Lights flashed, momentarily blinding Leo Fitz. It was the same as usual: flocks of fans screaming at him excitedly, eyes wild because they were standing in front of their favorite author, pens forcing their way into his hand and books thrust at him to sign. It was impossible to hear anything but the roaring of the fans and the smell of alcohol was thick in the air.
Suddenly he was pried away from the onslaught but not before he caught sight of a tangle of blonde hair passing him and let out a sigh of relief. At least he was in good hands. A few seconds later, they were standing in front of the bar. His rescuer held up a finger and ordered two shots. The next second, a shot glass was in his hand.
“To no more Ward,” Bobbi Morse stated, raising her glass. She downed it in seconds, Fitz following suit. Despite having over twenty best-selling novels under his belt, he still felt a tingle of nerves at each book party. Tonight was different though: this was the party of the final novel of his best selling series.
Not to mention the small fact that he’d killed off his most beloved character as well.
It wasn’t his fault, not really. He’d done thirteen books detailing the adventures of S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Grant Ward, some more realistic than others. He was bored of the story. Truly bored. Hence his latest book: Fallen Agent. Otherwise known as the book in which Grant Ward was brutally murdered by another agent.
Because why bother having a happy ending?
“No more Ward,” Fitz muttered weakly, sitting his glass down on the counter and slouching down onto one of the stools. Bobbi quirked an eyebrow.
“You sound less than thrilled. Two weeks ago you couldn’t be happier. ‘Brand new turning point’,” she repeated, trying her best at a Scottish accent. Fitz cringed.
“Please don’t ever do that again,” he muttered. She kept staring at him and he groaned, realizing he wasn’t going to get away without an explanation. “I can’t write.” He confessed.
“I thought you told Melinda-”
“I lied,” Fitz whispered, glancing across his shoulder to see Melinda May-his book agent and her husband making the rounds. He turned his attention back to Bobbi. “I feel terrible already but they warned me-”
“Not to kill off Ward, I know, I know. Have you any ideas for a story?”
“None,” Fitz admitted. He groaned and buried his face in his hands. “I want something new . Something that hasn’t been done before.”
“There’s nothing new under the sun, Fitz.” Bobbi remarked with a frown. She held up her hand once more and the barkeep sat two more shot glasses down in front of them. “Until then, we drink.”
The sound of a camera shuttering briefly grabbed Jemma Simmons’s attention, just as the lights of the camera flashed. The room was quiet, detectives and officers spoke in hushed tones. Whether or not it was out of respect or so they didn’t bother the neighbors, Jemma didn’t know.
The apartment was small, a place suitable for a recently married couple. She glanced over at her two fellow detectives, Alphonso Mackenzie and Lance Hunter. “No sign of forced entry?”
“None,” Mack confirmed, stepping toward her. He motioned towards the two dead bodies on the floor; a man in his late twenties, a woman in her early twenties. “By the looks of things, they were having dinner.”
“Chinese of all things,” Lance remarked bitterly, holding up one of the take-out boxes. Jemma held back a smile at her friend’s sarcasm. She bent down beside the bodies, studying them. The woman had dark hair that fell well past her shoulders, down to her waist. Her eyes, still open, were a faded green.
Jemma turned her attention to the male victim; he had dark hair and piercing blue eyes. His hand was inches from the woman’s….a last chance to comfort her, perhaps?
Mack hesitated, looking down at his notepad, “Scott and Karen Lucas. Newly weds. We’re looking for any living relatives.”
Jemma sighed. A waste, really. They were two people-kids, practically-making their way through the world, fighting against the overwhelming waves life threw at them. To have died so young….
“How did they die?” Jemma inquired. To her surprise, her question wasn’t answered by either Hunter or Mack.
“Can’t tell you. You’re hogging up the victims,” Skye Johnson remarked, stepping into the apartment. She glanced around, frowning slightly at the furnishings. “Not very high-end.”
“Says the woman who spent college living in her van,” Hunter reminded her. Skye gave him one of her deadliest glares, which would have sent even Jemma running for the hills. Hunter made a face and slowly backed away, muttering something about interviews with potential eyewitnesses.
Jemma smirked as Skye stepped up beside her, bending down to inspect the victims. She slipped on a pair of gloves and began to pry around near the victims. A few seconds later, she announced, “I can’t be a hundred percent certain-not until I get back to the lab, but I think it was electrocution.”
“Electrocution?” Mack repeated. “Like the other vic? The firemen?”
“Exactly like,” Skye replied solemnly. Jemma stood up, thinking furiously. The M.O. certainly fit: no sign of forced entry, bodies posed almost as if they were sleeping, rather than having died horribly...electrocution….
“You think it’s the same killer, Tremors?” Mack asked, moving behind Skye. The medical examiner frowned.
“Possibly. Maybe...I’m at least fifty percent sure. Best to wait to get back to the lab, though. Run tests and all that.” she stood up and smirked at Mack. “And to think back in college I was a hacker. Look at me now.”
“Wouldn’t say that too loudly,” Jemma stated, turning around. She looked down at the victims for a moment. Then it clicked. “ FZZT ,” she whispered. Grinning, she looked up-and up -at Mack. “I’ve seen this before.”
“We both have, English. The firemen, remember?” Mack replied, raising an eyebrow. Jemma shook her head.
“No, I’ve seen it before that!”
Mack folded his arms, a confused expression spreading across his face. Behind him, Skye had a similar expression on her face.
“Where?” they asked in unison.
Jemma smirked. “The bodies positioned as if they’re asleep, electrocution, no sign of forced entry-” she stopped, waiting for them to catch on. Their expressions remained blank. She groaned. “Don’t you two read? ”
“Well it can’t be too bad,” Bobbi said, taking yet another shot. Fitz watched her warily; he’d stopped several drinks ago, but he knew from experience that Bobbi had a high-alcohol tolerance: they could be here all night.
“The writing deal,” Bobbi said, holding her shot glass up in the air. “Because we have drinks.”
“Because alcohol makes everything better,” Fitz replied, rolling his eyes.
“It really does,” Bobbi said, giving him a wink as she downed the last shot. She met his eyes. “You look bored.”
“That’s because I am bored.” Fitz admitted, shaking his head. “These parties are just so-”
“Extravagant? Expensive? Haughty?”
“Predictable,” Fitz corrected her. “It’s always the same. Music blaring, people wanting me to sign their books-and, er, other things. The same questions about the book, never the questions a writer actually wants to be asked.”
“So basically, the writer’s life is boring you,” Bobbi stated bluntly, twirling her finger around the ring of her glass. “Interesting.”
Fitz nodded glumly. It was the truth. He was well and truly bored of the life he was leading. Years ago, when he first started out, it had been an adventure. People recognized him on the street thanks to his picture on the back of his bestselling books. Not to mention the thrill of actually being a best-selling author, and the fact that it paid well.
The most exciting thing for him now was his poker parties with other mystery writers because no one ever knew who’d win. Usually it was Patterson, but that was irrelevant to Fitz’s current problem.
He groaned. “I’m tired of hearing the usual ‘will you sign this’ or ‘why did you kill off Kara in the last book-?”
“That was a bloody stupid move, by the way. I thought I knew you better, Fitz.” Bobbi remarked with a shake of her head.
“I only did it because I knew I would be killing Ward off in the next book, that way-”
“They’d be dead together,” Bobbi scoffed. “What a happy ending.”
“Still,” Fitz emphasized, “For once, I would like for someone to say something new to me.”
As if on cue he heard a voice with a British lilt say from behind him, “Mister Fitz?”
He sighed, resigning himself to yet another autograph and turned around with one of his falsest grins. “Yes?”
The woman was maybe an inch or two shorter than him so his eyes trailed down to meet her’s. She had dark hair that was pulled back into a tight pony tail. She held up something in her hand that was most certainly not a copy of Fallen Agent .
“Detective Jemma Simmons,” the woman said, as if he couldn’t pick that up from the badge. “I’m here to ask you a few questions about a murder that took place tonight.”
Fitz’s eyes went wide at the accusation -a murder ? How was he connected with a murder? He heard a chuckle from behind him and craned his neck to see Bobbi smirking at him.
“You wanted something new,” she remarked. He scowled at her. Her concern for him was touching. He sighed, turning back to Detective Simmons.
“Lead the way,” he said with a smile. She quirked an eyebrow, but led him to her car. She reached forward and opened the door to the backseat. Fitz hesitated a moment.
“What?” Simmons inquired, sounding a little exasperated by him already. He really didn’t understand why.
“It’s just….isn’t the backseat of cop cars usually reserved for criminals?” Fitz replied. Simmons huffed in annoyance. Fitz made a face somewhere between sheepishness and smugness, “What? I am a best-selling mystery author. I do know a few things about police etiquette.”
“Get in the car before I cuff you, Mister Fitz.” Simmons retorted.
Fitz opened his mouth to say a clever remark, but quickly closed it, thinking the better of it. He nodded and followed the order through, sitting down and sliding across the seat so he was positioned in the middle. The door shut behind him.
A second later, the driver’s side door opened and Simmons sat down, buckled and started the car. A few moments later,, they were breezing down the road. Fitz was momentarily surprised by the lack of traffic, but his attention was mainly taken to the back of Simmons’ head, particularly the lavender scent of her shampoo.
“You’re British,” he stated bluntly.
“You’re Scottish,” she replied.
He considered her retort for a moment and nodded. “Fair enough. But why are you here?”
“To take you in for questioning.”
“I meant here, in America.”
“..I grew up here.”
Her grip on the steering wheel tightened. “Yes. My father and I moved here when I was eighteen. Became a legal citizen when I was twenty.”
“Why move to America, though? You could’ve gone to Oxford-”
“I did go to Oxford,” Simmons retorted haughtily. “Left high school at fifteen.”
Fitz's eyes widened. “Fifteen. Not bad.”
“And how old were you?” Simmons asked coolly.
“Fifteen..and a half,” he answered. “Moved here with my mom and adoptive sister so I could go to New York State.”
“Majored in English, I presume.”
“Engineering, actually. You?”
“Biochem,” Simmons answered, her tone lightening. “Got my PhDs when I was seventeen.”
“Impressive,” Fitz remarked, clucking his tongue. He wasn’t being sarcastic; it was impressive. But it didn’t make any sense...for her to jump career tracks like she did. Before his thought could go any further-or he could ask any more intrusive questions-Simmons spoke up again.
“So, who was the girl you were with?”
Simmons cleared her throat. “The girl you were with at the party. Who was she?”
“Oh! That was Bobbi. Bobbi Morse, she’s my sister. Well...adoptive sister. Well...sort of. You’d like her. She also majored in biochem.”
“A lot of scientists in your family, hm?”
“Quite. How about you?”
“My father is a college professor. My sister’s a lawyer.”
“You’ve got a sister?”
“Yeah. Niece too.”
Fitz smiled warmly at the idea of this Detective-who seemed quite stern but also kind of sweet-running around chasing her niece. It was a peculiar thought, one that was rather perplexing. There were so many layers to this woman he’d just met. Normally he read people fairly well-a habit one picked up after so many years of writing mystery novels-but there was something maddeningly off about this woman...something he couldn’t pick up on.
“We’re here,” Simmons announced, looking back at him. He suddenly felt a tingle of nerves looking up at the precinct through the window. He turned back to Simmons, biting his lower lip. She gave him a quick smile.
“You won’t have to do a perp-walk, if that helps.”
“Is that a promise?” he inquired, trying to sound cool. His attempt at snark failed as his voice cracked from nerves.
“Promise,” she said, exiting the car and moving around it to open the door for him. He stepped out, breathing in the cool night air and followed her as she led him inside the precinct. It was rather quaint, walls made of brick, floors stained from years of wear and tear. She moved him into a small interrogation room, which resembled the rest of the building almost exactly.
He sank down into a chair and she gave him a quick smile. It was different than the one she’d given him in the car. This one was more of a warning. It said that she was willing to be friendly any time of day, except when she was in this room. He took a deep breath.
“I’ll be back in a few moments, Mister Fitz. Until then, enjoy your water.” She motioned toward the water bottle that was sitting in the center of the table and exited the room. Fitz frowned and stared at the bottle for a moment, debating on whether to down it immediately or not-after all, he wasn’t sure if he was even allowed to use the bathroom.
In the end, he reached forward and grabbed the bottle, tossing it from hand to hand worriedly. Best to keep his hands busy; it was the only thing that could keep him relaxed in a stressful situation.
Then again, he considered, he hadn’t murdered anyone outside of his books, so he really didn’t have anything to worry about. Unless this was some prank pulled by Bobbi. She said she knew a detective in the 12th, maybe it was Simmons.
Shaking his head, Fitz took a deep breath. He twisted open the bottle of water, and took a quick sip. There was no reason to make a full blown conspiracy theory. Not yet, anyway...
Still, the situation begged the question: why was he here? Who had been murdered? What did any of it have to do with him?
And most importantly; who was Jemma Simmons?