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
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.
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.
“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
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 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!”
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.
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-”
“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
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.
“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 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.
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
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.”
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.”