Dark Illumination

An entwined pair of stories that evolve murder, cults, and pseudo-science. Constructive criticism is always welcome. That's what the critique bowl is about.
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Posts tagged Lee

8.3

Filling the small Church of Grace was the busy silence of robed figures being escorted into police cars and officers talking to exasperated followers. Megan sat int the corner wrapped up in a wool blanket starring blankly at her robes which currently sat below where her feet dangled. Max’s blood was stuck to its very fibers. They had taken his body fifteen minutes prior. Megan would have gone with the body, but Lee wanted to see if he could get her coherent enough to explain what the hell was going on.

That wasn’t ever going to happen.

Lee sat down next to Megan and handed her a cup of cop coffee, which she took in both hands, not even glancing up at Lee’s concerned face. She was too focused on the blood. Max’s blood. Why?

“Ready to talk?”

Megan just shook her head “no,” staring through the cup.

“Well… I am. Its all kinda strange. This doesn’t surprise me in the least.” There was a certain sadness in his voice, like giving a eulogy at your great-grandparents funeral, and you didn’t really know them well enough to sat anything, but there was a deep, concerned emotion. “Always knew he’d go early, the way he acted. I tried to keep him out of trouble, but he… I dunno. Was just drawn to it.” Lee tried to smile at his next thought. “I always figured he’d go because he was tied to a rocket by an evil scientist and being shot at the moon or something. ‘You won’t escape me this time Ma-”

Megan cut him off as she dropped her cup between her knees and wrapping her arms around the bastion of worst comforter ever. Not that she’d tell him that, her face was buried into his shoulder.

Lee carefully put his cup down next to him and gently rubbed her back while looking out the door. Kind of weird. He was seeing things. Guess he was grieving more than he thought, if he thought he just saw- There it was again. “Max?”

Megan raised her head and punched Lee in the chest, still coughing up tears. “Don’t you even-”

“Oh hey! Lee! Leeeeeeeee!” Max was jumping up and down at the front of the mob that was growing the the dying storm outside, just behind two burly officers who saw the look on Lee’s face and let the strange boy pulling at the arm of a pale woman with deep red hair along behind him.

Lee… didn’t have anything to say. He was sure this was some serious grief. He guessed that he had taken for granted everything he’d ever-

“M- Max?” Megan turned around to see Max: all smiles and giving her a little wave with his free hand. Tears trailing behind her, Megan punched Max as hard as she could in the shoulder. “God dammit Max!”

“Ow, what was that-”

But the facade fell and Megan wrapped her arms roughly around him.

Thank God she’s seeing it too. Lee wanted to say something, like that he had actually missed the runts antics and a bunch of other stuff he would not have even thought to think not thirty minutes ago. However, the only thing to make it out was “What. The. Hell.”

Megan seemed a little more coherent as she stopped embracing and punched Max again in his other shoulder. “You don’t fuck with people like that!”

“I didn’t mean to!”

The pale woman, who was still holding Max’s hand quite tightly, cleared her throat in an effort to dispel and mood that might have been brewing.

“Uh. Right. Megan, Lee? This is Adeline. She’s helping.”

Megan raised an eyebrow. “…With what?”

Lee also raised an eyebrow, but his was more a failed attempt at being suave. “I could think of a few things.”

Adeline too raised an eyebrow. “What? No. Gross. Max, you didn’t tell me your friends were tactless.”

“Just Lee. Though I do suppose that’s like a third of my friends. Anyway, doesn’t matter.” Max turned back to the other two. “Where’d the prophet go? We don’t have much time left.”

“For what?”

“To shoot him.”

“Wait, what?” Lee seemed to be the only one who was not okay with what was just said. Megan had already thrown off the blanket to the floor over the bloodstained robe that she could forget about now. Lee wave his hands in front of him. “You can’t just-”

“You aren’t stopping me.” The glare in Adeline’s eyes gave Lee a terrible tremor down his spine.

Max smiled. “Its true, she’s got a laser gun.” Megan was about to say something, but Max interrupted. “No time to explain. Megan, you think he’d go back to the warehouse or something? Maybe ask the old man?”

“Uh, yeah.”

Turning to Lee, Max held out his hand. “Lee. Keys.”

“I can’t just- You don’t even know how to drive.”

“I do.” Megan in a deft maneuver walked by Lee and in the process managed to pilfer his keys from within his jacket pocket.

As Max ran by Lee, he shouted “Sorry Lee, not enough time left,” and knocked off his hat in an attempt to slow him down.

Max, Megan and Adeline ran out the back door with gleeful blood-lust on their faces.

7.3

Megan pressed down on the old receiver of the phone that she couldn’t hold to her ear due to it smelling like cat urine. At least that’s what she told herself.

Twice she had called Max, the phone ringing until it went to voice mail. “Hi, this is Megan, leave me a message and I’ll probably get back to you.” She didn’t bother leaving herself a message. The third time she called it went directly to the voice mail. “Damn it Max.” It could only mean one of two things: He was either in trouble or about to get into some. She was actually surprised when he didn’t show up at the car crash. She was kind of surprised no one did as she watched the engine catch on fire and then everything explode brilliantly. But why had no one come? Max, the cult, the police? They were still in the area “investigating,” though at the speed they moved, they really weren’t a factor anymore.

Jingling the remaining coins in her pocket, Megan contemplated calling Max again. Why? What exactly was the point in keeping Max around? He’s annoying, childish, foolish and- “Huh?” She felt her finger brush up against a paper card. A business card. Detective Lee’s. As keen as she was to not asking another favor from him (not after how he was checking her out last time), she was really in no condition to be walking around, with all her cuts and scrapes and possibly some sort of concussion. It was minor, but she didn’t know how much worse it might get. She also didn’t like getting help from the authorities. Hah. Authority. Like they had any real purpose, damn puppets. But its not like the police could hold any real power. Where would the IDP be then? She threw the coins in and carefully dialed the number with a pen.

Lee picked up, in his voice was terrible anger hiding worry. “Max? Where the hell are you? Why haven’t you-”

“Its Megan.”

“-checked- Oh.” His voice quickly calmed down, trying to be smooth, but the worry was still there. “What can I help you with?”

“I’m guessing you haven’t heard from Max.”

“He’s not with you?”

“No.”

“Huh, I just figured that-”

“No.”

“Well, I’d love to help, but I’m a bit tied up here.”

“…Not even to pick me up? I got into an accident.”

“Fuuuuuuargh, What the hell is wrong with you two that you can’t stay out of trouble for more than a whole day. Twenty-four hours is all I’m asking. Hell, twelve would be a record.”

“Its not like anything else you do today will be important. The world ends tonight, and I highly doubt you’ll have finished your-”

“Wait, what?”

“Look, I need help, and you are the only person I can think to ask.”

“…Damn. Alright, I’ll be over… where are you?”

“Warehouse district. An old payphone.”

“Ah, I think I know where that is. Stay out of trouble, will you?”

“Mmm.” Megan saw a man with a long brown trench coat duck behind a wall. “You might want to hurry then.”

5.9

With Max’s new ability to call people from anywhere, he called Lee. “Hi! Guess what?”

“Ugh. Max? What did I tell you about talking loudly into phones?”

“But this phone is so tiny.”

“Huh?”

“I have a cell phone!”

“Bleh. Great. You got anything important?”

“Ummm. Yeah. Someone stole the monster.”

“Stole? Really? That was his excuse?”

“Nah, I saw it happen.”

“Really?”

“Well, someone stole something.”

“Did you talk to Patton?”

“…Who?”

“…The guy at the house.”

“Oh! Your boyfriend? Nah.”

“My…? Max, let me get two things straight-”

“Is one of them you? Oh! Burn.”

“One-”

“Hmm?” Max lowered the phone so Lee’s lecture was but a murmur. There was a much more interesting conversation down an old alleyway he had become accustomed to pass by. Mostly interesting because it was one between the old man and the sayer.

“I just need one more day.”

“Sorry bud. The gods have spoken.”

“I thought I had at least until the end of the week.”

“Nope. Corruption is proceeding at an exponentially chaotic rate… they said. Whatever that means. Much of what they say doesn’t make sense.”

“Can you not ask them? Should I pray? Something?”

The sayer looked up and slightly to the right. “No. Not a thing.”

“Damn.”

“Would you prefer to ascend now?”

“What? No. No I would not. This isn’t right. Nothing is right.”

“And that’s why this world must come to an end.”

“Damn. How long would you say I have until ‘tonight?’”

The sayer looked up again, biting into a piece of fish he was savoring, knowing it would be the last. “Dawn.”

“Dawn?”

“Dawn.”

“Humph. At least its poetic. I better make this count.”

“Yes. Just before dawn, you will be automatically ascended. Then the world will be destroyed.”

“Damn.”

“Damn?”

“Damn.”

Max raised the phone back to his ear. “Damn.”

5.1

Max thought about climbing through the window into Megan’s apartment, but stopped, not wanting to look any more suspicious than he already was today. Normal people were usual climbing out of windows at six in the morning. The jingle in his pocket reminded him that her door key was probably attached to the car keys.

Max let himself in after listening through the door and checking down the hall. All quiet. Except his tummy. “Stupid eating.”

“Your own fault.”

“Oh hush. No serious. Hush.” Max had heard a noise. A light thumping. Max slowly approached the source. A closet. Max motioned to no one that there was someone inside, and grabbed a nearby umbrella, raising it above his head as he reached for the door knob.

“H’yah!”

Inside the closet was a man tied to a chair, his eyes puffy and red. Max stopped moving immediately. “Oh.” The man started wobbling and Max just closed the door on him. The man shouted from beneath his gag. Max whistled as he walked away, pretending he hadn’t seen anything. “Sandwich time.”

The door opened again and the man saw Max biting into some kind of sandwich. “Mm. Hi.” Max swallowed. “Who are you?”

“Mrrgh!”

“Right.” Max removed the gag.

“Goggle. Who the hell are you?”

“Max. This isn’t something… kinky, is it?”

Goggle sighed. “No… Not at all.”

“Oh, good. That would have been embarrassing.”

“Yeah. You mind letting me go?”

“Not really my place.”

“What do you- You work with her, don’t you?”

“Her?”

“The girl! I thought she was an angel. Angels don’t torture people.”

“I knew it!”

“Knew what?”

“Nothing. Was she doing it for fun or-”

“Not quiet that sadistic. So you’re not going to let me go?”

“Nope. Hold on. Think I hear someone coming. You probably should be quiet.”

“Why. Hey, don’t-!”

Max replaced the gag, and Goggles began his muffled shouting again. Max closed the door and jumped down onto the couch, taking a big bite out of his sandwich. He heard someone walk in, and when he looked up, a black mass hit him in the face. Max sat up, throwing it off his face. Then he saw Megan. “’i. Righ ru row rhers er erson ehrm er roseh?”

“Max? I don’t even-”

Max was going to repeat himself when Lee entered. “’i Ree.”

“Swallow.”

Max did. “What are you doing here?”

“He gave me a lift. Because someone,” Megan slapped Max on the back of his head, “decided to leave me with a bunch of murderous psychos.”

“You told me to leave if I got in trouble!”

“Ugh…”

“Murderous? So they still got him?”

“Yeah. Despite your valiant effort. Threw him right into the ocean after they did it. After the ceremony. They actually prayed. Prayed! For a man they just murdered. Can’t believe I once thought them my friends.”

“News to me.”

“Huh?”

“That you had friends.”

Megan smacked him again. She wasn’t in the mood.

Lee wanted to join in the smacking. He’d do it later. “I got a team going diving in a few hours.”

“Watch out for sentries.” Max tried to motion to Megan without alerting Lee, pointing at the closet.

“Huh?”

“Sentries. There were a bunch there last night. Before I got there and made them all antsy.” Lee looked away a moment to think, and Max threw his hands into his mouth and began to struggle.

Megan motioned back for him to cut it out with a worried look on her face.

Max did, and Lee turned back with an idea. “Small team I guess then. They’ll jump in as far away as they can.”

“Good call. You taking lead?”

“Unlikely. Not unless there’s a connection between this and one of my other cases.”

Megan rubbed at her brow. “There is.”

“Huh?”

Max continued for Megan, who didn’t look like she wanted to continue. “Yeah. The prophet guy is the dude from Grace.” Megan was surprised Max knew.

Lee was more confused. “Which dude?”

“The dude! The one who took over after the other dude died.”

“Shit. You serious?”

“Serious as furberious.”

“…That doesn’t sound very serious at all.”

“Hmm. Guess not.”

“Regardless, I need you to stay away from these guys. Everyone related to anything going on. You got that? Even here. You too.” He motioned towards Megan, who just waved him off as she went to the kitchen.

“But!”

“You remember the Dutchman case? This is worse.”

“Yessir…”

Lee’s phone began to ring. “I’m serious. More serious than furberious.” He turned away and answered his phone. “Detective Lee here. Everything all right? Monster?”

Max’s eyes immediately lit up and he jumped up, pointing at himself, whispering “Me, meee!”

Lee shooed him. “Yeah. I’ll send someone right over. Just stay calm. Okay. I’ll be right there.” Lee hung up.

“Send meeee!”

“No.”

“Psh. I’ll go anyway.”

“You don’t even know where.”

“Uh huh. Its that house you always watch. Oh! So going. Monsters. Wow! Its been awhile! Later!”

Lee jumped to block the entrance, but Max flipped over the back of the couch and ran for the window, jumped up onto the sill, gave Lee a little salute and jumped out. Lee rushed to the window, looked out, and then began for the door.

Megan stopped him as she came out with a cup of instant coffee in her hands. “Let him go. Should keep him out of trouble.”

Lee stopped just inside the door. “…Yeah. He probably couldn’t leave it if he tried.”

“Right. So don’t let him not try.”

“…You’ve definitely been talking to Max too long.”

There was an awkward silence. Then Megan finally got to asking her question. “Who is Max?”

Lee shrugged. “Max is Max.”

“…So you don’t know?”

“I know he’s a nobody. Basically it.”

“I knew that much.”

“No, I mean like a proper nobody.”

“Like, he shouldn’t exist nobody?”

“Yeah.”

“…That explains a lot. Like why he works for you as a stalker.”

“Heh. Figured that out, huh?”

“Not hard.”

“Yeah, well usually Max doesn’t talk to his marks. You’re a bit different. This whole case is a bit damn different.”

Megan’s neck began to itch. “I think you should get going.”

There was a thump.

Lee turned around. “What was that?”

“Uh. Nothing. Probably just the neighbors. You know how college kids are.”

A few more thumps. “Haha. Yeah. A little early morning tussle. Hah.”

“Yeah… Hah…”

“Well, thanks for your time.” Lee began to move again, then stopped. “Have you seen Max without a shirt on?”

“…No? Nonononono. Definitely none of that going on.”

“Hahaha! No. Not saying anything like that. If you do, tell me what you think of the scars.”

“Scars? Is he emo or something?”

“Going with ‘something.’” Lee gave a half halfhearted back wave and left.

Megan took another sip, closed her door and walked over to the closet.

4.2

“What the hell was happened in there? I swore that you two were just going to keep on starring at each other until one of you leaped across the table and started to make out with each other.” Lee lit a cigarette despite station policy and lack of ventilation in the small room.

Patton, who was currently holding a bag of ice to the back of his head, received a clear mental image of what Lee was talking about and was left with a bad taste in his mouth. Good to know there were worse out comes I suppose. “I;m sorry detective. It may be that I’ve just watched too many old detective shows. I believe I was trying to ‘crack’ him.”

“Well, I’d say he cracked you.”

“…As would I.”

“Still. I don’t believe his story one bit, whatever little story there was there.”

More than you think.

“Think I’ll keep him here for the night. See if he does anything.”

Robs immediately stood up. “Yessir! And what about the young woman?”

“Her too, Robs.”

“Yessir.” Roberts left and soon after he grabbed goggles in the next room and dragged him away.

“Now. Patton.” Lee blew out a long stream of smoke.

Patton didn’t like the tone in his voice. “Yes?”

“Who is that man?” Because I know you know something. Said so yourself, I think.

Only in thought. “Not much more I can tell you, truthfully. He’s just some madman stalking the house.” Not unlike yourself.

I’m there on an official capacity. “Think he’s dangerous?”

Strangely enough, I believe he is too. “Not capable of murder, no.”

“That so?”

“I believe so, yes.”

“Interesting.” Yes. Very. Maybe you’re covering his tracks. Maybe you’re in cahoots.

“Hmm?”

Would explain why you keep distracting me. Keeping me away from my actual duties. Maybe you’re apart of the other murder as well. Maybe you even killed the real Charles Patton and took his place.

“You think a conspiracy is at play?”

Patton was glad to see Lee shaken by this. His smile during the conjecture had begun to worry him with its devious twitch. “Ah! Uh. What?”

“Do you believe this, the murder of Jacob, and your other murder are connected? That its all part of some larger picture?”

“… I don’t rule anything out. Especially when it happens to have happened on the same day.”

“Why not…” Patton snapped his fingers to help him think along. “Why not put your two suspects in a single room? See how it is they react?”

“Already done that.”

You mean me and him, don’t you. “I mean the man and the woman.”

“Hah. I like the way you think. You pull that move from a detective show too?”

“Most probably.” Or perhaps I have inherited the soul of the great detective. Why not? I mean, I can already read people’s thoughts.

“Hmm. Yes. Yes… I like it. Genius even. Would you like to stick around? See if you can pick anything up?”

“No! No. I’m… afraid that I have gone and spent myself today.” Yes, this whole ordeal is quite tiring.

“Ah. Understandable Mr. Patton. Well, I’d like to thank you for your work. You know the way out, right?”

“Of course. If you’ll excuse me.”

3.12

Lee had stayed a while longer before returning to Roberts. He just sat staring at those eyes. Originally it was to see if he could crack her. She nearly cracked him. They were… beautiful. Deep and round. Bordered by perfectly dark eyelashes that seemed to prevent all escape. But why would you want to? He had to.

“You really don’t think she’s telling the truth then, sir?”

“I think she knows enough about lying to keep it steeped in the truth.”

“She seemed awfully earnest.”

“Yeah. Well that’s how it usually goes.”

There was a knock at the door and Patton entered the room, perfectly calm. Too calm, really. Like a man putting every bit of his will to stay composed.

“Patton! Great. Just finished here and could use something to do. Robs, if you’ll excuse us.”

“Of course D-Lee. Should I get the paperwork to let her go?”

“She’s still a suspect isn’t she?”

“Oh. I just-”

“You don’t get paid to think yet Robs. So don’t. Now, if she does anything, come find me.”

“Yessir.”

“Good. Patton? Let’s head outside.”

They stepped out into the hallway. It was quiet. No humming. No voices. Proper silence. Which made Patton think that Lee didn’t. “Detective. I need to see him.”

Lee could see Patton losing his composure with every syllable. “Hmm? What’s changed since this morning that’s got you all wound up?”

“Nothing.” Everything.

“Yeah. I’ve had those days. Welcome to the life of a detective. C’mon. He’s over here.”

“Are you sure he’s still there? I mean, he can disappear into pantries.”

“Good thing we don’t have a kitchen.”

“I’m serious detective.”

“Right. But no. He just sits with himself fixed on fixing whatever’s on his arm.”

“You didn’t take it away from him?”

“Can’t. Think its actually a part of him. Some kind of weird prosthetic. I don’t know. I’m not a doctor. Here.” Lee opened the door for Patton. “I’ll be watching.”

Patton wasn’t sure if that was cautionary or a warning. Watching for trouble or to make it. His hesitance, however, seemed to change as he walk toward the table into fear and finally to hate as he reached it. He slammed his hands down onto the table, making a large thud on the cold metal. Ow.

Goggles looked up. Haha. Price of looking cool.

“What in God’s name did you do to me?”

“Uh. Nothing?” Nothing you should remember.

“Why shouldn’t I?”

“’Why shouldn’t I…’ what?” Oh crap.

“What?”

“What what?”

Patton could hear Lee’s thoughts drift over to him. Well this is an interesting interrogation.

But Patton let it pass him and he continued his attention to the very calm, morely confused man in front of him. “You know.” I know you know.

“I… don’t know?” However, on the inside, Goggles was a little more… Ah! Mind reader, mind reader! It seemed to seep out a little.

“So. What did you do to me?”

“Nothing!” I’m… pretty sure you’re not talking about the momentary stun and forget system, are you?

“No.”

“I swear!” Yeah. So. Probably a malfunction with the software. I mean, totally not my fault, cause you’re the one the broke it.

Patton sat down in a chair. “What happened after I broke the device?”

Its called a RIG “Don’t I get a lawyer or something? There’s lawyers in the now, right?” Well, a malfunction might have caused the power and location parameters to be… unpredictable. With unexpected results. You should be glad to be alive.

“Well…”

“Yeah. Not talking anymore until I get a lawyer.” Man I’m stupid. Not even realizing you’re not a law personnel. But anyway! This is so cool! Actual telepathy. Well, not really, seeing as I don’t seem to be consciously aware of what’s going on. Which I guess is more useful! Man! Which I could access what exactly happened, but I’m sure the RIG’s done for. Say, you don’t think you could just be crazy and hearing voices, do you?

Give me a word that means something to you.

Temporal Universal Controller

“Uh… Temporal Universal Controller.” What’s that?

Goggles nearly jumped out of his chair. Two thoughts seemed to projected at the same time. Shit, and sweet! Yeah. Its a function, was a function, of the RIG.

“Is that the thing on your arm? Is it what you think it is?”

“Wha- how?” Uh, yeah. I just told you that.

Pandering to the detective.

Oh, don’t bother.

“Fine.” So what does this RIG do exactly?

Oh, so many things. And they all began to flash in Patton’s mind, so quick that he couldn’t actually see anything.

After a moment of dizziness, Patton said, “Like zapping people?”

“I don’t zap people.” Well, yeah. Conduit doesn’t allow us to kill people, so he have a few non-lethal tricks up our sleeves. Literally.

“Like zapping people.”

“I don’t zap people!” Yep.

So who or what is Conduit?

Hmm. I think you are avoiding the most important/obvious question here.

So I am. Who are you? Immediately Patton’s mind was bombarded with words and pictures, not only in Goggles’ own voice, but the voices of people he’s talked to, things said about him. So many things. Nothing entirely obvious. Winning his first baseball game. The first woman he kissed. A tall, white building in the middle of a glowing city. Then a flash of light bordered in blue. Just. So. Much. He fell backwards to the ground, screaming and pulling at his face.

If Lee hadn’t charged into the room, Patton’s brain may have very well melted. Goggles just raised his hands. “I didn’t do it.”

Lee shook Patton, who was staring blankly at the ceiling, the screams dying into grunts and whispers. “Patton. Patton!”

Patton blinked.

“The hell?” Lee turned to Goggles. “The hell?”

“Wasn’t me.”

Patton blinked again, moaning and putting his hand to his forehead. “Dear God…”

You got what you asked for buddy. Hahaha!

“You mind being quiet one second?”

“I didn’t say nothin’.” Hey, I’m not the one with superpowers.

3.11

Lee sat behind the two way mirror peering into the interrogation room while drinking his coffee. It was a bit cold. “Hmm.” The person in the room had their head down. Probably napping. They had been there awhile.

“She doesn’t look like a murderer.” Robert Roberts was just about to become a detective and was taking every opportunity to see them in action.

“Hmm? They rarely do Robs. A few nights in lock up though…”

“Can’t we only hold them for twenty-four hours?”

“Well. Legally. Not like they know how long they’ve been down here.”

“But, er-”

“Time to go make a first impression.” Lee shook his empty cup.

“Do you want me to throw that away sir? Get you another one?”

“Nah. Don’t like to drink coffee during an interrogation. I do like looking cool while pretending to drink it though.”

“Oh.” Roberts threw some words into a pocket sized notepad.

Lee continued through the door, into the dim hallway. He stopped a moment to collect himself outside the door next door. It had been awhile since he last soloed an interrogation. Got to be both friendly and stern. So much easier only being one of them. He put his cup to his mouth and pretended to take a large sip as he walked in.

Megan looked up, lines across her face from sleeping in her arms. Lee took the seat across from her starring. She blew some strands of hair from her face. “About time someone showed up to tell me what is going on.”

Lee took another sip. “Murder.”

“What?!” Megan immediately stood up, read to leave.

Lee tried not to smile and motioned her to sit down. “Not yours. Carlos Montana. Murdered on the twenty-third of last month. Two Sundays ago.”

Megan hesitantly sat down. “So?”

“He was the head of the pseudo-Christian community-”

“Hah. Pseudo is right.”

“So you know of the Church of Grace.”

“Yeah. The only cult brave enough to think themselves a partition of a ‘proper’ religion.”

“So, on the record, you didn’t agree with them?”

“On the record? Well…” Megan began to look absently around the room, humming.

“Well?”

“Huh? Oh. I’d rather not talk to anyone on the record.”

“…Really?”

“Really.”

“Let’s start over.”

“Its not like I had anything against that record in particular-”

“My name is detective Lee. I work for the East District-”

“Lee? You don’t happen to know a Max do you? Little, blonde, squirrelly kid?”

“You are currently in an interrogation room.”

“Does that mean I can interrogate you too?”

“No, I- You’ve been speaking to Max.”

“I’ve only know him a few day and- Hah. You’re right. What about you? You’ve known him awhile haven’t you?”

“Longer than I’d like to have.”

“Why keep him around then?”

“Well- No. You are here as my ‘guest.’ That means I get to ask the questions.”

“Not like I was invited or anything, but sure. Go ahead.”

“Where were you the night of January twenty-third?”

Megan was silent again, looking around at the fine architecture of the boring room.

“Well?”

“Huh? Oh. Yeah. Still on the record.”

“Fine! We’re off the record. Robs, cut the tape.”

“Good.”

“So?”

“One second. Let’s give Robs a moment and… Okay. The twenty-third? Well, during the day I was at home studying. In the evening I went to the Church of Grace.”

“So you were. What were you doing there?”

“Uh. Attending the service?”

“Hah. Unlikely. According to my sources-”

Megan began to laugh. “Is Max your source? Hah! Oh man. Too rich.”

“-you are part of the the ‘Circle of Sinagi.’”

“I will neither agree nor disagree.”

“Well, we know you are. And since we’re off the record, that’s all that really matters.”

“Truth. Unexpected. Maybe Max is rubbing off on you.”

“And maybe you could just answer my questions.”

“Why? You seem to know all the answers already.”

“…I suppose I do.” Lee pulled a large envelope out, removing from it a series of photographs of the crime scene, throwing them on the table.

Megan was both disgusted and happy. “Is he… crucified?” To Lee the emotions, the surprise seemed genuine.

“You’ve never seen this scene?”

“No? Some sick movie trailer or something? I mean, its a fitting end to the man who thought himself the Messiah reborn. Hah. The man himself was cruel and ruthless. Cold.”

“That’s… the opposite of what everyone else told me about him.”

“They were brainwashed.” Megan thought back to the Prophet again. “You sure he’s dead?”

“He looks pretty dead here.”

“So do zombies until they think they’d prefer a snack.”

“Are you saying-”

“No. I am not saying he’s a zombie. Its an analogy. Seriously…”

“Just making sure.”

“Uhuh. So. Why am I here?”

“We found your finger prints at the church.”

“I’m sure you- how did you get my- Max?”

“Yeah. Impressed myself. Didn’t think he knew what a tape lift was.”

“Huh. Well, yeah. I mean, you’re bound to find my finger prints there. I was there. I said I was.”

“Yeah. But the catch? You found your prints in this room. Where Mr. Montana died. Where I was told that no one but Montana himself was allowed.”

Megan rapped her fingers on the metal table. “Its because, among the other things I’ve told you about him, he’s a perv.”

“Huh?”

“Invited me to his back room. Said he had something to show me. I thought he was talking about the righteous alter he had, the one that gave him powers. I should’ve known. I mean, it was there. A gold box. Very ordinate. But while I went to check on it, he groped me and pulled me in tight. It was then I realized he wasn’t wearing anything under his robes. I pushed him back and kicked him in the face. Then I ran. I never went back.”

“What time was all this?”

“Near midnight? Said that’s when the alter’s powers were the strongest. Bah. Just a prop. A trinket.”

“And you saw no one else there?”

“Nope.”

“I still don’t think you’re telling me everything.”

“I think I told you everything I’m going to tell you.”

2.11

Max eventually slunk away to the office after losing the father as he sped away towards downtown. He was heading to the office mostly because there was a shower there, and nothing made him feel dirtier than jumping into a trashcan to avoid detection. He removed everything from his pockets and placed them on Lee’s desk, then put his clothes in the washing machine in the back room and jumped into the shower.

Lee came in just as Max was finishing up, who was walking around the office waiting for his clothes to dry. Seeing him always made Lee wince. Not because he was naked, but because under all his baggy clothes and coats Max was skinny as a rail, covered in old bruises and scars. Lee had long since given up on asking about them.

“Max?”

“Yeah?”

“Towel?”

“Huh? Uh, okay.”

“Hey, what’s this?” Lee picked up a taped piece of paper.

Max walked up behind him to look. “Uh. Finger prints from the lady.”

“Max?”

“Yeah?”

“Remember the rules?”

“Oh, right.” Max took tow calculated steps back. “Her name is Megan Bennett. I think. 83% sure. I’ll double check tonight.”

“What, you got some kind of date?”

“Nah. Cult meeting. But I did have lunch, so boo-yah.”

“Seriously?”

“Yeah. Had a conversation and everything. Then I stole somethings and took her fingerprints from a glass.”

“Gotta say Max, I’m impressed. Real detective work there.”

“Sure was. Better than you even. Oh hey! One more thing.”

“Hmm? If its a phone number, I got to remind you Max that-”

“Huh? No. Uh… here it is!” Max pulled the pamphlet out from the pile of junk on the desk.

“What is it?”

“Church thing from the place. I had a question, and since I’m being a real detective-”

“Acting like one does not make you one.”

“Says the guy who was pretending to be a nurse and then had to save a guy’s life.”

“I actually had training.”

“Psh. Anyways. Is this all the same case? Or is it coincidence?”

Lee thought about it for a second. Guessed he deserved to know. He was being helpful after all. “Yeah. Same one. What’s all this?” Lee waggled his fingers around the red squiggles.

“Not sure. Its why I gave it to you.”

“Hmm.” Lee looked at it, flipping it around in different directions, tilting it into the light. “Maybe I’ll see if Toby can make anything from it.”

“Aww. I miss Toby.”

“Then go see him. He’s just downstairs.”

“Yeah, but he said he hates me and I should go crawl back into the abyss.”

“…Sounds like Toby.”

“Hey, so where’ve you been all day? I wanted to tell you all this earlier.”

“Usually running from here to the house.”

“That really still bothering you?”

“I just spent three hours looking for a ghost. One of those hours was spent exclusively on extensively searching a pantry. So yeah.”

“Hah! You got him to believe you eh?”

“Hey, I’m not the one who saw him. And he hears the humming too, I’m sure. Besides, I was searching for other possibilities as well, like a secret trap door to the damned basement.”

“Hummmmmmmmmm-” Max had been to the house to help check it.

“Stop it.”

Ding. Dryer was done and Max rushed over to the back room to change.

“Max?”

“Yeah?”

“Door?”

“Oh right.”

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