Border, KS

Isn't Kansas a little northern for Southern Gothic? (Updates Tuesday and Thursday)

7.3 Not Quite

Walter and Ryan moved in to the next room smoothly, with Ryan moving in an almost crouch and Walter coming in over his shoulder. From behind them they heard the angry, pained grunting of the man they had left zip-tied in the hallway. But the room they had come from, with the files and the writing on the boards, was clear. Walter reached up to his jacket, and to the radio that he kept there—it was tied to the police band, and Ashland had a radio that would receive it.

“10-31, Officer involved shooting, five miles north of County Road 15, near the creek. Unknown number of suspects, all suspects signal 1. One suspect is Code Red, send a bus. Ashland, watch your six,” Walter rattled off in to the radio. A 10-31 was an emergency call, with all units standing by to respond; signal 1 meant the suspects were armed and dangerous, while code red was referring to the gun shot wounded man. Like many police departments, the Border PD used repeaters throughout their service area—they immediately began receiving acknowledgments. Walter waited, and then heard a double click that he knew was Ashland signaling her own receipt of information without transmitting over the radio.

“Work our way back to the front from our side, so we have the exit at our back and can’t be circled,” Walter murmured softly to Ryan, who nodded. They began to advance through the room, their rifles shouldered and ready. As they reached the door Walter heard a snap behind him, and stopped and turned quickly. He waited there, sighting the reflex sight to see what moved; Ryan stayed watching the door to the next room, trusting Walter to cover is back. Walter was prepared if it was someone trying to come behind them, or if there was a threat in the room they had missed.

He wasn’t prepared for when the door flew off the hinges, slamming in to the wall next to Walter with a clang that could probably be heard from space. A figure started to step through it, and Walter only took long enough to make sure it wasn’t (improbably) Morgan or Tania before he began squeezing the trigger on his rifle and firing at it. In the span of a heartbeat Walter had landed three shots into the heart, and none of them had apparently done any good.

“Ryan, incoming!” Walter shouted as the man charged. In the instant before the man got to them with almost impossible speed, Walter saw it was Handgun. Something had happened to his face—it was sharper, more angular somehow, and twisted in to a fierce and almost feral look. Blood was no longer coming out of his leg, and his wrists didn’t appear to be cut up at all from breaking out of the zip tie.

Then Handgun was in front of him, and Walter threw himself to one side in a roll. Ryan, trusting the warning, did the same the other way and spun to bring his own rifle up. He blinked, and cursed. “Pure Border,” Ryan grunted. He stepped forward and reached out in a way that Walter recognized from Morgan and Tania—and Siobhan—summoning their own Faerie swords. He filed that one away for later. After a few heartbeats there was a three foot long sword in his hand that looked almost like a Roman gladius, but made entirely out of a shimmery gray/silver material that all of them seemed to be made out of.

Walter fired a quick three shots in to Handgun’s throat and jaw, which sent him reeling and distracted him, but didn’t kill him. Walter watched as the gaping wounds that the 5.56 NATO rounds blew in his head filled in with bone and flesh and sinew; like watching the first Indiana Jones movie in reverse. It was, Walter had to admit, one of the most disturbing things that he had ever seen.

Handgun started to turn to him, but then Ryan was on him with his sword. He lashed out in a vicious slash designed to decapitate the man, but Handgun was damned fast. Not that Ryan wasn’t—he had been damned fast last year during the fight at the High School, and seemed faster now—but the other man was easily his match. Handgun jumped back and only suffered a cut on the chin as a result, but interestingly this one didn’t heal immediately. The man hissed and brought a hand up to his chin, as if surprised.

“Yeah, Broseph, welcome to Border,” Ryan taunted, moving to engage again. Once again Walter fired off a couple of shots to distract Handgun and let Ryan get in, this time two bullets hitting Handgun one per knee. It caused the man to slump a bit, but he turned it in to rolling his body forward and closing the to Ryan to get under his slashing blade. Ryan surprised him again by how strongly he pushed back against the charging man. Walter cursed and, lacking the ability to summon a definitely not magical sword from thin air, pulled his own knife out of his sheath.

While Ryan and Handgun grappled, Walter jumped forward and tried to ram the KA-BAR in to the fighting man’s heart, but he moved at the last second and Walter ended up stabbing him in the side of the stomach. Blood spurted out, but less than Walter would have expected—it seemed thick, like it came pre-coagulated. “Oh come on,” Walter grunted, as he tried to work the knife up. Instead he took a pained backhand from the man to his ribs that sent him sprawling and gasping for air; if Handgun had been in a better position, it probably would have broken ribs or a collapsed lung. “Shit,” he groaned, rolling over and pulling himself up.

Ryan managed to get a better grip, shifting his arms and twisting his body to throw the man to the ground. He followed the throw by pouncing, moving to the kind of ground work frequently seen in Mixed Martial Arts—or Army Combatives. “Get the knife,” Ryan grunted as he fought with the man to try to get him in to a lock. “Cut off his fucking head!” Walter grabbed his KA-BAR and moved over just as Ryan managed to get the man in a lock, every muscle in both of their bodies bulging as they fought for control.

Walter brought the knife down in a brutal chop to the back of Handgun’s neck, and bit bit deep. The man screamed, crying out in genuine agony and fear for the first time since the fight had begun, and it was a terrible sound that Walter figured would add to the litany of his nightmares. Even worse, as Walter brought the knife out to do it again the wound began to heal again. He put all of his strength in to the next blow and got most of the way through the mans neck. He torqued his shoulder in to it and began to saw, in a horrifying rush of dark blood and squishing sounds that he never wanted to hear again. Finally, with a horrifying wrench of strength and spray of blood on the both of them, Handgun’s head fell away and fell to the ground.

Ryan grunted, flopping back and breathing heavily as the energy seemed to flood out of his body; Walter did the same, and shook his head. “What…” he began, before they heard the rush of footsteps which heralded the arrival of others.

“Jesus Christ,” Ashland’s voice called as she came from the hallway the whole fight had fought in. “What the fuck did you two get up to?”

“He was…” Ryan panted, “Not quite dead the first time.”

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7.2 Tough Crowd

Things swiftly went from bad to worse. Walter and Ryan rolled in to the hallway to find themselves facing another gun, this one a handgun held by a tall and beefy man with a confident look on his features. He was backed up by two other men, all of them wearing dark and vaguely tactical clothing. The handgun man gave him a broad smile as he looked at the two kneeling figures in front of him.

“Just like fishing,” he proclaimed, motioning with his gun for Walter and Ryan to stand up. “You’re the Deputy,” Handgun offered to Walter, before looking to Ryan. “And you’re not on my list. So tell me who you are, and I’ll let you know if you get to live.” Walter and Ryan shared a look, followed by Ryan looking incredulously at Handgun.

“You’ve got Walt on a list, but you didn’t shoot both of us right away—so that means you’re not someone we pissed off before. You’re pointing the gun at him and don’t know who I am, which meas you’re not someone we pissed off last year,” Ryan ticked through a list, actually holding up his fingers.

Walter got involved, rolling his shoulders a little bit to keep them loose but covering it by looking like he had just hit the ground hard. “You brought pretty standard goon load-out, so you’re not expecting anything particularly tough,” Walter said, keeping his hands out to the sides and away from his rifle. Wouldn’t do to make the man just outright shoot him. “And you’re wearing a vest but none of your goon squad are, so you’re not military or paramilitary. So you’re just…” Walter looked at Ryan when he got to the end, as if asking if he was missing anything. When Ryan shrugged, Walter looked back to Handgun. “Normal guys?”

Handgun snorted. He had a good shooting stance, and was keeping a decent amount of distance given they had basically run in to one another, and seemed to know what he was doing. So Walter wasn’t surprised by his response. “These boys are some pretty tough pipe hitters and I’m Army Ranger, Keystone Cop.”

Walter made his eyes go wide and he looked at Ryan; despite the frightened look, he kept track of the men behind Handgun, who were relaxing in ‘bodyguard pose’—which coincidentally put their own handguns out of quick use.. “Oh shit, Ryan, this guy was an Army Ranger? You know what that means?” His voice was panicky and breathy, and Handgun started to puff his chest a little bit.

Ryan matched his look, gasping. “He’s been to Fort Benning?” Walter nodded. “And was probably pissed off when they switched beret colors?” Walter nodded again, but then let his face relax. “And probably wasn’t in the regiment until after we were?”

Walter nodded a final time, rubbing his chin. “Probably, although if he was in the Regiment and not just qualified then we might have overlapped. I mean, thats a lot of people.” He shrugged. “Going to have to try harder to be intimidating, man.”

Handgun shook his head from side to side. “Bullshit,” he declared. “You think I’m going to believe you jokers? We got the drop on you, and you’re trying to play with us to stall so the other two can come around.” His eyes moved from Walter to Ryan and back again, belying his words—he was clearly annoyed pertinent information hadn’t been given to him. He had a list, and it should have said if they were just random cops or not. He opened his mouth to say more, but Walter saw his eyes quickly flit to Ryan again. Walter sprung, trusting Ryan to handle the shotgun wielding men behind him.

He lashed out and slapped the handgun to the side, his other hand moving to the rifle on a sling at his side. He brought the barrel up and fired a quick shot in to Handgun’s knee, dropping him and causing him to drop his handgun. Continuing the motion Walter had the rifle up halfway to his shoulder when he fired two shots into the first man’s throat, and he had it fully shouldered when he fired two shots to drop the other bodyguard poser.

One of the two bodyguard posers managed to get his gun up and fire off a shot as Walter dropped him—the other did not. The bullet hit Handgun in the back where he was on the ground, thrown wide by his imminent death, and Handgun fell forward with a gasp of pain as the bullet flattened on his vest and laid him out on the ground. The sound of gunfire behind him, and the fact that it wasn’t a shotgun firing reassured him. When he looked over, he saw Ryan fine and lowering his rifle with a shrug.

“Do you think that we have too high a threshold for being impressed?” Ryan asked curiously as he moved to check on Handgun. “Nice shot, you didn’t hit the vein, and it didn’t shatter his kneecap.”

Walter sighed. “What if I was aiming for his knee-cap? I could be slipping. And…” Walter considered the hallway around them. He took a zip tie out of his pocket, and leaned down to pull Handgun’s arms behind his back and zip tie his wrists. “Maybe we are a little hard to impress,” he admitted. “Come on, let’s go see if he’s got any other guys. And give them a chance to stand down, please, this was ugly circumstances.”

Ryan nodded, and shouldered his rifle as the two of them started back down the hallway. “Still,” Ryan offered, “It’s nice to be fighting just…guys, you know?”

Walter nodded. “Amen.”

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7.1 Dark and Governmental

The interior was darker than it seemed like it should be from the outside. The hallway was only mildly decorated, as if someone said that it should be decorated for guests but then realized that there weren’t going to be any at the secret government research facility hidden in the woods. So it had been kind of half-assed, was the impression Walter got from it. It was done in a sterile green, and there was a little sofa in front of a receptionist desk.

“Got a lot of visitors,” Ryan commented. Ashland and Hernandez took the front, with Walter and Ryan coming up behind them with the rifles. In the event of being attacked, the front two would drop or get to the side to clear up the firing line for the rifles. The four of them moved easily, with long practice. “Where’s the new boy, by the way?”

Ashland didn’t look up at the heavens to pray for operational silence, but she looked from behind like she wanted to; Walter sympathized—Ryan was always slightly easier to handle when you could actually order him around then when you couldn’t. “Working with your Ms. Silverman; she seems to be quite the agent. Should I recruit her?”

Walter grunted. “Like hell. Even if you were the actual FBI I wouldn’t want to lose her, and there’s no way I’ll be OK with you taking her to Langley,” Walter said with finality, referring to the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia. “She’s a grown ass woman so she can do what she wants, but if you convince her to be a spook I’ll key every car you ever own forever.”

Ashland laughed, but let it go at that. At the end of the hallway there was a door that looked like it had once been secure, but now it hung listlessly on its hinges like it had been thoroughly wrecked. The keycard reader next to it was deactivated and sad, like a little electronic face waiting in the dark. They walked through it carefully, wary of any residual traps, but found nothing. Beyond that door there was a wide meeting or production area—there were some cubicles along the walls and some long meeting tables running down the center of the room between them. There were papers left haphazard on the tables and in the cubicles, as if they had been evacuated in a hurry but not in absolute chaos.

“Alright, let’s start fanning out; it looks like the complex branches out from this room,” Ashland commented, gesturing with the flashlight to two doors at the other end of the room. They did seem to lead to different sections, and the four of them naturally broke in to two groups of two—Walter and Ryan, Ashland and Hernandez. It may have made more sense to split the weapon groupings up, but they team choices were long habit. They moved slowly through the room, carefully looking at the papers as they went. Most of them seemed to be administrative memos, none of them particularly catching their eyes as being important. It seemed like the room might have been some kind of administration section with an early prototype of an open floor-plan office environment. Walter did notice that some of the memos were addressed to sub-units of very Federal departments.

“Do we know if there’s a back entrance?” Walter asked as they made it up to the second set of doors. “If not, then if you find one turn around and meet up with the others.” All three nodded the affirmative, and they tried the doors. Hernandez and Ashland found theirs opened, while the lock on the door in front of Walter and Ryan apparently still worked.

“You got it?” Ashland asked, and Walter snorted. He pulled a set of lock-picks out of his pocket, and knelt down. “Alright, if you don’t have it in thirty seconds you have to let Ryan do it instead.” Hernandez gave a little bit of a salute, and the other two made their way down their branch.

“So what do we think is going on here?” Walter asked softly as he worked the picks. All of them knew how to pick a lock, and it was a good way to pass time and make bets when they were bored. Walter actually wasn’t the fastest at this particular game—Ryan was damn good at it, as was Hernandez—but he didn’t think he was going to lose the speed trial here on a lock this old and rusted out.

“Well, there’s good odds that the vial had something to do with salvation. I mean it could be something else,” Ryan allowed with a shrug, “Because this is Border and weird shit happens ll the time, but I shudder to think we have that many random boutique narcotics floating around.”

Walter nodded, getting the lock picked and pushing the door open. Ryan moved through quickly with his rifle, while Walter brought his up to fall in behind him. “Yeah, it seems like we’re going to find something here, but I just don’t know what it is yet,” he agreed. The hallway beyond looked more like a jail then one in a science laboratory; two other hallways branched off, one straight ahead without much more security, and one off to the left with another security desk and a locked door with a bullet-proof window in it. Ryan moved over to the secure door, glancing through it and wincing. “That’s…unwholesome. Looks like cells back there.” Walter winced, but motioned.

“Looks like a lab through here, and…” Walter reached down to try the handle, “And the door is open,” he confirmed. “Also way less depressing, and more science-y.” He shrugged, and Ryan returned the shrug and moved over to join him.

The next room had a wide array of cabinets and what appeared to be scientific equipment, the kind used to mix chemicals or determine what was in them. Walter was pretty sure he recognized a very old gas chromatograph, with some chemical formulas written on a white-board above it. On the other side of the room was another exit, the door completely gone, leading further in to the compound. He shrugged, and pulled out his cell phone to take some quick pictures of it and the other white boards around the room. Ryan did the same, both men letting their rifles rest on the slings around their shoulders as they made their way around until they were standing near the unexplored but open doorway. “Grab some of the files?” Walter suggested.

“We should have brought Silverman,” Ryan commented wryly. “We’re like bulls in a china shop here,” he said, while nonetheless stepping very carefully around.

“Bulls in a china shop with basic skills at avoiding contaminating crime scenes, I hope,” Walter offered in amusement before he blinked. “Did you—” he began, thinking he had heard something in the distance. Then he heard a crash coming from the direction they had come, and he and Ryan shared a look. They had just started to reach for their rifles when two large men pushed through the door. Each had a shotgun and a mean look, and they glared when they saw Walter and Ryan.

Walter and Ryan reacted by both throwing themselves through the door to the hallway with a curse as a shotgun blast impacted the wall.

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7.0 Green and Grays

The final phone call of the day had been, unexpectedly, from Ashland. Walter hadn’t actually given her his phone number, so that was definitely a surprise—it had come in as a private number which he had ignored, followed by a text message telling him to stop stealing oxygen from the people around him and pick up his phone, which was followed by a phone call he had actually answered.

“We found the lab.” Ashland had never much been one for salutations or other pleasantries, and Walter was perversely relieved to find that hadn’t changed. “We’re going in tonight so we can look around before some fumble fingered keystone cops break something. Get the puppy, I’m texting you the address.”

“So we’re going in to the woods of Border, to a presumably abandoned government facility, to look in to a super drug, almost at night?” Walter asked, reaching up to scratch his chin idly.

Ashland snorted. “Why do you do that?”

The grin was apparent in Walter’s voice as he responded. “I find a full accounting of the stupid things we’re about to do is helpful for the after action report.” He glanced down at the cell phone when he it dinged, and pulled up the map as he spoke. “Looks like I’ll be there about…forty minutes after I get Ryan. How are we going in?”

Ashland paused for a moment, considering. “Less than Prague, more than Sao Paolo,” she decided, before hanging up. Walter considered, then decided he knew what that meant.

Fifty-five minutes later he was driving through a dilapidated gate that looked like it had once been secure. The facility was deep in the woods south of border, with a dirt road that was decent if not particularly well maintained. All around them the forest shimmered with the dark greens of old growth, and the long and deep shadows of heavy woods as the sun got lower in the sky. It was beautiful, the rich browns of dirt and tree versus the variegated greens of moss and leaf, but it was also strongly indicative of a place humans didn’t go. This was the domain of the woods, and Walter felt like an intruder.

The facility that came up ahead of them seemed even more like an intruder, albeit one the forest was doing its best to reclaim. The gray stone was unnatural against even the other grays of the rocks, and the vines that had overtaken most of it didn’t do much to make it seem less so. There was a heavily rusted doorway at the front, but even as they approached Taito Hernandez was getting it open through what appeared to be a combination of lock picks and strong kicking.

“You’re late,” Ashland commented as Walter and Ryan got out of a Border PD SUV. Walter went around to the back and grabbed his active shooter duffel, opening it up to pull a rifle out. “Did you bring enough for the class to share, Mr. Richards?” She asked, in her best prim school teacher voice.

“Nope,” Walter offered cheekily. “This one is all mine.” What was all his was an FN-SCAR 16S, a matte-black semi-automatic rifle with a scope on the top. “If I’m not going to be able to afford college for my children because of my paranoiac gun collecting, I at least get to enjoy the fruits of it.” He grabbed some other gear, and pulled his way in to a bullet-proof vest from the department, before extending the telescoping stock on the rifle and pulling the strap over his shoulder.

Ryan snorted, as he pulled his personal M4 carbine out of the back of the SUV. “Like you didn’t get a law enforcement discount to start, and probably a personal discount. Don’t you know a guy?” He asked. Walter grinned.

“I always know a guy.” Wiggling his eyebrow, he went through the familiar ritual of carefully checking the rifle to make sure it was in good shape. Following that he loaded a magazine, and chambered a round. “You said more than Sao Paolo, less than Prague. So I didn’t see if I could find any grenades.” Ashland shrugged at that, and motioned to the facility.

“Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind. But it does make it look a little bit less like you’re a cop, and more like you still want to be a soldier,” she pointed out sweetly. Walter snorted, and followed her as she walked toward the facility. She pulled out her Makarov and a flashlight, and Hernandez had what Walter recognized was an FN Five SeveN.

“Nah,” Ryan said with a sigh, as Walter and he turned on the lights mounted to their own rifles. “We just look like we’ve been to Border before.” Walter shared a knowing look with him as they walked toward the building. There was a sign on the door that read ‘Van Harlo Research Center’, and offered absolutely no information further tan that. “So…Aliens? Little green men with inexplicable fetishes for our anuses?”

Ashland snorted, pushing open the door. “You were always fun on the radios, Ryan, but maybe let’s treat this seriously.” She stepped in to the building, and began carefully scanning with her flashlight. “Besides, they’re gray,” she offered helpfully as she walked further in to the building. The entrance hall stretched out before them as the building burrowed itself in to the side of the hill.

“You know,” Walter offered off-hand, “It wouldn’t be the craziest thing I think we’ve ever seen.”

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6.5 Siblings, Moving

There was a not insignificant amount of unpacking and moving to do, and as a consequence Walter didn’t have to—or, if he was feeling more generous, had the chance to—speak to his sister for almost an hour and a half. He helped Samuel, Margaret’s husband, move in their piano and position it in their living room when he found Margaret falling in step beside him. He sighed inwardly, but nodded.

“So why exactly are you moving to Border, Margaret?” He asked, to preempt her questioning of him. She was always Margaret by choice—she hadn’t been one for nicknames, which wasn’t helped by the fact that Walter was an inveterate nicknamer. Siobhan had come by that habit honestly, at least.

Margaret snorted. “The only reason that people move to Kansas, Walt; I got a job good enough to make me move. Assistant United States Attorney for the District of Kansas, supervising the Border office. Apparently there is a lot of need for Federal prosecution in this part of Kansas, enough to make me come to the dark side of representing the State.” She quirked her shoulders. “Two years in, and I can probably swing at least a transfer to the District of Colorado, and probably not long after at least a state if not Federal judgeship.” She looked at him directly, with the same penetrating gaze that he knew she used to such good effect in court. Of course, he was immune to it not by dint of training, but by dint of being her brother. “Isn’t it a little…soon, or disrespectful to date the ginger doctor?”

Walter sighed. “I’m not sure how it would be, Peggy.” She was Margaret by choice, but that didn’t mean he was going to necessarily honor that choice, especially when she was needling him anyway. She scowled. “She left me, 18 months ago. A year and a half and I haven’t heard a word from her.” He didn’t tell her about the note, had never told her about the note, because it was intensely private and none of her damn business. “At some point, all of our lives get to stop being in stasis waiting for something to change.”

Margaret didn’t look particularly thrilled by that answer. “Walter, I don’t want to judge your choices—” she began, almost pro forma, before Walter interrupted.

“But you’re going to power through, I see,” he commented idly.

“But you need to think about the example you’re thinking for your children, and the community,” Margaret continued sourly. She didn’t comment on his comment—perhaps it would have been too meta, or she was too used to his sarcastic back-chatter. “And what it does to them to watch their Father dating in these circumstances.”

Walter walked with her out to the truck, passing one of the mentioned children and giving her a little hip bump as she walked by with Morgan. “Hey!” Siobhan said with a giggle. “Careful, we might drop one of the seven million textbooks,” she offered, shrugging the box that she carried. “What a terrible thing that would be.” They wandered on, and Walter waggled at his eyebrows at the furtive and curious look Morgan gave her.

“Clearly scarred for life,” Walter confided sotto voce. “I don’t know how she manages to keep soldiering on.” He sighed dramatically, shaking his head from side to side sadly.

“You could be slightly less smug about your daughter not seemingly overly scarred,” Margaret commented with a sigh as she reached for a box of books herself. “I didn’t think they’d be breaking down and crying in the streets, gnashing her teeth and ripping out her hair. But everything we do has an emotional cost, Walter, and you need to be careful.”

Walter sighed. “I am careful, Margaret. As careful as I can be, with them.” His thoughts turned briefly to the fact that perhaps the most dangerous normal human he had ever met was in town and had met his daughter, they lived in a town with a creepy government research station decades past that got people killed, and Vampires on the loose. As careful as I can be, he repeated to himself with a mental sigh.

“Are you?” Margaret asked. “Have you taken them to see a therapist, have you gone to someone yourself?” She asked. Margaret was that way, would outright ask about things like therapy—it was refreshing sometimes, and frustrating often. Walter had accused her of being a robot in the past, and when he had been a kid had wondered if he could expose her wiring.

“I took them to one right after Rhiannon left, but they wouldn’t go to a second session. Antigone and Siobhan went to one right after the High School, but wouldn’t go to a second session.” Walter sighed at that, shaking his head. “Trust me when I tell you that a forced therapist visit pretty much never results in actual therapy happening. I’ve made it clear that I’d be thrilled to take them, and I will if they ask.”

Margaret sighed again, but she didn’t seem to have anything else to say in light of that. They were quiet for several minutes as they moved their boxes and placed them in the room that would end up the library. “Walter, I know we don’t really spend time together,” she offered, which was true, “But I am here, and we are family. So if you need something, I’m here.”

It was stiffly offered, and Walter wasn’t sure how much ‘something’ covered—although maybe he could hit her up for college fund donations, since she had made way more money in her life than he had. “Thank you, Margaret,” he offered sincerely, because it was a generous statement and deserved a genuine response. They did not hug, but their quiet as they carried books was at least somewhat more companionable, and that was a start.

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ASN 6.4 Personal Hell

“In case you ever wondered what hell looks like for me,” Walter offered conversationally, “This would be it.” He gestured to the scene in front of him, which to a lay observer probably didn’t resemble fire and brimstone in any sense. It was a relatively large house, certainly larger than the one that Walter and his family lived in, with a moving van outside of it and some people going to and from it. He was in his car, having driven it over from the church with only a brief stop to pick up Morgan. The Faerie Queen had consented to take back seat so that Siobhan could continue with her feet up on the dashboard, bowing to convention and comfort—and also probably buying brownie points with her boyfriend’s daughter. Which is weird to think about, Walter allowed.

“It looks fairly unassuming, Walter,” Morgan pointed out, leaning over the center console from the back seat to look at the decidedly suburban scene. The neighborhood was a nicer one, upper middle class and a few blocks away from one of Border’s other High Schools. It was across town from Walter’s house, but despite that he was well familiar with it. “And don’t—” she began.

“Exactly!” Walter punctuated, sighing. “This is my sister moving in to the same neighborhood that Benny and Analyn Aquino live in. It is people who don’t like me but I have to interact with because I love my children that will be living next to people who don’t like me but I have to interact with because of filial piety.” He leaned forward to rest his forehead on the steering wheel.

Siobhan sighed a little bit. “Lolo and Lola don’t hate you, Dad,” she offered, using the common Filipino words for grandfather and grandmother that they all preferred, although her voice sounded somewhat uncertain. “I’m just not sure they like you that much. Neither of you try to make a lot of time for the other,” she offered, her voice apologetic for the criticism of her father. He shook his head slightly.

“We tried when you were younger, kiddo, and before you were born.” He shrugged. “We all get along just fine, they just don’t like what I represent. Rhiannon ran away from Border to go to K-State, and she came back with a soldier she wanted to marry. I’m white, not-Catholic, was going to be deployed, and wasn’t from Border. I checked off all the boxes for them to dislike.”

Morgan looked out at the people moving boxes from the trucks in to the house. “And your sister…” she trailed off, raising an eyebrow.

“We’re siblings. I trust I don’t really need to explain that to anyone in the car?” He asked wryly. Morgan smirked and Siobhan grinned, and Walter waved his hands vaguely. “Margaret always took after Dad. I don’t know if she just decided his views were right, or if she decided them on her own, but she never liked that I went in to the military. She claimed that it was a waste of my talents. She didn’t seem to believe that I could have talents that were in almost exclusively destructive areas.”

Morgan leaned in to squeeze his arm, and Siobhan gave him a smile. “I don’t think you give yourself enough credit, Walter. I’ve seen you as a leader, as an investigator, and as a father. And I suspect that your sister knows it. It’s been a long time since you lived in the same city as one another, and you may be surprised at how well you get along with one another.” She took a long pause. “Also, shouldn’t we get out of the car and go help? Or risk looking like crazy people?”

Walter didn’t say anything, but he shook his head and reached to pull the keys out of the car. “At some point, I do have to wonder, if all my family members dislike me then is it really them—or is it me?” He asked with a little bit of a smirk. They all got out at that, leaving it unanswered, and walked toward the house. A woman turned and began walking toward them.

She was tall and slender, and the family resemblance to Walter was strong. She had medium brown hair that was tied in a short pony-tail behind her head, and she was wearing jeans and a sweatshirt with the emblem of the University of Colorado on it. “Took you long enough,” she said simply. “I called you yesterday to tell you we were coming.”

Walter nodded slowly. “Right, and normal people tell their family more than twenty-four hours in advance they need help moving. Also, why are you here?” He asked.

Margaret gave him an even look. “I tried calling you before, you don’t pick up my calls. And I’m here for the reason anyone moves across the country, especially to Kansas—I got a job offer.” She looked over, and had a genuine smile for Siobhan. “Hello, Siobhan; it’s good to see you.” Siobhan smiled back. “And who is your friend, Walter?”

“Margaret Richards, Esquire, meet Morgan Winters, M.D. She’s the local medical examiner, and we met on a case,” Walter explained. He debated not saying more than that and letting her wonder, but he looked over to her and saw her raised eyebrow. He did like screwing with her, a lot. With a snort, he continued. “And we’re also dating, and having enthusiastic-”

“NO,” Siobhan said quickly, shoving her father toward the moving truck full of boxes. “MORE TALK ABOUT MEDICINE AND LAW LESS TRYING TO MAKE PEOPLE FEEL GROSS.” At that, at least, they all laughed.

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ASN 6.3 Info Dump

With a suitable bribe, Siobhan was set up with Walter’s personal firearm and one of the SWAT officers as a guide. Part of the bribe had been that yes, Walter would come out and shoot with some of the SWAT team, and in return they also wouldn’t teach Siobhan stupid gun tricks. The Range Safety Officer had been thrilled to hear that there wouldn’t be shenanigans, although Siobhan had been disappointed. Now the team that was there had gathered around one of the picnic style tables at the range, for the information sharing.

“Sodium thiopental?” Alexander asked, considering the vial in the bag carefully. He turned it over, as if he could glean more information from it just by looking at a different angle. He handed it to Ashland when she held a hand out for it, and she gave it a similar once over. “So someone wanted to be unconscious, or I guess it could be the truth serum you people always bang on about; You did say it was the government.” He gave a look to Ashland, as if hoping she would either confirm or deny that the government actually had truth serum.

“Neither the FBI nor the CIA will officially comment on the existence of chemical compounds of that nature,” Ashland responded simply. She handed the vial back to Walter, who shrugged and handed it back to the Marshal.

“If it’s connected to our cases,” Walter said, “I’m going to guess that the unidentified compounds have something to do with Salvation. Maybe it can help us identify exactly what it does.” He shrugged. “And then there’s the case at the hospital. Did Dr. Winters send you her analysis of it?”

Ashland reached into her backpack and pulled out a couple of folded pieces of paper. “Yes. ‘A heretofore unseen drug interaction causing extreme anemia, coma, difficulty breathing, and slowed heartbeat. Effects last for an unknown amount of time, currently treating with’ and then a bunch of medical terms.” Ashland folded the papers back up. “Certainly seems like the kind of interaction that one might expect mixing drugs with barbiturates, but that could be arguing ahead of the facts.”

Walter nodded. “That was my thought too. We’ll have the lab run it and compare; Leah knows the techs and has a good background in chemistry, so I’ll have her work on that end. You mentioned that you had some info too?” He asked Ashland, raising an eyebrow as if daring hr to not be as sharing as he had been. But to his surprise, she pulled another couple of files out of the bag and put them on the table.

“There have been a couple of private investigators who have looked in to Salvation,” Ashland explained. “They are—surprisingly—all dead. Some of that can be explained by how long we suspect these cases have been going on, but some can’t. One caught our eye, however, because of the unusual coincidences.” She flipped through the files until she found the one she was looking for. “A man was hired to look into drug related disappearances in town. He found one girl who had run away to join some sort of cult worshiping a squid demon, and returned her, and he kept poking around looking for information. He was pretty good, but apparently the trail went cold because he stopped as far as I can tell.” She scowled. “This is all conjecture for now, although I’m hoping that you can help with that.”

She pulled a picture out, and slid it across the table to Walter. “Recognize this man?” She asked. He considered the picture carefully. It showed a spry looking man with neatly groomed white hair underneath a forest green hat, and a goatee; he could have been an old forty, dead on for his fifties, or even maybe a young looking sixty. He had piercing green eyes, and in the picture he was wearing a green blazer and a dark brown bow-tie. He looked like someone’s grandfather, Walter thought, the kind of grandfather with interesting stories and a varied past.

Walter didn’t recognize him, and he said as much—but he felt Ryan’s legs tense under the table next to him, all the sign the man gave of anything amiss. But it was a sign, and Walter filed it away for immediate follow-up when the CIA wasn’t at the table. “Can’t say I know him. Normally we ask that question if we suspect the other party has killed them?” He prompted.

Ashland smirked, and shook her head. Alexander leaned in to consider the picture, and he looked equally baffled; Ashland had apparently not even shared this bit of information with him before now. “I don’t think you killed him, Walter, I just think that you know who did. Well, hell,” she held up a hand to forestall his question, “We all know who did. He might have looked differently when you saw him last, but this is the charmingly named Arthur D. Mortimer, of Spenser Hills in one Border, Kansas. The last time you saw him I believe he had been murdered by the Three Stripes killers.”

Now Walter tensed as well, and looked at the picture. Images bolted through his brain like a wild horse—a slashed throat, gutted with what looked like burning knives, red and black and blood and three bloody stripes on the wall behind him. Walter had to take a second to steady himself, and he nodded. “I recognize that.”

“He had papers,” Ashland continued, pushing the point past Walter’s discomfort. “But they’re not in evidence. I don’t know why,” she offered with a look over at Alexander, “But I want to see them.”

“That…” Ryan said, considering the picture and sighing. “Will take another phone call.” He pulled out his cell phone. “With your permission, Marshal?” He asked Alexander, who nodded and sent him to do so.

“The papers were hired by Tania Summers, whom you met; she employed him as a private detective in some matters, although she hadn’t mentioned Salvation,” Walter explained. “We’ll find out if it will be easy or a pain in the ass to get the files in question in a minute, but—” he stopped when his own cell started ringing. It was the generic ringtone, not one he had saved for his children, brother-in-law, or Morgan. He expected to see ‘Tania’ on the screen, but instead it read ‘Tums.’

“Shit,” Walter cursed.

“Summers?” Ashland asked.

“No, and not Satan either, although I’d prefer that,” Walter sighed. He slid a finger to answer the phone, and put it up to his ear. “Yes, dear sister?”

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6.2 Reindeer Games

The phone call had been from the Marshal, and had been asking if he’d any further information. Walter brought him up to speed about the discussion with Reverend Morrison, and they had agreed to meet to discuss the case further.

The Border Police Department maintained a training facility on the edge of town, a building they owned for practicing room clearing and SWAT tactics with an attached shooting range they had built. The training building had been in the opposite direction of dropping Siobhan off, so as he pulled up in to the parking lot she was still riding shotgun with her boots up on the dashboard.

Walter pulled the car in to the parking lot near the shooting range, and hopped out after parking. “You wanna see a whole lot of cops shooting guns?” Walter asked, leaning on the roof of the car. In an instant, Siobhan was out of the car and shoving her cell back in to her pocket.

“Aww, Daddy, you do know what I like,” Siobhan answered with a cheerful smile as she locked her door and closed it. She walked around the car, and held her arm out to him. “Best mental health day ever!”

Walter snorted, but took the arm and began to walk toward the shooting range with her. “Well, after fifteen years I try. I’ll have to think what to offer Annie and Ryan to be just as good, so they don’t think I play favorites.” But Siobhan squeezed his arm, and kept grinning.

“It’s OK, I won’t tell them who the favorite its,” she offered magnanimously as they walked. There were two shooting ranges at the facility, an indoor and an outdoor, and Walter walked with his daughter toward the outdoor one. Fishing in his jacket pocket, he pulled out a pair of earplugs wrapped in plastic and held them out to her.

“We’ll grab eye protection from the range officer. We’re allowed guests, as long as they’re shooting our own firearms and ammunition, and I’ve got my own gun on me too and some ammo in a locket.” At that, Siobhan positively glowed with excitement.

The outdoor shooting range was vastly similar to the indoor one, except the lines of shooting lanes were receiving some afternoon sunshine, and it had a much longer rifle range. The range was set against large hills and backstops designed to stop stray bullets from going anywhere, and high walls to try to contain the noise. But what Walter noticed first was the large group of officers around a couple of the shooting lanes with fairly awe struck expressions, and the sight of Master Sergeant Hernandez at one of the lanes examining the target he had been shooting at. As the crowd shifted he could see Ashland, Gavin Neill, and Ryan Aquino standing there as well. Ashland was swapping out magazines on a small pistol, with several officers glancing at it with newfound wariness.

“Who’s that, and what gun is that?” Siobhan asked, motioning to the CIA cum FBI agent and the firearm she held.

“That’s Ashland,” Walter explained, sotto voce. “And that’s her favorite gun. Pistolet Makarova Modernizirovannyy, called a Makarov pistol—technically the modernized version. Soviet,” he explained, although she offered a roll of her eyes at the obviousness of that piece of information given the name was obviously in Russian, “Designed with much of their philosophy about being pretty hard to destroy. I have no idea where she picked up the preference for it, but she’s always had it.”

Apparently something of their conversation was audible to the woman in question, despite the distance and the crowd. Ashland smiled wryly as she set down her gun and turned to face the two of them. “I preferred it for a long time for the same reason I know you don’t carry pack a shotgun for an operation,” she explained. Walter nodded, and at Siobhan’s glance offered a shrug.

“Easier to procure on site. The Makarov is still incredibly common in Russia and a lot of former Soviet countries,” Walter explained, “And I never brought a shotgun because if I needed it I could probably take it off someone there. It’s cheap and easy to procure, so a lot of guards end up with one.” Walter watched Siobhan process what it meant that he could take it off a guard, as he turned to Ashland warily.

“And this must be…” Ashland began, considering Siobhan for a moment. “Siobhan,” she pronounced. “Given the clothing and hair. Unless the two of you switched motifs,” she asked with a raised eyebrow. At Walter’s scowl, she smiled and held out her hand. “No, I must have gotten it right. A pleasure to meet you, I’m Ashland. Your father has told me positively nothing about you.”

“Charmed,” Siobhan drawled wryly, taking the offered hand and shaking it. “And the same, although I suspect for different reasons.”

“So I don’t break character, stay away from my children,” Walter said, seriously, before he looked at the others. “Impressing you with some shooting?” He asked, to nods as Marshal Alexander and Ryan Aquino came over.

“I have to say they’re fairly impressive, Major,” Alexander offered. “Even to a jaded old infantryman like me. They mentioned something about a game you used to play?” He asked, a little bit of a twinkle in his eye. Siobhan blinked and curiosity bloomed across her face, while Ryan and Ashland both raised eyebrows in invitation.

“Shit…” Walter said with a sigh, and reached for his wallet. He fished through it, and pulled out a single one hundred dollar bill that he kept primarily for emergencies. “Fine, I’m good for it if you two are.” Both Ashland and Aquino reached in to their pockets and pulled out matching money, while Hernandez smirked. Neill blinked, and looked between them.

“What, are we showing off? I want in,” he commented, and had the good fortune to wince a little at how petulant he sounded as the three apparent competitors went to the range.

“You have to be invited to play the game,” Hernandez explained. “Cause you have to be good enough to be able to make it interesting, and have the money to play.”

“Speaking of,” Ryan asked. “Three teenagers, you good for the overages?” He asked with a grin. He took a pistol he had apparently been using, a standard issue Border PD 1911, and ejected the full magazine.

Walter pulled his own service pistol out and did the same, before working to remove the slide. “The competition is simple. Everyone starts with their gun with the magazine out and the slide off. First person to assemble, load, and fire their gun at the target wins. Any bullet that hits the a target zone but isn’t a kill shot disqualifies you, and you owe an additional hundred bucks for any bullet that missed. We call that overage.” Walter took an empty magazine and set it down on his money, before going to get his own ear protection and protective glasses for both himself and Siobhan. “And Ryan, how long have we been playing this game?”

Ryan actually paused to consider, thinking about it. “Well, you and I did it for the first time like twenty years ago,” he answered. “Christ, that’s depressing.”

Walter nodded. “It is,” he agreed, as Ashland chivvied a matching pistol out of one of the nearby cops. “In all those years, I’ve never had the money in my pocket to cover any overages. Ready?” He asked, looking to the others. At their nods, he looked to the range officer. “Give us a go.”

The Range Safety Officer made sure that the targets were set and the range was clear in their area, before turning back to the three waiting shooters. “Range is clear. Normally I would say ‘Fire at will’, but we’re being loosey goosey with not being stupid today, so…” he paused dramatically, “Go.”

All three shooters moved at once, reaching out and grabbing their pistols. Slides came on, then magazines into pistols and the rounds were chambered. Walter didn’t have to think about the motions as he brought the pistol up and sighted down range. Almost without conscious thought he squeezed the trigger seven times, and set the pistol back down. Almost simultaneously he heard two other pistols being set down, and all three of them stepped back to roll their shoulders and consider the targets.

“Holy shit,” Siobhan sputtered, her eyes wide as she looked at the three of them. “That was…I mean, holy shit.” The sentiment was shared in mutters up and down the group of officers, and even Alexander shook his head.

“It looked like it was the Major who had it, by a little bit?” Alexander asked, and the RSO nodded. The targets were pulled in, and everyone leaned forward to consider the shots. “Jesus,” he confirmed. All three of them had put neat groupings in the head, each one of seven holes neatly packed next to each other. Except for Walter’s, which only had six. “Did you miss one?”

“No,” Ryan and Ashland both answered simultaneously, glancing at one another. “He’s done it before, because he’s a show-off or lucky. He put two bullets through the same hole, probably his first two. Patton did the same thing, and it cost him an Olympic medal. First time one of us did it we had to check the cameras.” Both the former soldier and the alleged FBI agent held their money out to Walter, which he took and pocketed.

“Now,” Walter said, as he took his pistol back up. “Didn’t we have some case information to discuss?”

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6.1 Memories of Blood

“My father had been in the army,” Naomi explained after a moment’s pause for thought. “Like a lot of people he came back not entirely whole from the experience of fighting a war. I imagine that you can sympathize, Detective,” she offered, with a glance at Walter. Walter didn’t feel appropriate interrupting her, but he gave a nod at her implied questioning. “He got a job with the government, at a research facility in town. I don’t know exactly what they were doing,” she offered, forestalling the inevitable follow-up question. “I know it had something to do with chemical experiments—I remember Dad talking about formulas.”

Morrison went quiet again, and Walter studied her face for a long moment. There was serenity there, the peace of something emotional having happened a very long time ago; but there was also pain there, long buried. It was in the tightness around her eyes, the stiffness in her pose, and the way she kept looking to various parts of the church as if seeking familiar places of support. No matter how long ago something happened it still had happened, and it still left an imprint on the soul; Walter felt like there were times he probably had the exact same look. Maybe everyone did, if the wrong things happened to them.

Siobhan was still, but it was a more relaxed stillness—more like Walter’s. This wasn’t their trauma, they were just along for the ride. They knew it was mounting toward tragedy, and Siobhan wasn’t so tough that she wouldn’t cry at sad stories (despite claiming otherwise), but it wasn’t a pain they had lived through.

After another long moment for gathering her thoughts, Naomi continued. “My parents were also oddly into…mystical things. What we’d call new age now, but they never called it that,” she offered with a slight smile. “Most of it was benign. I remember some books on Buddhism, and some crystals. But some of it wasn’t—there were things they brought home and took that made them paranoid.” She shivered at some memory, that she didn’t share the specifics of. “Sometimes my father seemed like he was a different person,” was how she summed up whatever had made her shiver. She leaned forward, putting her elbows on her knees.

Walter looked around for a moment. “Do you need a cup of water, Reverend?” He asked solicitously. She shook her head, and continued from the leaning forward position.

“The night they died they came home late. I had a baby-sitter when they needed to work late,” she explained in a sidebar, “and she died in 1996, so there’s nobody you could ask about what happened. I was very young, but I remember things seemed off somehow. The babysitter was distracted, and she left as soon as my parents got home.” She stopped to consider her words for a moment, cocking her head. “I think they invited her to stay for dinner most nights, if she hadn’t made something for me.” She shrugged, and continued. “I think…Dad seemed like he was anemic, and he was incredibly irritable. We ate a very awkward dinner, and I was sent to bed early.” She sighed. “I could fall asleep fairly easily—I’ve always been able to—but I seem to recall that it was even more than normal. I might have been given something. And I remember that I didn’t wake up until I heard something wet.”

She had shivered before, but now she shuddered outright. “I woke up and went in to the hall to see what had spilled, and found a dead body. I didn’t recognize who it was, but as soon as I started screaming I could hear other people start screaming too. And then I got hit by something, and I don’t remember anything else.” She reached in to her pocket while she continued speaking. “I know that isn’t a lot of information, Detective, but I was very young; and it was a very long time ago.” She pulled a vial out of her pocket, and held it out to him. Walter pulled a latex glove out of his pocket, to which she raised an eyebrow.

“You never know,” Walter answered, taking the vial in his hand and pulling out an evidence bag for it as well.

“After this long and surviving a fire I’m pretty sure I do. I had the substances checked when I became an adult, off of some residue left in there. My first career was in chemistry,” she explained. “We were able to identify that there were three individual compounds in there, but only identify one of them—sodium thiopental. It’s a barbituate,” she began to explain, but Walter chuckled.

“I’m very familiar with thiopental and pentobarbital,” Walter explained. “Through my different and varied career. It can also be used for medically induced comas,” Walter explained to Siobhan. “Which is…interesting. I can keep this?” He asked, holding up the evidence bag.

Morrison nodded solemnly. “I’ve kept it in case it would be useful—stoppered, and cared for.” She looked at the vial, as if it had its own little world in it. “If you can find out more than I could decades ago, let me know. I…I have accepted my life, and I love my adoptive parents; but there is still some closure I would appreciate.”

Walter nodded, holding it carefully. “I will; and if this is what we think it might be, it could bring that closure to other people in the same situation. Thank you,” he said sincerely. Both he and Siobhan stood up, and he smiled softly. “I’ll be in touch.”

“Thank you,” Naomi Morrison said, as they all walked back to the door. They were just stepping through it, when his phone rang again.”

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ASN 6.0 Daughters Part I

The garden at the Gethsemane United Church of Christ was just as pretty in the afternoon light as it was in the evening light, but it was a different kind of pretty. In the night, sparkling with lights and candles, it had an almost etherealness to it; in the afternoon it was a more bucolic, natural beauty. Walter appreciated the attempts to keep the space natural even as it was an obviously artificial sunken garden—it had a slope and broadly defined tiers, but they followed natural lines that were quite attractive.

“We couldn’t have met in the garden?” Siobhan griped, as they walked right by it and headed in to the church. “My kind are supposed to burst in to flame in churches, you know.” Walter raised an eyebrow as they walked up to the door, which had a small wooden stop wedged in place to keep it open. The door was made of dark wood, smooth with age and hands over the years. There was carving on it, subtle but present, of a garden scene spreading out from the central point of the doors; the perspective made it look like you were walking in to the garden itself.

“Not sure that’s really the kind of joke to make when we found a maybe-vampire, Bug,” Walter pointed out wryly—only opening the door after he had mentioned the supernatural. Arguments about who should know what with certain Faerie Queens not withstanding, he did believe in operational security.

Siobhan hadn’t seemed to consider that, and she conceded the point with an artless shrug as they entered. The front door entered directly in to the nave, the long rows of benches spreading out toward the altar; up ahead Walter could see the cruciform arms spreading off from the end. Walter had been in a number of churches in his life, but what struck him about Gethsemane was the simplicity.

The inside was stone, with a row of simple and broad arches running through the pews and segmenting them in to quarters. There were small, simple stained glass windows set in the walls depicting different garden scenes; these lead back to the final window behind the altar, which showed Christ kneeling in the garden. The man, who Walter admitted looked swarthier than the normal depiction he had grown up with, looked agonized. Everything else seemed like it could have come from a much older church, in good repair and elegant style but with an apparent age to them.

Siobhan was looking at him expectantly, and Walter snorted. “It’s lovely, Bug,” Walter commented wryly. “I take it everybody else has a much stronger reaction?” She didn’t respond, but she instead combined a pout with a mock glare, which she held until she laughed.

“Cynicism can blind us to beauty, Detective,” a voice came from the front of the church. A woman stood up from the pews there, and turned to face them with a slight smile on her face. The woman was tall, slim, and completely familiar to Walter—and to his daughter.

“Reverend Morrison,” Walter greeted, his tone unsurprised; Siobhan’s face betrayed that she, on the other hand, felt quite surprised. “I had a feeling it might be you, when the meeting was here,” Walter explained, as much for his daughter as for the other woman. “Not many people want to meet in the middle of a church.”

Morrison shrugged at that. “We actually have a safe space for Internet sales in one of the side rooms that is unlocked and video taped most hours,” she offered with a soft smile. “And historically, of course, lots of people ended up meeting in churches. But I take your point.” Her eyes flicked to Siobhan, and she offered the young woman a smile. “Are you sure that Siobhan should be here for this, Detective?”

Walter looked to Siobhan as well, and she raised her eyebrows. “Can’t be much worse…” she murmured softly. He gave a little bit of a nod, and turned back to Morrison.

“If you’re comfortable with her being here then I don’t think it’s anything that she can’t handle,” Walter explained. “Siobhan was in the high school with her sister last semester,” he offered obliquely. Understanding dawned in the woman’s eyes, and she gave a nod while motioning to the pews.

“Well then, if you don’t mind I prefer to talk about it…not in my office.” Morrison offered a weak smile. “It’s also why I didn’t want to talk at home.” Without interrupting her Walter sat down on the pew behind Morrison, Siobhan taking her cues from Walter as to what to do and following him. “I can tell you that I don’t remember a lot of it. I was very young, and it was…terrifying.” She shuddered softly in memory of something, but Walter didn’t have an audience with what was behind her eyes.

“I know it was a long time ago,” Walter said softly, “But anything that you can remember could be helpful. We have a theory that there might be some things from what happened to your parents could be linked to other incidents in the city over the decades; anything you can remember might help bring peace to other people.”

Morrison nodded, and leaned back against the pew, the cushion sighing underneath her. She considered the church around her; Walter couldn’t tell if she was looking around the church to find the rooms, or to draw the quiet strength of the building in to begin describing that evening. “I think of Katherine Haven as my mother, when something reminds me of mothers,” Morrison began, smiling softly and shrugging by way of explanation for the non-sequitur. “Mother says what she remembers is screaming. I remember blood, so much blood…”

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