Printed from https://www.writing.com/main/view_item/item_id/1610639-October
Rated: 18+ · Novella · Supernatural · #1610639
A vampire boy sets out to solve a young girl's murder in the hopes of redemption.
A truck raced by, far faster than what was legal, and I hissed as its headlights seared my eyes and ruined my night vision. I blinked, and slowly the quiet, night world came back with clarity. My watched beeped, indicating that it was now one in the morning. I sighed. I was hungry, and I wasn't finding anything out here. I was going to have to move closer to town.

I slithered from shadow to shadow, silent and dark as the grimy backdrop of alleyways and empty windows. It struck me as odd that there was absolutely no one around here tonight, unless I counted the truck, and it unsettled me a bit, hence the sneaking about. I glanced nervously around before crossing through the flickering beam of one of the few still-functional streetlights.

I turned a corner, and stopped dead in my tracks. At the end of the block, there was a congregation of police cars and officers, talking seriously to one another. One blonde policewoman seemed to be comforting a man and a woman. They were obviously a couple, and a distressed one, as I could tell they were leaning on each other for support, and tears were streaming down the woman's face. I felt a twinge of pity. I wondered what had happened. A young girl, she looked about six or seven, was tugging at the weeping woman's skirt, but the woman seemed not to notice.

I hung back for a minute, my desire not to be noticed battling my curiosity about what had happened. Curiosity won, and I headed down the street, trying to brush away a certain idiom that bubbled to the top of my head: Curiosity killed the cat...

No one noticed me until I reached out and tapped a female police officer on the shoulder. She spun around and then took a second to judge me based on my appearance, as it is human nature to do. I knew what she saw didn't particularly impress her. I was just a tall, thin teenager who looked short on sleep and showers, with lank, black hair and a gaunt face. In this neighbourhood, my looks weren't too uncommon, even if I did look a little younger than most of the bums and druggies who hung around the alleys.

"This is a crime scene, kid," she said, with the air of someone reciting lines they'd gone through too many times already. She looked tired. "I'd ask you to please move along unless you have pertinent information to share."

"I think you should tell me what happened," I said, in my raspy, rarely-used voice. I winced. Had it really been so long since I'd spoken?

She shook her head, as if to clear it, and then smiled at me wearily. "Of course. You see that couple over there?" She nodded to the distressed couple. "They lost their daughter. Abducted from right under their noses. Her name was Sarah. She was seven years old."

"'Was'?" I repeated. "Did you find a body?" I sniffed the air.

"No," said the woman. "But we found the murder weapon. According to forensics, it's stained with Sarah's blood. So we're working with the assumption that it's too late to save her." The police officer yawned. "And it's too late to be awake. We'll all be headed home soon, to get what's left of a good night's sleep and work on the paprework in the morning. We'd probably be home already, if the father wasn't so stubborn. He insists that she's still around here somewhere. He can feel it, he says. The only thing I'm feeling is the cold and the lack of sleep." She shivered, to drive home the point. I realized I could see her breath. I guess it really was cold.

"Do you have a photo? Of Sarah?" I asked. "Could I see it? What was she doing around here anyways? How long has she been missing?"

The policewoman barked out a laugh. "You sure ask a lot of questions, kid. Yeah, we've got a photo." She handed me one.

I examined it closely. Sarah was smiling and blonde, with bright blue eyes and no front teeth. She was playing in a sandbox. I frowned.

"But..." I looked over to her parents. The father was now looking agitated, gesturing wildly at the policewoman he was talking to. The little girl who'd been pulling at the mother's skirt was now crying. She was either Sarah's identical twin, or she was Sarah. "That girl... this is a photo of her. Or is she Sarah's sister?"

The policewoman looked at me like I was crazy. "What on Earth are you talking about? There's no kid here, except for you, kid. Get going, I don't appreciate the attempt to mess with me."

I smiled wanly. "Sorry. Forget I said anything."

She did.

I continued to watch the proceedings from the sidelines. It wasn't until the police cars had all driven away, taking the mourning parents with them and leaving the little girl behind, that I realized who she was.

"Oh, no," I murmured. I wanted so badly to walk away. I didn't want to go through this. But she looked so lost, so scared, so small, that I just couldn't bring myself to leave. It would be like abandoning her.

I tried to put a smile on my face as I walked tentatively up to her. "Hey," I said softly.

Her head snapped up, and she fixed me with wide, fearful eyes. "You see me!" she cried. And then, to my surprise, she threw her arms around me and gave me a bear hug. She started crying again, deep, wracking sobs that came straight from the soul. I just stood there awkwardly, and let her cry herself out on my shirt.

Finally, she stepped back, wiping her nose on the sleeve of her pink turtleneck. "I'm Sarah," she said, her voice still wobbly.

"Hi, Sarah," I said sadly.

"I don't understand," she snuffled. "My mommy didn't see me. She looked so upset. She was talking, but I couldn't hear what she was saying, and I guess she couldn't hear what I was saying, or even see me, because she just got into the police car with daddy and left me here." She looked like she would've burst into tears again if she'd had any left. "Who are you?" she asked, looking up at me again.

"I'm October," I said. "But you can call me Toby."

"My birthday's in October," she said, momentarily distracted. "I'm going to be eight soon. How old are you?"

"Older than you are," I said. I decided not to point out that she was never going to be eight now, not really.

"Will you sit with me, Toby?" she asked.


She pulled me by the hand over to a heavily-graffiti'd bench on the sidewalk. She boosted herself up onto the seat. Her short little legs didn't reach the ground. I sat beside her, and she leaned her blonde head against my shoulder.

"I don't want to be alone," she said suddenly.

"You're not alone," I said. "I'm here, aren't I?"

"You're going to leave, soon." It wasn't a question.

"Yes," I admitted. "I'll have to leave in a few hours. When the sun comes up. But until then, I'll stay with you."



"Okay, then," she said. "That's all right."

Silence again. I was still hungry.

"Toby, are you dead?" she wanted to know. I mulled it over for a second, and decided to give her the answer I gave myself when I asked myself the same question.

"It's complicated... the line between life and death isn't straight, or clear. I exist in one of its blurrier segments, and I don't think I can ever move over to one of the clearer sides."

I guess this probably didn't make much sense to a seven-year-old. Sarah frowned slightly. "I think maybe I'm dead."

"I think you are, Sarah." I hoped that wouldn't upset her, and oddly, it seemed not to.

"And alive people don't see me or hear me anymore. That's why I thought maybe you were dead, too. You can see me." She intertwined her fingers with mine. Her skin felt neither hot nor cold to me, which meant that it was as cold as mine was.

"Why aren't there any more dead people around?" Sarah wanted to know. She was looking much more cheerful, but I figured she was probably just in shock, so I continued to tread carefully. Wouldn't want to restart the waterworks.

"I honestly don't know. I've never been dead, after all." I smiled. "I think... that most people, they move on instead of hanging around. Maybe you were a little young for horror movies... but ghosts always seem to have unfinished business in those."

"Do you think I could go to Heaven?"

I shrugged. "I know people who would say so."

"I wonder how I died."

"There's a lot of people wondering that right now," I assured her.

"I guess someone must have killed me, or there wouldn't have been so many police. Too bad I can't remember what happened. If it was a person who killed me, I hope someone gets them back." She looked unexpectedly fierce, and less like a little girl, more like a piece of a darker world.

"Do you think the police will catch him? Or her?" she wanted to know.

"I don't know. It depends how well your killer covered his tracks. They found the murder weapon, which could either mean he's sloppy or he's extremely clever, if he planted the knife so that the police would find it, maybe to somehow set them in the wrong direction." I abruptly stopped talking. My mind was permanently set on crime scene mode. It had to be. I had learned to be very good at what I had to do. But a little girl, especially a recently deceased one, didn't need to hear me speculating about her murder.

She was quiet again for a while. I glanced at my watch. It was 1:42.

When she finally spoke again, it was to say, "Toby, if we could find out who killed me, what would you do?"

I gritted my teeth together. Even I was nowhere near as monstrous as a man who'd murder an innocent little girl.

"I'd kill him, Sarah."

She nodded, and stared off into space.

Everything was quiet again, for hours and hours.


At about five o'clock in the morning, I realized I was going to have to get going soon. I pointed this out to Sarah, and she clutched my hand tighter. "Where are you going? Can I come?"

I sighed. "It's not a good place for you to be. But dont' worry. I think I know a place you can stay."

St. Mercurius church was a small, ramshackle building, and one that I usually avoided. It was located right between the empty, labyrinth-like alley world and the bright, nightlife-driven city, and for the street people it had become a landmark of sorts-- it marked the border between their world and the employed people's. Unless you were a social worker, you tended to stay on your side of St. Mercurius. At least, you would if you knew what was good for you.

Probably not the best place to leave a little girl. But she was already dead. There wasn't much else that could go wrong for her at this point, was there?

I stopped in front of the church doors and called up to the belfry, "Hey! Alphie! Are you up there?"

The doors creaked open, and Alphie appeared between them, stepping out onto the asphalt. "No," he said. "And I wish you'd call me Afriel, October."

"And I wish you'd call me Toby," I retorted.

Me and Alphie had never got on very well. We were just too different-- different as night and day. Alphie was tall and athletically built, with wavy, golden hair, a chiseled face, straight, white teeth and piercing blue eyes. He kind if hurt to look at, too-- he seemed to give off a faint, sun-like glow that my sensitive eyes couldn't bear. Also, he was so full of himself. Afriel. Give me a break.

"So?" he said impatiently. "What are you doing here?"

That was when he realized what was holding onto my hand. His eyes went wide as he stared at Sarah, and then he turned his  gaze to me.

"She was just a kid, October." His voice was unexpectedly tender, reproachful.

"I didn't touch her!" I snarled, resenting the accusation. I snorted, disgusted. How could he possibly think I'd be that low? "I found her like this." I looked down at Sarah. She was fixated on Alphie, her little mouth in and "o" shape.

"Hi, sweetheart," said Alphie softly, kneeling down to Sarah's height. "How are you doing?"

"Toby was taking care of me," said Sarah uncertainly.

"Was he." Alphie shot me a glare, which I ignored. "Well, you can say goodbye to him now, okay? He's going to leave now. I bet you have lots of questions about what's happened. Why don't we just step inside?" He gestured into the yawning, dark hole of the open doors.

Sarah looked up at me. "Can Toby come in?" she asked Alphie. "Just for a minute?"

Alphie snorted.

"Sorry, Sarah. I can't. But don't worry. Alphie will take care of you just fine."

"Will you come back later, then?" she pressed. "Tomorrow?"

It was nearing six. I really had to get moving. I spoke in a rush.

"I'll be waiting outside, right in this spot, tomorrow night. At, um, ten o'clock. I'll see you then. Bye, Sarah. Alphie."

Alphie shot me a dirty look, but I paid him no mind. I was out of time. I took off into the night-turned-morning, the weak light of the glowing horizon feeling uncomfortably warm against my skin.


I woke to discover that the sun had long since set. I silently cursed myself. I needed every ounce of darkness I could squeeze out of the night, and I'd already wasted time. I was going to have to move fast if I wanted to make it to St. Mercurius in time to meet up with Sarah.

But I did make it. And on a full stomach, no less. The alleys were populated again-- I guessed the sight of police officers had scared the people off, but now that the streets were cop-free, everyone was back to their usual spots. Well, except for one drunken bum, who I'd found passed out on a park bench.

I wiped my mouth on the back of my hand as I waited for Sarah.

Just as I was starting to think that Alphie was keeping her from coming outside, the old doors creaked open and Sarah rushed out onto the street.

"Toby!" she cried. "You came back!"

I couldn't help smiling. "I said I would, didn't I? How's Alphie treating you?"

I was well aware that Alphie was lurking just inside the church, watching us. He probably thought he was being sneaky.

"He's been teaching me the most amazing things," said Sarah, her voice full of awe.

I raised an eyebrow. "Oh, yeah? What sort of things?"

"You know," said Sarah, shrugging. "Ghostie things. And he told me I can go to Heaven. And so can the other dead people. There's lots of them, in the church."

"Really?" I said, surprised. "How many?"

"Oh, about fifty," she answered airily.

Alphie chose that moment to make his appearance. "Yeah. Quite a few. Sad, isn't it, October? It's this part of town-- people die, or are killed, and no one cares enough to figure out what happened. Or maybe the psychopaths are just more experienced. Either way, until someone does crack the case, the victims' immortal souls are trapped here."

"Somebody's gonna figure out what happened to me, though," Sarah said confidently. "So I won't be here much longer."

I was still glaring at Alphie over his comment, which I found unneccessarily pointed. "That's good, Sarah. You deserve better than to be stuck here for eternity." I emphasized the word here so that Alphie could tell that I meant stuck here at St. Mercurius, with him.

"Well, at least here she's safe from the likes of you," Alphie retorted. I glowered at him. "Sarah, could you go inside for a minute?" Alphie asked her. "October and I need a moment alone."

Sarah glanced nervously between us before nodding and heading back through the doorway. Alphie shut the doors behind her, before turning to me. He got right up into my face, and despite the fact that I knew I was taller than him, it didn't feel like it at that moment. His soft glow was a lot less soft up close and personal.

"Stay away from her, October," he said menacingly.

"Why should I?" I replied defiantly. I resented being told what to do, especially by Alphie.

"Just a few hours in your company, and she's already corrupting!" he hissed angrily. "Most ghosts take a few weeks to accept what's happened. Sarah's already perfectly fine with it."

"And that's a bad thing, how?" I demanded. "She's well-adjusted."

Alphie sighed frustratedly, and took a step back, probably trying to figure out how he was going to explain something so complex to an inferior intellect.

"Look," said Alphie. "Maybe you dont know how it works. It doesn't always require the same thing to release ghosts. Each one is unique, just like people are."


"Most people don't even need justice. All they need to be able to move on is the knowledge that someone out there besides their killer knows the full story."

"Again: So?"

"So, Sarah already needs more than that!" he exploded. "She wants vengeance! There's a reason it takes ghosts so long to come to terms with their deaths. It's so they don't have time to feel bitter. By the time they've accepted their fates, the killer is already caught, or atleast someone knows what really happened, and that's more than enough release to let them move on."

"What does Sarah need, then?" I asked.

"She said, and I quote: 'I want whoever did this to me to go to jail for the rest of their life. Forever!'"

"That's doable."

"But it's a lot harder to acheive than just having one other person who knows the truth. And it's going to escalate, October. Sooner or later, she's going to need her killer to be killed for vengeance."

I set my jaw. "That's an option."

"If the police catch him before you do, he's going to jail," said Alphie. "For a very long time. He'd be safe from you in jail. So as long as he's locked up, Sarah's stuck here. And what if dies in prison? What if, by then, Sarah doesn't just want him to die? What if she needs him to be murdered for revenge? "

"She'd be here forever," I murmured, finally understanding. "But I still don't see how this is my fault. Why should I have to stay away from her?"

Alphie ran his hand through his thick, golden curls. "I can't quite put my finger on it. It's just something about you-- your aura. It's... very negative. Pessimistic, maybe. It's not a conscious thing-- you can't control it, no one can control their aura. It doesn't have much of an affect on the living, but the dead are much more susceptible to that sort of thing. Your influence is, well, corrupting Sarah, for lack of a better word."

I just stared at him.

"What Sarah needs," Alphie continued, "is to spend a lot of time with someone with a lighter, more positive aura."

"Like you," I said flatly.

"My thoughts exactly."

I stared at him a while longer before deciding, "You're full of crap."

"I don't lie," said Alphie, dead serious. "Ever."

"Meaning it's a moral thing, or you're physically incapable of saying anything but the truth?"

"Can't it be both?"

I let out a long, deep breath, and looked from Alphie's glowing face to the closed church doors.

"Fine," I muttered, and started to slouch away down the street. "I'll stay away. For her sake, not yours. But I will find whoever did this to her. I will. And when I do, he'll pay."

I was stopped by a heavy, burning object placed on my shoulder. I hissed in a breath and smacked the white-hot object away, only to realize it was Alphie's hand. "Watch it!" I snapped. "What are you trying to do, burn a hole through me?"

He ignored my rhetorical question. His solemn blue eyes probed my dark ones with a frightening intensity, as though he could read all my secrets if he stared hard enough. "Why do you care? About Sarah?"

Alphie couldn't understand. Not that he'd make he effort, anyways. It wasn't very often that I was the one people went to for help. I didn't get to help people, only hurt them. Then Sarah came along, and she needed me, and I thought, on some level, that if I helped her out, someone somewhere would cut me a break. I had done bad things. I continued to do bad things. Contrary to popular belief, there is not always a choice. Could helping Sarah out make up for those things? Probably not. But it was worth a shot.

I shrugged, looked away, and said, "I just do."

"October..." His voice trailed off, and then he started again. "There's got to be another way. You don't have to be--"

I cut him off with a harsh laugh. "I'm a little late for converting, Alphie. I've got a quote for you: you should know this one. Exodus 3:14. 'I am what I am.' That's not going to change any time soon."

And with those words echoing painfully in my head, I turned and left.


I headed down into the nightlife world of clubs and bars instead of back down towards the alleys and abandonned buildings. The light gave me the mother of all headaches, even when I looked staright down at the sidewalk. Next time I got my hands on some cash, I was buying myself sunglasses.

I knocked on the door of my favourite diner. It was my favourite because the owner was too cheap to replace his dead and dying lightbulbs with fresh, bright ones. I heard the coffee wasn't bad, either.

"Come in, Toby," called the owner, whose name was John, smiling at me from behind the counter. I entered the small, dark room and smiled back at him before sliding into a booth. I never ordered anything, but John didn't mind. We had an understanding. Well, actually he had been a little annoyed initially, but he came around in no time. I'm very persuasive when I have to be. It's something in the eyes, they tell me.

I considered what Alphie had told me. So I had a negative aura. It sounded like total crap to me, but if Alphie couldn't lie, then it was the truth, or atleast Alphie thought so. I'd just have to take his word on it, for now. I resolved to pay closer attention to people. If they got noticeably sadder in my presence, then I guess I'd have to accept that as proof.

I let the subject of auras go, and picked up a new subject, one that had been bugging me ever since Alphie had mentioned it.

'All they need to be able to move on is the knowledge that someone out there besides their killer knows the full story'...

There were lots of stories that only I knew. I wondered what happened to the characters in those stories. Who released them? Did anyone? Were they still hanging around, waiting for vengeance? Reflexively, I glanced around the diner. No one looked familiar, and I never forget a face. I allowed myself a sigh of relief. So, problem unsolved, but not imminent. I'd work on that mystery later.

John had the TV on. It was a small one, with really bad reception. It was tuned to a local news station. Funny. I'd pegged John as more of a sports fan than an involved citizen.

When I loked away from the TV, I was startled to find myself face to face with a girl who looked about my age, maybe a few years older-- that is to say, too young to be hanging out in a seedy place like John's all by herself this late at night.

"Hey," she said, grinning mischeviously and leaning across the table towards me. She had long, dark brown hair and a pale, freckled complexion. Her eyes were curious and bright, and a colour between hazel and green. She was wearing a tarnished crucifix necklace.

"Hi," I said, leaning away from her. "Do I know you?" Of course I knew I didn't, but that was what you said in this sort of situation.

"Nope," she said cheerfully. "I just thought you looked lonely over here all by yourself. So I came to keep you company."

"How thoughtful of you," I muttered. I couldn't believe it. Of all the girls to show interest.

"I'm Jenn," she prompted.

"Hi, Jenn," I said. "Go away, please."

She looked taken aback and somewhat wounded, and she scuttled off to the bar to go bother the guy sitting over there. I watched them for a while as she chatted him up, and then he waved over John and bought her a beer. I sighed. If only she'd had better taste in jewelry.

I tried to decide where to head next. Back to the place I'd met Sarah? Maybe to the police station. Did they have, say, a bulletin board of information on her murder available to the public? I shook my head, doubting it. The only information I had on the police department was what I'd gleaned from cop shows, and something told me they weren't very accurate. 

Jenn scooted her bar stool closer to the guy's, and then whispered something to him while glancing back at me. I wondered idly what she was saying about me that he would be interested in.

The two of them stood up in unison, and made their way over to my booth. I got my first good look at the guy. He was tall, middle-aged, fit. And wearing sunglasses. Great.

"Can I help you?" I asked, annoyed.

Jenn smiled smugly as she whipped out a police badge. "We hope so. Where were you at 3:15 this afternoon?"

"Am I under arrest?" I asked disbelievingly, slowly getting up, preparing myself for a quick escape.

"Not yet," said Jenn. "But I think you should come down to the station with us, anyways. You see, we have photo evidence that can place you at the scene of Elizabeth Gristle's murder just five minutes before she was killed. You gotta love those cellphone cameras."

"Don't move," said the guy, noticing that I was getting ready to make a break for it. He had a grizzled voice that matched his appearance. He casually pulled a gun out form underneath coat and trained it on me.

Damn sunglasses. I really didn't want to get shot.

I let my shoulders sag, and I sunk back into my seat. "Yeah, okay. I guess I'll just--" and in one fluid motion, I vaulted over the table and straight towards Jen and company. The low-quality plastic of the soles of my shoes complained as I changed direction too quickly, but luckily the gun-weilding guy hadn't recovered from my surprise attack yet, and I managed to make it outside without and gunfire in my wake.

I fought my desire to hightail it down the street, and instead simply let myself melt into the shadows of the alleyway between the diner and its neighbour. 

Even the darkness felt claustrophobic now. Like something was pressing in from all sides. But I stay put, and watched as Jenn and Gunslinger raced out onto the street and looked around frantically, trying to figure out which direction I'd gone.

"Damn him," Jenn finally said, throwing her arms to her sides. I cringed. "We lost him."

"You sure it's the right guy?" growled the man.

"We both saw the picture," snapped Jenn. "It was the same guy, Sam. No doubt."

"Well, what now? Do we assume he's long gone and go interrogate the bartender? Or do you think he's still hiding around here somewhere?"

Jenn snorted. "We better go back inside and get the place calmed down. The midnight coffee crowd looks like it's about to break into a riot. And put your gun away, Sam, I'm sure that's not going to put anyone at ease."

"Do you think he did it?" Sam wanted to know.

Jenn sighed. "I don't know. He just put himself on my top suspects list, though. I will find out who's been stabbing people. And soon. No one else will die, Sam. Let's go."

They moved out of my line of sight, and I heard them go back inside. I breathed out slowly.

As I headed back towards the comforting patch of darkness that was the alleys and empty buildings of my side of St. Mercurius, I couldn't help but admire the irony. Of all the things they could have accused me of, they pick the one crime I had nothing to do with. I hadn't been near anyone, named Elizabeth or otherwise, at three in the afternoon. And it was impossible that anyone had taken a picture of me. Jenn and Sam had to be mistaking me for someone else. Someone who had been there. Maybe he was the one who'd stabbed Elizabeth.

Stabbed Elizabeth.

They'd found a bloody knife at Sarah's crime scene, and it had sounded as though Jenn was on the case of a serial killer. So Sarah's death could have been related to Elizabeth's-- they were probably killed by the same person.

Okay. So I didn't know much, but I did know that someone who looked a lot like me had been involved in Elizabeth's murder, if only by being in the wrong place at the wrong time. It wasn't much of a lead, but it was something.

All I needed to do now was track my look-alike down. Hopefully he would be able to tell me a little more about what exactly had happened at 3:15 in the afternoon. And I knew exactly who to talk to when I needed someone found.


I was knocking on Christian's door by midnight.

His lair, as I liked to call it, was located on my side of St. Mercurius, in what at first glance seemed to be an abandoned bookstore. Dark and decaying, windows boarded up, no signs of life. This was the oldest part of town, where the buildings were made from severe grey stone, and even that had started to erode. I generally tried to give the place a few hundred meters' berth.

A familiar face answered the door, though it wasn't Christian's.

"Toby!" whisper-yelled the fair-faced woman.

I tried a smile. "Hi, Aggie. Long time, no see."

Aggie was sort of pretty, if you discounted the obvious. She was white as a sheet, with pale blue eyes, and she had a meek, mouseish look to her-- a look that matched her personality. Her hair was white gold, thin and wispy, past her skinny shoulders. Everything about Aggie was angular; she was anorexically thin. Her posture was hunched. She gave the impression of being simultaneously too fragile to touch and too weathered to break. But there was just something about her-- incongruously full lips, a proud, straight nose, and something delicate about her spindly limbs-- that revealed a shadow of how beautiful she must once have been.

"Well?" I prompted when she continued to stare at me wordlessly. "Are you going to invite me in?"

"You don't have to ask," she said. "This is your home."

"You know I wouldn't have asked if it was."

She shrugged. "Come in, Toby."

"Thank you." I stepped inside and looked around.

It had been ages since I'd last been in the large, square room. The walls were crimson, as vibrant as if they'd been painted yesterday-- this place didn't see much sun, or even electrical light. The bookshelves from the last owner were here, creating a small labyrinth, and they were lined with books. It looked for all the world like a small, independantly owned bookstore, albeit a poorly lit one.

Aggie was hovering nervously; I'd forgotten she did that. "Well?" she asked, her high voice rough with stress. "Why are you here?"

"I need to see Christian."

"He's with a client right now. Take a seat in the corner and he'll be with you in a moment." She pointed to a cluster of armchairs, red as the walls. 

"Is that the monologue he has you read people? You're a receptionist now? I'm willing to bet that's not what he promised you."

She looked away, and repeated tightly, "Take a seat in the corner. He'll be with you in a moment."

I hesitated for a second before doing as she instructed. Aggie was the same old doormat she'd always been. I guess neither of us had changed much since the last time we spoke.

I heard a door creak open in the far left corner of the room, and then an anxious-looking man shuffled past the group of chairs. Aggie intercepted him before he could get lost in the dark library maze and escorted him to the door. He mumbled a thanks, and was gone.

That meant it was my turn to see Christian.

I knocked quietly on the door at the far left corner of the room, and was bade a soft, "Come in."

I opened the door. "Hello, dad," I said, unable to keep the slight edge out of my voice.

"October..." Christian's cool, dry voice curled around the syllables of my name. "Here's a face I haven't seen in a while."

I could see it all in his face; the hope that perhaps I'd changed my mind, that now I wanted to be a part of his little family, that I forgave him for everything he'd done to me, and everything he hadn't done.

All he said was, "Take a seat."

Christian was not a tall man, but he had a way of making people feel small. There was something fundamentally frightening about his demeanor. The way he looked at you made you remember all the bad things anyone had ever said about you, or accused you of. Meeting his gaze, I felt like the kid I looked like, and he was the father he claimed to be.

When I stayed silent, he prompted, "I'm assuming from the look on your face that you're as decided as ever...?"

I cleared my throat, and Christian's eyes bore into mine, probing.

"Yes," I finally agreed. "I'm here... well, on business."

He laced his fingers together and leaned over his neat, mahogany desk towards me. "Go on."

"I'm looking for someone."

"Hmm. Must be quite an elusive fellow that my October can't find. You know the streets better than anyone, don't you." I swallowed. Yeah, Christian always knew just what to say to grind a person down.

"This is in the living city, not the alleys." I winced. Now it sounded like I was defending myself, which to Christian was a sure sign that he'd hit a soft spot.

"Yes, I suppose you never did have much experience with the nicer side of life. Well, I'll see what I can do... what do you have? A name? A picture?"

This is where things got a little tricky. "A picture, yeah." I dug deep in my pocket, and came up with a small, square, much-abused picture frame.

He regarded it silently for a second before saying, "Hmm... I remember drawing this like it was yesterday. Not my best work. I'm surprised you've kept it all these years... I'm not sure what you're trying to tell me, though, October. The person you're looking for is... yourself? How introspective of you."

"No," I snapped, snatching back the small, sketched portrait. "I mean, the person I'm looking for looks like me."

"Well, you don't exactly have a very distinctive appearance, do you?" Christian countered logically. "It's one of the things I like best about you. You blend in."

"So you've told me," I muttered. "Listen. I know that this isn't a smiple request, but I also know that you can do it. I can pay you. I just really need to find this guy."

"You can pay? Been trying your hand at the dealer side of the relationship, eh?" he said, joking cuttingly.

I stood up abruptly. "You know what. Forget it. I'll find him myself. Goodbye."

"Toby." His use of my mickname stopped me in my tracks, halfway through the doorway. "I never said I wouldn't do it."

I turned and said, woodenly, "Thank you."

"Free of charge, too," he said jovially, rising from his desk chair. "The least I can do for an old aquaintance. You're in my debt, October."

"I'm not so well-known for repaying my debts," I warned him.

"Of course you're not," he agreed pleasantly. I took that as a dismissal, and left.

Aggie was, of course, hovering just outside Christian's office. I glared at her as I passed, and immediately regretted it. It wasn't her fault that Christian was still Christian, after all. I navigated the maze of bookshelves easily, and stepped out of the dark room and into the dark world.

"Toby..." called a soft, high voice from behind me. As I turned to face her, Aggie stepped delicately out onto the street, closing Chrisitan's door behind her. She looked frail in her thin, blue dress, and the light wind pulled at the hems as well as her hair.

"It was... good to see you again, Aggie," I said, smiling at her tiredly. She smiled back.

"It was good to see you too, Toby. But... I mean, I know when you left, you said you were gone for good. But you came back, finally... and I thought... maybe you've reconsidered?" She bit her lip. She had a tentatively hopeful look on her face.

I pushed my long, black hair out of my face and sighed. "Sorry, Aggie. It's all the same. Christian's the same as always. I'm the same as always. And you are, too. I'm doing fine on my own. Don't worry about me."

"You shouldn't be so hard on him," she said reproachfully. "He gave us all a second a chance. He takes care of us. Maybe... maybe you're tough enough to go it alone, but I'm not, Toby. I need Christian."

I snorted. "See, this is what I mean when I say nothing's changed. You still worship the ground he walks on when he's the one who took everything away from you! You say he gave you your second chance, but who's to say you wouldn't have turned yourself around on your own? Why can't you see him for the manipulative bastard he is?"

"I don't blame Christian for the way I am. He told me I wouldn't change anymore. I... I was okay with it. It was only later that I realized... I realized how bad I look..." She curled her arms around her stomach and doubled over. Her bottom lip jutted out and she looked like she was going to start crying.

I was really not very good at the whole shoulder-to-cry-on thing. I ran a hand through my hair, debating whether or not I should be apologizing. I finally said, "I- I'll just go. It really was nice to see you again, Aggie."  I paused a second longer, and then added, "Take care of yourself."

She didn't acknowledge me-- just fled back inside. Back to Christian. Same as always.

Nothing had changed.



"Woke up, got out of bed..."

Jenn woke up. She got out of bed. She flipped open her cellphone, killed the alarm, and cut John Lennon off mid-phrase.

She yawned.

It was 6:30, and she was exhausted. She'd gone out for a drink with Sam last night, and it'd turned into one big homicide-related disaster, meaning she'd gotten about three hours less sleep than she'd have liked. Figures. Jenn's work seemed to follow her everywhere. She sighed-- no surprise, really, as she couldn't seem to keep her case off her mind. She'd woken up two seconds ago and already she was back in whodunnit mode.

Grumbling at herself, Jenn stumbled into the bathroom, where she splashed icy water on her face.

"Ah!" She hissed in a breath and arched her back, cat-like. She stared at her reflection in the mirror, feeling much more awake.

She grimaced at her reflection. Messy hair, shiny skin, the works. She washed her face more thoroughly, struggled with her thick, curly locks for a moment, and then gave up and tied them back as best she could.

Jenn's apartment was a relatively small one; she liked it that way. Cozier. It was painted in cheerful hues. The bathroom was robin's egg blue, the kitchen was sunshine yellow, and the living room was tangerine. Her bedroom walls were covered in painted murals of a rainforest. They had been there when she moved in, and were, in Jenn's opinion, the major selling point of the apartment.

She ambled towards the kitchen and set to work making coffee and toast.

"C'mon, c'mon," she muttered impatiently at the coffee maker, drumming her fingers against the counter top. The appliance didn't rush, though, so Jenn flopped down at the small kitchen table and wondered if just the smell of coffee could give you an energy boost. She turned on the small TV set propped up across from her.

A pretty, no-nonsense news anchor woman appeared on the screen. "--Police are still not answering any questions on the Peyton case, and locals to the area are beginning to worry if they perhaps have a serial killer on their hands, with three potentially related murders in the last--"

Jenn turned the TV off. "And they wonder why we won't tell them anything," she grumbled to herself. "Stupid media. Stretch everything out of proportion. It's a wonder we haven't hit mass hysteria yet..."

Jenn and Sam had been working on the Peyton case for the past two months. They'd had no leads until the previous day, when a woman identified as Elizabeth Gristle had been found dead at 3:15. Stab wounds to the chest. It had been more coincidence than anything else-- Jenn had just happened to be walking by on her way to the grocery store, and she'd heard a woman scream from the alley between the grocer and its neighbour. Not even a dark alley, a deep alley. But nevertheless, a murder had been committed there.

Jenn, being the good policewoman she was, had stayed calm, called the ambulance, called her boss and called Sam, and had interrogated every person milling around the scene of the crime.

A group of teenagers who's been messing around with a cellphone camera had just happened to take a shot at exactly 3:12, with Elizabeth in the background. Although Jenn wasn't counting them out, none of the people in the picture seemed particularly guilty, or like potential murders. And they'd all been accounted for afterwards. Except for that one guy-- an eighteen or nineteen year old, skulking about in the back of the shot, not with anyone, and walking behind Elizabeth, following her by a few paces.

He hadn't been anywhere to be found after that scream.

The phone had been confiscated, though fat lot of good that would do, anyways. It was only a picture. A cellphone picture. Blurry and grainy compared to a real camera's shots.

But then, incredibly, there he'd been. The same face, Jenn was sure of it. She'd gone up to talk to him, just to get a better look, to be sure, and she knew it was him. A thin, tired face, aged beyond his years by drugs or drinks or lord knows what. The long black hair that made him look hispanic. Only he was too pale.

He hadn't seemed too happy to see her, which only added to Jenn's negative opinion of him. If only she could have gotten a name. A name would make all the difference. They'd already connected three murders, and Jenn was positive that there would be more, if there weren't already. Of course, she and Sam had talked to the bartender, and all the cafe-goers, but they had all replied, befuddled, "Oh, that's just Toby."

Her toast popped and she jumped up to butter it, leaving her train of thought behind. She only got back on board  as she walked out her front door, heading towards the bus station for another day of work.

"Well, Just Toby," she muttered to herself through gritted teeth as she locked the door behind her, "I'm going to find you. And when I do, you better hope you have an air-tight alibi."

to be continued
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