Ashtyn had asked Bobby to accompany her back to the office. She had also wanted Kurt to come, but he couldn’t miss another day of work. So the two of them had headed out that morning, both seeming to dread returning to the scene of the crime.
As they walked down the hallway towards the office door they both noticed the faint, pink stain still marking the white wall across from the door.
“A message written in dripping blood.” Bobby’s voice sounded flat. “How cliché.”
“It didn’t make it any less terrifying.” Ashtyn shuddered at the memory. “I know I’ve faced a lot of things, but there is something… frightening about dealing with a crazy person.”
“Worse then a tentacle sprouting demon bent on returning to the earthly realm?” He gave her a confused look.
“That stuff is still kind of abstract to me.” She glanced away from the stain on the wall, and down to her keys. “It’s a reality, I know, but it’s so over the top that, I guess… I guess my mind just processes it as fantasy. A crazed person, though, is something more realistic. It’s a danger I’ve been warned about since I was a little kid.”
Ashtyn continued to fumble with her keys. Bobby, sighing with frustration, pulled out his own set, and opened the office door, letting them both in.
“Do you think the police have figured out where the blood came from? You said they were pretty sure it wasn’t human.” Bobby slid his keys back into his pocket, and headed towards his desk.
“I doubt it.” She watched him, noticing how distant he seemed. “Things don’t move as fast in real life as they do on TV shows. Lab work takes time.”
“Why were they sure it wasn’t human?” He sat down, glancing at the large stack of papers that covered his already messy desk.
“It was a guess.” She turned towards her own desk, flipping on her computer. “Maybe they were just trying to keep me calm. I don’t know.”
Once the computer had booted up, Ashtyn was greeted by the sound of a loud ding. She had an email.
She clicked on the small envelope icon, and checked her inbox. One message, from an email she didn’t recognize, and there was no subject heading.
It was probably spam, she thought to herself.
“Check it.” Tabitha’s voice was faint.
Ashtyn did as she was told, and opened the email.
“If this turns out to be a virus, I swear to God…” She muttered the words, but they were loud enough where she got an odd glance from Bobby.
“You’ll get use to it.” Bobby glanced up from his papers, a rare smile on his lips. “It takes a while, but the conversations become easier. You might get a headache at first, but they pass.”
She turned away from her computer. The email could wait. This was the most normal Bobby had seemed in a while. He was calmer, less jumpy. Maybe he was just exhausted from all the stress.
“You’re taking this pretty well.” Her voice was soft. She was still ashamed for lying, and for doubting that one of her best friends would have reacted badly to her… little secret. “I was worried that…”
“Like I said before, it’s strength in numbers.” His eyes returned to the paperwork. “Juktha is totally confused, but she isn’t unhappy. I don’t blame her for her confusion, though. It’s not every day you find out you have a child that you don’t remember ever giving birth to.”
“Read the email.” Tabitha’s voice was a little louder. “Don’t ask me why, but it’s important. I just know it is.”
“Fine!” Ashtyn didn’t even try and lower her voice this time.
She turned towards her computer and looked at the email that was open on her desktop. It was a link to a news site. She clicked on it, and waited for the page to load.
Once the headline became clear, Ashtyn felt her stomach twist into a knot.
“This can’t be real.” She was shaking.
Bobby was on his feet, and in a few steps he was standing next to her desk. “What does it…”
He froze when he saw the article.
A picture of Megan, the nurse they had met while on the jobs at Yamada labs, was at the top of the page. She was smiling, her bright eyes glistening in the flash of the camera. The picture was older. She looked much younger then either of them had remembered, but her smile was what gave her away. It was warm, friendly.
Below the picture was the headline. ‘Local Nurse Found Murdered.’
“How’d she…” Bobby’s eyes scanned the text of the article.
Ashtyn could feel the bile rising in her throat. “She was bled. The guy who found the body said she was strung up, and bled like a pig. Oh God…”
Her hand shot to her mouth, and it took every ounce of strength in her body not to throw up at that very moment. The police had just made up some story to calm her down. She knew that now. When those tests came back, the blood would be identified as human. Not just human, but as Megan’s blood.
There was another loud ding. She had a new email.
“Check it.” Bobby never took his eyes off the screen.
Ashtyn closed out the news story, and went back to her inbox. The new email was from the same, unfamiliar email address, and again there was no subject. She didn’t want to, but she knew she had to. She opened the email.
This time it was a picture. Megan, her skin an icy shade of white, was strung upside down. Her throat had been cut, and a bucket laid under her head, filled to the brim with a dark, crimson liquid. Her killer stood next to the body, a large, curved knife in her right hand. Her face was not hidden by a mask, and they could see that she was smiling.
It was the woman Ashtyn had seen standing on the steps in Lilac Park. She was pretty sure it was the same woman that Bobby had seen watching them when he had left the day before. At the time Ashtyn hadn’t been able to recognize her, but now, seeing her clearly in the picture, she knew who she was looking at.
Elizabeth, proud servant of Grath.
Bobby looked at Ashtyn, that nervous tightness gripping his facial features once more. “We need to call Clare. This is worse then we thought.”
All Ashtyn could do was nod.