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    1. #1
      Daphne's Avatar
      Join Date
      Nov 2007
      AL Points

      [USA] The masks they wear

      She was not a morning person. She never had been. It was different when living with Nan; her grandmother had the sweetest voice and the gentlest way of introducing her to a new day – to a ‘new’ everything really. Now, on her own, it was getting harder and harder to tolerate the alarm clock’s hysterical screaming. She didn’t advocate violence but there were mornings when she wanted to bash its little electronic brains out and send it to whatever Hell annoying, dead clocks went to. Except the damn thing was shock proof! That, and as soon as she’d stretch a limb toward it, the bloody machine would hop off the night stand and dash every which way, initiating a game of cat and mouse about the little hotel room. Bloody motion sensors!

      Today the noisy little devil made it all the way into the tiny bathroom, its blaring resonating off the tiles and making her skull rattle with the amplified noise.

      She jerked awake, let herself slid out of bed not unlike runny pudding spilling out of its tilted container and stumbled in the general direction of the sound with zombie-like movements, the only kind of movements the caffeine-deprived brain was capable of dictating to the body. It seemed to take excruciatingly long to set bleary eyes on the mechanical fiend and even longer to grab a hold of it and slap it into silence. She held if for a while with both hands and pretended to be strangling the life out of it, and then finally recovered enough of her senses to set the thing on the edge of the sink. She decided against murder. The machine didn’t deserve to die today; after all, it was only doing the job it was designed to. Talking about jobs, she needed to get ready for hers.

      * *

      The hairs on the back of her neck bristled as a minuscule but sudden change in air current tickled her skin; there was something or someone behind her. She reacted instinctively, stepping to the side out of the way of the perceived disturbance. The evasive manoeuvre came naturally, not even registering. She got out of the way just in time to avoid collision with the shop door as it opened sharply behind her, but she wasn’t fast enough to avoid the frame catching her elbow, connecting with enough force to tickle the nerve and send an unpleasant tingle up her arm. The cardboard cup holder got jostled out of her hand.

      The flow of time slowed. She saw it all in slow motion, the way the holder and cups left her hand and started tilting to the side… the way the white lid darkened as the hot fluid rushed to press against it, tiny drops of light brown liquid peeping through the drink holes... As she watched, her brain worked out the angle of the incline, the speed of its movement, the approximate time it’d take for the contents to be beyond rescuing, to hit the pavement and be lost forever; it pushed her limbs into a salvage mission.

      She did an odd, little dance in an effort to recover the cups of coffee and balance the cup stand with the box of pastry she held in the other hand, but she succeeded nevertheless. A mumbling came from behind her and, as she looked over her shoulder, she read embarrassment on a young, gangling kid’s face. He stood there, frozen in place in the doorway. She realized the words were an apology.

      ''No harm, no foul.'' She told the teenager, allowing her full lips to gently curve in a smile.

      ''Take better care next time, we wouldn’t want you knocking over an old lady, would we now?'' She broadened the smile and winked playfully at the youth, letting the naked eyelid shaded by rich dark eyelashes drop over the hazel iris.

      ''N..n… no ma’am!'' he stuttered in reply. A deeper shade of red was quickly spreading across his pockmarked face, betraying his embarrassment. . ''S… sorry.'' He stared at her a moment longer then took off, visibly forcing himself not to break into a run before he turned the corner. Narua sighed and rolled her eyes. It was the badge. It made people nervous. It also got her coffee and pastry faster.

      The veteran special agent she had been partnered with waited for her in the car. He greeted her return with a sardonic grin.

      ''Nice save there, sport.'' He commented.

      She knew he didn’t mean it. She thought he was probably hoping she’ll spill the coffee on her pant suit and be forced to change into her casual clothes, thus giving him something to pick on her about the entire day; possibly tomorrow as well. She was warned against antagonistic behaviour. She was advised not to take it to heart; it was part of the grooming she was meant to receive to harden her for the job. Since day one she made sure to dress in a manner that made her both look and feel relaxed, yet neat and pulled together. She dressed almost exclusively in smart tailored pant suits with white or light colour, button-down shirts. She wore sensible shoes. She kept her hair neatly tied up and away from her face. She had the natural, dewy appearance of a pretty woman in her prime. Without make-up. She made an excellent target for his teasing.

      A mask of seriousness fell over her serene, smiling face.

      ''Thank you, sir. I try to be at my best.'' She told him solemnly as she carefully moved the Styrofoam cups of coffee from the cardboard cup holder to the car’s drink holder. She slipped into her seat, buckling up with one swift gesture, and popped the lid of the pastry box.

      ''Donut?'' She asked with an innocuous bat of eyelashes. She read indecision on his face. He probably couldn’t make up his mind if she was mocking him, baiting him with the most popular cop stereotype, or if she was being serious. She could almost see the wheels turning inside his head as he tried to come up with an answer.

      ''Don’t mind if I do.'' He picked a chocolate glazed one, took a bite and grinned at her. She could see the dark-brown flecks sticking to his front teeth. It looked disgusting; possibly also because she was no chocolate fan.

      ''So, got anything worthwhile from the files?'' he questioned her. She could see bits of masticated dough food escaping his mouth like rats abandoning a sinking ship.

      ''N…'' she hesitated. She was about to say 'no, sir' but that was just asking for trouble. ''Nothing beyond what we know so far. I don’t understand it at all.'' She said instead, deciding to fuel his ego. He’d given her reports to read on the case they were investigating: witness statements, autopsy reports… the usual. Still, she didn’t lie – they made no sense. Yet.

      ''Well, that’s why you’re paired with best!'' he told her. She wasn’t so sure about that, but let it slide.

      She felt extremely detached today. She watched him pick another piece of pastry from the box, stuck it in his mouth and chomped down greedily. It was more than he could chew; literally. The big piece was forcing him to eat with his mouth open. The smacking sounds he made were giving her goose bumps. She reached out to the car stereo, turning it on. The device protested with a sudden loud crackle before giving in. She focused on the anchor person’s voice, trying to dim the sound of the older man’s open mouthed chewing. She couldn’t make out all the words… She leaned forward abruptly and the safety belt didn’t agree with the movement. The seat belt reactor locked in position, pinning her down. All she wanted to do was fiddle with the button, trying to get a better radio reception. Now her mentor’s cell phone started buzzing angrily and sliding across the top of the car’s dashboard. The signal interfered with the radio transmission, making the voice on the radio undecipherable.

      Her supervisor snatched the phone and answered. ''Warrick!''

      He signalled her to remain seated while he slipped out of the car, the closed car door acting like a sound barrier between them. Whatever was been spoken, she couldn’t tell. The man had said nothing beyond ''yes'' and ''no'', as far as she could see while watching his lips move. On the radio the news had finished with a promise to keep them updated with the events across the country. She could do nothing but wait.

      * *

      ''Better keep to the trail while it’s still fresh.'' He told her as he started the engine. The derisive grin made its way back on his sun-kissed face.

      ''Fresh... sir?'' she questioned, intrigued; surprised even. No, shocked! Another victim so soon... She recovered quickly. ''Where at?''

      ''White Springs… Local PD just called it in. Recognized it by the scribbling…'' the hand gesture he made implied she should know of which scribbling he was talking about. ''Of course, we’ll have to see it with our own eyes and draw our own conclusions.''

      For a moment there she thought she caught the trace of an impish smirk across the veteran’s face. Narua blinked. No, she was wrong; his face was blank, except… except for his eyes which shone with an eerie light.

      ''Of course…'' She lowered her gaze, uncomfortable with the crazy sparkle in the elderly man’s eyes.

      While they drove to the crime scene she tried to stir her train of thought away from the veteran's peculiar eye gleam and back to the case at hand. It wasn’t easy, but it was necessary. She called the image of the map to her memory and pinpointed the location on it. As before, with each committed crime the suspect seemed to be moving further north, toward the border with Georgia. He -she, it, they, whoever they were- will soon move to another state, it seemed. The FBI knew so far that he liked to mutilate the victims, the brutality of his actions escalating with each one. They knew he was organized. They knew he liked to collect bits of his victims as souvenirs. They knew each mutilation was done post-mortem. They did not know the cause of death for any of the victims yet. They didn’t have a solid suspect. There didn’t seem to be a pattern in choosing the victims either: varying age, occupation, appearance, sex, race... The only evidence connecting all the cases together was a sentence - four words angrily carved in flesh. They too made no sense just yet.
      Last edited by Daphne; 10-14-2011 at 08:06 AM. Reason: rephrasing

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