October 6th, 2020
No matter what year you live in, sleep is a luxury few can afford. The homeless, high schoolers and mostly immortal time travelers are among those who cannot.
Hera had long accepted the fact that she’d never get a full night of sleep in her line of work. She’d been around too long and watched too many loved ones fall prey to time to sleep like a baby. There was something easier about traveling through eons and solving crimes when you disconnected your heart.
She left her room and walked slowly down the long hall, metal fingers trailing along to wall over nametags that designated which room was which. There were sixteen in total, eight on each side and varying in size and shape. The only light came from the massive, uncurtained window on the end and the dim, square lights on the ceiling. She could rearrange them at will, like a child playing house, changing their designations, design or size with a tap on a screen. It had been fun at first, having such a power, but as time went on and time set in it just became a rarely used luxury.
The living room was still as dark as usual when she entered, aside from the slightly glowing lump on the couch. Galahad had opted to stay in the finite world for as long as they could before returning to their void-like prison. ’Sleep Mode’ as they called it meant parking themself on a vaguely horizontal surface for six to eight hours at roughly the same times as Hera did. Now they were curled up on the couch like a radioactive turtle, as tightly curled around their body as they could be. If she had any guilt about being directly responsible for their life in the Continuum it was buried under three thousand years of indifference. With one last glance at the android, Hera made her way to the kitchen.
The last two days had been spent searching for suspects based off Galahad’s pieced together description. So far, they’d had very little luck. Vietta got so many visitors it was a slow process trying to pick out every blonde, blue eyed, 5’11” man. Even with the help of an advanced android’s technology skills it was slow going. It was taking its toll of the already paranoid Siobhan, who was frequently requesting updates.
Hera figured it was only a matter of time before Citlali got pulled from the investigation.
Before she could even begin to move through the motions of making food, a wave of staticy feeling washed over her and everything electronic in the room flickered before dying. The place where her arm met her shoulder stung like hell. Stifling a sigh she shouldered her way out the door and made her way to the living room as the lights slowly began to flick back on. As she suspected Galahad was awake, eyes wide and crazed at their head shot up to meet her eyes. Their body shook like a leaf in a hurricane, their hair sticking out every which way. The air in the room still crackled slightly with the remains of their emp burst.
“I didn’t realize androids had nightmares.” Hera crossed her arms over her chest.
Galahad let out a small, borderline hysterical laugh, “Y’know the funny thing about dying before all your memories get uploaded into your new body? Those old ones get corrupted, like a virus. You know what artificial sleep does? It plays your old memories as dreams.” They ran one hand through their hair, smoothing the hyper small nanos into some semblance of neatness.
“So the remains of your old memories are corrupted and haunting you.” The woman’s voice was flat, like all the life had been knocked out of it when Galahad took out the power, “And these ‘nightmares’ set off your electricity… abilities.”
Galahad halfheartedly mimed jazz hands, “Yay. And I can’t delete them, thanks Arthur.” They sighed and pulled their knees up to their chest, “You’d think that they wouldn’t bother me after three thousand years.” Hera sat down next to them, spreading her dark fingers across the fabric of the couch. She knew all too well just how long that type of pain took to fade.
Hera watched them smooth down their hair against the static, “Time can’t heal everything.”
A knock on the door drew both their gazes, Hera’s hand immediately creeping towards where her gun holster lay on the table. Galahad tapped a few times on the underside of their arm and their eyes lit up in thin white lines, layers of the wall peeling away to reveal the infrared blobs of people behind it. One of them knocked again, this time at a more impatient volume.
“There are three of them, all armed.” The android hissed under their breath and Hera pulled her gun free and moved towards the door. They got up and followed, placing themself on the other side of the door before disappearing from view. Hera tapped a button on a panel beside the door, waiting until her apartment had shifted to the appearance of a normal one bedroom space before opening the door as much as the chain would allow. They were dressed in suits and dark sunglasses like a cheap imitation of the Men in Black. She could tell from their uncomfortable stances that they all had guns tucked into the back of their belts.
She kept her gun behind her back and raised an eyebrow, “Yes?”
The first of the men stepped forward and flashed a badge, “Hera Jones? We’re with the FBI, can we come in?”
Doubtful, Hera thought, “Of course, one second.” She closed the door and removed the chain from its lock, pausing for a few beats.
“Right behind you.” Galahad’s invisible form whispered. Hera just gave a small nod and opened the door. She watched them file in, free hand on her hip before closing the door behind her. As expected, the second her back was turned she heard the telltale click of a gun.
She raised her own weapon, face almost bored as she turned, “You all do know that’s not how the FBI works, right?”
The two in the front exchanged a glance, but the third just powered on, “Where’s LaRoche?”
“Not here.” She tucked her other hand into her pocket, “What do you want.”
“We’re…” One of the men in the front cleared his throat, “We’re here to kill you.”
Hera scoffed, “Good luck.”
“It’s three against one,” the other man yelped, “You can’t win.”
She smiled coldly, grey eyes filled with a frigid malice, “Want to bet?” Suddenly electricity was coursing through the two men in front, their bodies writhing as lightning arced across their skin like living Tesla coils. The third man leapt back, gun falling from his hand as he watched them crumple to the floor like rag dolls, smoke rising from their clothes. Before he could react, an unseen force slammed him back against the wall, crushing the air from his lungs on impact.
Galahad fizzled into view with a wild grin, “Remember me, Officer Johnston?” The man in question seemed paralyzed in fear, his sunglasses askew on his face to reveal his crazed eyes. They flicked wildly from his compatriots on the ground to Galahad and back.
Hera stepped over the other two men and raised a questioning eyebrow, “Friend of yours?” She stepped over the two unconscious men to tower over Galahad’s shoulder.
“He’s the officer who gave us the security tapes.” They shrugged, “Should’ve figured he’d show up again. This is rather fast though.”
The man’s voice escaped from his throat in a shrill gasp, “What are you?!”
Hera snapped her hand forward, gun pressed against his forehead, “Doesn’t matter,” She snarled, slate eyes burning, “Start talking?”
“We- we were sent to kill you by some guy, I don’t know who it is I swear!” Johnston babbled, still pinned to the wall by Galahad, “He was offering us so much money to get rid of you and that other one, more money than we could ever need. All we had to do was kill you and your partner and he’d help us disappear.”
“So easily bought out.” Galahad snarled, “Citlali might be in danger.” Hera pulled her phone from her pocket and dialed his number, walking a few paces away. Galahad slammed their fist into Johnston’s face and he crumpled to the ground. Casting a not so subtle glance at Hera, they crouched and rifled through his pockets.
Citlali picked up on the second ring, “Hello?” she could bustle of a crowded space in the background. That was good, it’s harder to kill someone in a crowded place.
The woman bulldozed over a normal greeting, “Where are you?”
“The station.” He had that nervous, eyebrows furrowed, tone of voice that he’d used when he heard something he didn’t quite understand, “Why?”
“Three people just broke into my apartment to try and kill me, they might be after you too.” She turned and glared at Galahad, who had three phones in their hands. Covering her phone with her free hand she mouthed ‘that’s evidence’.They gave a weird shrugging flail of their shoulders back at her and spread them out at their feet to search through their contents.
He let out a nervous laugh, “Oh joy. Well, I live alone and I left early in the morning, I haven’t seen anythi-” There was a commotion on the other end, and the solid sound of Siobhan’s voice barking out orders, “I have to go, we just got a call.”
“Good or bad?” She sighed and pinched the bridge of her nose. Sometimes she really hated this job.
Citlali’s voice didn’t give her much hope, “From the looks of it, very bad. I’ll call you back.” She tucked her phone back into her pocket and turned to Galahad, who had pulled all the files from all three phones out to float in the air before them.
They flicked a few files away and continued searching through, “They all got emails like he said, except they’re all from different addresses.” They tapped three of the green squares of code and linked them together, “All the sources are spam emails, no connections between them.”
“Keep looking.” Hera ordered, moving towards the door.
“Oh, and you’re going to get a text from the Chief in a few seconds.” Galahad flicked an unwanted file away with a frown, “They found a body, well three actually, in a hotel. The woman who found it speaks German, so If you need help let me know. Your officers had no idea what she was saying.”
Hera holstered her gun and grabbed her coat off the hook by the door, “You’ve hacked into the station’s phone lines?”
Galahad gave her an incredulous look over their floating interface, “I can hack into anything.” Hera’s phone let out two short buzzes, prompting one last chirp from the android, “Don’t be late!”
Hera adjusted the lapels on her leather jacket, “I‘m never late.”
The Hotel De La Belle Chante was already bustling by the time Hera showed up. She’d called for a car from the nearest Precinct and piled the three unconscious bodies in before she headed for the Hotel. A team of people in bright white, full body suits trailed out the wide double doors holding cases and taped paper bags of evidence. Two officers, who she swore were the same two from Vietta, were taping off the front doors with obnoxiously yellow police tape. A pair of Dobermans prowled around edges, noses pressed to the ground in an attempt to find anything suspicious. Citlali stood by the front doors, razor focused on the conversation he was having with a short, plump woman wearing a white hotel uniform. Hera moved to approach them when someone blocked her path.
Stifling a sigh, Hera crossed her arms behind her back, “Deputy Wright.”
He squinted up her her, disdain clear on his face, “Siobhan call ya?”
The woman was saved from having to answer his obvious question by Citlali, “Oh thank god you’re here.” He jogged over and grabbed her arm, pulling her towards the front doors, “This is going to be something.” Deputy Wright followed them into the main foyer and into the small, mirror lined elevator. He borderline lunged for the floor three bottom before Citlali could hit it, scowling at the man like he’d just kicked over a trash can.
He was about two seconds from getting a metal fist to the face.
Hera crossed her arms, fingers tight on her arms so she didn’t deck the officer, “Alright, LaRoche, give me a run down.”
Citlali had been glancing between Deputy Wright and her with a face like a man who was watching a mouse antagonize a lion, but he snapped back to his serious façade when called upon, “Right. One of the housekeepers found the bodies early this morning when she went into clean. She said no one answered the door so she just walked right in and discovered the bodies.”
The elevator slowed to a stop and the doors slid open and Hera stepped out into the carpeted hallway, “Bodies?”
“Three of them to be exact,” Citlali fell in beside her, their fast pace forcing Deputy Wright into a wheezing jog, “The receptionist gave me their names: Joanne and Charles Pine, along with their five year old son Mark. Their daughter came with them as well, but no one can find her. Siobhan’s got search parties out looking for her.”
Hera’s eyes widened a fraction, “They killed the son too?” Citlali nodded, “This just keeps getting worse. Killing three or four people is one thing but killing a child is another. Have you seen the bodies?”
The man shook his head, “No, but we’re about too.” They rounded the corner. The door they needed stuck out like a sore thumb, guarded closely by three officers and boxed off with yellow tape. A few more officers lingered around the outskirts interviewing the other people that were staying on the floor.
As Hera and Citlali approached one of the officers stepped forward, speaking with a heavy New York accent, “Detective Jones,” she offered a smile at Citlali, “And with Officer LaRoche no less! Nice to see you back in the field Citlali.”
He returned the gesture, “Thanks, Kate. It’s certainly been exciting.” Mentally he tacked ‘insane’ and ‘confusing’ onto the end of his sentence.
Kate handed them both a pair of latex gloves, “Forensics already did their job and got everything squared away so you just need the gloves. The bodies haven’t been moved, but the female victim had a gun in her hand, Forensics took that with them.” Hera tilted her head gratefully to the woman, and after a moment’s consideration slipped a glove onto her left hand, the latex sticking unpleasantly to the metal. She wrangled her curls away from her face into a ponytail before ducking under the tape after her partner. Deputy Wright had finally caught up, one hand clutching his spine as he sucked in air.
He moved to duck under the tape, but Kate blocked his path and glanced back at Hera, “He with you?”
Hera turned back, expression puzzled like she had never seen the man before in her life, “No.” Behind her, Citlali covered up his laugh with a forced cough. The woman allowed herself a few minutes to savor the satisfaction and the pure rage that had risen up of the Deputy’s face before turning to the door.
As she moved to push it open, the other guard offered his advice, “Careful. It’s messy in there.”
Casting one look back at Citlali, Hera pushed the door open and was immediately hit by the overwhelming stench of blood and something that smelled sickeningly like cat litter. She took a deep breath through her mouth, the smell burning in her sinuses, and stepped inside.
Citlali followed and froze midstep when he took in the scene, “Oh god.”
The living room itself was fairly small, containing a long couch in the center of the room and an ensuite kitchen separated by a half wall. Had it not been the scene of a gruesome murder it would’ve been downright luxurious, with wall to wall carpeting custom frames indie paintings on the gold wallpaper amid vases of white lilies and champagne in a rose gold bucket of ice.
The first two bodies were on the couch, the woman lying flat on her back with one arm draped across her chest and the other trailing over the edge to the floor Her son knelt on the ground beside her. There was a gunshot wound through the side of her head, dripping blood onto the plush velvet cushions. There was a long curving slash in her stomach, deep enough that there was more than just blood staining the area around her. With a sickening drop in her stomach, Hera noticed the thick layer of cat litter around the couch, covering the stench of bile and blood. The boy was kneeling beside her, face hidden in his arms like he was crying. The back of his shirt had been cut away to reveal the sharp angles of a ‘W’ carved into his back.
“More letters.” Hera said, her voice sounding loud and foreign in such an environment.
“A ‘j’ and a ‘w’.” Citlali agreed, forcing himself to join her by the couch, “That’s two out of three, so where’s the third?”
Hera jerked her chin towards the kitchen and stepped carefully around the couch towards the room. The cat litter crunched under the heels of her boots as she walked.
The man’s body was slouched over the table, his arms hanging off the sides and his face pressed to the blood stained wood. He was surrounded with beer bottles, almost three packs worth of them. They were scattered on the table, and the floor, all still closed and filled with liquid. Under the man’s hand was a photo that Hera gently tugged free. It featured the three victims in the hotel foyer, all surrounding a young girl who hugged an award to her chest and looked up at the woman with a huge smile. There was a red streak over the girl’s face, like someone has sloppily tried to block her out of the picture.
“Must be the daughter.” Citlali said, leaning over her shoulder to look at the photo. Hera hummed her agreement and turned the photo over. Written on the back in a substance that was most certainly blood was a ‘Q’.
“More letters, you wer-” A solid thud interrupted Hera’s sentence, and her hand immediately flew to her gun.
A second thud followed shortly after, coming from the living room.
“Oh no.” Citalli’s face had drained of colour, “I really hope this isn’t going to be what I think it is.” He pushed past Hera and moved into the living room, motioning quickly for her to follow. He shushed her attempt to ask him what he thought it was and instead crept slowly towards a door at the far left. A closet was Hera’s best guess; The door shook with another thud. Citlali grabbed the doorknob and looked back at the detective, who clicked the safety off her gun and nodded once, before pulling it open.
Hera felt her blood run cold.
Huddled against the wall, covered in blood and staring up at them with crazed eyes, was the young girl from the photo.