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Old 05-08-2018, 08:51 AM   #1
ManInTheLoft
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"The Streets Run Red" (closed)

Dead thread.

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Old 05-08-2018, 08:21 PM   #2
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There was a chill in the air, an autumn breeze gently stirred the loose wisps of fringe that had escaped her thick long braid of auburn hair. Her feet carried her the usual route to the subway station. She’d walked this route so often that she could do it blindfolded, not that she would dare try!


The sky was a myriad of purple and blue hues against a pitch-black backdrop of nightfall. If there was a moon out this night, Ruby Erickson couldn’t see it for all the city street lamps. Even the stars were camouflaged this night. She pulled her jacket about her tighter; the collar up, her hands in her pockets with her head lowered.


As she descended the stairs into the subway tunnel, her only thought was on making it home safely. Danger lurked around every corner, Ruby’s only protection came in the form of a can of mace, a cell phone, and a self defense course. Thankfully it was a short distance but it could have been a five-minute jaunt and the risk of threat was the same.


The subway was right on schedule, she boarded without notice and took a seat close to the front. It wasn’t long and the subway car was in motion, travelling at a dependable clip, the familiar hum of the rails making contact was like a well-played record, as much as Ruby would have liked to wind down, it wasn’t safe. She kept her shoulders curled, her form tight, eyes downcast and focused on her cheap but dependable Casio watch, everything in that moment was dialed into reaching her designated stop.


There was a slight raucous towards the rear of the subway car, Ruby knew better then to turn around and look. Thankfully it ended just about as suddenly as it had begun however the tension in her limbs was a mixture of weariness and caution. It had been a long week and she was grateful that she only had one more day before the weekend when she could take a little time for herself.


Ruby had been working as a home healthcare attendant for the past eight years and she divided her days between two patients, Sadie and Ned. The woman was home-bound much of the time for fear of leaving her house so Ruby spent half of her shift running errands and shopping for her reclusive charge. Then there was Ned, an amputee that required assistance with cooking and cleaning.


When Ruby finally turned the key in the lock to her studio apartment, she let out the breath she had been holding. With relief, she crossed the threshold, bolted the door and dropped her keys and bag onto the short entry table and removed her shoes. Finally, she could unwind and call it a night.


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


Ruby’s alarm roused her from her dreamless sleep. As she blinked the sleep from her eyes and tried to focus on the familiar furnishings in her bedroom, she checked the forecast on her phone. Eighty percent chance of rain according to Siri, bring an umbrella.


Ruby roused herself from the comfort of her warm sheets and stretched before hitting the shower. She’d programmed the coffee maker the night before, as she always did, and as she was toweling off sometime later; the familiar scent of brewed coffee wafted into the bathroom.

Roughly forty minutes later, insulated coffee cup and reusable grocery bags in hand, Ruby was descending the apartment stairs and out onto the street. The skies were still dark and would be so for another hour or so. She was on her way to the farmers market with a shopping list in tow. It wasn’t until she was three blocks away that she remembered the call for rain on her phone. She let out a sigh of irritation as she realized she’d forgot the umbrella. A mental image of her blue, white and navy umbrella hanging from the coat hook in the entry closet surfaced as a reminder. Damn….


And as if on cue, the rain began to pour.
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Old 05-08-2018, 09:54 PM   #3
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"May I?"

Marcus reacted to the young woman's shock at his unexpected question with a laugh. With a sincere tone of apology, he stepped out from the shadows to tell her, "Please, forgive me, I didn't mean to startle you."

He pressed a button on the handle of his umbrella and it popped open with a sound and movement that left little doubt as to how much he'd paid for it. He lifted it above his head and stepped just a bit closer.

"I'm heading your way," he continued. "I would be honored if you allowed me to walk with you ... keep you dry."

Marcus shifted the umbrella to allow the street light to fall upon his head, even though it caused the rain to fall upon him. He hesitated a moment, seemingly for the young woman's response. But in reality, he was simply giving her an opportunity to eye him. Despite having happened only 7 hours earlier, the news of the murdered man on the subway was all over the internet, as well as on the local broadcast and cable news.

Marcus was eager to see whether or not the woman could recognize him. He would stand there in place, not wanting to seem threatening until she either took his offer, refused it, or showed shock at seeing him again. Marcus was hoping the latter wasn't going to happen, of course: that would mean that he would have to kill her here and now.

Such a loss, he thought, able to see her in the dark so much easier than she could see him. Such a shame to kill such a beauty.
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Old 05-09-2018, 01:45 AM   #4
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"May I?"

The voice of the man thoroughly startled the woman from her thoughts. She turned about while struggling to peer through the downpour to see who was there.


When suddenly the man appeared from the shadows and said, "Please, forgive me, I didn't mean to startle you."

She stuttered and attempted to form words but her tongue wasn’t cooperating. She watched as his umbrella popped open, the movement surprising her further. As he took a step towards her, the sunny yellow wellies on her feet took one cautious step back and then another.


"I'm heading your way," he continued. "I would be honored if you allowed me to walk with you ... keep you dry."

Just then the eaves of the building she was standing under sloshed and without notice, a large collection of rainwater came down the eaves and ran off, soaking her through as it spilled down onto the dirty concrete.


A half a second later a loud shriek came from the woman as she quickly moved, wiping at her face, her hair now pressed close to her scalp. Large droplets dripped off the ends of that auburn hair and slid down her cheeks in zigzags. Trembling from the cold she nodded with a nervous laugh, “Well I’d appreciate that Sir. Not that there’s much left of me that’s dry.” She took a careful step towards the man and shook her foot to check to see if her socks were dry. They weren’t, thanks to the skinny jeans she wore, the rainwater had had little obstruction from their downward destination.


As she came to stand before him she noticed the shift as he moved his umbrella away, watched the way the rain hit his hair and found it somewhat odd. “Oh my, you’re going to get soaked too if you’re not careful.” She said to him in a wobbly voice. Then without warning Ruby reached up and gently placed her chilled hand upon his and adjusted the umbrella in an effort to shield them both from the rain. A blush rushed up to meet her eyes and then she inwardly chided herself for being so forward.


She glanced out in the direction she was going and realized she couldn’t see that far ahead. Ruby then extended her left hand into the rain, felt the pelting of it upon her palm and sighed. There was no way the farmer’s market would be open today. In fact, it was much too dangerous for her to attempt to go anywhere but home; not in this downpour.


Her blue eyes met the man’s face once more, then Ruby murmured a “thank you” for the brief break from the deluge that was upon them. Without another word she stepped off the curb and whistled towards an oncoming yellow cab and teeth chattering gave the driver directions to her apartment building as she slid into the backseat. Her body was trembling something fierce as the ice-cold water pressed against her skin. She pulled the seatbelt over her lap and heard the familiar click that assured her she was secure. She leaned her head back and closed her eyes then felt the cab lurch forward.
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Old 05-09-2018, 11:20 AM   #5
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Marcus tried but failed to hide his amusement as the water that had been building above the young woman suddenly surrendered to the forces of gravity and spilled down upon the her. She hadn't dressed for the impending rain, and the sudden volume of water soaked her through to the skin. Marcus couldn't help but notice how her blouse and jeans clung to her shapely body like a second skin.

“Well I’d appreciate that Sir. Not that there’s much left of me that’s dry.”

She stepped under the umbrella for a moment, but then flagged down and boarded a passing taxi. He held the door for her, and just before it closed he said, "Marcus. Marcus Hamilton. In case we meet again some day soon."

*****************

The police investigation into the subway murder wasn't getting anywhere, not that the Homicide Division or even the Gang Unit were putting much attention on the case. The thug Marcus had bled had had a rap sheet a mile long, so most of those connected to the investigation were thinking Couldn't happen to a nicer guy.

Although he hadn't been very careful that night, Marcus was typically a cautious man when it came to feeding in public. So, for the next three days, he kept tabs on the young beauty just to ensure that she didn't go to the cops with an eye witness account.

On the early evening of the fourth day, after having learned her routine, Marcus was sitting in a booth at Parker's Bar and Grill that looked out upon the street. He caught sight of the young beauty while she was still three blocks away; his eye sight rivaled that of an eagle, and his night vision was as good as any military grade sniper's scope.

He stepped out onto the sidewalk just before she neared the establishment's entrance, then acted surprised to see her.

"Well, look at you, all dry and such," he said. "I almost didn't recognize you without Mother Nature spilling all over you."

He stuck his hand out. "Marcus. Hamilton? We met in the rain a couple of days ago."

He waited to see if she would take his hand or not, then jabbed a thumb toward the door of the bar he'd just exited. "I was going in for a brew and some hot wings. Care to join me?"

If she said yes, he would find them a booth and call the waitress over for their order before asking her name.

if she said no, he would ask if he could walk her home, reminding her that it was a rough neighborhood.
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Old 05-09-2018, 04:53 PM   #6
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Ruby was taken aback when she faintly recognized the man who’d assisted her that day in the downpour. She exchanged a bewildered glance with him and a nervous smile spread across her dusty pink lips.


"Well, look at you, all dry and such," he said. "I almost didn't recognize you without Mother Nature spilling all over you."

Her hand came up to cover her mouth a moment as her face flushed at the memory. She nodded as she struggled to meet his gaze, “yes, I’m lucky I didn’t catch a cold.” She let out a small giggle; then laughing at herself, nodded in agreement with him. “I forgot my umbrella that day. It’s good to see you didn’t get washed away yourself.”


She watched as he extended his hand out towards her then said his name. “Oh yes, I remember now.” Shyly she offered her own hand and said, “Ruby Erickson, thank you again for the assistance that day.”


"I was going in for a brew and some hot wings. Care to join me?"

Ruby exchanged a surprised look as the man invited her in for a bite. The place was expensive. “Oh, that’s very kind of you sir. I mean, Mr. Hamilton.” She cleared her throat before saying, “I uh… well as much as I would like to take you up on your kind offer I’m actually headed somewhere. Maybe another time perhaps?” She glanced down at her watch noting the time and glanced towards the direction she was heading.


As she tightened her grip on the simple messenger bag on her shoulder Ruby felt a twinge of guilt. The man was only trying to be kind and perhaps see to her well-being. Before he could say another word, she explained, “I’m actually on my way to volunteer at the soup kitchen.” She glanced at his clothing a moment and knew that he wasn’t in need of a hot meal or she’d have invited him. “Another time perhaps?” she asked over her shoulder. She then proceeded to quicken her pace in order to be on time, but before she was out of earshot, her cell phone rang.


Ruby hit the talk button on her phone and said, "Yes?"


“Ms. Erickson, we have reason to believe you were on the subway…”

Ruby’s feet halted as she listened to the other person on the line. The tone on the other end of the receiver was assertive.


“We’d like it if you could come down to the station to answer a few questions. Would now be a good time?”

“S-s-sure,” she stuttered into the receiver. “But can’t this wait until tomorrow?”


“Now please Ms. Erickson…. We can provide you an escort if you like.”

“N-no that won’t be necessary Sir. I’ll come right away.”
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Old 05-09-2018, 06:55 PM   #7
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“I’m actually on my way to volunteer at the soup kitchen.”

"How noble," Marcus said with a sincere tone. He respected anyone who put others before themselves. "Must make for a long day, though."

“Another time perhaps?”

"Of course," Marcus replied. He quickly pulled a small card from his jacket's breast pocket. It was the personal equivalent of a business card, with his name and cell phone number on it. "Call me some day soon, Ruby. I'd love to sit and chat with you."

As he watched her depart yet again, Ruby lifted her cell phone to her ear. Marcus cocked his head and put a bit more attention into his hearing. He listened in on their conversation almost as easily as if she'd turned on the phone's speaker.

"Yes?"

“Ms. Erickson, we have reason to believe you were on the subway…”

As Ruby was quickly coming to a halt, Marcus drew and slowly released a deep breath of concern.

“We’d like it if you could come down to the station to answer a few questions. Would now be a good time?”

Marcus had hoped first that Ruby wouldn't recognize him from the subway, and in this he'd been lucky. Second, he'd hoped that the police wouldn't be able to identify Ruby as a patron of the subway that night. There he'd lost out. Black End had the lowest concentration of working community service video cameras in The City, yet one of them had obviously caught Ruby well enough for the police to identify her.

She continued, “But can’t this wait until tomorrow?”

“Now please Ms. Erickson…. We can provide you an escort if you like.”

“N-no that won’t be necessary Sir. I’ll come right away.”

Marcus was rapidly weighing his options. The surest thing to do to protect his own identity would be to just kill Ruby Erickson right here, right now. He looked about himself, finding the street nearly empty. He could snatch her right now, drag her into the alley, and drain her, either before or after snapping her neck.

But Marcus hated killing Innocents. Ruby didn't deserve such a fate, not for simply being in the wrong place at the same time.

He needed to know where the police were on the case. Marcus didn't want to have to relocate anymore than he wanted to end Ruby's life. But if the police identified him...

"Did you forget which way's home?" Marcus asked with a humorous tone. Playfully pointing each index finger in an opposite direction, he said, "That way, I think."

He waited there on the steps of Parker's hoping Ruby would ask him to walk with her. As far as she knew, he didn't know to whom she'd been talking and, in turn, didn't know where she was going and why. Marcus wouldn't go into the Precinct building if she asked for his company, of course. He'd wait outside, using having a smoke as an excuse to stand on the sidewalk. But at least he'd get an opportunity to casually question her about what was what.

If she didn't ask for his company, Marcus would go home and accidentally bump into her tomorrow night.
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Old 05-11-2018, 11:45 AM   #8
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A man in a cheap suit with a loosened tie approaches Ruby as she waits in the Precinct hallway. He offers a hand. "Miss Erickson, I'm Sergeant Harris. Thanks for coming in. If you'll follow me..."

Thomas led Ruby through a maze of desks to a small room at the back wall. He gestured his possible witness to a chair, then stuck his head out to call to an unseen person for two coffees. He asked Ruby, "Do you take cream or sugar? It's not the best coffee in the world, so, maybe you should!"

He laughed, and only then did he realize that your gaze was set on the wall behind him. It was covered in diagrams, time lines, and print outs all stuck in place by push pins; they described a number of related crimes, and amongst them were a dozen or more grisly photographs of dead people.

"I'm so sorry!" he said, quickly moving to the wall and pulling down a roll up shade down to hide the facts of the cases. He apologized again, "Sorry, Miss Erickson. You weren't meant to see all that."

Another male assigned to the case arrived with two steaming ceramic cups, handed them over, asked if he was needed, and -- when told not at the moment -- departed again.. The Sergeant set one of the mugs before his guest and jumped right into it.

"Five nights ago, four if you don't take into consideration that this began before midnight and ended after it," Thomas began as he opened a file before him. It contained one of the photographs that was also mounted on the now hidden wall, a picture of a man laying on the floor of a subway car, obviously dead. "This man was killed on the Number 34, between downtown and Creighton Street. His name is Rory McAdams."

He set another photo before his prospective witness, and while it was grainy and taken from a height of 10 feet or so, it was obviously Ruby. "And that's you ... Ruby Erickson ... getting off the Number 34 to Creighton Street at the Parsons Street station ... the previous stop."

Thomas set out one more photograph, this one a close up of the dead man from his shoulders upward. He is pale, and his dead eyes look almost right into the camera.

"Mister McAdams was killed right there in that car," Thomas continued. "We know that from the CCTV cameras at the station where he boarded with two other men who then disembarked at Hooper Street ... after you got off."

Thomas tapped a finger tip upon the picture, at the dead man neck. "Someone stuck something into his neck ... four times. A needle, or an ice pick, or something thin and relatively round. The coroner actually thinks it was one object with four points, not the same object four times."

"Personally..." a voice cut in. The Detective who had delivered the coffee was again at the open door. As he entered to hand Thomas a report, he looked to Ruby and said, there was no blood at the scene. He was literally drained, right there, right--"

"Thank you, Peter," Thomas cut in with an annoyed tone.

"Probably just some freak with a vampire fetish, wanting--"

"Thank you, Detective Owens," Thomas snapped with an even more forceful tone. He glared up at the man, who looked to the beauty sitting at the table's far said and winked playfully before departing. Thomas looked back to Ruby, telling her, "He probably is right. Someone's having fun by making this look ... well, eerie I guess is as good a word as any."

He pushed the photos back into the file folder from which they'd come and asked Ruby, "Did you see anything on the train that might help us find this man, Miss Erickson?"
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Old 05-12-2018, 12:50 AM   #9
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"How noble," Marcus said with a sincere tone. He respected anyone who put others before themselves. "Must make for a long day, though."

Ruby’s jaw clenched slightly, her only outward reaction to the man’s comment. She turned slightly and shrugged her shoulders as she shuffled her feet in place. “I guess you could say that.” As she spoke her eyes were on the skyline.


A moment later she accepted the offered card, glanced at it before tucking it away into her jean’s pocket.


"Call me someday soon, Ruby. I'd love to sit and chat with you."

The woman studied him a moment, why did he wish to sit down and talk with her? What was this guy after?


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


As she returned the cellphone to its place in her satchel she turned at the man’s question.


"Did you forget which way's home?"

Ruby’s eyes danced a moment, a slight feeling of unease formed in her core. She wasn’t sure if it had been the phone call from the precinct or the man on the street who seemed to be getting a little too intrusive for comfort.


Before she could answer him, she glanced around paying careful attention to the streets, taking in the cars; just a quick skim, looking for something out of the ordinary. She turned back, cleared her throat before speaking and then said, “Pardon Sir, but I’m not sure I said anything about home.”

She watched the man as he used his index fingers to point in opposing directions.


"That way, I think."

Ruby’s eyes darkened further for a split second, did this man know where she lived? Or was he trying to get her to reveal that information. A tension thrummed through her insides, dialing in slightly that this might not be at all what it appeared. Why was this person trying to engage her in conversation? The business card? And now the police were asking her to come to the precinct immediately… Ruby made the calculated decision right then and there to proceed with her original direction, she’d lived in Black End her whole life and knew the subway routes. First, she’d check in with the church and explain why she couldn’t help tonight and then she would just board the subway close to the church and double back to the precinct. It would take a little extra time but the police would just have to get over it. After all it wasn’t like they knew where she was exactly and even if they did, it appeared normal; a woman checking in.


The woman’s eyes leveled as they met the man’s and she forced a weak smile, “sorry but I really must get going now.”



At the Precinct –


The tension Ruby was feeling mounted as the Sergeant led her through the network of desks with uniformed men and women dressed in blue. She took the offered seat making certain to keep both her feet firmly on the ground. If she crossed her legs she’d have twitched and that would have given away the fact she was uncomfortable in this place.


Sergeant Harris led her back to a small room that looked more like a storage closet then anything else. She watched him get up and peer out the doorway to request for coffee.


"Do you take cream or sugar? It's not the best coffee in the world, so, maybe you should!"

“Both please, thank you.” She answered in a polite and even voice. So, he was offering her something to drink. From what little she observed watching legal dramas she knew enough to know that if they withheld food or drink, they were trying to wear you down. Of course, that could just be mere fiction she mused.


She focused her attention on the wall behind the man. Ruby followed the pathways between the strings connecting each clue or detail to a larger work. As she absorbed the information her face paled considerably, the photographs of the corpses and ghastly crime scenes caused bile to climb to the back of her throat. She had to swallow hard to push it down. Just what the hell did they want with her?



“I'm so sorry!"

Ruby started to rise from the chair, whatever this was she didn’t want any part of it! There was a reason she kept her head down and clung to the shadows… As the man came around to pull the shade down, all color had drained from the young woman’s face.



"Sorry, Miss Erickson. You weren't meant to see all that."

She settled back into the chair and hovered on the edge of the seat, ready to bolt the first chance she got.

Ruby watched as the coffee was brought in and made no move to do anything to adjust her offered cup with the personalized cream/sugar ratios that she preferred. After what she’d observed on that wall she didn’t want to touch this with a 10-foot pole. Hell, in this case make it 20 feet!


"This man was killed on the Number 34, between downtown and Creighton Street. His name is Rory McAdams."

Ruby’s eyes leveled on the man indicating that she had no knowledge of who this man, Rory McAdams was.

He continued, showing another photograph, this time a picture of her!


"And that's you ... Ruby Erickson ... getting off the Number 34 to Creighton Street at the Parsons Street station ... the previous stop."

Ruby wasn’t sure what she was supposed to say at a time like this. Did they think she was responsible? She refrained from speaking and was silently thankful when the Sergeant proceeded with whatever this was…

The next photograph caused the woman to wince and bring a hand to cover her mouth in horror. Who would do such a thing? And more pressing, what did this have to do with her?


"Mister McAdams was killed right there in that car. We know that from the CCTV cameras at the station where he boarded with two other men who then disembarked at Hooper Street ... after you got off."

Ruby was inwardly trembling as the man painted a picture of that night for her. Someone had been murdered right there in the same subway car that she was riding in. The – same – exact – car!

To be that close to death… again!


Ruby listened as the two men discussed their take on what happened that night.


"Probably just some freak with a vampire fetish, wanting--"

Her eyes widened at this concept, but she otherwise remained silent. Was that really a thing?


"Did you see anything on the train that might help us find this man, Miss Erickson?"

She met the man’s eyes for a split second before closing her own, wishing she could un-see the imagery, the knowledge tied to the loss of life. Her fingers went up to her eyes and focused on the mole at the inner corner of the left eye, rubbing it slightly as a measure of comfort then said, “No, Sergeant I don’t recall anyone on the subway that night. I recall hearing a scuffle towards the back of the subway but I didn’t dare turn around. You might think that a coward’s way and perhaps I am, but I have to use the subway system everyday and the only way I get through it safely is to keep my head down, it’s called survival.”


Ruby didn’t wait for the man to give her permission to stand. She hadn’t committed a crime, sure they had pictures of her being on the same subway at the time of the murder, but by the looks of it they were at the beginning of the investigation and grabbing at straws!
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I may be new to the boards but I’m a very experienced writer
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Old 05-13-2018, 03:51 PM   #10
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"We're not done yet," Detective Peter Owens said as he realized that Ruby was about to bolt for the door. He stepped out into the open doorway, adding, "We still have some questions for--"

"It's okay, Peter," Sergeant Thomas Harris said with a polite tone. He gave his younger partner a familiar gesture to stand down, then suggested, "Why don't you get the car, pull it out front."

As a reluctant Peter turned and headed away, Thomas said to Ruby, "I know that this is all a bit ... overwhelming, Miss Erickson ... and I want to apologize if we have upset you in any way. It's just..."

Thomas hesitated a moment, glancing at the shade now hiding the rest of the case on which he'd been working for weeks. He told Ruby, "This killing on the subway ... Rory McAdams. This is just one of several ... strange murders to take place in Black End over the past month or so. This is to be kept between you and me, if you please, but ... I believe we are dealing with a serial killer. We have hidden enough details to keep the Press from picking up on the similarities, but it's only a matter of time before the papers are printing it ... and people all over town are panicking about it."

He gestured to a uniformed police officer, asking her to escort Ruby down to the car that should be waiting at the front door by the time the cop gets Ruby there. He offered his hand to Ruby, finishing, "If anything comes to you, Miss Erickson ... anything at all that you think might be of use in our investigation ... please call me. I called you from my cell, so, you should have it on your phone, yes?"


*****************


Ten minutes later, Peter was opening the passenger side door of the unmarked car, offering Ruby a hand should she take it. It was the gentlemanly type, whether on the job or not. And besides, he'd taken a liking to Ruby back at the station and during their short drive. Well, a liking for the way she looked, anyway. She was a beautiful woman, just Peter's type. And as he had been single for far too long, he wasn't about to let an opportunity like this one pass without at least making a play.

"Do you want me to escort your to your apartment?" he asked as they reached the building's locked door. "I just want to make sure you're safe ... Ruby."

It was the first time the cops had used her given name all evening, and Peter had done so to indicate that he was open to a more personal relationship with Ruby should she be open to such a thing.
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Old 05-15-2018, 05:45 PM   #11
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Ruby’s eyes widened in amazement as the officer told her that they weren’t finished and actually prevented her from leaving! She came up short and watched the exchange between the two men, the young officer was “by the book” and seemed ill-pressed that the Sergeant was letting her go…Evermore so that he was being dismissed from the room and ordered to get the car, that meant he couldn’t just walk back in.


I know that this is all a bit ... overwhelming, Miss Erickson ... and I want to apologize if we have upset you in any way. It's just..."


She nodded in understanding, as much as she disliked being called down here she also didn’t like knowing there was someone out there like this; it was beyond her comprehension.



Of the two suits in the room she preferred Sergeant Harris, not that her opinion mattered yet she did not want to get in the car with the other officer for any reason, he gave off a bad vibe…



"This killing on the subway ... Rory McAdams. This is just one of several ... strange murders to take place in Black End over the past month or so. This is to be kept between you and me, if you please, but ... I believe we are dealing with a serial killer. We have hidden enough details to keep the Press from picking up on the similarities, but it's only a matter of time before the papers are printing it ... and people all over town are panicking about it."


This was why she had avoided the news, preferring DVD’s and Redbox to cable. Avoided the newsprint like the plague, a playlist on an old iPod to the radio. So, when they’d asked her to come down she was caught unawares. She was inwardly shaking, she could only imagine how the general populace would take this when it was aired.



She met Sergeant Harris’s eyes and said in a shaky voice, “You have my word Sergeant Harris. If I think of anything or something about that night comes to me, I will … wait…” her eyes widened as she thought about the man that she’d run into on the street earlier.



She chewed the inside of her cheek a moment before saying, “No, that was just a crazy coincidence.” She shook her head and blushed in embarrassment, her red curls bouncing over her shoulders to cast her face in shadow briefly, “I’m sorry, I think my imagination is getting the best of me.” She then met his eyes once more and conceded, “I haven’t been sleeping all that well. Long shifts and now that I’m aware of what’s going on these streets I’m even more fearful of venturing out and I rely on our public transit system six days a week.”



"If anything comes to you, Miss Erickson ... anything at all that you think might be of use in our investigation ... please call me. I called you from my cell, so, you should have it on your phone, yes?"



Ruby stopped just past the threshold of the investigation room and nodded up at the man, clearing her throat before she said in a soft voice, “Y-y-yes, of course Sergeant. I have it, thank you.”


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


Ruby ignored the man’s offered hand as she took a seat in the car. She would have liked to have left the way she’d come but at the insistence of the suits she knew it was futile to refuse.



During the ride home Ruby kept her face pressed to the window, her body couldn’t be any closer to the door, ready to bolt.



“Do you want me to escort you to your apartment?"


“No, that won’t be necessary officer. I’m sure I can manage just fine from here.” She said in a tight smile.



"I just want to make sure you're safe ... Ruby."



The woman finally met his eyes, there was a cold neutrality about her as she said, “It’s Ms. Erickson, Mr. Owens and I’d appreciate it if you could remember that. Now, I’d like to retire to my apartment for the night. Thank you again for the ride.”
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Old 05-15-2018, 09:33 PM   #12
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Marcus had used his night time vision and stealth to position himself on the balcony of an unoccupied apartment across the street from Ruby's building. The nice thing about not having a job to go to or a wife to come home to afterward was that Marcus had no where to be this evening. So, he sat back in a lounge chair he'd snatched from the floor above and simply enjoyed the two hours that had passed between Ruby's departure and her return.

He sharpened his hearing to eavesdrop on the conversation occurring below between Ruby and the plain clothes Detective. He wasn't surprised when the man asked to escort the young beauty upstairs. What man could pass up the chance -- how ever so slight -- of reaching the Ruby's apartment, then bed, then pussy.

"Thank you again for the ride.”

Marcus watched Ruby head up the steps of and through the unsecured door of her building. The Detective did, too, before taking his seat at the wheel and driving off. Marcus watched the car disappear around a corner a few blocks away, then turned his attention back to Ruby's building.

His intention of remaining her for Ruby's return had simply been to maybe glean a bit of information upon her return. Marcus had been certain that the police would escort her home, and maybe there might have been conversation on the steps. There had been, of course, but not as Marcus had hoped.

He stood and contemplated how to depart: ascend the building via the same path that had gotten him here, or leap down street three floors below. He looked to the street for people who might be witnesses to the latter. That was when he heard approaching footsteps. His casted his gaze to the street, and a moment later Marcus saw five dark figures emerging from the dark shadows of a huge maple.

He watched them as they cut diagonally across the street ... directly toward the entrance of Ruby's building. They hesitated a moment at the steps, watching the building and the street both before heading up the steps. It didn't take a genius to know what they were doing: going after the young woman who had just entered the building alone.

Ruby's rape and murder -- which was likely imminent should he allow it -- would, ironically, protect Marcus from any eye witness evidence she might provide the police concerning the subway killing. But, that just wasn't Marcus's way. He'd come to Black End to prey on criminals, not crime victims, and allowing these would-be thugs to protect him by so brutally harming Ruby simply wasn't going to happen.

Marcus waited until the last of the men was inside the door before he leapt from the balcony. He landed on the pavement with the grace and silence of a cat jumping from a window sill. He ran quickly across the street, leaped easily to the second floor fire escape, then -- with a performance of the greatest Parkour athlete -- bounded his way between this fire escape and the one of the next building, twenty five feet distant.

In the time it took the five men to reach Ruby's floor, Marcus had reached the roof, forced open the locked door there, and descended two flights to take a position above them as they were reaching the landing outside Ruby's apartment. He looked about himself for a moment, knowing what he wanted to do but not having the resource he needed.

Then Marcus found it, a discarded McDonald's cup, still half full with the straw sticking out tall. Quickly, he tipped the cup to fill the straw with soda, plugged one end with a thumb, pulled out the straw, and bent it in half. He shoved the ends of the straw into the two sides of an electrical socket; the current shot without resistance through the liquid, and with a loud pop, the overcurrent flipped the breaker in the basement and sent the hallways into near total darkness.

Marcus looked down to the next level, wondering whether the sudden darkness would concern the thugs. Apparently, it didn't: two of them stopped at Ruby's door, listening at it, while the other three checked the hallway for people who might get in their way. The door opposite Ruby's apartment opened, and an elderly man stepped out, either alerted to noise in the hall or wondering what happened to the power.

"Get back inside, old man," one of the thugs said, pulling and clicking open a switchblade, "or I'll cut you open."

Despite the darkness, Marcus could clearly see the neighbor quickly retreating into his apartment. The would-be-rapists hesitated, waiting for other would be witnesses. But when no one showed, there were gestures between the men.

Marcus knew the attack was imminent. And he could have attacked before it began. But this wasn't his typical vigilante situation: the men below hadn't done anything yet, except threaten an old man. Marcus needed proof of their intent. So, he waited until one of the men slammed his shoulder into Ruby's door, forcing the minimally-secure barrier open.

As a second man, then a third were following the first through the doorway, Marcus leaped the railing and landed on the level below between two of the wanna-be-assailants. A punch to the first man's throat crushed his windpipe and broke his neck; he fell directly to his back, where the life would slowly drain from his body. Even as the first man was still falling to the ground, Marcus grasped the head of the second man with both hands, twisted it, and broke it as well.

Marcus looked and then rushed into the dark of the apartment's entry hallway just as the third of the intruders turned. The man whipped out a small firearm, aimed, and fired. But Marcus's speed and agility saved him; he stepped out of the bullet's path, snatched the man's arm and bent it backward to snap the elbow out of its socket, and slammed the man so hard against the wall that when they looked later, the police would find the shape of man's body imbedded into the drywall.
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Old 05-16-2018, 05:55 PM   #13
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When Ruby was safely inside her apartment for the night, she turned on the tv and popped in her cherished copy of The Rocky Horror Picture Show in the old PS2 and made a beeline to her bathroom and took herself a quick hot shower; the tension in her muscles was going to make it difficult for her to get any measure of sleep otherwise.


Twenty Minutes Later –


There was a loud crash coming from the living room that sounded like wood splintering followed by heavy footsteps nearing the opposite hallway that led to the spare bedroom.


Someone was inside her apartment!! There wasn’t time to do anything but react and FAST. Thankfully she had showered and dressed and was in the middle of pulling her hair back into a bun when the intrusion happened. Quickly, she crossed the small distance on the balls of her feet, she then rushed through the doorway that connected her bedroom to the private bath and quickly fell to her knees by the side of the king size bed. When she pushed against a hollow board in the oak bedframe, a spring was released for the false panel to swing outward allowing her to quickly climb beneath the bed, and with barely a second to spare she pulled the board back into place and trained her focus on her breathing. Without thinking, she steadied her hand, cocked the hammer back on the loaded Baretta 84 that she kept tucked away for safekeeping and prayed that whoever it was, that they’d rob the apartment and leave. They wouldn’t find much however.


Her heart hammered in her chest and dialed down to the seconds that stood between her and whoever was inside her home.


Moments later the clatter and commotion seemed to intensify, she heard grunts, wails of pain and the sickening crack of bones breaking.


Her hand trembled as she pressed the gun to her temple to steady her aim, her body outstretched with weight supporting the left side; one breath after another fine-tuned into each millisecond of time that passed.
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Old 05-16-2018, 07:19 PM   #14
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The first two men to enter the apartment weren't in sight, but Marcus could hear their feet shuffling over the hardwood floors and throw rugs strategically placed to make Ruby's home more comfortable. One of the men peeked his head out quickly before pulling it back, telling Marcus that he'd recognized that there was someone more in the apartment than just their own men and the woman there were planning on financially and sexually violating.

Marcus heard a door handle turn and the hinges of the door creak as the first man in moved, presumably, into Ruby's bedroom. Marcus had to act quick; he rushed down the hall, reaching the open portal to the kitchen just as the man who had peeked out leaned out again, this time raising a semi-automatic pistol before him.

He never got the chance to fire it, though. Marcus was on him, seizing the weapons and turning it back on the gunman's hand. His trigger finger snapped with an awful sound, followed quickly by the sound of a jaw breaking when the vampire used his beyond-human strength to slam the criminal's head into the hard wood door frame.

"Where are you, bitch?"

Marcus turned his attention to the man hollering from within Ruby's bedroom. He'd hoped to take out all three of these men without the tenant identifying him, but Marcus now realized that he'd failed. He hurried down the hall and into the open doorway of the bedroom, finding the last of the would-be rapists searching frantically through the bedroom, then the bathroom for Ruby.

The man turned to see Marcus, raised yet another semi-auto, hollering, "Stay the fuck where you are, man! Stay the fuck where you are!"

Marcus remained in place, watching the man. Actually, he was watching the gun. He could tell from the way the man was holding whether or not a discharged bullet would hit him or not; he could tell from the tension of the man's trigger finger whether he was about to pull.

"I'll kill that bitch if you come at me, man!" the thug hollered. "Where the fuck is that bitch?"

Marcus had little fear of the man killing him. Marcus's fear was elsewhere; his fear was of Ruby's safety, and having no idea of where--

And that was when he detected her breathing and heart beat. Marcus forced himself not to glance toward the bed's meeting with the floor. Instead he just kept his attention on the gunman as he finished his unproductive search of the bathroom and returned to look about the bedroom.

"Back the fuck up! Back up!" the gang banger demanded. As Marcus stepped back toward the hall, the man continued, "Tell ya what we're gonna do, we're gonna find that bitch, and we're all gonna sit down for a nice little talk about what happens when you fuck with a 79er!"

Marcus had heard of the street gang that was named for the street upon which their history began. But he knew very little more about them. He just backed up until he was in the hallway, watching the Glock for an appropriate time to either duck out of the man's firing zone or surge forward to take the gun.

Marcus was in no hurry to take this last man, though. He would have preferred to get the man out of the bedroom before he somehow realized where Ruby was hiding.

Then, tragedy.

The gang banger looked to the bed. He leaned, expecting to find Ruby under it, but the frame went all the way to the floor. But Marcus could see the expectation in the man's face of finding his prospective rape victim hiding there somehow.

"She's out here," Marcus lied. When the thug looked his way, Marcus jerked a thumb over his shoulder. "She's out here ... hiding, in the kitchen."

But he could see that the man wasn't buying it.
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Old 05-17-2018, 06:05 PM   #15
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As the song “Hot Patootie – Bless My Soul” was coming to an end on the television set in the living room, Ruby struggled to keep from panicking.


"Where are you, bitch?"


Ruby’s body tensed, her pulse sped up. She was barely taking in enough oxygen for fear of being discovered. Stay focused she reminded herself…



"Stay the fuck where you are, man! Stay the fuck where you are!"


Whomever it was that had followed after was not affiliated with them. Her tension dialed down half a notch. There was a witness that could identify her attackers, if he didn’t get himself killed first…



“I'll kill that bitch if you come at me, man!" the thug hollered. "Where the fuck is that bitch?"


Why was the thug searching for her? She had assumed this to be a random attack but as the perp continued to search for her, she realized this was something more than a mere robbery gone wrong. He was after her!



"Back the fuck up! Back up! Tell ya what we're gonna do, we're gonna find that bitch, and we're all gonna sit down for a nice little talk about what happens when you fuck with a 79er!"


79er? Why was this person interested in her? She wasn’t affiliated with any gangs. So then did this have to do with the case on the subway? Was it one of their men that had been killed? How did they know she was a witness?



There wasn’t time to think on the matter further; only a piece of oak separated her from the thug and he was getting close, too close



"She's out here. She's out here ... hiding, in the kitchen."


It was now or never, she used the other man’s ploy to her advantage, a great distraction at just the right time; Ruby aimed the gun, the shadow of the thug was clear and given her position she’d only hit him in the kneecap, but it would slow him down and give her time.



A second later, the bullet cut through the air splintering the oak panel as it made its way through and met flesh, the sound of pain moments later confirmed the target. Using her foot, she kicked the board back and it knocked the wounded man to the floor as she quickly slid out from beneath the bed and stood over him, the cold metal of the Baretta pressed hard into his temple, in an even cold voice she said, “Put the gun down or I’ll blow your fucking head off you worthless piece of shit.” At that she pulled the hammer back on the gun ready to pull the trigger without remorse.
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Old 05-18-2018, 12:52 AM   #16
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Marcus had heard Ruby pull back the hammer of her handgun, so when she fired it didn't shock him as much as it did her victim. Of course, he was the recipient of the round, too, so that was probably a much larger portion of his surprise.

She crawled out from under the bed and put the gun to the last thug's head. "Put the gun down or I’ll blow your fucking head off you worthless piece of shit.”

Marcus couldn't help but smile at Ruby. He didn't know whether her assault of the man was real or feigned, an attempt to hide an underlying fear and panic. But he was impressed either way.

The man on the ground was crying out in pain, grasping at his knee with both hands. Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot of blood; the bullet had struck and cracked one or more bones in the man's knee, but it had also missed the larger arteries and veins.

Despite the pain and obvious hopelessness of his situation, the criminal maintained a firm grip on his weapon. He was holding it in a way as to not cause Ruby to pull her trigger a second time. But he ... just ... wasn't ... ready to give up his piece.

Marcus had been killing people for more than three centuries. He could almost do it in his sleep ... and then lay down and sleep soundly without a worry in the world. But ... would Ruby? If she pulled that trigger right now and blew her would-be-rapist's brains all over her throw rug, could she curl up under the covers and snore the night away?

He doubted it. Of course, he didn't know her past. For all he knew, Ruby had once been a gang banger herself, or perhaps a girl friend of one. She may have had ten years of needling her arm with heroine, paying her way with home burglaries or violent muggings.

There was no way for Marcus to know, so he decided to play it safe. He looked to his left, found a small, metal statuette, snatched it up, and hurled it with great strength at the sobbing man. It hit him square in the forehead, knocking his head back before bouncing across the hardwood. The invader fell to his back, out cold, his gun dropping onto the carpet loose of his twitching fingers.
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Old 05-18-2018, 08:50 PM   #17
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Ruby had a hard time taking her eyes off the man on the floor, in fact, she hadn’t even bothered to look past the man’s chest for fear of appearing distracted by the intruder, who wouldn’t give up his gun, no matter the apparent pain he was in nor the position. She’d shoot, he’d already given her just cause by breaking in and it would be one less thug walking the streets.


Just when she was about to pull the trigger, the elephant figurine that had been on her chest of drawers went sailing through the air and stuck the man directly on the forehead. Ruby knelt and checked to make sure that the man was unconscious before disarming him, then proceeded to kick the statuette away; it was only then that she took the time to steal a glance at the other man across the room.


She was about to express her thanks….


Then a short intake of air as her eyes settled on the man; her memories flashed back to their strange meeting in the rain and then again on the street….


She didn’t release her hold on the gun but she lowered it, pointing it at the floor. After several minutes she spoke, “Are you some private detail that I’m not aware of, I know I’m a person of interest but like I told them back at the precinct, I don’t remember anything. However, I’m happy they sent you by tonight.” She glanced at the man on the ground, it was clear she’d never seen him before nor had any apparent association.


A look of disappointment flooded her features, if anyone was going to be keeping an eye on her she wanted it to be the Sergeant. She’d have loved to have had the opportunity to meet him under any circumstances but these. It was just her luck she thought as she frowned.
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Old 05-18-2018, 09:07 PM   #18
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Private detail, Marcus mused silently. She thinks you're a Copper. Well, sure, why not ... go with it.

"I'm not with the police department formally," he decided to tell Ruby. "I'm private, as you guessed. But ... private contractor. When the police have a need they can't fill ... with detectives ... or uniformed officers ... they call on people like me. Sort of ... volunteer cops."

Marcus's lips spread a bit wider, not particularly as reassurance to Ruby but because he couldn't believe that he'd invented that bullshit on the spot with such a convincing tone. "Right now, though, we need ... I'm, I'm sorry, I don't recall your name off the top of my head...?"

He waited for her to respond, then continued, "Right now, though, I need you to come with me, Ruby. Can I call you Ruby?"

Again he waited for her response, then continued, "This is a crime scene now, and it needs to be preserved until the crime lab can get here ... take photographs, prints ... all that CSI stuff, just like on television. Can you do me a favor? Just, pack a quick bag ... toiletries, a change of clothes. Quickly."

Marcus wondered for a moment how he'd gotten himself in this fix. Five dead gang bangers, a witness, an old man across the hall that probably heard all, and potentially dozens of more residents who -- if they were brave -- would peek out through their peep holes to see what's what and maybe catch sight of Marcus as he led Ruby away.

Better just to kill her here and now, he thought, knowing even as he was thinking it that he wouldn't.
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Old 05-19-2018, 07:26 PM   #19
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"I'm not with the police department formally, I’m private, as you guessed. But ... private contractor. When the police have a need, they can't fill ... with detectives ... or uniformed officers ... they call on people like me. Sort of ... volunteer cops."

Ruby contemplated his response a brief moment. So then if that were true, why then did Mr. Owens not mention that or better yet, persist in staying to keep watch over her? He had sure seemed reluctant to go. No, the whole thing just seemed off. Why let her go back to her apartment at all if she were a special witness? Why take that risk? Unless of course they wanted to see who would show up and they used her as bait…. Her eyes darkened at that thought and yet she didn’t think Sergeant Harris would have signed off on such a scheme. Sure, they wanted to put the people away that were responsible but like this? No, this was strange.



As Ruby inspected the damage to her bed she thought on the matter further. If and this was a big stretch here, if they had somehow agreed to use her as bait, it’s not like they knew she’d taken any formal self-defense courses or possessed a gun. Sure, she had a permit to carry a weapon and bought the gun outright, but that was still a heck of a lot of danger to put someone in unnecessarily. Even if he was good with a gun, he was still just one man. She’d write a letter to the Chief of Department when she had the chance. Inwardly Ruby was fuming, she was jittery with adrenaline and a man was knocked out cold on her bedroom floor.



“Right now, though, we need ... I'm, I'm sorry, I don't recall your name off the top of my head...?"

That was a red flag for Ruby. If this person was special detail, he’d probably know more about her than even she! And he asked her for her name? Ruby was careful in the way she responded, “It’s Ruby Erickson.”



"Right now, though, I need you to come with me, Ruby. Can I call you Ruby?"

Ha! She wanted to laugh, oh NOW he wanted her to leave! Now when her home had been broken into and there was no doubt several wounded and potentially dead men littering her apartment building. Why did they allow this to happen?


Ruby shifted her weight to the other foot and it was then that she remembered her phone in her right back pocket. It was a finicky piece of outdated tech and had been known to make calls without her pushing any buttons. She was wearing hip hugging jeans today and carefully reached her hands back to rest on her hips and in doing so she did a downward motion in the hopes it would be enough to dial the last number on her call log. She had put it to silent mode earlier at the precinct and had forgotten to turn the volume back on but she prayed the Sergeant used caution if he were to pick up. Worst case, perhaps an audio recording would pick up the exchange that was going on right now, she had no way of knowing but here was hoping. She felt it in her gut…. But couldn’t pinpoint the source of it.


She finally met his eyes as she chewed on the inside of her cheek and then said, “No, you may not, Mr. Hamilton… Marcus Hamilton if I may recall.



"This is a crime scene now, and it needs to be preserved until the crime lab can get here ... take photographs, prints ... all that CSI stuff, just like on television. Can you do me a favor? Just, pack a quick bag ... toiletries, a change of clothes. Quickly."

Her eyes widened a moment, then the woman asked, “I understand that but shouldn’t we wait for reinforcements to arrive? They would no doubt want a report and have questions for both of us. I’ve no idea how many you shot but I very clearly heard the sound of bones breaking out there as I hid under the bed. And this guy, this 79er I think is what he called himself, he’s thankfully unconscious but he will come to eventually. And courtesy of my registered firearm he has a bullet wound in his knee. If we leave he will try to get away! No, I don’t think this is a good idea. I appreciate you wanting to take me to safety now but it’s much too late for that. I want to secure my apartment and I have no doubt that there’s nothing left of my front door to secure.
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Old 05-19-2018, 09:55 PM   #20
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"I’ve no idea how many you shot but I very clearly heard the sound of bones breaking out there as I hid under the bed..."

Marcus was conflicted yet again, this time about whether or not to tell Ruby that he hadn't shot anyone. Had he broken bones? Oh, yeah. Did it really matter how he'd killed the gangbangers or just that he had?

"And this guy, this 79er..."

As Ruby went on, Marcus found himself wondering: was there a connection between the man he'd killed on the subway and the men who'd attempted to rape Ruby tonight; or had the two cases been two unrelated events? It wasn't uncommon in Black End for women to be targeted totally at random by gangs, whether for robbery, rape, murder, or a combination of these crimes and others. It was one of the reasons Marcus had picked this neighborhood as his new feeding ground. There would never be a shortage of blood donors for him, people who didn't deserve to live and, therefore, deserved no pity or mercy from him.

When Ruby declared that she had no intention of leaving until more police arrived -- or, actually, the first police -- Marcus knew he only had two choices: force her to leave with him or leave her here. He couldn't be found here by the police. He'd just killed four men and -- considering how hard he'd tossed the elephant -- may have done some permanent brain damage to the third.

"Well, maybe you're right, then, Ru-- Miss Erickson," Marcus responded. He looked to the handgun still in her hand. "Maybe you should set that aside before they come storming in, though. On the dresser perhaps. And ... while we wait, I'm going to check the men. We might still have a heart beat or two."

Marcus checked the man on the bedroom floor first, obviously, finding him still alive. He was unsure whether or not that was good. "I wasn't expecting to be working tonight, so ... I don't have my cuffs. Do you have a belt ... or, a pair of panty hose or stocking or lanyard or anything I can secure his hands with?"

Marcus turned the 79er to his belly and secured his hands behind his back. "I'm going to check the others. Why don't you just ... take a seat, Miss Erickson. Relax. Backup will be here shortly. Keep an eye on this guy, but I warn you, not to rearm yourself unless you feel it necessary."

He made his way out of the bedroom, looking back over his shoulders to smile politely at Ruby. In the apartment's hallway, Marcus simply walked past the two dead men; in the building's main hallway, he paused just long enough to look for witnesses. Seeing none, he ascended the stairs to the roof ... and disappeared into the night.


***************


Peter Owens stuck his head into his boss's office, finding Sergeant Harris with his head down, reading one of dozens of files stacked on his desk. "Dispatch got a call of a shooting."

Without lifting his head, Thomas responded with a bit of annoyance, "We get lots of calls about lots of shootings, Detective."

"This one's down on 6th Street," Peter continued.

"So was one of yesterday's shootings," Thomas grumbled, recalling the least exciting of the five shootings the day before. Still reading, he growled, "And...?"

"6th and Parsons Streets," Peter specified.

Thomas finally looked up from his files, something about that address seeming familiar.

Peter clarified even further, "644 Parsons ... 5th floor."

"Ruby Hamilton?"

Peter nodded, and in a flash Thomas was out of his chair and around his desk.



Less than ten minutes later, Thomas was ascending the steps of Ruby's apartment building two steps at a time. He paused just before the 5th floor landing; although there was activity out front of the building and on nearly every floor, the 5th was where the majority of the excitement was taking place. There were over a dozen cops -- half or so uniformed patrol officers, the rest plain clothed Detectives -- as well as half a dozen personnel each from Fire & Ambulance and from the Morgue.

Despite the horror of the scene, Thomas showed no shock. He saw this kind of criminal activity every day. Thomas's only concern was of the gangbangers' intended victim, Ruby Erickson.

"Where is she?" he asked seeing the Detective Supervisor he'd been told was in charge of the scene talking to another Detective on the landing. The man nodded into the apartment and started explaining the scene. Thomas waved him off, telling him, "Later. I need to speak to the witness."

"She's more than a witness, Sergeant," the Supervisor corrected. He held up a transparent evidence bag with a small pistol in it. "She popped one of the intruders. Maybe more, we don't know yet."

"Why don't you know yet?" Thomas asked, annoyed. "Why hasn't she been interviewed while the event it fresh in her--"

The Supervisor cut him off, "Because she said she wouldn't talk to anyone but you?"

Thomas just stared at the man for a moment. Why would she ask for me? Thomas thought, recalling the meeting at the Precinct earlier. He turned and headed into the apartment, finding Ruby in the living room on the couch. He studied her for a moment until she caught sight of him. He smiled politely to her and crossed to sit on the coffee table before her.

"Are you alright, Miss Erickson?"
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