Corrupted Transmission

Body of Evidence, Part III

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, March 15th, 1 PM

Shaw watches Vito’s face as he watches the video on her phone. As the gun shot ring out over the speaker, she asks “Have you ever seen anything like that?”

The soldier mulls over the image of the creature, Community, removing its disguise. “Don’t you think your response was a little bit overboard? Shooting the poor thing. That’s my buddy from Afghanistan.”

“What?” Shaw says, shocked.

“That was my buddy’s face,” he explains. “Petty Officer Gilmore. There were some interesting things that happened over there.”

“Explain please.”

Vito tells her the story of the night of the raid on the village. About how they were shot down and found the soldier, villager and insurgents all dead. Finally he relates how Gilmore was killed in action. “But according to my sources, he was reported coming back into the country a couple months ago. I think he might be coming after me. I had a run in with him a couple nights ago.”

“You knew this thing was here?” Shaw says half rising from her desk.

“It was a personal thing,” he explains. “It ran away.”

“What is it do with the bodies?” she asks.

“I don’t know but does Mary Shelly ring any bells.”

Shaw chews him about withholding information from her. Vito backpedals and explains he was working for the government.

“I thought you were out of the services,” she says, sitting back down.

“When you are special forces you are never really out of the service,” he offers.

Shaw asks if he shared any of their information with these agents.

“No,” he replies.

Shaw weighs his response. She decides she trusts him. “Is there anything you can tell me about the creature that will help our investigation?”

Vito informs her about the radio tracking device the agents have implanted in it. “If we had some sort of scanner we might be able to track it.”

He continues, “with you permission, I’d like to talk to my other contacts and see we can’t work together on this. We are working to the same ends.”

“What is the end goal of your mission?” she asks.

“They are trying to eliminate it.”

Shaw is okay with that and gives Vito a copy of the video.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Greenwood, March 15th, 1 PM

Dr. Trevor Sorenson mulls over a theory about the patients. With the revelation of Frank’s condition and the children, he is starting to think people are being driven crazy by encounters with supernatural.

There is knock at the door and a moment later an orderly leads Lara Woronov into the room.

The blond haired woman sits down opposite him. He nods to the orderly and he leaves them alone. “How are you feeling today Lara?”

Her eyes focus on him. “I’m feeling fine doctor, how are you doing?”

“I’m always doing well, I love my job.”

She smiles. “I know its like on the letter head.”

Dr. Sorenson looks down at his pad People helping people are the greatest people in the world. Smirking, he begins to question his patient about her previous doctor. As he suspected Lara is convinced she was a nurse working with Yee Lin and not a patient. As he probes deeper he finds the stories to be exceedingly clever. She claims Dr. Stephenson hired her. He remembers the older doctor, he retired a few years ago. He’ll need to check in on him.

Trevor leans in toward Lara. He asks her what she knows about the basement.

“Aren’t the basements off limits?” she says.

“Of course but I’ve only been here for a few years. I’m always interested in hearing how things used to be,” he says hoping to learn more.

“Well we used that area for storage but no one has used it for a long time.”

He asks about the children at the facility. Lara claims not to interact with them but does voice a complaint about children wandering the halls after hours. She also lcaims to have seen strange doctors and nurses about after hours in the last few weeks.

He turns the conversation to her career. He ask if she had been promoted recently.

“I was kind of hoping that this meeting was about that,” she explains hesitantly.

Sorenson probes her duties and responsibilities. He notes she has cleverly included only the people and locations she actually interacts with. Her medical knowledge is substantial though. She clearly knows her stuff. However when he tries to trick her into a self diagnosis she is unable to figure out what is wrong with her.

After his meeting he talks to the nurses about Lara. They explain how much trouble she is. she is very convincing as a nurse and continually tricks visitors and new nurses that she works at the Hillcrest Center.

He also checks her medication. The mixture is complex and possibly dangerous. He notes that the mixture keeps here docile. She tends becomes problematic after few days off her meds, asking for her doctor or lawyer.

He also checks Lara’s claim about being at Dr. Stephenson’s retirement party. It turns out she had slipped into party.

Back at his office, he begins to plan to trace her records back to see where her issues developed.

Starbucks, Downtown, March 16th, 6 PM

Robert Mill sits down with Mr. Chang, night time supervisor at the County Morgue.

“Thanks for meeting with me,” he tells him.

“Sure,” Chang replies. He seems to be staring at Mill’s T-shirt.

Robert continues. “So I here you’ve been having difficulties with missing body parts.”

“Yeah, I guess Wilkens told you about that.” Chang sips his coffee.

“How long has this been going on?”

“About six weeks.” The well dressed man explains their own investigation: the camera photage, the different suspects each time and alibi for each. “Dr. Wilkens mentioned there was some really strange about the culprit.”

Robert explains that the culprit is a master of disguise and tends to cast suspicion on others.

“So its just one guy?” he says incredulously.

“As far as we know.”

He mulls it over. “I guess it makes sense. As much anything about this makes sense.”

“Unfortunately we weren’t able to apprehend the suspect last time,” Robert tells him.

“I heard it was a crazy scene.”

Mill’s mind turns back to that night. The sudden reveal of the monster, the gun shots, and the steel door being ripped off its hinges. He lies. “Seems like it was some sort of drug addict. He was shot and ran off. We were hoping if you were hire us we could at the least drive off the thief if not capture him.”

“I guess,” Chang says. The morgue worker seems skeptical of this causally dressed ‘detective’. In the end however Mill wins him over. He agrees to hire the firm for their standard rates. Together they discuss watching the area, with possibly one of the detectives working under cover as an employee.

“Miss Shaw will get back to you about how we will run this operation. But since we believe that it is an outside person breaking in, we will handle things differently. We’ll try to cause as little disruption as possible.”

March 16th 7 PM

Vito’s phone rings.

Agent Gray’s voice is on the other end. “Up for tonight?”

“Yeah. I’ve come across something interesting that I’d like to talk to you about.”

“What is it?” the older man asks.

Vito thinks back tot he video. “You need to see for yourself.”

“Okay. The van will be by in a half hour.”

The black van soon arrives with Agent Noah driving. He tells Vito to get in the back. He explains, “there was a sighting north of the city, the others are up there now.”

Vito quickly shows him the video by Shaw.

“Where did this come from? Who took this?” the man in black asks.

Vito explains it was One of a Kind Investigations behind it.

Noah starts to drive north. As they make their way up the highway, Vito notices a folder that has slid off a shelve in the back. Some pictures and documents have spilled out. One of the documents mentions a Series C and subject C-6.

Noah pulls into a park. As he gets out, Vito quietly slips the folder into his computer bag.

Agent Gray approaches him as he gets out. Vito shows him the video. After a moment he says, “So it was disguising itself.”

“Yes, also from the conversation we learned that it needs additional organs so we should be concentrating on the morgues.”

Agent Gray thinks for a moment. “Well we have some signs here too. No morgues but perhaps it has a lair here.”

Vito turns to the darkened woods around them. The sky is cloudy and rumbles with distant thunder.

Agent Gray adjusts his black tie and continues. “We think it is somewhere in this park. There have been sightings near here. From what I know about creatures like this, they like to stay away from people. I want to have a better idea of where it is in the park.” He outlines a plan to scour the park, searching the cabins and other possible shelters for the creature. “I want you to search in teams of two. Agent Lynch will go with you.”

“By the way we need to arrange a drop point so I can contact you,” Vito says. Adent Gray assigns Noah to arranges something.

That night’s search comes up empty however. As they wrap up Vito asks Agent Gray to consider involving One of a Kind Investigations.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, March 17th, 10 AM

Vito looks over the folder. It is a partial copy, heavily marked up, of a Department of Defense report on a Project Myrmidon. Apparently a military group known as Task Force: Valkyrie partners with a chemical company by the name of Ascendant Industries. The company, a private contractor, conducted a series of experiments in making a better soldier. Oddly to Vito there are classification markings.

He flips through the papers one last time. The project had three phases before being shut down. The Series A experiments focused on tissue grafts, drug treatments, and bio-augmentation. Generally unsuccessful, they moved on to total reanimation projects. Series B involved resurrecting small a group of deceased agents from Project: Valkyrie. The results were limited to minor tissue revival. This was a failure but laid the groundwork for Series C. Initially successful, it all went horribly wrong. They were able to reanimate eight bodies. The subjects showed signs of mature cognition and reflexes. The details of the animation process have been redacted but apparently they used some proprietary chemical process by Ascendant Industries.

The Series C warriors were released on an ENE (extranormal entity) infestation in Afghanistan. The location was chosen for its remoteness. The original subjects, overcome by instabilities in the forces animating them, fragmented and formed a multitude of monstrous creatures. They then attacked a village and absorbed the bodies of the villagers and soldiers fighting there. Using their remains to repair themselves.

Vito walks over to Shaw’s office and knocks on the door. “Shaw, you got a minute?”

Shaw pauses her deep breathing exercises that Dr. Sorenson had started her on. “Come in!”

Vito walks in and passes the folder to her. “You might be interested in this.”

After flipping through it for a few minutes, she asks, “where did you get this?”

“It sort of fell into my hands so to say.”

“They are reanimated corpses…” She flips to the last page. There a series of numbers at marked off: C-1, C-2, C-3a, and so forth. It is a check list with all crossed off except C-6b. Shaw realizes that C-6b must be Community.

She passes the file back to Vito. “I should mail this to myself. Just in case someone comes looking for it.”

They begin to plan how to find the creature, Community. Vito tells her about the Men in Black‘s search at park. "I told the group I’m involved with that they need to bring the rest of you in. I’ll keep you informed of their search."

“Why do they think it is there?” Shaw asks.

Vito fills her in on their surveillance and the tracking device they had planted on it.

Shaw calls Robert Mill into the office. Her plan is to focus on the morgue plan and find it there. Shaw points out it has been damaged so it will needs parts. When they find it she wants them to follow it. she doesn’t want to kill it yet, not until they know what it knows about the Hillcrest Mental Health Center.

Robert advocates bringing Dr. Sorenson into the plan. He also suggests focusing their efforts on people who work at the morgue but are there when they are not on duty. Community seems to like to impersonate others.

They split into two shifts. Meanwhile Shaw directs Erin to investigate the nearby tunnels.

County Morgue, Downtown, March 18th, 2:28 AM

Robert Mill listens to his iPod, leaning back in a chair in the security office of the morgue. The last couple hours had been quiet. Almost everyone had gone home and the morgue was empty except for a pair of technicians down by the coffee machine.

Mill looks up at the video feeds as a someone walks past the camera. Its one of the day shift workers heading toward the morgue.

Rob calls Vito outside. “Hey, there is no reason Terrance Johnson should be here at this time. He came in at camera 16.”

Vito head toward that entrance and waits for the suspect to return.

Meanwhile Robert watches the suspect do something to one of the body. The angle is bad but he thinks ‘Terrance’ is operating on the body. After 15 minutes, the suspect leaves the morgue. Robert calls Vito, “He’s coming out. He’s heading your way.”

Robert calls the others and together they trail the suspect throughout the night, passing off the tailing before he can get suspicious. Vito finds the work easy, remembering the training work Shaw drilled into him months ago.

Dr. Sorenson has more difficulties. He clenches up and almost loses the suspect. For a moment the suspect looks back and nervously the psychiatrist trips. He tells Shaw as she takes over, “its so real, not like in practice.”

Eventually they tail the creature to a park north of the city. Dr. Ilyes follows the creature into the park but loses track of him. Vito confirms it is the same park as the Men in Black were searching but not an area they have checked yet.

As Ilyes wanders along the path, Robert calls him. He tells him to go down the path and see where it leads. He finds a cabin with the lights on. Now they know where it lives.

The group gathers by the park. Robert tells them that the creature stole part of a brain this time. Vito meanwhile checks the sight lines for the cabin. He tells Shaw he plans to take over surveillance.

“What do you hope to learn?” she asks.

“Its activities, when it sleeps, and when it leaves. Maybe we can have a look inside the cabin. Possibly put a video camera inside.”

Shaw likes the last idea. She wants to learn more about it.

Robert suggests that Dr. Sorenson be the one to talk to the creature when the time comes.

“Me?” he says surprised.

“If you are okay with that,” Robert says. “It hasn’t attacked any people yet.”

Dr. Sorenson nervously mentions the child at the Hillcrest Mental Health Center.

“Whatever those things are, they are not children,” Robert retorts.

Dr. Sorenson catches Shaw watching the video again. “Stop watching it. We talked about it in session.”

Robert brings up how they might restrain the creature. He suggests Vito shoot its legs out but Vito isn’t convinced.

In the end they decide to have Dr. Sorenson talk to it first.

Shaw explains. “I’m not saying we aren’t going to kill this thing, but if we want to get any information on it our best way is to talk to it. And if it comes after us we will makes sure we are ready.”

Night of March 17th through March 18th

Dr. Sorenson sleeps poorly, his dreams troubles with images of pitchforks and torches. There is a monster out there.

Meanwhile Vito spends the night and the next day watching in the cold damp park as the storm brews overhead. From his hiding spot he watches the cabin. The creature doesn’t emerge until near sunset. It is wearing his friend Nick’s face again. He sends a text to the other investigators: ‘its on the move’.

Shaw is closing up the office for the day when it arrives. Dr. Sorenson is finishing up work. Robert stops the surveillance of a possibly cheating husband. They all gather at the park.

While Vito watches for its return, the other three enter the cabin. The door is unlocked. It is tiny inside, the inside walls covered in hundreds of pieces of papers, each bearing a drawing of some sort.

As Robert to sets up a camera to monitor the creature, Shaw takes a look around. Dr. Sorenson meanwhile looks at the pictures hoping to learn something about the creature’s mental state.

“Make it quick, we don’t want to stay here too long,” Shaw tells the others. She walks around the edge of the room with her phone out, documenting the pictures as quickly as she can. The pictures shows people, places, buildings.

Sorenson looks closer at the artworks. They are well done, drawn in charcoal, pan and pencil. Many are of the Seattle area, especially the Hillcrest Center. As examines them closer he finds writing on the margins and backs: “Azoth calls to me”, “I dream of gears turning under the madhouse”, “Make me whole”, “Make me normal”, “I want to be normal”, and “Something wants to speak to me.” The phrases repeat through out the collage.

The doctor examines its bed. The covers are tossed and the discolored mattress seems to have been shifted in the creature’s sleep. He figures it is sleeping poorly. It is also clearly fixated on the Hillcrest Center. It has some unrealistic belief that the building is the solution to its problems. He suspects its delusions and mental imbalances make it unable to function in society.

Shaw meanwhile spots so pictures of locations far from here: deserts, seas, and laboratories. A damp paper on the floor shows a soldier standing in front of a truck bearing the logo of Ascendant Industries. She also notes with some dismay that her phone is working properly. Reception is very poor and the screen flickers from time to time. “There is some sort of electrical disturbance. I hope the camera works.”

She turns to the single table. There are dried streaks of blood on the unfinished surface. The trail leads to the edge of the table. below it is a simple tin bucket. The interior of the bucket is caked in blood. She quickly takes pictures of the disturbing scene. The crude tools: a steak knife, some needle and thread, a sharpened piece of metal. There are no signs of antiseptic or painkillers.

Looking up she tells Robert to point the camera at table. Standing on a rickety chair, he makes the adjustments.

Sorenson fills them in on his assessments. “YIt wants to get into the Hillcrest center because it thinks it will make it healthy and normal.”

“And you know what is in there?” Mill asks.

“No,” he replies. “Its off limits. I’m not even sure how to access the basements. But this creature is getting information on it somehow.”

They leave the cabin and regroup with Vito. Shaw tells them about the file and Ascendant Industries. The company went bankrupt around a year ago, after they lost their contract. “They were under contract with the U.S. government, trying to reanimate corpses and things went wrong. This thing is the last of the test subjects. I have some ideas but Vito I’d like to know your thoughts on what to do about the creature.”

Vito tells them about the Men in Black. “I think they are covering up their mistakes.”

“And what do you think?” Shaw presses. “I haven’t shared anything about your time in the service.”

vito relays to them the horrors of fight in Afghanistan. “I was on overwatch so I was able to get away. My suspicion is that the agents have been assigned to eliminate evidence of the mistake.”

“Do you think they will come after you?” Shaw asks.

He weighs the idea. “Possibly.”

“You plan to tell them what we found here?” Robert asks.

“I haven’t yet. But they are checking out this park. They will find it soon. We are on a tight time schedule.”

Robert turns to the others. “What do we want to accomplish here? If we tip them off, they will kill Community and that’s one solution to the problem. Its easy to get that solution.”

Shaw replies, “well I think Dr. Sorenson is on to something. Look at how far its traveled. And right to here. Unless it was tracking you, Vito, it seems drawn to Hillcrest.”

They discuss their plans. They all agree that it may have information useful to them.

“It may have some answers for us about the children,” Sorenson says.

“The important thing is does it know anything about Frank?” Robert responds.

“I think we should talk to it,” Shaw decides. “I’d like to watch it for a day and then confront it.”

Lake Forest Park, March 19th

Vito spends the day in his hiding spot, occasionally watching the video feed from the hidden camera. The storm rumbles overhead and occasionally the transmission turns to snow. Commmunity returns to the cabin well after midnight. Vito watches on the camera as pulls a severed foot out of a bag and proceeds to replace its own.

After the grisly display it puts the remains in the bucket. It takes it outside and dumps the bucket out further down the trail.

Just them Vito gets text message from Agent Gray. ‘Meet you at the park’

As Vito heads to the meeting spot, Robert Mill keeps watching. Community is drawing a series of black cubes.

Vito arrives in the parking lot where the Men in Black are getting ready for another night of searching.

“Have you thought about my suggestion at all?” he asks Agent Gray.

“Yes,” the old man says. “How much do they know?”

“A lot.”

“And they have dealt with things like this before?”

“Yes.” Vito continues, “also there are complications to this.”

“What kind?”

“We believe C-6 is involved with something under the Hillcrest Mental Health Center. It seems to be seeking something under there. Something that has been there for a long time in the tunnels beneath the center.”

“Tunnels,” the gray haired agent mutters. “I’ve lost a lot of good men in tunnels.”

“It also can communicate. I think it would be good to talk to it first in case there is a greater threat.”

“I should meet with your team,” Agent Gray says.

Shaw gets a text from Vito: ‘Come down to the park and bring the team, I have some people who want to talk to you.’ He adds an address.

She texts back: ‘Now?’

‘Yes’ he replies.

Shaw calls the others. Robert is playing World of Warcraft. Sorenson is still awake, speculating on how the creature mimics other people. She texts Vito: ’We’ll be there in an hour.’

Vito tells Agent Gray, “I think searching tonight would be superfluous.”

Lake Forest Park, March 19th 11:30 PM

Shaw and the others pull into the parking lot. A black van is parked on the far end. She can see Vito and Agent Gray talking nearby.

They pull up and exit the car. Vito walks forward. “Agent Gray this is the head of One of a Kind Investigations.”

Shaw extends her hand. “Lillian Shaw.”

Agent Gray shakes her hand. “So Chief here,” he says gesturing to Vito, “says that you know quite a bit about this.”

“Well I think we were approaching this from different angles. Good thing Chief was on both of our teams,” she says with a hint of sarcasm.

“He’s been very helpful,” the man in black tells her.

“Has he?”

“So what is your angle in this?” the old man asks.

Shaw explains their job. “I believe Chief has already shared the video. He also said you are able to track the creature?”

“We were but the tracking device has failed.”

Agent Lynch and Agent Jacobs exit the van.

“So what do you want to know Agent Gray?” Robert asks.

“Well since we are both trying to make sure this creature doesn’t hurt anyone-”

Dr. Sorenson interjects, “I don’t believe it has a violent nature.”

“In my experience everything has a violent nature,” Gray says.

Vito and Lynch share a look at this.

Gray continues. “We want to make sure this creature is kept away from the general public.”

“So are you from some branch of the military?” Shaw inquires, moving closer. She spies a rack of shotguns and rifles in the van.

when Gray doesn’t respond immediately, Robert adds, “well we agree we don’t want this creature, Community as it calls itself, harming anyone. But through my observations, it has not yet shown predilection towards attacking people. If you locate this creature we have questions for it. I don’t know if your plan is to shoot first ask questions later or-”

“Depends on how agreeable it is,” Gray says.

“How long have you been tracking it?” Shaw asks.

“We’ve been tracking it, personally, for a few weeks now,” Gray explains.

“But this hasn’t been the first time you’ve been tracking it,” Vito says.

Agent Gray gives Vito a questioning look. “My organization has been tracking it for a few months. Since we realized it escaped.”

“Otherwise you wouldn’t have been in Afghanistan,” Vito offers as an explanation.

Dr. Sorenson says, “from our previous encounters with this creature, if it feels threatened its going to run. My intuition is that if it has interacted with you before it might have reason to fear you and your team. More than our team. I might be able to talk to it. We think it might be in communication with others. We want to know before you deal with it. The source of its information would be very helpful to us to know.”

Agent Gray mulls the idea. “Sure. You can have a crack at it.”

Shaw asks if Agent Gray is looking for any information from the creature.

“My orders are to capture it or kill it if I can’t,” he tells her.

“How do you intend to capture it?” Sorenson asks. “Our evidence suggests it is tremendously strong.”

“My experience suggests things like this can take a lot of damage without dying,” Gray says coldly.

“So you intend to wound it until its incapacitated? Then you can bring it in before it can recover?”

“Yes,” Gray says.

“I guess tranquilizers would not work on it?”


Shaw looks to others, trying to gauge their intent. She expects they have delayed the men in black long enough that they won’t find Community on their own tonight. Shaw outlines to Gray how they will help in the search. They take part of the park to search and leave.

Vito raises eyebrow at Shaw’s duplicity, but she remains composed.

As they drive away to the part of the park where the creature actually is, Shaw says, “we need to get this thing’s side of the story. Afterwards its perfectly reasonable to kill it. But if something horribly wrong is happening at the Hillcrest Center and we may need to work with the creature. And Vito I don’t think your friends would agree to that.”

Vito accepts the logic.

“I don’t know,” says Dr. Sorenson. “I don’t think they are going to hurt us but I do think they are going to shoot first and ask questions later when it comes to this creature. They didn’t have any means to subdue it other than damage.”

“Yes,” Shaw says. “I think we should confront it in the morning.”

Sorenson speaks up again. “I have a dumb idea but it could be a good idea. I could just wait in its cabin until it comes back.”

Shaw thinks. “It is probably getting home about now.”

They decide to adjust their plan and have Sorenson confront it tonight.

“Do you want Mill with you?” Shaw asks.

“I’m afraid it might see a threatening face.” He turns to Robert, “did it see you?”

“Conceivably,” Robert says.

“Though you didn’t shoot it,” Shaw adds.

Vito advises Dr. Sorenson to approach the creature from outside the house, rather than surprise it by already being inside the cabin. Dr. Sorenson agrees. Vito then helps Shaw and Mill camouflage themselves in the woods near the cabin. Dr. Sorenson waits farther away until he gets the signal from Vito that Community is back at the cabin.

Lake Forest Park, March 20th 1:40 AM

Vito gives Dr. Sorenson the word. The nervous psychiatrist walks up the dark trail to the cabin. He knocks.

As Community opens the door, Dr. Sorenson has his hands up. “I just want to talk. I promise I’m not going to hurt you. I just want to talk. I have some questions. I’m from the Hillcrest Center.”

“Come inside,” the creature says.

Just as Sorenson enters, the video feed cuts out.

Inside, Community offers Dr. Sorenson the one chair in the room.

As they begin talking the video pops back up. Dr. Sorenson sits down, putting his hands on his knees.

“You are from the Hillcrest Center,” Community says calmly.

“Yes, I’m a doctor there,” he explains. “I’m wondering what your interest is with Hillcrest? I know you think it will help you but do you have more specific information? Why do you keep wanting to go there?”

“There is something beneath the building,” the patchwork man explains.

“Do you know what it is?”

The creature has trouble answering. “No, no. It is…beautiful. I see it in my dreams.”

Sorenson presses for details. “How do you know there is something there? Who told you?”

“No one told me,” it says serenely. “It calls to me.”

“I’m aware of your condition. That you have degenerative difficulties with your organs and limbs that need replacing.”

“Can you fix me?” Community asks.

“I’m not that kind of doctor,” Sorenson explains. “I focus more on psychology and understanding the mind. I might be able to help in other ways.”

Outside in the woods, the others become aware they are not alone. Shaw alerts Vito. The sniper scans the woods, picking out Agent Gray among the foliage.

Dr. Sorenson evaluates the creature’s intelligence. Its vocabulary is good but its sentences are simple. He probes some more asking about its goals. “…and whatever is there will help restore you to how you were before you gained this condition?”

“No,” it clarifies. “To make me whole.”

“To make you whole? To who you were before this happened?” Sorenson asks.

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘before’.”

Shaw tries to text Dr. Sorenson but the electrical disturbance interferes.

Dr. Sorenson continues his conversation. “I know there have been others looking for you and trying to hurt you. I’m afraid they won’t stop their search.”

He asks about Community’s dreams. The creature tells him of glimpses of a machine beneath the earth, of gears turning, and strange black cubes.

“Have you located an entrance to the tunnels?” Trevor asks. “I’ve been looking for an entrance as well for my own reasons.”

Community confides in him. “I think there is an entrance in the subbasements. I think I know where they sealed it off.”

“Can you describe it to me?”

Community describes the details: the stairs to descend, the passages to take, the wall to break through. All elements of his dreams. Outside the vito watches it on the video as he texts to Shaw about what to do about Agent Gray.

“Who were these children trying to stop you?” Sorenson asks.

“I’m not sure. They weren’t…,” Community struggles to finish.

“I don’t know what they were either,” Trevor says. “But they are inside the Center. But they don’t work there. I want you to know that.”

Community admits to killing one of the ‘children’.

Dr. Sorenson asks, “did you have to kill anyone in the past?”

“Yes,” is its reply.

Trevor realizes the creature has only a child-like morality. It fails to realize the consequences of its actions. For a moment he feels a little bit guilty killing it.

Vito sends a message to the Men in Black to hold position. He also sends them a link to the video feed. Somewhere Agent Noah fails top notice the message.

Inside the cabin, Sorenson tells Community, “your condition is very unique. Do you know how you came to be like this?”

“They made me like this,” the thing explains.

“Who made you?”

“The scientists. They created me and the others. But we were made wrong.”

Trevor agrees with it. This thing should not exist. But he doesn’t let his disgust show. “You think you could lead me to this entrance and we could use this entrance together?”

“Yes,” it agrees.

Trevor however worries what they will do if they meet the children.

“I can protect you from them,” it tells him. “They are weak.”

“Sometimes talking someone is better than hurting them,” Sorenson tells it.

“Last time I talked to someone they shot me.”

He tries to calm the thing. “I promise I did not come here to hurt him. I just came here to talk.” He asks if there are others like him.

Community explains that it is the last. The other things died in the village. Sorenson also learns that the creature only needs parts when it is damaged. Community however changes parts in an effort to perfect itself.

“I think the ones hunting you might find this place soon,” Sorenson says. “Perhaps we should go to the Center now. Do you want to go now?”

“Let’s go.”

Dr. Sorenson leads Community out of the cabin and down the trail. Trevor decides this thing is better off not being alive.

“I have a car parked not too far away,” he tells it. “We can take it.”

“I’ve never driven in a car before,” it says curious.

He humors it. “Well I can drive and you can be the passenger. Won’t that be fun?”


In the woods, Shaw texts Sorenson. The doctor says, “Oh I have a telephone call.”

He looks at his phone. Shaw is asking what to do. He quickly taps out a message: ‘Its leading me to the subbasement but I think I can find it without its help. It is dangerous.’

Shaw sends a text to the others: ‘prepare for strike.’

Vito checks for any contact from the Men in Black. There is no message but he can see several agents in the woods. They are hanging back for now.

“Do you have a name?” Sorenson asks.

“Community,” it tells him.

“Did you choose that name or was it given to you?” he asks with idle curiosity.

“I chose it.”

“Why did you chose it?”

“It is what I want to part of,” Community explains. “What is is your name?”

“My name is Trevor.”

“Why did you chose that name?”

“I didn’t choose that name. My parents chose that name for me.” Sorenson gets a text from Shaw about the strike. He suddenly stops walking.

Community keeps walking for another ten feet. There is a bang and the sound of shattering bone. Perplexed Community begins to fall, its spine shattered.

In the woods, Robert Mill feels a pang of guilt. He thinks about not firing.

As Community plunges to the ground, Vito readies his second shot. Another blast rings out. Community’s torso is ripped open. A spray of blood lands on Sorenson who shocked at the suddenness of the death freezes up.

The Men in Black pour out of the woods, training their guns on the still form on the ground. Trevor drops his phone. In the darkness Robert shakes his head.

Shaw soon reaches Sorenson. “You okay?”

“It just exploded. There was blood and parts…”

Robert catches up to her and begins to leads Trevor back to the car.

“Did you get all the information?” the stunned doctor asks.

“Yes,” Mill says. In fact he can’t ever forget it or Community’s murder.

Sorenson tries to justify himself. “It admitted to its monstrosities. Maybe the things in the tunnels would cure it but maybe not. It needed to die.”

“I didn’t hear it admit to any monstrosities,” Robert objects.

“You didn’t?”

“Maybe I didn’t hear what you heard.”

Sorenson stumbles along the path. “It admitted to killing creatures. It admitting to stealing body parts to upgrade itself.”

“Yes, body parts from a morgue,” Robert stresses.

“But it admitted to killing creatures before. Maybe it killed them and took their parts.”

Robert is upset. “But was it creatures that it sought out and killed or was it creatures that attacked it? You didn’t ask that did you? The only time I saw it attack was when it was defending itself. Then it ran away. From what I saw it didn’t understand what it was doing.”

“But it killed the children.”

“They were attacking him,” he retorts.

The two argue back and forth on the trail and the ride back to Sorenson’s house.

Back at the park Vito asks, “We’re done?”

“We’re done,” Agent Gray confirms.

The agents burn the remains and remove all evidence that the creature was ever there. Shaw snags a trophy without them noticing. Gray thanks the both of them for their assistance.

While Shaw and Gray talk, Vito removes their hidden camera from the cabin.

Shaw says to Gray, “I’d appreciate that you’ll contact us next time your are in the area.”

“Certainly. I hope you let me in on your plans a little more next time.”

“Still learning who to trust,” she admits.

“I understand. Its a hard thing.”

With that they leave. In the coming weeks, One of a Kind Investigations is paid by the County Morgue and Vito receives a check for his work.

Body of Evidence, Part II

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, March 4th, 10 AM

Dr. Sorenson looks over his notes. ‘This is too crazy,’ the pad says. Frank‘s case just keeps getting weirder. Dr. Ilyes’s findings were impossible yet they were true. What are the Sandmen?

He looks up as an orderly opens the door and leads Frank in. The older man looked tired and distracted. The doctor thanks the orderly and turns his attention to the patient.

“So how are you feeling Frank?”

Frank rocks back and forth a bit, hugging his arms. “Lot of kids in the hallway.”

Dr. Sorenson asks about them, recalling the man’s earlier statements involving the children and the Sandmen. Frank tells him that strange children are wandering the hallways laughing. He also tells him of strange doctors and nurses appearing at night.

“Where did you see these people, Frank?”

“I don’t know. I don’t go out at night. I stay in my room.”

Sorenson leans in and ask if the children are dangerous.

“I don’t know. They took the Sandman away,” he replies.

Sorenson decides to confide Ilyes’s findings about the Sandman with the damaged man. When he comes to the part about the creature healing itself, Frank says, “you should burn the bodies.”

“We’ve come to that conclusion as well.”

They talk some more about fighting and countering these creatures abilities. Sorenson says, “I had a question about the holy water. Do remember where you got it?”

“It was a friend of mine,” Frank says. “A friend of mine gave it to me.”

Sorenson probes further learning he obtained it from a priest. Frank explains, “There was some strange stuff on the south side.”

“I’d love to meet with this friend of yours and find out how this water is prepared. It might be very useful weapon against the Sandman.”

Frank strugles with his memory and then says, “I think he went back to Italy.”

“That is unfortunate, perhaps there are others of his order around?” Sorenson tries to probe further but Frank can’t remember more. He decides to try another tactic. “Do you have any questions for me? I spend most of my time trying to get you answer my questions.”

As Frank tries to think of a question, he continues, “if you can’t think of one right away just jot it down and we can discuss it at our next session.”

Then he rings for the orderly to take Frank back to his room.

March 5th through 12th

Robert Mill spends his week at the Medical school pretending to be a student. In the evening he hangs out at the study hall and chats with the other students. They seem to be unaware of the break ins. In gathering opinions about the professors he hears an interesting tidbit about Dr. Woodruff. It seems the old woman is losing her hearing. As one student explains, “I passed her by one night and she totally ignored me.”

More interestingly, Mill overhears some of the staff discussing a set of missing to the building. The secretary says, “I was sure we had three sets of keys to the morgue.”

The firm follows up this information on Friday the 12th. From Dr. Wilkens, they learn that three professors have keys in addition to the three pairs kept in a lock box in the main office. From the secretary, Janis Fogg, they get the sign out log. The person who took the keys left an unintelligible scrawl but based on the times it must have happened a few days ago. Janis claims Dr. Woodruff signed them out. Dr. Wilkens has yet to talked to Woodruff.

Shaw tells him, “let me look into Dr. Woodruff first. I didn’t see anything strange in her financials. I’ll get back to you in a couple hours.”

The department head agrees to sit on the information for a couple hours.

Shaw gives Mill a call. “Have you heard anything about Woodruff?”

Mill tells her about the rumors of her hearing loss. They speculate she might be distracted. Also the incident occur suspiciously late at night. Shaw is able to discount a financial motive but directs Mill to check the scrawl against Woodruff’s normal signature. They also begin planning a stakeout of the morgue.

Shaw’s research into Dr. Sarah Woodruff turns up little incriminating. A doctor for 40 years, she is nearing retirement. Her finances are good and she is happily married with no health issues. She’s been teaching a reduced class load but there is o pattern between the schedule and the thefts.

Shaw decides to discuss the strange message Mill found on his computer with Dr. Sorenson. The mention of ‘do not trust the children’ and ‘avoid the tunnels’ resonate with material from Kenneth Thomas‘s notes about ’baitman’s children’ as well as the children that Frank mentioned carrying off the Sandman.

“Sorry I haven’t been in touch lately,” sorenson says when she calls. “I keep hoping for a breakthrough with Frank. But just little bits of information here and there.”

Shaw broaches the subject. “Turns out there is a connection between what he had said and another case we are investigating.”

They fill each other in. Intrigued, Sorenson says, “I wonder if we could investigate this facility at night.”

Shaw seems supportive but wonders if the children are the same ones Kenneth mentioned.

“Frank is under the impression that they are helping to thwart the Sandmen from intruding into the center,” Dr. Sorenson says. “Maybe I’ll have to stay late after work to investigate these children.”

“If you need help I’ll be happy to join you,” she says.

“Some backup may be a good idea.”

The two plan to meet up after 8 that night. Just then there is a knock at Sorenson’s door. “If you need anything else, let me know, I have an appointment.”

Sorenson hangs up and Anna Wade, one of the secretaries, hands him a file.

“New patient?” he asks.

“No, she’s been with us a while. I guess you are the next one to-”

“Have a crack at her?” he interrupts.


As the doctor digs into the file of Lara Woronov at the Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Shaw calls Erin Bartram to give her the task of looking into the tunnels under the university and Hillcrest.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, March 12th, 6PM

There is a knock at Shaw’s door. Erin cracks the door open.

“Hey Bartram,” Shaw says looking up from the records on her desk.

The dark skinned woman nervously grips a folder. “Just put together a report. I didn’t expect you to be here.”

Erin shows her the report. The other woman has collected maps, depositions, and more for both locations. “These are the original tunnels. Here we have the additions put in 1965 and 1998.” She explains that only a few custodians have access to the tunnels.

Erin turns to the second half of her report.

“Hillcrest, that’s where Frank is isn’t it?” she says uncertainly.

“Yeah,” Shaw replies.

“It has,” she pauses, “an interesting history.”

“I haven’t looked much into its history myself. It was well recommended though.”

Erin outlines its history from its founding in 1882 by Dr. Ignatius Hopper to the present day. The East Wing, where Frank is housed, is the original building. There are tunnels to the West Wing and supposedly substantial subbasements. She has a map of the grounds. “I haven’t been able to find any maps of the tunnels. Much of the work was done in 1907 after a fire.”

“What is the West Wing used for?” Shaw asks.

Erin explains it is primarily houses the therapy areas as well as a coma ward. She goes on to describe how the tunnels were sealed up afterwards. There was talk of working on the tunnels back in 80s but nothing came of that.

“I did charmed my way into the archives and find this.” Erin hands Shaw a piece of paper. It is a letter from a company called Hoyle and Shepherd about their decision to back out of work involving the subbasements. “That was the firm that was contracted to do the renovations.”

“Is there a copy of the depositions?” Shaw asks.

“No. Shall I look more into this?”

Shaw tells her no and explains their consultant Dr. Sorenson. “Have a nice evening.”

As Shaw packs up she texts Robert about the tunnels beneath the university. She tells him to check tunnels. She leaves a copy of the report on his desk.

University of Washington, University District, 8PM

Robert tries another grate. Rusty but definitely not locked. He thinks back to the report, remembering the layout of the tunnels with crystal clarity. One more to go.

A few minutes later at the edge of campus he pulls on a final grate. It easily swings open. His keen eyes spot flecks of rust on the ground nearby. Someone’s been using the tunnels.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, 8 PM

Shaw pulls into the darkened parking lot next to the Hillcrest Center. She rings Dr. Sorenson and heads for the entrance. The grim visages of four saints look down on her as she passes into the building.

Dr. Sorenson lets her inside. “I hope you’ve eaten, the cafeteria is closed.”

Shaw tell him about the tunnels beneath the building. Sorenson knows nothing about them but is not surprised. She asks, “I don’t know if you can get a hold of it but there is supposed to be a more detailed deposition in your records.”

“I can look into it,” he says leading her to his office.

“Have you asked Frank about Baitman’s children or any other details of the case?”

“No but we could go up to see him if you’d like.”


The two go upstairs. The halls are quiet. They pass a single orderly on the way up to the third floor. “Working late, Dr. Sorenson?”

“Yes, I have a new case load. Hope things work out.”

A few minutes later they reach Frank’s door. “Frank, its Dr. Sroenson. Do you have a minute to talk? I have a guest here. A friend of yours.”

Franks bald head appears in the small window. “Hi Frank”, Shaw says.

“Hi Shaw.”

Dr. Sorenson unlocks the door. “I thought we could talk in here, in private.”

Dr. Sorenson describe the group’s investigation of the children to Frank.

“They come out a little bit later,” the older man says.

Shaw asks, “Frank I was wondering if you had heard of the Baitman or if these children have anything to do with Baitman?”

Frank gets a distant look in his eyes. “I’ve seen that name.”

He thinks for a moment. “On a wall. Downstairs somewhere.”

“A doctor’s name?” Sorenson asks.

“Yeah, a Dr. Bateman.”

Dr. Sorenson notices Shaw’s puzzlement. He asks, “you were thinking a different context?”

Shaw explains she thought this was tied to the fish cults. She was thinking the spell as B-A-I-T instead of B-A-T-E like someone’s name.

Frank adds, “I think it was down by the lobby.”

“We could go down there to check,” the doctor offers. He turns back to Frank. “What do you think the children’s purpose is?”

“I talked to Michael,” the inmate says, refering to another patient. “He said they live downstairs.”

Shaw and Sorenson discuss if the children are a danger to Frank. He claims they carried off a Sandman. “Michael says they carried off a patient once.”

Sorenson asks if Frank feels safe.

“I’ll be safe,” he says, his eyes darting to end of his bed where it hits the wall.

As the two realize Frank has a weapon hidden here, Dr. Sorenson leans in to him. “Be sure that none of the orderlies know you have defenses in here. They might misinterpret. I understand you need to be safe.”

Shaw and Dr. Sorenson return to the lobby.

“Do you know a Dr. Bateman?” Shaw asks.

Sorenson admits there a lot of people working here and he isn’t acquainted with most of them. He logs into the computer system and checks the employee directory. “No matches.”

“Frank told them he saw it on a wall,” Shaw says.

As they look around the room, Dr. Sorenson realizes he never really read the list of directors on a plaque in the entrance hall. Right under the current director is: Dr. Thomas Bateman (1980-1991).

Shaw googles his name on her phone. Apparently the former director went to jail for murdering his assistant Dr. Alexander Valerio. He was sentanced to 26 years in prison but was murdered in 1993 by a former patient.

Dr. Sorenson tries to reassure her. “I hope you know not everyone who works here is crazy.”

They discuss investigating the basement but Shaw thinks it would be safer during the day. They decide to stakeout the third floor from an empty room near one of the stair wells.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, 2 AM

As the rain falls outside, Sorenson focuses on the smallest noises. The singing and yelling of a few hours ago are long over. He glances out at the wet darkness outside the tiny window.

Then he and Shaw hear child-like giggling echoing down the hall. It is distant and coming from the direction of the far stairwell but there does seem to be some children in the halls.

Dr. Sorenson sneaks out of the room with surprising quietness. Shaw follows him. He reaches a corner and looks down it. There, near Frank’s room, he sees an unfamiliar doctor talking to a child.

The doctor’s back is to him but the child’s face looks angry, with an almost feral rage. The starved urchin is dressed in filthy clothes too large for him. Then the child launches himself at the doctor and begins to claw at him. The doctor loses his composure and with one arm lifts up the child and smashes him against the wall.

As he pulls the child back from the wall, Frank’s door opens. The old man stabs the strange doctor with a homemade shiv.

The child is smashed against the wall again and a painful crunching noise can be heard. Suddenly the child turns to black goo that splashes across the floor.

“Noooo!” Trevor screams as he runs forward and slams into the doctor.

Shaw sees him run around the corner. She pulls her gun as she follows him. She sees Frank and Dr. Sorenson struggling with a large man in a lab coat. A large black smear covers the floor. Frank stabs again and again into the man.

“Stand down!” Shaw shouts.

The strange doctor flees down the hall and smashes through a windowat the far end. Shaw chases after him, following the trail of blood. Looking down from the window she sees the man crouched 30 feet below. The man looks up inot the rain as a bolt of lightning comes down.

In that instant Shaw sees that the man is really made from a patchwork of different people. Then it vanishes into the darkness.

Shaw’s mind refuses to process what she saw. Dr. Sorenson still shaken by what he saw tries to calm her down. Get gets Frank back into his room and cleans the blood from his shiv. “I’ll cover for you Frank.”

Then he returns to Shaw. “Let go back downstairs and talk about what happened.”

She stare blankly at the window.

“I know it was completely crazy,” He says. He glances around at the broken glass, blood and black goo. “But this isn’t something we should discuss here.”

He leads her to his office and they talk.

“The lightning hit him,” she says. “It actually hit him. It lit him up and did you see that!”

“I didn’t get a real close look at it,” he admits.

Shaw shakes a bit. “He was stitched together, he was like-oh my god-could he have been stealing the bodies? Is that the connection?”

“I don’t know, its possible.”

“He was stealing body parts like a finger,” she says loudly. “We couldn’t figure out why.”

“Its possible, its possible,” sorenson says. He begins to ramble as well from the adrenaline. “The children seems to be protecting the people here from creatures that come here to collect things. We have to find a way to talk to the children and learn from them. We have to try again, perhaps another hall or corridor, or a subbasement to see where they live. I’m going to get us some coffees. I’ll be right back.”

The two talk for a half hour but don’t more sense of it. Shaw at least however regains some composure. But after she leaves, Sorenson goes back up to check the hall. The black goo and the blood is gone.

Saturday, March 13th

Dr. Wilkens calls Robert Mill. He explains he talked to Dr. Woodruff but that she denies that she took the keys. But also has something else to tell him. “I was talking to a friend of mine at the county morgue, Stephen Chang. We get a lot of our cadavers from there. It came up that he’s been having the same sort of issue. Maybe its not someone here or not just someone here.”

Robert verifies that the culprit at the morgue has the same MO. “Has he been investigating as well?”

“I don’t know.”

He tells him thanks and rings Shaw. He tells her about the county morgue connection.

Shaw says, “I have a possible suspect or at least a connection. I saw something really strange at the asylum last night.” She explains the sighting of the patchwork man and explains her theory that it was taking body parts to add to itself or make more of itself.

Robert brings up the section of the message from Infinity: ‘the thief knows not what he does.’

They discuss the unanswered questions brought up by this. Shaw says tiredly, “I should have collected samples. I wasn’t thinking clearly.”

“That will happen in these circumstances. Its disturbing. In light of this information, how do you want me to proceed?”

Shaw asks if he learned anything about the tunnels. Mill describes the possible access point and suggests checking the morgue as well. Shaw decides to have Erin look into it. she also tell him that Dr. Sorenson is searching for records on the tunnels under Hillcrest.

Something nags at Mill though. “But this creature didn’t attack you? It also didn’t go into any tunnels and instead ran out a window and onto the grounds?”

“Yes but I think it was just an expedient retreat. If you can survive a 3-story fall that is.”

Mill turns to more mundane matters. He asks if he should stay at the school. “I’m not picking up any more information here.”

“We were hired to make sure it wasn’t an inside job,” Shaw says. “I want to clear Woodruff first. But start closing it up, typing up your reports, and see what you can find on Woodruff.”

“I’ve been spending a lot of time with her and I haven’t seen anything strange.”

They decide to stake out the morgue that night.

Medical School, University District, 8 PM

Shaw nods to Mill as she passes by the study lab. Erin was already watching the tunnel entrance at the edge of campus. Shaw lets herself into the morgue and hides herself in a storage closet.

A couple hours later, Mill spots Dr. Woodruff walking down the hall. He glances at the clock 12:34. He sticks his head out and sees her head for the morgue. He texts Shaw: ‘incoming woodruff’. He then starts to follow her carefully.

Woodruff enters the morgue. Robert pulls his gun and a can of mace. His phone vibrates. checking it, he sees a text from Erin: ‘entrance is open’. He forwards the message to Shaw. She sends back: ‘radio silence’.

Inside the detective peers through the crack of the partially open storage room door. The elderly doctor enters the room and heads over to the cadavers. Shaw fails to notice the door open again and her partner slip in. Shaw starts recording with her phone, video taping the whole scene.

Woodruff stops. She turns around. She looks directly at Shaw.

Shaw emerges from the closet.

“Who are you?” warbles the doctor.

“What are doing here so late Dr. Woodruff?” Shaw asks.

Woodruff hesitates but calmly replies, “looking at the bodies.”

“They’re good,” the detective assures her. Robert, unseen by all, crouches by the door.

“There are some new specimens and I needed to check them,” the ‘doctor’ says.

“Yup, they’re really fresh. Its already been done.”

“What are you doing here?” the old woman asks. Her voice is even and emotionless.

“Don’t you know?” Shaw asks, her arms still outstretched recording the entire conversation.


“Who are you?” Shaw asks.

Robert checks that they are the only ones in the room.

“I’m Dr. Woodruff,” the woman says. “That what you said.”

With her other hand, Shaw checks her gun is clear. “Yeah and what’s your first name?”

As the woman hesitates, Shaw says louder, “I’ll ask again, who are you?”

She points her gun at the woman. She puts up her hands. “I-I’m not here to hurt anyone.”

“Then answer the question please,” Shaw says testily.

“I’m Community,” the woman says.

“What you’ve been doing has been notice,” Shaw explains.

“What do you mean?” she says innocently.

“The pilfering of the bodies.”

“I needed to fix things, to fix myself,” she explains.

“You look fine,” Shaw says confused. “What do you mean?”

“There’s imperfections. I need to fix myself. So I don’t have to disguise myself anymore.”

“What disguise?” Shaw asks.

Community reaches up to her face and pulls it on it. As she pulls it seems to maguically wipe away. Instead of Woodruff, they see a strange androgynous person with a face mades from dozens of different patches of skin. Her clothes changes as wel, transforming into rags. On one should the tattoo ‘C6’ can be ssen.

Shaw flinches in disgust. She drops her phone and with both hands on her gun begins firing.

The first round strikes it solidly in the chest. It immediately starts to flee. It reaches the door and see Robert crouched there. Panicking it rips the door off its hinges and flings it across the room.

From his vantage point Robert can see the bullet hole stitching close before his eyes. He sprays it in the face with his mace. As it flinches back, Shaw puts another round into its shoulder.

They chase it down the hallway. Robert hits autodial for Erin on his phone as they go. It busts the doors to the outside open and rushes for the nearest tunnel entrance.

“Erin! Its going for the tunnels!” Robert shouts.

Shaw shoots it again as it dive into the tunnels. Robert drops in behind it. He pauses a moment to pull a flashlight and then races down the dark corridors with only the sound of its fading footsteps and his mental map to guide him.

Shaw calms herself down. She goes back into the building for her phone and the evidence on it. As she looks at the destruction it wrought in its escape, she realizes she’ll need to give a statement to the police. She finds Bob Evans, the security guard.

“I think we scared off your body thief,” she says.

“What the hell happened?” the overweight man asks.

She looks that broken doors. “I’m still not sure how it managed to do this. It really looked a lot of Dr. Woodruff but it wasn’t her.”

“So it was some sort of impersonator?” he asks confused.

“Yeah, I guess,” she doubting herself. “It was dark. It looked like her. I guess I wasn’t hiding well enough. It made a threatening gesture and I shot at it.”

She pauses. “Mill is down in the tunnels chasing it. I recommend you get better security for them.”

Looking at the room she can see blood splatter from her shots. Its less than she would expect.

Meanwhile in the tunnels, Robert makes it to the exit. The creature is long gone. Erin is standing nearby pressed against a wall and looking down the street.

“What was that thing?” she asks.

“Are you okay Erin?” he asks.

She shakes nervously. “It ran off, it jumped across that street.”

“Its alright, let’s get back.” He begins to lead her to the car.

“What was that?” she asks again.

“I don’t know. Shaw has a recording of it. It will be alright.” He manages to calm her down and lead her back to the medical school. The police have already arrived.

Shaw gives them a statement, claiming she saw a figure in disguise and that it came at her. She says she fired a warning shot and then it destroyed the door.

“Its kind of strange to call it an in but…” she says gesturing to the damage.

March 13th through 16th

Shaw still troubled by her recent experiences sets up some counseling sessions with Dr. Sorenson. He starts her off with deep breathing exercises.

The police decide not to pursue any charges against Lillian Shaw or One of a Kind Investigations. Unfortunately the forensic evidence was contaminated by foreign material. The blood splatter reveals a host of different blood types.

Dr. Woodruff apparently was on the other side of the city with her husband. Their job complete, One of a Kind Investigations gets paid by a somewhat confused but satisfied Dr. Wilkins.

Shaw has Mill contact Stephen Chang about hiring them to look into the county morgue thefts.

Meanwhile Dr. Sorenson does research into the tunnels beneath the Hillcrest Center. The company hired to do the rebuilding of hospital after the fire demolished the entire East wing and built more modern structure upon the ruins. The architect was a Frank Teesdale, who models the lowest subbasements on a series of preexisting tunnels. However after construction was complete, Dr. Edward Brake, the director at the time, had them sealed up the lowest levels.

Along the way he learns the tortured history of the facility, the deaths and scandals that have plagued its directors, and the disturbing work that was done there. Strangely he is unable to find any record of a fire 10 years ago, despite the reference in Lara Woronov’s files.

He does find some other papers and notes, misfiled in the facilities ancient filing system. One cryptic note details mad ramblings of Laurence Merrigan who murdered Brake’s successor. Another by Brake himself, admonishes a junior doctor not to investigate the subbasements. A final transcript comes from Adam Backer, who killed Dr. Bateman in prison. He claims Deros made him do it.

The current owners of the Hillcrest center are a group of medical and pharmacology companies. They include the non-profit Pleusus Guild, which runs the coma ward in the West wing, as well as Peregrine LCC and Weide GmbH.

Over the week, Robert brings up the fact that the creature, whatever it is, doesn’t seem hostile. It has always fleed from them. “It seems really strong but instead it chose to run rather than fight.”

Shaw is unable to bring herself to agree. Robert still would like try to talk to it.

The investigators and Sorenson meet during the middle of the week to discuss the case further. The doctor still thinks the children serve as a some sort of defense system for the Hillcrest center.

Shaw still wants to tie this Kenneth‘s notes on the children. "They could be some sort of fertility cult. Maybe that’s what’s down in the basement?"

“I think it is in our best interests to get into the subbasements,” Dr. Sorenson says.

Robert interrupts, “one question is why was this creature even at the hospital? There are no body parts there.”

No one has a good answer to that. Also even if they are defending Hillcrest, they can’t be trusted. Infinity warned them.

“That doesn’t mean they are bad,” Dr. Sorenson says, defending them.

Mill is unconvinced.

Talk turns to who cleaned up the mess after the fight in with the creature at Hillcrest.

“Maybe the children cleaned it up,” Robert offers.

They discuss the cleaner staff being in on it or even being replaced by doppelgangers or patchwork men.

Shaw tell Dr. Sorenson, “I still think if you try to make contact with the children again that you take someone with you.”

“I’m not going to do that again,” he says emphatically. “There is a lot crazy things happening there. Its dangerous.” He then espouses his theory that these creatures are products of pharmaceutical companies.

Dr. Sorenson is not ready to go to the Hillcrest board of directors about this matter. They decide to begin checking that people are not being replaced or infiltrated by doubles. At the same time Dr. Sorenson begins his own plans for sneaking the group into Hillcrest.

Body of Evidence, Part I

On I-5 heading North, February 4th, 12 AM

As Robert drives away from the house, Shaw calms herself. Glancing at the pale corpse in the back, she pulls out her cell and calls Dr. Ilyes.

“Sorry to wake you up but we have something we would really like to examine soon.”

Groggily the doctor says okay.

“Do you have facilities to conduct an autopsy soon?” she asks.

“Have you already reported this?” he says thinking about the legal issues.

She tells him no and Ilyes asks if it is a person. She tells him it isn’t and relieved he says he can help. Shaw asks him to be discrete and they decide bring the remains to his house that night.

As the others drive over, Ilyes hastily builds an autopsy room in his basement. He arranges and disinfects a metal table and constructs a primitive isolation unit with plastic shower curtains.

Meanwhile the others drop Dr. Sorenson at Shaw’s so he get his car. Vito tells him, “sleep well Doc.”

He shouts after them, “Let me know how it turns out.”

Ilyes’s house, Bellevue, Washington, 1 AM

An hour later they pull into Ilyes’s garage. The doctor meets them there and asks, “where did you find this animal?”

“You might want to steel yourself and just take a look at it,” Shaw says.

Robert opens the back of the car and pulls out the corpse of a Sandman.

Disquieted by the humanoid corpse, Ilyes helps Robert get it on the table. Since he covered in the dust oozing from the numerous gunshot wounds, the doctor agrees to let the detective help. The others keep a safe distance.

Ilyes begins his examination with the sand leaking from its body. The tan colored substance is easily compacted and seems to be made of a fine dust. Under a microscope it proves to be not a silicate nor made of any known organic material.

He then starts an exterior examination of the corpse. It weighs only 90 pounds but is 5 feet 11 inches tall. It possesses normal human feet and limbs. Strangely it possess no hair and its skin is a pasty white. Its ears are shriveled and its eyes are entirely black. Checking its mouth he finds it utterly dry with a withered tongue and yellowed teeth. He gets cast of the teeth for possible later identification.

The creature is painfully thin. The abdominal cavity feels empty and their are signs of surgical scars from an appendix removal. There are also signs of an early small pox vaccination. It possesses female genitalia and Ilyes estimates her age to be somewhere between early and late adulthood. The hands are quire strange with multiple additional joints on each finger, varying between 3 to 6 more segments.

The wounds indicate damage from close range buckshot as well as point blank shots from a .38. There are also signs of shrapnel from an explosion of some sort. The others describe how they killed it.

Next he makes the Y-incision. He and Robert briefly smell the scent of pine trees. Puzzled he begins his catalogue of the organs. Most are dry and long atrophied. The same strange dust pools around them. The stomach is empty. The lungs though drier than normal seem strangely healthy but everything else, even the heart is dead and desiccated. “Very interesting and very weird, how the hell was it metabolizing?”

Ilyes asks the others how long ago it was alive. Their answer astounds him. It is biologically impossible.

He conducts some biopsies, finding all the cells dead. He hypothesizes that the creature died of dehydration and extracts a sample from the kidneys. But unfortunately there are no signs of crystallization consistent with that diagnosis.

Shaw asks about its bones to distract from the disturbing details of kidney damage. Ilyes takes a sample from a rib. It seems normal except that the marrow is utterly dry. He remarks how strange it is that all the moisture has been extracted from this thing and yet it is still flexible.

He turns his attention to the moistest part of it, the eyes. He extracts an eye and examines it. It seems normal except for its lack of an iris or pupil. He speculates that the creature must be color blind. It contains clear vitreous fluid and he locates working tear ducts.

He checks for any pieces of metal in it, finding only fragments from the grenade. Checking the lungs again he finds more of the dust.

Ilyes moves to the cranium. He prepared for spiders to pour out but instead captures a pile of dust. Its head is full of the material. Strangely both he and Robert hear the sound of unfamiliar laughter as the dust pours out. The creature lacks a brain.

The forensics expert cuts open its arm, testing its musculature. The dry but tough fibers seem healthy. The sinews are somehow lubricated. He also finds a complete lack of nerves, resulting in a complete lack of galvanic response. Instead of a nervous system it seems to use this strange dust.

They experiment with the dust, exposing it water. Water seems to greatly dissolve the material resulting in a thin brown smear.

It is then that Ilyes notices some of the earliest cuts now show evidence of minute repairs. It is healing itself. Terrified and fascinated he stares in horror.

Robert prods him and he points out the scarring. “Is that unusual?” the detective asks.

Ilyes begins to point out how unnatural it is, “Yes. It is. This thing suffered catastrophic damage. There is no way it could be operating under any normal biology! I cut a Y-incision!! I cut its head open!!!”

Robert asks Vito to help him restrain the doctor. As he settles down he mutters, “It can’t be. Its dead. Its not alive. Its not dead.”

Shaw meanwhile looks for rope to tie the creature down.

After a breather, they train a camera on it. The image is still blurry. Ilyes begins a series of tests to see how to destroy it.

They chop off a finger. They find parts that are separated from it quickly shrivel and decay.

Exposure to water also seems to cause decay as well.

The dust itself doesn’t react to chemicals though solvents cause it greatly compact. When burned it gives off a white light. Vito comments, “We really need to get this into a GC mass spec.”

On a whim, Shaw tries the holy water she found in Frank’s armory on it. Strangely it hisses and scorches the dust.

“This water for some reason has special ionic properties,” Ilyes speculates.

In the end they conclude that fire and water seem most harmful to it. Its dry composition makes it vulnerable to fire while exposure to water causes rapid decay. Ilyes begins to calculate how soon it will recover from its wounds. He figures they have several days or weeks at least.

Robert suggests consulting with VI. Shaw agrees.

As the others leave, Ilyes makes sure the creature is locked down. He encases its limbs in concrete.

Bellevue, Washington, February 4th, 7 AM

The next morning Dr. Ilyes checks the body. It is still slowly healing but none of the dust has regenerated. Nor has a finger they soaked in water. With that in mind he rigs a tank of water to drop on it if it tries to escape.

He also calls a friend of his at the local Medical School and gets him to identify the dental records.

Seattle Area, February 4th through 8th

Dr. Ilyes soon hears back from his friend. They teeth belong to a Francine Johnson. Born in 1936, he soon finds out she disappeared sometime in the late 60s. But she was never reported as missing.

Robert meanwhile spray paints a message to attract VI‘s attention. He then visits his friend, Mike Matthews, at the University of Washington’s chemistry department. He gives him a sample of the dust and asks him to do a chemical analysis. He explains he found it at a crime scene.

A day later, Mike calls him up. “What the hell dude? What is this stuff?”

Robert feigns ignorance but Mike continues, “No really what is this stuff?”

“You tell me this is your area.”

“I have no idea what this is. I don’t even know what elements this is made of.”

“Is that unusual?” the detective asks.

“Did you sleep through chemistry?” his friend asks.

“So this is something unique?”

“This this stuff, doesn’t exist,” the frustrated graduate student exclaims.

“When you say it doesn’t exist you mean we don’t no about it yet?”

“No its doesn’t fit on the periodic table.” Mike goes on to tell him of its lack of magnetic properties, unnatural lightness, and complete lack of reaction to acids or bases. “What kind of crimes are you investigating?”

“I’m sorry I can’t give you any more information. I’ll talk to my boss about it. Sorry about it.”

Back in Bellevue, Iyles begins to investigate where the creature is getting the matter to regenerate. He erects a Faraday cage around it and begins to take notes.

On Monday, Robert gets a phone call at the office. VI asks what he wants. Robert explains, “we recovered a specimen and we thought you or one of your associates would be interested.”

“Sure, When do you want to meet?”

They arrange to meet at the Cinnabon at Northgate mall at 8 PM along with his coworkers Shaw and Vito.

Northgate mall, February 8th, 8PM

The detectives find the hoodie clad monster hunter lounging near the Cinnabon. Robert makes introductions and then gets some coffee and cinnamon rolls for the group.

Shaw takes the lead, filling VI in what they know about the captured Sandman. “We thought it was dead but it wasn’t.”

“That happens,” he says seriously.

“You’ve dealt with Sandmen before?” she asks.

“No, but I’ve been dealing with monsters for a while.” He goes on to explain he has a friend who studies ENEs, or extra-normal entities. “I can see if I can get him down here to help.”

Shaw confides, “our lab guy is good but I’m sure he would appreciate the help.”

When Robert gets back they move their discussion to the more secluded area in front of an abandoned Waldenbooks.

“How did you catch it?” VI asks.

They describe their trip to Yesler Terrace including the strange doll and the drug they took to see the house and Sandmen.

“I’ve heard rumors about things like that,” he says about the drug. He looks at the doll Robert is carrying with him and pulls out his phone.

Gesturing with the phone he asks, “You mind?”

He takes picture of doll. “I have a friend who might be able to tell us more.”

Talk moves to the their research and the Westergard family. They also discuss the effects of holy water on the creature.

“I’ve heard of priests who know ways of dealing with monsters,” VI remarks.

Vito asks him if he knows any in the area. He doesn’t but will try to reach out via his contacts. “I’ve heard the Vatican has its own team to deal with these kinds of threats.”

“Do you want to look at it tonight?” Robert asks.

VI is eager to see the thing. Shaw calls Ilyes to check its alright. He agrees and will be waiting for them. They leave and drive to Bellevue.

VI follows with Vito in a SUV stuffed with video equipment in back. The two discuss the gear along the way. He has nothing to catch clear video of a sandman but he does have stuff to video tape ghosts.

Bellevue, Washington, , February 8th, 9:30 PM

“Take a look at the late great Francine Johnson,” Dr. Ilyes says as VI and the detectives arrives.

The young man focuses a handycam on the creature. Robert explains to VI, “Here is an associate of ours with some medical experience.”

As the camera turns toward him, Ilyes blurts, “I don’t want to be on the film.” He shields his face with one hand. “Please keep me off this, I’ll provide medical experience.”

“Okay”, VI says turning the camera on the blurry form of the Sandman. He begins to interview Ilyes, keeping him out of the picture. “Tell me about the creature.”

“By all biological rights this specimen should have been inanimate for the last 20 or 30 years. If this was found in the Mojave desert, I’d believe you.” The forensic expert goes on about his findings. As he lectures on, VI sets up a tripod.

“One of the things we are trying to find out is what it was using in lieu of a circulatory system,” Ilyes says as he begins to speculate on the biology of the creature. “There was no sign of a brain what so ever.”

“Well it was a woman,” Robert quips. As he laughs, Shaw gives him a bruising punch in the shoulder.

“Oh I’ve got to take this,” VI interrupts as his phone begins to buzz. He looks at the text. “Huh, ok.”

He turns to the others. “So my friend, he’s kind of interested in that doll.”

“How so?” Robert asks.

“He’s just asked me if you’d be willing to part with it.”

“Oh sure how much money is he offering?” Shaw says greedily.

“I’ll ask,” he says as he texts back.

Robert ells VI, “I’d be happy to show it to him or something. I don’t want to part with it.”

“I’ve never actually met this guy,” VI explains. “I’ve only interacted with him over the internet. But he knows a lot about these sorts of things.”

A reply text arrives. “That’s a bit of money,” VI remarks. He tells the others, “He’s apparently willing to offer 10 grand for it.”

“I’d like to know some more about it first,” Robert says.

“What do you expect to learn?” Shaw asks him.

“I don’t know.”

VI interjects, “he says it doesn’t have to be immediately.”

“See if he’d be interested in meeting with me, I can bring the doll by,” Robert says.

VI texts back. The reply is quick. VI says, “He says he doesn’t meet people.”

They return to the interview. VI note the lack of any forgetfulness about the Sandman though it still appears blurry on film. “Maybe it is inactive.”

Shaw thinks. “Maybe it has to be conscious.”

Ilyes continues his speech. He delves into the particulars of its bodily structure. He pauses as he considers the slow repairs to its body. “Where is it getting the material from? It has nothing to metabolize into tissue.”

Shaw posits that it might be pulling material from the air.

VI asks for a sample of the sand which they give him.

Ilyes asks him about the Groetnick. The monster hunter knows about as much as Ken. The creatures are survivors able to live in both salt and fresh water. They possess primitive lungs and can move slowly on land. He advises him to lock it up.

As VI and Ilyes talk, Robert asks Shaw what to tell his friend Mike Matthews. She advises him not to tell him anything more but perhaps to slip him some patty cash for his work on the case. They settle on a cover story where they found the dust, which they assumed was a weird drug, at a in crime scene.

VI turns to the others. “I kind of guess you learned more about Ken?”

Robert looks at Shaw. She denies telling knowing what happened to him.

“I just want to know if he is okay,” the young black man says.

“I don’t think the sandmen found him,” Shaw hints.

Shortly afterward the group breaks up for the evening. VI gives Robert an email address for his hacker friend:

February 9th to February 27th

Over the course of the month Dr. Ilyes makes sure the Greotnick is secure. He also begins working on getting a ichthyologist from out of state to identify the creature. I

As for the Sandman he eventually determines the matter for its repairs are coming from the ambient dust such as skin flakes and small hairs. Increasing the dust content of the air doesn’t seem to speed up regeneration but perhaps a vacuum or similar isolation might slow down the process.

He gets further with his investigation of Francine. The Seattle native vanished in 1968 as near as he can determine. Her family barely recalls her and her son explains that she just left one day and abandoned them. Her last place of employment was Brickley’s clothing department store in 1968.

Shaw meanwhile makes sure that there are no legal entanglements from the case of Kenneth Thomas. There was no follow up on the police report for loud noise in the neighborhood of the House. Also no one comes to check in about the missing persons case.

She puts Vito and Robert to work on improving their security.

She also visits Frank at the Hillcrest Mental Health Center. It isn’t a good day for him. He sits quietly but constantly twitches.

“Hey Frank, I hear things have been getting better,” she tells him. When he doesn’t say anything, she brings up the old office.

“We had a party there, right?” the old man says.

“Yes,” Shaw tells him. She asks about the armory he hid there.

“Always be prepared,” he replies.

“There was a crucifix,” she says carefully. When he looks distantly at a wall, she continues. “What was that for?”

“That was a long time ago,” he says. “It belonged to a friend.”

She asks what his friend’s name was. He concentrates. “Father…something or other. He was a priest.”

The younger detective asks about the weapons. “There are things out there, you have to be prepared.”

“Did you keep records?” she asks.

“Files…I can’t remember.”

Armed with this knowledge, Shaw investigates this unknown priest. She talks to Frank’s wife, Mavis. The old secretary is a regular church goer but there are only a few pirests she can think of. One is Father William. He passed away a few years ago but ran their local church for decades. He officiated at their marriage. The other is Father Manny, the new priest. He is quite elderly.

Then Mavis recalls someone else. “There was one other priest I can think of. I only met him a couple times. He was a friend of Franks. Ben…Benedict, that was his name.”

“Father Benedict?”

“Yes, I think they met through a case.”

Shaw probes deeper. Mavis recalls meeting Benedict in the early 80s. She hasn’t seen him since the late 90s. Shaw tells Mavis that Frank’s memory seems to be getting better.

She then begins her own search for Father Benedict. Unfortunately there are no matches in any public records or any of Frank’s case files.

Over the month, a new missing persons case come to the firm, involving a possible runaway. As she is discussing the matter with Jack Lawrence she brings up the earlier missing persons case. “I wonder if this anything like Kenneth Thomas.”

“Who?” he asks.

“Oh just another case I’ve been working.”

It seems Jack doesn’t remember the case at all. Shaw asks, “Is there no case file for him?”

On his computer, he looks it up. It seems the case was closed. “I would have thought I’d remembered that, weird.”

“They must be working you pretty hard,” Shaw says.

Robert meanwhile quietly follows up the loose ends of the Kenneth Thomas case. Liz, Ken’s supposed girlfriend, is missing from Cafe Equinox and the staff no longer remembers she ever existed. The other locations from Ken’s map turn up to be a collection of abandoned homes and warehouses, several suffering fire damage and under lax police investigation. His talks with Ken’s former adviser Dr. Baker are more informative. He describes Kenneth as distracted with fanciful notions about local mythology. Looking into Benjamin Miner, he finds that his family barely recalls him and believes he left long ago.

Robert also visits the House. He finds that while holding the doll, he can see it with difficulty. The front of house has been wrecked by Vito’s grenade. He also researches the doll itself. It is not anything unique but would fetch a good price with a collector. As for the owner, the Westergards had a daughter named Isabel who was born in 1906. She vanishes from public record sometime after 1940. Her father was employed by the shipbuilding industry and retired in 1950.

Lastly he tries contacting VI‘s contact Infinity. He doesn’t get back a reply but a day later he finds his antivirus has been upgraded. The hacker seems to have “improved” his computer.

Everett, NOSC Base, February 27th

While at the Navy Reserve base for training, Vito is called into a meeting. His CO seems a bit confused and tells him someone wants to talk to him. He shows him into a small room.

The rugged Agent Gray is there. “Good to see you again. Take a seat.”

As Vito sits down, the older man continues, “I want to talk to you about some lingering fallout from Afghanistan.”

He reveals to him that one of the things he fought there escaped and made its way to Seattle. He slides a folder over to him. Inside is a series of photographs. “This was taken six days ago, I think you’ll recognize some of what you see there.”

Vito instantly recognizes Nick Gilmore’s face. but the body it is part of is completely different. “I recognize part of it.”

He turns to the Man in Black. “What is this thing?”

“Its part of an experiment done by a terrorist organization.” He explains that they suspect that this was not the intended result. Even so it is a threat to the American public. His team has been tasked with dealing with this creature. He asks if he will join them.

Vito agrees and Gray details its known history. They suspect it traveled through India and from there to Singapore. There it had some altercations with the local police. Then it traveled, probably by cargo ship to San Diego. A month and half ago it arrived in Seattle. Since there its been staying put. He’s no sure why in area but it is possible it is after Vito.

“There’s an expert I’ve tried to ask about this,” Gray says. “I hoping to hear back from him soon.”

He describes its suspected abilities: superhuman strength and the ability to disguise itself. Gray also suspects it may be vulnerable to fire. “I’ve encountered things like this before.”

They discuss requisitions. Gray has already put in a request for a sniper rifle as well as incendiary rounds.

Once that is settled he introduces him to his team: Agents Lynch, Jacobs, and Noah. He explains he should expect to help them nights. Also this work will not leave any paper trail.

He asks if he gets an agent code name. Gray tells him no.

“Call me Chief,” Vito replies.

Bellevue, Seattle, March 2nd

Dr. Ilyes gets a call from his friend at the medical school, Dr. Wilkens. “You have some connections to an investigating firm? You were doing some consulting right?”

Ilyes tells him yes. Wilkens continues, “I was wondering are they discrete?”

“They handle some weird and sticky issues,” he tells his friend.

“There’s been a situation over here at the medical school over the last few weeks.” Dr. Wilkens proceeds to describe a series of organ theft from the school’s cadavers. “At first I thought it was just students pulling pranks.”

“But now you suspect criminal activity?”

“Yes. I’m not sure if the staff is involved or not. I’d like to be sure before involving the authorities.”

Ilyes agrees to set up a meeting with One of a Kind Investigations. He calls Shaw and gives her only the barest information. He stresses the need for discretion. They set up a meeting for later in the week.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, March 4th, 1 PM

Dr. Wilkens and Dr. Ilyes enter the office. Shaw watches them on video feed. Wilkens is crisp and clear, a real person. The balding man is shown into the office.

As Mavis brings in refreshments, Ilyes makes introductions.

Shaw asks the doctor, “what can I help you with?”

“Kevin has told me you are pretty discrete. I have a problem at my work place. I am the head of the medical school at the University of Washington. We have a number of cadavers which we use for medical training. Over the past three and half weeks there have been four cadavers that have had organs removed. I’m worried due to the lack of signs of a break-in that it may have been one of our students or staff. I’m worried about our school’s reputation. Maybe it is just a thief breaking in. While that is still bad, it is much better than if it is someone from the school.”

“And these organs they would be sold on the black market?” Shaw asks.

“Possibly. But it would be very dangerous for any possible recipients.”

Shaw and Wilkens work through the financial details.

Once the price is initially set they talk through the specifics of the case. At the moment only Dr. Wilkens, Dr. Sarah Woodruff, and a security guard know anything has happened. The security guard only knows that he needs to vary his routine and that a set of security camera have been ordered. Unfortunately they won’t be installed until next week.

As the stolen organs they consist of an index finger from an African American man, an ear from a Caucasian woman, a spleen and kidney both from Caucasian males. Whoever was involved had some medical knowledge due to the skill of the workmanship. However in two cases they forgot to put the surgical tools away afterward. “Whoever the culprit is he is somewhat sloppy.”

The cadavers were not related in any way and the thefts were separated by roughly a week each. Based on the class schedule and when the organs were found missing the thefts must have occurred sometime between 10 PM and 5 AM.

Security consists of the night watchman, Robert Evans, an exterior door with an electronic lock, and a standard lock on each of the refrigeration units. As far as access there are eight doctors, twenty students, five cleaning staff, two maintenance staff, the security guard and the secretary who have access either to the room or keys to the room.

Shaw decides she will head the investigation of the the assembled suspects finances. Meanwhile she asks Wilkens about placing one of her people at the school as a student. She says her employee Robert Mill can fake the knowledge.

“I really hope its not one of the students? I really hope it is no one connected to the university,” Wilkens frets. He agrees however and arranges for Robert to be a late transfer student.

March 5th through 10th

Vito Vitacelli spends his evenings with the Men in Black and his days working for One of a Kind Investigations. However Agent Gray’s unable to get all the gear he requested. He ends up with a police sniper rifle and some incendiary rounds.

Shaw meanwhile checks out out the staff and students at the medical school. She finds nothing unusual. She clear the security guard first. Bob Evans is apparently served in the navy, this is his third career. Dr. Wilkens has worked at the school for 12 years while the elderly Dr. Woodruff has taught for 30 years. She was a former head of the school but is due for retirement.

Shaw has Vito contact the Bob Evans and give him some pointers on security.

Vito approaches him as he starts work. “How have things been going here, anything strange?”

He tells the older man what he heard from Wilkens and gives him some advice for improving security. He also gives him his cell number in case anything comes up.

Lake City, March 10th, 11:30 PM

The team is driving around in a van filled with electronics equipment. Agent Noah reports, “We’re picking up a weak signal.”

Agent Gray turns to Vito. “When he showed up in San Diego, one of our agents was able to tag him with a tracking chip.”

They follow the signal to a series of car dealerships. The van stops and Gray barks, “Noah stay here. Jacobs take the remote unit and head two blocks south. Try to triangulate. Lynch and I will try to intercept it. You,” turnign to Vito, “get on that truck on that ramp.”

Vito scales the ramp and gets positioned on the pickup. He can here the agents at work over the radio.

“Jacobs, where are you?” Gray asks.

Noah breaks in. “He’s close. Probably in the next dealership.”

Agent Gray calls over the radio. “Chief, keep an eye out you may be able to spot him.”

Vito soon spots movement along a low hedge separating the two dealerships. “Movement to your southwest.”

As they approach, something leaps over a car and heads toward Vito. “Closing me, taking shot.”

Vito squeezes the trigger and a round blasts through the creature’s head. It topples backwards and fallens behind a car.

Agents Gray and Lynch approach its location. About twenty seconds later, Gray calls, “Do we have triangulation? Lynch go that way, its still moving. Chief keep your eyes open.”

Vito spots it moving incredibly fast past him. Its head is cracks but not as badly damaged as he would expect. ‘C6’ is tattooed on its shoulder. It rushes to the street and leaps over it.

“Fleeing to the west,” the sniper says as he puts another round into it.

The creature stumbles but managed to get around building. By the time the Agents catch up it is gone.

Agent Gray gets them back in the van. “Time for a change of plans, let’s find where it is hiding.”

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, March 11th, 5 PM

As he checks in at the office, Robert notices a folder on his computer desktop. Something that wasn’t there before. It is labeled Robert and contains a simple text document:

Your current investigation possesses unique dangers. Avoid the tunnels. Do not trust the children. The thief knows not what he does. One of your team is moonlighting.

Missing Persons, Part III

Driving south on 15th Avenue, Seattle, 6:30 PM

Shaw swerves around another car as she tries to put more distance between herself and the Sandmen. Vito and Kenneth Thomas right themselves in the back. As she pulls the car onto the main road, she relaxes her death grip on the wheel. She calls back, “How are you guys doing?”

“I’m doing fine.,” Vito replies. “How you doing guy?”

Kenneth groans and sits up. “I’m okay.”

“Little bit of a close call there,” the military man says.

“Yeah,” Ken says, scratching his beard. “They must have followed you.”

Shaw passes another car. “We can’t go back to the office. I don’t want to go back to my house yet.”

Vito offers, “we could go to my apartment.”

“I kind of want to go somewhere in the pseudo-public eye.” She glances at Ken in the rearview mirror.

The academic and suspected murderer stares back at her. “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

“Alright,” she says. She wracks her brain for the locations where the Sandmen have been sighted. She decides Queen Anne Hill is safe and heads there.

Queen Anne Hill, Seattle, 7 PM

Shaw sends Vito inside the hotel to get a room. She tells him to pay cash. Who knows who is watching. The trio go up to the room together.

Once they are settled in and the door is locked, Shaw turns to Ken. “What were those things?”

The young man is pacing back and forth nervously. “You tell me. You’re the investigators right?” He pauses for a moment. “I was told they were called Sandmen.”

“Who told you that?”

“Who hired you to find me?” he asks.

Shaw keeps eye contact with Ken. The silence stretches for a minute but eventually Ken looks away. Quietly he says, “We were hired by an executive working for Keystone.”

“To test the chemicals I found at your apartment?”

“No,” he says. “That stuff protects us from the creatures’ powers.”

“Fish creatures? Or those sandmen?”

“The sandmen,” he tells her.

Vito asks, “What powers do they have?”

“They can make you forget,” he says solemnly.

“Do they need to touch you to do that?” he asks.

“I don’t think so,” Ken tells him. “No.”

“What is it that they want people to forget?”

“That they exist,” Ken says speculating. “How about you guys? How long have you known about this?”

“Not long,” Shaw explains. “I haven’t investigated the whole thing. I still don’t know what they are.”

“I don’t know what they are either,” Ken says grimly. “But they are everywhere.”


“I’ve seen them all around the city. Must be dozens of them.”

“Why are they looking for you?” Vito asks.

“Because, because I went to the house,” he says uncertainly. “Yes. There must be something there they don’t want people to know.”

“Which house?” Vito inquires.

“The place Keystone sent me,” Ken explains. “It is a place over in Yesler Terrace. Its weird. It doesn’t look like the rest of the neighborhood. Its like everyone has forgotten about it.”

“Was this before or after you were on the drugs?” Shaw asks.

“I wouldn’t have even seen it if I wasn’t on them.” Ken explains, “we went by there just to case it out and didn’t see anything weird. We were very dubious about the job. But it was there. It is there.”

“What happened to Ben?” she asks.

“He-He’s dead.” Ken looks away. “They grabbed him. I don’t know what happened to him. They took him away.”

“What about Dr. Chaney?”

“Last I saw, she was stabbing one with a knife. I got-” he chokes up. “There were so many, I just got out of there.”

“What were you hired to do?”

“They wanted us to go to the house and take care of what was there.”

The detective pries deeper. “Are you sure that’s what they really wanted?”

“I don’t know,” he says quickly.

Vito turns to him, “how was Doctor Chaney involved?”

“She was…Ben and I, we were investigating things like this. Strange things that lurk in the shadows.”

“Like the cat woman,” Shaw adds.

“Yeah, like her,” Ken looks at her. “How do you know about that?”

“I’m a good investigator.”

Ken returns to his story. “Well we got started with the Groetnich cults. They were grabbing people off the street and feeding them to these giant fish. Someone had to do something about it.”

“Why not call the cops?” Shaw asks.

“They were in on it. No really! Really! Lt. Brown, he was one of the cultists.”

Shaw remembers the shifty police officer with his connections to city hall and the city’s elite. He passed away last year, supposedly from a heart attack while on vacation.

Shaw asks him, “so why are they coming after you so much if you are not going to go to the authorities?”

“Maybe they think I know something.”

“What did you see?” she asks.

“It was a house,” Kens says. “It was really really old. I’m kind of surprised it was still standing. I don’t think anyone has lived there in 60, 70 years.”

“I thought you said these creatures lived there,” Shaw says questioningly.

“Well nobody normal,” Ken explains. “No one who dusts. I’m not really sure they are alive. They weren’t bleeding when Dr. Chaney stabbed them.”

“Were you given any intel about them?” Shaw asks.

“We were told they had some abilities to cloud minds. The drug would protect us from it.”

“And what is it they are supposed to be doing? That a pharmacy company would hire you to help?”

Ken bluntly says, “that’s just a front.”

“What do you mean?”

“The pharmacy company. Its a front.”

“Front for what?” Vito asks.

“I heard through the grapevine that the real force was a group calling itself the Cheiron Group.”

“That supposed to mean something?” Shaw asks.

“Just something I’ve heard.” Ken continues, “I mean we’re not alone. There are other people who know about things like this. I met this guy who is collecting evidence on these things. There’s Cheiron. There was that one case where we got there late and saw a black helicopter flying away. I guess there really are some men in black.”

Shaw looks at him oddly. “So you’re like a local contractor?”

Ken sighs and sits down. “We’re just trying to make the world a bit safer.”

“Good job,” Shaw says sarcastically.

“We’ve helped people,” Ken retorts.

“What’s your plan right now?” Shaw inquires.

Ken scratches his head. “I was laying low until I could figure a way out of town. Maybe if I could get to another city or state or something they wouldn’t come after me.”

Vito asks him, “what do you think they are protecting in the house?”

“I don’t know but they must really want to protect it. Must be really important.”

Vito probes further. “What do you know about the cult that they would want to protect in this area?”

“The cult is focused on the Groetnich,” Ken says lapsing into a lecture about the fish.

Vito interrupts him. “So why did you have those Groetnichs in the basement of the place you were staying?”

“I don’t think the Sandmen can affect minds that simple. I think they require a more advanced intelligence to use their powers.”

“So it was to protect you from the sandmen?”


“So the cult and the Sandmen are not connected?”

“I don’t think so. Otherwise I would have seen them before.”

Vito thinks for a moment. “If you were trying to disrupt this cult, why did you have Groetnich in the first place?”

Ken hesitates. “Well we killed the cult and-”

“Felt bad for the fish?” Shaw asks.

“No!” he says violently. “It was just that-that we kept encountering them. I had a few just to study. To figure out what it was about the fish that they were after. And how to destroy them more effectively. I figured if I had just a few small ones…”

“How much larger do you believe they get to be?” Vito asks.

“I am not really sure what their upper limit of size is.”

“How big have you known of?” the military man inquires.

“Well Ben says that when we took out the cult in Windermere that he looked down into the big spawning pit. He said there was one bigger than a car. I don’t know. It was dark and there was a lot of fire and falling debris. The biggest I’ve seen is maybe a few hundred pounds.”

As this sinks in, Shaw asks, “Is Liz really your girlfriend?”

“Who is Liz?” he asks confused.

“She’s a girl going around saying she’s your girlfriend. I’m pretty sure she’s one of these sandmen things.”

Ken shivers. “I don’t know anyone named Liz.”

“Are you currently using these drugs now?” Shaw asks.

“I dosed myself up before I left the house. I should be good for-”, he checks his watch. “I should get another dose soon.”

“Do you have any stashes?”

A light dawns in his head. “Its still back at the house!”

“The house where the sandmen are around,” Vito points out.

“Right.” He sighs. “I can’t go back there. I don’t trust-I don’t trust Keystone. This isn’t good.”

“Have you tried to contact your mother?” Shaw asks.

“I tried to call her. What’s happened to her?”

“I’m pretty sure she was taken a couple days before you called.”

Ken leans back and stares into space.

Shaw adds, “I think your father is okay. Both of them came and hired me.”

“Dad’s here?” he says distantly.

“No. I’m pretty sure whatever they did to your mother’s mind, they used her memories of him to impersonate him. I was able to speak to him in San Diego and have somebody checking on him down there. That might be your best bet for getting out of town.”

“I have to get to San Diego,” he mutters. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

Shaw tells him, “I’m going to want to know some details from you about the house.”

“Sure if you want. Sure.” He gives her the address in Yesler Terrace, indicating its between two apartment complexes and across from a convenience store.

“And your contact in Keystone?” Shaw asks.

“We dealt with a woman named Lisa Peterson.”

Shaw looks over her investigation notes. “What’s your opinion of Dr. Hicks at the university?”

“Dr. Hicks?” He says confused. “Oh right, Dr. Chaney and he don’t get along. They are like academic rivals.”

“But it isn’t anything more than that?”

“Not that I know of. No.”

Shaw asks, “last time you saw Ben was on the 13th?”

“Right right, that night,” he says distracted. “We’d all gathered together down there at the house. We were searching and then as we were leaving they came out of nowhere.”

Shaw asks him about the drug, learning each ampul holds 3 doses, each of which should be good for 8 hours. It has to be taken intravenously.

She also asks if there are any gaps in his memory that he can think of. He says he doesn’t notice any gaps.

Shaw’s phone rings. Dr. Sorenson is calling. She walks away from Kenneth Thomas and answers.

Sorenson’s voice is clear. “Your friend is recovering and I just checking in to make sure things are okay.”

“About that substance you were analyzing for us?” Shaw asks.

“Um, yes? I don’t have results for that yet.”

“Is there a chance we could synthesize it ourselves?”

“Not without more details from the analysis,” he explains.

“I think it might be very useful in the future. I’ll give you some more details later.”

Sorenson ask, “do you think its safe for me to leave our friend alone? Should someone be watching him?”

“I’m sure he’ll be okay,” she assures him.

“Alright. Just keep in touch if something should change. I’ll keep my eyes open. Did the kid ever show up again?”

Shaw looks over at Kenneth. “I’m still not quite sure about that.”

“Alright. Good luck.” He hangs up and makes sure Robert Mill is not to be disturbed except for family and himself, as his doctor of course.

Later that night he researches what he can on the Groetnich cults, building a list of people to contact.

As Shaw returns, Vito says, “I have a suggestion.”

“Yeah?” she says.

“I have a boat. I’ll boat him down to Olympia. Put him on an Amtrak in Olympia and I’ll do a conversational debrief on the way down, see if I can pull anything more out of him.”

“Sure,” she says, turning to Ken. “One thing I’d like to know Ken is how was it that I was able to see them?”

He shrugs. “I’m not sure. I-I think sometimes you can see them, its just that most people tend to forget them. And they tend to make sure people forget them.”

The detectives and Ken establish a means of contact. Shaw gives him a burner cell number to memorize. Once he is in San Diego, he will call it and leave a message. After that they will use his father as the point of contact.

Shaw drives Vito and Ken down to downtown, leaving them a few blocks from the marina. The clock reads 7:30 PM. Her stomach rumbling, she grabs a power bar from the glove compartment and drives to a spot looking out over the bay.

She pulls out her phone and recorder. She dials Donald Thomas’s number and starts the recorder. “Hello? who is it? Hello?” she hears on the line. Shaw hangs up and plays back the recording. She hears the man’s confused voice. Satisfied Donald hasn’t been replaced she calls Vito and Ken on the boat. She tells Ken, “Looks like your dad’s okay.”

Puget Sound, Washington, 8 PM

As Vito’s boat pulls away from the city, he turns to Kenneth Thomas. “Just tell me what you know from the beginning. Who knows what clues you might know.”

He runs through his story again, detailing their earlier monster hunting activities. About an hour in, as he describes how the cultist worshipping the Groetnich’s could turn into fish monsters, Vito asks, “Do you think the shape changing is related to Ella Mae?”

“It may be. Its so similar except she was using-”

“Different animals,” Viot interjects.


“Do you think it was the same thing? Sacrificing people to the animals?” Vito asks as he steers the boat westward.

“There were a lot of bones. A lot of animals and people were going missing in the area. And Ben went and talked to her. There was,” he stops in mid sentence. “I destroyed it but there was a recording that he had done when he went to see her. She admitted to it.”

“Did she say why?”

Ken looks out over the dark water. “She liked to feel young again.”

“So how to you think these Sandmen fit in? What is the connection?”

Ken looks down and thinks. “I don’t know. There must be some sort of connection. The children were all very afraid of the Sandmen. I assumed that the Sandmen were sacrificing children. Maybe that’s why they are so twisted.”

The continue chatting as the boat weave south of some islands. The scared young man confides that the city’s homeless are aware of the problem but are unable to recall what the Sandmen are.

Vito docks in Olympia and escorts Ken to the train station. He buys him a ticket for the Starlight express under his name and gives Ken 200 dollars to see him to San Diego. He phones Shaw that it is done. Returning to his boat he heads home.

Greenwood Hospital, January 29th, 8 AM

Robert wakes up in pain. The wounds on his arms and legs have been stitched up but still hurt a lot. The doctor informs him that they are holding him until the afternoon to make sure his condition is stable. He then leaves him alone, except for another patient, an elderly woman enjoying the morning soaps.

Shaw stops by the hospital soon after. She snaps pictures of the doctors and nurses outside as well as the other patient. Satisfied they are not Sandmen, she tells Mill, “seems like we found who we were looking for after you were taken away.”

“We did?” he says propping himself up in his bed.


“Did we get paid?” he asks wincing a bit from the pain.

“No,” Shaw says resignedly. “He didn’t actually want to be found. In fact we had to layout a little bit to help him out.”

“Did he say anything that helped us?” he inquires.

“He didn’t know anything about Frank but he did give us a lead on a location,” she says hopefully. “But its going to be a few days before we’ll be ready to make the move.”

“How’s everyone doing? Everyone okay?” Robert asks.

“As far as I know yeah.”

The wounded detective asks, “so where did you find him, what happened?”

Shaw fills him in on the details. She begins to detail their next steps but concludes, “but that can wait until you are out of here. It looks perfectly safe here.”

“That’s okay I guess. I’m just sitting here watching bad television.” Robert glances up at the screen where the Love Boat is playing.

“Go get him Gopher!” a character says on the screen.

His roommate remarks, “Captain Stubing is so romantic.”

Robert turns to his boss. “If you wouldn’t mind could you bring back my laptop?”

“Sure,” she says. “Where was it left?”

“At the office.”


“Sorry about that,” he apologizes. “Its pretty boring here, that’s all.”

“I’ll send somebody over with it,” Shaw assures him.

Seattle, January 29th

Vito gets back to normal work, catching cheating husbands and detecting insurance fraud. At the same time however he begins looking for some heavier armament. Through his contacts in the military, he starts looking for white phosphorous grenades and an underbarrel grenade launcher. If he has to kill a fish the size of a car, he’ll be prepared.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, January 29th

Shaw drives up to the center as a text comes back from Mavis. She’s back in the office after dropping off Robert’s computer.

Shaw makes her way to Dr. Sorenson‘s office. The psychiatrist looks physically tired. He explains he’s decided to work out more after last night. Shaw offers him to introduce him to her boxing club.

“Considering some of the things we’ve seen lately, perhaps that is a good idea,” he tells her.

“It is a great workout. Full body.”

The two review the MRI results from Georgia Chaney. It looks like swiss cheese.

“Confirmation that exactly what we thought happened happened here,” Sorenson says. Sorenson’s blood tests are also in. There are no signs of psychotropic chemicals just some elevated levels of neurotransmitters. “It also looks like I’m clean. I wasn’t dosed with any special drugs.”

Shaw leans forward in her chair. “There was stuff I wasn’t willing to discuss with you on the phone but I can make you aware of now. I’m hoping you can speed the analysis of the chemical we found. We staked out the house and Kenneth came back.” She fills him in on the details of the Sandman attack. “It was like some freaky halloween industrial light and magic shit.”

“I’m beginning to wonder if they are not involved in some sort of genetic experiments,” Dr. Sorenson speculates.

“Apparently Ben and Ken were hired by Keystone Pharmaceuticals which they said was a front for the Chieron group.”

Sorenson has heard that name. It is another big multinational conglomerate, a possible rival to Pentex.

Shaw continues. “He says they are not really into pharmacy. That they are monster hunters like him. But I don’t really think that makes much sense. But Ben and his gang bought Keystone’s line and took a drug they were told would make them immune to the effects of the Sandmen freaks.”

She tells him the story Ken told her about the house. She mentions that she may been eefect by the creatures when she lost time at Cafe Equinox. “Liz might have been one of these things. Maybe I saw her and she erased my memory. My brain feels fine though.”

“Did you have physical contact with her?” he asks. “Did you actually touch her?”

Shaw shakes her head. “Not when I lost time.” She explains that Kenneth doesn’t think contact is necessary.

“I’m not a 100% convinced this drug does when Kenneth thinks it does but we will know a bit more once the chemical analysis is complete. Its possible this drug fuels paranoia and delusions.” The doctor mulls over the possible side effects. “These delusions might induced by small doses such as skin contact. Like a contact poison. It might not even leave traces in the blood instead being concentrated in the lymphatic system.”

Shaw’s cellphone rings. The caller ID says Robert Mill. “Oh hey he must be out of the hospital. Hello?”

Robert’s voice is pained and worried. “Hey, I wasn’t thinking clearly this morning. Shouldn’t we go to the police?”

“You mean about the fish?” she asks.


Shaw picks up her employee’s concern over Kenneth’s criminal activities. “Well I’ve thought about that but I really want to investigate things a bit further.”

“Won’t we get in a lot trouble doing this?”

“I don’t think so,” she says, placating him for now.

As she hangs up, Dr. Sorenson has another idea. “I mentioned it earlier but if these creatures do exist they might be a genetic experiment by Keystone or Pentex. These drugs might indeed be what they purport to be because the same company made the creatures. The company might be getting easily influenced people to clean up their messes for them.”

Shaw considers this. “I think its totally possible that Keystone sent them under false pretenses. But either Keystone had no idea what they were sending them into or they were there to be chewed up.”

Dr. Sorenson thinks on it and regards the meager supply of the drug. “I don’t think its worth it to take them without the results. I’ll try to pressure them to get the analysis done as soon as possible.”

Shaw thanks him and leaves.

Greenwood Hospital, 3 PM

Robert Mill calls his friends, letting them know why he failed to show up at the WoW raid last night. He also hints balloons or something would help distract from his bleak hospital room.

Around 4 PM, his firends show up with a bundle of balloons and carting in a teddy bear the size of a large midwestern child. The messages on the balloons are a mixture of happy birthday and anniversary messages. The gang settles down around his bed to hang out, except A.J. who starts playing WoW over the hospital WiFi.

Another of his friends confides, “we thought about hiring a stripper but we didn’t think your roommate would be comfortable.”

Across the room an elderly man hoarsely shouts, “I’d be comfortable!”

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, 3PM

Dr. Sorenson scratches some more notes on his pad. Frank was making great progress. Today they recovered a new memory. He listens as Frank describes fishing with his grandfather when he was 5 or 6.

Franks glances at the door and leans closer. “Where you here late last night?”

“No Frank.” He jokes, “they don’t make me work all night.”

“I saw one of them,” the older man says.

“One of what?”


As the word hangs in the air, Trevor closely questions the old detective about what they looked like. He describes a thin pale person with black eyes and long fingers. He explains “the children took it away.”

Sorenson is confused. The children’s ward is in another building. “What children?”

“The ones from the subbasements,” he says nervously. Frank goes on explaining about the mysterious children who come up from the basements.

Cautiously, Trevor confides that he believes him. Frank seems to calm down a little bit. “If you are in any trouble go to the old office. Go to the compartment behind the closet. The old office. Shaw knows where it is.”

“Do you feel safe?” Dr. Sorenson asks.

“The doors are pretty strong,” Franks says, nervously looking around.

Dr. Sorenson tries calming him again. He explains he is trying to help the older man. Frank thanks him, tells him again “if you see any ENEs to go to the old office.”

Starbucks, 4 PM

Shaw works on her laptop, using Google Streetview to scout the location of the house Ken and his friend discovered the Sandmen. The two apartment buildings and the convenience store are all easily visible. But there is no house, not even space for one.

She digs into the police reports for the area. She finds nothing for the past forty years. ’That’s suspicious,’ she thinks.

She reviews the building records. The apartment buildings were built in 1967 and 1978, after clearing out an old neighborhood of Victorian homes. She decides to dig deeper. ‘What house should be there?’ she thinks.

Her phone rings. The cellphone tells her it is 5 PM and Dr. Sorenson is calling. She answers.

Dr. Sorenson tells her about his meeting with Frank. He agrees to meet her at the Starbucks.

Dr. Sorenson arrives a half hour later. He asks her about the old office. She tells him that Frank had an office south of Downtown before he sold the firm to her. They decide to check it out.

Old Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Industrial District, 5:30 PM

The battered storefront is still empty. As they stand out in the cold rain, Shaw sees that there isn’t even an advertisement for leasing the place. ‘Who is renting this place now,’ she thinks.

She snaps a picture with her phone and checks it. Dr. Sorenson leans in, “Why did you do that?”

Shaw quickly explains she is double checking her perceptions. The psychiatrist points out this sort of thing is a sign of paranoia. He tells her that her she isn’t paranoid however.

“Thanks,” Shaw says, her faith in her sanity somewhat disturbed.

“Sometimes that reassurance is what people need,” he replies oblivious to her sarcasm.

Shaw makes a call.

Current offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, 5:30 PM

Robert steps into the office, still stiff from a day of bedrest. The office is empty and even Mavis Brooks has left for the weekend. As he grabs his stuff from his desk, spots a blinking light on his answering machine.

He checks his voice mail. A distorted voice says, “I saw your flier. I can tell you more about what happened to Ben and Ken. Its not pretty. If you want to learn more, I’ll be at Northgate mall Saturday night at 1 AM. Come alone. You can call me VI.”

Robert jots down the information. He checks out the phone number but it leads nowhere.

He decides to check it out and goes to leave the office. As he passes Mavis’s desk the main line rings. Reluctantly he stops and picks it up.

“Hi,” Shaw’s voice says.

Robert tries to bluff. “You have reached the offices of One of a Kind-”

“Hi Rob.”

“How’s it going, Shaw?” he says caving in.

Shaw explains that she is checking out the old offices. She wants to know who owns it now. Robert promises to look into it.

He quickly investigates and calls back. “Frank is paying for it,” he explains.

He checks that she doesn’t need backup and then goes home.

Old Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Industrial District, 6 PM

Shaw finds the spare key behind the loose tile beside the door. She opens up the front door. Inside the office is empty and covered in dust. There are no signs anyone has been here in a long while.

She leads Dr. Sorenson into the inner room and the closet back there. The closet is empty except for a wire hanger. Shaw begins prodding the back of the closet and soon find a hollow spot and the edges of a secret panel.

She shines a flashlight around and taking Sorenson’s advice checks the ceiling as well. She finds a catch and the panel pops open.

Inside is a small arsenal. Pair of shotguns, five .38 revolvers, a crates worth of bullets and shotgun shells sit in the armory with a crossbow and a half filled box of grenades. A silver cross hangs on the wall next to a tarnished silver knife. Another box holds several vials of water.

“Looks like Frank had some hobbies,” Sorenson remarks.

“I knew he hunted but I thought it was for moose,” Shaw quips.

“Looks like he was preparing for a zombie apocalypse.”

They idly speculate he was some sort of vampire hunter. Shaw notes that the serial numbers have been filed off the weapons. They also discuss whether any of this will work against the Sandmen. Frank didn’t handle them too well himself.

Shaw offers Sorenson one of the revolvers to practice with, going over the basics of firearms use.

“Your next interview with Frank should be very interesting,” she says as she closes and locks up the office behind them.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, January 30th

While her employees are enjoying their weekend, Shaw puts in some hours at the office. She looks over the company email. One name jumps out at her. Keystone.

An email is from a Lisa Peterson. It seems the executive wants to talk to her.

Shaw calls her back. Surprising the executive picks up. “I’m glad to get a hold of you.”

“I always check my messages,” Shaw replies, turning on the recorder. “What can I do for you?”

Mrs. Peterson relates that she wants to talk to her about a missing persons the firm might be investigating: Kenneth Thomas. Shaw denies knowing anything about him and attempts to get Keystone to hire One of a Kind Investigations to find Kenneth.

Mr.s Peterson doesn’t bite. Shaw hints that she won’t discuss sensitive matters over the phone. They arrange to meet the next day at an upscale tea house.

After Mrs. Peterson hangs up, Shaw calls Vito and brings him up to speed. She has him do a tactical workup of meeting location and watch it while she has her meeting.

Northgate mall, January 31st, 1 AM

Robert Mill wanders the empty parking garage. The darkened concrete structure is lit by a few fluorescent lights.

“Over here,” he hears whispered from the shadows.

Cautiously he walks over. He finds an Afro-American man in a green hoodie longing by the edge of the garage. A tree sways outside behind him.

“So you’re Robert Mill?” he asks. He looks young with short curly dark hair.

“You have some information for me? It’s freezing,” Robert says shivering.

They chat. VI seems wary and asks him, “What is weirdest thing you’ve seen?”

Robert shows him his fish bite and describes the credit card and blurry photos of people they have uncovered. At the last item, VI pulls out his smart phone and shows him a video of a blurry person walking across an otherwise in focus street.

“Yeah that’s the one,” Robert says.

“Yeah them, we call them Sandmen. They are a type of ENE, extra-normal entity.”

They discuss what the Sandmen are and what sort of strange things are out there. “There’s scary stuff out there.”

“Dangerous too,” the detective remarks.

“Well you would know,” the graffiti artist remarks pointing towards his bites.

Robert brings the focus back on the case. He ask VI what he knows.

“I don’t know everything but maybe you know some of it.” He tells him about Ken’s group of monster hunters: the Ave Rats cell. He explains they “took care of things” in the University District.

“When you say taking care of things, they did murder people, right?” Robert clarifies.

“They murdered monsters,” VI corrects him.

Robert wisely decides to let that slide. They discuss who else knows about these things. VI reveals he belongs to a loose knit group of monster hunters who are working to document supernatural creatures. They are gathering evidence both physical and video so they can reveal the truth to the world.

The detective asks him what he knows about the Sandmen.

“What I know about them is that they have been here for a while,” the younger man says. “They always come out blurry which if you have the resources makes them really easy to track. I have a hacker friend who has all of the city’s traffic cameras searching for them. We think there are a few dozen of them.”

“What do they want?” Robert asks.

“I don’t know. I think they steal memories.” He also distinguishes between the doppelgangers, who can look like normal people and the Sandmen who seem to control them. VI tells him about their suspicions that the Sandmen have a hideout someewhere downtown perhaps in the International District or Yesler Terrace. The Ave Rats seem to have had an idea of where it was. It was something they were investigating for Chieron Group. VI tells Robert that they are monster hunters too and have their claws deep into Pentex.

“Good guys or bad guys?” Robert asks.

VI hesitates. “They are not good guys but they are not on the side of the monsters. For better or worse they are just people.”

Robert asks VI what he know about what happened to Ben and Ken. The graffiti artist speculates that the Sandman got them when they went missing on the 13th. He knows Georgia Chaney escaped but ended up at Hillcrest. Apparently Benjamin Miner’s mother doesn’t even remember him. Robert lets him know about the tip that led them to Ken’s hideout and VI is able to confirm some more map locations as being monster or cult hideouts.

Robert shows VI, a picture of Frank. “Do you know him?”

“Maybe,” he says.

Robert abandons the question and asks if VI’s group can help them. “I’ll see what I can do.”

“Is there any reliable way to contact you?” Robert asks.

“Yeah we could arrange a sign to set up a meeting,” VI says pulling out a spray can. He hands it to him. “Leave a mark like an eye at the alley at 3rd and Seneca.”

“Why are we meeting here rather than at the Cinnabun?” Robert asks.

VI chuckles. “Maybe next time. I needed to check I could trust you.”

Finally Robert asks, “anything I can do for you?”

“If you can let me if you find Ken that would be nice. I just want know he is ok. If you find where they went, I’ll what I can do to help.”

Capitol Hill, January 31st, 2 PM

Shaw walks into the coffee shop. Well dressed business men, grandparents in their Sunday best, and young rich people in love fill most of the available seats. Dressed to impress, she fits right in.

She spots Vito sitting in a corner booth, hunched over his laptop. She suppresses the image of his smile when she told him about the grenades she and Dr. Sorenson found.

She soon finds Lisa Peterson and sits down opposite the blond haired woman. She greets Shaw pleasantly and they engage in some idle chit chat.

Eventually Shaw brings up the reason for the meeting. “Who put you in touch with us about…Ben Thomas?”

“Kenneth Thomas,” the 30-something director says. “We had been looking for him and our investigation turned up a link that suggested that you were also investigating the case.”

Shaw brings to take notes, slowly extracting information from the cagey woman.

“It must have been some sort of mix up,” Lisa concludes.

She claims that Ken was involved in a research project for them when he disappeared two weeks ago. Shaw ferrets out that Lisa’s source was Detective Tracker.

As Shaw curls her lip in distaste, Lisa continues, “He seems to have been under the impression you were involved in the case.”

Shaw denies any knowledge of the case but asks, “You sure he didn’t run off and get high?”

“No its not that sort of drug. It is just a simple relaxant.”

The conversation slowly peters out as neither woman is willing to give any new information. The eventually finish their coffee and go their separate ways.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, February 1st, 7:30 AM

Vito opens the office door and turns on the lights. The pictures on Mavis‘s desk are toppled over and the plant in the corner have fallen down. As he looks around the office he can see more signs of someone ransacking the office. He gets to Shaw’s office and spots the protruding wires hanging loosely. Her computer was stolen.

He calls the downstairs gym and tells them Shaw is needed upstairs. the woman relays the message.

Confused Shaw quits her workout and quickly gets dressed in the locker room. Half way ready she calls Vito and asks what he needs.

“Problem’s up here,” he curtly says.

Shaw soon joins Vito upstairs. It seems only her desktop is missing. They call the other employees and the police.

The police soon arrive but find no clues as to the identity of the thieves. The security system was hacked and the footage erased. No fingerprints turn up and even their hidden camera was stolen.

After the cops leave, Shaw has Vito sweep for bugs. He uncovers a few hidden throughout the office. Shaw invites Vito and Robert to join her for a late breakfast.

On their way out Robert asks if they are done with the Kenneth Thomas case. “Seeing as it is dangerous and no one is paying us anymore.”

Shaw explains, “well you weren’t at the meeting on Friday but yeah.”

Downtown, 9 PM

As they settle down in the diner for some pancakes, Robert asks again, “what I said above was for the viewers, however the point does remain?”

“Like I said, you weren’t at the meeting on Friday,” Shaw says. He learns about her meeting with Kenneth Thomas. She explains that they now know where the Sandmen are based. She also fills him in on Keystone Pharmaceuticals’s fishing for clues.

They discuss who might have ransacked the office. Shaw strongly suspects Keystone. Robert mentions the details of his meeting with VI and we he said about the Chieron Group. The phrase ‘Extra-normal entities’ or ENE comes up. This leads to a discussion about Frank’s armory. Shaw speculates the water may be holy water though no one can think of way to test its holiness.

Robert and Shaw confirm the location of the house the Sandmen are supposedly in. Vito suggests doing a surface recon.

As the discussion continues, Robert blurts out, “this is all crazy. We are not making any money off this situation. And its dangerous. So the only thing left is if this will help us with Frank in some way?”

Shaw considers this. “Well Frank says he saw a Sandman and his description matches what I saw.”

The other detective points out this could all be a delusion. “You are the decision maker here, but it seems like we have is something very dangerous, possibly illegal, and very unprofitable. Maybe we are best served by closing the books on and it and working on our normal cases.”

“Yes,” she replies. “Except we still don’t know what happened to Frank.”

Shaw tells him that she knows where Ken is. She brushes aside arguments of bringing the cops in now. Vito mentions Ken thought some cops were involved in the cults he was investigating. Shaw tells them they are going to cut back on the investigation but keep digging. She wants some more answers before she closes the book on this.

Seattle, February 1st through 3rd

Robert gets back to normal, investigating the Johnson divorce case. The two are fabulously wealthy and bitterly looking to hurt each other. Plenty of cash to be made there.

Vito meanwhile tracks down a man who can hook him up with a grenade launcher. He might also have a friend who can get him some white phosphorous grenades.

Shaw meanwhile continues to look into The House. She uncovers the original owners, a Mr. Samuelson in the 1890s census. It seems he sold it to an S. Westergard, a carpenter who lived there from the late 19th century until 1950 at least. He was born sometime in 1871 though she doesn’t find a death certificate. She does find one for his wife Ingrid in 1922, when she passed away from heart failure. Their daughter lives there until the 1940s.

Dr. Sorenson has his meeting with Frank. He brings up the armory in his conversation and probes the old man for any clues to the Sandmen‘s weakness. Unfortunately he can’t remember anything. The psychiatrist confides that they have located a nest where these Sandmen are headquartered and confides that he believes Frank is not delusional.

The next day the test results come back on the drugs Kenneth Thomas was using. A mixture of saline, neurotransmitters, lipids, and a strange enzyme, Dr. Sorenson has difficulty deciphering it. Some of the chemicals are common to antipsychotics. He notes the possible side effects of insomnia and addictive qualities with long term use use, but sees nothing to explain Ken’s ‘delusions.’

He files the report in his personal collection and calls Shaw. “I wouldn’t go and inject this right away but it looks like our friend was correct. This drug is likely more beneficial than harmful.”

Shaw inquires if it would function as relaxant. He xplains any relaxing qualities would be side effects, “not a true sedative though.” He warns her about the addictive properties.

Shaw asks if he can make more. “It would require a full lab and staff and years of work.”

The 12 doses they have will have to be enough.

Lake Union, February 3rd, 6 PM

Shaw does a final sweep for bugs on her boat house. Satisfied that Keystone Pharmaceuticals isn’t listening in, she sets to making dinner for the firm as well as Dr. Sorenson.

They soon arrive and the group digs into the food and drink.

Dr. Sorenson comes back from putting his plate in the sink. He is playing with one of the vials of BNSX-7. “The theory is that Kenneth was right, that this is something that might prevent the influencing of neurochemical processes. But it could be addictive if taken for too long. There are also the typical side effects for drugs of this sort but they shouldn’t be a problem if not taken over a prolonged period.”

Vito asks,“what are the side effects?”

“Drowsiness, dry mouth,” says the psychiatrist, rattling off a over a dozen possible ailments.

Discussion turns to how to use the drugs. Dr. Sorenson suggests trying it on only one or two people initially as a control.

“If I take these drugs and go there and there is no house,” Shaw says grumbling, “then Ken was a nut job and I’ll tell the police where he is.”

“Yeah, I like that,” Robert says, the wine going to his head. “Let the four of us just go down the house now.”

Surprisingly they agree.

The House, Yesler Terrace, 9 PM

The streets are almost empty as they stand in front of the 7-11. Shaw’s arm still stings from the injection. Vito was the first to take the drug. Like Shaw his head felt fuzzy like after a couple days without enough sleep. But there had been no other side effects. Even so they had Robert drive them here.

As she looks across the street she can clearly see a crumbling old house, its paint long peeled off, sitting in a dead and untended yard. Dr. Sorenson looks where they look but he just can’t focus on it. He can tell there is something there but his eyes keep trying to tell him the two apartment complex are almost right next to each. There is not room for a house. But from the corner of his eye he can see it.

Robert just shrugs his shoulders at his companions. All he can see is a narrow alleyway between the two structures.

“Must one of those special light bending cloaking devices I read about,” Trevor says.

Shaw snaps a picture. In it they can see a gray fuzz covering the area between the apartments. She looks around but sees no sign of the Sandmen around.

They approach the house. The windows of the Victorian structure have long been broken. Vito steps past the rotten remains of a fence and onto an overgrown stone path.

Shaw notes the lack of electricity hookups. “You’ve all got your flashlights right?”

As Dr. Sorenson steps onto the path, he finds it easier to see the house. It strains his eyes though. Robert find that he can see the house each time he blinks.

They head up the front steps and approached the gray cracked door.

Shaw turns to the others. “Let’s stick together for now. If we have to split up Doc you are with Vito, Robert you are with me.”

Shaw draws her gun and Vito reveals his shotgun. Dr. Sorenson considers the syringe with the drug in his coat pocket.

Inside they find the floor caked in dust. The wallpaper has peeled off and lies crumpled on the floor. They easily make out some footprints in the dust, making their way throughout the house.

Trevor smells something like flowers in the air. “Can you smell that, something floral?”

“I’m not taking a deep breath in here,” Shaw says.

Dr. Sorenson decides to inject himself at that point, deciding he wants to see Sandman if they appear.

The group heads upstairs first. Vito takes point, hurying up the creaky stairs. Other than themselves there are no signs of life, no traces of animals, only small clumps of dead moths.

Vito reaches the upstairs landing. Three doors lead off the landing plus a trap door in the ceiling. He motions Shaw to follow him.

They check each door in turn. The left most door leads to a bedroom, smelling of old linens.

Dr. Sorenson and Robert join them upstairs. The next door leads to an empty room. Vito makes sure the dimensions fit with what the outside of the house indicates. The final room is also a bedroom but there is something under the musty covers.

Vito sneaks in and uses his gun barrel to lift the sheet. Underneath he can see a withered blackened foot. Dr. Sorenson is able to determine, that whoever it is, they have been dead for decades.

“Didn’t die with his boots on,” he remarks.

“Let’s check out the attic,” Shaw says.

Vito climbs up through the trap door. The darkened chamber is lit by his flashlight and a little light coming through a small window. A steamer trunk has been shoved into a corner.

“There’s a chest up here,” he calls down. “Let me check it out.”

Suddenly Robert hears a child giggling from the first room. Shaw calls out to him, “let’s stay together.”

He asks if anyone else heard that but none of them have.

Meanwhile Vito smashes open the trunk, finding only clothes and Christmas ornaments.

Robert continues to hear the giggling as Vito rejoins them.

Trevor says, “Maybe this place is haunted.”

Robert leads them to the room the noise is coming from. He can hear it coming form the closet. Even so no one else can hear it. With Vito covering him, Robert opens the closet.

It is empty except for a small creepy looking doll on a shelf. It green dress is fades and dusty. Robert pulls the doll off the shelf.

Robert finds himself on the street outside the house. Model-T automobiles and horse drawn carriages make their way past the well tended house.

He spots a little girl and her father walking across the street. As they walk past the white picket fence, Robert follows, dodging a car along the way.

He calls out as they reach the door and the girl turns. She look only 12 or so and is carrying the same doll. She giggles that same giggle he heard before.

“Guys what happened?” Robert says confused as he finds himself back in the house.

“You spaced out for a couple seconds,” Dr. Sorenson says.

He looks down at the doll. Its dress is a faded green and its eyes close as he tilts it. He explains to the others what he saw. “It Looked like 1920, I would guess. Just outside the house I saw a father and a daughter walking in. She was holding this doll and making that giggling noise.”

Dr. Sorenson touches doll and faintly smells flowers. “Floral smell.”

Shaw brings their attention back to the present. “Guys let’s clear the rest of the house.”

As they head downstairs, they hear a skittering movement from back and front of the house. Looking out a window they can see three Sandmen lurking outside the front door.

“Let’s go upstairs and hide,” Robert says.

Dr. Sorenson draws a revolver nervously.

Vito orders, “back up the stairs. To the landing.”

They make an orderly retreat and watch the front door. The doorknob turns but the creatures don’t enter. The pale emaciated creatures hide just outside, waiting for them to expose themselves.

“So what’s the plan?” Robert asks. “Do we wait it out?”

Vito decides to check the attic. He climbs up and checks the window. It looks down on a sheer 20 foot drop. Looking up he thinks he can make it to the roof. He shouts that information back.

Shaw tells them to stick together and gathers the others in the attic.

Vito gets on the roof. The surface is slick and creaks and sags with each step. Below he can make out another Sandman joining his fellows at the back door. The lights are on in the apartment complexes but it would be a long jump to reach them.

Vito climbs back in. They discuss their options.

“Can we jump onto the apartment complex roof and escape?” Trevor asks.

Vito points out the difficulties. He suggests using a grenade to blow open a path.

Robert still clutching the doll retorts, “but its a street. We’re in the middle of Seattle.”

“We are in the middle of an aversion zone. No one would see it.”

Shaw comes to a decision. “Do we want to escape this place or kill them all? I need a vote from everybody.”

Vito says, “Kill.”

“I know that.”

“We need to kill them to get out,” Trevor says.

“I think we should escape,” Robert says.

Shaw plans their retreat. She directs Vito to guard the rear with her and Robert in front. “Doc you’re in the center.”

Vito suggests he take point until they reach the door. Shaw agrees and they head down.

He quickly reaches the door. He can hear the three things scratching at the door with their long spindly fingers.

He pulls the pin on a grenade and throws it through the front window.

A deafening explosion shakes the house. The door explodes into jagged pieces of wood as car alarms go off for blocks. Vito pushes the debris off of him and shouts, “Go!”

Dr. Sorenson is the first one out the door, jumping over the prone forms of the Sandmen. Shaw is right behind him putting a bullet into the one of them as they struggle to get up. The wound spills dust rather than blood.

“Go you idiot,” Vito says pushing Robert out the door.

The two men unload their weapons into the stunned creatures. Robert puts round through one’s head but it only slows it for a moment. Vito’s shotgun blast perforates another. Dust pours from its body as it struggles to lift itself up off the ground.

As they hurry toward the car they can two of the creatures get up and another approach them. Trevor freaking out tries to get the car door open. He is soon joined by Shaw.

Robert and Vito fire again, causing two of the Sandmen to fall prone, seemingly dead. The third one retreats.

“Grab it Vito, grab that sucker!” Robert shouts.

“Get in the car,” Vito replies.

Robert goes back and tries dragging one of the bodies back. Grudgingly Vito helps. Once at the car, Robert lets them all in and they drive off.

With the chalky dust of the sandman covering half of them, they hurry down the road.

“Give me back all of the grenades,” Shaw demands. “We could have been killed.”

Missing Persons, Part II

Dr. Ilyes, Northern Seattle, Evening of January 27th

Dr. Ilyes‘s phone rings. He picks it up to hear Shaw’s voice. She explains, “I’ve run into a missing persons case with some interesting biology. Two of the missing people were researching a strange fish. I found a specimen in their apartment. I don’t know yet if it is connected to the case but apparently it has survived unattended for over a week and a half. I’d like if you could retrieve it and take care of it. Try to identify the fish and check for any weird pathogens.”

She tells him where the apartment is and its state. The former crime scene investigator drives over in his small car.

Climbing up the steps to room 3C, he finds the door forced open as Shaw described. He heads in tentatively, noting the smoke damage and smell of salt water. Only his flashlight provides any illumination in the chilly room. The ash filled trash can in the main room attracts his attention.

He quickly spots the two 100 gallon tanks. He shines his flashlight on the murky water. A moment later an ugly fish with a face filled with needle like teeth smacks against the glass. The thing looks to be a little over a foot long, with a serpent like head. He looks around for any fish food but fails to find any.

Dr. Ilyes briefly considers how to move the tank. 100 gallons is too big to move by himself and impractical with his small car. He pulls out his phone and finds the nearest aquarium store. He explains that he is moving a piranha to a friend’s apartment and asks what he needs to move the fish safely.

The store clerk is happy to help and invites him to come over. An hour later Ilyes is back at the apartment with a small oxygenator and aquarium. He quickly fishes the thing out with a long pincer and net, carefully sealing the top of the aquarium once it is in.

With the fish in some clean water, Dr. Ilyes takes a closer look. The thing is ugly with bulging eyes and a mouth of long thin teeth. He puts some fish food in and the ravenous creature devours it in seconds. He take some pictures and heads back to the lab.

At the lab he does some quick research on the internet. He isn’t able to identify its species but it resembles the Asian snakehead fish somewhat. He also learns that it is illegal to own a snakehead in the United States outside of Maryland.

The trash can still nags him and he heads back to the apartment. Unfortunately by the time he gets there after 8 PM there is a police car parked out front. Ilyes turns around.

As the evening wears on he does more research. He finds a pair of marine biologists at the University of Washington who might be able to help: Dr. Hicks and Dr. Chaney.

Then around 10:30 PM as he prepares to call it a night he gets an email through his website ‘muertobizzaro’. Someone calling themselves ‘iwanttobelieve12’ writes him: A friend of mine said you might be interested in these.

Attached is a file containing a coroner’s report dated for the 23rd of the month. It contains the details on an unidentified woman in her mid to late 40s who was found submerged in a storm drain. Decomposition was in line for a period 9 to 11 days given the weather and location. But unusually the woman’s brain was completely missing. Even more strangely there were no signs of trauma to the head and punctures to the skull.

Ilyes yawns and checks the clock. He quickly writes up a new blog post: Anomolous Brain Decomposition. He documents the forensic details, leaving out the source of the information and asks his readers for their explanations. As he leaves the mystery to the arm chair forensicists, he quickly writes emails to professors Hicks and Chaney. He includes the pictures he took, claiming they were sent to his website and are likely a hoax. But in a roundabout way he asks what they think about them.

Cafe Equinox, University District, January 28th, 10 AM

Shaw walks into Cafe Equinox. The small coffee shop is bustling with students back from winter break. Modern art and sculptures hang from the walls and ceiling while students sip on coffee and work on laptops on the narrow tables and used coaches.

She walks up to the counter and orders a small coffee. A print behind the counter shows the view from a hotel peephole with death knocking at the door. The two workers struggle to meet the demand at the shop.

Modern art 39

“Busy day?” Shaw asks the tall man behind the counter.

“Yeah,” he replies, scratching his tattooed neck. “We’re a little short staffed.”

“What happened?”

“Just people not showing up for work,” he says quickly, hurrying to fill the next order.

“Alright, thanks,” Shaw says. She find a chair and surreptitiously scans the shop. There are few young blond women there who might be Liz, Kenneth Thomas’s supposed girlfriend. There is a woman on a coach with purple streaks in her hair, another quietly reading a book and couple of women avidly talking about the local football star. She takes some quick pictures of them just in case.

The detective decides to go to the back of the shop, hoping to catch an employee on their smoke break. The alley behind the shop is empty, though a few cigarette butts decorate the ground. The back door has been vandalized with graffiti. Again it reads “ENE – VI.” Shaw snaps a picture.

Suddenly she realizes there is a young woman right next to her.

“Oh hey,” the dark haired woman says confused.

Shaw maintains her composure. “Where did you come from?”

The coffee shop worker points to the door behind her. “I just came out the back.”

Shaw shakes the cobwebs from her mind and asks, “You working in there?”

“Yeah, I’m on a smoke break,” she explains.

As the woman fishes in her bag for a lighter, Shaw offers her own. “Thanks.”

“I heard you guys are short changed,” Shaw says.

“Yeah, we had two guys bail on us. It’ll be better next week. Class is starting up again and some other people are coming back to work.” The young woman frowns. “We were just counting on them be here this week.”

“They’ve been gone a whole week?” Shaw asks, lighting a cigarette for herself.

“Two weeks actually,” she explains. “Last week no one was around but students are getting back this week.”

“And they are like that? Flaky?” Shaw probes.

“No, Ben was never flaky like this. I mean he always took the weird hours, late night and the like.” She smiles. “He was the best.”

“What’s you name?” the detective asks.

“Sam,” she says.

“I know all about working with people you can’t trust, but normally people are pretty steady. You know who you can trust and who you can’t.”

“Yeah,” she says. “You can trust Ben.” Sam pauses. “Ken, I don’t know if I can trust him.”

Shaw leans in. “Why? Did he do something weird?”

“I don’t know. There is something strange about him. He’s really intense. You know what I mean?”

“Not really,” Shaw says leaning back against the wall. “You sell coffee, maybe he had too many.”

Sam clarifies. “No I mean he’s like intense up here.” She taps her head. “I don’t know what a guy like him is doing working at a coffee shop.”

“Had he been here long?”

“He’s been working here a semester,” Same tells her, drawing deep on her cigarette.

“Oh. But neither of them had done this before? Are you sure they are okay?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well I’m sure your boss has called them. I know I would chew their asses out.”

“Well Mike said he had given them a call but he’s an easy going guy.”

“Pretty fucking easy going.”

“Telling me,” Sam agrees.

“So how long you’ve been working here?” Shaw asks.

“I started last year.”

Shaw chit chats with the young woman, learning that Ken has been flaky before. Both he and Ben sometimes come in with injuries. Ken claims to be involved in sporting accidents while Ben is training to be a stuntman in the movies. Sam is unsure what sport the academic Ken actually plays. She adds, “Ken’s girlfriend is worried. She’s been by here everyday this week.”

“Oh really?”

“Yeah,” Sam says.

“He even ran out on his girlfriend,” Shaw says sourly.


“Sounds like a prince.”

“Exactly,” Sam says. “Like I said I don’t trust him. He probably got Ben into trouble or something.”

“Were they pretty tight?” Shaw asks.

“Yeah. Ben got him the job. He vouched for Ken.” Same speculates, “They’re probably trapped in Mexico or something.”

Shaw asks, “think I could talk to Mike, the boss?”

“Uh sure.” Sam leads her through the back door. The back of the shop seems normal except for more of the modern art. They run into a man in his late 30’s with a large blond beard.

“Sam,” Mike admonishes, “you’re not supposed to bring people through the back.”

Sam explains, “she just wants to ask you about Ben and Ken. I guess.”

“Thanks Sam,” Shaw says as Sam walks back to work. She turns to Mike. “Hi Mike,” she says handing him her card for One of a Kind Investigations.

“Oh! You’re that famous detective,” he says recognizing her name.

“Yeah, I am curious about Ben and Ken.”

“Are they in trouble?” he asks.

“You tell me,” she says. “I heard they hadn’t been into work in two weeks.”

“Yeah, they didn’t come into work,” the manager says wearily. “It happens all the time. A new semester starts and people don’t return to school.”

Shaw listens to the man lament how college students just drop things like jobs without giving people any notice.

“And walk out on their girlfriends?” she adds.

“Yes,” he says seriously.

“That’s the kind of guy Ken was?” she asks incredulously.

“I don’t know.” He throws up his hands. “I liked the guy but I just never got to know him.”

“Sam thought he was a jackass.”

Mike smirks. “Sam thinks everyone is jackass.”

“She liked me,” Shaw retorts.

“Today. Tomorrow she’ll think you are a jackass.”

Shaw takes a more serious tone. “I’ve been asked to look into this because of Ken’s mother. He really is missing.”

“Oh,” Mike says. “Oh. Really? Okay, anything I can do to help. What do you want to know? They were supposed to show up for work on the 14th but never showed up.”

“What time did you last see them?”

“The 13th,” he quickly replies. “I saw them on the morning shift. They said they had some stuff to do that night. So they asked for the night off.”

“They ask for a lot of nights off? Is that usual?”

“Yeah.” He clarifies, “that’s pretty usual. I mean usually people want Friday or Thursday off. With these guys, I guess they had some gang they hung out with on odd nights.”

Shaw probes deeper. “I heard they would sometimes come in bruised.”

“Well Ben wants to be a stuntman.” Mike quickly mentions some obscure movies Ben was involved in.

He thinks for a moment. “I guess Ken is kind of accident prone though.”

“Have any other employees who come in bruised?” Shaw asks a little disbelievingly.

“Not lately no.”

“What’s that mean?”

“Well there was Russell. He worked here about four years ago. Russell, well he must have been hit by a car at least four times while he worked here.”

“That’s a little more than accident prone,” Shaw says sarcastically.

“Yes. He did collect, I think, 12 or 15 tickets for jaywalking in the same period.”

“He had a deathwish?” she asked.

Mike shrugs. “Don’t know.”

“But he’s fine now?”

“He moved to Colorado,” the manager offers by way of explanation.

Shaw collects the details on this Russel Lumis and turns to another subject. “Sam said his girlfriend has been coming by?”

“Yeah, Liz,” Mike glances back at the front of the store. “I mean she’s in there right now.”

“Oh can you point her out to me?”

“Sure, there she is,” he says pointing to the woman with purple streaked hair on a couch, slowly reading a thick book on Anthropology.

Shaw thanks him and buys another small cup of coffee. She quickly snaps a picture of Liz and emails it to Mill. As she does she realizes a half hour has vanished while she was in the alley. A bit disturbed she sets the phone to record and approaches the young woman.

Liz is sitting cross legged on the coach, wrapped up in a leather jacket. Several earrings hang from each ear. Shaw asks if she can share the coach.

“Sure,” Liz says curtly.

Shaw look at the massive book she’s reading. “That’s a pretty huge book.”

“I am an anthropology student,” Liz says dryly.

“No judgments,” Shaw says.

They sit quietly together. Liz takes no interest in Shaw. The detective meanwhile waits for Liz to leave. After a half hour, she gives up and heads outside. She finds a place to loiter and waits for her to come out, hoping to shadow her.

As she waits she checks her recording of Liz. Strangely Liz’s voice is absent. She can hear herself but not the strange girl. Disturbed she goes back to the coffee shop. Liz is still sitting there.

University District, 10 AM

Robert Mill walks down the cold streets of northern Seattle, posting fliers asking for information on Kenneth Thomas and Benjamin Miner. As he staples another paper to a telephone post, he glances around looking for any street people or children, people Ken claimed to have contact with in his notes.

He sees a man panhandling a block down from him. He cautiously approaches.

“Pardon me sir, you haven’t see this man?” he asks showing him the picture on the flier.

“Why do you want to know?” the balding man says shifting on his makeshift mat.

“He’s missing and his parents are worried about him,” Mill explains. “I think he might be in some trouble.”

“I think I’ve seen that one.” He points to the picture of Kenneth.

“Oh great,” the detective says cheerfully. “Where do you think you’ve seen him?”

“Over by the homeless shelter off the Avenue.” Robert remembers the Ave fondly. The man clarifies, “at the church.”

“Excellent news, how long ago was that?”

“I haven’t seen him in a while. A few weeks maybe? But maybe somebody there knows.”

Mill thanks the man and gives him his card as well as $10. He asks him to call him if he hears anything else.

Mill hurries down the street towards the Ave. A few blocks off the Ave he spots a renovated church. It seems to have been re-purposed as a homeless shelter. It has seen better days though. The roof is missing shingles and graffiti mars the brick exterior. He spots another tag by VI. He posts a flier next to it.

Heading inside he finds the church filled with cheap chairs and tables. The few volunteers seem to be preparing to serve lunch. The discolored wallpaper looks even worse next to the bright white sign advertising the group funding the operation: A Better Tomorrow.

Other than several people waiting for lunch, there are only 2 people working there. Mill approaches an older gentleman who has just finished laying out plates. “Pardon me sir?”

“Yes?” the gray haired man replies.

“I’m looking for a man who has gone missing and I heard he may be staying here.” Mill shows him the picture of Kenneth.

The man squints at the picture. “Oh. I thought you meant one of the people who was staying here. No, that’s Ken. He volunteers here.”

“Oh.” Mill says surprised. “Really?”

“Yes.” The man, reading the flier more closely, asks, “is he in any trouble? He’s missing?”

“He might be. His parents haven’t heard from him in a while.” Mill explains how Ken has not turned up for work or school either. “We’re not sure what’s happen to him. I’m hoping to locate him.”

“I see. I didn’t see him last week.” The man thinks back. “I was out of town before that” He turns the other worker. “Sharon?”

The dark haired woman looks up. “Yeah?”

“When did you see Ken last?”

“I think I saw him the week before last,” she replies.

Mill realizes that might be after the last recorded time he was seen.

The woman continues, “I think maybe Friday. Just for a little bit. He said he had left some stuff in the back.”

‘That would be 15th,’ Mill thinks. He asks Sharon, “Did he seem okay at the time?”

“I don’t know, he seemed really rattled or something. He didn’t look like he had slept recently.”

“Any idea where he might have gone? Any other contacts?” Mill quickly relays the people they had already contacted.

Sharon thinks for a moment. “I don’t think I know any of those people. As for contacts, there was his adviser Dr. Baker.”

Robert remembers Dr. Baker from college. He was perhaps the least friendly professor in the Anthropology department.

The old man interjects, “he seemed really close to the people who come here. He was always putting in extra hours helping them out. They might know something.”

Mill asks, “Do you know anyone here now who might have been close to him?”

“Jeremiah,” he says pointing out an older black man in a corner.

Mill thanks them. “If you could post these fliers that would be a great help.”

The man quickly says yes and starts putting up a flier. Mill gives them his card and heads over the corner.

Mill introduces himself to Jeremiah explaining he is a detective looking to find Kenneth Thomas. The dark skinned man replies in grunts and monosyllables. With effort Mill coaxes him to admit to knowing Ken, “Ken’s a good friend.”

Mill persists. “He sounds like a good guy, we’re just worried about him. Nobody has seen him in over a week.”

“Ken can take care of himself,” the man says sipping some lukewarm coffee.

Mill tries to explain the graveness of the situation. “We’ve seen evidence one of his friends may have been injured. They were carrying weapons and one of his close friends is at a mental hospital now. Another of his friends, Ben, is also missing. Its very worrisome.”

“Ken can take care of himself,” he repeats. “If he hasn’t been found its cause he doesn’t want to be found.”

Mill tries a different tactic. “Would it be possible if you could get word to him? I wouldn’t need to see him or anything. Just to let him know people are looking for him and worried about him. Would that be okay?”

Jeremiah grudgingly says, “If I see him I’ll tell him.”

Mill gives him his card and leaves. On the way out he gets a text from Shaw on Liz. The picture is blurry and hard to see. Mill gives a call Erin, hoping she might be able to stake out the church and tail Jeremiah. Unfortunately she has a dentist appointment to make. He sighs and heads back to the office to look at Kenneth’s burnt hard drive.

Meadow Forest Health Clinic, Bellevue, Washington, January 28th

In between trivial medical procedures,Dr. Ilyes gets an email reply from Dr. Hicks. The professor explains the pictures do indeed show a common Southeast Asian snakehead fish, Channa striata. He explains there have been reports for this fish in the area over the last year or so. Ilyes forwards this on to One of a Kind Investigations.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, 12 PM

Mill gets back to the office to find Vito waiting with an ugly but working hard drive for him. As the ex-SEAL leaves to check out Ella Mae’s neighborhood, Mill sits down for some data recovery.

The drive was cracked, burned, and wiped. With several hours of work, he recovers some material despite this. Notably he finds over a hundred pages of thesis material in the same dry tone as the charred case files, quite a few pictures of large ugly fish, and a map of Seattle with locations marked with red dots.

The map focuses on northern Seattle and one is set exactly at the location of Ella Mae’s house. He emails his findings to the other investigators.

Cafe Equinox, University District, 12 PM

Realizing that there is something deeply strange going on, Shaw buys her third cup of coffee for the day. But this one is not for her. She ‘stumbles’ as she passes near Liz, spilling coffee all over the teenager.

The young woman shout in pain and surprise. Shaw quickly leans in with a napkin. “So sorry. Here let me help you.”

“What did you? Aah! Why don’t you watch what you are doing?” Liz exclaims. “Aagh! It’s on my book!”

As she is distracted, Shaw lifts the strange girl’s wallet from her pocket. She fails to notice. “Let me buy you a coffee. I’m so sorry.”

Somewhat placated, Liz says, “Ok. Alright.”

Shaw asks her what she drinks and then goes to order a triple caramel macchiato frappe with extra whip and soy cafe. After giving her her drink, Shaw hurries to the restroom. She checks her recorder and as before Liz’s voice isn’t present on the recording.

She turns to the wallet. She finds a strange student ID. It lists her name as Liz and has a clear picture of her. But all the other fields are blank. Shaw snaps a picture of the ID but the images just shows a featureless blank card.

The other contents are just as strange. There are several poorly counterfeited bills and a credit card with the name Liz but no expiration date or company logo. There are also several pieces of blank paper like business cards or photographs.

Shaw thinks who she can call to double check this for her. Vito is already heading to Ella Mae’s and Robert Mill is working on the hard drive. She tosses between Dr. Ilyes and Dr. Sorenson. Since Hillcrest is closer, she calls Sorenson.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Greenwood, 12:15 PM

Back at his office, Dr. Sorenson looks over the latest reports. The blood work for Georgia Chaney has come back negative as he expected.

The phone rings and he picks it up.

Shaw says hesitantly, “hey, Dr. Sorenson, I was wondering if you would meet me for coffee.”

“Um, yeah!” he agrees. “Any excuse to get out of the office and away from the cafeteria food.”

“I’m at Cafe Equinox,” she tells him and relays the directions.

“Sure. I’ll meet you there. Sounds great.”

Cafe Equinox, University District, 12:35 PM

Dr. Sorenson finds parking a few blocks away from Cafe Equinox. The area is filled with students returning to school. He finds Shaw at a table inside.

“So I assume you invited me here for more than just a lovely chat,” he says as he joins her.

“Yes.” Shaw gestures, “see the blond haired woman with the purple highlights over there reading a large book.”

“Mm-mm,” he says as he casually glances at the student.

Shaw shows him a strangely blurry image on her phone. “This is the best picture I’ve been able to get of her. That’s the girlfriend of Kenneth.”

Sorenson discretely takes a picture with his own phone. It too is blurry.

Shaw continues, “it’s the same thing we saw with the pictures of the clients. When I recorded the conversation with her, her voice doesn’t show up in the recording.”

Trevor speculates nervously, “it’s has to be some sort of strange technology, some kind of interference that creates a distortion.”

“When I picked her pocket,” Shaw says with a smirk, “I found that all of her IDs lists her nickname. No last name. No student number. No address. Her credit card is fake and the money is badly counterfeited. I can let you look at them. I kind of wanted someone else to verify…that she was there.”

“She looks like she is there to me. Let me look at that wallet real quick.”

Sorenson sifts through the wallet. He looks at the badly faked ID. “That’s not normal.”

He examines the credit card. It has the 16 digit number and a VISA logo but no expiration date and uses just her nickname. “Doesn’t look right but at the same time, I can’t explain it why would someone carry around-”

Shaw interjects, “Its changed. It didn’t have the VISA logo before.”

The two look over the other papers. Most are still blank but one now has a picture of a house on it.

“This one is not blank,” Sorenson says.

“They were all blank,” Shaw explains. “Less than an hour ago.”

“That’s not possible,” Trevor says. “Wait. Do you have a pencil?”


“Just write little numbers on the corners of each these pieces of paper.” She quickly numbers the papers and puts them back in the wallet.

Dr. Sorenson decides to pretend to head to the restroom to get a better position to observe Liz. He find a spot where he can watch her without being noticed. She looks to be reading a book, though he notes she hasn’t made much progress on the book or her coffee. She also seems to be ignoring everyone else around her.

He decides to talk to her. Dr. Sorenson approaches and explains he read that book in college as well. They begin to discuss the author with Liz babbling away about his theories.

“Are you an anthropology major?” Sorenson asks.

“Yes,” she tells him.

“I thought about going into anthropology but then I got sidetracked into psychology by the science. But I think my heart was really into anthropology.”

The two chit chat and the doctor attempts to learn more about her past. He learns that her favorite professor is her advisor Dr. Baker. She seems very interested in his research and is looking forward to the summer for some guided research with him.

Sorenson focuses on learning her motives. He finds that she is here looking for her boyfriend. He disappeared without any warning. She seems pretty bitter.

“Having been a man on campus myself, I know we don’t have great reputations.”

“Terrible,” Liz says.

“You think he found somebody else?” Sorenson probes.

“Oh he better not of,” she says angrily.

The psychiatrist determines that Liz isn’t actually jealous but does have a low opinion of men. But this doesn’t seem to apply to Kenneth. She seems genuinely worried about him. Sorenson ends the conversation and gives her his card. “Oh hey, I don’t know if you are interested in psychiatry or if its even an aspect of anthropology you would want to learn more about. But if you do, give me a call. Thanks for the chat. Nice meeting you.”

The doctor quickly rejoins Shaw.

“She seems pretty normal,” he tells her. “She seemed genuinely concerned about her missing boyfriend. It doesn’t make sense. She is either a really good undercover agent or something weird is going on. She’s seems normal though.”

Shaw asks, “Did she say her last name? Or anything personal?”

“All I know is she was really fond of Dr. Baker, her advisor at school. We could find more details through him.”

“Alright. Sure. I want to look a bit closer at these papers. I was just going to give it back but…let’s get out of here before she realizes she’s lost her wallet.”

Outside Dr. Sorenson speculates, “Maybe she carries that as a decoy. Perhaps she is afraid of people stealing her wallet so she keeps a decoy wallet. I don’t know.”

Shaw is dubious. She glances through the wallet and notices some of the blank papers have vanished. One of the blank cards is now a business card for Dr. Baker. However Shaw’s camera still can’t pick it up.

“These are subliminal objects,” Trevor says. “The more we investigate and look at them, they turn into things we expect to find. I bet if we look at the credit card again it will have an expiration date and a signature on the back just like a real credit card.”

They check but it still looks the same.

“Give it some more time,” Trevor says.

Shaw considers running the card.

Dr. Sorenson thinks out loud, “perhaps it is contact, some chemical on the card that affects the mind. Give me a card or something to look at. Maybe I can do some chemical sniffing on it.”

Shaw takes the credit card and ID and hands the rest to Dr. Sorenson. The two split up and head in opposite directions.

Dr. Sorenson arrives at work to find an emergency has arisen with a distraught patient. He drops the wallet on his desk and forgets about it for now.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, 1PM

Shaw returns to the office to find Robert Mill working on the computer. She makes her way to her office and looks over the reports for her other cases. She also checks on her friend in San Diego for any progress in finding the real Donald Thomas.

As she works, she gets a call from Dr. Ilyes. “This is Dr. Ilyes. So I ran a couple photos by a marine biology expert at the university. He said it was a rather large ugly version of the snakehead fish. That’s without a direct examination by the-”

“Was this Dr. Hicks?” she interrupts.


“He was the rival of the professor who went missing.”

“He went missing?” Ilyes says confused. “Which professor would that be?”

“You want to swing by at the end of the day. I’ll fill you in.”

“End of the day? Sure, I’ll be by.”

Shaw hangs up. She tries running the credit card but as expected it doesn’t work. She checks what a picture of the card looks like. It is just a featureless piece of plastic.

She takes it into the bullpen to show Robert. “So Mill, I don’t know, I was going to follow Liz but there is something seriously wrong here. I got her wallet and it was full of blank cards and these.”

She shows him the ID and credit card. “The ID is the only good picture I have of her. When I take one of her it is all blurry. But when I take a picture of this card,” she says snapping a photo, “there’s nothing. It is just a blank plastic card. You can see its not what you see here. It doesn’t catch the raised numbers. When I first got it, it didn’t even have the VISA logo and now there it is.”

She continues explaining to the mystified detective. “There’s no post editing happening here. I can’t explain what’s going on. Sorenson thought it might be some sort of psychotropic substance on the wallet. He took it and the other contents to be tested. I thought we’d keep these in case we could pull anything off of them.”

She fills him in on the other details she had discovered like the voice recording mystery. Robert decides to test it for himself. He grabs the company’s hidden camera and points it at the credit card. Strangely on the screen it is blurry like it is out of focus. It is also blank. Robert can’t explain it and freezes up.

As he mumbles and stares at the screen, Shaw continues, “I figured following her wouldn’t work. Its like she wasn’t really there and might be some weird hallucination or projection or something. Though I didn’t get any sort of weird vibe from the people working there at the cafe. They didn’t seem to be in on it.”

Robert looks away from the credit card, “I’m sorry, what were you saying?”

“I said I decided not to follow her because I don’t think I’d be able to.”

“She works there you say?”

“No, she just hangs out there because she is supposedly looking for her boyfriend. Though all I saw her doing is staring at her anthropology textbook. She talked to Dr. Sorenson a bit. She apparently a student of Dr. Baker’s.”

“Oh that’s Ken’s thesis advisor,” Robert informs her.

“That makes sense. Maybe that’s how they met.” She reconsiders, “maybe. If she is not completely lying about it. Perhaps this Dr. Baker can put a last name to her. Though I don’t know why she is impersonating college student and why she would have a fake student ID with no last name on it. Its stupid.”

“And she fit the description from the landlady?” Robert asks.

“Pretty much. Except for the purple highlighted tips.”

Robert considers. “And we already figure the father was a fraud?”

“Well, yeah. I need to call down to Mac down in San Diego. He’s trying to get eyes on the guy. He should be getting back to me sometime today or tomorrow. But I can’t find the guy where he said he would be. The mom apparently disappeared before she even reported Ken missing. Its obvious that some people are impersonating people in Ken’s life. That was what I was kind of expecting with the girlfriend. But I wasn’t expecting this kind of mess. It doesn’t fit either story. If she’s really his girlfriend and concerned about him, then why the fake ID? If its really some highly organized infiltration operation then-”

“Why?” Robert offers.

“Yes, and why would they have such weird ID? And the cards in the wallet started disappearing. Dr. Sorenson might not even have anything to study after a few hours.” Shaw mutters, “but she reacted when I threw coffee on her.”

Robert avoids thinking about the card. “Was she able to give you any other potential leads? Or anything to follow?”

“Not really.” The two continue to chat on and off over the afternoon. They speculate that Liz is looking for Ken and might be part of group after him. But they can’t explain the weirdness.

Lake City, Seattle, 1 PM

As Vito parks his car on Pine street, he thinks back to his talk with Shaw in the morning. He pulls out his clipboard and begins to survey the neighborhood, pretending to be investigating the fire as part of an insurance investigation.

The first person he sees is an older man walking his dog down the street. He greets him and asks, “I’m looking into the fire that occurred here last May. I was wondering if you knew anything about it?”

“Oh right, Mae’s house,” the man replies. “Yeah, seemed like an accident to me.” He pauses for a moment and then confides, “She was really old, not all there anymore.”

“What do you mean ‘not all there anymore’?”

“I mean, forgetting things. That sort of thing.”

“Did she have strange habits?” Vito asks.

“She kept a lot of cats,” he says hesitantly.

“Cats,” he says jotting it down. “What do you mean by ‘a lot’?”

The dog struggles at its leash. The older man thinks for a moment. “I’m not really sure how many cats she had.”

“More than 5?” Vito asks.

“Oh, a lot more than five.”

“More than ten?”

“Oh a lot more than ten. I don’t know. She had maybe twenty or thirty or forty.”

“Wow,” the detective exclaims.

“Lots of cats. Nasty cats,” he adds.

“Nasty cats? What do you mean they were nasty?”

“They hissed and scratched people.” He gestures to his terrier with a torn ear. “They attacked Wilbur here.”

Vito looks at the poor dog’s ear. “Sort of unusual for a cat isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he agrees. “Like I said they were vicious.”

“And what did you have to do to save Wilbur?” Vito inquires.

The man gestures violently. “I had to run out there myself and beat the thing off of him.”

“Oh, that’s not good.”

“No,” he says grimly. “We complained to the authorities that they had to get the cats out of there but they never did.”

“No one ever showed up, huh?” Vito says rhetorically.


The detective returns to the subject of his investigation. “Did you notice anything unusual on the night of the fire?”

“Not really, no,” the balding man says.

“Is Wilbur okay now?” Vito asks looking at the small dog again.

“Yes, now that those dangerous animals are gone,” he says sighing relief.

“What happened to all the cats?”

“Must have died in the fire,” he speculates.

“Interesting,” Vito says. “I would have thought at least some of them would have gotten out. Did she keep them indoors?”

“I don’t know.” The man speculates, “Maybe she was the only one feeding them and they moved on after she died.”

Vito thanks him for his time and heads for the site of the fire.

Workmen are at the location today. The bulldozer still sits idle but a man is seated inside talking to the foreman on the ground below. As Vito approaches he can hear them discussing the holdup with the dumpster for the debris.

Vito approaches the foreman and asks if the site is causing any trouble. The tall soot-stained man replies, “the site? Not really.”

He explains that it is almost collapsed already and that the foundation is cracked. Vito asks if he has seen any of the old woman’s cats. The man says they spotted some bones but nothing alive.

Vito inquires, “mind if I take a look around? Before the dumpster gets here.”

“Sure but be careful. Those walls could fall at any moment.”

The foreman hands him a hardhat and Vito scouts the remains of the house. He finds more bones. He puts a few from what look like cats and dogs into sample bags. He also finds a dog’s skull with the same small scratch marks. He snaps a picture of that plus a cat skull he finds under a pile of bricks. He heads out to the backyard and scouts the perimeter. The rusted remains of a chain link fence mark the property boundaries. There is nothing there except vines.

He moves on to the neighbors, talking to a half dozen people across the afternoon. Though they tell him nothing new, he does pick up on a feeling of relief that the house burned down and that Ella Mae and her cats are gone.

He heads back, getting Mill’s message about the hard drive on the way.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Greenwood, 3PM

Dr. Sorenson returns to his office, tired from dealing with patients. He looks for the wallet finding only the picture and a single dollar bill left. It seems to be evaporating.

He quickly begins to sketch the house. As he works he realizes he has seen this house before. Then it strikes him. This is the house from the Amityville horror. He bewildered why this house was in the wallet.

Amityville house

With his testing material quickly vanishing, Sorenson takes a sample of his own blood and sends for blood analysis. He indicates to the technicians he wants checks for any psychotropic chemicals.

Then he calls Shaw. “Hey, I don’t have a lot more to offer but I was wondering if I could still stop by and share some information.”

“Sure,” she says. “I have another consultant coming in at 4.”

“I’ll be in shortly after that then.”

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, 4PM

Everyone from the team is there. While Dr. Sorenson gets a coffee, Shaw and Robert Mill bring Dr. Ilyes up to speed on Kenneth Thomas’s case as well as connection to Dr. Chaney.

As they tell him about Ken’s history, he says, “Tell me about the fish.”

Shaw fills him in on Benjamin Miner and his research with Dr. Chaney. Ilyes says, “It was just a snakehead fish.”

Shaw shows him the remains of the papers found in trash can implicating Ken and Ben in the murder of an old woman. She explains she was forced to tell the police but that they are still examining that connection. She finishes, “…Which Vito was looking into.”

Robert asks, “Who told you the fish was a snakehead?”

“Dr. Hicks,” Ilyes says.

“That was the same person who told me. I wonder if we can get a second opinion on that. I don’t know if I fully trust the guy.”

Shaw suggests somebody not working for the university or otherwise tied to the case. In the end however she says since Ken didn’t kill the fish when he returned to apartment on the 14th it is likely not connected. He went to a great deal of trouble to destroy his notes and hard drive.

Robert speaks up. “I don’t know if this was the latest we’ve seen of him but I went down the homeless shelter on the Ave and he had been seen picking up his stuff on the 15th. He was a volunteer there. He seemed agitated.”

Shaw notes the answering machine messages she found at his mother’s indicating he has been on the run since the 14th. She also runs down what she learned at his job at Cafe Equinox.

“This is absolutely crazy,” Ilyes says reading through the case files. “A North American tribe worshipping a Assyrian Babylonian god!?”

As they chat about Ken’s theories about a cult, Ilyes asks about Keystone Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Sorenson tells him about their connections to Pentex and Verdant Technologies.

Robert hesitantly mentions the “thing” and motions to the credit card. As they examine that bit of the mystery, Shaw discusses the weirdness about Ken’s parents and why she thinks they are not who they say they are. As she shows her evidence including the blurry photos, Ilyes recognizes Stephanie Thomas as the same woman from the autopsy report he received last night.

Ilyes asks about if Shaw saw a birthmark on her arm. “No. Why?”

“Does she have a sister?” he asks.

“Why? Are you saying you’ve seen her?”

Dr. Ilyes evasively says, “possibly a relative?”

Sorenson breaks the back and forth. “This can’t be right.” He holds up the case file of Ella Mae. He reads the portions detailing how she believed she could take the forms of the victims of her cats. “I know it sounds really crazy.”

“Or someone could have just worn a wig and makeup,” Robert says sarcastically.

Shaw says thoughtfully, “It really looked like her though.”

The group discuss the options, getting nowhere. Eventually Ilyes decides to put his cards on the table. He pulls up his notes on his website. “On January 22nd this body was found in the city sewers.” He runs down the details including the missing brain.

Shaw says, “I’m no expert but there are other people connected to this case with brains disintegrating.”

“This is the worst we’ve heard of,” Trevor says. He continues, “I don’t believe this is true, but someone wants us to think its true.” He begins to outline his shapeshifter theory.

Ilyes derisively says, “You are drawing so many straws.” The other doctor quickly rebuts Trevor’s theories. In the end he asks, “Why act as an imposter?”

“Because they want to get Ken,” Dr. Sorenson says.

Vito speaks up, “What strikes me about this is there was absolutely no reason to bring us in on this investigation.”

Ilyes and Shaw suggest that they were using the company to get to Ken.

Robert reports on what he found at the homeless shelter. “Jeremiah might know where Ken was. But he didn’t want to talk to me. As for the computer files, the only item of use to my eye was a map of unmarked locations. One corresponds to Ella Mae’s house.” He shows them the map. The dots are scattered across Lake City, the University District and Greenwood.

Vito relays what he discovered about Ella Mae. “I went up there to talk to people. But not much information. The fire was pretty intense, the foundation is cracked.”

Shaw asks, “How did they get it to burn that hot?”

“Don’t know. They are about to bulldoze it. There were a lot of bones, animal bones. I got some pictures and samples.” He passes them out to the others.

Ilyes looks them over. “Okay,” he says slowly. “Dead cat, died in a fire.”

“Note the scratches on it,” Vito says.

The former CSI examines the bones. They appear to be gnawed on by smallish animal.

Vito continues, “the other thing that seemed really interesting is that all the neighbors seemed relieved to have had her die.”

“How horrible,” Shaw says.

Vito relays the story of the dog owner. He says, “that’s pretty atypical behavior for a cat.”

Ilyes asks, “Anything in particular you want to do with this snakehead?”

Shaw tells him, “let’s make sure there is no connection to the mysteries involved and then I can surrender the fish to the officials.”

As they continue their discussion, Robert’s personal line rings. He picks it up and says, “Hello?”

A small child-like voice wheezes, “You’re looking for – you’re looking for Ken?”

“Oh!” Robert starts recording the call. “Thanks for calling me. You have some information for me?”

“Yeah, yeah I know where Ken is,” the child says.


“Yeah, I saw him.”

“Where did you see him? When?”

“I saw him just-just a little while ago. He-he’s hiding.”

“Where is he hiding?”

“He’s down here down in Greenwood.”

Robert jots down the address the child tells him.

“What’s your name?”

The voice hesitates. “You can call me K-Kurt.”

“Are you okay, Kurt?”

“I’m okay. You’d better hurry.”

“If I came right now would you wait for me? I can pay you.”

“I’ll be here.”

“Thanks so much Kurt,” Robert says. Then Kurt hangs up. Caller ID shows the number to be a payphone nearby the address Kurt told him. He also sees that address corresponds to one of the dots on Ken’s map.

Robert tells others about the call. “We should go now though.”

Everyone except Ilyes heads out. The former crime scene investigator explains he will look into what happened to Stephanie Thomas and what is really going on with the Groetnick.

Greenwood, 5PM

The detectives and Dr. Sorenson drive through the low income neighborhood. Buildings show cracks and leans as they subside into the peat bog beneath them. Already the winter sky is darkening. They pass a battered payphone but there is no sign of Kurt, whoever he is.

The two cars split with Sorenson and Robert Mill pulling up front while Vito and Shaw approach from the back of the property.

A cold mist comes down as they approach the house. Broken windows and a gentle lean indicate the structure is abandoned. As Robert approaches, flashlight in hand, he can see the front door is hanging open. Water is streaming down a wall from leaks in the roof.

He shines his light inside. A soggy carpet decorates the narrow hallway. The detective enters while Sorenson waits outside keeping an eye out for any trouble.

Vito and Shaw approach the back entrances. A door to the basement is shut with a wooden bar. The back door is missing completely. While Shaw watches the basement entrance, Vito enters. The house smells of must and damp. Vito makes sure his knife is out. He looks around trying to puzzle out what the room was used for. A couple doorways lead deeper into the house. One leads to an empty room. From the other he can hear Robert moving through the house.

Robert makes his way down the hallway. In front of him there are rotten wooden stairs leading up to the second floor. The wood beneath his feet creaks with every step. To his left there is what may have been a living room. Soggy messes of furniture decorate the decaying chamber. He looks for signs of traffic in the area. The scuffing in the carpet points down the hall to a door beneath the stairs.

He find the door unlocked. He opens it and shines his light down the wooden steps to the basement. He shouts down, “Ken, its a friend!”

The light reflects off the 6 inch deep water in the flooded basement. He decides to head down.
Vito hears him shouting and quickly works his way through house to the the basement entrance.

The steps creak but hold as Robert makes his way down. He reaches the bottom and begins to slosh through the cold water. Looking back he spots Vito at the top of the stairs. Cautiously he pulls his revolver and begins to move towards one of the two doors out of the room.

Robert hears something moving in the water and turns. Vito looking down can see two fish, the size of dogs, one in front of Robert and the other beneath the stairs. One slithers rapidly towards Robert, pulling itself along on its clawed fins.

Vito shouts, “Get out of the water!” He draws his pistol.

Meanwhile Robert spots the toothy thing. As he backs up towards the stairs, he fires. The bullet sinks into its meaty tail but doesn’t dissuade it. It speeds up, leaping out of the water and wrapping itself around his leg like a snake. Surprised Robert calls out, “Help! help! Its got me!”

Outside Shaw hears the gunshot from the basement. She pulls out the bar, throws open the doors, and heads down. Sorenson also enters the house using his cellphone as a flashlight to guide his way.

Vito carefully shoots the fish but its thick scales absorb most of the impact. He sees the other fish hanging back for now. Robert puts a bullet in its skull as his heart hammers from the adrenaline rush. The impact does little to slow it as most of its head is taken up by teeth and bone.

Elsewhere Shaw shines her flashlight into the basement. The room she finds seems ajoin the flooded room. Someone has been sleeping here judging from the dirty clothes and blanket. She also sees a shotgun among the litter. She heads to the rotten door opposite her.

Sorenson grabs a loose banister on his way down to the basement as a crude club. As he reaches Vito he sees the fish, bleeding from multiple gunshot wounds, bite deep into Robert’s leg. As blood drips into the water, Robert shouts in pain.

Vito puts a second bullet in the thing’s skull. The pressure lessens on Robert’s leg. The creature’s body sags and it hangs painfully off of his leg, dead.

But the other fish slithers out from under the stairs, drawn by the scent of blood. Still freaking out, Robert spots it and pulls himself towards it firing away. The door nearby flies open with a spray of water and Shaw takes in the scene. Meanwhile Sorenson rushes down and smashes the banister through the dead fish’s teeth and pries it off of the enraged detective.

The other fish flops forward and bites Robert in the foot as he keeps shooting. Vito also puts another shot into it and Shaw adds the chaos of gunfire. But the creatures bony hide and the poor lighting leave it relatively unharmed. Trevor however frightened by the hail of bullets dives under the stairs to hide. The fish leaps out of the water in his wake and latches onto Robert’s arm.

The three detectives all fire wildly at the thing as its needle like teeth perforate Robert’s arm. Finally Shaw shoots through its eye. It stops thrashing. Overcome by pain, Robert drops his arm and falls unconscious into the water. In the distorted illumination of Robert’s dropped flashlight, Vito pops his clip and reloads his pistol.

“Snakeheads my ass!” Shaw says.

As the gunfire dies away, Trevor recovers his senses. “Are we done shooting yet?”

He sees Robert in the water and heads over. Vito pulls the fish off him while Shaw keeps his head above water. The investigators patch him up as best they can.

Vito says, “let’s try and find Ken.”

Shaw points to the room she just left. “I think he was camped out in the other room. Someone was camped out. And its dry. Let’s get Mill into that room.”

They pull him to the other room. As their eyes adjust to the light they can make out a pile of dirty clothes next to the sleeping bag. There is also a shotgun resting on a box. Vito checks it. It is loaded and recently cleaned. They also find a lunch box holding eleven full ampules of BNSX-7. Vito quickly breaks down the shotgun and removes the firing pin. He puts it back together without it.

Shaw tells the others, “the other door was sealed from the outside. There are no signs Ken left in a hurry or was taken, so he could return. I’m going to stay here and watch from outside.”

Robert moans on the floor. They decide to get him to his car and drive him to a hospital. As Vito and Dr. Sorenson carry him, he mumbles, “don’t put me in my car. Don’t want to bleed on the seats.”

Vito leaves Sorenson to drive Robert to the hospital and heads back to watch with Shaw.

Hospital in Greenwood, 5:30 PM

Dr. Sorenson takes Mill to a friend of his. He explains the wounds as the result of an animal attack.

“What kind of animal?” the doctor asks.

“Somebody’s pitbull,” Sorenson explains. “Someone had sharpened his teeth.”

The doctor doesn’t quite believe the explanation but doesn’t press further. Robert is stitched up and put on pain meds. They also start a round of rabies shots.

Greenwood, 5:30 PM

Shaw covers up the signs of the struggle. She finds a spot in the backyard and hides. Vito pulls out his ghillie suit and disappears into the winter foliage.

About a half hour later, they see a man with a thin scraggly beard walk to the back of the house. His clothes are dark and torn. He hefts a iron pipe and looks around before reaching for the bar on the basement door. Even in the dim light it resembles Kenneth Thomas.

His eyes focus on Shaw. She stands up with her hands out. “Kenneth? Kenneth Thomas? I’m Lillian Shaw. I’ve been asked to look for you. I want to help.”

As he stares at her, she slowly approaches.

“Are you working for them?” Ken asks.

“I was asked to look for you, but I’ve come to distrust those who asked. Now I just want to help you.” She moves closer. “I want to help. You probably need to move from here. I want to help you get to another safe house. Does that sound good?”

He keeps the pipe up but some of the tension goes out of him. “What about…were you followed? Did they follow you?”

Shaw continues to approach. “I don’t think so. I was told by a friend where to find you.”

Suddenly he looks past her. “They’re here!”

He immediately begins to run toward the street. Shaw moves to intercept him. Vito abandons his hiding spot and runs around the opposite side of the house.

As Shaw catches up to Ken she glances behind her. She sees a strange figure rushing out of the bushes behind where she was hiding. Its pale skin is stretched across its deathly thin body. Pitch black eyes stare at her. As it rushes toward her, she curses and runs toward the car.

Vito catches up and also sees the things moving toward him. He shouts to Ken, “come on! The car is this way!”

The two pile into the car just as Shaw guns the engine. The things are hot on their heels. One of them wraps its long spidery fingers around Ken’s leg for a moment before Vito scares it off with his knife. The car peels out and they speed away.

Bellevue, Washington 6 PM

That night Ilyes emails ‘iwanttobelieve12’ about the case he sent him. He tells him he has a possible ID on the Jane Doe. He also uses his contacts in CSI units and the morgues to find out what happened to the body. Unfortunately he finds the body has already been processed and cremated.

His research on the Groetnick, the name Kenneth Thomas gives the fish, is more successful. He finds a lot of literature, dealing mythological fish and spanning much of Canada and the northern United States. It will take some time to digest it all.

Missing Persons, Part I

A year has passed since the incident at the alley. One of a Kind Investigations has a new employee, Vito Venticelli. The former SEAL sniper has adapted well to the life of a private detective, spying on cheating husbands and tracking missing persons like he did Taliban insurgents. In his spare time Vito researches the strange creatures that killed his squad in Afghanistan.

As for Frank Brooks, the old detective’s condition has improved slightly under the watchful eye of Trevor Sorenson. Frank has fewer incidents of hostility though he still shows signs of anxiety and vocalization. Dr. Sorenson now believes Frank may not be a danger to others, though he still requires constant attention. The older man also still clings to his delusions that the Sandmen did this to him, delusions Trevor is beginning to suspect contain a grain of truth.

Dr. Ilyes has been unable to find any signs of prions or any other known disease. Franks’ brain cells have been destroyed and in some places his cerebrum has been smoothed out, the wrinkles removed. Thankfully the progress of the disease has halted. Whatever the cause, it is no longer present within the patient.

Despite his slow recovery, Frank is making new memories which is making it easier on his wife Mavis. To learn more however the investigators need to find more cases. Unfortunately the populations most at risk, the homeless, are also the least likely to be reported.

Seattle, Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Morning of January 27th 2010

The cold winter mist blows through the gnarled moss clad trees. Inside the white halls of the Hillcrest Center, Dr. Sorenson hurries down the hardwood floor to the patient examination room. He quickly flips through the case file.

Georgia Chaney, professor of marine biology at the University of Washington, was found in a catatonic state in SoDo. She was last seen a few weeks ago.

Dr. Sorenson notes the proximity to where Frank was found. Intrigued he thinks, is it possible this is a related case?

Georgia is seated in a chair in the examination room, eyes fixated on a corner. “How are you today, Georgia? Are you feeling any better?”

Dr. Sorenson’s question receives only a blank look.

“No, alright.” Sighing he begins a quick medical assessment. The professor is relatively unresponsive, only minutely tracking the movement of his hand. She seems healthy though. He checks her arms finding some bruising on there and on her shoulders. More disturbingly old scars crisscross her arms and hands. “What happened to you Georgia? How did you hurt yourself? Do you remember?”

Dr. Sorenson begins to question her about her past hoping to provoke a reaction. “Where did you go to graduate school?”

The blond haired woman doesn’t respond. “Do you remember what university you teach at? Which classes you have this semester?”

After a few minutes of this. Dr. Sorenson tries a different avenue. “Can you tell me the last thing you remember, Georgia, about why you were on the street? And where we found you?”

The woman shudders slightly.

Encouraged, Trevor decides to goes out on a limb. “Do you know anything about the sandman?”

Trevor finds himself on his back. He shields his face with his arms as the patient pounds at him with her bare hands. Gasping he tries to calm her. “Calm down Georgia. I’m Dr. Sorenson. I am not one of the Sandmen. I’m here to help you.”

The words only infuriate her. She snatches up his fallen pencil and stabs it into his arm. The orderlies drag her off of him. Her blows and scratches leave him wincing in pain.

“I’ll be fine, I’ll be fine,” Dr. Sorenson says, waving off the one of the nurses treating his wounds. Once alone in his office, he turns to complete his notes for Georgia’s case file, noting everything he said, including his sandman query. He notes that he suspected a connection to the case of Frank Brooks.

Finishing his entry, he picks up the phone and calls Lillian Shaw’s line at One of a Kind Investigations.

“One of a Kind Investigations, this is Shaw.” She glances at the display on the phone. “How are you doing Dr. Sorenson?”

“I’m doing…well I’ve done better. A few cuts and bruises.” He quips, “being stabbed with a pencil was not as pleasant as I had hoped.”

Concerned Shaw asks, “has there been a change in Frank’s condition?”

“No, there actually hasn’t been a change in his condition. But there was a new patient brought in. Her background and physiological symptoms seem similar to Frank’s. On a hunch when I was questioning her, I asked her about the sandman and she attacked me.”

Dr. Sorenson leans forward at his desk. “I think this is the closest thing to a lead we have on Frank. I think it would be a good idea to look into her background and question her friends and relatives. Also we should check out where she was found. To see if there are any information we can tie into Frank’s case.”

“Certainly, what information can you give me?”

Dr. Sorenson relays the details of Georgia’s case. The only police involvement was with her discovery collapsed in front of a Mexican restaurant in SoDo. Despite being missing for two weeks, the professor was never reported as a missing person. She was last seen by her friend Luara Schaeffer on the 10th. Single, white, 43 years old and with no history of violence or drugs, it isn’t clear why she should be there late at night. “Her background is very different from Frank’s but both are established individuals in the area with no reason to disappear, both found on the streets in a catatonic state. She is even more withdrawn than Frank.”

“Dr. Sorenson, thank you for contacting us. Will you be at your clinic for the rest of the day?”

“Definitely. I’ve already ordered some tests to be run on her. If my hunch is correct, I expect to see a very similar brain deterioration to Frank.”

“Okay. Unfortunately I won’t be able to look into this personally at the moment. But someone from the office will be by shortly. Could you check her personal effects?”

Dr. Sorenson agrees to have a look. Shaw thanks him and hangs up.

Office of One of a Kind Investigations

Shaw heads into detective bullpen. Robert and Vito are there. “Venticelli and Mill, my office please.”

“One sec,” Robert says putting down his orange juice. He locks his computer, hiding whatever he was up to.

Inside Shaw’s spartan office, she informs them, “I just had a phone call from our old friend Dr. Sorenson.”

“Alright,” Robert says glancing at the sole decoration on the desk, a picture of Frank.

Shaw turns to Vito. “You are familiar with the case history of Frank Brooks?”

The young man nods.

Shaw continues, “Just today, Dr. Sorenson has reviewed the case history of a new patient who is displaying almost exactly the signs that Frank did.”

“Really?” Robert says surprised.

Shaw give the two detectives a brief rundown of Georgia Chaney’s case.

Robert Mill recognizes the name. “Professor Chaney? I vaguely know her. I’ve been to a seminar by her once. I never had a class with her though.”

Shaw checks the time. “I have a new client coming in this afternoon but I’d like you guys to hit the pavement and see what we can find out. Dr. Sorenson is running some tests on her right now and should know more in the afternoon. But I’d like you check out where she was found and check with the last person who saw her. There is an open police file on this, so watch your steps. However, it might be worth looking over her home and office. I’ll touch base with you guys around 5.”

“Should we divide this or go together?” Robert asks.

“First check out where they found her together. The cops who picked her up didn’t seem to know what they were doing.”

Vito speaks up. “We can check out her house and check out the university.”

“If you want to split up, fine,” Shaw decides. “But I think you should stick together for the moment. If you think need to cover more ground use your judgement.”

“Sure we’ll get right on it,” Robert replies, getting up.


Robert Mill and Vito Venticelli jog the half mile down to north SoDo. The area borders the CenturyLink Field stadium. Filled with pubs, galleries, and small local restaurants, it seems fairly safe. The Mexican restaurant, Vince’s, has a small fenced off patio under an awning. The tables and chairs sit empty in the cold wet weather.

The two go inside. A smiling waitress approaches them, menus in hand. As they are seated, Vito asks, “is the manager available?”

“Let me check,” the young woman hesitantly says. A couple minutes later an older Mexican woman comes over to their table.

Vito smiles at her. “We heard a lady was found in front of the restaurant the other day.”

The manager relaxes a bit. “Yes. I was opening in the morning and she was collapsed in front.”

“Did you observe her approach?”

“No, no,” the woman protests. “I told the police, she was there when I arrived.”

“Did you notice anything around her at all?”

“She was…clutching a knife,” the manager says slowly.

“Was it a plain clean knife? Or was it a combat knife?”

The woman shrugs. “It was a large knife.”

Robert asks, “did it look bloody at all?”


Vito thanks her for her time and asks for a couple cups of coffee to go. They get their coffee and quickly pay.

On the way out Robert grumbles, “usually you get free chips and salsa at these places. See if I come back to this place again.”

As they begin to head up the street, he asks, “so I wonder if we should come back in the evening and see if there are any locals, homeless people or drug dealers, who might be have been here late at night. Perhaps they saw something?”

Vito nods. They decide to head to the university next. On the way back to the car, Vito calls Shaw, telling her, “not much at the restaurant, we’re headed to the university.”

University District, University of Washington, 1:30 PM

The pair of detectives soon arrive the university. The wide lawns and stately building stand mostly empty, awaiting the beginning of the spring semester. A few professors and graduate students hurry from one building to another attempting to escape the cold wet weather.

Vito walks into the secretary’s office in the Biology building. He explains to the secretary, “just got out of the service, I’m thinking about resuming my studies in marine biology. I understand you might have some professors here that I might want to study with.”

The woman fiddles with her glasses. “Oh, yes. I can arrange an interview with one of our professors.”

“I’ve heard Dr. Georgia Chaney is working on some of the things I’m interested in.”

“Well, um, I’ll see, but Dr. Chaney is currently on sabbatical.”

“Ok, are there any other professors who would be available?”

“Well Dr. Hicks will be in next week.”

Vito arranges for an interview with Dr. Hicks. The secretary tells him he should receive an email soon with a potential date and time.

Robert Mill meanwhile is upstairs looking for Chaney’s office. Several doorways are open on the florescent lit hallway. Robert confidently walks down the hall, whistling as he goes.

Dr. Chaney’s door stands out due to the police tape across it. Robert quickly opens the door and ducks under the tape. He closes the door as best he can, given the broken lock. Books and papers lie scattered across the floor. A quick glance tells Robert that the toppled computer is missing its hard drive.

Taking his time the detective carefully surveys the scene. The initial impression is of a simple break in, perhaps an angry student trying to get revenge for a failing grade. But Robert’s practiced eye picks up subtle clues. The books toppled behind the door show signs of damage from when it was forced open. The papers are haphazardly tossed about the room in a fashion that suggest the vandal wasn’t looking for anything, or least anything they hadn’t already found.

He concludes the break-in is an obfuscation. Checking the lock more closely, he sees signs that someone carefully picked it. He thinks to himself, they must have sneaked in, grabbed what they were looking for and then vandalized the area to cover their tracks.

He checks the desk for photos. He find several of fish and one of a woman, presumable Chaney, on a boat somewhere sunny and warm. There is nothing to suggest what else they took.

With nothing left to find, Mill walks out of the office as if there was nothing strange about it.

He runs into Vito coming down the hall. Quickly he relays the details. “It looks like they wanted us to think it was a simple break-in.”

Vito texts Shaw. ’Doctor’s office tossed, heading for residence.’

Robert tells him, “I think I’ll spend a little more time here. See if there any professors who might know more about Chaney.”

Vito tells him he will be back soon and heads off.

Windermere, Dr. Georgia Chaney’s house, 2:30 PM

Vito drives over up to Georgia’s house. The two story Craftsman building has a view of Lake Washington. Large upscale homes surround it to either side.

The detective quickly checks the mail box, noting the piled up mail. The oldest is dated the 9th. Glancing around, he heads up the open lawn. The backyard is verdant. As he checks the windows, he notices that the back door is open a crack.

Vito takes the clip off his knife. He opens the door. Inside things are quiet. He steps into the kitchen. A loaf of bread sits on the counter, moldering in its plastic packaging. Quickly he scouts the rest of the house. There are no signs of theft or vandalism.

Upstairs he finds an office. The drawers are all pulled open. He checks the computer, waking it from sleep mode. There doesn’t seem to be anything interesting there. He quickly checks the rest of the upstairs. The bed is still made.

Vito walks back to the office. He flips through the files, looking for any gaps and memorizing the labels. Then he goes downstairs and locks the back door. He returns to the office a final time, unplugging the computer. Taking it under his arm he leaves out the front door.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, 3 PM

As her meeting approaches Shaw looks over her background checks on Donald and Stephanie Thomas. The pair has been divorced for 12 years. Stephanie works locally at a clothing store while Donald is a banker currently living in San Diego.

The pair is looking for their son, Kenneth. He was a Anthropology Graduate student until last year. He still is living near the university, or least was until he went missing.

Mavis rings Shaw that Don and Stephanie have arrived. As they come into her office, Shaw extends her hand. “Hello Mr. and Mrs Thomas.”

Stephanie takes her hand and shakes it. But Don quickly sits down and gloomily looks out the window into the rain. Shaw studies but is unable to determine the source of his foul mood.

“How can One of a Kind Investigations be of help?”

Stephanie sobs, “I sure hope that you can help. Our son has been missing. He hasn’t talked to me or talked to Don here in over two weeks. He is not at his apartment.”

“I see. What can you tell me about your son?”

The overweight woman sniffles. “Ken is such a nice kid. He’s always trying to help people. I know, I know he’s been having difficulties with his studies but he always calls me regularly.”

“When did he last speak to you?”

“I last heard from him on the 9th.” Stephanie looks pleadingly at Shaw.

“When did you last see your son in person?”

“Not since New Years.”

“So…he’s a student at the university?” Shaw looks expectantly at the parents.

“He was…but he was having difficulties.” Stephanie makes excuses. “Grad school is really hard. It just didn’t work out.”

“You had mentioned his studies? Was he pursuing another degree?”

“Well he was still working on his thesis. He was trying to finish. It has been very hard for him.”

“I see. What about his friends?”

“He was sharing an apartment with a friend of his. Uh, I don’t really know his last name. Ben.”

“Hm-mm, Ben.” Shaw says jotting everything down. “I assume you’ve spoken with his friend?”

“I haven’t been able to find Ben.”

“So Ben is missing as well.” Noting down the extra missing person, Shaw asks, “when did you looked at the apartment?”

Stephanie says she stopped by over a week ago. The landlady, a woman by the name of Ezra Wasch, told her she hadn’t seen the two in two weeks.

Shaw asks for the keys to apartment, which Stephanie quickly digs out of her handbag. She turns to the father. “How about you, Mr. Thomas? When was the last time you spoke with him?”

The pudgy balding man grumpily says, “I haven’t talked to him in years.”

“I see. This must be very hard for you.”

“Yeah,” the banker says, focusing on the growing gloom outside. Shaw reads his lack of concern and fidgeting to get done with this.

Shaw turns the conversation to Ken’s other contacts, his friends and possible romantic interests. It seems his mother had already talked to all of his friends, many of whom had not spoken to him in years. She is however able to tell her that Kenneth’s thesis adviser was Dr. Baker.

“What exactly was he researching?” Shaw asks.

“He’s an anthropology student, looking into the Native American myths. He was talking to the Dowam-”, Stephanie struggles for a moment, “Duwamish tribes.”

Shaw gets the name of the police case officer and case number from Mrs. Thomas. She asks if he had a job. Stephanie isn’t sure. Kenneth had told her that Ben had gotten him a job someplace several months ago.

“So he was supporting himself through student loans so far?” the detective asks, glancing at Don.

Stephanie replies, “Yes. Though I had been helping him a bit.”

“Has his troubles been recent?”

“Well, he was having trouble in school and he was forced to drop out.” Tears well up in her eyes. “I’m really worried about him.”

“I understand. Please know we will do everything we can to find him.”

Stephanie thanks her. Shaw quickly runs them through the business paperwork. Mrs. Thomas takes care of all the signatures and makes a check for the basic retainer.

As they go to leave, Shaw asks Donald where he is staying. “At the Holiday Inn. By the airport.”

After his parents have left, Shaw does a deeper background on Kenneth Thomas. She learns the apartment is in Benjamin Miner’s name. Ben is twenty years old, a senior in college majoring in biology.

She makes a quick call to the University of Washington. With a bit of fast talking she gets an administrator there to send her his transcripts and class schedule. Ben was taking a lot of upper level biology courses as well as lot of drama classes. It seems he wanted to be an actor. Interestingly his academic adviser was Dr. Georgia Chaney. He switched this year to Dr. Hicks for some reason.

Shaw calls Ezra, the pair’s landlady. She confirms the last time the woman had seen the two students. “Is now a good time to come over to look at the apartment? I have a waver from the parents.”

“I suppose,” Ezra replies. “I’ll be here till 5.”

Thanking her, Shaw hangs up and calls Mill.

University District, University of Washington, afternoon

Robert Mill wanders the well lit halls of academia. He talks to the few biology professors there, to graduate students, and the staff. He approaches them straightforwardly as an investigator from One of a Kind Investigations, looking into the mysterious ailment that Dr. Chaney came down with.

The disease comment draws some worried looks, but he is able get them to open up. None of them have seen her in several months. As the winter sun descends, he eventually finds himself in the office of Dr. Hicks.

The old man mulls over a comment on Chaney’s mental decline. “Well that explains something. She was very erratic last year.” He continues, explaining that she had been missing classes and how her research funding had not been renewed. “I guess that’s why she went on sabbatical.”

“When did you last see her?” Robert asks.

He strokes his chin for a moment. “Over the summer.”

“Do you know where she went on sabbatical?”

“I believe she was going to be taking time for her own research.”

“So she was staying locally, doing research on fish?”

“Right.” He snorts derisively, “She was investigating a new species of fish in the area.”

“And the funding she lost was on this species?”

The gray hair man nods. He explains that the fish was found by a student of hers, Benjamin Miner. “He found this unusual fish. I do not believe it was actually a new species but rather that it was a Southeast Asian Snake Head expanding into new territory. It was probably brought into the area by one of those container ships in Tacoma.”

Robert asks, “do you know if she has any close friends I can contact or family that you know of?”

Unfortunately Dr. Hicks only knows of other professors, most of whom Robert has already spoken to. He can only vaguely suggest that she has family in California.

Robert concludes his interview by checking that he is not familiar with Frank or any of the details of his case. Hicks gives him an incredulous look at the mention of Sandmen and brain spiders. Robert hastily concludes, “Thank you very much Dr. Hicks.”

They shakes hands and he leaves the office. Heading downstairs and planning his next move, Robert Mill is interrupted by a call from Shaw.

“Hi Mill,” his boss says.

“Oh hey, how’s it going?”

“Well interesting development, I think the missing person’s case might intersect with Professor Chaney. It turns out his roommate, Ben Miner, is also possibly missing. From my research it seems he is a senior year bio student who worked with Chaney. She was his old adviser. His new adviser is a Professor Hicks. I’m about to go and look over their apartment but they both apparently went missing two weeks ago.”

Robert stops at the bottom of the stairs. “So Benjamin is missing.”

“Ben yeah.”

Robert continues, “I just talked to Dr. Hicks. Do we need more details on this case or the missing persons case?”

“Well we need to solve both of them. Have you found any connection to Frank?”

“No connection to Frank at this point. Beyond what Dr. Sorenson already discovered.”

“Well Chaney, Ben and Ken all disappeared around the same time. So there is at least an outside chance they are connected. I kind of hope you could look into Ben and Ken. Sounds like you are already on that track.”

“A little bit.” He hesitates. “On Benjamin. I don’t know Ken.”

Shaw fills him in on Kenneth Thomas. “Ben’s probably his closest friend right now.”

She mentions that Kenneth hasn’t been enrolled for over six months.

Robert mutters, “six months…” He relays his information on Chaney, noting the loss of her funding and her own absence from the university. As an aside he mentioned the fish species.

Shaw is curious. “Any clues on what the fish was? Dr. Sorenson might be able to have a look at the research.”

“I just found about it but I’ll take a look at it.” Robert continues with the details of the office break in, including his suspicions that someone was covering their tracks.

“I look forward to meeting up with guys around 5,” Shaw says.

“Yeah, and I’ll look into the fish. Vito went to her home to check that out.”

“I received a text from him recently. I assume you’ll regroup with him and we’ll meet back at the office at 5. Don’t forget to run by the Hillcrest Center and see Dr. Sorenson.”

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, Late Afternoon

Dr. Sorenson pulls Georgia Chaney’s effects down from the wall, wincing from the pain in his arm where she stabbed him this morning. Carefully he picks through her clothes and other items.

A leather purse catches his eye. Slowly he empties it. He sets aside her identification, credit cards, and cash. Obviously she wasn’t mugged, he thinks.

He glances at a collection of pictures of unknown people. Further down he pulls out a flashlight. Intrigued, he digs deeper. A large key chain is next. In addition to car and house keys, there are lot of similar looking keys, perhaps for the university. He doesn’t find a cell phone, though.

Near the bottom, he pulls out a cluster of lipstick and similar items and then he grasps the heavy handle of a stun gun. She was a lone woman out at night, he thinks. The stun gun has almost no charge left.

He shakes out the almost empty bag. There is some loose change, a paperclip, and two 9mm rounds. Dr. Sorenson ponders the bullets. She wasn’t found with a gun.

He double checks the police report. There is a description of the hunting knife she was clutching but nothing else noted.

Dr. Sorenson looks over her clothes. They are warm and dark colored. The shoes are sensible, good for jogging in. Definitely not a night on the town but not camping in the woods either. There are no obvious signs of dirt on the shoes.

This woman had a lot of defensive items, he thinks to himself, what was she expecting to find? She obviously expected to be someplace dangerous and dark.

Looking over the report as well as his own observations, the only current injuries he can find are bruising on her arms and shoulders. She was struggling with something.

He glances at the calendar. He still has a few days before he can expect the tests to be complete.

Northern Seattle 4:00 PM

Vito texts Robert Mill: ‘checked out professor’s house, mail not picked up since the 12th.’

Robert quickly calls him back. “Hey Vito, how is it going?”

Vito summarizes what he found at the house. “Oldest postmark was the 9th so I figure the 12th was the last time the mail was picked up.”

He also tells him that the rear door was unlocked and he grabbed her computer. “Didn’t want to lose another hard drive.”

Robert winces at the admission of the theft. “When you were looking through her notes did you notice anything from a Benjamin Miner? Or anything about a new species of fish?”

Vito thinks back. There were many student records but none on a Benjamin Miner. “No.”

Robert arranges to be picked up by Vito on the way to Dr. Sorenson. He also fills in Vito on the possible links that Shaw has turned up.

University District, Benjamin Miner’s apartment, 4 PM

Shaw drives into a neighborhood of low rent apartments north of the University of Washington. As she pulls up to Ben Miner and Kenneth Thomas‘s apartment, she is reminded of her days on the force. Situated in one of the highest crime areas in Seattle, the building shows signs of ill repair. It’s discolored paneling is stained with graffiti. The tag “ENE – VI” is unfamiliar to Shaw and she snaps a picture with her phone.

She checks her details. The boy’s apartment is 3C. But first she turns into the property office in 1A.

The landlady Ezra Wasch is there. She puts down a book and gets up from the couch. “Oh you’re Lillian Shaw.”

“Yes I spoke to you a few hours ago.”

The fat woman sits back down and says, “I still haven’t seen the boys.”

Shaw finds a chair. “It is disturbing. I know you must work with a lot of students. When was the last time you saw them?”

Ezra struggles to remember. “Ben had come by on the…10th? It might have been the 11th.”

“Do you remember what you were doing that day?” Shaw says trying to jog her memory. With a little help she is able to confirm it was the afternoon of the 11th. “Everything was fine with him then?”

The gray haired woman nods.

“Has he been renting from you for long?”

“Ben? Yeah, he has been renting from me for two years. He’s a good tenant, he always pays on time.”

“Well I’m hired to help find Ken but I’m concerned that Ben hasn’t been reported missing. Does he have any family or friends that you know?”

“I met his mother once. I believe she lives down in Rainier Valley.”

Shaw convinces the landlady to let her into mail, hoping it will help reveal when they vanished. There is a lot of junk mail which she carefully puts into a briefcase.

“Has anyone else come by looking for them?” Shaw asks, watching her closely.

Ezra struggles to remember. “Well there was the someone…” She puts a hand to her head. “Somebody came by looking for them. I think maybe Ben’s mother…no wait Ken’s mother.”

“When was this?”

“A week and a half ago,” she says more confidently. “Oh and there was that girl. Elizabeth or Liz or something like that. She said she was Ken’s girlfriend.”

“I bet these college kids have lots of friends coming and going.” As Ezra nods, Shaw continues,
“so you’ve met Elizabeth before?”

“No, I don’t think so.”

“What was her last name?” Shaw inquires.

“I’m not sure. I don’t think she told me.”

“But she didn’t seem concerned?”

The older woman quickly says, “No, she was looking for him.”

Shaw gets a description of Elizabeth. Blond haired and well dressed, she impressed Ms. Wasch as a well mannered young woman. She suspects she was a college student, probably a sophomore.

Shaw asks if they had any friends or visitors. Ezra replies, “I believe I’ve seen an older woman come by occasionally.”

“What did she look like?”

Ezra describes a woman matching Chaney’s description.

“So she came by a lot?” Shaw asks.

“Well I’m not here in the evenings, but she came by several times.” Ezra explains the last time she saw her for sure was before Thanksgiving.

Shaw checks that they were paid up until the end of the month. She also asks after the cosigner on the lease. With some prompting Ezra pulls out the file. Shaw quickly notes Ben’s mother, Sarah, and her address.

“Ms. Wasch you’ve been a big help to me. I’m going to go up to the apartment and see what I can find. I’ll likely be back a couple times in the next few days. I’ll certainly keep you up to date if I do find anything about either them.”

Shaw leaves the office. The only way up and down from the third floor is the stairs. She glances into the laundry room where few battered appliances hum in the darkness. Shaw heads up the creaky stairs to the third floor. Four battered doors open into the landing. One has a welcome mat. A window lets in some fading light.

Shaw tries the door. It swings easily open, the lock broken by a heavy blow.

Shaw’s first impression is of smoke and salt. The darkness makes it seem even more cold.

She makes the most of the fading light quickly sweeping the apartment for any people. The main room is dominated by an ash filled trashcan in the center. Two 100 gallon fish tanks take up two of the walls of the room while a well used a futon takes up another. There look to be hookups for a TV and other electronics but that they were recently removed.

She moves to the left of the main room, into the dining area. She makes her way past the scratched wooden table and three mismatched chairs into the kitchen. The cupboards of the kitchen and the refrigerator door hang open.

Shaw backs up to the main room, glancing out at the empty balcony on the way. She quickly checks the coat closet. A few coats and shoes fill the small space.

The only other way out is a short hallway. At the end are doors into a small bedroom and bath. She looks in the bath making sure no one is behind the shower curtain.

The bedroom is decorated with posters of movies and movie stars. An unmade bed takes up much of the room. She opens the closet taking in the large and varied wardrobe.

The apartment cleared, Shaw returns to the front door and closes it as best she can with the chain. She carefully looks around. The futon has been slept in. There are no computers and no electronics. The entertainment center has been stripped. As she looks at the brown muddy water of the tank, a nasty looking fish smacks against glass. The 14 inch fish seems to have a head full of teeth. Shaw takes a picture of the ugly thing. The other tank seems empty or at least nothing reacts when she taps on it.

She turns to the trash can. Amid the ashes and wreckage she finds a few papers still partially intact. She notes the lack of smoke detectors. Carefully she takes pictures and gathers up the material. Underneath are the remains of a hard drive. She gathers it up and puts it safely away.

She scours the kitchen, looking under shelves and tables. The food inside is long spoiled except for a few can of beans. Moving on the bedroom, it seems nothing has been packed or moved. There are some pictures of African Americans. Shaw concludes this must have been Ben’s room.

In the bathroom there is only one set of tooth brushes and toiletries. Bare spaces attest that there was another set. In the trash she finds two used needles as well as two ampules marked BNSX-7. With care she picks up the needles and ampules.

Her investigation complete, she heads out, closing the door carefully behind her. She walks across the hall and knocks on the apartment door with the welcome mat. No one answers. She pulls out a business card and writes a note on it: ‘Looking into missing person’s case involving Ken and Ben, please call me.’ She slips it under the door.

Heading back down she picks through the bundle of mail she took. No personal correspondence, no bills, nothing from this mysterious Liz. The latest postage stamp is from the 11th. So they must have picked up the mail around the 13th. She leaves the pile of junk mail with Ms. Wasch and heads back to the office.

Hillcrest Mental Health Center, 4:30 PM

Robert and Vito drive up past the gnarled old trees and the well manicured lawn to the stately East Wing of the Hillcrest Center. Peering out from the thick glass windows into the gloomy rain are few wheelchair bound patients.

The two detectives head inside.

Robert approaches the receptionist. “We’re hear to see Dr. Sorenson.”

“Oh yes, let me ring him.” The young woman picks up the phone and presses a button. “Dr. Sorenson? you have some guests here.”

She puts the phone back down. “He’ll be right down.”

A few minutes later, Dr. Sorenson comes down the hall, his face still bruised from Georgia Chaney’s attack. He quickly greets them. “Its good that you came by. I have something I want to show you. Come back with me to my office.”

The detectives join him in his somewhat spartan office. “I took the liberty of looking through Dr. Chaney’s effects when she was brought in. Let me share what I found out. Unfortunately the medical tests won’t be done for several days. I still expect them to reveal similar damage to her brain though. And that there will be no chemical traces.”

“However, it looks like she was expecting trouble.” He relays the details of the contents of her purse and the knife she was found with. “I don’t know what to make of it, except she was investigating something and ended up in contact with the same person or substance Frank did.”

“Did you get any response from her at all?” Vito asks.

He gestures to his wounds. “Only a violent response when I mentioned the Sandman to her.”

Robert turns back to the evidence. “Anything in the purse of use to us?”

Dr. Sorenson shows them the pictures in her wallet. “Unfortunately there was no cell phone. She’s not responding to questions at all but she can hear things that are said to her.” He rubs his bandaged arm. “Perhaps after her sedation, we might be able to question her.”

Robert ask, “are you sure the attack was in response to what you were saying?”

Dr. Sorenson is very sure. “I had tried to elicit a response earlier by talking about her work, her studies, her family and so forth with absolutely no response. Then when I asked her the question ‘Do you know anything about the Sandman?’ she attacked.”

Dr. Sorenson suggests talking to her friends and neighbors to learn what sort of trouble she was involved in. “Nobody carries a knife, a stun gun, and a pistol unless they are expecting to get into trouble.”

Robert tells the doctor, “we think she may have been with a younger man named Ben Miner. But she probably won’t recall him.”

Dr. Sorenson writes the name down just in case. He also checks the name in the center’s database to make sure he isn’t also a patient. Robert mentions Kenneth Thomas as another ‘companion’. He also is not in the database. He mutters, “I don’t understand what could have done this to her.”

Vito asks, “has anyone come to see her?”

“No, no one has come to see her. She wasn’t even reported missing.”

Just then Robert gets text from Shaw: ‘bring Dr. Sorenson back with you to the office.’ He flashes it to Vito.

The former military man tells the doctor, “Shaw would like you to come down to the office if you have the time.”

“Sure I’m finished with patients for the day.” He grabs his coat and briefcase and heads out with the detectives.

Office’s of One of a Kind Investigations, 5:10 PM

Vito and Robert arrive at the office with Dr. Sorenson. Mavis‘s desk is unoccupied with a couple case files sitting in the inbox. As they head to the boss’s office, Shaw exits, a thick stack of papers in her hands.

She notes the computer under Vito’s arm and directs them to the meeting room. She joins them a moment later, carefully placing a pile of smoky burnt papers on the table. “These are the originals. But I did find some very interesting case files at the apartment.”

“Whose apartment?” Robert asks.

“Ben Miner and Kenneth Thomas,” she answers. “I believe Ben Miner’s things have been relatively undisturbed, though he hasn’t been there in at least two weeks. Kenneth seems to have left. There is also a young woman named Elizabeth or Lizzy looking for him.”

“For Ken?”

“Yes. In the middle of the living room, which I think also doubled as Ken’s place, I found these.” She picks up the photocopies and hands a copy to each of them.





The assembled investigators quickly read over the papers. Trevor’s expression grows distraught upon reaching Case #8.

After several long minutes, Robert asks, “so you found this just lying in their apartment?”

Shaw quickly responds, “no, there was a trashcan bonfire in the middle of the living room.” She smirks. “The place wasn’t up to code. But I was able to retrieve this much.”

“So they tried to burn all the files?”

“Yes. I also found a hard drive from a computer that was not on the premises. I’m not sure if you’ll be able to do anything with it but I brought it back as well. I also found some used syringes and vials of a substance labeled BNSX-7.”

Trevor snaps, “that’s Verdant tech.”

“Well there’s reference here to a pharmaceutical company, Keystone Pharmaceuticals.”

Trevor uncomfortably thinks back to his former career. “That name means something to me. It was a secret compound I assumed they were working on. I ran across it before I left Verdant’s employment.”

They quickly research Keystone, learning that it is a locally based pharmaceutical company. It’s headquarters are in Seattle’s Lake District.

Shaw notes another detail of the apartment. “When I left there about an hour ago there was a specimen of some sort of fish in a tank.”

Robert asks, “the fish was alive?”

“Yes. Now there is a reference to a fish god. It seems to me that that could be where Kenneth and Ben’s research intersected. Since Ken was an anthropology student.”

They mull this over as they complete their readings.

Finally Dr. Sorenson asks, “I don’t suppose the police have seen any of these documents yet?”

“I didn’t see any evidence that the police had been there,” Shaw explains. “Someone had obviously broken down the door but this was not confiscated nor were the pharmaceuticals.”

Robert ask, “So Ken was studying the Duwamish tribes?”

Shaw confirms that information based on her interview with his mother.

Robert muses, “Dr. Hicks mentioned the snake head, he thought it was not a new species.”

“We might want to confiscate the fish. I could call Dr. Ilyes.”

As he looks over conspiracy theory ridden papers, Dr. Sorenson says, “This is crazy. All of this. This is crazy.”

Shaw agrees, “I would like to find some intact copies or corroboration of these case files. Especially given the damage. Perhaps we can find more on the hard drive.”

Dr. Sorenson suggests investigating the case of Ben and the old lady Ella Mae. “We can look and see when she died and that will put a date to these files. We also have an address for where Ella Mae lived.”

Shaw smiles and muses, “We can finally bill for this Sandman research.”

As this goes on Vito boots up Georgia Chaney’s home computer. He scans through her documents finding lots of pictures of large ugly fish as well as scientific writings about the species. As he goes he makes copies for their own records.

Dr. Sorenson looks at the vials. They are bone dry but one still smells faintly of rubber. “I’m certain some sort of chemical analysis could be done to find what compounds were in here.”

Shaw calls Dr. Ilyes, asking him to retrieve the fish. Dr. Sorenson calls out, “there maybe dead fish in the tanks as well, that our doctor friend could dissect. I was never much for dissections myself.”

As Shaw puts down the phone, Robert reluctantly says, “We should probably contact the police. Since we have evidence of a murder. This case could be tied to a murder investigation.”

Shaw agrees, “I’m familiar with whose handling Ken’s case. He’s not that thorough a detective. Obviously. But I should probably bring this to his attention.”

Vito shows them the details he has extracted from the computer. There is much on the fish but nothing on these cases.

Shaw tells them what else she found out at the apartment including what Ezra told her. “But the landlady did have some problems remembering things. Like there were some gaps in her memory. She was able to remember the girlfriend Lizzy and gave me a description. She was pretty young, possibly a student. Mills, do you think you could do a search of the university files and find a student name Elizabeth who is connected to either the drama, anthropology, or bio department?”

“Drama?” Robert asks.

“Yeah Ben had a big interest in drama as well. So its possible they met through there.”

“Ok, sure.”

Dr. Sorenson carefully says, “these papers imply, that Ken and Ben were actually working together on this.”

“Yeah, I think they intersected,” Shaw explains. “I mean Ken was investigating this religion that centered on a fish god and Ben was working with Professor Chaney on marine research, at least until last year, involving this new species of fish.”

She thinks for second. “There’s also a chance we could follow the money trail here because Keystone apparently offered them 20 thousand. We can check if any of this was deposited into their accounts.”

Robert theorizes, “maybe I’ve watched too many sensational news shows but it kinda sounds like we have Professor Chaney as some sort of temptress of something, getting Ben and Ken to do some sort of murder spree, killing people for her.”

Vito interjects a question, “did Professor Hicks know where Ben had found the snake head? The physical location?”

Robert says no.

Shaw returns the speculation of motive. “Who knows what was in those syringes. Those boys could be high as kites.”

Dr. Sorenson disagrees, “I don’t think the intent of these chemicals is to get one high. My suspicion is they might be mutagenic. But that’s just of my observations of what I saw at Verdant. I don’t have any evidence for it.”

Shaw looks over the papers. “What I do find interesting is the fact that these reference the Sandman in a cogent way. Before they disappeared.”

Dr. Sorenson considers the idea. “They all seem to be all working together. They found this Sandman but he got to them before they could bring him to Keystone.”

“Why did the pharmaceutical company want to talk to the Sandman?”

“Perhaps because Mr. Sandman got a hold of some of their research and was using it in his occult practices. That or he’s got some mutagenic psychedelic substance that the company wants, a substance that they use in their fish cult.”

“What does that have to do with what has happened to Chaney and Frank?”

“Maybe Frank stumbled upon this cult and narrowly escaped but not before they were able to inject him with this chemical. It altered and damage his brain.”

“I will look into this Elizabeth,” Robert says. “They seem a little crazy here and a little bit of disconnected from reality. Maybe I can also find out why Dr. Chaney lost her funding.”

Dr. Sorenson asks, “is there something I can help with?”

Shaw directs him to look into analyzing the chemicals. She’ll liaison with the police.

Vito thinks back to the letters he saw in Dr. Chaney’s mailbox. He offers to grab her bank statements as a possible clue to the Keystone connection. He asks if Shaw saw any bank statements at the apartment.

“No or I would have taken them.” She glances at Dr. Sorenson and winks at Vito. “Next time take the bank statements. I’d also like you to do footwork on the Ella Mae case. Research it from our side while I follow up with official channels.”

Robert adds, "one thing we want to look into, is it says “my friends on the street.” It sounds like he has some contacts on the street. They might know what happened to him."

Shaw replies, “I certainly think its possible but I’d really like to know a bit more first. This all sounds so crazy.”

Dr. Sorenson launches into an analysis of their mental state. “I’m also going to make an assumption based on the psychological profile of people involved in this kind of activity, that they see this Dr. Chaney as a kind of authority figure. Perhaps she is the leader of this group of kids. It is likely you will find she is the point of contact.”

“Possibly,” admits Shaw. She asks Vito about the state of Chaney’s residence, “did it look like she was leaving?”

“No,” Vito explains, “it looked like she was planning to come back soon. There was bread out on the counter.”

“I saw the same thing in Ben’s area of the apartment. However the apartment itself had been tossed. Everything from the kitchen had been taken and they had tried to destroy this evidence. And all of Ken’s things were gone.”

Dr. Sorenson posits, “So Ken is hiding, Ben’s missing, but Ken is in hiding.”

Discussion turns to the supposed girlfriend Liz and her true intentions. Dr. Sorenson tells them, “kids like this, when they are in trouble they never would trust their family. But they would turn to former girlfriends and that sort of thing. I wouldn’t be surprised if he turned up where she lives.”

Shaw quickly divides up the work to do. Vito will head out to investigate Ella Mae. Robert will start the search for Elizabeth. Dr. Sorenson gets the job of investigating Keystone and the vials. Meanwhile Shaw will contact the police about Ella Mae and the missing persons case.

Dr. Sorenson’s house, 8 PM

Dr. Sorenson pours over the financial records for Keystone Pharmaceuticals. The publicly traded R&D company has numerous stockholders but the largest seems to be a 31% stake by Magadon Industries. Trevor knows the health care giant as a major subsidiary of Pentex. He notes the other major owners include Weide GmbH and the Chieron Group, also large pharmacology businesses.

Keystone seems to have been in business since 1975, though it only relocated to Seattle in 1996. Originally formed to find a cure for aging, their focus has shifted to consumer drugs, designing new compounds which they then license out to major drug producers.

Intrigued Dr. Sorenson digs deeper. The original aging research was looking for a magic bullet, a chemical compound to halt or reverse the aging process. That work never really paid off and they spun off that research division in a separate company, Pancea Pharmaceuticals, about 2 years ago, in a joint venture with Verdant Technologies.

He think to himself, ‘Its beginning to make sense. Verdant and Keystone both own stocks in Pancea which is a spin off of Keystone. So Verdant might have shared some of their research with Keystone via Pancea.’

Turning his thoughts to the analysis of the mysterious substance in the BNSX-7 vials, he determines he doesn’t the contacts to get access to a mass spectrometer. But Dr. Ilyes might. He gives the doctor a call.

Northern Seattle, 6:30 PM

Vito drives up the dark winding streets of Windermere. The glow of big screen TVs pour from most of the houses. He stops by Dr. Chaney’s mailbox and grabs the mail. He quickly sorts out the bank statements and puts the rest back. Ripping open the letters, he finds the last transaction was by credit card on the evening of the 12th at the McDonalds at 1122 Madison Street. The charge was for about 22 dollars. He carefully notes the location, east of the 5 in the east end of Downtown.

next he drives up to Pine Street in Lake City. Only a few homes are lit at this late hour. The house of Ella Mae is a charred ruin. A solitary bulldozer sits on the lawn and a sign advertises a construction company called Ajax Construction.

Vito gets out and explores the uninhabited property. The few standing walls are crumbling from months of water damage. Poking amid the ashes he uncovered some small bones that might belong to cats as well a pile of larger bones that could only belong to dogs. They have been gnawed by very small teeth.

The ex-SEAL spots no living cats in the area. He quickly scouts the perimeter of the property before returning to his car. Checking the hour he decides to put off questioning the neighbors until tomorrow. He drives south.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, 6:30 PM

Robert looks through college rosters for women matching Liz’s description. He find matches that are close but jots them down anyway. After he has a short list put together, he stretches and checks the clock.

Realizing it is too late to call these women now, he decides to go out and check the area around the Mexican restaurant, Vince’s. He walks down the 6 blocks to the area, hoping find some street people who might have seen something. Unfortunately the area is fairly deserted at the late hour.

He does however spot something on an alley wall near where Georgia Chaney was found. Someone has spray painted “Sandman – VI” at some point during the day. Robert takes a quick picture of it and heads home.

Shaw meanwhile calls up Lieutenant Jack Lawrence. Despite the late hour he answers promptly, “Shaw?”

“Hey, I recently caught a case that was one of yours originally.” She rattles off the case number.

“Yeah, yeah,” Jack says bringing up the case details. “Right. Kenneth Thomas has been missing about two weeks. I suppose the mom’s been after you too?”

“Yup, except she pays me. Want to catch dinner, compare notes?”

He muses for a moment. “Sure.”

“How about the Chinese place?”


Shaw says goodbye and hangs up. She grabs her notes as well as some of the surviving cases from the apartment. Then she heads out.

The Jade Garden, International District, 7:00 PM

Shaw enters the restaurant. A large fountain dominates the entrance, a gentle fog rising from its surface. She spots Jack by the window at their old table.

She sits down beside him. They exchange pleasantries and make their order. As they wait for their food, Jack bring up business. “So you are looking for Kenneth too.”

“Yeah, though I’ve only been on the case for half a day,” Shaw says.

“Found the car yet?” He replies knowingly.

“Ah no,” she replies. “I’ve been looking into other things.”

Jack savors the moment. “He left it at a parking lot north of Dearborn by that strip mall. No signs of anyone breaking in. Wherever he went, he left on foot. We canvassed the entire neighborhood but no one saw anything.”

“You narrowed down the times?”

“Sometime between the 13th and the 15th. The store owners said it had been there about a week. To bad none of the security cameras in the area covered that part of the lot.”

“I’m kind of surprised you guys haven’t tagged his apartment.”

Jack glances through the case file in front of him. “Damn Jim. He was supposed to check that last week.”

Shaw watches Jack’s smug look disappear with some satisfaction. “Someone seems to have cleared it out. Has there been an official report made for his roommate?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Well I went down there. Looks like the boys were keeping some sort of big fish in a pair of tanks. Perhaps the most disturbing thing is someone tried to burn some their research. The reason I felt I needed to contact you officially is this partial record I found amid the ashes.”

She hands him the charred papers. As he reads their food arrives. Jack carefully puts the papers down.

“Really?” he says disbelievingly. He picks at his food as he double checks the information on his smart phone.

Shaw pulls out another rescued paper. “And this is the one that seems to be the most recent and might indicate where they were headed. It starts to get a little bit crazy. Obviously they are bit unbalanced.”

Shaw digs into her food. “Mmm, tasty.”

Jack puts the papers into his case folder. “You don’t have any idea who their street contacts are?”

“No, not yet,” she says taking another bite. “Like I said I’ve been on the case half a day. I don’t know. Have you heard anything about the Sandmen?”

“Sandmen, that -”

“Could be a gang,” she interjects.

“No, I haven’t heard of any gang or anyone else by that name.”

They eat for a while. Finally Jack comments, “I would like to talk to the mother again.”

Shaw dryly says, “I’m sure she’d like to know the police are taking an interest in the case.”

“Yes,” he replies hesitantly. “She gave you her number, right? I gave her a call the other day, but no one picked up.”

“What number did you use?”

They compare the contact information. Shaw says, “that’s interesting, that’s the same number I have.”

Jack comments, “I was hoping to get some more details. The father doesn’t know much.”

“Yeah he said he hadn’t talked to his son in years.”

“Oh you gave him a call too?”

“No he’s up here.”

Jack knits his brow in puzzlement. “I called him yesterday.”

“Well I talked to him today, maybe he just flew up?”

“Hmm, he didn’t say he was flying up that soon. I expected him in a few days.”

“You called him in San Diego?”


Shaw asks, “what number did you have there?”

Jack hands over the contact information. “He seemed very concerned.”

As she ponders this, Jack asks a question. “Do you really think a pharmaceutical company is putting prices on people’s heads?”

“I don’t know, like I said.”

“It looks crazy.”

“Yeah, it sounds pretty crazy. I think its more likely these boys are a bit insane. Either they have killed somebody and are psychopathic or they think they’ve killed somebody and are delusional. But legally I’m required to inform the police about this development.”

Jack ponders. “Yes. I suppose it fits with the picture we’ve got so far. Kid drops out of grad school, ends up staying with his friend and working at a coffee shop.”

“What coffee shop was that? The mom didn’t know.”

“Oh.” Jack checks his case folder. “Cafe Equinox. Nobody has seen him there. At least
Jim checked that out.”

“Where is that?”

Jack gives her the address.

Shaw asks, “heard anything about a girlfriend named Elizabeth?”

Jack thinks for a moment before saying, “there was a woman that Jim was going to check up on.”

“This is Jim Tacker?” Shaw crinkles her nose. “He’s the one you mentioned last time?”

“Yeah that’s the guy. Detective Tacker.” He sighs, “they seem to be handing out of detective badges these days.”

“Yeah I remember them hard to come by,” she says bitterly.

Shaw breaks the awkward silence. “So what did Jim have to say about this?”

“He said she was some kind of angry ex-girlfriend who had stopped by the coffee shop.”

The two exchange more details. Shaw learns the missing persons report was filed on the 17th by Kenneth’s mother. Jack learns about the apartment. When he hears the state of the apartment door, he quickly gets up and makes a phone call.

“Jim get down to Kenneth Thomas’s apartment,” he barks. “Take a squad car right now and secure the apartment!”

Hanging up, he sits down again to finish some fortune cookies. “Thanks for the information. Seems like you already know everything.”

“This place is just as good as I remember,” she says wistfully.

They pay their bill and head for the door. “Let me know if something turns up,” Shaw says.

“Good seeing you,” Jack tells her.

Downtown, 7:30 PM

Vito drives downtown to the McDonalds where Georgia Chaney made her last purchase, presumably with her friends Ben Miner and Kenneth Thomas. He walks inside and checks the prices. $22 gets one a lot here. Too much for one person, plenty for three.

His curiosity satisfied for now, he heads back to the offices of One of a Kind Investigations. Robert is still hunched over his computer, pouring over the student directories for the University of Washington.

Vito pulls up the DMV records on Chaney’s car. It seems she owns a 2008 midsize Nissan Altima. He checks if Ben or Kenneth had a car and finds a 2004 Honda Civic in Ken’s name. Digging deeper, he finds police reports for both vehicles. They were found abandoned in a parking lot north of Dearborn in the International District. The report is dated the 20th.

Vito turns his attention to the deaths in the Ella Mae case file. The trail isn’t hard to follow. Sue Riodan, the first supposed victim, was killed in 2007 while jogging in Jackson Park. The death was determined to be caused by coyotes. Flora Lawhorn, the next victim, went missing last spring. As for Ella Mae, the old lady did die in a fire in May of last year. She apparently had been cited for fire hazards and the numerous cats she kept at her house. The fire was believed to be accidental. As for the lot, Ella had no heirs and so it reverted to the city. They sold it to Ajax Construction.

He checks the clock in the darkened office and then looks at the damaged hard drive. It clearly needs to be rebuilt. He quickly makes a shopping list so he can work on it the morning. He also types up his findings and leaves them on Shaw’s desk. He turns off the lights and heads home.

University District, 8 PM

Shaw drives up to Ben and Ken‘s apartment building. The lights are on in the third story neighbor’s window. She walks up the warped creaky steps to the dirty welcome mat in front of the door. She knocks.

The door opens, a sickening stench of weed joining the young bearded man’s greeting. “Hey.”

Keeping a straight face, Shaw says, “Hi, I was wondering if you saw my card in your door.”

The young man glances about. “Yeah. Yeah, right, the card. Yeah.” He calls back into the room. “Where did we put that card?”

Shaw interrupts him, “that’s okay. Here is another one. Have you seen Ben or Ken?”

“Ben or Ken, right, right. Cool. No we haven’t seen them since…” He calls back into the room. “When did we see them last?”

Someone shouts something incoherent. The man scratches his greenish stocking cap, “I guess. Yeah since before the break.”

“So during the break, you guys were out of town?” she asks.

“Yeah, out of town. Went down to Oregon.”

“I’m also looking to find Liz. Do you know where she hangs out?” The man stares blankly at her. “Ken’s girlfriend?”

The guy smiles. “Ken’s got a girlfriend. Good for him.”

“I thought she came by.” Shaw tries describing her.

“I never met her.”

“Okay, maybe I’ll try the Equinox then.”

“Yeah, yeah, yeah, that’s where Ben works.”

“Okay, well let me know if you see Ben or Ken.”

“Okay, okay.”

With that she leaves. As she pulls out of the parking lot she passes a squad car pulling in. She shouts out, “Hey Jim!” But the man in side seat just glares at her.

Airport Holiday Inn, Georgetown, 8:30PM

Purple clouds illuminated by the city lights cover the sky. Shaw parks her car in the Holiday Inn’s parking lot.

On her cell phone, she calls the number Jack gave her for Donald Thomas in San Diego. A man answers, “Hello?”

“Hi, is this Mr. Thomas?”


“Hello Mr. Thomas, this Lillian Shaw from One of a Kind Investigations in Seattle.”

“Okay,” he says uncertainly.

“I understand your son Kenneth has gone missing.”

“Yes. Did-did Stephanie hire you?”

“Yeah, Stephanie hired me earlier today. We’ve just started looking into it. We haven’t gotten too far but I wanted to touch base with you.”

“Sure, anything I can do to help,” he responds with more confidence.

“That’s so kind,” she says masking her confusion. “When was the last time you heard from your son?”

As Shaw think about who it was she met earlier, Mr. Thomas replies, “Its been a while. As Stephanie probably told you we’ve been divorced. I haven’t actually spoken to Stephanie in…it must be 6 or 7 years.”

“Sorry to hear about that. So what business are you in, sir?”

“I’m a banker.”

“What about your son, have you spoken to him recently?”

“We talked last year, almost a year ago actually.”

“I see.” Shaw probes, “around the time he was dropping out of grad school?”

“Yes, he was having a very difficult time,” he says with some sadness. “I tried to talk to him. Obviously he was troubled about something.”

“Did he tell you what?

“I’m not really sure, but he seemed to be under a lot of stress. There seemed to be a lot of things he wanted to talk about but couldn’t bring himself to say.”

“I understand, well did he perhaps mention a friend named Ben or Benjamin Miner?”

There is a pause. “I believe he mentioned a Ben…yes.”

“Apparently he moved in with Ben recently.”

“Oh, okay.”

“But Ben has also vanished as well. I’m hoping that wherever they are they are there together. Safety in numbers.” Shaw hesitates. “This is a delicate question sir, but do you have any financial connections to your ex-wife or your son?”

Mr. Thomas admits, “I was paying alimony to my wife for several years but nothing recent.”

“And Ken has been paying his own way?”

“As far as I know.”

“I see. Thank you very much, sorry to disturb your evening. I’ll be sure to contact you if I find anything.”

“Thank you.”

Putting away her phone, she decides to find out if the man really is at the hotel. She heads inside and approaches a tired receptionist.

“Hi, I’m meeting with a client,” she says handing him a card advertising a law firm. “He told me he was staying here but hadn’t checked in yet. Could you tell me what room he is in?”

She gives the hotel worker a description of the man she met earlier in the day. “I haven’t seen someone of that description. Let me check with my manager. He was here earlier today.”

A few minutes later the manager arrives. “Sorry we haven’t had a man of that description check in.”

“Sorry, maybe he decided to go with another place,” she apologizes. “I recommended this hotel for him.”

“We appreciate the recommendation,” the manager says.

Shaw leaves planning a final stop for the night.

Stephanie Thomas’s house, Delridge, 9:00PM

Shaw drives slowly down the street. In the gloom she can barely make out Stephanie’s house. There is a Honda Civic parked in front of the garage. She quickly notes down the plates as she drives past.

She parks a few houses down. Several of her neighbors’ lights are on but all is quiet as Shaw approaches the house. The middle class neighborhood is lush with old moss covered trees lining the street.

She reaches the car. Touching the hood she can tell it has been there a while. She knocks on the door. There is no answer. The cold night air chilling her, she tries the doorbell. Again no answer.

She glances around but at this late hour there is nobody about. Quietly she circles the house. The mailbox is filled with old mail, dating back to the 15th. Reaching the backdoor, she carefully picks the lock.

Inside, things are dark. A few dying houseplants decorate the kitchen. They haven’t been watered in weeks.

As she approaches the front door, she finds a small table toppled over, papers and knick knacks scattered across the floor. To her trained eye she reads signs of a struggle.

A blinking answering machine catches her attention. She listens to the 19 messages. Her boss is the first, on the morning of the 15th, asking where she is and that she is late for work. Then come friends asking after her. Then on the 19th there is a message from Kenneth saying, “Mom, are you ok? If you hear this get out of town, its not safe here. I think they know about you. I don’t know how. I think they know. I gotta go. I’ll see you. Bye.”

Shaw checks the rest of the house. There are no signs that she packed and no signs that anyone else was living there. As quietly as she came, she leaves, locking the door behind her.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, 10:00PM

Shaw passes a janitor on her way into the office. She quickly reads over Vito’s report while she brings up the DMV pictures for Stephanie and Donald Thomas.

Stephanie is certainly the woman she met this morning. Donald doesn’t quite fit the DMV picture. He’s younger, fatter, and balding, like a bad recollection of someone.

Shaw pulls up the security camera footage from the afternoon. She finds the couple claiming to be Kenneth Thomas‘s parents. Strangely they are blurry. Just them, not the walls or other features. She prints them out anyway as she mutters, "Damn, I’m not getting paid for the Sandman case."

Then, finally, she goes home.

Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, Downtown, 8:00AM

Vito gets in early and is already hard at work on the hard drive when Mavis arrives with donuts and coffee. Progress is good and he thinks he can have it done before lunch.

At 9 AM Shaw and Robert walk in the door, chatting about Liz. Robert asks, “Was she sure she was actually a student or we just assuming she is?”

“That what the landlady supposed,” Shaw explains. “She does have a lot of experience with students. I got some more information on Liz last night. The police have heard that there is a girl, who is an angry ex-girlfriend of Ken’s, and that she’s been at Cafe Equinox, which is where Ben and Ken worked.”

As the arrive in the bullpen Shaw say, “but things have gotten a lot more complicated.” She looks at Vito. “Want to take a break from that for a second?”

“Sure,” the young man replies.

They go into the meeting room. Shaw turns to them. “So after talking to Detective Lawrence, I found out he had been talking to the father recently and he was surprise that he was up here already. It seemed odd to me so I decided to check out our clients.”

“This is Ken’s father?” Robert asks.

“Yes, who I met with. Here’s a picture of them.” She shows them the blurry stills from the security camera. “Very odd there, I’m not sure what going on with our optics. Here’s the picture of them from the DMV.”

She gives them another set of pictures and described her trip to the Holiday Inn by the airport including her call to San Diego. Then she tells them about Stephanie’s house, the signs of struggle, the 2 week old mail, and the message from Ken. “Now the report for Ken was filed on the 17th. As far I can tell that was after she vanished from her house.”

Discussion swirls around who these people really are. An idea comes up to check if Stephanie has made any other purchases (besides hiring them) in recent days.

Shaw returns to the man claiming to be Mr. Thomas. “The identity of this man who claims to be Donald might be a bit more interesting. I think I’ll call a contact of mine down in San Diego and see if I can’t get a visual on Mr. Thomas.”

She continues, “this woman could be some brainwashed version of Stephanie that is actually Stephanie. That’s something I could get my head around. But this guy who sat in my office yesterday can’t be Donald Thomas. If he isn’t then we either have doppelgangers or fraud.”

“Why call us in on a case on something that they don’t want to bring attention to?” Vito asks.

“Well obviously they do,” Shaw says. “They reported it to the cops. What’s interesting is they didn’t report Chaney’s disappearance or Miner’s.”

Robert posits, “perhaps their friend is still at large.”

“That’s true. Perhaps he escaped and they are asking us to do their dirty work.”

Conversation to turns to the mysterious Liz. She could be an agent of whoever is behind this. Robert asks, “Can I involve Erin in this and have her help me track down the potential Elizabeths?”

Shaw okays it and Robert continues, “also I went back to the restaurant where Chaney was found and there was some graffiti that said ‘Sandman’ in the alley. It wasn’t there earlier yesterday. It was signed VI.”

Shaw pulls out her phone and brings up a picture. “Like this?”

They compare images. It is the same style and the same signature.

Vito tells them, “I almost have the hard drive up and running. I’d like to head up to Pine street and talk to some of the neighbors.”

Shaw tells him to make sure it runs first and then go. Robert goes back to his desk and digs into the data recovery. An hour later when Erin gets in, he splits the calls with her. Vito meanwhile makes his way north.

Preludes and Nocturnes

Seattle, March 2005

Robert Mill walks up to the dingy office building in SoDo. He awkwardly straightens his tie and enters the cramped overstuffed office of One of a Kind Investigations. Frank meets him at the door. The older man smiles and shakes Robert’s hand. Robert skirts around boxes and piles of case files as he sits down in Frank’s office. Nervous, Robert hopes his father’s friend will give him a job.

Frank says that Bob, Robert’s father, has told him a lot about the young man. As he absentmindedly brushes some dust from his suit, Frank elaborates, “He says you’re a real whiz kid. We could use some help here in the office office. Mavis, my wife, usually handles these things but what with the office move and her sister’s illness, we could really use the help.”

Robert launches into a list of his skills including an alphabet soup of computer languages he is well versed in. As Frank blankly takes this in he latches onto Robert’s website skills. “A company website is a good idea, Shaw is always telling me we need one.”

Frank, his mind already made, begins to show Robert around. He takes him by Shaw`s desk, which is by contrast clean and orderly. The only personal touch is a small ivy plant. “Shaw handles a lot of our cases. She’s a great detective.”

Nearby, Robert can see Mavis’s desk. Also orderly except for a pile of case files recently set down, it is covered in pictures of nieces and nephews as well as her dog.

Just then Shaw comes in wearing jeans and a plain blouse. Frank introduces Robert. “He is going to help with the files and the company website.”

“So I have the job?” Robert asks.

Frank says yes and leaves the two employees to chat. Shaw asks if he can run a background check. After Robert jokes that he make coffee, Shaw begins to show him the tricks of the trade.

Verdant Technologies Research Campus, San Francisco, May 2006

Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson heads down the endless white hallways of Section 1 to the kitchen. He halts by a small knot of psychiatrists and pharmacologists avidly discussing the latest test results for a new antidepressant. Mentally he looks down on the riff raff and grudgingly listens to his colleague Dr. Spectre mutter about his qualms with approving the drug.

“Problems again? What is it this time Doc?” Trevor quips. Dr. Lawrence mumbles about the unreasonable side effects of this new drug. The hungry doctor advises him, “Get a larger pool of candidates, dilute that stuff.”

As Spectre recites the list of side effects including insomnia, sudden fits of rage, and nose bleeds, Trevor replies, “That’s why we put in those disclaimers.”

Another pharmacologist adds, “It’s a necessary evil,” explaining that it is better that there is a solution to the core problem than to worry about these side effects. “You agree with me right, Dr. Sorenson?”

Between the two of them they crush Dr. Spectre’s moral qualms. Satisfied, Trevor steals a bagel from the fridge, pointed ignoring someone’s shouts about missing food as he heads back to his office. He passes his boss, Douglas Chao, along the way, who cheerfully informs him that the company stocks are up. Even as he thinks about his growing investment, Trevor mutters under breath “asshole.”

Arriving at his office, he finds a letter waiting for him. Addressed to a ‘Dr. J. Sorensen’, it reads:

Sorensen letter

Trevor doesn’t recognize the name Wintergreen and grumbles to himself about why someone would use mail rather than email. As he lazes about his office, checking email and surfing the internet, his mind keeps coming back to the letter. A little research fails to turn up anything on the drug or a Dr. Wintergreen. He also notes the error in the name. Perhaps there is a Dr. Sorensen in the company? He contemplates stopping by anyway and perhaps getting a sample of this new drug for his own research.

3 PM rolls around and Trevor follows a maze of winding hallways to Section 4. Far from the main labs, the empty halls are tunneled into the hillside. Only the hum of machinery breaks the silence. Trevor muses that people must take off early here and considers transferring.

The cold florescent light gleams off of the spotless white tiled floor. The cool air smells of antiseptic. A sign hangs from the ceiling pointing the way to the ‘Extraction Laboratory.’

With no one around and no reception area, Trevor tries a door. It opens into a laboratory with gleaming metal surfaces. An operating table sits spotless in the center of the room. Two refrigerators sit by the far wall, one towering and metal, the other with a glass door and filled well lit samples. Trevor examines the labels on the patient samples to see if they match Subject #A-3, but the labeling consists six digit numbers.

Next he opens the metal door. A faint white mist issues forth along with a blast of icy air. In the freezer are racks of glass jars holding tiny, presumably human, fetuses. Disturbed, Trevor nervously finds some latex gloves and begins to clean the traces of his visit. As he wipes away any fingerprints, he worries about what illegal activities the company might be up to down here.

As he leaves the lab, he thinks he might check out one more room. Anxiously looking out for someone, he heads into the extraction lab. He gropes for a light switch in the dimly lit room. Row and rows of florescent lights turn on, one after another, illuminating a large room filled with dozens of 40 gallon tanks, holding…things.

Trevor takes in the shapes of these deformed gray things, sustained by dripping IVs. Looking around he finds a clip board listing subject numbers: #A-2, #A-3, and so forth. He quickly looks for tags. The first one is labeled #B-4. The thing in the tank is almost the size of a human being but hairless and with jaundiced skin. Suddenly it twitches, stirring in its chemically induced slumber. Trevor holds himself together and looks for #A-3.

He finds the the thing curled into a fetal position with humanoid features and an oddly distended head. He notes its vaguely primate form and thin grayish skin, trying to convince himself it is just a hairless chimpanzee. Then its pitch black eyes snap open.

Backing away, Trevor heads for a nearby computer, hoping to learn more. The computer brings up a password dialog but Trevor quickly enters an admin password he once saw. “fluffy”, her pets name, he thinks to himself. As the desktop appears he spots a minimized browser window. Opening it up, he find it open to a section of the company website he has never seen before. There is log for a subject #A-2 filled with dates and tests. The dates start 3 years ago with its capture and run over exhaustive list of tissue samples, bloodwork, and experiments until its death.

Trevor brings up the next subject, #A-3. The file is similar with the exception that #A-3 is not dead yet. He decodes the reference to uTE: “ultra-terrestrial telepathine extract.”

Suddenly he hears a noise at the door. He quickly ducks down. The chair is jostled by his haste. It slowly rolls away and bangs loudly into one of the tanks.

The security guard calls out to him to show himself, confidently brandishing a pistol.

“I’m Dr. Sorenson,” he says rising.

“You’re not Dr. Sorensen,” the guard replies.

“Yes I am. Here is my badge,” Trevor replies holding out his security badge.

“You’re not cleared for this area.”

“I was looking for a lab-”

“You need to go,” the guard interjects. He ignores Trevor’s protests and escorts him away from the lab.

As the guard alerts main security via radio, Trevor futility tries to talk to the man. “You’ve been working for Verdant long?”

The guard continues to escort him until they reach the main corridor. There they meet another security guard as well as a senior administrator and Sorenson’s boss Mr. Chao.

As a defense, Trevor shows them the letter. As the administrator looks it over, he tiredly tells him, “This must have been an oversight, this letter was meant for James Sorensen.”

Trevor hurriedly blames his position on the mail carriers and others, hiding his fears under a bluster of frustration. His boss speaks up, explaining that it was “simple misunderstanding.” The executive dismisses them and Chao leads Trevor away, still complaining, “I have to prepare for my…”

Once they are safely away from Section 4, Chao confides, “Trust me there are things you just don’t want to know about.”

In the following days Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson researches everything he can find on Section 4 and its staff. There is nothing on the company website. Google turns up no hits on a Dr. Wintergreen or telepathine extract. What little he does find is about Dr. James Sorensen. The man does exist and is apparently employed by Verdant Technologies as a wildlife expert. He finds his office number and decides to visit.

Sorensen’s office is much higher in the building and evidently larger as well. Trevor approaches the floor’s secretary. The young woman looks up from her work, “Yes?”

“I was trying to find Dr. James Sorensen.”

The smile falls from her face. “Oh, oh I’m sorry. Unfortunately Dr. Sorensen is not with us anymore.”

“Oh really…that, that’s sudden. What happened?”

“He died in a skiing accident,” she tells him sorrowfully.

“I was actually going to joke about that….oh that’s terrible,” Trevor replies. He asks if there is a collection being done for him and if he had any family.

The secretary unfortunately doesn’t know if he had family but believes some of his colleagues may be putting together a collection. Trevor asks if he can talk to his supervisor or replacement and the young woman agrees to let them know to contact him.

On his way out Trevor stops at the dead man’s office. There is no window. He glances around. He tries the handle. Its unlocked. Quietly he slips in. Thick blinds diminish the light, but Trevor can make out a large sword on the wall surrounded by knives, pistols and rifle of some sort. He looks around amazed. On the desk is a huge skull of some prehistoric wolf.

He scans the desk for any papers but find only a framed picture of two older men in the wilderness. Their feet are resting on a massive bleeding thing with dozens of eyes and tentacles. One has a scar over one eye and the other is dressed in white. Both seem very fit for their age. The picture is signed ‘Great times, Jackal.’

Trevor snaps a picture with his smart phone’s 1.3 MB camera.

The desk has a locked drawer but the resourceful doctor unlocks it with a paperclip. He hurriedly searches through the files, finding one on Subject #A-3. As he opens it he finds pictures of an alien thing, its body staining a grassy field with blue blood. Trevor stuffs the file under his coat and heads for the door. He waits a moment until it is clear. Then he hurries back to his office.

On the way he runs into his boss, Douglas Chao. Chao wants to talk to him about something. Trevor quickly hides the file in his office, sandwiched in a stack of books and files and then heads to his boss’s office.

Unlike Trevor’s tiny box, his boss has a window. Framed by large black filing cabinets it looks out onto a tiny square of grass. The sky is an equally small rectangle well above the office. As Trevor adjust the location of his chair in the tight room, he attempts to feign ignorance that anything special is happening. He quips, “Got any weekend plans? I was thinking of going down to Santa Cruz.”

But his boss fails to notice his nervousness. Mr. Chao worriedly comments to Trevor that he is one of his best employees and that he doesn’t want to see anything happen to him. He wishes Trevor well on his trip to Santa Cruz and explains that the letter should never have gotten to him. As a last piece of advice Chaos says, “If you saw anything down there, just keep it yourself.”

Trevor denies seeing anything. But later, at his office, he looks into other employees who left or caused trouble. Most of them died. In accidents.

Trevor starts selling his company stocks and looking for a new job far away. Maybe to work with patients again.

As for the stolen file, he hides it a storage container and keeps digital copies backed up on his computers.

Seattle Morgue, September 2006

The clock on the wall reads just ten till midnight when they wheel the body into Dr. Ilyes‘s lab. Ilyes looks over the detective’s report. A 23 year old African-American woman was dancing at a night club when she collapsed, presumably of a brain aneurysm. That can cover a lot of different things he thinks to himself.

He unzips the body bag and begins to examines the body. A small trail of blood runs from her nose. He checks the woman’s known background: no history of drug use, no known health issues. He sends a blood sample to the toxicology and begins his initial examination.

“We begin our initial survey of the body. Time of death is,” he checks the paperwork, “10:23 PM.” He lifts the head and looks closely. “No external evidence of concussion or head trauma.”

He begins to check the rest of the body. “No wounds to the head or neck. Faint abrasions on the arms, discoloration indicates age of approximately 6 to 9 days.” He examines the inner side of the arms. “No signs of intravenous usage.”

Dr. Ilyes opens up the eyes. “Patient exhibits highly dilated eyes.”

An hour later as he prepares for the Y-incision, the blood analysis comes back. Ilyes carefully looks over the results. He notes the lack of any obvious harmful imbalances, though overall there are unusual levels of several proteins. He also notes some odd compounds in the blood. He quickly looks up the chemicals, finding them to be spider venom, but at extremely low dosages. He double checks the body but there are no signs of spider bites.

He restarts the recording. “Let’s proceed with the Y-incision.” One by one he weighs and examines each organ. The only irregularity is signs of liver damage, possibly caused by methamphetamine usage. He takes a sample and sends it out for a biopsy. In the woman’s intestines, he notes down that her last meal was barbecue wings.

With no signs of atrial rupturing, he moves on to the brain. After using the Stryker saw, he pulls off the cap.

What happens next is etched into Dr. Kevin Ilyes’s mind.

His first impressions are that large chunks of the brain are missing. The sudden burst of pressurized blood is unexpected but he has seen worse. In the same instant, he mentally notes there appears to be a fine grid of filaments much like spider web between the remaining sections of the brain. Then all rational thought disappears are swarms of spiders crawl up out of the skull, up his hands and onto his arms. The doctor shrieks and smashes the tiny vermin with whatever he can.

A couple minutes later, breathing heavily, he sits in a chair trying to calm his nerves. Bloody smears of spiders cover the examination area as well as his cast off gown lying a few feet away.

He picks up the phone and dials the person who brought the body in. The voice on the other end answers sleepily, “Hello?”

“Listen, the body was contaminated,” Ilyes informs him.


“Where were you keeping it?”

The transporter stammers, “We brought it right over.”

Ilyes confirms with him the date and location of death. The transporter explains, “the traffic was pretty bad but we got you body in under an hour.”

Ilyes says the timelines don’t match up. He then tells him about the spiders.

“Spiders, she had spiders on her! Oh god.”

“In her,” Iyes corrects.


“That’s what I’m saying, there is no way this body could have been…there is something wrong with the timeline here.”

“We brought her right over. There were no spiders on her. There were no spiders on our ambulance. We keep it clean. No spiders.”

Later in the night, Dr. Ilyes tells his colleagues to make note of this one, “this is a weird one.” Still pursuing the timeline angle, he proposes that someone might have brought her body to the nightclub and then dumped it there. He passes this idea on to the detectives, though they seem fairly convinced that she was alive while at the club. But, he thinks, there is no way an infestation like that could occur in just four hours.

Ilyes sends the few intact remains of the spiders to an arachnologist.

His colleagues buy his theory for the night but by the morning video footage arrives from the club. In it, they can clearly see the woman dancing until suddenly she stops. She twitches and blood trickles from her nose. Then she collapses.

The fellow investigators have a good laugh and tell him that probably there were just spiders in the examination room and he freaked out. But Iyles clings to what he saw. From then on rubber spiders appear on his desk, in his files, and elsewhere. He is refered to as the “spider man.”

The arachnologist eventually gets back to him. He explains that he has difficulty identifying the species based on the damage but it was likely a relation to the brown recluse. Its venom is not known to be neurotoxic, except perhaps in cases of severe allergies.

Left with no one who believes him, Dr. Ilyes begins a silent crusade to chronicle the strange deaths in and around Seattle.

Afghanistan, August 2008

The dry summer air bakes the gravel road as the Humvee convoy rolls through the barren mountainous landscape. The SEAL squad members joke and play around on this milk run of mission. Lt. Sanchez barks on the radio, “Eye’s up.”

The men snap to attention as they approach the aged mud brick village, watching for trouble. “3 o’clock,” Lester alerts them to a growing knot of locals up ahead.

A small child runs up to side of a truck. Vito tosses a chocolate bar to the kid. The young boy smiles as he begins to tear it open.

Up ahead, an old man dressed in a drab brown robe steps out into the path of the lead truck. As the driver swerves around him, he begins shouting in Pashto.

As the next truck approaches, a soldier leans out, his sunglasses shining in the sun. “What is it?” Eddie asks in the man’s native tongue.

As the vehicle roars past, the old man yells out something like, “the goats have gone missing.”

“They don’t have any goats in this village,” Eddie translates for his comrades.

Lester snorts and replies, “We here to fight a war, not a freaking goat collection.”

Another soldier, Nick, thinks that the insurgents might be behind this. “Its intel. The Talibs might be provisioning.”

A burly solder, Calvin, replies in a Texan twang, “They should raise cattle.”

The convoy doesn’t stop and the empty waste soon surrounds them again. As they make the last stretch to base camp, the Lieutenant fills them in on what he’s heard. “Its just more of that nonsense. People have been going missing all around here. Probably Talibs recruiting and stealing goats for food. Our flyboys have been spotting lights up there in the mountains. That’s probably where they are. We’ll be up there ourselves soon.”

“Looking forward to it, LT,” Eddie chimes in.

Another hour of boredom and they arrive in base camp. The SEALs quickly head to their tents, leaving the supplies to the army personnel. As they lounge around waiting for their next mission, Nick catches up with the latest intelligence, passing it along to others at camp, including the possible goat rustling.

He returns to hear the gang riffing on him.

“He’s a gossip,” Eddie chuckles.

“Do any of you guys understand any basics of counter insurgency theory? Have any of you read Praetarius’s book?” he replies seriously.

“I read it…in the original English.” The gang break up again.

The squad is woken in middle of night by Lt. Sanchez. “We have a mission. Briefing is in 15.”

The squad quickly get their gear together. Calvin quips, “I’m going to miss my hair appointment.”

At the main tent, Sanchez lays out the mission. “The army got themselves into a bit of trouble, in that village we were talking about yesterday.” He shows them the topographical map and lays out where the Army unit was sweeping the village for insurgents. They came under heavy attack and now needs support and medical evacuations.

“Details are sketchy but at last report they were hunkered down in a stone structure on the edge of the village. Here. There are at least 40 soldiers to account for and at least some are wounded.” Sanchez then outlines the plan. They will be dropped off in a Chinook while an Apache escorts them. Vito will be positioned on a nearby hill to provide sniper support. The insurgents should be localized in the village, armed with AK-47s and perhaps a few RPGs. Initial estimates are that there roughly 50 to 60 insurgents though the number may be as high as 100.

Mission objectives are to relieve the soldiers, secure the wounded and alert the medical helicopter. Once the wounded are rescued, depending on the situation on the ground, they will work with the remaining soldiers to complete the sweep of the village. Additional army troops are expected to arrive at dawn.

With their orders set, the men load up onto the helicopter. The lights of base camp soon vanish into the distance. Vito sits at the last seat of the helicopter, waiting to be swung out. In dim red lights of the cabin, his friends (Calvin, Eddie, Lester, Nick, Max) nervously joke and ready themselves for combat.

Vito is given the go sign. He swings out, landing gently amid the dry brush. As he set ups his M107, he sees the Chinook bank and head for the drop site.

A yellow line blazes across his retina as a rocket smashes into the Apache. With a loud crash it explodes, its magazine instantly igniting. A second rocket smashes into the Chinook. Vito quickly spots the source of the SAMs on the opposite hill and brings his sniper rifle to bear on the insurgents.

Eddie, Lester, and Nick find themselves suddenly outside the aircraft. The air is suddenly hot and full of tearing metal. They fall loosely, hitting the ground with minimal force. Two larger soldiers, Max and Calvin, smash to the ground nearby as chunks of burning steel fall around them. Wincing they pick themselves up and examine their surroundings. Lester shouts, “Check for survivors!”

The smell of burning aviation fuel and flesh fills the air. Eddie focuses on his radio. Over the crackle of static, he can hear Vito’s situation report: “si-<crackle> individuals up the hill from you.” The sniper says the insurgents seem to be camouflaged, with most of the heat signatures coming from the wreckage and the village, especially the army unit’s location.

The others begin a search of the wreckage. Eddie scans for cover, spotting the forward rotor of the Chinook and the furrowed trail it left in the rocky soil.

Nick spots a survivor in flames. Pinned beneath part of the helicopter, he screams in pain as he burns alive. Without a thought, he drops his drops his belt and backpack, running into the fire. Calvin covers him as he tries to shift the mass of hot metal off of the dying man. The flames lick at Nick’s skin as he struggles to find purchase.

Vito spots the insurgents heading down the hill. Carefully he lines up the lead figure, taking his time. With a muffled bang, his shot goes through the target’s shoulder shattering it. But it doesn’t go down. It stumbles and stops. Then it reaches over with its opposite hand and wrenches its destroyed shoulder back into shape. Then it goes down the hill after its fellows like nothing had happened. Vito looks in disbelief. That’s impossible he thinks. Nothing can take a hit like that. He stares blankly forward until he loses sight of it.

Meanwhile in the valley, Lester reaches the downed Apache. The wreckage is strewn across the area of a football field. Nothing is left. He radios in, “No survivors everybody, no survivors. What’s the situation?”

Vito shakes the scene from his mind, “Hostiles coming down the hill at you.”

Lester spots them and dives for cover as a series of shots come down from the hill. “I’m under fire.”

Back at the Chinook, the flames begin to creep up Nick’s clothing. Driven by the pain and a desperate desire to save his comrade, he lifts the debris with a mighty heave. Nick grabs the horribly burned soldier and carries him out of the flames. Calvin and Eddie grab and put out the survivor as Nick drops and rolls along the ground, swiftly putting himself out. The SEALs drag the man to the safety of the forward propeller wreckage. Eddie radios back, “What’s your location Lester?”

Lester radios Vito who advises him to fall back. Calvin bandages up the burn victim as best he can. The man’s blackened and bloodstained clothing rises and falls with his ragged breathing. Calvin pulls out his shotgun and hefts the man onto his shoulder.

Vito, recomposed, takes another shot. This time the target stays down, its torso shattered by the force of the blow. Its allies don’t stop however. Vito warns the others, “Five incoming.”

As Lester regroups with the others, Nick is hastily setting up a grenade trap with Max covering him with a FN MAG. They beat a quick retreat to the village with Lester taking point and Eddie covering Calvin.

Another shot echoes across the valley. An attacker’s hand vaporizes. The sniper radios, “Guys, guys, these guys aren’t going down, there’s something strange here.”

The soldiers make for a ruined foundation between the village and the wreckage. The mud brick buildings appear red in the flickering fires. Their hurried footsteps mix with the crackle of flames and the occasional crack of Vito’s .50 caliber gun.

Lester enters the village. Mutilated bodies litter the streets: civilians, insurgents, and U.S. soldiers. Though most suffer gunshot wounds, all are missing parts: arms, sections of skin, even eyes. Lester alerts the others and checks out the structure where the army unit was camped.

A pool of blood covers the floor. Bodies lie in heaps, making a rough ring about the doorway. Errant bullet holes riddle the doorway as if they were shooting at something outside. “Everyone’s dead, let’s get out here,” Lester reports.

Vito calls over the radio, “Guys, I’m not stopping these guys, I’m hitting them and they keep going.”

Max and Nick catch up to the others. Nick looks around. “Let’s set up a good fire team position and let’s hit them with the explosives. The idea is to get them into a good kill zone. And then after that we can exfil from the village.”

“Bullets didn’t seem to do much against these guys,” Lester says.

“High explosives do something to everyone.”

Calvin takes the wounded soldier to find the best fallback position. He spots a ruined mosque and heads for it. The others watch over Nick as he lays down trip lines for some of his frag grenades as well as one of his specials, a thermite grenade.

Another crack is heard from the hill. As another creature drops and twitches, they hear, “Four still incoming.”

Lester asks, “How far are they Vito?”

“They are at the village.” Another shot rings out, causing a final one to drop to its knees. As it pulls itself upright, a final shot snaps its spine.

Calvin makes it to the mosque. He enters, his eyes adjusting to the dimness. Scattered across the floor are pieces of the villagers. A single burqa clad figure stands in the room. The young woman’s back is to him, but as she turns toward him, he can see her holding a severed arm. She presses the arm against her own bloody stump and the flesh stitches together.

Calvin drops the wounded soldier and fires his shotgun. The slug doesn’t slow her charge. He shouts, “Mosque was not a good idea.”

Calvin flies out of the mosque, slamming into a wall. He coughs, wheazing, “Its not human. Its not possible.”

The others have spotted the things. Nearly naked and stitched together from the parts of a half a dozen different people each, they charge the SEAL team. Nick is crouched by the triplines hoping to lure them into the kill zone. Faced with the impossible, Max and Eddie open fire. Nick ducks for safety and shoots a short burst into the nearest target. As its leg explodes, Max sprays the area with a wild hail of bullets.

Eddie shoots another’s arm to bits, shouting, “Die Frankenstein fuckers!”

But it is too much for Lester. He panics and flees.

The things continue their reckless advance, crawling if need be. Nick chooses to stand his ground, his bullets perforating one. Then they hit the trip lines in front of him.

Vito hears the gunfire from his position on the hill. Then the flames of an explosion rise from the village. Nick’s communications cut out.

Eddie and Max watch the grenades vaporize the monsters and slice Nick to pieces. As Max looks on in shock, Eddie yells, “Nick’s fucking down. They killed Nick! You bastards.” The two sweep the area with bullets.

As Vito takes in his friend’s death, he sweeps the hill. The figure he dropped earlier is gone. It’s torso was shattered but it is gone. He focuses his attention on the other body.

Back at the mosque, Calvin gets up, his head aching from the impact and the reverberations of the explosions. Emerging from the doorway to the mosque, the female figure moves in for the kill. Calvin puts another round into her as she comes, blowing a hole right through her. Lester, still panicking, runs past the scene.

She sways for a moment. Then she lunges at him, biting into his flesh. As she begins to eat him, he pulls the pin on his frag grenade. A hollow boom echoes across the valley.

Eddie pulls on Max’s arm. “Max! stop stop.”

As the gunfire fades, Max shakily asks, “What happened to Cal-Calvin?”

“He’s at the mosque.”

“We’ve got to get to the mosque!” He says turning into the village.

“No its no good. That what he said.”

“But, but Calvin, he’s dying…”

Eddie checks his grenades. “We’ve got to get Nick’s stuff. We’ve got to get forward.”

Max heads over to his friend’s body to get the grenade belt. As he pulls it loose, a charred arms smashes into his leg, sprawling him onto the hard earth. Eddie puts 3 rounds into the charred thing and it topples back into the flames.

Max clutches his crushed ankle. Painfully he gets up on his good foot and limps over with the grenades. He drops his machine gun and pulls out his MP5. Leaning on Eddie, the pair head out of the village.

Lester comes to a halt in an overgrown courtyard. He focuses on slowing his breathing. Looking about he radios to the others, “What’s going on, I’m confused, what’s happening?”

He hears Eddie, “What’s going on is you fucking left us bastard!”

“I did? What’s happening, where are you?”

Vito cuts in. “Eddie exfiltrate back to my position”


Vito then directs Lester to get to the edge of the village. The point man climbs up the courtyard wall. He can see the scraggly farm land one building over in the predawn light. The mosque is burning behind him in the distance.

Vito relays direction for him to regroup with the others. Then he turns back to the fallen form of his last kill. He sees its arms and legs moving, pulling in opposite directions. Suddenly they rip apart, each part moving off in a different directions.

Lester makes it back to the village entrance. He spots a figure emerge from the shadows. Then he realizes it is wearing Calvin’s face. The soldier screams and runs for safety.

Vito spots the figure. Eddie and Max emerge from the village. They see the thing in the shadows. Max quickly tosses a grenade as Vito puts a hole through its throat. As the flames of the thermite grenade consume it they see Calvin’s face.

Max looks on in horror as its screams and dies. “Fuck, fuck it was Calvin.”

As army helicopters come over the horizon, Lester stops himself at the edge of the debris field moments before he would have stumbled over Nick’s booby trap. As the sun comes up the monsters vanish and the survivors are rescued.

Back at base camp, they are debriefed.

The last Vito hears from Eddie is “I’m not fucking insane, those were zombies. Zombies! I’m not violent. I’m going to kill you.”

Max loses his leg and is discharged. He moves to Eastern Oregon and drinks heavily.

Lester is given a General Discharge for cowardice. Vito doesn’t see him much.

Vito has a meeting with his team’s command officer, Lieutenant Commander Sunnerton. The officer lays out the official report to him. The army unit they were sent to rescue encountered unexpected insurgent resistance. His SEAL team was deployed to relieve them and rescue the wounded but the insurgents shot down their transport. The surviving SEALs were too late to rescue the soldiers but were able to drive off or kill the insurgents, achieving one of their objectives. It was a tragic loss but America’s soldiers emerged victorious. He then asks Vito to sign off on the report.

Vito does. Later he will receive a bronze star for his actions.

As he leaves the commander’s tent, he spots an older man in a black suit lurking outside. ‘CIA?’ he thinks to himself. Despite his gray hair and aged face, the man looks to be in good physical shape, though faint scars run along the left side of his neck.

Vito approaches.

The man says, “Some tough business out there.”

Vito admits there were some issues with choppers being shot down.

“You didn’t see anything odd out there?”

“Wouldn’t know about that, sir,” Vito replies.

The old man is playing with a clump of rocks in his calloused hands. Vito looks at them, curious. “What do you do around here, sir?”

“Keep an eye on things.”

“What sort of things?”

“I think you know,” he tells him. “By the way those insurgents you saw? You won’t hear this anywhere else, but this is all they found of them.” He lets rocks fall to the ground.

“They seem to do pretty well with .50 caliber hits, sir.”

The old man nods, “You did good work. I might contact you later…stateside.” The man in black walks off.

Seattle at the office of One of a Kind Investigations, March 2009

Vito enters the office, the flight up fresh in his mind. The ad had been simple. ‘One of Kind Investigations seeks qualified investigator with law enforcement or military experience to join the team. Out of the box thinking required.’

Pictures of unfamiliar people and pets decorate the secretary’s desk along with a well used box of tissues. The older woman looks up, her hair a bright silver. “Hello you are?”

He remembers the voice from the phone, Mavis Brooks. “Vito Venticelli.”

“Ah, yes we’re expecting you. Give me a moment to let Shaw know you are here.”

She calls over the office phone and than escorts him down the hall to the office of Lillian Shaw. Before she leaves she asks, “Do you want a coffee?”

“Black please.”

Woman behind the desk is dressed professionally in a business suit with slacks. The windows behind her look out over downtown. Shaw leans over the desk to shake Vito’s hand. “Hi I’m Lillian Shaw. Did Mavis ask if you wanted something to eat?”

“No thank you ma’am.”

“Ok, please have a seat. Vito-,” she says trying to pronounce his name.

“Venticelli,” he finishes for her.

“I must say, your credentials are very impressive. Are you planning to move to Seattle?”

“If I get a job, yes ma’am.”

“May I ask your interest in the city is?”

“The job.” The rough economic climate hangs over the conversation.

“Where were you last working?”


“Oh I see. But you’ve been stateside for a while?”

“3 weeks ma’am.”

“Oh, congrats. Thank you very much for your service.”

“Thank you.”

“Have you had any experience with investigation work?”

“What we did in Afghanistan was quite a bit of investigation work.”

“I see.” She pauses a moment before explaining the job. “Well we are mostly looking for someone to handle our day to day investigations with a focus on missing persons. Also possibly philandering spouses. We also sometimes handle some more unusual cases that require a certian degree of tact. You think that something you are interested in?”

“I’m good with my hands,” he replies, hinting at his weapons expertise.

“But you also believe you would be good in a social situation as well?”

“Not a problem. I grew up in a not very good neighborhood on the outskirts of New York City. In Jersey.”

“I see. Ok.”

Mavis returns with coffee. Talk turns to any local contacts he might be able to contribute. Vito however is new to the area and while some of his comrades in arms might have moved or returned to Seattle, he isn’t aware of any at the moment.

“I am looking to expand my team’s combat experience. I personally put time in with the Seattle PD.” She stops, thinking of how much to tell him. “The founder of the company was recently recovered under mysterious circumstances and it is currently unclear what happened to him while he was missing. I believe in being prepared for any eventuality.”

Vito seems unfazed by that. The two each hint at strange things they have seen with Vito commenting that he had seen odd things in Afghanistan.

Shaw looks over his resume and the results of Robert‘s background check on Vito. The records are clean, too clean. Shaw can see he was involved in secret, probably special ops, work. She notes that he was given an Honorable Discharge but didn’t reenlist. She thinks however he has been telling her the truth.

“What made you decide not to reenlist, to rejoin civilian life?”

“The last mission was really bad.”

“I’m sorry.”

“I can’t talk about it but…it was really bad.”

The interview draws to a close. Shaw asks, “Any questions for me?”

Vito asks about the types of cases. Shaw talks about them in more details as well as the typical case load. Gradually talk turns to the city of Seattle and the nature of living there.

“I’m prepared to offer you the position. You are honestly the best candidate that I’ve interviewed today.”

Vito accepts and they talk about the next steps, getting his paperwork done for his detective license and Seattle permits. Shaw also wants him to talk to a psychiatrist she has on retainer, Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson for psychiatric evaluation. She assures him it is purely a precaution and she is sure there won’t be any issues. Vito seems confident as well.

He leaves the office thinking about apartments to rent and travel arrangements to make.

Seattle, Lake Union, November 2005

A chill mist blows over Lake Union. Shaw slowly paces down the street, her eyes taking in every detail. The gentle lap of the waters mixes with the noise of traffic a few blocks away. The Seattle P.D. was scouring the city for Nicole Vogel’s son but they didn’t have Shaw’s contacts. Someone saw a child matching Richard’s description around this area. He might be gone but he might still be here.

There. Shaw spots the the arm of red jacket poking out of a trash bin. Richard had a jacket like that when he went missing. She hurries over to the trash bin, pulling out the small damp jacket. The name tag reads Richard Vogel.

Looking around, the trash bin can only belong to dingy house boat rotting nearby. Peeling paint and a slight tilt hint at long abuse. She looks in a window, making out a dirty hallway and a room with only a single chair and an old TV. Down the hall she can see a kitchen. Occasionally a figure comes into view, apparently cooking breakfast.

Shaw moves away from the window, staying close to a wall. She pulls out her phone and texts her contact on the force. She gives her current location and the info on the jacket. Then she turns off her phone.

She gets up on deck. Thinking about the layout of her houseboat, she’d guess the kid would be kept below desks, probably in the aft. Shaw knocks on door.

There is a clang and some cursing from inside. A few moments later, a bleary eyed man in boxers and a bathrobe comes to the door. “What is it?”

“You the owner of this boat?”

“Yeah, I’m the owner of this boat,” the pot bellied man says testily.

Shaw introduces herself as being form the local marina boat owner’s association. She pushes forward into the door. It only opens a few inches with the man’s firm hand on it.

“What do you want? This is my home.”

“Well you have complaints about your home, sir. I’d really like to just get this taken care of so you can go on about your day.”

The man caves and lets her inside. A few dozen bottles cluster near the door. He asks, “What’s the complaints about?”

Shaw can smell the alcohol on him. She quickly takes in the area. She spies two plates on the kitchen table with burnt eggs and cold pieces of bread on them. A bottle of Jack Daniels completes the scene. “Well I can see you’ve lived here some time. You know all our regulations about proper exterior maintenance.”

She rattles off a list of ordinances and nautical jargon in a half bored tone.

Flustered, the man says, “Yeah, ok, I’ll make the repairs. I’ll get the whatchamacallit license.”

“I need to get a copy of your license,” she asks.

Grudgingly the man heads into another room to dig out his license. Meanwhile Shaw spots the hatch to the lower level. A chair has been haphazardly thrown on top of it. Carefully she moves the chair, but it scrapes against the hatch. “What’s that noise!” she hears the man shout from the other room.

The man hurries back to find Shaw seated in the chair. He has his wallet in one hand and a revolver in other hand.

“That’s not necessary,” Shaw says defusing the situation.

The man lets gun drop, stuffing it into his bathrobe. “You moved my chair.”

“I wanted to sit down.”

The man hands over his wallet while Shaw pulls out a pad, surreptitiously clearing a path to her gun. The license is for a George Meier. “Good, this is current, that will go well for you. The only other thing I need to know is are you the only one here sir?”

As she says this they both hear knocking coming from the hatch. A muffled child’s calls out, “I’m hungry.”

A moment of silence hangs in the air as they look at each other. Then they both go for their guns.

Shaw is faster, pulling out her Glock and shooting the kidnapper’s hand before he can pull the trigger. His gun flies across the room. As he cradles his hand in pain, Shaw hurls her chair at him, knocking him to the ground and away from the revolver.

Shaw backs up, keeping the gun pointed at George. Reaching behind her she opens the hatch. Richard comes stumbling out. Sirens can be heard in the distance. She scoops up the kid and begins to move out of the room. “Stay down, Meier.”

Meier stays on the ground as she carries Richard out of the house boat. The rain has picked up the flashing police lights light the street.

The press are hot on their heels and as Shaw reaches the police, they hurriedly snap pictures. Soon the image of her and the rescued boy is in newspapers across the country.

Seattle, Industrial District, December 2008

A cold drizzle falls over Seattle. Shaw glances out the window thinking about Frank. The company’s founder has been missing for 3 weeks. Last she heard he was working on a case for an old client. That was November.

Shaw tries not to think about the sniffles she hears from Mavis‘s desk, almost wishing she was on that stakeout with Erin Bartram. Its been over a year since she was in the field. Why didn’t she stay closer to the action?

The phone rings. Shaw picks it up. It is Sam Jollenson from Missing Persons. “I think we might have found Frank.”

“Is he okay?” she asks.

“I don’t know, got some reports of a homeless man in the industrial district matching Frank’s description.”

“Okay, can you give me a location?” Shaw quickly jots down the street.

She hurries out of the office. The detective desks sit empty. Erin and Robert must be on their cases, she thinks. Then Robert comes form the kitchen area with a fresh cup of coffee.

“Robert come with me.” She steers him out into the hall. Once out of earshot she says,
“I didn’t want to say anything in front of Mavis, but I think we found Frank.”

“Oh, great.” He looks at her expression. “Or is it great?”

“I don’t know they have reports of a homeless man matching his description. he’s alive but…I don’t know. Let’s see.”

“Seems odd, but okay.”

They head down to the Industrial District. The cold rain mixes with the runoff from the ruined factories. Gray streaks mar the building facades. The two detectives split up to cover more ground.

As Robert heads down a cracked concrete sidewalk, he spots a homeless guy shivering in blanket at the entrance to an alleyway. He approaches cautiously. “Uh, sir excuse me.”

The man looks up, his bald head streaked with dirt. Robert suddenly recognizes him. “Frank?”

The man doesn’t seem to recognize him. “Hold on a second sir.” Robert pulls out his cellphone. “Miss Shaw, I think I found him.”

While he wait for her to arrive, Robert checks on Frank. The older man is freezing, wearing a damp blanket and a dirt streaked coat. As he sits there rocking back and forth he keeps muttering, “Sandman, sandman, sandman.”

“Are you okay Frank, is there I can do for you?”

“Sandman takes your thoughts away,” the man cryptically replies.

Robert decides to humor him. “Ah yes the sandman, I hear you. Ah, so what are you up to Frank?”

“They fill your-your head with sand.”

“That’s true so true. Its going to be alright Frank. Lillian’s coming, We’re going to take you back to Mavis. You know Mavis right?”

“Mavis?” Frank seems confused.

Robert tries to comfort him. “The sandman can’t get you there.”

Robert spots Shaw hurriedly making her way up the street. She walks over the old man and tries to touch him. Frank flinches back. “Frank. Frank its me.”

Robert tries to help, “Its okay, she’s not one of the sandmen.”

“It was an enee, an enee came for me.” Frank babbles.

“Who came for you?” Shaw asks.

“The enees, they came for me.”

“Frank, Mavis is worried about you. Will you come with us?”

Then Frank pulls his revolver from the recesses of his coat. “Put 6 slugs into it, it came. It came.”

Robert puts up his hands. “Frank give me the gun.”

The deranged detective hands him the revolver. Robert tells him, “That’s good Frank, very good. Its going to be okay.”

As Frank continues to mumble about slugs, Robert pops open the revolver. The shell casings are all empty.

He turns to Shaw, “What do you think?”

Shaw continues to focus on Frank. “Are you hurt Frank?”

Frank shivering starts to repeat the word sandman again. Shaw tries to comfort him, but he doesn’t seem to remember her. Eventually she and Robert are able to calm him down. They get him into their car. Despite the damage to his mind, Frank shows no signs of physical harm beyond exposure.

“Let’s take him home and see if he recognizes anything,” Shaw says. Robert calls a head to Mavis and they meet her at Frank and Mavis’s house.

But even amid the floral print wallpaper and pictures of time gone by, Frank fails to recognize anything, even his wife Mavis. Shaw calls the Seattle PD, informing that they did find Frank. She asks them if they have a reference for a good psychiatrist.

As Shaw jots down the details for a Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson, Mavis asks Robert, “What happened to him?”

Robert looks at Frank shivering in his wife’s arms, clutching a cup of warm tea. Mavis sobs, “He doesn’t recognize me.”

Robert tries to comfort her. “I think he’s just in shock. I think he’ll be fine. It’s going to be okay.”

“We should take him to a hospital.”

“Let’s hold on for a minute. Miss Shaw’s looking into it, she’ll know what to do.”

Shaw calls Dr. Sorenson and sets up an appointment for him. She also makes an appointment for a complete physical. She tells Mavis they will do whatever it takes to help Frank get better.

The physical goes well. The doctor can find nothing medically wrong with Frank that can’t be explained by a bit of exposure. Physically he is in excellent health.

Shaw takes Frank to the Hillcrest Mental Health Center to meet with Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson.

As Trevor comes in, Frank is hunched over slowly rocking back and forth and muttering, “Sandman, sandman, put sand in my brain.” He notices the doctor. “They put spiders in my head but it didn’t take. They didn’t take.” He starts giggling.

Calmly Dr. Sorenson aaks, “When did they do this Frank? When did this happen?”

The old detective struggles for an answer. “Ah…I don’t know.”

“Do you need to see a calender or a clock?”

Frank however cannot muster an answer. Trevor asks him, “Where did this happen?”

“The bad place,” he answers promptly.

“This bad place, what do you remember about this bad place?”

“The Silent One, the Silent One was there. He comes at night.”

“Can you remember any colors?”

“Black.” He thinks. “Gray.”

“Was this a house? A hotel? Perhaps a park or a street? A hospital?”

To each question Frank struggles, mumbling, “House…hospital…I don’t know.”

“Frank tell me about your family. Where is your family? Your wife Mavis?”

Again Frank can’t answer.

“Where did you go to school?”

“School…Rainier Beach high school.”

It seems Frank can remember somethings, particularly from his childhood. There are snatches and fragments of memory of more recent times but huge areas of his life are missing. With difficulty he can name his favorite food or color.

MRI tests show substantial and peculiar brain damage. Some segments are no so much destroyed as deformed, smoothed out somehow. Something about the images makes Trevor think about Subject #A-3’s file. Growing increasingly nervous the doctor looks into Frank’s medical history. He orders tests, tests for BCE, prions, and a host of related neurological ailments. But Frank’s system is clean of known foreign agents. There are no drugs, no bacteria, no viruses. There are no head trauma and nothing in his medical history to suggest a cause.

Trevor returns to Shaw and Robert. Dr. Sorenson discusses the pathology of Frank’s brain damage. He relays the similar cases he has uncovered in Newark, New Jersey in the 50’s, Lecce, Italy in the 90’s and Beijing just a few years ago. All had the same symptoms of abrupt amnesia and specific patterns of brain damage. He explains there must be some sort of disease behind this.

As he calmly relays this he tries not to slip the other details he has learned. That each incident happened near the site of a Pentex research facility or one of its subsidiaries.

Trevor admits Fixing Frank’s brain is beyond him but that drugs may help him with communicating with others. With time and therapy he might eventually be able to care for himself. “He needs these medications. He is suffering from a complex of delusions, anxieties and paranoia. These will help to keep him calm.”

Robert objects. “I guess the delusions, I’m not sure he’s paranoid.”

“Paranoia that the sandman-”

Robert cuts him off. “Something did effect his brain, not the sandman, that’s nonsense, but something happened.”

Shaw thinks about what little she know about what happened to Frank. The old client he was working with is still unknown. His trail wandered across the city, focusing on the Industrial and Central Districts. The last place he was seen was Yessler Terrace.

Hesitantly, Dr. Sorenson warns, “You may not want to dig too deep into what really happened because.. there could be those who don’t want you to know. That could be dangerous for you.”

Shaw presses him on what he means. He tries to play it off but his facade rapidly gives way to rambling. “I’m not sure if this happened to him because something else or if you tried investigating too much into what happened to him that then whoever they are would come to try cover things up. I know it sounds like a conspiracy theory.”

Robert comments, “It seems the paranoia is catching.”

Trevor tries to explain. “There are institutions with questionable ethics that may be involved with what happened to Frank. It would be best if you were very very cautious if you were to pursue an investigation into this matter, for your own safety.”

“It sound like you might know what those connections are,” Shaw says calmly.

“They are only hunches I have no evidence whatsoever,” he lies regaining some composure. “I’m not trying to scare you.”

“We’re really going to look into this. Frank’s a friend. We’re not going to let this drop for vague they might come me kind of thing. I need a little more than that if I’m going to scared off,” Robert says.

“I can see that. I can see that my warnings and caution are just going to peak your interest instead of actually caution you away form this.” Trevor sighs. “There are…corporations which do experimental research and either Frank is a by product of some of this research or else he investigated something and they found him and they did this to him to keep him quiet.”

“So who’s they?” In the doctor’s silence, Robert continues. “I need a less wild conspiracy. They is pretty vague.”

The doctor’s facade breaks, “Listen you can’t lead them back to me. Because if they find out that I told you then it could come back to me and then..”

They assure him they are very discrete. Reassured Trevor continues, “You’ve heard of Pentex and one of their subsidiaries Verdant Technologies. If he was investigating something related to that you should be extremely cautious.”

“Is this Pentex of Verdant?” Robert asks.

“Where does one end and the other start?”

Robert muses, “Pentex is a normal company. They make everything. Its hard to believe Pentex would be involved in this. Verdant, I don’t know anything about them. Who knows right?”

Shaw adds, “Verdant isn’t local. How could Frank have gotten involved with them?”

“I’d like to know that myself,” says Dr. Sorenson. He explains the links he has found between Pentex and the other cases. Possibly Pentex is researching a neurological drug and Frank might have found out something dangerous about this work.

Shaw presses him for more evidence. “Why are you so sure?”

“I have…a lot of experience in the pharmaceutical industry and I’ve seen hints of cases similar to this. Cases that I can’t avow any knowledge of. Cases with similar patterns of brain damage and similar deformities. It fits no known pattern of disease on this planet. I know you think I’m crazy but I have a lot of experience with people in Frank’s position. There are things out there that are not explainable by mundane medicine.”

He continues, “I think we should investigate this from Frank’s end.” He urges them to be discrete and mentions that other people, people he can’t name for Robert and Shaw’s safety, have had accidents. “In the meantime, we should look if there are less documented cases in the area.”

In the end he gives them a series of drug prescriptions and advises Frank be institutionalized or else kept under 24 hour care. "I don’t believe he is a danger to himself but perhaps he is to others.

Seattle, Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, January 2008

Robert remains suspicious of Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson. “He seems off the rails to me. Maybe what he is saying is totally accurate but he seems very dodgy.”

Robert is in favor of investigating the good doctor to see what he has to do with what happened to Frank. Shaw warns him to tread lightly.

Meanwhile Shaw starts looking for similar cases in the area to Frank’s. She calls up her contacts in Homicide. They’ve heard about strange deaths, of course, but don’t believe in them. One of them however, mentions “that crazy spider guy.”

“What do you mean?”

“He was one those CSI techs. He keeps going on about spiders inside people’s heads.”

Shaw’s mind flashes to Frank’s raving about spiders inside people’s heads. Her friend mentions some of the cases: homicide victims, victims of strokes, and accident victims.

“That’s kind of crazy,” she responds.


“What’s this guy’s name? Is he still working for the force?”

“He quit a little while ago. His name is, um. Its Hungarian or something. Ilyes. Something like that.”

Shaw thanks him and turns to finding this Dr. Ilyes. A quick internet search turns up, a blog focused on strange and exotic diseases, deaths, and misadventures.
Amid the reports of strange parasites and glass bullets lodged in brains, she finds evidence about spider infestations of the brain.

Shaw conducts a deep background check of this former coroner, following his life through med school, his CSI career after dropping out of residency, until his current post as a lab assistant at a fertility clinic. Satisfied he doesn’t have any personal connection to Frank or Pentex, she checks in on Robert. Dr. Sorenson seems to be clean, though he was once an employee of Verdant Technology with lots of stock options. He’s unloaded them in recent years.

As they compare notes, Rober notes, that they are “both a couple of loons.”

“Yeah but they might have an idea about what is happened to Frank’s brain.” Shaw decides to call a meeting with both the doctors.

Kevin Ilyes picks up the phone at the fertility clinic.

Shaw’s voice comes over the line. “Hi is this Dr. Ilyes?”

“Ah, yes?”

“Hi this Liliian Shaw from One of a Kind Investigations. I’m not sure you’ve heard of us but we’re based in the Seattle area.”

“Right, I’m familiar,” Kevin says cautiously.

“Well, I’m investigating a case that has run into a medical field that I’m not familiar with. But I see that you have extensive-”

“Oh, are you interested in running some paternity inquiries here at our clinic?” he interjects.

“No actually I’m quite familiar with that area of the medical field,” Shaw replies matter-of-factly. “I am actually talking about parasitic organisms. Particularly associated with the cranial matters.”

Kevin hesitates. “Okay. I’m not a neurologist but I am familiar with those matters. I can give you a broad overview about brain based parasites.”

“Yes. I’m particularly interested in your postings to muerte bizarro.”

“Well, that’s more speculative. It is more of a coroner’s tabloid really.”

“But these cases do come from your work in the Seattle morgues?”

Again he pauses. “The evidence does. What people construe from that evidence is entirely their own interpretation. Some people have exaggerated some evidence far out of proportion from what I found.”

“Of course. Would you be willing to bring your case files to our offices for a brief consultation. You will of course be paid for your time.”

“Alright, but…alright. Are you planning on any sort of publication of this work?”

“I’m a private investigator, I don’t publish anything.”

Reassured, Kevin says, “Okay.”

“Thank you very much Dr. Ilyes. Shall we say Thursday at 4 o’clock.”


“Excellent. I look forward to meeting with you.”

Dr. Ilyes’s mind instantly begins building a case for these parasites. He is going to prove to them he is not a kook.

Seattle, Offices of One of a Kind Investigations, January 10, 2008

The office’s florescent lighting makes the gray sky outside seem even darker. Beads of water cover the window. The doctors shuffle in, leaving their damp coats on the hanger by the entrance. Mavis has left coffee and cookies out before heading home alone.

Shaw introduces the two doctors. Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson lays out the files containing all of Frank’s medical records. Intrigued, Dr. Ilyes begins to review the evidence. He checks the dates, making sure the lesions are not growing.

“I’ve seen cases like this. First of all, you may find this hard to believe but your patient is lucky. There are not a lot of survivors of this condition.”

Shaw asks, “Do you have documented cases?”

“Several. Mostly homeless people. I believe the condition is related to poor hygiene.”

Dr. Sorenson interjects, “But the patient didn’t start out homeless.”

“Right,” Shaw adds.

The psychiatrist leans over the table. “My theory is that he became homeless because of this condition. He contracted this, it affected his psyche, and he ended up on the streets suffering from paranoid delusions.”

They relay the timeline of Frank’s disappearance and recovery. Dr. Ilyes asks what his treatment has been since his recovery. Dr. Sorenson gives him a series of drugs used to treat anxiety and keep Frank calm.

Robert hears Mavis’s printer go off in the other room. Curious he go out to check on it.

“Has your research brought you into contact with these cases?” Dr. Sorenson shows him the details on the other cases in Beijing and Italy.

“Interesting,” the other doctor replies. The two rapidly begin to discuss the possible pathological cause of this phenomena.

The meeting room phone rings using Mavis’s line. Shaw picks it up. “What’s going on?”

Robert ask, “Can you come out here for a minute?”

Bewildered, Shaw agrees. Putting down the phone, she turns to the two doctors, “Gentlemen, I leave you to discuss this.”

Ilyes continues, “This is interesting, I was thinking we were looking at a localized phenomonon. This seems to indicate that it is spread through a large population.”

Sorenson replies, “I didn’t think of it that way. I thought it was some sort of medication that was causing this deterioration.”

Their conversation turns to parasites and other microorganisms. Ilyes brings up his research into parasitic spiders, comparing it to the Brazilian boring blot fly with a life cycle that includes living within a warm blooded host. Ilyes admits the idea is somewhat far fetched but Sorenson seems receptive the idea. They hypothesize it is some sort of species jumper. Sorenson advocates a primate host while Ilyes favors rats and stray cats as the disease reservoir.

Shaw finds Robert holding a printout while looking over Mavis’s computer. He hands the paper to Shaw:

First contact

As Shaw tries to take this in, Robert scours the computer for any clues. Someone hacked through his firewall, loaded and printed this document and then removed any traces.

Shaw says, “These are the things Frank has been talking about.”

“Should we show it them?”

“I’d kinda like to get their take on this.”

“I don’t trust Sorenson.”

“I’d like to read their reactions to this.”

They decide to split the task of watching their reactions. “You keep an eye on Sorenson, I’ll watch Iyles,” Shaw says as they head back into the meeting.

As they return they find the doctors talking excitedly. Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson says, “-get tissues sample from his brain to test for these arachniod infestations.”

Shaw interrupts. “Gentlemen, our systems have just been hacked. This was printed on our printer.” She hands them the paper. “I’d like to know your thoughts.”

As the two doctors read their expression quickly diverge. Dr. Sorenson seems worried and curses under his breath. Dr. Ilyes however seems thoughtful and intrigued. After a moment he says, “Patients suffering from this condition could have symptoms like those of advanced kuru or Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease, which is to say they could be demonstrating a severe dementia, paranoia and other schizophrenic tendencies. Even without any previous schizophrenic expression.”

“You think Frank sent that?” Shaw asks incredulously.

“I’m not talking about Frank, I’m talking about another afflicted individual.”

Dr. Sorenson comments, “They would have to be at an earlier stage than Frank to be coherent enough to type this up. But perhaps they would also be more cogent to speak with.”

“They’re obviously working at a higher level to break through my firewall,” Robert interjects. “This is not a brain damaged person’s work.” He points to the paper. “This might be though.”

“Yes, the material about the sandman and the silent one,” Ilyes agrees.

Sorenson muses, “Those are similar to words that Frank used in discussing what he fears. Perhaps this was someone Frank was working with? And he’s using this code to get our attention so we can contact him and learn more about what happened to Frank. Perhaps Frank had a silent partner, a Silent One. This person does appear to be at an earlier stage of the same psychosis. If he is deteriorating as well we should find him soon and question him while we can.”

Ilyes is also intrigued. “This could be a breakthrough in terms of treatment. If they are in an early stage of the disease, a cure might be affected.”

The psychiatrist frowns. “Or this could be Pentex luring you into a trap.”

Ilyes is confused. “Pentex? the big multinational company?”


“It could be a whistleblower,” Robert suggests.

“Yes, or someone tracking down lose ends to cut them off.” Dr. Sorenson steps back considering the dangers.

“I’d think it was prank, but for the fact that it tracks so close to Frank’s delusions.”

Shaw comes to decision. “I think the obvious protocol is to do a sting. I don’t think we can afford not to.”

South end of Georgetown, Seattle, January 11, 2008, 3AM

A small plane passes low overhead, its landing lights breaking the gloom. Shaw gets out of her car and whispers into her trench coat’s collar. “Testing, testing.”

She glances down the street at a small parked car. It’s headlights flash. The audio connection checked, she heads for the alley.

Back in the car, Robert listens to his iPod as the doctors shuffle in the back still looking for a comfortable spot in the tiny car.

As Shaw enters the alleyway, a cat scurries out of a damp cardboard box, meowing pitifully. Her skin tingles in the cool air and she smells a hint of ozone. “Strange smell,” others hear back in the car.

Suddenly cat hisses and runs away. Small motes of glowing dust begins to appear in the air in front of Shaw. Wary, she takes a step back, shielding her face. A strange rod-like thing floats across alley, making an s-pattern in the air. Shaw shines her flashlight on it and it darts away. But soon other rods appear. She realizes the creatures are moving from one side of the alley to the other. Even the strange dust is slowly drifting.

Then she notices the words on the cardboard box begin to shift. They rearrange and twist from the Office Depot logo into the phrase: “The Spiders Live Inside the Brain.”

Thinking quickly, Shaw takes a picture of the words. Then slowly the motes begin to fade away. The rods vanish. When Shaw looks back the letters again spell out Office Depot.

Shaw tries to talking into the microphone. But she can’t. “K-..” She tries say a word but can only make unintelligible noises. Quickly she taps out an SOS.

Robert gets the signal, gets out of the car and runs over.

The two doctor’ worried begin to move so they can reach the wheel if need be. Then Content Not Found: trevor-sorenson notices a black Mustang slowly coming up the road. It stops by their car for a moment but two doctors can’t seen anything through its darkly tinted windows. It has no license plates. As it moves on Sorenson ducks down trying to hide.

Robert reaches the alleyway. “Are you okay, Shaw?”

“I-I couldn’t talk.” Robert looks down the alleyway but sees nothing.

“There was s-some strange shit. I think the doctors need to examine me. Fuck.”

Just then they notice the unmarked Mustang pass by. It slows for a moment by the alley, then peels off. Back in the car, Ilyes curses. “I just realized what happened. That Mustang, that was the contact and they noticed us and they took off.”

Robert meanwhile keeps his attention on Shaw. “You’re okay now? Everything seems fine?”

“Not sure.” She checks her camera. The date stamp on the last picture is 3:03 AM. There is no message on the box only some of the glowing dust. “There was some really weird shit. There were some floating clouds of dust. I didn’t get close to it. Then suddenly I say the words spin off a box and say the spiders live inside the brain.”

She points out that the camera didn’t catch the words. “I think I need to be checked out by a doctor. If this is some sort of pathogen shit…I don’t want it in my head.”

Robert offers to drive her home or to the hospital. As time passes, Shaw seem more sure of herself. “I’m going to go home and I’ll give you a call. And I’ll check myself in in the morning to get my brain scanned…I guess.”

They head back to the others. Iyles says, “I think you guys missed the contact, they were in the black Mustang.”

“No. That was a recon squad.” Shaw turns to Robert. “Its pretty obvious, right?”

The other detective nods. “Yeah. I guess in hidesight, if you look at the message, they don’t actually say they are going to meet us. It says be there and you’ll learn the truth about stuff.”

“Unfortunately I think I took my picture too late,” Shaw says showing the doctors her picture.

Ilyes is confused. “So did you meet anyone in the alleyway?”

“No, there was no-one in the alleyway, except for this floating dust stuff.”

Iyes insists in checking out the alley. He puts on his mask, goggles and gloves. “Where did you see the dust?”

Shaw points out the areas and meticulously he gathers samples, checking for cobwebs as he goes. He also samples the tire treads from the mysterious Mustang.

In the weeks that follow Shaw gets a clean bill of health but no more clues. Ilyes’s samples turn up negative for anything unusual. They are no closer to the truth for now…


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