Birth of the Undead – Adoption, Chapter 3
Written by kshoo :: [Saturday, 17 December 2022 06:49] Last updated by :: [Saturday, 17 December 2022 13:51]
“GIRLS! For the love of GOD can BOTH of you just GET UP AND COME DOWN FOR BREAKFAST!!!” The familiar sound of the patter of footsteps from upper floor signified that the two young women had at least heeded the threat of armageddon that could potentially arrive from the hands of a mother such as she, and had finally dragged themselves out of bed.
The screams and shouts that followed above would indicate who won the last mile rush into the bathroom, given that both of them do love to take their time. A slam, the familiar shout followed by incessant knocking on the door indicated that Linda won today.
“KARA!!! Come ON! For God's sake I have to PREP for you guys today!” Eliza just couldn’t be bothered with hearing the rest of the conversation between the girls, and instead moved back into the kitchen to check on the baked potatoes, toast and the coffee.
As she peeled the skin off another apple, Dr. Eliza Danver’s mind wandered. Two month’s in, and she would have thought that it was all a bad joke of an idea. It had all started out so promising, her intuition leading her to the right place and right time in Midvale orphanage, to meet Linda Lee and offer her a home under their own roof. For some reason, Eliza had a really strong desire to have another similar aged young woman around the house, both as company for Fred and herself, as well as a younger sister for Alex. Given that her only child had always been home-schooled, she had tended to be a loner and struggled with other people that she met. Having someone akin to a younger sibling would, at least in Eliza’s relatively simple mind, help Alex improve her interpersonal skills, in addition to having someone of similar age to talk to in times of trouble.
How wrong she was.
While Alex’ initial antics were anticipated and managed to the best of Fred and her abilities whenever they were around to see it, the raven-haired 19-year-old still blew hot and cold (mostly cold) against the newcomer that is Linda Lee. Finding faults and picking a fight whenever possible, she seemed hell-bent on making Linda’s life a living hell. She could see the strain on the 18-year-old’s face, her sunny demeanour becoming more and more forced, especially when Alex simply refused to acknowledge even the simplest of “how was your day” greeting from her newly adopted.
Eliza glanced at the clock again as the sounds upstairs became muffled; the fight for the use of bathroom has given way to the frantic search for appropriate clothing befitting the modern teenager. Minutes later she heard the familiar run from the stairs and the shuffle of the chairs clashing with the plonking of bags on the counter and the table. Glancing over her left shoulder, the longer cut hair indicated Linda was the winner today.
Just as the young woman started shoveling the first slice of toast into her mouth, Alex too turned up, dragged a chair aside and slammed both her hands on the kitchen table, jolting Eliza and Linda.
“Freak! How the hell did you do that?” Linda just stared wide-eyed at her new sister, mumbling something incoherent with what is in her mouth. “Don’t act coy, Linda. You’re hiding something, I know you are! Sooner or later you will have make a mistake, and I will find out!”
“What in heavens are you talking about, Alexandra?” Eliza rarely called her own by her fullname unless she is really annoyed, and her own frustration is now barely contained at the surface. Notwithstanding that she has a major research meeting at 9, and now they are really cutting it close before both her wards are flagged for being late to school.
“She scribbled on my work. MY work. WITHOUT MY PERMISSION!”
“I was just trying to help.” Linda finally managed a sentence, meekly, after swallowing her toast while moving across to spread jam on another.
“What did you do, Linda?” Eliza asked curiously.
“I… I saw Alex working on a math problem yesterday, and I thought I found a way to solve it. So I wrote down the calculations and placed it on the side for her reference.”
Turning her gaze now to Alex, she didn’t even have to wait when Alex shrieked “I was almost THERE! I HAD the answer, but NO! YOU have to go and scratch out my working, replace it with yours and, and, put down YOUR answer on it! I don’t need YOUR HELP! Now stop being a busybody and just… go kiss-ass to other people!” With a huff followed by a loud bang and a roar of a motorcycle, silence reigned over the Danvers household in the morning again.
With impeccable timing, Fred Danvers appeared in the kitchen. Without skipping a beat, he poured a large mug of coffee before walking over to peck his wife on her forehead, not noticing she had her arms crossed and her left fingers pinched over her nosebridge. “Morning ladies! What a wonderful and sunny day today! All ready to start the day?” He didn’t push the subject when he heard a growl coming from his partner, while Linda squirmed slightly in her seat.
Alex was frustrated. That was more than apparent to everyone who took AP Biology that morning. Even Mr. Crest the teacher gave his TA a wider berth than usual the moment he saw her tossing and slamming the various trays of frogs on each workbench before returning to her own area to seemingly work on her own stuff with steam practically coming up from her head. She didn’t even acknowledge any of the students who had asked for help during the entire session, and especially not Linda when she offered to rinse-out the various apparatus and items at the end of class.
“Who burnt your pants today, Danvers?” That sudden question jolted Alex out from her own thoughts as she finally put away the rest of the things in the cupboard. “You’re running unusually hot today. Scalding hot. Any hotter and you’ll be burning the entire lab down, and that’s not good.”
“Well, something happened at home.” Despite everything, Alex loathed to share anything of herself with others. Especially with her co-worker. One does not air their dirty laundry out for everyone to see. Especially her. “But it’s no biggie. I can deal.”
“It’s not difficult to see the reason behind it, Alex. Linda is trying, you know, to get on your good side.” That brought an involuntary groan from Alex again. “I can see that. Everyone could. She’s not the brainiest, or the most athletic, but you have to…”
“Whopps. Look at the time. Need to be in uni for classes in an hour. Be seeing you Mr Crest.” Without another word she grabbed her slingbag and quickly left the lab leaving a gaping Mr Crest in her wake.
As she made her way towards her parked bike, she mumbled irratatedly “What the fuck, man. Trying to be nice? Aren’t they all.” As she sat on the seat and put on her helmet, Crest’s comments turned in her mind.
“Not the smartest or the brightest… Not the most athletic… trying to get on your good books.”
Trying to get on her good books. Yes, that’s quite obvious. The rest of the comments? That’s not her impression of Linda.
Not at all.
When Alex met her for the first time, she too thought Linda looked a little shy and reserved, but generally nice and eager to please. Standing at about her own height, the slim, young lady looked just like a girl-next-door, her dark-coloured hair flowing down just past her ear. And of course, that trademark broad smile of hers does seem to chase away all the darkness in the room, just like when sunshine comes through the window. While she herself had not immediately taken to her like her parents, Alex did think that it would just be a matter of time before they got along as sisters. Even when Eliza suggested that they use the same bedroom (not that there are any other spares anyway) she just gave a grunt, rather than protesting loudly.
As time passed she noticed a few oddity about her sister. Once when she was packing and rearranging stuff in their closet for both of them to push in the ironed clothes, a bundle dropped out from a higher shelf. Opening it up, she saw a few black wigs. Initially thinking that it might be for some sort of cosplay, she was a little surprised when Linda turned up in school a few days later wearing the exact same wig. In fact, it was as if she were swapping different ones over the weeks, seemingly keeping up the appearance just like any other teenager who regularly changed their hairstyle to fit in to the trends.
While using it isn’t something that unusual, “Why would someone wear a wig of the same colour as their hair, unless they are trying to hide their real hair colour?” As far as Alex could recall, Linda has always had black hair, hence it was puzzling. Despite all this, she had suppressed the urge to call her out, instead just observing in silent puzzlement on the need to do so.
Then there was the one time when she came to clear out the trash from their room, moments after Linda have left for her part-time job at the Chen’s. As she cleared-out the trash, she noticed a red-stains on the edges of the bin that looked a bit differeent from nail polish or paint, and Linda doesn’t have any of those to use. When she examined the contents, she saw small plastic cut-outs; piecing it altogether revealed a bloodbag similar to those used in hospitals.
“Why on earth would she have those at home?” It was the one and only time though, for after that there’s no other indication of it anymore.
Then there’s the matter of being mediocre. Despite what Linda tries to do and project her appearance, Alex could now see that it might have all been an act.
That particular quantum mechanics problem had been sitting on her desk for the past two weeks already. Despite all her brillance and genius she had yet to crack it. She was almost on the verge of giving up and swallowing her pride to ask Eliza for help (or, horror of horrors, owning up to her professor about giving up) when she decided to to take a long, hot shower first before giving it a final go. When she returned however, she saw Linda hunched over the problem, and seemingly engrossed writing down lots of things on her desk. Her adopted sister immediately stuttered and stumbled on her reply when she realised Alex had come out from her bath earlier. When Alex snatched the paper over her eyes practically dropped out from her eye sockets when she saw the scribbles on the notepad.
It was solved. A wonderful, elegant solve that would the envy of the best in their field. It didn’t even take Linda that long; Alex had only showered for fifteen minutes!
What was missing would be the final sign-off of “Q.E.D” at the bottom of the sheet followed by her signature.
Linda Lee had solved a quantum mechanics problem, seemingly as easily one were putting together one plus one equals two. This is despite the fact that she was deemed an average student only in class.
“Mediocre my ass.” Though now the more important question was, why did she try to act mediocre when clearly she’s not?
That was why Alex was became even more suspicious of the young woman who is now sleeping on the bed at the other side of the room. The more suspicious she got, the more frustrated she became as she couldn’t really understand who or what is her roomate up to.
During the past few PE sessions, Alex could tell that Linda does pretty well on various physical activities. Flexible, from the way she twisted and turned on various stretches and sports. Fast too on the track. But it’s as if she’s purposedly holding herself back, not even winded after finishing the regular 1.5K run a few places down from the winner.
As if she’s trying to blend in. Hide. From someone? Is there another purpose to doing so? Is she harboring a secret, and if yes, what is it? There isn’t much about Linda Lee (now Linda Lee Danvers) on social media even. Very few of her own personal posts other than some obligatory photos and pictures with friends.
Is there a potentially sinister reason for her to be in their home? Dr. Eliza Danvers. Lead researcher at LunarCorp has access to various top-secret projects. Could her mom be a potential target? After all, people with brains are required to understand the stuff that Eliza works on.
Then there’s Fred Danvers, the current local Commissioner of Police. Many people might harbour a grudge against him, and want to take him down. What better way to do so than to do place a mole within the family, pose as his adopted daughter and take him down? After all, Fred had worked on multilpe high-profile cases, including the human trafficking ring which won him accolades recently. Stuff like that paints a target on law enforcement officers very quickly.
Stuff of movies, but not impossible.
As Alex rode her bike down the highway towards National City University, the raven-haired woman made a silent vow that whatever secret that Linda harbours, she will uncover it. To make sure that the secrets that her adopted sister has kept hidden will not come to harm her family members. And as such, she didn’t want to alarm her parents as yet; instead she will keep all and any new information close to herself first, dig deeper and make sure before she spring a surprise on the perpetrator, if it comes to that.
She will do whatever it takes to protect her family.
Linda groaned in frustration as she finished packing the two boxes of chow mein for the takeaway. A normal activity that she had done thousands of times had taken her longer than expected; some of the still-hot gravy had even spilled onto her left hand accidentally, scalding her slightly
“Now that’s a scene you don’t see very often.” Kevin Chen chuckled as he came in from the counter, helping his classmate to pack up stuff at his dad’s chinese restaurant. “Miss sunshine here groaning in frustration.”
“Don’t pour oil to the fire. You know she’s been having a rough time.” David Chen peered out from the window linking the packing area with the kitchen, wafts of heat and the smell of cooking wafting partially through the opening into the restaurant. Smiling good humouredly, the owner continued as Kevin took the packed boxes to the waiting customer at the counter. “Moving into a new place is always tough. What more with a new family? For whatever it is, I think you’re doing well.”
“Thanks Mr Chen. I’m ok. Just that, sometimes I think Alex hates me.”
“Hate is a very strong word. I think she’s still trying to adjust to having you in her life. You said both of you are roomates?” Given that the evening is still young, the crowd has yet to hit, allowing the chef cum owner time to come out from his usual area to speak to his part-time employee.
“Yes. She was working on something which I thought I knew last night, but when she came back she practically blew her top off.” Linda purposedly didn’t mention that she had worked on postgraduate level math. “I thought I was helping…”
“… and she thought you were meddling. That happens. Ahhh… that reminds me of the time…”
“… when you came to America with Gramps, trying to fit in with the locals on the West Coast before making a decision to move to the middle of nowhere to start a new life with mom. Yeah we’ve heard that like a millions times already. Please leave Linda alone, Pa.” Kevin popped at just the right time to interject, and Linda mouthed an appreciative “thank you” before scooting out to sweep and clean up the place while waiting for more customers just as Kevin rattled off a few orders that came in through the food ordering app.
Waiting. That seems to be the situation for her right now. “Be Patient” Bruce had constantly reminded her. “Your body’s adjusting. Just wait. Soon you’ll be back to, you know, normal.” It’s been two months already since, and while Linda does feel herself having slightly more energy and strength than when she first returned to the orphanage, it wasn’t the same level. Freakishly however, despite all that, she seemed to be able to lift heavier and heavier weights despite her body remaining slim. Having snucked into the gym room after school hours for some personal testing, Linda have estimated that the latest few lifts, she was coming to about 80% of her peak weight of when she was working out at the Manor. Her top and bottom curves remained gentle; her bust looked slightly droopy and flattened as if that part of her had not kept up with the rest of her body’s development. All of these was why day-in day-out she wanted to check herself out in the bathroom mirror first before Alex, trying to detect any changes at all. But everyday the figure staring back at her in the mirror didn’t help get her hopes up, and she felt her smile being forced more and more with each passing day.
At least she had gotten her unique diet sorted out. Sort of. Instead of hand-deliveries to her room window at a designated time by that one female vampire adjudicator from Gotham (Linda had tried to time it when she was the only one home) it did cut things close a few times, for Alex’ schedule tends to be much more flexible and unpredictable. But Vampirella had finally managed to get her linked up with a local radio DJ called Carter Prose, who seems to be walking among both the regular Terrans and creatures alike with nary a care in the world. Perhaps his shows that
As she wiped down one of the tables, her mind drifted towards Derek who had swung by a few times to look in on her during work and at her new place. Eliza and Fred had given both of them a wide-berth a few days ago when he came by the house, and Linda DID think that given her currenty physical body now being akin to a regular Terran female, it would be the perfect time for them to take their relationship up to the next step. But when they kissed and made out more aggressively in the back row of the cinema that other day, she had felt… uncomfortable, somehow, part of her rational mind and mood clashing with her body which is eagerly anticipating and waiting to be taken, for Rao it’s been SOOOO long since she had something akin to sexual pleasures. Her growing maturity, and her now staying with the Danvers meant that without her powers taking her someplace safe and private she hasn’t even satisfied herself for a while. It really wouldn’t take much for her to eventually pleasure herself and make herself cum…
But since she had brought their session to a sudden stop the other day, she had felt a bit embarassed at the entire thing, given she had sent out all the right signals to her boyfriend. Derek had been eager to please, and that sudden curtailing of their activity left him a bit dumbstruck. She could see it in his demeanour as he drove home after dropping her back at the house. It might also be that cause that both of them haven’t spoken or texted each other since that evening.
Before her thoughts could dive deeper into that particular rabbit hole, she saw a family of four pushing through the front door. Looking around and not seeing Kevin whom she assumed have gone out for delivery, Linda immediately made her way over to serve the guests.
When Fred Danvers took the job of Commissioner of Police for Midvale-Leesburg, he had initially assumed that it would be an easier and less stressful position. To a certain extent, that has come true. So far for the past two months, much of his time was spent more on the crime prevention aspect and education of the public; regular policing rather than actively tracking down perpertrators and solving heinous crimes.
Until today that is.
“What have we got, Simmons?” Fred enquired when he approached the officer who waited for him just off the Ralston Bridge. Together they slowly made their way down a slope following a dirt-track off from the main trunk-road, one of a few that intertwines and connects the different parts of Leesburg and Midvale. Locals love to use this particular windy road rathre than the main trunk especially during the autumn season because of the beautiful foliage along the entire road between the two major towns, though it is not as well-lit and was the scene of a few particular nasty accidents.
At the bottom of the slope they came to the river bank, and they made their way upstream towards a more hilly area.
“A couple of boys called it in. Said they smelled something funny coming from the edge of the woods while going about the river bank earlier the afternoon. And that’s what we found.”
Fred Danvers bent down to look at the female body lying amidst fallen leaves and bushes. He couldn’t help but sigh. Too young to die. He couldn’t help but think about Alex, and Linda. Unlike many of the other bodies he has seen, this one is shirvelled. Dried out, would be the correct term, as if she had been drained of every last drop of fluid.
“Lucy Stane. Midvale High School. Figured that she had been here for a while, given her condition. But that’s the odd thing. We never received any reports from the family that she was missing.” Simms passed the few cards across, which Fred observed to be a healthy, curvy-looking even girl who looked to be as at ease on a teenage girl magazine as she is cheering on the football team from the sidelines.
“Well, if you can count it as such, she was initially covered by a Leesburg High School jacket.” Fred looked back at Simms. “Made-out session gone wrong, maybe?”
“Broken hearts usually, some cuts and bruises on flesh and body. But escalate into murder and into… this? This must be a first in history here no?” Simms nodded curtly. “What do you think caused the body to become… like this? Think weird cults and such?”
Fred was pensive as he stood back up. “Better get it checked out by the good doctor first before we make any more deductions. Work on facts rather than rumours first. Though I assume that we have contacted the family to get more details?”
“They’ll be waiting for you at the station.” Fred nodded, noting that it’s another difficult day for one with the uniform on the job when he heard Simms’ phone rang. A few seconds of conversation, and the officer turned around and told Commissioner Danvers. “I think you’re going to be late for that meeting at the station.” Seeing Fred’s puzzled expression he continued. “They found another one, in similar manner on the other side of town towards the Eastern side. It’s a boy with a Leesburg High jacket this time. ID in his pocket identified him as Derek Andrews.”
Despite the best of intentions, it was still a bad week for Linda Lee Danvers. When the news broke (no less by Fred Danvers himself at home) it had stunned her so that she couldn’t even bring herself to cry it out; instead, she had just climbed out and up towards the roof from her room’s window just the way she had seen Alex done previously, and sat there with her legs folded against her chest with her head on her knees almost the entire evening. Her mind went through the endless “What-ifs” of her never-ending spiral of guilt as she lamented her inability to help. Without her amazing Kryptonian powers, she’s felt pretty much useless now. Fred Danvers eventually had to practically drag her back down into her room to avoid her getting a cold, and it wasn’t until when her head hit her pillow that tears started flowing freely.
At least Alex had the common sense to move out and sleep on the couch that night, giving her a chance to let out all her emotions in private.
It wasn’t after the funeral three days later that she finally pulled herself together to process the entire situation. Despite her depowered form, she still knew people in this town and beyond. There might still be something that she could do. Fred had been adamant about not sharing sharing any of the details with Linda citing confidentiality despite her pleading and cajoling, and with Eliza backing Fred she had no choice but to look elsewhere. She found one from Carter, who was helping the police department field calls as part of a public service, where any information that could be of use will be funneled to the lead detective for the case.
“I don’t think this is a good idea, Linda. I mean, I know that …” but the moment the bald-headed radio-host looked into Linda’s pleading puppy eyes his own heart ached. Sighing, he passed on a simple A4-sized paper to Linda, where she read his summary of the items that were published or passed on to him.
“So, two victims; one male one female. Same agegroup but different ages, found in oppositive locations around town. Different circle of friends, don’t seem to go with the same group of people…”
“In general, it looks pretty much random. I know the police are still interviewing people and trying to figure out the common thread that brings both of them together, but at the moment nothing much on the social circle perspective. Not even social media. The only thing that is common is the way both of them died.” Carter leaned back heavily against his leather chair, as he continued. “You know that our bodies consist of 60% water right? The way the bodies were dried out I’d say that they lost a lot water.”
“You mean they were drained of blood.” It was a statement, though that set off alarm bells in Linda’s head. Carter replied carefully on that comment. “Yes, but blood is only one big part. The way the coroner put it, it’s as if every part of their body’s moisture was taken out somehow, hence their body looked like they were sucked dry, literally. I managed to gleaned at the report when I spoke to Detective Parker yesterday. And get this; there were no visible marks or scars on both bodies. So, that seems to rule out vampires, for now.”
To a certain extent Carter knows about the existent of creatures. At least, know enough to be able to converse intelligently and logically without being a whiz at the topic. After all, with heroes and villains of all sorts of origins currently living on Earth, it really isn’t that much of a leap for him to at least embrace that aspect of life, alien or not. Living in a relatively small town, he had seized upon an opportunity to carve out a particular corner for himself in the world of radio, doing both the regular news AND fielding sessions with conspiracy theorists on all topics from the local crime to the latest Justice League missions or even (supposedly) scandals.
It was also why, at least for now, that Vampirella entrusted Linda’s regular source of nutrition to this man. But that doesn’t mean that Linda trusts everything that the man says, despite at least having come comfort level that she will not be exposed anytime soon.
Which was why she brought up the same topic with the one that is most well-versed in vampirism in a phone call as she made her way home.
“Well, as far as I know we don’t really go for anything else than the blood. I mean, wringing the entire body dry sounds more of the work of a succubus more than anything. Too much work, and not really worth the effort.” Cool as a cucumber, Linda thought, as Vampirella spoke over the phone. She imagined the femme fatale actually talking to her with the usual glass of red-wine on the other hand.
“How can you be so sure? I mean, what about new converts?” Linda was obviously alluding to the new converted vampires.
“Did the bodies combust? That’s your tell-tale sign there. Besides, I can confirm that those bodies didn’t have any bite marks, just as I can attest that you are not wearing your Kyptonian suit beneath your pastel-pink coloured blouse now.”
“I… How did you…” Linda almost smacked herself with that. Of course Vampirella will know. Supervision, superhearing, speed and all that, courtesy of her Kryptonian abilities. That would mean… “Wait, are you now nearby?” looking upwards and sideways, she thought she spotted a non-moving blot somewhere high above her in the orange evening sky.
She could almost hear the grin that came through. Another reason how she wished she still had her powers. “Fine. Stay there. So, succubus.”
“Basically a kind of mythical creature that needs to partake another being’s lifeforce to survive. To tell you the truth, that was what I remember seeing from books. Never met one before.”
“That’s not very helpful. What kind of books are those anyway?” Linda rued.
“The kind that helps in my work. Another thing that I remember from the text, is that succubus are normall associated with the feminine sex, and seduce of their potential prey is their standard modus operandi. You know, before doing what they want to do. Again, nothing verifiable. Whatever it was, best to keep your eyes peeled, for if experience were any indication, the body count tends to go up until the person is caught.”
Later that night, in one of the houses in the suburbs, a middle-aged man was seemingly trying to console his ward, who was lying on the bed tossing and turning. Seemingly feverish, the teenager was mumbling incoherently even as the father placed another wet towel on the person’s forehead while trying his best to calm the person down.
“Don’t worry. It’ll all be over soon.” The father spoke quietly, though from his facial expression reflected from the wardrobe mirror, it didn’t seem convincing at all.
One good thing that came out from all this, if one were to call it that, was that it seemed tto have galvanised communities. This unfortunate incident actually brought the people of Midvale and Leesburg closer together, with people volunteering for neighbourhood watches to help out for at least these few weeks partnering with local enforcement. Linda, too, surprisingly found that many people actually came up to her when she returned to school, asking how she was doing in genuine concern.
Even Shannon Rodgers, the cheerleading captain who is currently dating Tyrell Banks the school’s quarterback, came to offer her condolences and well-wishes. Atlethic and with short curvy browwn hair, Shannon looks as comfortable with cheerleading as with doing the actual running on the track.
Among other things, of course. She did stop by with one other reason as well.
“You know, despite all the going-ons, I’ve managed to convinced Principal Walters that the show must go on, with appropriate security measures of course. Seems like the police are also with the opinion that there is no reason for us to stop anything anyway. You will still come for the dance next week right?”
“I… uh, let me think about it?” Linda fidgeted slightly with that thought. “By the way, you look great yourself, Shannon! I mean, I heard about your broken leg a month ago when you accidentally fell down the stairs, but now you look absolutely awesome!”
Shannon beamed. “I know, right? I did have to go through lots of tough physio, and of course I needed some drugs to help with alleviate the pain and help with the healing, but apparently my body seemed to have recovered faster. Good genes plus Still not allowed cheerleading yet, but I am hoping to wrangle that approval sheet off of Doc the next time I see him. In any case, hope to see you there for the dance!” A quick wave, and she’s off with her own gaggle of cheerleading friends.
“Looks like you’re the most popular person in school now, Linda, like it or not…” Kevin Chen said when another few guys turned up to offer their symphaties as they were walking along the hallway towards the tables outdoors, to catch-up on assignments. “From the looks of it, at least humanity does deserved to be saved after all.” Given that Kevin and Linda wasn’t part of any cliques, this entire experience was new to both.
Blushing, Linda blurted out “But… I mean, I am touched, but isn’t it better to offer their help and symphaties to the Andrews? I mean…” with that, she looked down somewhat, the guilt churning within her mind.
“Oh, there seems to be something in the works, based on what I heard from the grapevine.” Josie Parker quipped. “I think the company that employed the father is offering him a stable job for the forseeable future, that way economically they would still be taken of for a while until the second eldest graduates.”
Frizzled hair and wearing a pair of oversized glasses, the petite school paper editor and future journalist wannabe just seem to be the main repository for anything newsworthy. That her uncle happened to work with CNN probably helped, though for many including Linda, her ability to get to the bottom of certain things seemed to be bordering on invasion of privacy. Once she was reprimanded for actually breaking into the school after hours, trying to catch a (supposedly) thief who was trying to access a teacher’s desktop computer to get their exam questions.
As they all took a seat at one of the tables under one of the large, magnolia trees in the courtyard, Josie commented nonchalantly. “You know, this is one of the things that might make or break careers. Imagine if we are able to solve the case… hmmm, I smell scholarships, accolades, even the Pulitzer…” Kevin rolled his eyes as Linda smiled, both of them familiar with Josie’s tendency to try and turn any potential leads into a news story.
“What makes you think you can do much better than the professionals? Even CNN has to rely on law enforcement and the FBI for anything related to crime-story reporting.” Josie just raised wagged her finger in a mocking way against the ever-pragmatic Kevin. “We actually have a bigger advantage than you realise. These victims are are our peers, and people our age group only share and interact more with our own group. Think about it. When was the last time you told your parents everything about your day at school or beyond since you stepped into high school?”
“We?” Linda asked curiously. The nod by the frizzled-hair Josie said it all.
Kevin laughed and shook his head. “No can do Ms Pulitzer. Your chases tend to everyone down too many rabbit holes. Unlike you, I DO have my studies AND work to get to, so count me out.”
“Come on, Kevin. Think how good it would look on your resume when you send your application to Stanford or Harvard?” It wasn’t lost on Linda that despite all of Josie’s bravado that Kevin really is the brain among the three of them, not to mention a nice guy to boot, respected by peers and adults alike. Realistically, even if all of them are able to find new leads, it would most probably be down to Kevin Chen to link everything up and make the conclusion.
“Besides, I already have a few leads.” That comment raised eyebrows. “What, you guys don’t believe me?”
“Well, not that we don’t believe you…” Linda replied diplomatically, before Kevin quipped “What makes you think those leads are credible anyway?”
“I have it in good faith that Derek and Lucy were at a recent party hosted at the Marriott Hotel downtown. Derek was supposedly working, while Lucy was a guest.” Derek had always been taking part-time catering jobs on the side, hence him working at the hotel wasn’t something unusual.
“What kind of party?”
“Lemmesee…” Josie pulled out her phone and checked a few things. “Supposedly a product launch. Think it’s pharma-related. Small and exclusive, invitations for a select few only.”
“That doesn’t really make sense. Why would Lucy be involved in that? And how did you find out about this anyway?”
“Well, Lucy’s a friend of a friend of a friend…” Both Linda & Kevin just glared at Josie at that relevation. Chalk it up to a journalist-wannabe to actually know the victim personally. “That event was actually an exclusive from a pharma company trying to get some investments, hence they were appealing to the have-its so that they can also throw their rings into the hat before the product launches. You know, to make tons of money on it.”
“Hard to imagine that this didn’t come out from the official investigation, even though I’m sure it’s no revealed to the press due to confidentiality.” Kevin took a swag from his coffee mug, poking holes in that thought.
“Maybe, maybe not. All who were there were also given a little something during that event as well.”
“That’s a little too far-fetched. I mean, an experimental drug given to everyone, in a downtown hotel? Plus, if they were to do so, why would they administer it to the waiters, like Derek who only works there part-time?” Again, Linda thought Kevin challenged that comment brillantly.
“Well… that might be true. But the key point is that, both of them were at the same location before they, you know, expired.” That thought lingered for a while in the air when the bell went for the next period.
“Did the stories check out?” Fred Danvers asked. Already a week after the bodies were discovered, the investigation seemed to have run into a dead-end. They had already noted the pharma exclusive event, and a quick call to the company had quickly brought them a list of attendees for that evening. The team had worked on identifying odd-one-outs or those who had RSVP-ed, but for some reason had skipped out or left earlier.
Simmons stood up and crossed out the final name on the list of suspects. “Yes. The mistress was with him at the motel just outside of Midvale. So his going to the launch was more of a ruse to have a ‘hook up’. And then… we’re out of suspects.”
Fred had assembled a small task force to try and crack the case. While more legs on the street is always welcomed, experience told him that having a small core team for the brainwork tends to work better. Other than Simmons who found the first body, he also had his deputy Karen Sand and Clyde Tombs on the team. All except him have been on the local force for at least 5 years.
Karen ventured the first alternative thought. “You know, it’s curious why Lucy would be there. I mean, yes, the parents are there. But given her age…” Clyde nodded in agreement. “If you’re 17, you’d be looking to be with your agegroup, rather than be at a meaningless sales pitch, irregardless of the free food and flow of alcohol. I’d be bored out of my life.”
That brought an interesting thought to the Commissioner of Police. “What about the other investors? Did they happen to have teenagers in their family? Were they there too?”
“Now THAT’s the interesting part. Other than the few whom we chased down, the rest DID bring their children too. And Yes, all of them are teenagers.” Simmons looked up from his notepad. “Now why would a company invite the entire family instead of just the parents?”
Clyde ventured a chilling thought. “Maybe the children were the target?”
“Target of whom though? The company? That doesn’t make sense.” Simmons was the first to cast doubt on that thought.
“Where were the children at that time anyway? Must be difficult to keep them in one place?” Looking at Simmons’ blank stares, Fred asked again. “Maybe this is the key. Try to find out where they ALL were. That could be the missing link that we are looking for. Check with Stan…” Stan Rodgers was the spokesperson for the pharma company who had provided the guest list. “… and let’s see what that leads us.”
“I hate being a chaperone.” Alex groaned to Mr Crest near one of the sidedoors of the main hall of Leesburg High School, as they stood watch at the scene unfolding before them.
“This is a waste of time.” Howard Crest chuckled at that comment, which quickly earned him a glare from Alex despite the rock band playing in the background. “What?”
“Given that you aren’t that much older than the rest of the group here, I thought you’d at least appreciate getting out of the classroom for a good reason. Unlike me, in standard teacher getup with a slight belly bulge, not much I can do. Besides, you are dressed for the occasion. If anything, at least we all know who can act the part of saving the day in case of emergencies.”
The halloween theme was obvious due to the nearness to the actual day itself, and the entire school was decked out in a combination of orange and black coupled with lots of web-like decos. Cheesy, yet somehow apt.
True to her own character, Alex had gone for something intuitively in line with her usual. Dressed in full black leather pants suit and boots, she looked every bit the special agent that she was dressed as. Or a famous spy, depending on whose side you deem her to be. The thicker soles had the additional benefit of propping her height another two inches, and she loved how it made her legs look much longer. All that’s missing would be a proper gun in a hip holster, which Fred Danvers had firmly denied her to pack, citing high risk of an accident within the vicinity of civilians.
The dance is already in full swing at the moment, and throngs of teenagers in various getups are now in the midst of mingling with each other, some in a not so subtle manner. It was obvious that hormones are running high this evening, and Alex’ suspicions that part of it is down to the drinks was confirmed. The students manning the booth handed over different cups from slightly different bowls depending on who approached table, and the content was confirmed with one sip of her own. Not a lot of kick compared to the college circuit, but it definitely helps.
Guess being 19 years-old despite being a TA does have its perks.
“In any case, looks like more than a few warm-bloods are drawn to Linda in her alter-ego already. ” nodding towards Linda Lee Danvers, who for some reason today seemed to be mingling much more than usual. “If you’re not careful, she might get picked up.” He continued with a grin.
Looking over towards the side, she saw her adopted sister in animated conversation with her usual crowd. No Kevin Chen today, but Josie, Norah and a few other non-cliquish ones are congregated there. A few boys ventured forward, but their dance requests seemed to have been politely refused.
Alex had initially refused to take Linda along, since she had actually planned to drop by one of the pubs mid-way and had a proper drink before she returned home. But when Linda came down dressed as Sookie Stackhouse of the show “True Blood”, Eliza had immediately put her foot down insisting that they went together. Even Alex’ eyes widened when she took in Linda’s maturing figure which filled-out the tight white t-shirt, and stretching the tight knee-length black pants and completed the ensemble with a dark-olive apron over the pants. A simple pair of white sneakers completed the ensemble, and despite the thickness of Alex’ boots Linda is still slightly taller at 5 feet 9 inches.
Who knew that her sister could look THAT hot in a tight-fitting costume, even if the dress-up is the simplest that she could do in the shortest amount of time with limited budget. She actually thought Linda’s face looked more natural with the blonde hair that she is sporting currently; her hair looked full and shiny with the evening sun beaming down through the rear-view mirrror as her sister leaned against her back as they rode through town in Alex’ Kawasaki.
Which made it even more suspicious why a young teenage woman like Linda wouldn’t want to look like that day-in day-out; instead was just contented to dress in slightly bulkier clothing. The thought of Linda disguising herself from the everyday looks came again to her mind.
“She can take care of herself.” Strong words, though Alex wasn’t fooling anyone especially herself. For some reason she kept coming back to check on her adopted sister, just to make sure she was ok.
But what happened later was a little bit unexpected, not to mentioned out of character.
Eventually, Alex had to go. Too much of a good thing will do that, especially when it comes to alcohol mixed into punch. With the limited mixing though she couldn’t even get high enough before she needed the bathroom. As she walked along the darkened hallway towards the teachers’ bathroom at the end, she overheard noises coming along some of the rooms along the corridor. Knowing enough about the hormones running high at the moment, she pretended not to hear it until she heard a weird call out through the slips of the door.
“No… please… H… Help…”
That stopped Alex in her tracks, who quickly turned around to figure out where that came from. She tried to peer through the windows, but many of them are too dark to see anything.
Then she heard another low moan coming from her left, which incidentally happened to be the small infirmary. Walking quickly across and peering through the small window on the door, Alex’ eyes opened wide, feeling very much sober now when she saw the sillhouete of the couple illuminated by the moonlight coming through the window at the end of the room.
“What the hell is going on here?” Alex threw the door open and strode in, calling out in her most authoritative voice, hoping to have arrived in time. She stopped dead in her tracks at just near the entrance.
Two young women in costume, getting at it. On the small bed.
Her eyes adjusted slightly before she realised that it wasn’t just anyone.
It was Shannon Rodgers. And Joanne Goodall.
The Joanne Goodall, the tall and curvy 5 ft 11 All-American volleyball captain whom everyone know is poised to step-up to college ball. The one that Alex had a crush on the moment she saw her, running around the court and delivering spike after spike in her sweaty tight uniform over the net. The one that she had kissed behind one of the rafters after one of the latest match, but was then embarassed when her crush told her she wasn’t into women.
And now, this.
Joanne is dressed in a dark-coloured catsuit. Given the makeup, the darkened eyebrows and the wide-opened mouth, she definitely fits the bill of a thirsty vampiress, what with her ginger-coloured hair flowing behind her.
And on the ground was Shannon, dressed in a replica of a Supergirl costume with a blonde wig, just like the other twenty other girls this evening. The cheerleader looked weak, her head laying on the stacked-up pillows on the small bed used for normal checkups.
From the looks of it, Alex had interrupted a very intimate session between the two.
Or something else, judging from two small wounds on Shannon’s neck on the right. But from her angle and lack of natural light, she couldn’t be sure if it’s really small wounds.
And then there was something else that Alex thought was odd…
“Alex?” Joanne’s deeper voice brought Alex out from her own reverie. Her crush’s own facial expression seemingly changed when she realised who it was who came in. It went from dazed and confused, to frantic. “No, this… this isn’t what it looks like…”
“Hey, how come the … Whoa… what do we have here?” Suddenly another face appeared. An unwanted face. Followed by another familiar face. “Wow, this is going to a real news piece!” as one of the newcomer quickly took out the phone and started recording the scene before Alex and Linda both reacted by trying to block the view and the focus of Josie Parker.
“No, NO! Stop IT JOSIE! You are not doing this right NOW!!” But the damage has been done. By the time Linda snatched the phone away, and turned back towards the two women in the room, they realised both girls had already fainted, one stacked ontop of another on the single bed.