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For the Virtual Book Fair
November 12-20

It was another one of those bitingly cold days. The humid chill bit deep down into Miriam’s bones and she had to wiggle her toes to keep them from freezing in the muddy, wet snow slush. The gray clouds hung low in the sky and added to the depressing feeling. With her eyes sternly set on the bloody trail that she followed, she hoped that they’d be able to catch the killer this time. He had become bolder. It was the first time he had killed during the daytime. People were getting scared and media coverage didn’t help. Caesar had said that they might get protesters outside FBI HQ if they didn’t get a break soon.


Unexpectedly, a glint of metal caught her eye. Car keys. She stopped to place another evidence number beside them before taking a couple of pictures. Then she looked closer and gave up a low jubilant shout. There was some kind of hair caught in the still wet blood on the chain.


Looking over her shoulder, she wanted to share her find, but Caesar was still kneeling at the terribly massacred body, investigating it and writing down notes, and he wouldn’t look at it before finishing. Reluctantly glancing at Cyrus, she felt relieved that he still took statements from the witness who had called in the find. As usual, the mere sight of Cyrus’ lanky body and red hair made Miriam frown in frustrated anger and awkwardness.


None of them paid her any attention. Without further ado, she brought out her tweezers and placed the hair in an evidence bag. After placing it inside her CSI box, she continued searching the ground for more traces from the perpetrator, but she had run out of luck. The only thing she found was the frighteningly large and shapeless prints in the snow-mud that no one could identify. And more blood; she thought. Then she spotted a lump of something else, half-buried in the slush. She clenched her teeth. And the flesh pieces. She placed the thirty-ninth evidence number at the large chunk of unidentifiable human meat. Further down the hill was the expected sewer entrance. If this scene followed the same pattern as the previous four, the trail would lead directly into the large cement pipe.


Without a warning, a blinding flash appeared from the pipe, and Miriam gasped. Instinctively, she covered her eyes, but the sewer’s entrance danced before her closed eyelids. For some moments, she was completely blind. What the HELL was that? Blinking a few times made her get her eyesight back, even though irritating black dots were still twirling around within her vitreous.


Not forgetting about the trail, she avoided stepping in it while cautiously moving towards the entrance and releasing her gun. Nothing happened. She stopped halfway and took the few seconds to call out over her shoulder: “Caesar! There’s something in the sewer!”


The older man looked up from the body with a concerned expression on his face. “I’m almost finished. Take Cyrus with you. Be cautious.”


With a sigh, she watched Cyrus folding his notebook, and, with a pleasant smile, taking his leave from the middle-aged woman he had interviewed. As usual, the smile disappeared immediately when he left the witness and was replaced by an emotionless mask. At least she thought it to be a mask.


“What’s up?” he asked when he closed in on her.


“Um… there was a… a flash… a blue flash that came from the sewer tunnel. The trail leads directly to it.”


“Alright, let’s check it out.” He released his gun and took the lead. Muttering to herself, she followed, but the seriousness of the situation made her get a grip on herself and be the professional agent she was trained to be.


Together they hurried towards the entrance, guns ready, and minds on high alert. Miriam’s heart was beating hard, and her face was flushing red from the adrenaline. Within the minute, they were at the entrance. Cyrus put his back towards the wall and waved her towards the opposite side.  Crouching, she hurried over and cast a glance into the darkness, but couldn’t discern anything. She caught Cyrus’ eyes and shook her head to indicate there wasn’t anything to see. He pointed inside, and while he was covering her, she slipped into the dark, gun in position, and tried to see anything at all. The fading daylight stretched surprisingly far and let her walk without stumbling. The sewer water trickled around her feet, and the sound of her steps seemed ridiculously loud in her ears. Behind her, she heard Cyrus coming into the tunnel. It was a relief knowing that even though they despised each other, they were a team and had each other’s back.


Suddenly, two voices reached them from behind a bend further down the tunnel. The two agents froze and listened attentively. Miriam thought that they sounded anxious, but she couldn’t be sure. She had never been good at reading people. On her guard, she began moving forward again with her gun raised. As soon as she got to the bend and peeked around it, she discerned two humans further down. One hunched threateningly over the other who sat slumped at the wall. They were barely lit up by a faint flickering from a lighter. Their voices were stronger now, but the weird muffled echo made it impossible to make out any words.


Miriam turned towards Cyrus who had come up behind her and held up two fingers. He nodded and gestured her to move on. It was completely dark when she slipped around the bend, but then a scratchy sound reached her, and the faint flickering was seen again. Neither the African-American man nor the slender woman noticed her or Cyrus when they closed in on them. The cigarette lighter in the man’s hand lit up the blonde’s face, and it was sculpted in pain.


“Freeze! FBI!” she yelled. The man jerked and the darkness swallowed them again. The next moment the steady stream of light from Cyrus’ flashlight lit up the scene. The large black man had crouched again and seemed to be searching for his lost lighter. “Hands on the wall!” Miriam shouted and pointed the gun towards him. With an unbelieving look on his face, the man glanced at her, but didn’t hesitate much. Slowly, he rose and placed his hands on the wall. Together, Miriam and Cyrus rushed forward and surrounded him.


Cyrus put his gun back into his holder and grabbed the handcuffs instead. Without any resistance from the man, he got him restricted. Miriam fumbled with her own flashlight, and soon the tunnel was brighter. Just a few yards further down the tunnel, the gleam landed on a lifeless lump that once had been a living being. Miriam clenched her teeth and glared at the detained man beside her. He looked back with a weary expression on his face.


“Are you okay, ma’am?” Cyrus asked the young woman who held her hands around her ankle. She didn’t say anything, just stared at him, confused and unbelievingly. “Do you want to press charges against this man?” Cyrus continued.


“What are you talking about?” the woman finally said. “Why have you arrested Cole?”


Miriam frowned. As far as she could tell, the young woman was genuinely upset.


“He’s not under arrest, ma’am,” Cyrus said. “He’s just detained for the moment. Are you saying that he wasn’t threatening you?”


“No, of course, he didn’t! He was trying to help me. I’ve sprained my ankle.”


Cyrus shared a glance with Miriam. She shrugged. Maybe she told the truth, maybe not, but there were a lot of questions they needed to answer.


“Why are you wearing indoor shoes, ma’am?” Miriam asked suspiciously. “”It’s fourteen F, and you don’t wear a jacket?”


There was a short, surprised silence. “I… uh… It wasn’t that cold when I went out…” the woman mumbled and looked down. Nervously, she began playing with a large blue pendant that hung around her neck. Even Miriam could tell that she was lying.


“In the end, it’s going to be much easier if you co-operate,” she said sternly, and the woman glanced at her. She wasn’t sure, but she thought there was an obstinate glare in the younger woman’s eyes. A flame of anger began to burn inside her. She couldn’t stand people who refused to collaborate just because they were questioned by FBI. “You know fully well that you are intruding on a crime scene!”


The woman’s head jerked up. “What?”


“Stop pretending,” Miriam said coldly and flashed the light towards the lifeless lump. The two youngsters stared silently at it. “Who was it this time? Another homeless? A grandma? A teenager out too late?”


“I… I have no idea what you’re talking about…” the woman said faintly and swallowed visibly. She had lost all color on her cheeks.


“You have blood on your shoes and trousers,” Miriam pointed out, even though she had to admit to herself that there would be more blood than that on their clothes, had the couple murdered and carried the person here.


“Hey! Cut it off!” the man said. “Let her be. She hasn’t done anything. We didn’t even know that… that… thing… was there.”


“What were you doing here, then?” asked Cyrus with a friendly voice, clearly playing the ‘good-cop-card.' The two looked at each other, apparently trying to come up with a story. Miriam smiled smugly, couldn’t wait to hear what fairytale they would try to spin. “Alright, let’s start with your names instead,” Cyrus said and brought up his notebook. “Ma’am?”


“Lily Dane,” came the reluctant answer.




“Cole Grave.”


“Alright. Where do you live?”


“Sir,” Grave said, “I’ll gladly answer all your questions, but do you mind if we do it somewhere else?”


“Why not,” Cyrus agreed amiably. He nodded at Miriam who reached down to the female and helped her up. She yelped when she put weight on her hurt foot. Miriam glanced down at her dirty, bloodstained leg. The ankle was definitely swollen.


“You’ll need to have that looked after,” she said and put her arm around her, giving her enough support so she could limp without too much pain. Lily nodded and grimaced for every hobbling step.


“Yeah, I didn’t really plan it this way…” she mumbled.


The strange remark caught her attention. “How did you plan it?” she asked curiously.


“Not like this, anyway,” Lily muttered, but then she sighed. “I just wanted to have a fun night out with my best friend, not ending up at a crime scene.”


“Did you see anything?”


The younger woman frowned. “I’m not sure…” she said. “It might have been my imagination, but… when Cole lit the lighter, I had a feeling of being watched. I looked to the left and… I don’t know… It sounds so silly.”


“No, it doesn’t. Go on, tell me.”


She hesitated, but then she tried to shrug. “I thought I saw a glimmer of eyes in the tunnel, like a cat, you know, just that they were enormous, like my hands.” When Miriam stopped and stared at her, she squirmed uncomfortably. “I told you it was silly,” she muttered.


Miriam looked forward. They had passed the bend and saw Cyrus and Cole near the exit already. Unexpectedly, she felt very lonely and vulnerable with the injured woman at her side. If something happened, she wasn’t sure if she could protect them both.


“Can you move faster?” she asked with a strained voice and Lily stared at her, suddenly scared.


“I can try.”


Together they limped quicker. Lily’s pained breaths told Miriam that she wouldn’t be able to keep up the pace for long.


They were about ten yards from the exit when she felt the hair on her neck stand up. She froze mid-step. Lily stumbled and groaned, but Miriam ignored her. Slowly, she turned around. At the bend, nearly touching the ceiling, she saw the glimmer from eyes as big as her hands. She gasped harshly and fumbled after her gun. At her side, Lily drew in a hard breath, as if to scream.


“Quiet!” Miriam hissed urgently. “Keep walking. I’ll keep it occupied. Just tell Cy I need him.” To her frustration, Lily hesitated. “Just go, for everything holy in the world!”


Finally, she hobbled away, quicker than Miriam thought she could walk. Facing the beast, she kept her gun pointed at it with trembling hands. It was barely visible, just a more compact dark form lurking in the black. Neither of them moved.  She couldn’t hear anything except her own shallow breaths and wildly beating heart. A thin layer of sweat covered her forehead and wet her armpits, but her hands were so cold that she began to lose the feeling in them. She didn’t know how long they had stood there, facing each other, when she, at last, heard Cyrus’ running steps behind her back.


“What the hell is that?” he breathed when he stopped beside her, gun in position. A quick glance at his face showed her that he had lost his emotionless mask. He looked scared, she thought with a sudden, terrified pang in her heart. She had never seen him scared before.


“Our killer, I bet,” she whispered, hoarsely. “Where’s Caesar?”


“On his way. He wanted the suspects safely in the car and take a look at Danes’ ankle. Is it just going to stand there?”


“You ask me? I have no idea.”


“Let’s wait for C before we make our move. At least as long as it just stands there.”


“Good idea.”


The minutes passed by, slow as batter. The large eyes stared at them. They stared back. The sound of Caesar’s heavy steps made Miriam breathe easier. He came up on her left side with his gun drawn and a determined expression on his face.


“FBI!” he shouted. “Come out where we can see you and keep your hands in the air.” The tea-cup-sized eyes blinked slowly, but nothing else happened. When it didn’t move, Caesar shouted: “Last warning. Come out, or we’ll open fire.” He waited a few seconds, and then he said with his normal, jovial voice: “Let’s take it down.”


Miriam nodded and pulled the trigger. The sound of the shot echoed in the tunnel. Together with the sharp sounds from Caesar’s and Cyrus’ guns, the painful scream from the beast was deafening. Feeling the adrenaline rushing in her body, Miriam emptied the mag before she realized that she couldn’t see the gleaming eyes anymore. Then, Cyrus’ flashlight lit up the tunnel. It was empty.


“Where did it go?” she panted.


Caesar looked stern. “It got hit. It can’t move quickly. Come. We need to find it.”


For hours they searched for it, but it was gone. Eventually, Caesar sighed heavily.


“It’s no use. We have to get back to the cars. We’ll talk to the young couple and then we return here tomorrow with a map over the system.”


It took them another half-hour to get back to the cars. Secretly, Miriam was relieved to see that Lily still sat in Cyrus’ car and that Cole was detained in Caesar’s.


“Let’s take them to a drive-thru,” Cyrus said when they walked towards the cars. Miriam glanced surprised at him. “They must be hungry, and I don’t think they’re involved in the project.”


“There’s something fishy with them, though,” Miriam protested.


“Agreed, but I’m quite sure they’ll be a lot more accommodating if we treat them nicely.”


“Whatever,” Miriam shrugged.


“You might be right, Cyrus,” Caesar said. “It’s worth a try. I want to know why they were at the scene.”


They drove to a nearby McDonald’s and squeezed into Caesar’s car, which was the biggest. Cyrus let Cole free from the handcuffs and placed a brown bag full of food in his lap.


 “Alright, talk,” he suggested friendly while both Cole and Lily began to stuff their mouths.


“You won’t believe us,” Cole huffed.


“Why don’t you try us out? We might surprise you.”


 “Yeah, right…”


“What was it in there?” Lily asked Miriam. “A monster?”


“Not really sure,” Miriam answered honestly, hoping that her answer would trigger them to talk.

Lily gave them a look she couldn’t interpret. Then she took a deep breath.


“What if… what if I say that we’re not from here, that we don’t know where we are, and that we got here through… through… some kind of—“


“Lily!” Cole interrupted her hurriedly.


“Teleportation,” she blurted out. They all stared at her, flabbergasted. “You’re not laughing,” she said and gave Cole a side-glance. “That’s a start.”


Caesar gave her a stern look. “I am not interested in jokes, Miss Danes. Please, explain.”


Lily looked down, suddenly nervous, and began fumbling with the pendant around her neck. With a hard grip on his McDonald’s bag, Cole leaned over Caesar’s legs and grabbed Lily’s arm.


“Don’t,” he said. “Just take us home, okay, Lil? I’ve had enough of weird places.”


“You’re not going anywhere before you’ve answered some questions,” Caesar said harshly. “You were present at a crime scene where a double murder had been committed forty minutes earlier. You have some explaining to do.”


“Lil, please?” Cole begged, but Lily just continued to play around with the pendant. Next second, a bright blue flash blinded them, and when they finally could see again, Lily and Cole were gone.






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