The car pulled up into the driveway with a screech.
“Damn Cap, stop abusing the car,” said Alyssa.
“It’s too slow, it deserves it,” said Cap.
Just on time, Elowen came running down the street towards them. “We scouted the entire area, Hosea couldn’t find anything. What about your end?”
“Nope. Nothing in the Afterdark either,” said Cap.
They quickly approached the house, hoping against hope that everything would have worked itself out. As soon as they opened the door, however, they were greeted not by a solution, but by a gun pointed at them.
“Welcome back,” said the manager. “You can all go out in one fell swoop.”
“Uhm,” said Alyssa.
“What have you done with Rowan?” demanded Elowen.
“You can ask him yourself, when you see him,” said the manager. “Tell him I said hello.”
“Cutting it a bit fine there,” said Cap.
“Oh for goodness’ sake,” Elowen exploded. “Is it too much to ask you boys to not knock people out?”
Rowan folded his arms defensively. “Oh wow, everyone’s a critic. He had a gun, ok? Anyway, there’s no time to waste. I think I know where Lexi Lilly might have gone.”
Rowan pointed to the manager. “He mentioned having a daughter. What if she decided that the best way to get to him was through…”
“Oh crap,” said Elowen.
“And where might she be?” asked Cap.
“We could try around her school. I found a photo and I recognise the uniform. Prestigious private school. Isn’t too far from here,” said Alyssa.
Cap tossed his keys to Rowan. “You drive,” he said. “Alyssa, please hand me the serum.”
Alyssa frowned, but did as he asked. “You sure?”
“Yeah. We’re out of options now.
The clouds came out of nowhere. They closed in on the sun, shutting out the light before shedding their rain.
Through the downpour, Veronica Harris could make out a bus shelter. As she sprinted towards it, she realised someone was already in it. She stopped and squinted. Something was wrong.
At that moment, lightning lit up the world, and she could see all too clearly who it was.
“Lexi?” asked Veronica, her voice trembling faintly. “Lexi, is that you?”
The figure in the bus shelter made no reply. Nor did it move.
“I thought you were in hospital.”
“Please say something, you’re scaring me!”
Still no reply. Veronica began to shake. She turned. And ran.
“It was you,” said Lexi Lilly. It was all coming back to her. She remembered his face. She remembered the knife.
“Lexi,” said Cap.
“It was you,” she repeated. “You killed me.”
“Lexi, listen to me,” said Cap. “You’re not dead. You need to stop talking to him directly…”
“Whatever it is you’re trying to do, it won’t work,” yelled the manager. “You can’t use my testimony, I didn’t have a lawyer…”
“YOU KILLED ME,” Lexi Lilly screamed as she became something else, something dark and full of hate, “AND I AM GOING TO DESTROY YOU.”
“NO!” shouted Cap, but with a brief flicker of lights, Lexi Lilly was gone.
“Where did she go?” asked Rowan, his eyes wide.
“Let’s hope nowhere important,” said Cap. “She might calm down after a while. Elowen, can you send your familiar to scout?”
Elowen nodded, and ran outside.
“This is not funny,” said the manager. “I demand an explanation, NOW.”
“No time,” said Cap. “Believe it or not, you’re in danger. Rowan, stay here and if Lexi Lilly comes back, try talking her down. I’m going to get Alyssa and the serum.”
“The serum?” repeated Rowan, incredulously. “You said you weren’t ready yet.”
“Unfortunately we might not have time to wait.”
Cap burst into the Afterdark as Zeke and Alyssa were talking.
“Cap?” said Alyssa. “Did something happen?”
“We’ve got a problem. The manager was the stabber. Lexi Lilly went berserk, then she disappeared.”
“I’ll fill you in on the way. Let me just get the serum.”
“Wait,” said Zeke, “what’s going on?”
“Can’t explain, don’t have time,” said Cap. “You can stay or go, do whatever you want.” He disappeared up the stairs.
“What’s going on?” repeated Zeke, this time to Alyssa.
“Remember what I said about your coma self getting stronger? That’s what’s happened. This hasn’t happened since-”
“Come on, let’s go,” said Cap, practically flying down the stairs.
Alyssa turned and left with him, leaving Zeke alone in the empty bar. Well, not completely empty. A cat rubbed up against his leg, the same one from the day before. It looked at him in a strangely knowing way, then began to scratch itself. He heard the muffled sound of a car driving off.
The manager was the stabber? Had Lexi Lilly gone to take revenge on him? Why disappear then?
Something on the bar caught his eye. The photo from before had fallen out of the letter. On the back were the words: ‘29 May 2084 – My girls, my world’.
A creeping sense of horror settled over him. It occurred to him that perhaps the manager himself was not the target.
But the experts had already driven off, and there was no way to contact them. Either way, it was a long shot.
Zeke’s grip tightened on the photo. There was nothing he could do. He barely knew about this world. But even if there was the slightest chance of the kid being in danger… And even Lexi Lilly herself….
Beside him, the cat mrrowed.
Zeke gritted his teeth, and ran out of the bar. In his head played his earlier conversation with Alyssa.
Extremely rarely, a sleepwalker goes berserk; a fun name for a dangerous state. They get very, very strong, fuelled by extreme emotion, and in this state, they’re capable of influencing the outside world, and more often than not, causing a lot of harm. Of course, their corporeal self gets very, very weak.
So what happens when your corporeal self gets too weak?
Duh, dummy. You die.
Rowan looked away for a whole two seconds and when he looked back, he was staring down the barrel of a gun. “Woah,” he said, “let’s not do anything too hasty now.”
From the other side of the gun, the manager smiled, but it looked more like a grimace. “Now you see,” he said, “if I’d really meant to kill her, I would have taken the gun. Unfortunately, I can’t say I mean the same for you.”
“We can talk about this,” said Rowan.
“No need,” said the manager. “When my house arrest is over, they’ll find your bodies far away from here. They’ll never suspect me. My tracker will show that I never left my house…”
“How do you plan to do that?” questioned Rowan, reasonably.
“There’s nothing money won’t buy.” The manager’s finger tightened on the trigger. “It’s me or you. You understand, right? I have a daughter to think about…”
“Why must it be a competition?” said Rowan, earnestly, and he would have said more, but the manager pulled the trigger.
Trigger warnings: Violence, domestic violence, blood. More blood than usual. You know what, just assume blood as a given from now on
The house was furnished with long leather couches, a minimalist fireplace and even a fountain, yet it was a jarring imitation of luxury in a neighbourhood such as this. Though it was noon, all the blinds were fully down. An effort to keep the media at bay, perhaps.
“Why are you at my home, if you’re not the press?” asked the manager. “If it’s money you want…”
“We’re not interested in money,” said Cap. “We just wanna know one thing, Caden. The truth of why you were there, in your own words.”
“You can tell us,” said Rowan. “Don’t worry, we won’t tell a soul.”
“Start from the top,” said Cap.
“Why aren’t you there with them?” asked Zeke.
“I would be, but someone had to make sure you didn’t starve to death. Cap and Rowan didn’t want to miss the chance to play good cop bad cop, and Elowen, uh, wants to put off seeing you as long as possible. In fact, she would prefer not to see you ever again.”
“The feeling is mutual.”
“How much do you know?” asked the manager.
“Where to begin,” said Cap. “I know you dated Lexi Lilly.”
“My cat was our shared cat,” said Lexi Lilly.
“I know you shared the cat.”
“We were happy for almost a year.”
“But the bliss didn’t last past the anniversary, did it?”
“He started being jealous. Asking me where I’d been, who I was talking to…”
“You became controlling.”
“He yelled at me.”
“Then you started verbally abusing her.”
The manager’s face was white as a sheet and his hands trembled. “H-how…”
“He hit me once,” said Lexi Lilly quietly.
“And in the end, you resorted to violence,” said Cap. “And that wasn’t all, was it? Not even close. Look, Caden, I could keep going but we all know where this will end. We know everything, alright? How would it look if the world knew about this? So start talking, and don’t leave anything out.”
“So there are four of us,” said Alyssa. “The twins are spellcasters.”
“They’re twins, huh.”
“Yup. And Cap, eh, who knows what Cap is. He’s definitely a Sensitive like you, but is also a bit insane.”
“Wait, what do you mean by Sensitive?”
“You can see me, right? I’m sure you’ve guessed, but most people can’t.”
“What even are you exactly?”
“I don’t think there’s an official term,” said Alyssa, “but people call us ‘sleepwalkers’. I’ve also heard ‘comawalkers’ and ‘bloody abominations of nature’. Basically, we’re people in a coma whose consciousness wanders around.”
“Why can I see you though?”
“Who knows? The one thing I’ve learnt while in this state is, there are rules, but most of them are made to be broken.”
Zeke put another letter into Alyssa’s outstretched hand. “Why are you telling me this stuff, by the way?” he asked. “What if I decide to jump out the window and tell the police?”
“Why, because they’re gonna believe you?”
That shut him up.
“They already came by,” said Alyssa. “Some snitches recognised us from the news. But we made sure we had alibis, and the police are now looking for people who look like us. A wild goose chase. I could ask the same to you though, why are you asking me this stuff?”
“I think it’s a pretty logical response,” said Zeke.
“I dunno, honestly we thought you’d try to ram the door down. I was even prepared to knock you out again.”
“It was the letters, those damn letters,” said the manager.
“It killed you to know she didn’t destroy them?” said Rowan.
The manager snorted. “Like she would. They were letters from her precious band leader.”
Lexi Lilly gasped. “Wait, are you talking about-”
“Lexi,” murmured Elowen.
“Oh, right. Sorry. He’s talking about the letters I wrote to Dilan, the leader of my old band. I never told anyone about those, how does he…”
“So the letters to Dilan,” said Rowan. “They sparked your jealousy.”
“You would have thought the same! She complained to him about me!”
“So, like I said, there are some general rules,” said Alyssa. “Unfortunately, most of the rules we’ve found have been broken at some point. So we gotta take them as guidelines rather than law.”
“Ok, what are some of the rules that haven’t been broken so far?”
“Well, bear in mind that we don’t have the biggest sample size. But one of them is, no one who wakes up from their coma remembers what they were up to when they were sleepwalking.”
“Another good one is, the stronger your coma self gets, the weaker your corporeal self gets, and vice versa. That’s why, unless you’re a long term stable sleepwalker like me, you should try not to do things that push you closer to the other side.”
“Like, trying to interact with people you know, that’s one of them. Most of the time, that’s no big deal. But like I said, there have been exceptions.”
“You’ve been opening my letters?” cried Lexi Lilly, her fingers curling up in indignation.
“Lexi,” murmured Elowen again.
Lexi Lilly bit her lip in anger.
“You said you have them, right?” continued the manager. “You saw what they were like. Back and forth they went, like two bloody lovebirds in a tree. It was that last letter she wrote. That damn letter, it just… I had suspected for some time, but to see the evidence that she had been cheating on me…”
“What?” shrieked Lexi Lilly.
“‘I wrote this song thinking of you,’ she said. She wrote that song while we were still together! I couldn’t let her send that letter, that song should have been mine.”
“So you planned it,” said Cap. “Waited until night, covered your face, drove to her house.”
“No!” said the manager. “It wasn’t planned, I didn’t mean to do it! I was very drunk, and I just wanted to scare her. But she started screaming, and running, I don’t even remember having the knife-”
The manager looked up. “What do you mean, what?”
“You stabbed her? But that fan confessed,” said Rowan, bewildered.
“I… what… you said you knew…”
Three of the four heads in the room turned to Lexi Lilly.
“What are you looking at?” cried the manager.
Lexi Lilly couldn’t think. She couldn’t breathe. She couldn’t hear anything over the sound of her heartbeat. Her heartbeat as it pushed out the blood.
At first Zeke thought he had merely woken up on the wrong side of bed. Then he wondered if he was hung over, before remembering that he didn’t drink. He staggered out of the room and the hallway spun before his eyes. Almost blindly, he descended the stairs, feeling ridiculously hungry.
Downstairs was a bar. “There’s our sleeping beauty,” said a girl from behind it. What was her name? Alyssa.
“What on earth?” muttered Zeke. This scene was familiar to him, and not in a good way.
“Sorry for knocking you out.”
“What time is it?”
“Oh, right. It’s Friday, almost noon. Wakey wakey.”
“Uh huh, you were out for a whole day. Should be fine though, since you don’t work anymore, right?”
“But I have classes!”
Zeke groaned. Everything was slowly coming back to him, and that included the fact that he was, after one-and-a-half days of missing classes, still in a den of sins and crime and vice. He ran to the door only to find it firmly locked, and worse, there was no way to open the old door except with a key.
“Sorry dude,” said Alyssa, shrugging. “I can’t let you out, I don’t have a key either.”
Zeke glanced at her warily, not sure whether to believe him or not. Her relaxed demeanor suggested she was telling the truth, but the fact that she was locked inside with him didn’t add up. It occurred to him that perhaps she wasn’t as closely affiliated with the criminals as he thought.
“You weren’t on the news,” he said. “You weren’t a part of the break in?”
“Oh, I was there too. I was the lookout.”
Zeke stared at her in despair.
“I know what you’re thinking,” said Alyssa. “Ooh, they’re a bunch of criminals. But you saw her too, didn’t you? Lexi Lilly. She asked us to. Here, come sit down, have a cup of coffee.”
Zeke obliged, reluctantly. “I’m sorry, do you expect me to believe that?”
“I thought seeing is believing. You recognised her immediately, yeah?”
“I don’t know what elaborate scheme this all is, but it’s messed up. Lexi Lilly is in a coma. And you’re breaking into her house and hiring, what, an actress that looks just like her? To do what?”
“Maybe this will help,” said Alyssa, and phased straight through the bar.
The very real, solid bar Zeke was resting his hands on.
With a yell, Zeke jumped up. He vaguely registered the sound of his chair hitting the ground.
“If you believe me now,” said Alyssa, “Our motto is ‘legality does not dictate morality’. We did not steal, as we had the permission of the homeowner. We merely provide a service for the many of us whose lives are put on hold. Do you have any idea how many of us emerge, when the lights go out?”
Zeke was speechless.
“Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m actually working too. You can help me, if you’d like.” Alyssa pulled out a bunch of letters and dumped them on the bar.
“What is this?” said Zeke.
“Letters to Lexi Lilly from her manager,” said Alyssa. “Love letters.”
“Whaaaaat?” yelled Zeke. “Why are you reading them?”
“She said we could,” said Alyssa with a shrug. “Also, this is backup in case it doesn’t go well with the others. I gotta get as much info out of these as I can. Lastly, aren’t you the slight bit curious?”
“This is wrong,” said Zeke.
“Like I said, we have permission.” She picked up a letter. “You can read too.”
“I’d rather not.”
“Suit yourself. By the way, are you a fan of hers in any way?”
The casual question caught Zeke off guard, given the bizarre situation. “No. I liked some of her early music, but it went downhill after she got super popular.”
“Hmm.” Something dropped from the folds of the letter she lifted. A photo. She held it out to him. “Wow. What do you reckon? Sister? Niece? Secret love child?”
Zeke took the photo, before realising that he had decided, only a minute ago, not to look. So much for not snooping. He sighed. “Doesn’t look much like her. Probably his relative.”
“Wait.” Zeke’s thoughts were returning to him and he couldn’t believe he hadn’t asked this before. “Where are the others?”
“They’ve gone to ask Lexi Lilly’s manager a question, namely, why did he break into her house? Because unlike us, he didn’t have her permission. And before you ask, yes Lexi Lilly has requested we do that.”
Another break-in, and the manager this time, thought Zeke. I’m out for not even two days and I missed so much. “Why would he tell you, unless-” he looked at the letters. “Are you planning to blackmail him?”
“That’s not how we see it. We see two old friends, now turned sour, hashing it out over a bunch of letters attesting to their previous relationship. We’re merely there as translators. As for the law, it should be fine. We have a lawyer- well, law student- to advise us. You might remember her. Elowen.”
Zeke groaned. There could only be one ‘her’. And whatever ‘she’ had said, the whole operation didn’t sound pretty.
‘She’ bounced in the backseat of the horrible car Cap drove terribly.
Next to her, Lexi Lilly looked out the window. Truth be told, Lexi Lilly was still quite bitter over her breakup with Caden. Knowing she would see him soon made her stomach twist.
“Why that clown though?” Rowan asked from the passenger seat.
“He was nice,” said Lexi Lilly. “At first anyway. He understood me as a person. Then he changed.”
“Yeah,” said Rowan. “People change.”
“‘Cept you, you’re always a dumbass,” said Cap.
“True,” said Rowan.
“Anyway, when we’re talking to him,” said Cap, “Remember to try not to interact with him.”
“Just a precaution. Is that the house over there?”
They got out of the car and knocked on the front door. A moment later, they heard yelling. “Go away!”
“We’re not the press,” said Cap. “But we do have the letters, so it might be in your best interests to talk to us.”
There was a second of silence, then the door opened. “Then come in quickly,” said the manager.
Lexi Lilly put the pen down. Her small, neat signature dried on the bottom right corner of the contract under Cap’s gigantic, obnoxious penmanship.
“Great,” said Cap. “Like I said, we may still need your help. We will discuss how we want to do this and get back to you tomorrow.”
Lexi Lilly nodded, then hesitated. “Actually, there’s something you need to know, but you can never tell anyone,” she said.
“Don’t you worry about that,” said Cap. “We just swore ourselves to secrecy.” He twirled his pen in his hand and gestured towards the contract.
“My manager, Caden… we used to date. We only broke up a few months ago. We never told anyone, especially not the media. The package you brought back from my house is all the stuff left from that relationship.”
“Wait,” said Alyssa, “could that be what he was looking for?”
“No, I told him I destroyed everything. He has no reason not to believe me, as I have much more to lose if anyone finds out. But I just couldn’t bring myself to.” She chuckled bitterly. “You can open it once I leave.” Pushing the contract over towards Cap, she got up from her seat.
The raised voice of the anchor drew the attention of the room back to the TV as a breaking news banner scrolled across the screen.
“…a fan of Lexi Lilly has confessed to stabbing her. He is being held as investigations continue.”
“Well, they caught your stabber,” said Cap. “How do you feel?”
“I don’t know,” said Lexi Lilly. “I don’t feel much of anything.”
The door closed with a heavy thump that was muffled by the falling rain.
Elowen immediately turned on Cap. “Dammit Cap why did you knock him out?” she said.
“What was I supposed to do?” retorted Cap.
“Anything but that!”
“Relax, I know the dose. It’s been diluted. Why did you bring him here anyway?”
“I didn’t know we would be on the news, ok.”
“You couldn’t have picked someone else?” asked Alyssa.
“I wasn’t in a state to think, I had to take what I got. Besides, Cap said we should keep an eye on him.”
“That’s not what I meant, and you know it,” said Cap.
“He’s sure gonna be on our side, now that we’ve knocked him out and all,” said Alyssa.
Elowen sighed. “I’m going to see if Rowan needs any help,” she said, and ascended the stairs to the second floor.
Rowan was already out in the hallway. “The dude’s fine,” he said, before Elowen could ask. “Seriously though, El, what’s he about?”
“I’m sorry, I made a mistake. Everyone makes mistakes.”
“Yes, but this one was… to put it bluntly, a pretty dumb one. It isn’t like you.”
“I teleported too far and got disoriented. That’s all there is to it, really.”
He squinted at her. “You’ve done further without any trouble before.”
She looked back at him worriedly. “Do you reckon I’m getting weaker?”
“Maybe your age has finally caught up to you.”
She slapped his arm.
Laughing, Rowan rubbed where she had slapped him. “I’m joking. Hey, maybe you were just tired. After this job we should take a long break.”
“I can’t, I have exams.”
“Right. Speaking of which, why on earth do you have a test on the first week of the semester?”
“I wish I knew.”
They heard Alyssa shout from below. “Ha! I found the remote!”
“We’re going to have a meeting now, so if the guy’s not in need of immediate medical attention, could you please come down,” Cap called up the stairs.
The twins glanced at each other and grinned ruefully before descending to face the music.
“Sorry,” muttered the raven girl, trying to move past him, but in the process she almost stumbled and fell.
“Hey wait.” Zeke felt his headache coming back. After the hard day, this girl was the last person he wanted to see. He wondered if she even remembered him. “You are very drunk,” he said.
“I’m not, just a bit dizzy.”
“You’re staggering. You almost fell right over.” He got a sense of déjà vu. The girl obviously didn’t want help, but once again she seemed to need it. He could just be repeating his past mistakes, but, if he were to be true to himself and his conscience, there were mistakes he would repeat over and over again. “Look, let me call you an taxi,” he said.
“I told you, I’m fine.”
“Then can I call someone who can come pick you up?” Surely she had someone that wasn’t the raven.
“No, I only live a few minutes away,” she said, but she swayed on her feet like a branch in the breeze.
Zeke felt the familiar frustration rise but he tried one last time. “Alright then, can I at least walk you home?” Part of him wished she would refuse. He would have done enough to not feel guilty without having to spend more time looking out for a hostile stranger. She shouldn’t let random people on the street walk her home anyway.
But to his surprise she sighed and said, “Fine.”
They began to walk in an awkward silence. She seemed steadier on her feet at least.
She led him into a back alley and stopped in front of a rear entrance to a shop. Zeke felt a twinge of apprehension, but it was eased by the glow of the neon sign and the fact that the main road and its nightly patrons was only a sprint away.
“I live here,” the girl said.
“Yes,” she said, patiently. “Would you like to come inside for a while?”
Before he could answer, she stepped inside, leaving the door ajar. Much to his horror, what he saw through the open doorway was undoubtedly a bar. Was she going straight back to drinking? Zeke pushed his way inside.
“You can sit down anywhere,” the girl said, leaning back into a corner chair and closing her eyes.
“Oh hey, who’s this?” said a second voice. Zeke turned back to face the bar. Someone had appeared behind it, along with a cat.
“Oh hi,” said Zeke. “Your friend was a little unsteady on the street so I walked her home.”
The girl behind the bar smiled pleasantly. “Oh, I see,” she said. “Hi, I’m Alyssa.”
“Zeke. Nice to meet you.”
“So what’s the story with you?”
“Uh, like I said, I-”
The raven girl sat up. “Alyssa, he’s not-”
The sound of the news interrupted the conversation.
“…a break-in at Lexi Lilly’s residence. The faces of the intruders have been caught on surveillance footage.”
Zeke saw the raven girl tense in his periphery.
“Oh hey, this looks a lot like you,” he said to her, chuckling as he pointed to one of the grainy faces on the tiny TV screen.
“No,” she replied quickly. Far too quickly.
At that moment the door opened and in came two other people, laughing and talking.
They stopped as soon as they saw him. They looked awfully familiar.
“It is you,” said Zeke, his mouth falling open as realisation dawned that he was in a house of sins and crime and vice. Also, he was surrounded.
“Well damn,” said one of the newcomers.
With the last, unfortunate timing that night, the door opened once more. In stepped a person far more familiar than the people who had come in before.
“Is that Lexi Lilly?” asked Zeke incredulously, and that was the last thing he remembered.
“Captain,” said Elowen icily, “he was my alibi.”
“Well what would you have had him do? Run to the cops?” retorted Cap. “Let’s deal with that later. We have a deal to finish off.”
“I’m sorry, who is he?” asked Lexi Lilly.
“Someone from another case,” Cap lied smoothly. “No one you need to worry about. Shall we?”
Warily, Lexi Lilly sat down at the bar. The TV, forgotten in the commotion, was still on. The newscaster’s voice could be heard as they all fell silent.
“…the man arrested during the break-in…”
“Where did I put that damn…” muttered Alyssa in a futile search for the ever-elusive remote.
“We have your package,” said Cap. He hurriedly pushed the paper bag they found over the bar.
But Lexi Lilly did not even spare it a glance. “Is that my manager?” she asked. Her hands began to shake and she clasped them together.
Cap blinked. “I don’t know, is it?”
“…was revealed to be Lexi Lilly’s manager.”
“It is,” said Lexi Lilly, and she began to tremble in earnest.
“…he has testified that he was only in her house to look for her cat that has been missing since the stabbing.”
Cap tried to push the package towards Lexi Lilly once more. “Cool, I think we’re done here.”
“Wait!” cried Lexi Lilly, standing up. “I’m not done here. I’d like you to find out why my manager was sneaking around my house.” She looked at all their faces in turn, her eyes beseeching.
“…Didn’t the anchor just say why?”
“No, his testimony is bull. My cat… my cat died two months ago. Was he trying to steal things? Find my secrets?”
“Alright, firstly,” said Cap, “we have already done what you paid us for so anything extra will also cost you extra. Secondly, if the police find the reason after us, you can’t get a refund. Lastly, please note that once you wake up from your coma, you won’t remember anything from this state.”
“That’s okay,” said Lexi Lilly. “There’s no point of me putting this off. Because… we all know I might never wake up.”
They all exchanged glances. Wordless agreement passed between them.
“Great,” said Cap. “Remember we take payment up front.”
“So, what does it feel like to be in a celebrity’s house?”
“Cold. The space is too wide and the floors are all tile.”
“Mm. Have you found the bedroom?”
“Nope, still on the third floor. Moving down now. Will update when we get there.”
Lexi Lilly’s house was not built with comfort in mind. It had been designed by some famous architect and was worth a fortune, but the end result was grey and lifeless. Between the lackluster design, Lexi Lilly’s ‘minimalist’ decor and the copious amounts of dust, the house was quite unappealing, even with its size.
“Who thought light-up stairwells were a good idea?” mumbled Rowan as he walked. “Why is there not one comfy chair? And why… Ooh, here’s some colour…”
The first floor was much the same. “Okay we’re on the first floor now and… what on earth is that hideous centerpiece?”
Cap chuckled at the disapproval in Alyssa’s voice. “Look I’d love to, but sometimes something is so ugly it’s distracting.”
Rowan sidled up next to Cap. “Damn, why would anyone put up with this atrocity?” he asked.
“Probably the need to show off,” Cap replied. “I’d know.”
“Hmm. L.L. didn’t really seem like the type but I guess a celebrity’s gotta celebrity. Is it just me or does this house not give the happy vibes?”
“Oh you’re a Feng Shui expert all of a sudden?”
“Ladies,” called Elowen from their right, “I think I found the bedroom.”
“Huh,” said Cap, “I thought it was a bathroom, considering the glass door.”
“I’m sorry, in what world do bathrooms… what…”
“Well in what world do bedrooms have glass doors?”
“A better world than what you have in mind, you pervert-”
They were interrupted by Rowan’s laugh. “First and foremost, the bathroom door is also glass,” he said. “Also, guess what? I found it. Bottom right drawer.”
Elowen let out a breath of relief. “That’s good. I wonder what it is that she’d pay so much for us to retrieve.”
“If I had to hazard a guess, it’s something she doesn’t want on that documentary by Skybiscuit,” said Cap. “Doesn’t matter. We’re done and dusted.”
“Done and dusty, more like. If I’d known it’d be this easy I wouldda just stayed back at the Afterdark,” said Rowan.
“Uhm guys, a car’s just pulled up into the driveway.”
Elowen elbowed Rowan. “Good going, you jinxed it.”
“A dude’s getting out. He’s heading for the front door.”
Moments later they heard the sound of the front door opening- whoever it was knew the password. The newcomer fumbled for a while, pulled his phone out of his pocket, and turned on the built in flashlight. The crew, peeking through the bedroom door, watched as he began to move cautiously around the room.
“Who is this clown?” whispered Rowan.
“No clue, but he’s kinda blocking our exit route,” Cap whispered back.
“You mean, he’s honking around our exit route in gigantic red shoes.”
Elowen gave a quiet groan. “Oh please, I really do not want to have to port out today. I am so damn tired. I have exams on Friday.”
They fell completely silent as the man approached. He was heading towards the bedroom door, the torchlight sweeping the tiles barely meters away from them.
“Get ready to split,” Cap mouthed to the others.
Suddenly the man whipped around wildly and shouted “Who’s there?” Immediately, ear-piercing wailing rent the air, coming from all directions at once.
“And look, he got near the vault and set off the alarm,” said Cap with a roll of his eyes. “I knew it was going too well.”
Cap shrugged. “You all know the drill. Split.”
They split. If the police had arrived just a minute earlier, they might have seen three shadows in the bedroom disappear into thin air, but alas they had not, and so they did not.
With the wave of her hand, Elowen made a neat fold in the fabric of space and stepped through, emerging on the other side in a brief burst of energy as it snapped back into its original state.
As her feet touched solid ground, her knees nearly gave way. She took a deep breath of the familiar Britechester air. The secluded corner of the park no one ever visited at night was still soggy. Behind the bushes was a hoodie she had stashed weeks in advance. With trembling fingers, she found it and pulled it on.
The world swam in front of Elowen’s eyes as she stumbled up the stairs. She had teleported too far, not taking into account how far Del Sol Valley was from their usual locations. Then again, she hadn’t thought she would have to use it tonight… If she had she would have set up another waypoint closer to the target.
Although it was well past midnight, youths still roamed the streets of Britechester. Drunk people, sober people, students, part-time workers; you could find them all here.
There were plenty of other people she could have run into, but it was just her luck she ran straight into the one person on these streets that had bad mojo with her.
Hi all, I’ve decided to update on weekends from now on so I can pull last-clutch all nighters without having to wake up for work the next morning. Thank you all for your patience, hope this answered some questions… xD
Zeke met the raven girl on a Wednesday. It was the third day of the semester, after the breakfast rush but before the lunch rush; the only other person in the cafe was the manager, taking a smoke break out back.
His impressions of her: rude, stand-offish, perplexing. And yes…
“Hi, how can I help you?” he said in his best customer service voice. He was nothing if not professional.
“I’m here to see Dax Crowley, is he working today?” asked the girl. Her voice was lovely- soft and lilting.
The manager, much like the devil, appeared as he was spoken of. “I’m Dax Crowley,” he said. “How can I help you?” With a subtle hand flap under the bench, he dismissed Zeke from behind the counter. No doubt he wanted a chance to talk to a pretty girl alone.
Unable to find something else to do, Zeke began wiping the tables outside. He had a nice pattern going: a neat little zig-zag which optimised his movements. He was starting to fall into rhythm when he was interrupted by a sudden commotion inside.
“You come into my shop and ask me these questions?” yelled Dax.
There was a murmur of reply from the girl, but Zeke didn’t catch it. He rushed inside to see his manager with his arms half-raised, standing far too close to her, face contorted in anger.
Sheer panic flooded through Zeke. It was instinct, or perhaps the numerous induction videos he had watched the previous week, that made him seek out the small, red emergency box on the wall. Without hesitation he flipped open the lid and activated the fire alarm.
The sprinklers sprang into action.
It took the manager a second to figure out what had happened, but when he did, his rage turned squarely over to Zeke. “You- you damn bastard!” he roared, advancing on him menacingly.
“The fire brigade is coming,” said Zeke. “Do you really want to start something now?”
For a moment it looked like Dax was grappling the urge to break something, but in the end he merely screamed, “You’re fired! Get out! Both of you get out! Come back and I’ll call the police on you!”
Well, he said more things than that, but Zeke tried not to listen too hard. Nor did he need telling twice. He booked it as fast as the now-wet floor would let him. Once outside, he realised the girl hadn’t followed suit. He was about to run back in when she emerged, looking completely unruffled at everything that had occurred.
“Wha- what was that about?” said Zeke. He could feel the adrenaline rushing in his ears.
“Why did you do that?” asked the girl.
“I didn’t need your help.” She calmly began to wipe at the water on her face.
First Zeke stood silent in disbelief. Then came the annoyance. This girl had been in a dangerous situation with no apparent inclination of de escalating it. “Actually, you may not have wanted help, but it sure looked as though you needed it.”
“Hmm,” said the girl, which would have been a very inadequate reply, but at that moment, a raven landed on her shoulder.
“Wow,” said Zeke involuntarily. He was completely distracted from his earlier annoyance.
“No, it’s just that… that’s a very well trained bird.”
She blinked at him in surprise. “Oh, yes,” she said, “my bird is very well trained.”
There was a brief, uncomfortable silence, broken by gentle pitter-patter as rain began to fall.
“Well I’d best be off,” said the girl. “If you need a new job…” She paused, thought for a second, then finished, “Nevermind.” She opened her umbrella and walked away, not even gracing him with a goodbye.
Zeke was left on the drizzling sidewalk, wondering what on earth had just happened. The girl had come through the door, and in the span of ten minutes he had become jobless. He realised he didn’t even know why Dax had been so angry in the first place; for all he knew he could have been fired over a misunderstanding about muffin prices.
He sighed and began to trudge home. The morning’s events left him suddenly weary, as he contemplated the fact that he had lost his job not even a week into the semester.
It was already cool by the time Elowen made it to the rooftop. The air was crisp as a chip in rich people town: a welcome change from all the drizzling. She couldn’t get comfortable though; It was a little too exposed, and too well lit by the ever changing lights of the city below.
The rest of the crew were already there. By the edge of the rooftop, Cap was preoccupied with the ropes as Alyssa watched him intently.
The only one who greeted her was Rowan. Her twin grinned as she approached and asked her jokingly, “What took you so long?”
“I was following the Emily case,” replied Elowen. “I ran into some problems. Also, I think I met a Sensitive.”
“Oh yeah? You sure they weren’t a vampire?”
“Distant spellcaster cousin?”
“None of the above.”
“Hmm. We should keep an eye on them then.”
“Yup.” Lifting her voice over the wind, she said, “Hey Cap, Alyssa, did you hear that?”
“Nope, I was too busy stoking my own ego,” said Cap.
“We heard, he’s just being stupid,” said Alyssa.
“You know me far too well,” said Cap. “But first things first. We start in one minute. Y’all ready?”
Note: I noticed a few days after posting the prologue that in the process of uploading, 2~3 pictures got taken out towards the end. Deeply upsetting as I kinda spent a lot of time on those. To the people that include lots of screenshots in their wordpress blog- how do you all do it without tearing your hair out?? If you have any advice it would be greatly appreciated. (Also the missing screenshots are there now, so please check them out if you have time, thank you all for reading!)
Lexi Lilly (born Lilian Hunting) was a pop singer who came to fame like a shooting star late last decade. She is most well-known for her second album, ‘Everything You Were to Me’.
Who is Lux Lilly?
Born in Oasis Springs in 2062, Lexi Lilly made her debut in 2080 as the vocalist of the one hit wonder band ‘Rose Hose’. After her unexpected win in ‘99 Voices 2081’, she made her solo debut the following year with her album ‘Debunking My Myths’. The title song ‘Dandelion’ made its way to the top of the charts, marking the beginning of her ongoing three year reign as one of the world’s top pop divas.
Lexi Lilly was walking home one night in her gated neighbourhood in Del Sol Valley when she was attacked with a knife by a person in a dark navy hoodie. There were no witnesses on the scene, but the attack was caught on video by a nearby surveillance camera. The assailant’s face, unfortunately, could not be seen. The attack may prove fatal to the pop star, as she remains unconscious from her wounds.
A Lexi Lilly Documentary
Following the incident, Skybiscuit have announced that they will be producing a feature length documentary film on the tragic life of the diva, directed by the rising star Arron-James Calvert. The film will include interviews with her friends, family and coworkers…
“…and it goes on for another few paragraphs like that. The documentary section takes up over half the article.”
“It’s like they’ve all but written her off. All they need is an R.I.P. at the end.”
“What do you expect? They’re essentially a tabloid.”
“You might want to put that away, guys. She’s here.”
“Well, how can we help you tonight… Miss Hunting?”