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The Afflicted (Semi-Closed)

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This thread is semi-closed:


Want to join? PM @Ace with a description of your character, how they fit into the story, and an idea of how they might be introduced into the narrative. No magical or supernatural characters, please.


The Setting: Harlem.  August, 1948. 

Three years after the Japanese surrendered to General MacArthur aboard the USS Missouri, officially bringing the Second World War to a close, life is finally starting to return to a semblance of normal. For most, at least. Many of the millions of GIs who have returned home will never feel "normal" again. Some of them will never be able to talk about what horrors they've seen. 

But the radio man says things are looking up. The economy is springing back. (Yeah, maybe in Morningside Heights. You doubt the disc jockey has ever stepped foot above 93rd street.) Most days you can feel a sense of optimism returning to people. New York is even holding its first international Jazz festival this summer, bringing business to several of the nightclubs in the neighborhood. Who knows; You've heard regular joes are going to be able to trade on their service time to get themselves a patch of grass and a white picket fence down in Long Island thanks to Roosevelt. God rest his soul. People are bandying about words like innovation and progress at the news stands. Maybe things *are* about to start looking up for America. 

Depends on where you sit. Here, in this rundown office building on the corner of 125th and Lenox Avenue, the future isn't looking so rosy. In fact, it doesn't look anything but hot. New York City is entering it's twelfth day of an unbearable mid-August heat wave, and up here where the bodies are packed a little tighter, the sweltering weather has either struck people down in a dizzying torpor, or put them deeply on edge. 


The Players: 


| Regina Ramos |

Race: Italian / Puerto Rican
Age: 24
Birthplace: New York City
Occupation: Research Assistant / Junior Detective

Background: Regina fought her way, tooth and nail, to a full scholarship at Columbia, where she studied forensic science and sociology. However, despite her excellent marks and consistently high scores on the police academy entrance exam, the NYPD wasn't ready to welcome a Puerto Rican girl from Washington Heights into their ranks. 

Luckily for Regina, when a would-be private eye came sniffing around her circles six months ago in search of a bright mind with plenty of initiative to round out his agency, Regina's professors recommended her unanimously. 

Edited by Ace

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ArtStation - Billy Christian

Cole Sharpe

Race: American/Scottish
Age: 29
Birthplace: Detroit, Michigan
Occupation: Private Detective/Corporal (Ret)


Cole was born to a middle-class family in Detroit; spending much of his early life helping out in his families restaurant. When WW2 broke out, he enlisted in the army and fought with the 7th Infantry Regiment during the Italian campaign. During this time he was awarded The Silver Star; though the circumstances under which he earned it are not widely known. 

Upon returning to the States after the war, Cole found himself unable to return to his old life. He moved to New York, and worked as a bouncer at a local night club while he worked to get his PI license. Now with a few cases under his belt, he went looking for a capable partner. His search would lead him to Regina Ramos, who he took on as Research Assistant/Junior Detective.


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Scorching, the newspapers called it. Oppressive. 

New York was suffocating under this spell of muggy, tropical heat for the twelfth straight day. All around the neighborhood, people had been finding different ways to cope with their bodily hell. Elderly women sat on the stoops, in the shade, waving out-of-fashion hand fans at their tomato faces. Someone had taken a wrench to the fire hydrant on the corner and cool water gushed out into onto the pavement in a fountain that was six-feet tall. A group of children played in the spray, splashing, daring each other to stand close to the source and withstand the beating of the torrent. Rousing the dead with their hyena laughs and screams of delight. 

And above this scene, through an open third-floor window, Regina Ramos somehow manages to ignore the bedlam. 

A folding chair has been pushed up to the wall just beneath the open window. A stack of books, at least eight or nine strong, have been piled up on the chair seat in a skewed and unsettling architecture. On top of that, a wire-caged desk fan whirs, its head rotating sluggishly from side to side. The narrow paper ribbons tied around its grill audibly flutter and flap like locusts' wings in the artificial breeze. 

The young detective stands at her desk, hunched over the eyepiece of a comparison microscope. Her thick, dark hair is twisted into a messy knot on the crown of her head and her forehead and neck shine with sweat. On one side of the desk, piles of white and yellow paper appear to have been swept as far to the side as possible before they start spilling onto the floor, seemingly to make room for the steel contraption with ugly, tan-grey that is chipped and flaking away with age. That regard for space apparently didn't extend to the woman's other side, where a half-eaten Cubano sandwich on a tin plate and an open, paper-bound book lay right on top of the litter of notes and file folders. 


One of the neighbors was at it again. Loud banging and hammering has been audible from one of the suites on the floor above us for three days now. All hours of the day and night; you never knew when it would start up again, or for how long. 

Her brow above the nose wrinkles in concentration as she carefully twists a knob on the side in her fingers, focusing the lens. The strong, incandescent light glares up from the base of the instrument and through its double glass stage, illuminating a single strand of hair pressed between each slide. 

Regina's eyes narrow, peering into the eyepiece for a few moments, then to a diagram on the page of the open book, then back to the microscope. Finally she grabs a ball-point pen and scribbles, murmuring to herself. 

"Test sample shows... uneven... cortex density... compared with... control. Blue tint to... light filtration... confirms presence... of cocaine." 


Another burst of noise echoes from the floor above. Regina tilts her head and looks up. It had sounded different this time. Hollower... deeper and more resonant: someone knocking on the door. She listens.


BA-BA-BAM -- It came again, louder, followed by a bellow of outrage. "Hey ASSHOLE. Cut it out in there! YOU HEAR ME!?


Regina hears another voice chime in. "Unbelievable!," they yell. "Do you believe this guy?!" 

Uh-oh, the young woman's lips twisted into a frown. The tenants were starting to lose patience. She straightened and flipped the metal toggle on the base of the microscope, killing the lamp. The hammering continued, and now Regina was starting to hear office doors thrown open and hard stomping on the floor above. 

She wipes the back of her arm across her forehead, catching the beads of sweat from her hairline, and sighs. "Hey Cole--" Regina raises her voice slightly as she crosses to the frosted door of her office and turns the key in her lock. 

Her partner's desk was in the front room. The agency couldn't afford a secretary, and it hadn't taken Sharpe long to decide that Ramos' mess and the often unpleasant odor of her experiments were not conducive to strong first impressions. Neither, for that matter, was her manner. So, he had ushered her into the private office and set up his own desk to receive and consult with the clients who walked in. 

"Cole," Regina repeated, unrolling her shirt sleeves as she stepped into the outer office. She slid a pair of maroon suspenders back onto her shoulders. "Maybe we oughta step in up there. It sounds like they're ready to break down the door." 

Edited by Ace

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"Jerk's lucky I'm not up there with them," the detective remarked, "Three days of this crap is long enough."

Cole slid the last part of his M1911 back into place before setting it down on his desk to admire his handiwork. The gun that lay before him had seen him through the Italian campaign without every jamming, misfiring, or malfunctioning in any way whatsoever. It was the only firearm he ever wanted by his side; and he cleaned and inspected it every day, despite the fact that he only ever fired it at the range once a week. His old drill sergeant had beaten into him the maxim that if you took care of your gear, your gear would take care of you; and he lived by it to this day.

Satisfied with his work, he looked up to meet the gaze of his student/assistant, and instantly knew that he would be going to deal with the riot brewing upstairs. Regina reminded him of the women he had met back in Sicily; smart, confidant, and not about to take crap from anyone. He had been attracted to her instantly; both on a professional and personal level. Thus far he had only acted on the former; quickly offering her a position at his fledgling private detective agency. He still wasn't sure if he would ever to anything about the later, but probably not. Waiting until it was too late and then regretting it was a well established pattern in his romantic relationships.

Sliding a clip into his gun and chambering a round, he got to his feet and placed the weapon in the holster on his right hip. Glancing at the jacket that hung on a rack near the door, he decided it was too hot to bother with and glanced at Regina.

"Let's take a look."

A short jog upstairs later found the pair in the third floor hallway, where a number of the buildings other occupants had gathered around a single door at the end of the hall. Pushing his way through the throng of people, Cole reached the front just in time to see a solidly built man in his fifties pounding on the door.

"Open this door or so help me god, I will come in there and shove my foot all the way up your-"

"No you won't, Lou," Cole interjected.

Lou whirled around, clearly ready to verbally savage whoever had been bold enough to tell him what he would and would not do. Until he saw Cole that is; along with the firearm resting on his hip. For his part, the detective simply stood there; arms folded, expression firm, but neutral. 

"You taking his side Sharpe?" inquired Lou, "I thought detectives were supposed to serve the people."

"Private Detective," Cole corrected, "Which means I only give a shit if you pay me. Still, I'm not such a heartless bastard that I can stand by and abide lynch mobs kicking down doors and passing their own judgement. If you really can't stand the noise, call the cops. Otherwise, learn to live with it."

Lou glared daggers at Cole, but ultimately snorted and made his way out of the hallway muttering obscenities. Soon enough the rest of the cloud had cleared out too, leaving detective and detective-in-training alone in the corridor. Just as he was about to suggest going back to the office, there was another bout of banging.

"What the fuck is this guys problem?" muttered Cole.

Edited by danzilla3

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"One day that man is going to blow a sprocket," Regina muttered so only her partner could hear, her eyes sidelong, following Lou to the stairwell. Once sure the barrel-chested walking time-bomb was fully committed to his retreat, she glanced around to the other tenants. She attempted an air of compassionate leadership, something she had heard from the crime dramas on the radio when the police chief or the mayor had to give a statement to soothe the frightened mob. "We'll look into this, people.  For now I suggest you all return to your offices."  Most of the small crowd appeared not to hear her at all, but their blood seemed to have cooled a little and gradually they all plodded back to their respective holes. 

She turned back to Sharpe and the mysterious noises coming from inside, and shook her head in bewilderment. "I got nothing." They'd never had reason to meet the tenant of suite 4B. The gold painted lettering on the frosted glass door read, Clark Price, FSA. Property and Casualty Insurance Actuary. A wrinkle formed at the bridge of the young woman's nose. "What would an actuary be hammering on?" she asked aloud, although to no one in particular but herself. 

Regina's lips twisted together thoughtfully. She slowly crouched down to one knee, gesturing for Cole to stand guard, and leaned forward to see if she could see anything illuminating through the keyhole. Before she could peer through, however, she was struck in the nostrils by the foulest, rankest odor she'd ever smelled. "Madre de Dios!" Regina exclaimed, stumbling back to her feet and backwards with both hands flying to cover her nose and mouth. It had smelled like rotted meat, shit, and burnt oil. "My God, Cole, that stench!" 

Her eyes widened a little, and she looked at her partner with a worried realization. A knowing gravity weighed down her voice.  "You had better break down the door..." 


Edited by Ace

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Cole turned back to his partner to express his exasperation at what she had just asked him to do. Hadn't they come up here to make sure that nobody did the exact thing that she had just suggested. Yet the words died on his throat when he saw the dread in her expression and felt the weight of her tone. With a sigh, he drew his weapon and squared up with the door. 

"Here we go."

The detective lunged forward with a kick aimed squarely at the area around the door knob which sent the flimsy door flying inward. As soon as it was out of the way, he was hit by a stench so powerful that it almost felt like he had slammed face first into a wall. During the war he had often been around corpses that had been left to rot; but the smell coming out of that office was so much worse. For a moment he felt physically unable to move himself any further inside; his feet suddenly feeling like two bricks of lead. But having come this far, there was no way he could turn back and forced himself forward.

Inside he found a reception area that looked like a whirlwind had torn through. All the desk drawers were open; their contents strewn all over the floors. The phone was off the hook; and he could hear the steady sound of the dial tone from the overturned receiver. On the ground, the chair that was likely used by the receptionist was turned over; the arms ripped off to leave only the seat and back. So far there were no bodies though.

"Room clear, pressing on!"


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Regina took a deep breath before following her partner inside. The fetid, decaying smell in the office made her eyes water, and a sick feeling rise to her throat. She steeled herself to the stench and scanned the room, just as her partner had done before her. The room looked ransacked: The drawers missing from the desk. A chair seat toppled onto the floor. Gina gave this a puzzled frown and asked, "Why do you think they took the arms and legs?"

"And look-" She tilted her head towards a bookshelf near the window. Books were piled up messily on the bottom three shelves; not lined up the way you were supposed to stock a bookshelf, but with volumes shoved flat-side down on top of the vertical stacks, some of them leaning against the shelved books with their covers facing the room. Someone had just emptied a shelf in a hurry, stashing books wherever they would fit, and there was at least a two foot gap between the uppermost pile of books and the top of the wooden case. "The top shelf is gone."

But Cole didn't hear her. He was focused on the door to the inner office, and what might be behind it. A hammer was still banging away on the other side of the door, so the two knew they weren't alone. But what had happened here? And why couldn't they get an answer?

Regina sucked a breath through her teeth and lower lip, the way she did in sympathy-pain when Cole would talk about his war injuries, or when one of her brothers said something stupid to their mother and outed themselves from their own lie. "Careful," she urged quietly, sliding her own pistol out of its shoulder holster. The sound of the hammer inside was starting to echo the sound of Regina's own heart. She looked on, fearfully, as Cole slowly turned the knob and opened the door. She braced herself, ready for Cole to rush in, to callout to the man in the room. Ready for bullets to start flying.

But he didn't. Cole stood frozen, staring at something she couldn't see. She heard a low, stunned "What in the hell..." from his lips.

"What? What is it?" Gina pressed, but this protégé wasn't the type to wait for an answer. She approached, still a few feet behind Sharpe and stepping around to the side where she could get a glimpse through the crack he had opened.

Regina almost dropped her pistol when she saw it. "Oh my God..." The woman muttered, her eyes widening in horror, and crossed herself. 

Through the narrow slit between the door and the jam, she saw what this Craig Pierce had been hammering. It was a tower in the center of the room–the kind kids might build out of chairs and end tables, just to see how high they could reach. Seven feet tall, and tilted unnervingly. A tower built out of broken slabs of wood...

— and the bloody corpses of at least twenty-five dead dogs.

Mutts of all shapes and sizes, their faces frozen in a glassy-eyed howl of terror. Boards were nailed into the canine remains— in the center of the skulls, through their jaws and even anchored into their ribcages— like support beams. But it was the dog bodies that formed the true architecture of the structure— and it would have needed the cross-beams for support. The irregular geometry of this tower looked like nothing that should have been able to stand up on its own, oddly concave on one side, so the top layers looked to be holding onto the rest by only a corner, its weight unsupported. 

That split second that her eyes were fixed on this grotesque spectacle felt like a decade. Regina felt lost in time, stunned beyond measure. But the decade in her mind ended abruptly when the banging (which she now noticed had a wet squish and a sickening crunch to it at the end) came to a sudden stop. 

"Close the door!" Regina hissed, hurtling forward to wrap her hands around Cole's hand on the knob. Just as she threw her weight backwards and the door slammed closed, the frosted glass exploded around them with a terrible shatter. She shrieked and instinctively pressed her face into her partner's back, head turned to the side and low, to protect her eyes from the shrapnel. Pierce— at least, she could only assume it was the tenant inside, driven mad by something and building himself an obelisk from Hell— had discovered his intruders and flung the hammer in their direction with all his might, screeching wildly.


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Cole remembered his first experience with death.

The 3rd Infantry Division had been holding their beachhead on the shores of Anzio for two months after landing virtually unopposed in late January. As Cole had understood it, the plan had been to force the enemy to retreat, and then pursue them all the way to Rome. Instead, they had been ordered to dig in, and fortify their position for an enemy counterattack. Unfortunately, this had given time for the Germans to call in reinforcements and surround their position. What followed was some of the fiercest fighting of the War, with the Allies desperately trying to hold their position while the Axis launched assault after assault aimed at driving them out.

During one such attack, Cole had been manning a machine gun; aided by a young Private by the name of Jenkins. Cole was only passingly familiar with the other man, but they got on well enough. As his gun ran dry, he had looked over to the Private just in time to see a round take off everything above his lower jaw. Even though this wasn't his first battle, Cole had never seen a comrade die up close. Sure, he had killed Germans and Italians, but never this close. There had been no time to really let it sink in, as the battle was still raging, and he had to keep fighting. It was only later when the attack was over that what he had seen really began to hit home. He didn't lose it until he realized his face was still covered in Jenkins blood and brain matter. 

While he would see many more men die over the course of the Italian Campaign, that was the one that he knew would always stay with him until the day he took his final breath. You never forget your first, as they say; and he guessed that was true for more than just sex. Anytime he wanted, he could go back to that moment in his head; see it in slow motion if he so desired. Or even if he didn't.

But the sight in front of him was unlike anything Cole had ever seen. It reminded him of the stories that the troops who had liberated the death camps in Germany had told in hushed whispers. Yet this seemed somehow worse... unnatural. The structure of flesh and wood looked like it should not be able to exist, but there it stood. Still caught somewhere between awe and horror, he had barely noticed Regina put her hand over his and close the door. It took the bloody hammer flying through the glass and past his head; and the scream of his partner to bring him back to reality.

"Call the cops, GO!" he roared.

Pierce let out another inhuman screech and charged at them; seemingly unaware of the door between the detectives and himself. Bouncing off of it, he simply tried again; that horrible keening never ceasing.

"Stay back, Pierce!" Cole ordered.

The crazed man glanced at Cole, and for a moment the detective thought he could see something like recognition in Pierce's eyes. It lasted only a moment before he continued to charge the door. Cheap wood that had never been meant to take such abuse began to give way. Cole leveled his gun at his upstairs neighbor.

"Don't make me do this, damnit!"

Finally the door gave way under the frenzied assault, and Pierce spilled out onto the floor. In an instant he was back on his feet, sprinting toward Cole with an expression of crazed malice. The detective pulled the trigger on his gun; once, then twice, then thrice, until all eight rounds had been expended. Pierce's face went slack, and he fell limp to the floor, like a puppet with cut strings. Cole ejected the spent magazine and moved forward cautiously to check for a pulse. Finding none, he stepped back.

"God damn it..." he whispered.

Once the war was finally over, he had hoped to whatever God might be out there that he would never be forced to kill another human being again. He'd managed to last three years before falling off the wagon. Stumbling out of the office, he leaned against the wall outside; sliding down into a sitting position, and stared blankly ahead.


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"Call the cops, GO!" he roared.

Those imperative words seemed almost an override code for Regina. Time and rational thought, even emotion seemed to freeze. Overtaken with instinct, the young woman sprang to the phone on the desk and whisked the receiver up to her ear with her right hand. Her left index and middle finger toggled the cradle rapidly. "Hello? Operator, hello?" But it was no use, the phone was dead.

Without pausing any longer on a lifeline that wouldn't work, Gina let the receiver fall from her hands and raced for the door. Down the stairs and back to their office, thankful they had left the door unlocked in their hurry to investigate the commotion. Thinking they would only be gone a few minutes.

She burst through into their office and snatched the phone off of Cole's desk, screaming into it. "Operator, get me the police. It's an emergency.– Hurry!--No, don't put me on hold!" 

A gunshot cracked through the silence on the floor above. then five more. Bam-bam-bam-bam-bam, nearly as rapid as machine gunfire. A tinny voice in her hear asked, "You said emergency?" 

"Y-yes, I'm at Lenox and 125th. Shots fired! Send help, quickly!'

'N- Number 72. 72 West 125th... fourth floor– for God's sakes, please hurry!"

The voice on the other end of the line seemed (finally) to pick up on her urgency. She heard the chaos of respondents trying to spring into action in the background, try to whip themselves awake and summon the reflexes of a worthier creature than a couple of middle-aged Marvins with pot bellies and a past-due notice on their mortgage. 

Regina hung up immediately and sprinted for the stairs again, roaring at the peeking faces, stirred by the sound of gunshots, as she raced by. "GET BACK INSIDE." 

She took the stairs two at a time. Two, four. Goddamnit Cole, be alive. 

Six, eight. Be alive, be alive

Twelve! She readied her pistol grip the way Sharpe had shown her and threw the door to the fourth-floor landing open with her shoulder, arms strong, gun levied.

There was Cole on the floor, his back to the wall. 

Regina ran to him and knelt, pulling aside the flaps of his jacket to check his sides for blood, her fingers gingerly curving around his torso to help flatten and nudge aside any obstacles obstructing her view. "Cole– Cole are you alright?" But her partner appeared unhurt, only shaken. "The cops are on their way," she assured him breathlessly.

The door across from Pierce's office opened this time, and the optometrist in 4C cautiously showed his head. "Inside!" Regina barked. Dr. Giarelli noted the gun in her hands and found himself thoroughly persuaded, his eyes widening. The door slammed shut again, and silence retook the hallway. Satisfied that Sharpe had taken no injury, Regina took the opportunity in this moment to glance back at the door to Pierce's office. 

It looked ominous, standing ajar like that. The glass and wood throbbed with the knowledge of tragedy inside. And Ramos realized, she needed to see it again for herself. 

She rose to her feet and followed them into the rom. The body of Craig Pierce lay crumpled in a growing pool of blood several feet into the reception office. 3 liters, at least. Cole had really opened up. Regina frowned regretfully and stepped around him, carefully avoiding dipping the toes of her wingtip shoes in his blood. Reaching the opposite side of the room, the young detective pressed her back to the wall just to the right of the door jam to Pierce's office, gun raised to her chest for a quick response. She peered through the broken window.

No movement or sound. If there had been someone else in the room, Regina thought they would probably be lying dead right now, too. She entered Pierce's studio carefully nonetheless. Her stomach and throat clenched, fighting to keep herself from retching as the stench of rotting carcasses descended heavily around her. In that moment she didn't understand why, but Regina felt—intensely felt—that she needed a closer look at Craig's monstrosity.

And what other clues the room might hold, a distant part of her brain added. The thought felt feeble, though. Yes–perhaps something else in the room would reveal more. But it was as if her mind had no room for a notion so... unimportant. The tower he'd built— if you could call it a tower. That was important. But she couldn't understand its meaning. Something about the shape, it had to be...

She needed to know. 


Regina succeeds her sanity roll and takes 1 sanity loss.


Even through the closed windows, the screech of sirens grew so close and emphatic now that it snapped Regina out of her reverie, pulling her back into herself. She stowed her pistol and thought fast. Had a few moments before the police threw her out of the room. Regina grabbed a legal pad and a ball-point pen from the sunken-in remains of Pierce's desk and let her eyes focus and slowly walk the room, scribbling whatever she could observe. When she heard footsteps on the stair she shoved the notepad into the back of her trousers and untucked her shirt to hide it, then seized her P.I. license from her back pocket. She held it up, and her empty left hand, palm-out, for the police to see as they volleyed into the room.


Edited by Ace

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Cole barely registered the touch of his partner as she frantically checked him over for any sign of injury. He had taken life before, more times than he cared to think about, and it never got any easier. Truthfully he was glad for that, because he had known men for whom the violence of war became routine; or even worse, enjoyable. It was the type of person he never wanted to become; so in a way he was glad for the feelings of guilt that sat in his gut like a brick of lead. The day that death felt normal to him was the day he would hang it up and go somewhere far away from other people. 

But now was not the time for him to sort through his feelings about what he had just done. Getting to his feet, he noticed that Regina wasn't with him anymore, and felt a chill go down his spine when he realized that she had gone back into the office. Bad enough that she was potentially contaminating a crime scene; the thought of her in there with that twisted monument to the madness of man filled him with dread. 

"Snap out of it, damnit; this isn't your first dance."

Getting to his feet, he was steeling himself to go back inside when Regina emerged from the office; just as the police emerged from the stairwell and filed into the office. It did not escape his notice that her shirt was untucked, and he could see something poking through the fabric of her shirt. For now he elected to say nothing, and instead just continued to look her over for any signs of injury. She was unharmed, but the haunted look on her face was plain to see. Gently placing his hand on her shoulder, he told her the one thing he wish someone had told him the first time he had seen such horror.

"It's gonna be okay."


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Gina felt the weight of his hand on her shoulder and looked up. Her eyes, blank and distant at first, gradually cleared and she lifted the corner of her mouth in a weak, grateful smile. She didn't speak yet, though. What was there to say?  'That was some crazy shit in there, Cole' or 'That's only the worst thing I've ever seen, but sure, it will all be fine.'? Her head shook imperceptibly at the thought, a lock of of her thick, dark hair falling into her eyes. She brushed it away with the back of her hand and refocused on the present moment. 

"You found him like this?" One of the police officers stood over the lead-riddled body of Craig Pierce with a small notepad, looking from the corpse to the detectives suspiciously. His mouth was set in a hard line and one eyebrow raised nearly enough to lift his uniform cap off his skull. 

Regina had always been… enthusiastic about the work. She had one of those minds that couldn’t resist a puzzle, and couldn't rest while one remained unsolved. It was one of the traits that stood out about her when Sharpe was casing the green criminal-justice hopefuls of New York City's learning institutions for an assistant.  So, Regina would let Cole do the speaking for them; Her eyes, meanwhile, scoured the room around them, taking in as many details as she could store. Her instincts would not be curbed. 

Jesus Fuck, Henry! Come look at this!” They heard this cry of anguish and disgust from the inner room. Henry's partner must have pressed on, investigating the scene. I bet you wish someone else had taken the call. Regina thought, taking this moment while the uniformed officer who had started to question them was distracted to re-tuck her shirt back into her slacks and adjust the notepad beneath the fabric so it wouldn’t show, unless someone was looking very closely.  

Edited by Ace

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Despite what one might think if their knowledge of war came solely from movies; pitched life or death combat was actually a relatively small part of how a soldier spent his time. On an average day, a GI could expect to find himself on patrol, pulling guard duty, catching some chow, inspecting and maintaining gear, and of course, sitting around waiting for something to happen. It was a whole lot of monotony occasionally interrupted by someone trying to kill you. Learning to pass time was a vital skill, and most of the guys he served with did so by playing poker. Mostly they would play for cigarettes; although it hardly mattered who won since they all bummed smokes off each other anyway. Still, Cole liked to win, so he had developed a pretty good poker face over the years. 

It was a skill that was serving him well now as he listened to the lead officers question.

"You found him like this?

Prick obviously knew that they hadn't walked in on the poor bastard in this state. The blood was obviously fresh, and the smell of gunpowder still lingered in the air; clues so obvious a rookie on his first day out of the academy could notice them. Cole didn't know whether the man was baiting him, an idiot, or both, but his expression remained neutral as he regarded the cop.


Henry heard his partners call and briefly looked in the direction of the office before shaking his head and getting to his feet. The older cop flashed an almost apologetic look at the pair of detectives before he continued.

"So why don't you tell me what happened?"

Cole resisted the urge to sigh as he realized he would be telling this story more than once before the day was done. Of course he knew that interviewing suspects was an essential part of policework, but that never made it any more fun to be on the wrong end of it.

"Pierce," he gestured to the dead man, "Had been banging around his office all morning; neighbors were getting restless. We came up to try to defuse the situation, and broke down the door when he wouldn't answer. Upon inspection we found him working on that... thing in there. As soon as he noticed us, he went crazy and tried to attack us. I warned him multiple times, but he wouldn't stop. So I shot him."

Henry finished jotting down the account in a notebook and looked up at Cole, "Alright, I'm going to have to ask you to stay here until the detectives arrive. Just sit tight."


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While they waited, the officers dutifully took Sharpe's and Ramos’ fingerprints for the forensic investigation and gathered up their pistols. Regina surrendered her gun without reluctance — like any private dick not wishing to lose their license, Regina knew the crime scene tango, and danced obediently when her number came up. 

At the same time, from the moment the sergeant took possession of their weapons, handling them carefully through the cover of a plain, creased handkerchief retrieved from his front trousers pocket, until he had sealed the evidence bags with a strip of opaque, white tape, she did not allow the officer’s hands to leave her sight. If her family had taught Regina anything, it was this: Never trust a cop. 

When it was done, Regina grimaced a sort of general complaint about the rotten stench that still choked the room. In her seventh grade science class, the young prodigy had once had to dissect a hog’s lungs and heart that had been sitting on the lab table, unrefrigerated, in August, for at least seven hours. This smell was even worse. “Officers…” She started, her voice strained with the prolonged suffering of disgust. “Our office is just one floor down. Would it be possible to wait for the detectives there?” 
The older sergeant narrowed his eyes and gave her a hard, scrutinizing look. She could guess the glimmers of skepticism running through his mind as he looked her over: What was she? White? Not quite, was she. Mexican? Could she be trusted not to run? 

“—you can even send a man down with us. Or come with us yourselves, if there’s nothing else left for you to do but wait.” 

“What number?” He grunted. 


The patrolman thought for a moment, then lowered his chin in a curt nod and waved to her dismissively. Too relieved to glower inwardly at his cynicism, Regina gave her partner an immediate Let’s get out of here glance and led the pair of them back down the stairs, to their own suite, to wait for their next round of questioning.

Edited by Ace

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"Waste of fucking breath."

About half an hour had passed since the detectives had left their office; giving them the standard warning not to go anywhere, and to call if they remembered anything useful. They'd been split up for their interviews, but Cole suspected that his partner was as unimpressed with the representatives of law enforcement they had dealt with. He'd been paired with a Detective Baker, a man with salt and pepper hair, eyes the color of his dull grey suit, and a demeanor that suggested he was just trying to tolerate the home stretch before retirement. Baker had asked Cole to give his account of what happened, dutifully listening to the veteran and asking for the occasional clarification. It might have been more convincing if the man had been writing any of it down. Once it was done, he'd asked a few questions about his relationship with Pierce, then declared they were finished. Before leaving, Baker had made it very clear that there would be dire consequences for talking to the press. It was the most animated the man had been during the entire interview. Then he'd left, along with his partner, whose name Cole hadn't caught.

Now Cole sat behind his desk, drinking from a tumbler of whiskey that he kept in the bottom drawer of his desk for celebrations and disappointments alike. He'd poured Regina a glass as well; figuring she could probably use a drink too. If not, he'd happily down it in her stead.

"Didn't even write anything down," he grumbled, "Only thing I can't figure is, are they lazy, or trying to sweep this under the rug for some reason..."

He sighed, "Either way, we ain't letting this go. Pierce had a receptionist right? I didn't see her in the office before... well, before."


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“Yeah, I noticed it.” Regina muttered and crossed to the northwest corner of the room, where the partners had set up a cheap table with a tin coffee urn and a hot plate. Next to the table stood a rusted icebox about waist high, cast iron with a pea green enamel. She opened the door; it stuck a little, then swung forward and let a swirl of cold air out into the room. Regina bent down and reached inside, pulling out two green bottles that clinked together in her hand. She pried the cap off of each with the opened on the side of the icebox, laughing darkly. “What a farce.” 

She returned and offered Cole his beer, which had already misted over with condensation in this sticky summer heat. “How about we make it a Boilermaker?” Without pausing for an answer, the young detective sat herself on the edge of Cole’s desk and tossed back her hair from her neck, taking a long and relishing drink from the bottle. “Oh that’s good,” she sighed, setting the bottle beside her hip and following it with a sip of bourbon. As she tasted the whiskey, ice then fire on her tongue, Cole went on. 

“…Pierce had a receptionist, right?…”

Gina was quiet for a beat, then quirked her brow in her partner’s direction. “So you… want to investigate this, then?” 

She didn’t add that no one had commissioned them for the job, or that they likely weren’t getting paid. This close to their house. It didn’t sit right. She felt it too: Some things, you just had to know. 

“Mmhm, there was a receptionist. Pictures still on her desk. We can ask around upstairs, see if anybody knew her. Building super might have an emergency number or an address, too — you’ll have to talk to him, though. Guy gives me the creeps.” 

Edited by Ace

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