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Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Chapter Six

        The corporate offices of Atlas Communications, now doubling as the police headquarters as well, sat in a nondescript office building a block away from Still Waters Mortuary.

Even though most of the One Week Window staff had gone for the day, the lower sections of the building buzzed with police activity. Officers arrived with everything from parole offenders to domestic abusers. David sat at his desk on the fourth floor, his eyes glued to the computer in front of him, with only the humming of the screen and the far off whistling of the night guard to interrupt his thoughts.

            He was staring at Darcy Tucker’s face, its expression strangely serene in the crime scene photo, his thoughts still with her family and the last conversation they had had. He then absently thumbed over his mouse and found himself looking at one of Dr. Kreigel’s more horrific sketches of what he thought had taken place.

            David blinked at the victim’s face, rendered to look Virgin Mary-like even though it was contorted with horror at what was happening to her as a masked, hyper-masculine figure stood above her in the process of tearing off her panties with a heavily haired hand. David winced and shut off his computer screen, his stomach churning against the four cups of coffee he had had for dinner.

            On a whim, he wandered over to the floor-to-ceiling window that looked out into the rear parking lot reserved for One Week Window employees. He rested his forehead against the cool glass, feeling all at once very old and frail. Nothing was immediately clear in Darcy’s murder: there was no clear motive, there had been no other similar deaths in the area in the last five years, and she had no ties to anything illegal or even remotely shady. Unfortunately, it was Darcy’s clean living that would ultimately destroy the investigation, as ‘One Week Window’ adored cut and dry cases that could be solved quickly.

            He blinked and looked straight down, and suddenly his heart skipped. Far below him in one of the gaudy planters by the rear door was a person. They were crouched against the side of the building, this head also resting against the glass. David’s first thought was that it was someone who was hurt and in need of help, but after he had charged down three flights of stairs and was heading down the last one into the lobby, another thought about the person’s intentions crossed his mind.

            When he reached the lobby and the person outside balked, he realized that his second suspicion had been spot on: whoever was out there was attempting a break-in.

            “Hey!” David flung the front door open, and the would-be intruder turned and started to bolt across the parking lot. While Detective Armstrong wasn’t at the peak of his athletic prowess, he was still a powerful runner in short bursts, and he quickly overcame his quarry. He grabbed at the person’s right shoulder, throwing them off balance just enough to slow them so that he could guide their body to the ground hard.

            There was a very loud grunt when the person’s breath was forced from their lungs, and when David flipped them onto their back, he was thrown for a moment when his eyes came into direct contact with what was obviously a a pair of breasts underneath her pair of dark clothing.

            David just stared for a second before he reached up and tore off the woman’s ski mask. She snarled at him as soon as he did so, and he was taken aback at how attractive she was. His appraisal of her was interrupted however by a shower of spit that she launched into his eyes.

            David hurriedly wiped them with his forearm and grunted, “Who the hell are you? What were you doing?”

            The woman bared her teeth at him and snarled, “Fuck off, pig!”

            The detective pinned her arms across her chest under his leg and began patting down her sides for any weapons. Instead, his hand brushed across what felt like a bundle of papers in her pocket and he quickly pulled it out.

            “No! Those are mine!” The woman shouted, her brilliant green eyes flashing even in the darkness.

            “Who are you?” David repeated as he set the papers on the ground and patted her other side, coming up with nothing but a flashlight and a penknife.

            The woman laughed, but it came out as more of a wheeze, “I’m Marilyn Monroe, and I was coming to borrow some sugar.” David just stared at her, and she grunted, “Do you actually expect me to tell you? God, you are stupid.”

            David glanced back at the building for a second, pondering about how long it would take for backup to show up. He then looked back at her, “Well, if you cooperate it will go better for you.”

            “Oh, so you are a beat cop as well as a homicide detective now?” she squirmed slightly, and David pinned her down harder, “You can kiss my ass, David Armstrong.”

            The detective momentarily thought about asking her how she knew his name before he remember that his face was plastered on every billboard and show-promo in all fifty states. He glanced back at the building behind him for a split second, and in that moment the woman pulled her arms out from his grip and slammed them, open palmed, across his ears. The pain was tremendous, but David managed to keep his grip on her until she arched her back and planted a solid kick to his balls with both feet.

            He fell like a stone, and the woman was up and across the lot before he could regain enough breath to stagger into a crouch. He heard the squeal of tires, and by the time he had gotten to his feet, the woman was gone.

            David gasped and clutched himself, suddenly very grateful that there was no one there to see him massaging his crushed testicles. He turned to go back inside before he realized that the woman had left the pile of papers he’d taken from her along with her ski mask.

He scooped them up and stared down at the name on the first card he found in the bunch. It was a passkey that belonged to one Travis Heddick, a young intern who had tragically passed away in a car accident three months prior. David frowned, and pulled out the next paper, which was a hastily drawn map of the inside of Atlas Communications’ headquarters, as well as a timetable of security patrols. Underneath that was a photograph that made David freeze for a moment, disbelief numbing the pain in his groin.

It was a photo of Ted Richmond, looking exceptionally grim. Ted had been the CEO of Richmond Industries, an engineering firm that Aeroworks Engineering and, subsequently, Atlas Productions had somewhat hostilely acquired some years before. The man had been a veritable king, a CEO of unimaginable generosity and ethics who had, ironically, been sent to prison by none other than David Armstrong himself for framing people with planted evidence so that his firm would win One Week Window prize money. Seeing the man’s angry face again gave him an inexplicable chill despite the relatively warm weather, and as he limped back into the building, he noticed a small child standing beside his chair in the picture: a little girl with brilliant green eyes, frowning beside her father.  

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