June 29, 2014

Demons Ascension - Cocky Moron

[Posted by Ted H]

Sick...bleh...

--------------------------------------

[Demons Ascension - Cocky Moron]

            "I'll drive," James said "You shoot." He climbed into the driver seat before John could even protest. "I got him, don't worry," John said just as Bradford's car was tossed out of the alley and into traffic, causing multiple accidents and a pile up. John climbed in the back as James took off down the other side where there were no cars. Croatoan leaped after, clearing the overturned car and ran after.
            "How's you aim in a moving vehicle?" James yelled as he pulled into oncoming traffic.
            "Better than yours," John said as he fired at Croatoan "Just don't crash into anything."
            James could not shake the demon in the oncoming lane, so he switched to the right side and tried to speed passed slower traffic. Croatoan kept pace by jumping on cars and easily cut down the distance. "I have an idea," James said as he began to taper off speed "You have another head shot in you?"
            "Whatever you're planning James, I swear to God it better work," John said as he reloaded. James cut in front of a truck who had also seen what Croatoan was doing and was speeding up to get away. James watch Croatoan easily jump well in front of the car and stand in its path, preparing to do again what he did to Bradford before.
            "That's right you cocky moron," James yelled as John hung out the window and lined his shot up. James floored the gas as he sped towards a waiting Croatoan. "Now!" he screamed as John fired, Croatoan taking another shot to the head as he stumbled backwards and did nothing to impede the incoming vehicle. Croatoan went up and rolled right over the car and landed awkwardly on the ground behind them. He was just attempting to get up when the truck from behind slammed on the brakes, but couldn't stop in time and rolled right over the unsuspecting demon.
            Other vehicles were caught off guard by the sudden truck stop and collided into it, causing yet another pile up. Croatoan ended up pinned by the truck and several cars. By time he collected himself and threw the vehicles off, James and John were long gone. He decided they were not worth pursuing and he had more important things to prepare for. He figured two mortals incapable of ultimately stopping him were of no concern at least until after his ascension.
            "Where are we going?" John asked as he climbed into the front passenger seat. "The apartments," James said.
            "We're going to where he lives?" John asked, not at all happy with the revelation "I thought we were trying to escape this guy?"
            "We need to get Amanda."
            "Look, I know you like her, but-"
            "She's next on his ritual list."
            "How could you even know that? No one could have guessed Bradford was next."
            "This guys real name is Croatoan. He's a demon from hell trying to become a god. He needs to make seven specific sacrifices in accordance to some ritual. He tried this before but failed in the eleventh hour when his final sacrifice didn't work out."
            "What happened?"
            "No one knows. But he's made sure everything required for his next attempt is perfect, making sure everything is where it needs to be at the perfect time. But with Amanda, he's kept close in a personal way."
            "Why?"
            "If I were him, I'd make damn sure nothing went wrong with the final sacrifice this time around. Seeing me with Amanda last week must've really ticked him off."
            "So not only are we going to where this demon guy lives, but we're going to also attempt to kidnap his final sacrifice. I've seen him choke a man out with another man's small intestines just for shooting at him, I can't imagine what he'll do to us for messing with his ritual."
            "We get Amanda out of the city and Croatoan can't complete his ritual. What time is it now?"
            "Noon."
            "We get Amanda out and we keep her alive past midnight. Then we can do our end-zone dance."
            "Great, thumbing out noses at a god-demon."
            "He's not a god yet."
            "Wait, Amanda's suppose to be the seventh and final sacrifice. Bradford was only the fifth. Who's number six?"
            "I don't know. He's already made his star points, I'd bet number six is in the center of it all, in the apartments."
            "That could be anyone in there."
            "Maybe the location of the final sacrifice doesn't matter, maybe Amanda is number six, it doesn't matter. We get Amanda out and hide her from Croatoan."
            It didn't take long to get to the apartments. "Wait here!" James said as he got out and ran for the entrance "Keep the engine running!" He ran under the scaffolding, trying not to notice that Marks paint job from before had burned away and Croatoan's name was once again in proud display. He made it to Amanda's room and franticly pounded on the door. No one answered. "C'mon," James said as he pounded again, then tried the handle to find the door unlocked.
            "Amanda?" he asked as he walked in and searched every room for her. The entire apartment looked unchanged from the last time James was in. The computer sat open, boxes unpacked and bed sheets tossed. "Did she even make it back?" he asked himself as he double checked everything, then immediately crossed the hall and kicked in Croatoan's door.
            There was hardly anything in Croaotan's apartment. The standard furnishings sat bare and unused, the kitchen as clean as possible and the windows were covered with thick curtains. The bedroom was empty of furniture and instead the entire room was covered floor to ceiling with a black substance that looked like melted candle wax but smelt like rotten fruit.
            James covered his mouth as he tore down the curtains in the living room for better light and searched about anyway for Amanda. She was nowhere to be found and he was growing worried. He thought maybe Croatoan abducted her and stashed her somewhere while he took care of the other sacrifices.
            He thought of returning to Dennys and asking someone there if someone had come for Amanda after he left or at least where Amanda went if she was still alone. He returned to the elevators and ran back outside to find numerous cops waiting for him with their guns drawn. John was behind them all with his hands up in confusion. "James Blake," the lead officer said as he holstered his gun and approached "You're coming with us. Keep your hands where we can see them."

June 22, 2014

Demons Ascension - Promise Not To Move?

[Posted by Ted H]

Pointlessly gore filled death scenes? Check.

------------------------------------------------------

[Demons Ascension - Promise Not To Move?]

            "You ok?" James heard Bradford scream as he felt dizzy, but conscious. "Blake, are you ok? Can you hear me?" Bradford yelled again. James looked out where he could and could see Crow walking away. "I'm fine," he said as he struggled to get out of the car. "Stay here," Bradford said as he easily got out and sprinted after Crow.
            "Wait," James stammered as he forced his door open and stumbled out. Bradford was already down the alley and screaming for Crow to freeze. "Bradford!" James yelled as he ran to catch up, the entire situation seemed wrong, as if they were being led by Crow. "Bradford!" James yelled again as he heard two loud gunshots.
            There were sirens of approaching cops in the air as James heard three more gunshots. He turned out of the alley and felt a knot in his stomach as he entered an empty lot. Constructions materials and equipment were strewn about as the city was planning to build on the land. "Bradford!" he screamed as he weaved his way through equipment looking for the cop.
            On the ground near some blood and bullet casings was a magnum pistol. James picked it up and checked the chamber; only one bullet remained loaded. "Bradford, say something!" James called out. He could feel that he wasn't alone. Croatoan was still lurking and was probably planning on finishing what he started before. "Headshots slow him down," James said to himself as he gripped the magnum and slowly made his way through the site. Dead or alive, he needed to find Bradford one way or the other before trying to escape.
            "Oh no," he breathed as he came across a torn up pile of clothing, all things Bradford was wearing. He followed a nearby blood trail to find Bradford laid out on a tarp covered pile of wood; His legs were straight and his arms outstretched like he was on a cross, and his chest was ripped open. His eyes were still fixed open, wide and colorless. His heart was gone.
            The approaching sirens were getting louder, making it almost impossible for James to hear approaching footsteps behind him, almost. He spun around and pointed the magnum as Croatoan stopped and smiled, a bloody dagger in his right hand and a mess of Bradford's blood on his mouth from when he consumed his heart.
            "Finished your little art project in the city I see," James said.
            "Not quite," Croatoan said, never losing that grin "But it's not like you'll be around long enough to see me complete my task."
            "The police found one of your boys. They moved him. Whatever you're doing, it's been disturbed. It won't work."
            The placement is key, but hardly static. It's more ceremonial than anything. You've stopped nothing. Unless of course you can make that one shot count."
            Croatoan was taunting him, Matthew said a headshot would only momentarily inconvenience the demon if anything, but Croatoan wanted to give him the false hope of a chance before killing him. James scoffed at the notion but kept up the charade. Croatoan didn't know that James knew what he knew.
            "One shot, huh?" James said, adding a little extra desperation to his voice for Croatoan "That doesn't seem fair, seeing as how this will be your second chance to off me."
            "Life isn't fair, Blake. But seeing how hopelessly doomed you are, I might as well have some sport in the moment."
            "What's to say you even have a weak point?"
            "Oh, everyone has a weakness. Is it right between my eyes? Or perhaps it's where my ice cold heart should be? Or maybe it's somewhere else?"
            "Promise not to move?" James asked, Croatoan was getting cocky.
            "I almost wish that gun was fully loaded. Tell you what, you've impressed me a little. I left you for dead back in Syracuse and yet here you are, aimlessly trying to stop the inevitable. I mean really, the two most powerful forces in existence, your maker and my own, both powerless to stop me. And yet here you are, a mere mortal, honestly thinking you can do what literal gods are limp to do anything about. It be endearing if it wasn't so irritating.
            "So when we're done here, Blake, after I've collected your soul and taken your heart, I'll hold onto you. For when my ascension is complete and I take my rightful place as god of this realm, you and I are gonna have some fun. I'll resurrect you, just to torture you for centuries on end, then, when your flickering soul finally gives out and you die, I'll bring you back and we can begin the fun all over again.
            "You see, your insistence on being in my way has earned you a special place in my kingdom. Whether or not you find that to be a good thing is up to you but rest assured, I'll manage to enjoy your tortured company. You will be held up as an example for all to see; Gods, mortals, demons and angels alike will understand the fate of those who dare oppose me. And I have been opposed for so long that you, dear Blake, will be the outlet of my frustration for these centuries of denied ascension."
            "So..." James said with a smirk "I take it you won't move on me when I shoot?"
            Croatoan glared at James a moment. "Arrogant and a snark, even at the end," he mused "Go on then, take your shot. One, final defiant volley against that of a god!"
            "You're not there yet, you self absorbed choke artist."
            "What did you call me?"
            "You messed up once, and you'll fall short again. I just need to figure out how."
            "What makes you think you'll even live long enough to try?"
            "Well, for one, I'm not dumb enough to take this shot."
            Croatoan then tensed up as he prepared to rush James. "And for two," James said "You should've realized that I can't go two freaking minutes in this town without a cop catching up to me. Croatoan was confused by that until he looked around and noticed a number of officers surrounding them. He then looked back to James who had a big grin on his face. "You shouldn't monologue so much," he said before diving out of the way behind a truck.
            Numerous officers screamed at a now furious Croatoan to freeze. Croatoan sprinted at a speed no one expected to where James had gone and overturned the truck with one arm. James was no longer there but the cops weren't patient anymore and started firing. Croatoan took every shot without notice and screamed "Blake! I will rip your spine out through your throat and shred your fucking soul into pieces!"
            Croatoan gave up on his search for James and instead decided to take out some frustration on the officers shooting at him. He covered an intimidating amount of ground in no time and ran for an officer, ripping his hands into the man's stomach, then began pulling his intestines out. He then continued to pull as he ran to a neighboring officer and began to strangle him with another man's guts.
            The other officers momentarily stopped shooting at the sight of the spectacle, some questioning the use of shooting someone that clearly did not care for the bullets, others opting to run away now while they still had the chance. Croatoan twisted and pulled the intestines tight on the officers neck until his struggles fades and he went limp. He then leapt to another officer who was trying to sneak in close, then began choking him with the same intestines.
            The officer whose guts were being used meanwhile was unfortunately still alive. He laid on the ground, arms in a spasm, while he pleaded for someone to kill him. He was groping for his dropped pistol and was unable to see from the agony. Every twitch and pull from his intestines sent a new wave of pain through him and he began to choke on his own rising blood and bile, eventually he decided to stop trying to void his mouth because choking to death was more favorable than the constant pain he had no escape from.
            The intestines Croatoan were using meanwhile had begun to tear and fall apart. The officer he was choking was gasping for air at every interval while Croatoan failed to salvage the organ as a viable murder tool. He decided there was no more pleasure to be had with it and instead chose to stuff the pieces of broken intestine down the surviving cops throat, taunting him as he struggled to either cough out or swallow the constant flow of innards.
            James had no intention of watching the wanton display of gore and violence and instead was concerned with sneaking his way out. As long as there were cops dumb enough to keep shooting and hold Croatoan's attention, he figured he could escape. "James!" he heard John calling and he made his way over. "Keep your voice down and let's get out of here," James said as he ran up to him.
            "What the hell was that?" John asked with wide eyes as they ran back down the alley.
            "Are we ready to start believing all the crazy nonsense I've been suggesting yet?" James asked right back as they sprinted towards Bradford's car. John had parked right at the entryway in the street.
            "I'm feeling a little more open minded," John said as James noticed all shooting had stopped. "What the hell though? Is he wearing kevlar? And how could he move that fast and rip that guy apart?"
            "He's immortal. A demon," James said, hardly able to believe his own words said out loud "I'll explain on the way. How'd you even end up here?"
            "I tried to get to you at the apartments before Bradford. I was in the area when he made the pursuit call. What happened back there?"
            "Bradford's dead. It was a trap, he was the next sacrifice."
            "What do you mean?"
            "Blaaaaaaaaaake!" Croaton bellowed from down the alley, his voice echoing as it took a clich├ęd demonic accent. "Oh, fuck," John said as he worked his way around Bradford's car "He's coming." Croatoan was sprinting down the alley at Olympian speeds as James mind raced for a way out. "Head shot won't kill him, but it might slow him down," he said as John readied his gun. "Good enough for me," he said.
            Croatoan made no effort to deviate his path as he came straight for the men. "You can make that kind of shot, right?" James asked. John didn't answer as he aimed, held his breath and fired, Croatoans head immediately snapped back and his body toppled over, rolling like a rag doll as his momentum carried him farther down the alley. Within seconds he was shaking it off and pulling the bullet from his skull. James and John had meanwhile ran out and made it to the car.

June 15, 2014

Demons Ascension - Chase Scene

[Posted by Ted H]

I already know what I'm gonna do for NaNoWriMo 2014....be afraid, be very afraid...

-------------------------------------------

[Demons Ascension - Chase Scene]

            James looked to Amanda and said "Start packing, I'll be back before you know it." Amanda smiled at him as he stood up and followed Bradford out the door, Bradford never even paying mind to Amanda. "Seriously," James said as they left Dennys "I have every intention to leave."
            "You haven't done anything to this point without a reason," Bradford said as he walked to his car. "Get in," he said as he unlocked the doors.
            "Am I being detained?" James asked as they climbed in and Bradford started up the engine. "I know you've been impersonating an officer," Bradford said "So I can defiantly arrest you if I wanted to."
            "I never personally said that," James said "People just kept making that mistake and I never corrected them."
            "What about impersonating a doctor, Dr. Blake?"
            "You heard about that one too? I didn't even know that one was illegal."
            "I just want you supervised. And I know you'll want to work this case firsthand so I don't have to worry about you disappearing on me so long as I'm going where the case leads."
            "Awe, so you do care."
            "I want to know what the girl has to do with this."
            "You mean besides my obvious benefits?"
            "There's a reason you were in that complex."
            Before James could answer, Bradford's phone rang. As he drove, he pulled it out and put it on speakerphone. "This is Bradford," he said.
            "It's Mangan," the phone said "Listen, the analysis came back on the contents of that John Doe's stomach. Hope you're not eating because this guy had eaten the heart of Father Nicholas Brooks. Finger prints match those found at the scene. He's defiantly the killer."
            "What about the other crime scenes?" James asked as he snatched the phone from Bradford "Fingerprints match from the other scenes?"
            "Um," Lyle said over the phone.
            "Go ahead," Bradford said.
            "No," Lyle said "All four scenes have different prints. But I've a bad feeling what these people are doing with the hearts."
            "Keep me posted," Bradford said and ended the call.
            "Are we ready to call them rituals?" James asked with a smile.
            "Yeah, yeah. what else can you tell me then?" Bradford said sarcastically.
            "The guy named Crow that John undoubtedly told you about? That's your mastermind. He's also the guy at crime scene number four."
            "If he's the mastermind, then why start killing now? Especially his own people?"
            "His own people?"
            "Our John Doe was found in a park, heart cut out like all the other victims. This was different though, he was killed somewhere else and moved to the park. Left there intentionally. We only found him last night. Found out about his connection to the murders more recently."
            "Probably killed in that basement bloodbath John and I found before I left the first time."
            "All that blood was bleached. Too many chemicals mixed in there for us to figure anything out. But what makes you think Crow is involved? Praque talked to him a few days ago and his alibis checked out."
            "I bet his excuse for this morning won't."
            "Guy has no priors. Hell, we can't even prove he existed before last week."
            "He resides in a low income dump and has had his little minions do everything for him until now. Of course he wouldn't have a record."
            "Is this a gut feeling about him or what?"
            "I bet you your John Doe lived in that apartment complex and is a known associate with Crow. That girl I was with would be one of probably many who could point that out. You don't even need to arrest him, just bring him in for questioning. You've got enough circumstantial proof to do that."
            Bradford smiled. "Praque was right," he said "You are smarter than you look."
            James laughed. "So you'll actually listen to me on this?" he asked.
            "I've had an APB out on him all morning," Bradford said "We managed to dig up some footage from Hapdale that featured someone who wasn't supposed to be there. Only got the side and back of his head as he walked by, but it seems close. On top of the sketch from that runaway nut and his connections to the John Doe, you bet your ass I want to have a face to face with him."
            "Nice. So where are we going now?"
            "Station."
            "How about we swing by an empty lot I got a hunch about?"
            "You mean because of the star pattern? Already checked it out. Nothing. And that was before we found out about the guy in the park. The park doesn't fit the pattern."
            "There is a pattern to these rituals. Maybe there's a different pattern that involves the other guys."
            "There were no prints at the Williams alley, so for all we really know, there are at most two killers. We already have one accounted for. But we are looking into the idea that there are four involved."
            "Alright Mr. I need proof, why four?"
            "Remember that fabric? And how it looked like the same that runaway from the church was wearing? Well some guys at the Property Crimes division got back to me about that. About a year ago a second hand shop was broken into. Not much was stolen except, among other inconsequential items, four gray trench coats."
            "Now if I were the one telling you that, you'd write it off as nonsense."
            "Yeah, well, it all seems to fit now. I'm not sure if I like it."
            "But what about Crow?"
            "Just want to talk. Preferably with him at the police station in handcuffs because according to Praque, he's creepy as fuck."
            "Good enough for me," James said as he looked out at the street and began to wish that he took some of that coffee from Dennys to go.
            "Holy shit!" Bradford screamed as he hit the brakes. Tires screeched as James held on and other cars honked. "What the hell, man?" James shouted as he saw Bradford's eyes almost bugging out of his head. James followed his eyes and saw Crow standing near the intersection in a gray trench coat. Crow looked back with some disbelief at James before turning and taking off down the next street.
            "Oh, I got you now!" Bradford yelled as he hit the gas and tires once again screeched as he took off after. As he turned the corner, James could see Crow had already gotten a steady lead. Bradford drove with one hand as he grabbed his phone with the other and called in his situation and where he was heading.
            "This guy is fast," Bradford commented as he pursued, every time he thought he was catching up with Crow, the man turned a corner and when Bradford made the turn, he was already up the street faster than any man should have been able to run. "I'll catch this guy, don't worry," he said as he continued weaving through traffic to keep pace.
            "We're heading west, aren't we?" James asked.
            "I think so, why?"
            "Don't you think it odd him showing up right now?"
            "All I know is we caught him right when we need to."
            "I don't believe in coincidences."
            After a few more blocks, Bradford began to make noticeable progress. "Yeah, you're getting tired, aren't you?" Bradford yelled as Crow turned into an alley at the last second.
            "Nice try," Bradford yelled as he turned to follow, but Crow was standing right in the way as Bradford barreled his car in. "Shit!" he yelled as he slammed on the brakes and James braced himself. Bradford was worried he was about to run over his suspect. James was worried because he suddenly remembered what happened to Rickey Kenton.
            As the car was about to hit, Crow threw both hands up, braced his feet and stopped the car dead in its tracks. Both airbags deployed and the rear of the car momentarily went in the air as all four tires went off the ground. The car violently dropped as Crow merely shrugged off the collision and casually walked down the rest of the alley.

June 8, 2014

Demons Ascension - Dennys

[Posted by Ted H]

...because who doesn't love them some dennys?

----------------------------------------------

[Demons Ascension - Dennys]

            It was after 11:30 when James and Amanda finally left the apartment. A block away was a Dennys and the two were at a table in no time. James ordered the biggest pot of coffee available and Amanda requested tea. "So are you relatively new in town?" James asked "Cuz there were some unpacked items in your living room."
            "I've been here almost a year," Amanda said "I just, I dunno, never get around to finish unpacking. I have too much stuff, I only unpack something if I need it."
            "What brought you to Chicago?"
            "Fresh start I guess. I mean, I've had like three fresh starts in the last decade, but I was pretty sure this time would stick."
            "How many jobs have you had?"
            "I've had eight jobs, four boyfriends and three cats since I began...or, will it be five boyfriends?"
            "You're not very good at being subtle, are you?" James said as the waitress dropped off a cup of tea and a mug of coffee then took their orders. Amanda ordered some complicated dish that the waitress didn't bat an eye at. James, feeling unoriginal, ordered a grand slam.
            "Subtlety is no fun," Amanda said as the waitress left "The time I spend around some guys is short enough, I don't want to lose any time by doing a will-they won't-they dance. I like you, I knew you like me, I figured why not?"
            "Aren't you afraid I won't stick around?"
            "If you don't, then you don't. At least we got something good out of it while we could."
            "Interesting," James said as he drank from his mug "I like you for that."
            "I know," Amanda responded with a wink before she sipped at her tea.
            "I'm not really a cop," James suddenly decided to confess.
            "I still would have liked you," Amanda said without missing a beat "But if you're not a cop, why the interest in Crow?"
            "That friend of mine is a cop though, and he might have an issue with me telling you about Crow."
            "Why are you involved then?"
            "Added perspective. I don't think like a cop."
            "Are you even from Chicago?"
            "Nope. New York."
            "The city? I was there for a couple years. Which borough were you?"
            "Uh, upstate New York, not downstate."
            "How big a difference?"
            "Less personal respect, a lot more trees and an uncanny amount of rednecks for an area north of the Mason-Dixon."
            "When are you going back? After whatever case you're on is finished?"
            "Hopefully," James said as he placed his mug down and had an idea "I'd actually go back today if you're willing to come with me."
            Amanda stopped mid sip at that statement. She placed her cup down and maintained eye contact. "Go to New York, with you?" she asked as James nodded. "Ok."
            "Really?" James asked "Just like that?"
            "Yup. What's another change in scenery?"
            "I don't live glamorously."
            "Don't care."
            "My jobs are sporadic and prolly worse than yours."
            "Don't care."
            "The winters are crap and the summers unbearable."
            "Don't care."
            "What do you care about?"
            "That you're not a criminal, and you can't be if you're hanging around that cop so much, and that what you and I did back in my bedroom will become a regular thing."
            "What about your job now?"
            "I'll call right now and quit."
            "Let's go pack your stuff right now. We can be at my place before dawn tomorrow."
            "Then what, finally sleep?"
            "Later, I figure we could make a routine out of what we've done so far today."
            "Early morning sex followed by Dennys? I knew there was a reason I like you."
            James sat back with a smile as he raised his mug to drink. As he began to lower it, he spied the familiar black face of Bradford, flashing a smile of his own as he approached the table. "Here comes another real cop," James said as Bradford stood over them. "You need to come with me, Blake," he said as Amanda looked away from him and sipped her tea. "What if I told you I'm leaving for good this time?" James asked as Bradford shook his head.
            "You can either walk out with me now, or I bust out some handcuffs."

June 1, 2014

Demons Ascension - Amanda

New stuff is coming soon.....for now just enjoy as we slowly work our way to the final act...

...this one prolly has more than a couple spellcheck errors since I'm putting this up real quick before I sprint out the door to work at the last minute...


--------------------------------------------------------

[Demons Ascension - Amanda]

            James wasn't stupid. He had no intention of confronting Croatoan in person all alone. He made it sound that way in the letter though to light a fire under John's ass. It was a little after nine by time he drove by the apartment building. As he got out, he noticed Mark back on the scaffolding above the main entrance. "Officer!" he called down as he noticed James "What brings you back here?"
            "Police business," James said, glad no one bothered clarifying his status to Mark. "What are you doing up there?" James asked "I thought you already took care of that graffiti?"
            "Punk comes back," Mark said "Write same thing right over my paint. I'm thinking of setting up camera to catch them next time."
            "Why do you think they even bother? I mean your doorway isn't exactly noticeable from faraway..."
            "I do not know. Pride maybe, stupid gangs. Too much hassle over nonsense word like crouton."
            "Crouton?" James asked with some amusement "I thought you can't read?"
            "Some passerby point it out to me. Say it makes them want salad. It's all scratchy looking, passerby could not even read it clearly. See?"
            Mark stepped aside and allowed James to see the graffiti. "That's not crouton," James said as he felt a weight in his stomach. "Officer?" Mark asked as James took off running into the apartment lobby. Mark scratched his head, shrugged, then went back to preparing his paint to cover up the scratching of the word "Croatoan" on his building.
            James wasted little time calling for the elevator. He remembered what he could about the Roanoke Colony mystery. When the English returned and found the place abandoned, the one thing they noticed was the word "Croatoan" carved into different locations. Before James had assumed that was a simple message of where the colonists went. History seemed to have supported it, but James was beginning to wonder how much of recorded history could be trusted. History also claimed the colonists went to where the Croatan indian tribe was, no official mention of how or exactly why they went.
            Let off at Croatoan's floor, James took off in the direction of his room. He didn't have a plan, not that he would have one if given enough time anyway. He just knew he needed to act and act now. He stopped in front of Croatoan's door, took a deep breath, then turned around and pounded on the door across the hall.
            A moment passed and James' breathing increased. He heard noises behind the door and got his hopes up, but at the same time worried that he might be too late. He heard the door locks being undone and was elated at the sight of Amanda answering the door with no Croatoan in sight.
            "You're back," she said with a smile as he held an ice pack to her head. She was obviously in bed recently as she stood barefoot in the doorway with mismatched pajamas and frayed red hair falling all over. "That excited about asking me to dinner?" she asked. "How about breakfast instead?" James asked as Amanda laughed and motioned for him to follow her inside.
            The apartment was a mess, with boxes of items strewn about and a stack of pizza boxes by the couch near a television with three different game systems nearby. Near a window was a small packed bookcase with another several piles of books next to it. The kitchen had a pile of cups and dishes in the sink and a broken coffeemaker nearby. On the table was a closed laptop sitting on a small mess of papers and envelopes.
            "So you're up early," Amanda said as she leaned against her counter and adjusted her ice pack. "I guess," James said as he looked around "Long night last night for you?"
            "Yup. Crow and I went out for some drinks. Guess he's depressed all his friends are gone."
            "Did he leave town the same time I did?"
            "I don't think so. He did go out for work that night and I didn't see him at all the next day until he came back the following night. Why?"
            "Just curious."
            "I told your fellow cop friend about him though. They had a chat, but Crow didn't mention anything. Is he in trouble?"
            "I, uh, can't discuss the details of a case."
            "What about over breakfast?"
            "Sold. Dennys?"
            "Just let me slip out of these jammies and put on something a little more social."
            Amanda placed the ice pack down and made her way to her bedroom. "Wouldn't mind if you just did that first part and stopped," James said under his breath but Amanda turned her head towards him and winked as she disappeared. James wondered if that was a sign he should follow her when he decided he had more important things to deal with.
            He walked over to the table and noticed a map of Chicago strewn out alongside some take out menus. He cleaned it off and picked up a pencil. He remembered where the first three murders were and marked them on the map, then out of curiosity he opened the laptop and ran a search of the Hapdale Mental Health facility for an address. "Every location is important," he said to himself as he checked the map for where the computer said the address was.
            After marking it, he remembered how the third murder was exactly east of the location of the first, and both were the same distance from murder number two. James made a number of additional marks on the map attempting to measure out and predict where murder number five would take place. One particular mark grabbed James' eye as its inclusion with the other murder locations made a downward pointing star with the apartments in the middle. "He's making a star," James said with a smile "Finally, I'm a step ahead of you." He checked the computer for a satellite image of the location, but it was only an empty lot. "How do you plan to make this one work?" James wondered when he notice Amanda step out from her bedroom.
            Amanda clearly must have heard James before because she stepped out wearing an impatient expression on her face and absolutely nothing else. She had taken a moment to comb her hair as it now sat neatly and a majority of it was swept behind her back as not to obstruct the view of her perk breasts in  any way. Her right arm had crept up on the wall and braced her as she leaned and looked towards James. He gazed down on her to see a piercing in her navel under which her left arm was idly brushing around. Lower he saw her unsaved public area, but he could tell she kept it that way by choice as opposed to yet another part of her life that was left neglected. Finally he took in her crossed legs which were, save for a few cuts here and there, perfectly smooth.
            "I had a crazy night of drinking with Crow, but he didn't even try anything," Amanda said as he raised his eyes to match hers again. "I'm confident he's gay...what's your excuse?"
            James took a moment to laugh to himself before rushing over and taking Amanda up into his arms. He conceded to himself that the world was in danger and he had less than a day to save humanity, but he was pretty sure nothing was going to happen in the next hour.