unattended.

 

     He stepped outside, his black oxfords meeting the moist pavement. A breeze tousled his golden locks, the chill of it biting into his cheeks, painting its pale canvas light pink. He turned his coat collar up as he advanced towards the man. He was tall with his blonde, straight hair reaching past his waist. He, just like Frankenstein, was dressed in black, only the golden emblem of Lukedonia on his chest differentiated them. No doubt, it was the Lord himself. The man greeted Frankenstein with a smile and a firm handshake:

 

“Welcome, Detective Lee! I was expecting you.”

 

“Thank you, Lord...I really do hope that the wait was not a long one.”

 

“I hardly doubt that it is even over, Detective... ”, Lord grimaced and immediately cleared his throat, ”shall we? ”, he said as he gestured towards the massive oak door. Frankenstein nodded and followed the man inside. Meeting Lord was not so unbearable as he thought it would be, but Frankenstein was certain that he had to be thankful for the unfortunate circumstances. Maybe thankful was not the right word…

 

     They stepped inside the foyer and Frankenstein was instantly blinded. It was too much. White marble floor, white walls, even the grand staircase was white, only its railings made of dark,unpainted iron, curled into spirals. Elegant. And familiar ,as he eyes started to adjust. Frankenstein had already seen it all. No, he has not been here before and also it was not a case of a déjà vu. The pictures. A lot of them were taken of this place and none of them indulged into aesthetical pleasures. Frankenstein could easily imagine a black haired man lying on the floor in a pool of blood and debris from broken railings as his colleagues from the law enforcement were collecting evidence. The flashing of an camera, sound of shutter closing and opening, blood already dried on the victim’s face. His eyes were wide open, but he could no longer see. An immediate death. A merciful death one might say.

 

“This way, please,” a blink and Frankenstein was dragged back to the reality. The body was gone and so was the blood. Clean and neat.

The Lord had led him to the living room, seating him into a leather armchair.

 

“Would you like a coffee or tea, perhaps?” Frankenstein really was tempted for an another cup of  scolding black coffee, no sugar and milk, thank you very much. It would have been wonderful for his sore throat, still burning from the aspirin, but it would tie him down, force him to stay here longer than needed. He politely declined.

 

“As you know I still have to ask you some questions. You probably had answered most of them already in previous meetings, so I apologize for repeating it all, ” a fabricated note of remorse seeped into his voice. He was not sorry at all. Technically, Frankenstein did not need to do this - he had all the protocols and notes from his predecessors, yet he still insisted on redoing the interview. Even if the answers would be the same, he could not deny himself of experiencing all the nonverbal factors - body language, pitch of voice, emotions. Important aspects of life as an detective . Dismissing them would mean stripping away his title, leaving a simple man with a notepad and pen. And Frankenstein, by all means, was not a simple man.

 

“Yes, yes, of course! ” Lord answered and sat across him. Frankenstein noticed that he tried to make himself look eager to help, but under the layers of pretense he saw just a tired man, carrying all the world’s responsibilities on his shoulders. Even if it was not the truth, it did not change the way the Lord felt.

 

“Alright...so what can you tell me about the victim? ” The victim. Never call them by their names, distance them from their loving ones. It helped conversation to be void of any emotions, leaving only clear facts. No need for a useless sentiment, which only made the tissues wet. Yet, Frankenstein believed that the leader of their community could keep his eyes dry long enough.

     Lord drew a jagged breath, eyes focused on the coffee table’s corner:

 

“...I-I...he...was a cunning, young man. A bit arrogant, if you ask me, but he was a loving person. Especially towards his...little brother...He is only four years older than him, but he really cared for him and became extremely protective after the deaths of their parents.” Ah, yes,Frankenstein had read about the accident seven years ago.  Nothing unordinary , but nonetheless traumatizing . Frankenstein crossed his legs, as he scribbled down some notes.

 

“Did they have any arguments? ” Lord furrowed his brows, still deeply focused on the coffee table like he could squeeze out the answer from it.

 

“...I don’t think so. At least I haven’t heard of such problems...however...” Frankenstein stopped writing and raised his eyes:

 

“Yes?”

 

“They did have different political views, but that could not be the reason,” Lord nervously chuckled, briefly glancing at Frankenstein, smile already erased from his face “Or could it?”

 

“Everything is possible. Please, proceed.” It would not be the first time, when contrasting ideologies would result in a coffin for one and lethal injection for other.

 

“As you know, Detective Lee, my eldest nephew actively participated in our meetings, replacing his father. However, he chose to join the Opposition, which had...more radical ideas than our party. ” Pfft, radical...More like medieval, but Frankenstein kept his mouth shut. This situation required him to stay unbiased , no matter how hard it seemed to be .

 

“Raizel...was not pleased. I think...I think he was disappointed in his brother.”

 

“Disappointed enough to kill? ” The look in Lord’s eyes finally fired up. Good. Riling them up usually helped them to spill out some more information, especially the one , which was never meant to be told. Frankenstein could almost hear the clenching of fists. Lord breathed in deeply, before gritting out his answer:

 

“No. I. Don’t. Think. So.” Think. A word used a bit too much. Wouldn’t such a close standing relative know stuff about his nephews, instead of assuming?

“And how about your relationship with the brothers? I got a feeling that you weren’t really involved in their lives.” Low blow, Frankenstein, low blow.

 

“Well, there was really no need for it,” the Lord scratched his head, suddenly looking rather uncomfortable, “I mean, they had their parents and by their deaths Raizel’s brother was legally an adult and could take care of his brother. Of course, they could always rely on me, but they were really mature. To be honest, sometime it felt like I was the childish one...”

 

“Still, tell me, how would you rate Raizel’s mental health?” That earned him a raise of an eyebrow and a deep sigh.

 

“Right, you have those files...”

 

“My colleagues, who were here before me also had them.”

 

“But no one of them bothered to ask for my opinion.” Frankenstein absent-mindedly tapped his notebook with the pen. He was disappointed in his co-workers - how could all of them, thirty six in total, not including him, managed to halfass this investigation so brilliantly? If not of them, Frankenstein could have spent this moment in some place not so depressing as this one. Cemetery, perhaps, or morgue. Anywhere, but here.

 

“A penny for your thoughts?”

 

“He was a quiet kid who grew up to become a quiet adult. He was not very talkative, but he was a good listener. A kind soul.”

 

“A kind soul, which was accused of stabbing his roommate while in college.”

 

“And he remained accused. There were no evidence against him, only his roommate’s words, which, probably were a product of a drunk student’s imagination.”

 

“After that Raizel was pulled out of the college, I believe?”

 

“Yes. His brother decided that it would be more safe for him. Truly unfortunate, because Raizel already had made some friends and acquaintances, yet we had to strip him away from them for his own safety. ” And with that Frankenstein jotted down last words and promptly slammed his notebook closed. A quick glance to his watch - 9:32. He stood up and so did Lord. A handshake.

 

“Thank you very much for your assistance , some of it might be crucial in this investigation! ” A pat on Lord’s head for being such a good boy. Frankenstein barely swallowed the chuckle.

 

“My pleasure. Anything to sort out this...mess.”

 

“Well then, this means that it’s the time for me to interrogate your nephew.”

 

“Yes, yes, of course. Follow me.”

     Back in the foyer and up the stairs. On their way up Lord informed him about safety precautions -he and the suspect will be monitored . If anything, then there will be guards in the room next to them. The room, where the session will take place, is and must stay locked. They reached the third and last floor, if one does not count the attic. They turned to their left and moved forwards between the wall and the railings, which attracted Frankenstein’s attention. Most of them were old, with a layer of oxide, but one of them in the middle stood out - iron on it was freshly new and so was the screws, which held the construction in its place.

 

“We changed all the screws. A lot of them were pretty rusted. I would have changed the railings, too, but I guess this was not the right time for strangers to swarm this place and cause a ruckus.” Frankenstein nodded and moved closer to them. He looked over the edge - a long fall, indeed, 25 or even all 30 foot. While not impossible to survive, still can cause some serious injuries. Injuries, which did not matter if you fall head first, like in this case. Behind his back he heard jingling of keys and turned around. Lord already held a rather large key between his slender fingers observing it. He lifted his gaze, which was a mix of hope and desperation.

 

“Gejutel said that you are the best one.”

 

“Really? He is flattering me.”

 

“He also said that you invented that thing.”

 

“The Device,” Frankenstein corrected him.

 

“My apologies. But ,Mr. Lee, will you be able to help my nephew? ”

 

“It depends of what your definition of “help” is. However, there is only one way to find it out, am I right? ”

 

“Yes, yes, indeed,” and with that they moved til both of them were in front of the very last wooden doors. Lord put the key in the lock, his hands slightly shaking, and turned it once, twice, thrice. A click. He put his hand on the handle and gave Frankenstein one last look over his shoulder, before he pushed the door open.

 

“Raizel, you have a guest!”

Chapter Text

The young man in front of him was and ,at the same time, was not the man from the picture, which was deeply tucked between the case file’s pages. The eyes ,that once might have shined like a freshly washed out amber, when met by the sun, have become dull, pupils almost completely hiding irises, expanded from the lack of lightning. Dark circles under his eyes contrasted with the sickly white skin and so did the raven black locks of his hair, which reached a little past his chin. Only the lips, dry and chapped, slightly bleeding from the cracks, brought some colour in this somewhat greyscale picture.In all seriousness - everything was monochrome here-white walls, black oak floor, furniture from the same material. The sheets on a queen sized bed were white, just like the lace curtains, which covered the only window in the room.  Next to it was a huge black desk, where the young man was sitting at. There was not anything on it, only a single piece of a white paper. A drawing, Frankenstein deduced as he saw a graphite pencil between the man’s fingers.

 

“Raizel, this is Detective Lee whom I told you about! ” Lord’s nephew observed Frankenstein for a moment, before he gave a little nod. Frankenstein gave a nod in return.

 

“Thank you, but for now I would like to have a word with him. Alone.” And with that he dismissed Lord, who gave a quick,encouraging smile to his nephew, before he disappeared behind the doors.They were left alone. Frankenstein gestured towards the chair, next to the desk:

 

“May I have a seat?” Raizel glanced at the chair and then back at him and nodded once more. Frankenstein sat down, placing his bag at his feet. The younger man at that time had diverted his attention back to his drawing, applying quick, confident strokes, then some lighter ones. Frankenstein saw, that he did not have an eraser, only a pencil sharpener. Not the one, which looks like a knife, but one of those, where you had to put the pencil in and twist it. Frankenstein used to love those ones back in elementary school, when he always tried to make those satisfying spiral shavings. Like perfectly peeling a tangerine on a Christmas Eve.

 

“What are you drawing?” Raizel put down the pencil and turned the drawing around, so Frankenstein could see. It was a bird, possibly arobin sitting on a cherry blossom branch. Frankenstein was impressed - it seemed more like a black and white photo than an artwork. Details were remarkable. Raizel had paid attention to every single feather, to every bump on the bird’s legs. The shadows on cherry blossoms were soft, smudged most likely.

 

“I noticed that you don’t have an eraser. Did you draw this all on the first try?”

 

“...Yes,” a quiet baritone hesitantly answered him, “if I had one, I would not be able to learn from my mistakes.” Huh,interesting...

 

“Art is subjective. There is a possibility, that someone would call your drawing ‘a true pinnacle of a graphic art’, while someone would have preferred a less detailed version, an impressionism, perhaps. ”

 

“For me this is the right version...”

 

“Why?” Frankenstein inquired. While Raizel was not very talkative, he could not help but dive deeper into conversation. Raizel was...interesting.

 

“...because my brother told me so...” with that Raizel took back his drawing and proceeded adding more details, making the real more real. Apparently, Raizel was heavily shaped by his brother. Not surprising - a lot of siblings were influenced by their elder ones, a subconscious desire to please, to be accepted in “big boy club”.Raizel was deeply focused on his paper, as if Frankenstein was not even here. He could not blame him - Frankenstein accidentally had probed a wound, a fresh one, barely healed. No wonder why Raizel crawled back to his shell. Frankenstein sighed - he was doing so well…

 

“You must have guessed what is going to happen today?” No answer.

“I am sure that you already know the protocol, don’t you? ” This time Raizel raised his gaze. He carefully took his drawing and put it in one of his drawers, along with the pencil. Once the desk was empty, Frankenstein reached towards his bag. Opening it, he took out his laptop and placed it on the desk. While it was booting up, he carefully took out the Device and placed it next to the laptop. He saw Raizel curiously inspecting it.

 

“This one is different.” Yes, Frankenstein had made some adjustments. While other detectives had the old, original version of the Device, a box with two frequency meters in it, Frankenstein had replaced them with two metronomes instead.

 

“That’s right. I customized mine to enhance the synchronization of two different brain waves. When electrodes will be attached to our heads, this metronome ” Frankenstein pointed at the one closest to him, “will move at the same frequency as mine, while yours,”he pointed at the other one, ” will move at your brain’s frequency. ”

 

“How is that different from the frequency meters? ” Frankenstein smiled. It was unusual for him to get such questions. No one cared about how his inventions works. They only cared about the result. Frankenstein could not help, but become a little bit excited.

 

“It is practically the same thing, only the catch is in the sound! ” Raizel slightly frowned, obviously thinking.The sleeping teacher inside Frankenstein suddenly woke up.

 

“Let me explain! For me to access your memories, we both need to induce theta brain waves. My colleagues probably told you about them.”

 

“4 to 8 hertzs.”

 

“Exactly! In your previous sessions you and detective both had to try to relax yourselves in order to achieve the same frequency. While detectives have learned the proper meditation techniques, for a simple civilian it’s hard to relax and reduce the anxiety levels.” Frankenstein vaguely remembered his other sessions. It was almost impossible to calm his interviewees down, especially the younger ones. That’s why Tao was the one from their department to deal with kids - he was particularly good at it.

 

“That’s why I added the metronomes.I will be the one meditating and slowing down my metronome, while you will focus on its rhythm, thus slowing down yours. It should make it more easier for you.” With a tap on his mousepad he opened the needed software, which would record their session and also monitor their vitals. He took a cable from his bag and put it in laptop’s USB port, while the other end went into the Device. Then he took out the electrodes kit. Opening it Frankenstein took out a tiny tube of gel, some cotton pads, medical tapes and a bottle of rubbing alcohol. He opened it and wettened the pad with it.

 

“May I?” A nod. Frankenstein reached across the table, carefully brushed away Raizel’s hair from his temples and tenderly rubbed them with the pad. Then he opened the tube and squeezed out the tiniest amount of gel on his finger. He dabbed it on each side of Raizel’s head. Satisfied, he finally took out a pair of electrodes and placed them right on the gel and secured them with white tapes. The ends of the wires he connected to the device. Lastly, who took out a bracelet shaped device, which would keep the track of heart rate, blood pressure and temperature. He tried to fasten the bracelet on Raizel’s wrist, but it was too thin, so he punched a new hole in the leather belt, then tightly securing it. A one more wire to connect it to the Device. When it was done, he did the same thing to himself.

Frankenstein turned of both bracelets and then pressed some keys on his laptop, so the software would be already running, before the Device is on. For now, no information showed up, but it was about to change.

 

“Alright, I’m going to turn it on. At the start it may give out weird sounds, but do not worry - it is completely normal.” With a press of a button he started it up. Immediately, their vitals showed up on his laptop’s screen, accompanied with two pairs of frantic ticks. While his one was quite normal, mere 1320 ticks per minute, Raizel’s was almost twice as fast, suggesting that he was either excited or suffering from high anxiety levels. Probably, both. At least his blood pressure was doing pretty fine. His heart was having around 90 contractions per minute, which was a little over the norm. His body temperature was little bit under the average, but Frankenstein ignored it - body heat, measured on wrists or feet, is not an accurate representation of the real situation. He looked at the Raizel, to see him warily watching his metronome.

 

“You are doing great, but now let’s bring those numbers down, shall we? ” Frankenstein reassured, lightly smiling, and placed his hands on the desk, turning palms upwards. Raizel slowly placed his hands on Frankenstein’s, who held onto them, lightly. He heard a light beep, which indicated an increasing heart rate. He did not check, whose it was. Raizel’s slender fingers in his grasp were ice cold, so he instinctually rubbed them with his thumbs, trying to warm them up. The physical contact was not necessary, but it helped to ground the subject, bringing them back to reality, when it was needed.

 

“Listen to my metronome. Ignore yours. You only hear mine. Nothing else matters. Keep looking in my eyes. You don’t have to see, just look. ” Frankenstein hoped that his deep voice would soothe him enough, as he himself started to zone out.Not even a minute passed, when Raizel’s face in front of him, started to morph. His cranberry coloured eyes had melted, like those clocks in Dali’s Persistence of Memory. Two bloody patches in an alabaster skin, bleeding down the cheeks like tears. His mouth had curled into a sinister smile, showing sharp, white canines. Like a jack-o’-lantern. Frankenstein had thought, remembering that Halloween is just around the corner. No, no thinking!

His vision has finally lost all of its focus, only patches of light were dancing around.Sounds around him became more and more muffled.Is it rain, that he is hearing, drops of it hitting the windowsill? Or are the floorboards creaking up in the attic, where wind howls through the cracks?

All of his senses were flickering on and off like a broken lightbulb,occasionally cutting him away from the reality,plunging him into darkness. They were getting closer...

 

*********************************************************************************************

 

            Ticktockticktockticktockticktockticktockticktockticktockticktockticktock.

 

            The pendulum of his metronome was vibrating, the pace so rapid, that it was almost impossible to isolate individual ticks.

 

            Ticktock-tick-tock-ticktockticktock-tick-tock-ticktockticktock-tick-tock-ticktockticktock.

 

            He tried to focus on the second rhythm, which steadily decreased as the time went on.

 

            Ticktock-tick-tock-tick-tock-ticktock-tick-tock-tick-tock-ticktock-tick-tock-tick-tock-ticktock.

 

            The man had sapphires for eyes.The blue within them warmed him. He was drowning.

 

            Ticktock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-ticktockticktock-tick-tock-tick-tock.

 

            The man’s hands were pleasantly warm. Not like those other hands, which sometimes were too sweaty, sometimes too dry. Sometimes they held his hands too strongly, painfully squishing his fingers together.  

 

            Tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock-tick-tock.

 

            “Think about your very first memory.”

 

             A familiar scent of freshly cut grass entered his nose. He felt his cheeks heating up under the kiss of the sun. A light breeze tossled his hair.

 

            “Raizel, move, we are going to be late!

 

             “RAIZEL!

 

             “FATHER IS WAITING FOR US! MOVE, YOU LITTLE RAT!

 

              His forearm started to hurt...

 

              “Let’s begin...now”

 

              His eyes rolled back in his head.

 

Chapter Text

      Frankenstein was sitting on his apartment floor, various items and boxes scattered around him. It was approximately around 4 AM in the morning and the sun won’t rise for about three hours. The living room was dimly lit by a single floor lamp, the bulb in it old, flickering occasionally. Music played on his phone, mostly stuff from Caravan Palace. He didn’t really pay attention to it as his eyes were focused on the book in his hands, its cover a little shabby. “The Green Mile”. It was and still is his favourite book. Frankenstein used to reread it countless times, especially in season like this, when winds howled and rain was hitting against the windows. Curling up in his armchair, cup of tea, steaming next to him. He could be there, with characters, empathising with them, immersing into their world, escaping his. Even if it was for a moment.

      He turned it around, lightly sliding his fingers across it. If one does not count the separate volumes, which came earlier, it was one of the very first editions, hard to get. Frankenstein had found the book back in the days, when he was a young boy and lived in Geneva. He and mother had gone to their local library to get their weekly dose of reading material. The librarian, an elderly woman, always greeted them warmly, as they both were regulars there. They had developed sort of a friendship - she always kept the newest books hidden, so they could get them first. And his mother...his mother always brought her expensive packs of coffee, straight from the Germany.

      That one visit was no different than the others. The librarian gave them both a wink, as she reached behind the counter and pulled out some books. Most of them were given to his mother, as the one, a little bit thicker one was presented to him:

 

      “I think you would like this one, buddy! Even my son read it!”

 

      His mother, however rolled her eyes, and clicked her tongue in disapproval:

 

      “Eh, King and his nightmares! Honey, how can you read them?”

 

      Little Frankenstein had held the book more tightly, eyes glistening with excitement. He could not wait!

 

      Frankenstein, still sitting on the floor, opened the book. On the very first page, right at the upper left corner a text was written, lightly, probably with a soft graphite pencil in order not to accidentally ruin the fragile paper. To my little buddy. The old librarian had given this book to him permanently years later as the city had decided to close the library for good. She was supposed to distribute the stock between the remaining libraries, but she knew that they already had most of them and the copies would have been thrown away. Frankenstein smiled fondly - it was the last time he saw her. Her hands were already shaking as she handed over the novel to him - Parkinson’s disease, most likely. She could barely smile. Mother always inquired about her health and the librarian always happily answered, that she was fine and dandy. But this time she was not... She had patted his head, with hand so rigid, smoothing his golden locks. And then she had turned to his mother and slowly said:

 

      “It’s bad, Caroline, it is really bad. I might not see the lilacs blooming...” And she didn’t.

 

      Frankenstein sighed and put the book in the box to his left and moved over to the next items. Most of them were tossed in other boxes, meant for charity or simply a dumpster. Had to keep his belongings as minimalistic as possible. He felt a dull tingling in his right leg, so he shifted slightly, freeing the nerves from pressure. Detective checked his watch - only 4:48 AM. He was tired, but knew that sleep won’t come easy this night. Might as well keep going... He reached over the next item, a flat square packaging, it seemed. Further inspecting it, he found out that he was holding a cardboard sleeve, meant for vinyl records. Frankenstein frowned - he did not recall owning something like this, so he carefully slid his thumb and index finger, catching the record between them, carefully, not to scratch it. Oh! It was Kaleo! He loved that band, but he also knew someone else, who probably loved them even more and owned this record. Max had brought it along him, as they (and with “they” he meant Tao) had decided to celebrate Frankenstein’s birthday. Ironically, it almost became his deathday - the amount of alcohol they consumed that day would be enough to knock out a horse. Frankenstein shivered, remembering the horrible hangover he had after that. The worst part of all it was, that within their company, he was the only one so wasted, that he could barely keep upright. To this day he sometimes still wondered, how Tao had managed to do that. That little shit probably had mixed in some kind of moonshine, while he wasn’t looking!

      Somehow they had ended up in Frankenstein’s apartment, holding onto each other, while Max was fooling around with his record player. He must have forgotten the record at his place after that. Possibly, he does not even remember buying it. Frankenstein slid it back into the package and put it aside - he will have to go by the morgue today.

      He was done, but it was still too early to go to his office. As his mind was coming back from the memory lane, he started to feel the burn. A phantom pain on his right forearm (MOVE, YOU LITTLE RAT!). Fingertips were almost touching that part, no different from the other skin. He shaked his head and checked his watch again. 5:32 AM. Frankenstein slowly blinked - almost an hour had already passed. He could close one of his eyes for a moment, but there was no guarantee that he could fall asleep. The shower, it is...

 

**************************************************************************************************************************************************

 

      The scoldingly hot water had helped to relax his muscles, especially the ones in the back. Frankenstein took the towel and dried his hair softly. Patting, not rubbing. His eyes met the ones in the mirror - signs of a sleepless night were already present. While the circles under his eyes were not so dark as one would expect, the redness was more than noticeable. His skin was also a lot paler than usual.

      He heard a beep in the living room. Frankenstein sighed, as he could almost effortlessly predict what it was. He loosely tied the towel around his waist and stepped out of the bathroom. His phone was laying on the couch, the LED light blinking furiously. He quickly unblocked it and immediately was met with an eye blinding home screen. Squinting he opened the message.

 

      At my office.

      ~Gejutel

 

      Frankenstein smirked. Landegre-always so elaborate. And yet, he did not mention when Frankenstein was supposed to show himself. Excellent.

He was about to toss his phone back to the couch, when he noticed a one more notification. It was his calendar. He opened it. He stared. And stared. And stared…

 

      “FUCK!”

 

********************************************************************************************************************************************

 

      By the time he arrived at the main building, most of the employees had already filled the parking lot. Thankfully, Frankenstein had his own spot ever since he started to work for Central Order. He really could not imagine himself fighting with some kind of a moron over a grey concrete. Especially in this morning. Certainly the worst one in this week, month and, possibly, year. Turning off the car’s engine, he leaned back in the driver’s seat, sliding palms down his face. A loud exhale. Which one of all the messes should he deal with first? Starting with the worst one? It’s an option - getting less and less annoyed as the day goes by. Or vice versa? Coroners leave early, so....

      Frankenstein grabbed the bag, with vinyl record in it and stepped out of the vehicle. A couple of raindrops were falling from the sky, clinging to his coat and hair. Some passers-by were already opening umbrellas, trying to avoid the wetness. Frankenstein quickly moved towards the entrance, mostly trying not to run into a familiar face.

      Vestibule was practically empty, since most of the staff were already busy filling papers or resting their asses in meetings. Only the receptionist was there, drinking his morning coffee and checking emails. Or playing Solitaire, who really knows? He raised his eyes and welcomed Frankenstein with a smile and a nod of head - everyone here knew him. Frankenstein returned the greeting and turned towards the elevators. He jumped in one, before someone else joined him and pressed the button for Level -2. Down we go…

      Not much later, the door opened, in front of him white steel doors. Right, he needs to authorize , so he could enter pathology wing. He patted the pockets on his coat, suddenly feeling the heat - no badge there! Impossible, he always kept it here! Frankenstein furiously pulled every pocket in his outfit, inside out. Still no sign of it! Lee was so busy looking, that he did not even notice the elevator doors opening behind his back, not even speaking of the hand, that reached past him, sweeping an identification card.

 

      “What’s up, sugar? Scanner not accepting your pretty face?” Hmph…

 

      “Sadly, technology has yet to evolve...Good morning, Lunark.” This was unexpected, Frankenstein thought, holding the door open for her. She walked forward, slowing down, obviously waiting for him.

 

      “It’s like a Christmas miracle, seeing you here,” she happily said, glancing at him over her shoulder, “like, for real, what did you lose here? ” Frankenstein patted on his bag, hanging from the shoulder:

 

      “Just returning some stuff.” At that Lunark got visibly upset, furrowing her eyebrows and sticking out her lower lip, just a little bit.

 

      “So you are really leaving us?” Ah, Frankenstein really did not want to have this conversation. The news about him leaving travel fast. Some accepted it, some called it a betrayal, but some sought for opportunity, a free chair, warmed up, ready for replacement. Instead, he chuckled at her:

 

      “Hah, sounds like you are accusing me, Lunark!” She spluttered, her face getting red. Sometimes Frankenstein forgets how easy riling up her is. He stepped on the gas, leaving her behind. She won’t let this go…

 

      “Well, in MY opinion this is your dumbest decision, ever,” she picked up the pace, heels of her boots clicking on the sterile floor, “like, really, if you want change, come, join us! Free coffee every morning! And a bagel!” She saluted him, holding her white cup.

 

      “Tempting, but, no, thanks!” Lunark was about to say something, when she was cut short by some poor intern, who she immediately tried to get rid of. Frankenstein saw his chance to do the same:

 

      “Ah, I see you are busy! I will see you around, then.” He waved and disappeared behind the corner. While he did not mind having  conversations with her, they still tended to leave a weird aftertaste. Frankenstein felt, that under the casual banter something far more deeper was hiding. They easily challenged each other into a never ending battle of wits, like a tennis match, serving a remark after remark. Even if they would fit with each other, like a pieces of a puzzle, the picture made would never be the right one.

 

      The blonde had almost reached end of the corridor, the laboratory he needed was right here. Through the glass wall he could see Max and Takeo cleaning their instruments. Apparently, it was a lazy morning for them. Frankenstein went inside and was met by two pairs of eyes, widely opened:

 

      “Frankenstein!”

      “Вау,какие люди!*”

 

      “Morning, guys! Working hard or hardly working?” That get a chuckle out of Max, who carelessly twirled a scalpel between his fingers:

 

      “I guess we will open that one up and call it a day,” Max said, nodding at the autopsy table. Frankenstein briefly glanced at it and then did a double take. Is he serious???

 

      “What the HELL ARE YOU DOING THERE?”

 

      “Ha,ha, I’m just chilling,bro! ” Tao laughed nervously and then added, “like literally, man, I was sweating in the office and the AC is broken!” Frankenstein just looked him. Beads of sweat were forming on Tao’s forehead, despite the coolness in the room. He swallowed:

 

       “~~Well, maybe I broke it, but-” Tao promptly raised his index finger, “just because I needed some of its wires and nobody provides us with -” Frankenstein raised his palm, silencing him:

 

       “I don’t care. That’s your personal problem now.”

 

       “What brings you here, Frankenstein?” Takeo asked, thankfully reminding him of his purpose. Frankenstein slid his hand into the back, pulling out the record.

 

       “I was just sorting some stuff and I believe this belongs to you, Max,” Frankenstein said, handing him the cardboard. Max took it, pure confusion on his face. He took the record out, inspecting the label. And then his lips stretched into a smile, a mischievous fire burning in his eyes. Max put the record back in the package and returned it to Frankenstein:

 

       “No, this is yours,” erm, what? His hand remained outreached, loosely holding the item.

 

       “No, I remember that you bought it!”

       “Yesss, but-” the grey-haired man’s smile turned into a devilish grin, “-I bought it for YOU! As a birthday gift! I guess your memory is kinda foggy, huh?” Fucker. He really did not want to be reminded about that day, which had left him with countless questions, probably with ones he should not ask. And still…

 

        “What the fuck did you give me that night? I know it was not vodka!” Max smiled, rubbing the scar on his lip with his thumb:

 

        “Vodka is for infants, Lee. Got you some samogon from my hometown!” Fucking great.

        “Ah, I’m surprised I did not die that day. What have you added to it? Some kind of rocket fuel?” Max smirked, not answering. His visit was pointless, Frankenstein thought, shoving the record back in his bag.

 

        “Hey! By the way, how your case went?” Tao suddenly sat up on the table, setting aside the tablet. Suddenly all the attention was aimed at him.

 

        “It was...fine.”

 

        “Yo, you got the picture, man?!”~Tao laid back, putting his hands behind the head, looking at the ceiling, “I tried so hard with him, you know? ” He looked at Max and Takeo, propping his head up on his elbow. “Guy was not very talkative, even in his mind!” No one noticed Frankenstein wincing and grabbing at his forearm. Discreetly he checked his watch - simultaneously relief and disgust overwhelmed him- 9:38. He better hurry up.

 

        “While it was lovely to have this little chat, I must leave you now.”

 

        “Aww, but you just came!”

 

        “Hmpr...”

 

        “Can’t you stay a little longer?”

 

        “I’m sorry, but I have meeting...with Crombel.” Max slammed down his hand, shaking the table, nostrils flaring. He strode towards the shelves, holding various kinds of lab equipment-flasks, tubes, box of rubber gloves. From the lowest shelf he pulled out an empty jar. Sharply turning around, Max marched towards Frankenstein, sticking the jar out, under detective’s nose:

 

        “20 dollars, please!”

 

        “...What?”

 

        “We don’t use the C-word here,” Takeo interfered, clearly amused by the situation,” everyone who does that, puts a twenty in the jar. That’s the law.”

 

        “This is my first time hearing about that! ” Frankenstein said, already looking for his wallet.

 

        “Not knowing the law is no defence, Frankenstein! Make it rain!” Max shaked the jar, waiting. Frankenstein took out a bill and threw it in the jar:

 

        “It’s a hundred. Count it as an advance payment.”

 

        “Sweet~”

 

        “Alright, gentlemen, it was a pleasure!” Frankenstein gave them two finger salute, turning his back.

 

        “If you ‘accidentally’ kill him, bring the body here - we can make a suicide out of anything!”

 

        “Even, if you stab him in the back...suicide...”

 

        “Make him suffer, Frankenstein!”

 

Frankenstein was already out of the lab, smiling. The small joys...which grow into a vast sorrow...who dies and leaves you empty... It’s 9:47.

 

Chapter Text

Frankenstein could feel the heavy weight on the back of his head. Two heavy weights, to be precise. He smirked, his hands skimming over the books in the psychologist’s office - once again, he had surprised himself by thinking that this man had some competence or at least a sense of order stuck between his teeth. How is this imbecile supposed to sort his mind, when his own place is a pure mess?

           

Frankenstein carefully read the inscriptions on the spines, checking surnames of the authors. Rule, Schechter, Sullivan, Bugliosi...He sighed, taking the last book out of the shelf, pushing together the remaining ones and inserting it back, at the very start, right next to Cialdini.

Stepping back a little, he estimated his work - everything was in alphabetical order. Good. A cough came from behind, interrupting his little moment of pleasure.

 

“Frankenstein, you can’t just come to appointment and not say anything.”

 

“...there is nothing to talk about...” A chuckle. Frankenstein finally turned around, facing the older man, who was sitting in the chair, legs crossed. His fingers brushed his greying beard, eyes behind the glasses narrowed. Observing.

 

“Your file says otherwise. So...what will be our today’s topic? Work?”

 

“Nope.”

 

“Childhood, then?”

 

“Skip.”

 

“Maybe your OCD tendencies?” Man suggested, gesturing at the bookshelf. Frankenstein just blinked at him, playing dumb. The older man sighed and licked his finger to turn a page on his notebook. From here, Frankenstein could see that previous ones were filled with the notes on him. Despite that he could not make out a single word, his psychologist’s handwriting sloppy, ink smeared.

 

“Then, let’s talk about causes and consequences of you quitting.”  Frankenstein shrugged.

 

“Not a lot here, doc. Some of us prefer staying, some of us - leaving.”

 

“Separating all the society in two parts. Very vague of you.”

 

“Being more specific would make your job too easy, wouldn’t it, Dr.Crombel?” Bitter venom seeped from his voice mixed with his sweet smile, which Crombel returned, his thin lips stretched. He took a pen and scribbled something down. Knowing him it was nothing good. Frankenstein’s eyes looked for the clock on the wall. 10.27. He had successfully wasted almost half an hour. Just have to do the same to the other half.

 

“Last months have been really rough on you, Frankenstein. Loss always leaves a hole in our lives, but,” he underlined something in his notepad, harshly, sound of pen sliding across the paper pronounced, “but every hole, physical or mental, can be filled. Only the right form and size has to be found,” and with that a smug expression creeped in his face. That moron really thinks that he said something deep...

 

“And yet, it’s hard to replace Caroline…” No, he didn’t. He. Did. Not.

 

“Truly, a magnificent woman, beauty and brain going hand in hand...” Shut up, shut up, shut up.

 

“A fierce one, sometimes...” Why is he still talking?     

 

“Change of subject?” Frankenstein started to get visibly upset, putting hands in his pockets. Breaking his psychologist’s jaw would cause too many unnecessary problems, but it would earn him some handshakes, pats on the back and free beer. A parade, maybe. And yet, he had to deny himself this pleasure.

 

“We are almost there, Frankenstein. Death of your mother pushes you to make rushed decisions,” Crombel clicked his pen. Period. Detective simply wanted to facepalm at this moment - even a deaf person would make a better psychologist than this cigar smoking monkey with glasses. How did he even get a job here? Hell, how did he get a diploma!? Frankenstein’s profession required him to solve mysteries of the world, but this one just took the cake!

 

“Nothing is rushed here. Everyone knows, that I came back to Lukedonia because of her, I stayed because of her and I will be leaving...because of her.”

 

“Understandable. Youth always wants to spread their wings, but rarely they think of the future.” 10.43. Only 17 minutes left. Might as well humor him.

 

“And whose future are we talking about?”

 

“Everyone’s, detective. Nowadays it is hard to believe, but human mind keeps evolving as the time passes by. Your Device was doing the same. But what happens after you leave? Regression, that will happen, Frankenstein. Unless-”

 

“Unless I pass on my knowledge, heard that before,” Frankenstein promptly cut him short, tired of this nonsense. The sleepless night was showing.

 

“Without that catching criminals will become a much harder task. We don’t want to go back to cavemen era, don’t we?”

 

“All I want is to keep my work far away from abuse,” and with that his eyes pierced his, icy blue meeting silver. Take the hint already… Crombel tilted his head to the side, light from the window reflecting on his glasses.

 

“What a shame...leaving the fruits of your own peak to rot...” At that Frankenstein laughed, a hearty laugh. He even pulled out one of his hands from the pocket to brush away a tear. This man. Crombel meanwhile shifted uncomfortably, clearly confused by his outburst. Frankenstein drew a quick, ragged breath, trying to stop his fit of laughter, hints of psychopathy breaking out:

 

“Peak? My peak? With all due respect, but I might oppose. You see, I’m am still kicking it, which means that it is impossible to determine the summit of my life. It might be the Device, it might be something else, who knows? Of course,” Frankenstein continued, getting ready to sink his fangs into this old buck, “it’s hard to grasp such a concept, especially for you, who only had led such a linear, plain, boring lifestyle...”

He saw Crombel’s hand clenching around his pen, veins bulging on his forehead and neck. Watching his attempt at swallowing the truth was hilarious. A failed psychiatrist, a barely baked psychologist, a copycat and a pathetic human being. Frankenstein felt like he had just appeased his hunger. And the view in front of him was like dabbing his lips with a fresh, white napkin. The meal was finished. He blatantly looked at the clock, smirking. It was 11:05.

 

“Ah, how sad! It seems like our time was already up! But thank you, Dr.Crombel, for such a productive session!” And with that he opened the door, leaving his psychologist frozen in his chair.

 

***************************************************************************************************

 

The air was heavy, pushing him down. Every breath brought a weight with it, filling his lungs. It was atypically hot day, only the light wind of spring gave him a refreshment. The grass under his knees had already become yellowish, dry strands of it leaving marks on his skin. Yet, his mind was occupied with something else.

Its tiny chest was raising rapidly, feathers, warm like an orange, dishevelled. It was watching him, intently. One of its wings was spread out in a weird angle, broken most likely. Maybe he could ask the servants to treat it?

He slowly reached out his hand. Small and a little bit chubby fingers touched its head, comforting the bird. He felt sorry for this creature, so helpless and small...

 

“RAIZEL!”

 

His fingers froze in mid-stroke. He turned his head, looking up - the boy was standing in front of him, hastily brushing away the wavy locks from his eyes. He was irritated.

 

“I was looking for you everywhere! Guests will arrive soon and father wants you to be there,” the older boy drew a breath, not yet finished, “This house has dozens of leeches, but he sends me after you like a some kind of a bloodhound! Why is he even paying them? And why are you sitting there? Move al-Huh?”

 

Boy peered behind him, his nose suddenly wrinkling his nose in disgust:

 

“Ew, why are you touching that?!”

 

He quickly withdrew his hand, clenching his fists on his knees. Meanwhile his little companion tried to get on its feet, but once again losing the balance it fell on his side.

 

“Its wing...it’s broken...” The boy took a closer look to the bird, repulsion still on his face.

 

“And what do you want me to do?” He pursed his lips. Nothing. He wanted him to do nothing. Looking back at the bird, he saw the pain in its black round eyes as it flaunted the good wing, the other one hanging uselessly. He, himself, will take it and bring it to-

Sound of breaking bones and smashed flesh was all he heard. Where once the animal stood, a shiny black shoe had taken its place, pressing deeper in the grass. He could only watch as the boy raised his foot and immediately put it down, next to disfigured body, cleaning the sole on the grass. The view started to get blurry, tears already forming in his eyes.

 

“Don’t make such a face! I did it a favor! Move, we are going to be late!”

 

He could not avert his eyes, green and orange patches dancing in his view. A ragged exhale, the pressure in his chest breaking free. His eyelashes were wet. Just a little bit and then tears would slide down his cheeks.

 

“RAIZEL!” A hand firmly grabbed his forearm, dragging him up to his feet.

 

“FATHER IS WAITING FOR US! MOVE, YOU LITTLE RAT!”

 

Boy pushed him forwards, releasing his arm. Angry red mark was already present accompanying the burning pain.

 

**************************************************************************************************

Frankenstein closed the lid of his laptop. Across him, Gejutel cleared his throat, his eyes still looking where once the display was.

 

“That was...quite unpleasant.”

“More or less.” Gejutel leaned back in his chair, eyeing Frankenstein up and down, the whiskey glass in his hand only half empty.

 

“You got in.”

 

“I did.”

 

“How did you do that?” To that Frankenstein couldn’t give a crystal clear answer and he hated that.

 

“I just...did it. Like I have done it before,” A lie. Their minds had clicked, an immediate contact between them was created, so unlike from his previous cases. Before it was a swim in the ocean-you put the tip of your toe in it, testing the waters. Step by step you go deeper, get accustomed to temperature. And then you dive in.

This was...this was an awakening. Eyes wide open, void of any sleep. Like his life was just a dream, like this was his reality. He had become someone else, trapped in a foreign body, experiencing unfamiliar nightmares alongside his own. The usual, yet they got physical. They never get physical. Frankenstein kept that to himself -the less old man knows, the better his sleep is. Or in his case - fuller the bottle is.

Landegre was watching him, one of his eyebrows raised. A question or two on his mind, curiosity fighting the urge to keep distance.

 

“Just like that? And how it comes, that thirty six people before you had to crawl to me, with their tails between legs?” A bluff, then.

 

“Well, when we look at it from the perspective of neuroscience, nowadays synapses between cells have-” Gejutel raised his hand in defeat, interrupting him. Got him, Frankenstein thought. Sometimes a bullshit can help a man’s mind to stay healthy a little bit longer.

Gejutel slushed his drink inside the glass, considering taking a sip, but before that…

 

“So, what’s your verdict, Frankenstein?”

 

“This was just a warm up session, I really can’t judge anything right now.”

 

“No one asks you to slam down a small wooden hammer, I’m just asking for your opinion.”

 

“Which is very objective, I’m sure...”

 

“Just between us...” Stubborn. Never once did he care for psychological profiles, focusing only on the result, just like everyone else. Frankenstein did not want to open his mouth, because...because for the very first time he wanted to tell him something nice. Which was a very hard thing to do. A good word for one brother, paints the other one bad and vice versa. He simply could not score one for both teams, that’s not how it goes. He is neutral, he is Switzerland. Frankenstein saw what he saw.

 

“The victim kills a bird in front of his younger brother. Not cool.”

 

“Elaborate.”

 

“At this age victim must have understood the pain, which bird felt, thus showing an empathy would be a self-evident thing to do, yet he failed to do so.”

 

“Are you saying, that Raizel’s brother is a psychopath?”

 

“It is too early for me to make bold assumptions, but...I would lean more towards the sociopathism, hey- ” Frankenstein raised both of his hands, “-I’m just saying that he possesses some of the traits, typical for sociopaths. I’m not saying that he is one.” At least, not for now.

 

“Fine, let’s not speak ill of the dead. What about Raizel?” Ill? Frankenstein only shared his observations. Look what happens, when the case gets too personal…

 

“Rai-The suspect was okay. He was sad, he wanted to cry-a healthy reaction.”

 

“And how is he now?”

 

“I think he is in shock. The sudden loss, which happened too fast for him to process that. Brother’s presence still lingers.”

 

“You are meeting him tomorrow. What’s your next step?”

 

“I would like to jump more forward, explore his teen years. A character forms right then.” Gejutel took a little sip, not breaking the eye contact.

 

“What ,exactly, are you going to explore?”

 

“I plan to trigger the memories about the deaths of his parents.” The glass hit the wall on his right, smashing to the pieces. The liquor in it left yellow stain, dripping down to the floor. Frankenstein did not even bat an eye, used to the outbursts. It was a pretty good throw for a man of his years.

 

“Are you INSANE?! Do you EVEN understand the consequences?!”

 

“Yes, I am aware,” Frankenstein calmly replied, “but that must be done. I need unroll all of the yarn to get the conclusion. I can’t ignore crucial memories, Gejutel. ”

 

“Yes, you CAN! You will take your tiny fingers and probe the yarn, and find the other end!”

 

“Why are you so furious? Are you...are you hiding something, Gejutel? Don’t want me to see something...outrageous, maybe? ” Gejutel’s eyes widened, irises almost swallowed by the pupils. He heavily breathed through his nose, hairs in his beard trembling.

 

“The audacity. HOW DARE YOU?!”

 

“And how dare YOU?! You are sabotaging the investigation! The director of Central Order! You should feel ashamed!” That silenced his boss, who lowered his eyes, looking for his glass, which was not there. From the drawer he took out a new one and quickly filled it.

 

“I...I just don’t want him to experience that again, ” he whispered, glass shaking in his hand. He took two good sips.

 

“I know,” Frankenstein softly said, “but he remembers that every day, he thinks about it, even if it’s for a second, he thinks about it. I can’t just disrupt his memories. I need to move gradually, he needs to adapt, to open up. Rushing would ruin his mind and I believe you don’t want him to end up in a psych ward?” Gejutel continued to empty the glass.

 

“He was taken to...specialists, but it did not go well...”

 

“What kind of specialists?”

 

“...psychologists, psychiatrists, I don’t know...” Frankenstein started to feel uneasy.

 

“In Lukedonia?” A nod. Shit.

 

“Please, tell me that he did not see Crombel?”

 

“Oh, god, no! That man couldn’t even analyze a table! No, Raizel had, let me see what her name was...” Gejutel tapped his keyboard, looking at the monitor, “Dr.Aris, who was later replaced by Ignes Kravei.” Well, this is bad… One of them was wearing a straitjacket now, while the other one, judging by the family name was up to no good. This country seriously lacks good doctors. Or just doctors, period.

 

“Look, Gejutel, I will do what needs to be done. I will snoop around in his mind, I will talk to him, I will talk to everyone else, who bears an importance. That’s what I do and I suggest you to stay away,” Frankenstein rose from his chair, laptop in his arms, “I’ll see him tomorrow, you will receive the report the same day.” He went towards the door. One last glance back - the new glass was empty.

 

Chapter Text

“It’s fine...” a mere whisper, barely louder than the silence itself. An agreement, which had come so suddenly, leaving Frankenstein unable to process the sentence properly. He slowly blinked, expecting some kind of backlash. Maybe a chair being thrown at his head? A slap across his face? No.While he tried to refrain from judging people based on their looks alone, the idea of Raizel physically attacking him was difficult to grasp.Frankenstein could overpower him easily, no doubt, years of special training behind his back.A soothing thought, which gave him a sour taste in his mouth.

“Are you sure about it?” Frankenstein asked, immediately regretting doing so -look on Raizel’s face told him that his companion started to reconsider his own hurried decision. His eyebrows were knitted, his gaze focused down on his hands, fingers slightly trembling. He is going to change his mind, Frankenstein thought, worried that he had jinxed the session, we were doing so well, why did I have to ask him that again? Did he want to be sure, that the subject is ready for it? Or did he want to be certain, that he himself was ready to face whatever will be coming to him there, inside Raizel’s mind?

“I am,” the younger man finally replied, his eyes once again on Frankenstein, the dark circles under them just as pronounced as they were days before. He could only hope that he had had decent amount of sleep in the past few nights. A well-rested mind is a coherent mind, easy to navigate, but hard to control. That did not scare him - he wouldn’t be sitting here if he knelt in front of every single major challenge in his life.

 Frankenstein took a deep breath, smiling at Raizel, who had quietly observed him all this time, the dark eyes not leaving him even for a moment. The blonde extended his hands, an invitation for Raizel to do the same, cold fingers once again held in a firm grasp, warmth from the detective’s palms travelling down to his digits.

 

“Alright, but if you get uncomfortable and want to stop, then please tell me,” Raizel nodded, the black locks swaying on his forehead. Frankenstein released one of his hands, to start the Device, pendulums of both metronomes swinging at two paces, hardly noticeable difference between them, Frankenstein noted. It seems like Raizel started to be more at ease with the procedure, intensity of his anxiety lessened, yet not completely gone.

Taking Raizel’s hand again, he gave it an encouraging squeeze, which was weakly returned. I better make sure, that he does not pass out during this. They both closed their eyes, the sound of metronomes and the pulse of their hearts becoming one in their ears and in their minds.

“Let’s begin...now.”

 

Frankenstein jerked in his seat, comfortless now. It was much darker, the only light coming from what seemed to be the headlights of a car, illuminating the road in front of it. The concrete was glistening, a thin layer on ice formed on it, a dangerous ride indeed.

There was an unpleasant pressure on his chest and stomach, a seatbelt not correctly adjusted, its rough material irritating the soft skin on his neck. Yet, no one paid attention to his obvious discomfort, since the chauffeur in the front seat was busy steering the vehicle, while the passengers next to him were buried in their own thoughts.

He discreetly glanced to his left, trying not to turn his head even by an inch. Father was in an awful mood again, looking out the car’s window, fingers of his hand playing a seemingly innocent game with a ring, twisting and turning it, occasionally removing it from his middle finger, only to put it back on again, repeating the ritual. He was in turmoil since the very morning. They had an eerily silent breakfast, not even his mother daring to say a word. The only sound in the room had been clinking of the silverware and silent steps of their servants, carefully maneuvering themselves through the room, carrying the dishes and refilling the glasses. His brother was absent.

He averted his gaze, allowing it to travel to his right, where a beautiful woman was sitting, her worried expression encompassed by wavy locks of obsidian coloured hair, reaching down to her slim waist. Her eyes caught his, corners immediately wrinkling as she smiled at him sweetly, a delicate hand cupping his cheek, thumb ghosting over his pale skin, which rapidly gained rosy hue. He could not help but smile back.

 

“We had failed,” a deep voice broke the moment, the woman looking up at her husband, who was still facing the window, his fists clenching now.

 

“Why? The event went smoothly, our money will feed, dress and educate dozens of children, ” his mother said, trying to calm her husband, accomplishment and a little bit of pride seeping into her voice, “all newspapers will write about us tomorrow!”

Father finally looked at her, still as tense as before:

 

“I’m not talking about that,” his mother sighed heavily, removing her hand from his face to massage the sides of her head, trying to scare away an impending migraine.

 

“He is an eighteen-year-old, who can have a drink legally. He will get drunk and he will grow out of it. Don’t make such a huge deal out of it!” A glazed look was present in his eyes, pupils widened in an outrage. His jaw was clenched, the air loudly entering and leaving through his flared nostrils. He raised his right hand, the limb shaking visibly, and extended his index finger. The finger. He, definitely,is going to make a huge deal out of this.

 

“He is a disgrace to our family! He is a lousy, arrogant, greedy prick!” Mother quickly covered his ears, yet he could still hear the voice of his father, muffled, but loud and comprehensible. He kind of hoped, that she would apply more pressure.

By this moment the finger was dangerously close to his mother’s nose, man’s face scrunched up in pure fury, droplets of sweat on his forehead travelling down his face, some of them getting caught in his hair. They are here for a lecture, both of them.

 

“His behaviour is unacceptable, the disrespect he had shown to me past two months is outrageous! He already acts like he is the owner of MY house and MY money! We have raised a snake in our own family! But-No, you listen to me RIGHT NOW! ” father raised his voice, his upper body leaning towards them, a maniacal grin spreading across his face, a glint in his eyes. A hysterical giggle erupted from his chest. He felt the chill run down his spine. He never laughs. He barely even smiles.

“I am going to remove him from my will! Ha, he will get nothing! And, and, and-” the man blabbered, unable to contain his sudden excitement, the strong feeling not allowing him to express himself in a proper manner. Mother glanced at the driver, clearly embarrassed, a hint of fear in her eyes. But he did not interfere, of course.

Her spouse kept snickering, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Her hands slowly slid his neck and rested on his shoulders; the sound of his father’s madness finding his ears. A couple of unbearable minutes passed, both of their eyes still not leaving the amused man, afraid to do so. Home should not be so far now.

 

“I-I will kick him out of the house! He is of age, so he can go and earn money on his own! He can start packing his suitcases and crawl away to his dear friends, Tradio, Kravei, those other bastards! He can go to hell with them! After all,” he sharply inhaled and looked at him for the first time in this day, “we have a spare one here,”. He patted his shoulder, an unsavoury smile on his face, which swiftly faded as his hand grabbed the side of his shoulder, painfully squeezing it.

 

“You will keep our name clear, won’t you?” He was too shaken to answer, eyes wide like saucers. The hesitance added the fuel to fire, father’s free hand suddenly squeezing his jaw, the thumb digging in his cheek. It hurt.

 

“WON’T YOU?”

 

“LEAVE HIM ALONE!”

He tried to speak, but couldn’t move his jaw, father oblivious of it. In fact, the prolonged silence made him to increase the strength of his grip. There will be bruises. He opened his mouth as much as it was physically possible:

 

“I-”. He did not get to finish the sentence, when he was abruptly cut short by a harsh blow to the side of the car, sending a wave of flying glass and pieces of metal right at his face. The screams of his mother a lullaby to him, as they rolled down the hill.

 

*******************************************************************************************

His eyelids were heavy as lead, yet he forced himself to pry his eyes open. A useless thing to do, since, by doing so, a warm liquid rushed down his forehead, colouring his vision red. He carefully raised his hand, to brush away the blood from his eyes, when he noticed that his whole face felt unusually warm. Lightly, he dragged the palm across his face. There was blood everywhere, cuts and shards of glass in his skin.

The well-known taste of iron in his mouth. At this moment, he did not even know, if it was the blood from his face, his split lip or from his insides, sharp pain right under his slowly beating heart. The seat belt was choking his intestines, immobilizing him. He felt nauseous, the bitter taste climbing up to his throat, to meet the sickeningly sweet one, lying on his tongue. He took a breath through his nose, hoping to prevent a further mess, only to realize that he can’t, he can’t fill his lungs properly! It hurts, it hurts everywhere.

His head was spinning, and he thought, that maybe, maybe he could shut his eyes, just for a brief moment. Mother will wake him...mother...Mother!

His eyes flew open, unseeing, as he craned his neck despite the stiffness, just to look at her. And there she was, her head leaned towards the contorted hole, where the window once was. Her ruby coloured eyes were closed, the expression on her face serene. He called out to her, his voice raspy:

 

“Mother!” No response. He tried again, only to be stopped by a coughing fit, stabbing daggers in his body. A mix of blood and saliva spluttered out of his mouth, alongside with a shaky whimper. Defeated, he turned his head, to see what state his father was, only to...find him not there, the side of the vehicle pushed much closer to him due the impact. Where could he be?

“F-Father?” Silence, only the howling of winds. He started to feel cold, but only his right side, while his left was burning from his injuries and a heavy weight. What was that? He skimmed over it with his hand, feeling the texture of a fabric under his touch. He moved the hand upwards, where the material was becoming wetter and wetter, soaking in an unknown substance.

He kept going, until his fingers suddenly sank into something pulpy. It squished, when he was removing his digits. He continued his exploration, only for his hand to suddenly freeze, his mind finally catching up with his arm. Crying out, he thrashed in his seat, pulling himself away from his father’s disfigured body. His vision blurred, he was hyperventilating -he had been two knuckles deep in father’s crushed face, poking it like a cookie dough.

 Franticly, he wiped his hand on his clothes, trying to remove the parts of his own parent stuck under his fingernails. Desperate, he once again turned to his mother, who was looking at him. He wanted to cry. So he did.

“M-Mother! F-Father, h-he-”

 

“Raizel,” her voice called out to him soothingly. Tears met blood on his cheeks, the salt finding its way to the wounds. He did not care. He listened. He could hear a lot of things-the screams of the wind, the ear cutting squeaks of metal and dripping of blood or gasoline, or both. No one here cared about it anymore. Only one thing remained inaudible - his mother’s breathing.

“Mother?” She looked but did not see.

“...Mother?” He reached out with his somewhat cleaner hand, to brush away a stray lock from her eyes. It was damp.

“...Mom?” a childish sob escaped his lips. Why I am being so loud? Mom is sleeping, I should not disturb her. He grabbed at his seat belt, trying to unbuckle it, yet to no avail-it was stuck. He furiously pulled at it, not relenting even for a moment, the remaining strength leaving him. Finally, one last pull freed him, searing pain traveling through his damaged body. He slid closer to his mother, hugging her tightly. I will keep you warm.

There was a pressure on his back, bodily fluids from it soaking his shirt. Father also was keeping company with them.

 

“We are leaving now!”

 

He was back in Raizel’s room, his clothes clean and dry, however the dirty sensation still lingered. Frankenstein is going to take at least two showers, for sure. He glanced at the Raizel, immediately setting his thoughts aside-he looked horrible. They were still holding their hands, well, Frankenstein did all the holding, while Raizel’s palms laid slack in his grasp, his skin covered in cold sweat.

“Raizel, are you alright?” He was slightly swaying in his seat, not replying. Detective looked at his laptop-the screen was showing an unflattering pulse rate, too slow to his liking. Frankenstein rose from his seat, not releasing Raizel’s hands, instead sliding his own up to man’s shoulders.

“I will help you to your bed. Are you fine with it?” A broken yes came from his lips. After removing the wires, he helped Raizel to stand up, letting him to lean on Frankenstein’s side. Even through his shirt, he felt the chill coming from the man’s body. He wrapped his left arm around Raizel’s waist, while the other one grabbed at his forearm, slowly steering him towards the bed, which, thankfully, was not far away.

Gingerly he placed the brunette on the sheets and fluffed the pillows. The subject was at a safe position now, the risk of him fainting and hitting his head reduced. Still, he was breathing shallowly, skin almost white as the sheets. Frankenstein reached into his pocket and took out a handkerchief. He bent slightly, gently dabbing the cloth on Raizel’s face, removing the excess sweat.

“Have you eaten anything?” Raizel did not answer him, yet Frankenstein was sure that he heard him this time. So that means…

“You should eat something,” Raizel shook his head, “I don’t want to.”

 

“You have to. Stay here, don’t move,” Frankenstein warned him, walking towards his bag. He took out an unopened bottle of water and then, after some additional digging, a chocolate bar, which he kept for his low sugar level days. He took both items and returned to Raizel. He sat down at the very side of the bed, unscrewing the bottle. Putting his hand at the back of man’s head, he prompted Raizel to take some sips.

 

“Thank you,”

 

“Don’t mention it. And now, ” he put away the bottle and put the candy bar in front of Raizel’s face, “I will leave only when you finish this.” His eyes widened but he accepted the treat. Frankenstein assisted him with the package, swiftly tearing it open for him.

 

“Mother was right,”

 

“Huh?” Frankenstein did not understand.

 

“The press wrote about them. They were on the front pages,” Raizel said absentmindedly, taking a bite from his chocolate.Frankenstein for the first time in a while did not know what to say...