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Forever in the Death Trap
Forever in the Death Trap
“I've never seen anything like this,” breathed local police officer Stephanie Lex. She paced restlessly in the dark alleyway, careful not to step into the crime scene. Her golden locks fell down past her waist, dancing loosely with each step she took. Her eyes, dark brown, glistened under knitted eyebrows.
She turned back towards the dark part of the “death trap” - as it was commonly known as by officers who patrolled this part of the city – and continued her rounds, stepping evenly to diminish the soft “click” that echoed around her with each step. A moment later she gave up, frustrated, and shuddered with anger, fear, and annoyance. In a corner lay the broken and bruised body of a girl who looked to be in her teens. She didn't breathe, nor did she have a pulse.
She was dead.
Again Lex shook. She was the first to arrive on the scene, and she didn't like it. This wasn't the first time she'd dealt with a murder – nor would it be the last – but it was the first time that she was faced with the murder of a mere child. Distantly she heard a siren blaring. A few moments later, she identified what kind of car was driving it – a police car. They were coming towards her, the siren seeming to scream louder with each passing second. She turned her back, away from the sickening sight of the murder.
She nearly screamed.
A man stood in front of her, smirking at her frightened expression. Automatically she reached for her gun, pulling it out in under a second and aiming it at the man's face. Right between the eyes.
All he did was grin casually, not even flinching as he was suddenly faced with the barrel of a handgun.
No, not a handgun. He'd mistaken it in the gloom – if it was possible. A tazer gun was her weapon.
“Who are you?” snarled Lex, eyes flashing like those of an angry wolf. “What do you want?”
“No need to taze me,” chuckled the man. “I'm one of you.”
His words had no effect on the city officer, who held the gun steady. No shaking betrayed her weariness. She was surprisingly calm. Impressive, noted the man.
“Who are you?” repeated Lex, teeth gnashing together.
“Stephen Haarks,” answered the man, “CSI investigator.” He reached into his back pocket, and pulled out his wallet. He flipped the dark leather open to reveal his badge. Lex nearly tore it apart with her eyes, searching for signs that it was fake. She found nothing; it appeared to be real.
The gun hadn't quite managed to make its way back to the belt, and the CSI officer brushed it aside.
In under a second he was pinned up against a wall, the tazer up against his throat as he tried to swallow his sudden fear of the girl. “Let... me... explain,” coughed Haarks, his feet dangling a few inches above the ground.
“No,” snapped Lex, “you let me explain, pal. You came up behind me without a word, nearly scared the crap outta me, and refused to stand down. Think about it.” She was so angry, she could have crushed him with her strength alone; so angry, she could have snarled like the wolf that she truly was; so angry, in fact, that if she had truly wanted to, she could have killed him at that very moment.
She'd forgotten the about the siren, for it had given way to the furious pounding in her ears, an adrenaline rush leaving her more angry than before. It was still droning, drawing ever closer.
“Let... me... go!” begged Haarks, his face turning red.
“Why should I?!”
“Because... I'm a friend.”
Just like that, Lex let go. He crumpled to the ground, picking himself up moments later.
“Who are you?” he demanded, his voice a rough growl.
“Stephanie Lex, New York City police officer.” It was her turn to pull out the wallet. Her badge was clearly visible, for a few stray rays of sunlight found their way into the shadowy alleyway.
“And it's nice to meet you,” she snickered.
“Just jolly,” agreed Haarks dryly.
“Now, you'll be on your way, I suppose?”
“I think not. We have a murder on our hands.” He gestured toward the body that lay abused in the corner.
“Our?” repeated Lex. “Our?” She groaned. “Don't tell me I'm stuck with you all day. Please don't even say it.”
“Okay. I'm stuck with you all day.” Haarks flashed a crooked grin, and Lex seized that opportunity to really look at him.
He had jet-black hair, cut short – but not a buzz cut. His eyes were a striking blue, like shards of ice above a frozen lake. He had a grizzled appearance, as though he had forgotten to shave. Actually, it was probably to early for him to have even taken a shower, unless he got up at 5:30 on weekends – when he had a choice in the matter. On second thought, Lex didn't doubt it. Muscles showed through his skin-tight shirt. Abs like rock, Lex thought. She didn't dwell upon it. She noticed his mouth; he had perfectly straight, white teeth, revealed in the smirk that had yet to vanish.
“What're you staring at?” he teased. Lex's breath caught as she jolted out of her mesmerized thoughts.
“Uh... um, no-nothing,” Lex stammered.
Her cheeks and the tips of her ears burned, turning red as she stared at him. She looked up into his eyes, gaze innocent as a young deer's.
In a slightly more devilish way, he looked down at her. He stepped closer, gripping her hands in his strong ones. Lex noticed his scent as he stepped closer. He smelled of cologne; not the cheap kind. The good stuff. She leaned in closer, taking a deep breath, and felt her heart hammering again. She thought that surely he'd hear it and laugh at her.
His voice, gruff and deep, murmured into her hear. “It may not be so bad to stick around with me, eh?” A low laugh rumbled from his throat.
Had there not been bright headlights suddenly glaring into her eyes, she would have fallen over. As it was, Haarks held her steady and kept her from doing so. The police car had arrived, and the loudspeaker screeched, then gave way to the voice of Lex's friend, with a serious tone.
“We have you surrounded. Please get a room.”
Lex turned a deeper shade of red, nearly crimson, and Haarks thought she may explode like a firework. Right in the light, too. An unforgivable maneuver on her part. Haarks grinned, turned back to the car, and gave the person inside a shifty, mischievous look.
Lex tore her hands from his grip and shoved against his chest, pleased that he stumbled awkwardly backward for a few steps before he regained his footing.
“I'm not some toy for you guys to play around with!” she sniffed. “I've already been tortured enough by having to wake up and come here.”
Haarks laughed, his voice shaking like leaves in the trees on an autumn day, his stone-like chest quivering with the noise that his vocals made, and his eyes twinkling with his lopsided grin
“You're right,” he agreed after a few seconds, “we have a murder to investigate here.”
A few more cars were coming up the street, and as they turned the corner, the flashing lights nearly blinded the two. Out of the first car climbed Lindsay Shefar. She smiled at the beet-red Lex, laughing more with each step she took. Lex sent a furious glare at her friend.
“Sorry. I couldn't resist.”
“Could you have been more... blunt?!” Lex bared her teeth, acting as though she was truly unhappy with perhaps her closest friend.
“A crime scene in a dark alleyway, next to a dead body. How romantic,” crooned Shefar.
“Oh, shut up!” squealed Lex, punching her friend softly in the shoulder.
“Well, good job. It's nice to see you finally discovered your other half.”
“I think...” Lex trailed off with uncertainty.
“You think...?” prodded Shefar, the ghost of a grin struggling to be controlled.
“That there's about to be two dead bodies in this alley.”
“What do you...” Shefar didn't finish the question. She started laughing again, her brown hair flipping over her shoulders. “Not if I can help it,” she amended.
Haarks had long since wandered off, even before the conversation had begun. Now he looked up from where he was, shouting excitedly. “I've got a print!” he yelled. Momentarily, three more officers joined him. Two were Lex and Shefar. The third was another CSI guy.
“Lift it and we'll get it to the lab,” said Shefar. Lex nodded.
“I'm going to look for anything else. Any DNA samples would be handy to have,” Lex said.
She moved off, crouching low to the ground in places where something would have caught and stuck to the damp ground. She was looking for clues. Anything at all. She raised her head, surveying the area.
Red light filled the crevices that spread like spiderwebs across the walls of the alley, flashing at half-second intervals. Professionals were at the body. Yellow crime-scene tape crossed off the area. People talked on cell phones. Cops crawled all over the place.
It was a typical murder scene.
The forensics team had apparently found something. She ignored their shouts, continuing her own search. What a day this will be, thought Lex. What a day.
Suddenly, she saw it. A hair. Not gold, like hers, not black, like Haark's. Not brown, like the average person's here. It was bright red. Not crimson, like blood, but red. They were after a redhead.
“I've got something!” Lex yelled. She pulled the plastic gloves she'd brought – standard procedure – and put them over her hands. She carefully plucked up the hair and waited for someone to approach her.
“Here,” said Haarks from behind her, handing her a plastic bag and a Sharpie marker. She took out the small tissue inside, folded the hair into it, and closed the bag. With the marker she labeled it.
September 30, 2009
She scrawled her signature underneath, then smiled at Haarks. “I think this was a messy murder. Did anyone else find anything?”
Haarks gestured toward the body for the second time that day.
“She was strangled, but it looks like she put up a good fight. They found some blood – two different types of blood, actually – and they've determined which one is the victim's. She didn't have any mouth damage, so they're identifying her by her dental records. They also found a tooth – the murderer's, by the looks of it – and faint footprints.”
“Wow.” Lex paused, still absorbing the information. “Usually the murderers cover up their tracks – pardon the pun – better than this.”
Haarks agreed wearily. “It seems... too easy. Like they left everything on purpose. As if they want us to find them...”
“I doubt it,” confided Lex. “The usual criminal is really shaken when they kill someone. They can't really focus on anything except for getting away.”
“But this isn't the usual murder,” Haarks pointed out.
“True. But is it really likely that they wanted us to find them?”
“...I guess you're right.” Haarks looked into her eyes, trying to dismiss the bad feeling that was creeping over him. Something told him that this wasn't right, no matter how many times Lex argued the prospect. Lex saw the comprehension in his gaze and raised a finger in front of his eyes.
“Stop worrying,” she scolded, waving her finger back and forth.
“You're right,” Haarks repeated. “I'm being silly.” He smiled at her. Before she had a chance to put her finger back where it belonged, Haarks grabbed it and pressed it against his lips.
Lex's reaction was exactly what he'd wanted. Her face flushed of all color, and then all the blood rushed to her face. From ghostly white to burning red in only a few moments, Lex stood with her finger there, and did the first thing that came to her mind.
Self defense was one of her strong points.
With a long, slender leg, she kicked out from the side, and as she was coming around she bent her leg at the knee to form an angular V-shape. Leaning to the side, she caught Haarks in the back of the legs – right at the joints – and he collapsed forward. With her arms, Lex caught him by a hand, and swung him back upright. Her hands were free, and no harm was done. She beamed at Haarks.
“Don't do that again,” she advised, still grinning. Haarks laughed, swaying on his feet.
“I don't think I will,” he agreed.
Then he struck out with both arms, grabbing her by the wrists as he had done before the investigation had started.
“Don't go getting any ideas,” Lex speculated sternly. “I'm not going to be able-”
She was cut off by someone calling her name. She turned her head, and Haarks released her. What met her eyes was the chief officer, waving them over. As one, they moved towards him.
“Yes?” Lex asked.
“You two are free to go. We've found a substantial amount of... information.”
Lex nodded to the chief. “Thank you.”
“You deserve it.”
Lex cast a glance at Haarks. He looked at her with a mock hopeful expression. Rolling her eyes, Lex invited him to ride in her car and go get something to eat.
“Sure,” Haarks replied, licking his lips. Lex glared at him, not sure which he was trying to convey – he wanted to eat food, or he wanted to eat her. Or both.
She sighed, not really looking forward to the car ride. It wasn't at the top of her to-do list. And then again, it was. Much better than this dump, by her standards. A murder wasn't the best thing to do to spend your weekend investigating – especially not the ones that weren't even worth-while.
They stepped over the “Crime scene! Do not cross!” tape and started to approach a red Mustang GT 500. It's sleek paint gleamed even in the low light.
“Is this yours?” pondered Haarks in awe.
“She's my baby,” confirmed Lex cheerfully.
Haarks ran his hand over the smooth metal, wondering if he'd ever be able to afford a car this great. A low whistle came from his direction.
Lex looked at him smugly and opened up the doors by pressing a button on the keys. She stepped into the car, keeping her head low, and slid into the dark leather seats. Haarks remained on the outside, peering in hesitantly.
“Well, are you coming or not?” Lex questioned, raising an eyebrow.
Haarks stepped into the car in answer.
“So, where do you want to go for breakfast?”
“Doesn't matter. Your choice.”
“How about...” Lex paused. “My parents own a restaurant called 'Grannie's Goodies,'” she suggested. Haarks looked at her with apprehension. She added, “They make some wicked pancakes.”
“Okay; we'll go there.” Then he was silent, which Lex didn't expect. He gazed out of the tinted windows of the car, a blank expression on his face. Lex turned the key on the engine and slowly pulled out of the parking space, careful not to bump or scratch any other cars. As they got out of the spot, the narrow street opened up, and Lex began to accelerate. As the needle ticked upward, Haarks still didn't say anything, and Lex shot him a wondering look every few minutes. After awhile, she gave up, and became frustrated that he didn't seem to want to say anything.
Minutes flew by, and before long, they'd been in the car for ten. Finally, Lex slammed a foot on the break, and the car stopped within a second, emitting a long screech behind them. Lex didn't think about the marks that they'd left, she only stared straight ahead, jarred by the sudden stop. She was a safe driver – on a day-to-day basis – but she could not stand the silence.
Lex could feel Haark's stare on her, but she refused to move. Not until he talks, she thought stubbornly. What's wrong with him, anyways? He was all perky when we were still at the crime scene. What's got to him?
She slapped her hands against the steering wheel, sending off a “Honk!” from the car after a few moments. She glared at him, sending him a you-know-the-answer-to-your-own-question glance, and waited for him to say something.
Suddenly, a loud 'crash,' followed not a moment later by a huge impact, sent both of them flying forward. Their seat belts locked them to the chairs, but they only hurt them more, crushing the air out of their lungs and cracking ribs. The air bags exploded in their faces. The last thing Lex saw was white.
Then everything went black.
Lex opened her eyes to see a completely blank area. What had been there before, was no longer. She gradually sat up, wondering what had happened, when she remembered. The crash. There had been an accident. She turned her head sharply, looking for someone, or something, and saw nothing. Only white. Confused, she looked down, and saw – more than felt – that she was in a bed. She turned and stood. What was going on?
Before she had time to think, something, or someone, appeared in front of her. Grizzled cheeks, black hair, blue eyes that sparkled like stars. She recognized him instantly, and his voice was the thing that triggered her realization.
“Stephanie Katie Lex.”
She was dead.
“No! I mean, yes, that's me, but I can't be... I can't be dead! That's not possible! You don't know my middle name!” She denied it, putting her heart into the message, willing herself to believe it, praying even more that it was true.
“Stop,” he ordered. Lex's eyes widened. He'd never used that tone before; not with her, not with any other person. Not that she knew of. “You're only making it worse. You are dead, it is possible, and you will not argue it any further. She nodded dumbly.
“Then... What happened? Why are you here, and nobody else is? Where are we?” He looked coldly into her eyes, but his gaze softened.
“I am here because I am an angel, Stephanie. I was only sent to earth to help them with what they needed, and told to return with you.” He paused, watching her, like an eagle watching prey. “It is such a waste, really. But I assure you, time here is not time there. In only a day, it will seem, your family will join us here, when it was a lifetime on earth.”
Reassured, Stephanie bobbed her head again.
“So... now what?”
“Follow me.” He turned and began to walk; to where, Stephanie knew not. It was frustrating that she did not understand, but it was also fascinating. It was exhilarating to be here; to be dead. But she had no idea where she was going.
Then, they were in a room – much like something you'd find on earth – filled with doors. There were many people bustling about, opening and closing doors. Lex wandered up to one, and cast Haarks a questioning look. He nodded. She turned the cool brass knob, and pushed on the door.
Before her opened the land of her dreams.
Wide, dense deciduous forests covered the land, cloaked by a bright, cloudless blue sky. The mountains on the horizon were a dim, faint purple, covered by a blanket of fog that surrounded them coldly. The soft bubbling of a brook nearby floated to her on the flower-scented wind.
Lex looked around, awed by the area, and sighed, “I've never seen anything like this.”