“Why can't homicides happen between 9 and 5?” Rey lamented and turned, facing her partner who was driving. Alex simply shook her head, feeling Rey's pain.
“Because that would be too easy Rey. We're detectives; it will never be easy for us. You know, you could resign and work for the postal service; paid federal holidays, no Sundays, not on call 24/7, no responding to disemboweled bodies in back alley dumpsters at 2 AM on a Saturday in July.”
She added a smirk without meeting the seething glare being launched in her general direction. But, Rey knew she was right. She damn well knew what she was getting into when she accepted the position. Finn constantly reassured her he was fine with her decision.
Rey, I know you can handle your own out there. And after what you told me about Alex, I'm not exactly losing sleep over it.
“So, what's going on with you and Poe?”
Alex felt her jaw clench and hands grapple the wheel tight. If it wasn't night, she would've noticed how white her knuckles turned. She could sense Rey flinched at the tense reaction but it wasn't her fault; her partner was expressing concern. Her features relaxed and a deep breath escaped her lungs.
“Wish I knew, Rey. He isn't sure what he wants. I love him but.....”
“You don't know if he feels the same way,” Rey completed her thought.
“Yeah, something like that.” Alex sighed and eased back into the seat. Ahead, the duo picked out the tell tale flashes of blue and red through the waving sheets of rain. “Shit,” Alex growled as she put the car in park. “This is going to be a fun night.”
The media had already come to roost like the scrap stealing scavengers they were. Rey wasn't fond of reporters and how they would thrust their microphones in their faces, hoping in vain to get that one sound bite that would give them the slightest edge over the rest. Alex and Mitaka held less than civil viewpoints of the profession and its subsequent disciples.
“Hopefully Mitaka is already there,” Rey offered some optimism.
“One can only hope.”
Lieutenant Dopheld Mitaka perched over the CSU team, determined to keep the tarp overhead and protect what parts of the perimeter had not been compromised by Nature. His keen eyes watched as the technicians placed down the numbered placards and photograph each area. While it was set up as more of a glorified lean-to, the large blue flap held up, directing the relentless torrent down and away. The team had grown acclimated to the every changing weather conditions. They had persevered through rain, sleet, snow, heat, humidity.....cicadas and drunks catcalling him and CSU members. He could say he was flattered by some but abhorred by other more graphic suggestions and offhand remarks hurled at them like empty bottles at a bar fight.
The approaching sounds of gravel and crumbled asphalt caused him to pause and turn his head. He glanced up, catching the familiar but welcoming silhouettes marching towards him.
“Mitaka,” Rey hollered out, dipping under the police tape. Alex was behind her, silent but taking in an initial assessment of what lay out before them.
“Rey, Alex,” he waved an arm above his head, catching their attention. “Over here!” Rain slid down his hands and into the sleeves of his jacket, saturating the long sleeved button up shirt beneath. Luckily, it was May and not November where a chill would settle deep into his bones, taking up home until the first kiss of spring. No, he had been in harsher conditions.
“What's the story?” Rey shoved her hands into her pockets.
“It was last call over here at Finalizer when a couple of patrons spotted the body,” Mitaka hitched a thumb behind him towards the bar across the street from them. “They thought she was drunk and passed out at first but when they approached.....” he took a deep breath, perhaps to steady himself more than anything, “they noticed her throat was torn out and along both shoulders there was substantial trauma.”
Alex knelt down, lifting up the tarp to get a glimpse of the victim. Retrieving the flashlight that remained faithfully in her pocket, she shined the beam around the base of the head and shoulders. The naked breasts smeared in drying crimson caused the detective pause. Muscle fanned out over and on the injuries. Paths of liquid iron congealed inches past their grotesque trail heads. Blonde hair that was platinum was now crimson and matted. Skin was shredded and intertwined with the displaced flesh and fibers, perhaps woven subconsciously by her assailant. Did it mean something? Was it a message? Or was she overthinking the whole scene.
The eyes, fathomless pools of cerulean, stared up, boring into the detective's; witnesses to their owner's final agonizing moments.
Alex blinked, keeping her eyes shut for several moments before taking a deep breath and slowly exhaling. It never got easier with each new offense committed. She didn't expect it to.
The victim looked as if she was about Rey's age; perhaps younger. Her attire was in line with what young adult and older women wore when going out for a night in the clubs. A leather skirt which halted between her knees and hips. The form fitting top, which Alex theorized was either sage or olive in tone, lay in strands below her still chest. Regardless, her choice in dress didn't mean she was allotted this ungodly fate. It wasn't a fucking invitation for who or whatever did this. She was starting to get a taste of what life could offer but instead her young existence was brutally cut down.
“Jesus, what did this to you?” She held the back of her wrist to her mouth, feeling the bile sliding up her throat. Quickly, she turned her head, unable to rid her senses of the stench.
“Once I get the body back and examined I can tell you,” that all to familiar tone greeted the team. “I see your adoring fans have gathered.” Dr. Elizabeth Rodgers stood with umbrella in one hand and clipboard in the other.
“Always an audience,” Rey shook her head, the only time she would acknowledge the drunken throng. Uniforms were already positioned to keep them back, preventing any hindrance or additional contamination to the scene. A few were attempting, albeit poorly, to collect eyewitness accounts and statements. One thing about gathering information: Drunks had a habit of either exasperating what they did or didn't see. “You would think they would go home.”
“And miss the show?! Oh no, never!” Alex responded with rich sarcasm as she gingerly replaced the tarp and rose to her feet.
“What do you think did this Doc?” Mitaka shined his own light on the wounds. “Almost looks like a dog or some kind of animal ripped her apart. I mean, look at the injuries!”
“Lieutenant,” Dr. Rodgers didn't glance up from her work, “I can't make a final determination until I'm back in the exam room. But I can say that it does look like there was a significant amount of trauma assessed around her neck and shoulders though I am sure you figured that out all by yourself.”
Rey and Alex attempted to suppress a laugh. Dr. Rodgers was not known for being tactful and had a bit of a snarky streak to her. She was definitely an acquired taste as Rey had put it to Mitaka one day.
“Was there any physical evidence recovered Mitaka?” Alex looked to the younger man.
“Yeah, there was,” he whistled for one of the CSU techs who brought a clear evidence bag over for Alex and Rey to examine. “This was found embedded in the right shoulder of the victim.”
Rey held it up, twisting her wrist to grant a view for each side. It was approximately two inches in length, translucent in appearance which narrowed into a sharp tip on one end. “Is this.....is this a fingernail?!”
“As far as we can determine but it will have to be examined and tested to confirm exactly what it is.”
“This isn't like any fingernail I've seen before,” Alex caught sight of it. “Looks like something a person could buy in a costume shop or one of those Halloween stores that pop up in August. Hell, reminds me of a prop used in a horror movie.”
“You've been watching too many monster movies,” Mitaka sighed.
“Sometimes I feel like we are in a real horror movie,” Alex muttered and started shining her light around.
Rey followed her partner's lead, heading off in the opposite direction. She was thankful for having tied her hair up in the three tight buns as the rain picked up in cadence. The shoulder length locks of chocolate wouldn't be plastered to her neck and face, possibly impeding her ability to search for additional evidence, not to mention it was cooler in the warmer months.
Her path led her to the right of the scene, down one of the back alleys Westport was well known for. Narrow passages traversed structures that dated back to the early days of the city; when horse and oxen were the Fords and Chevys of their time. Something pulled her, no urged her to proceed ahead, deeper into the shadows. A quick glance over her shoulder confirmed she was further along than she initially thought yet she didn't stop or turn around. By now she had lost sight of her partner. Wouldn't be the first time Alex had gone to the beat of her own drummer in a case; wouldn't be the last time either. Unfortunately, that had gotten her partner in serious shit with the Captain on more than one occasion.
Shaking her head, Rey edged forward, feeling her pace slow to a cautious, almost hesitant stride. Her pulse picked up, heart beating double time as the trickles of adrenaline started their silent race. Her lone companion the steady drumming of the spring rains.
Steady there, Rey......
The inner tone cooed as she forced her foot to move forward. But for Rey it held more of the feeling of trudging through the riverbank after a heavy rain than along 150 year old brick.
It came from the right.
From the corner of her eye, a growing blur surged towards her, an aura of maliciousness and unadulterated evil burned that burned into Rey's being before the physical impact crushed her against the brick wall. She couldn't scream, her lungs squeezed within their bony confine, on the brink of collapsing if her attacker pushed so much as another inch. The back of her head snapped back, slamming into the century's old structure. Adrenaline quelled the rising throbbing that ignited at the center of her skull as fight or flight assumed control, kickstarting her arms and legs to strike back, inflict any injury against this faceless entity. Her attempts were for naught as the flailing limbs struck air and rain.
Alex and Mitaka sprinted up the alley, seeing their comrade struggling against what upon first glimpse appeared to be a shadow or shapeless mass pinning her to the wall.
Mitaka raced ahead, surprisingly quick despite his smaller statute. Anger dictated his actions as he opened fire on the backside of the creature. Alex grabbed his arm, halting further gunfire, grounding the other back to reality, but not before three rounds were squeezed off and tore into the brick with one ricocheting off the nearby fire escape.
“You'll hit Rey!” She rushed the assailant, lunging with the poise of a linebacker. Her right shoulder made first contact as her arms flailed, attempting to wrap the rest of her body around the thing. Rey sensed the crushing mass lightening up as her partner rolled away, latched onto the back of the creature. Her body slumped to the ground, hand still clutching her Baretta fiercely.
“Rey,” Mitaka was at her side, frantically grabbing his flashlight from his pocket and furiously checking her over for injury. “Rey can you hear me!? REY! Officer down!! I repeat, officer down!! I need a bus!!!Location, back alley behind Westport Flea Market!” He barked loudly and heatedly into the radio, body trembling.
Rey subconsciously licked her lips and swallowed before responding. She felt the soothing almost analgesic like sensation of the rain showering her cheeks and forehead as she forced her eyes open, meeting panicked pools of rich chocolate. Her eyes narrowed, squinting at the sudden invasion of brightness against the cold dark surroundings.
“Mitaka,” she croaked and craned her neck.
“No, no don't move Rey,” he gently placed a hand on her shoulder. “Help is on the way.”
“Alex.....” she felt the panic trying to rise. Mitaka scanned the alley in both directions but the older detective was gone.
“She got that thing off you; went full on Xena.” He shook his head, remaining amazed and stunned at what he had been witness to.
“You tried....shooting me??” Her head shot up, eyes widening in shock, almost accusingly at him.
“NO!” He felt the guilt bubbling, realizing he could've easily hit her but all he thought about was getting that fucking thing off her. “I-I wasn't thinking. FUCK! I could've hurt you!”
A tiny smile danced across her lips as she sheepishly replied, “I would've done the same.”
“Yeah, well the Captain won't be thrilled I did that.” He sat beside her, sighing at the wet cold sensation of the filth and runoff saturating his pants and back of the jacket. Oh well, they could be washed. Clothes were an afterthought as the pair sat in a comfortable silence, letting the rain wash over them.
The welcome songs of ambulance and squad car grew in the distance.
Alex came to on her back.
Her arms and legs fanned out, a crude version of the Virtruvian Man. The world was spinning or was she spinning? It reminded her of when she would collapse on her bed, buzzed from consuming an entire bottle of 19 Crimes Red Blend; everything would be moving, rotating or an impression of falling, floating even. She closed her eyes, attempting to ground her mind and body as one. She wiggled her toes and fingers, finding everything responded to her silent command. Wait, where was her gun!? No, she didn't have it in hand. No, she had thrown herself on whatever the Hell that thing was. Her senses instantly recalled the cold, frigid tendrils which permeated both jacket and long sleeved button up shirt at each point of contact between bodies; paralyzing every nerve and fiber down to the very bone until she couldn't move, leaving her at the will of Frankenbeast. It had been like grabbing a solid block of ice; a furry solid block of ice. But it had been the invisible jolts of cold that now left her open and vulnerable.
Alex blinked then glanced up, discovering red eyes that were now boring deep into hers.
Was this how she was going to go out!? Being some Lassie reject's feast?!
Hot rancid pufts of breath coated her face and neck, hurling waves of nausea over its prey. Did this thing rummage around the sewers then attack!?
“Not today, Lassie,” Alex snarled and summoned the strength to roll and leap to her feet only to have said feet betray her stance and usher her back towards the waterlogged ground, stomach flat on the ground. A sharp yelp of surprise and anger elicited a deep rumble from the creature's chest. Slick blades of grass hindered her attempts at getting back up as she forced her head up to get a look at her adversary.
It paced on four legs with talons that curled into daggers at the tips. She thought of eagles and hawks' feet when she saw the impressive set on each foot. Its body she couldn't determine what it was. Maybe canine or some large cat like a cougar or tiger. The head was definitely canine but the snout was flat, similar to the hogs her uncle had raised. Against the lighting which highlighted the running path through the park, Alex caught sight of the deadly spikes or quills which aligned its spine. The tail appeared as though someone had ripped one off a large lizard or snake and haphazardly attached it to end of this thing. Did the zoo lose an animal!? Was this someone's idea of a fucked up joke?! If it was, Alex was not laughing.
“What in the FUCK are you!?” Alex stared it down, refusing to give up. “You almost killed my partner you FUCKER!!!!!”
It was then she heard it.
Several short hard breaths that sounded like......
Was it......was it laughing at her?! Was this Frankenbeast actually mocking her?!
“What the.....” Before she could finish her thought, the thing came at her, revealing two immaculate rows of jagged ivory. The front legs shot out, thrusting the detective against the impressive oak which stood as the lone witness to this assault. Bone and joint popped in sync as she sensed her body being slammed against the centuries old tree. She struggled to breathe, finding her lungs pinned, denied any bit of life giving air. Alex felt the strength of the creature as it pushed into her chest with a slow punishing demeanor, threatening to break each one by one. Spots danced across her vision as her peripheral sight began to fade.
Muscle memory was a godsend.
Her arms shot up then down, striking the junction of joint and tendon. The creature howled and backed away, enough for Alex to grasp her Baretta and take aim.
Mitaka and Rey heard the shots.
“Go! I'll be fine,” Rey hollered, snapping him from his brief trance. The EMTs were on the scene, examining her injuries and conducting initial triage. She watched, through the lifting rain, as her cohort darted off towards the source of the gunfire.
“Shots fired! Shots fired! In the direction of Broadway and Bridger Park! I repeat, shots fired in the direction of Broadway and Bridger Park! I need backup!!” Mitaka was shocked he could relay a coherent message, let alone be able to convey anything as he sprinted down the main road through Wesport and south to the park.
Frankenbeast lunged for Alex, ignoring the burning from the bullet which was embedded in its hind quarter; a second had found a home in the upper left shoulder.
“Shit, it's like shooting a damn bull!”
She felt solid wave of flesh and fur, pinning her in the mud. This time, the right paw pinned her right wrist down, keeping the pathetic human from shooting at it anymore. It bared its teeth before leaning in and inhaling the sweet sweet essence of fear, anger, hatred, and regret. The forked tongue slithered out, greedily sweeping up the thick rich beads. It shivered in anticipation. Pity this one had to die. It decided to prolong the suffering of this one before dealing the death blow.
Alex closed her eyes and deeply inhaled. This was it.
The sharp abrupt burning caused her to scream. It was as if someone had taken acid and dumped it on her skin! Tears blended with the rain as they cascaded down her cheeks and into the unforgiving soil. Her eyes refused to open, to gaze upon the cause of her final moments of agony.
The creature raced its tongue along the jagged tears of flesh. Her cries and tears ignited a surge of elation and even arousal as it dug the serpentine appendage deeper into the wounds. Her screams only elevated, climbing in pitch the more it tasted and savored the offerings of crimson iron.
Alex thought about Rey and Mitaka as she felt her demise looming. She hoped Mitaka would take care of her partner. She thought about Poe and wondered what could've been.......
A heavy thud followed by angered snarling caused her to open her eyes. Hand over her chest, Alex hissed and groaned as she slugishly shifted to her side, seeing the creature in a fight with someone. Her eyes narrowed and strained to focus as she watched the slender figure fearlessly engage in battle with her would be killer.
Through the rain she saw he was younger, younger than Rey perhaps. His hair was matted to his head and neck, form lithe but lightning fast as he ducked and rolled the swipes and pounces of Frankenbeast. She watched as he propelled himself off the tree which she had been pinned to and delivered a perfectly executed roundhouse to the side of the head. Frankenbeast wailed, landing with a violent thud to the ground. It remained still for several seconds as the man circled in caution. Alex felt her head growing light as she caught the man hurling a blow into each spot where she had shot Frankenbeast. How did he know those were there?!
The man continued ducking, rolling and jumping, thwarting every strike against him. Her eyes struggled to take in what was playing out before her: the man moved fast, but too fast. No human she had even seen or heard of had the reflexes or reaction times like that! It had to be the injuries! She lost blood from the wounds on her chest and her head had hit the tree......
Frankenbeast was slowing down, sensing it was fighting a losing battle, lose its prey to a stronger more resilient foe. It bared its teeth in a final show of defiance before retreating for the sanctuary of the shadows.
Alex just stared.
Her bullets had not slowed Frankenbeast down yet a few well placed hits by Chuck Liddel and it was fleeing?!
The man turned his attention to her, seeing the extreme distress she was in. He quickened his pace, hurrying to the injured woman's aid. Her badge shined in the wretched fluorescent light above, telling him she was a cop.
“W-w-who......” Alex failed to form the words as her lips failed.
“Shhhhh,” he dropped to his knees and cradled her head in his lap. “It's gone now. It won't be coming back.”
Alex felt her eyes growing heavy but felt the cool hand cupping the side of her face, offering soothing caresses as if to provide comfort in her suffering. She didn't see his head tilting or the slow smile which crept across his lips as she subconsciously leaned into his touch.
Help is coming. You will not die; not tonight. The voice echoed in her mind.
Who are you?
In due time.....
NO! Please!! I have to know!! You saved my life!!
Shhhhhh.......Relax Alexandra.......We will meet again. I promise.......
The wailing shattered the connection between them as Mitaka reached the downed officer.
“ALEX!! ALEX!!!” He frantically searched for a pulse, exhaling loudly when he felt the strong steady rhythm against his fingers. “OVER HERE!!!!” He bellowed at the top of his lungs, determined to get the EMTs over here with no delay.
“She's conscious,” he informed the medics as they went to work. Mitaka spied the medium gashes across her chest, seeing the streaks of rose staining the shirt and jacket where cotton and blended fiber had been ripped. He felt it; he felt anger simmering in his belly. It was a fire that was growing and the lead detective laying there, unconscious and helpless, was the fuel.
“Whatever did this......” his fist tightened into a ball as he watched her fellow cop being ferried away on the stretcher. It was so......so unnatural to find Alex in this position. Out of place, not right, or abnormal were but a few ways to describe what he was seeing.
“I'm riding with her,” he quickly declared and hopped in the back of the ambulance.
Mitaka held her hand within both of his, watching over her as the EMTs tended to his comrade. Now, in the almost burning rays of fluorescent, his eyes lay upon the extent of the damage inflicted upon her.
The man stood on the roof, watching the scene unfolding below him. The police officer was in good hands based upon the reaction of the dark haired officer who arrived moments after he left her there. She would survive. She was strong; he could sense it.
The hints of iron danced across his nose guiding his eyes down to his fingers. Her blood caked the tips of his right hand, beckoning him to savor the rich delicate essence. His arm lifted up as his lips gravitated towards the red tinged tips delivering the sweet tantalizing offering to his waiting tongue.
Shivers raced along his spine, ignited minute sparks throughout his entire being which was chased by an overwhelming sense of heat, like a fire was racing through his soul. His eyes shot open as the realization slammed him like a truck.
“Shit,” he muttered. “He needs to know.”
But a cop!? This revelation will surely bring about......complications. But it didn't matter. And whoever this Poe was better stay out of the way.