I'm back, not as long as the last time I was properly away but still quite a distance, my apologies. Nevertheless, here's the next chapter.
Disclaimer: Not Mine
30 Years Ago
"All I am saying, Leon, is that every Timekeeper has to take on a junior Timekeeper now and again," Timekeeper Fasch told the younger Timekeeper, "You've been a Timekeeper for fifteen years now, naturally they would ask you," they walked through the building, "Realistically, how hard will it be? Just keep them in the car when talking to people, don't let them shoot anything, and make sure that they don't drive,"
"You are not the one that has to make sure that they don't get killed, Fasch," Leon replied, "I don't have the time making sure that a inexperienced boy doesn't make a fatal mistake," he waved a hand that held a cup of coffee, "I don't understand why Ellini doesn't watch over him. She likes all the new recruits,"
"Ellini's been relegated to District 8," Fasch told him, "She's been placed on double shift, the Director wanted to smooth everything over with the complaints she got on handling the fraud case. You're not going to be able to get out of this mentoring scheme, Leon,"
Leon ignored him, going over to the secretary on his floor. He had forgotten her name again, "I'm looking for the new Junior Timekeeper, he's supposed to be here already from the Academy,"
"Yes, Timekeeper Leon," she pointed to his office, "They arrived ten minutes before you, and is waiting in your office. I told them to just go ahead and wait there until you arrived. I hope that wasn't-"
Leon walked past her, cutting off her words.
"Tough break, Leon," Fasch clapped him on the back, chuckling at the other Timekeeper's misfortune, "We'll catch up later, and you can tell me about your new ward," Leon flashed a humourless smile in his direction before walking to his office.
He stopped at the door, seeing the occupant inside it. A photo frame was held lightly in the woman's hand, and he felt a slight shock when he realised what photograph it was. He cleared his throat and she looked up, towards him. He nodded pointedly towards the photo and she placed it down on the desk, "Thank you,"
She took the seat in front of his desk, "Wife?" she inquired lightly, and he saw her properly. Clearly appearing twenty five, unruly black hair and he caught sight of green eyes. He still didn't know why she was inside his office. The woman's mouth twitched upwards a little, "Ex-wife, my apologies," Leon didn't react to that, "You must be Timekeeper Raymond Leon,"
"Yes, and I didn't get your name," he said. The woman looked confused for a moment, "I am expecting someone any minute now, the secretary out there informed me that my Junior Timekeeper had arrived, but clearly she was mistaken as he hasn't appeared," he smiled mechanically at her, "I apologise but you will have to come back later,"
"No," she said softly, "You are expecting me," she smiled lightly, "I am the Junior Timekeeper that you are expecting. The Academy did inform you," he stared at her, "As far as I was aware, I am not a boy. We will just have to put that down to...miscommunication," she leaned forward, holding out her hand, "Marie Howard,"
He had no choice but to shake it.
Present Day- 8:00:00
Month End wasn't as stylish as its name made it out to be. With the State Prison that was placed on its outskirts, people tended to avoid living anywhere near it and so there was a rather small population for the District. So instead of houses, there were a lot of public buildings, and organisational headquarters. The name, of course, helped with trying to attract people to the Zone, with the added bonus of being fairly cheap to cross into it from other Time Zones. A week or two. Far too high for people in Dayton and very low for people in New Greenwich.
Usually Leon was fairly ambivalent towards the Zone. He had to pass through it to get to the Timekeeper's Headquarters, and it was useful in terms of finding some organisations. It wasn't ridiculously pretentious as New Greenwich and it wasn't as filthy as Dayton. Usually he felt pretty neutral towards the Zone.
At the moment, he was feeling like there couldn't possibly be a worse place on earth. He was tired, he was frustrated, and he was getting very irritated with the woman in front of him. He was could feel time slipping through his fingers and he really only needed or wanted to play mind games with one person. And Mrs Cavalli was not that person.
He flexed his gloved fingers, the only indication of his agitated state.
"Mrs Cavalli, I don't think you understand the nature of what you currently are in," he said slowly, "I don't care whether you are from New Greenwich, and that your husband has years of time. I only care about doing my job. And having Marie Howard involved only makes me want to get to the bottom of the subject rather quickly. So make both our jobs easier because me and my colleague Timekeeper Korsqq will take you to HQ, and you will be staying there a while,"
"Charming," she answered, "It may be better to tell you...Mr Leon, that you don't have anything to charge me with," he sighed, feeling more drained than anything, "I thought I was being rather helpful in terms of your investigation,"
"Marie Howard is not a victim of domestic abuse," he said, "Neither was her sister, I knew them both rather well, and they have never mentioned anything to do with abuse before," she smiled softly, "Listen to me, please. In eight hours, another person is going to die, and I am willing to wager a large amount of time that they are going to be a member of this group,"
Her smile faltered as she looked into his eyes, "You really believe that?" she asked softly, and he nodded, "Marie Howard was a damaged woman but she was a friend of mine for a long time. I don't want to break her trust, and I'm willing to wager the same amount that she'll hear that I've been talking to you. I'm rather fond of my life,"
"The Timekeepers can keep you safe, ma'am," Korsqq told her, "If you're being threatened them we have the resources to keep you safe,"
"Safe is a word I tend to avoid when talking about Marie Howard," Mrs Cavalli replied, before looking at Leon, "All those years ago, did you ever think that you would truly know Marie? She was like a riddle wrapped in an enigma, trapped inside a wooden box, which was buried under a hundred feet of rock. She hid her crimes from you, why couldn't she hide other things that you never inquired about,"
"But I also knew Anna," he informed her, "And Anna could never lie to anyone. And certainly not to me. That is why I don't believe that she could be a part of this group without another reason," he sighed, "I really don't want to be rude, but my time is running out. If you won't talk about Marie, then tell me about Sara Luxembourg and Raquel Lighthower. Please,"
"Perhaps we could continue this in private?" Leon nodded and she led them out into the reception area, "I think it's best not to speak in front of everyone else. Its rather delicate," Leon nodded swiftly, "Rachel was running from her husband," Mrs Cavalli told him, "She wanted to get out but she had a child that she said that she couldn't leave. Patricia or Sara merely helped out here when she was fifteen, nothing special," she smoothed down her skirt, "I don't know what use that information is to you, Timekeeper Leon,"
"Everything helps," he said stiffly, "Antonia Kentwood also was a part of this group as well, she was the eleventh victim. What sort of domestic background did she talk about when she was a part of this group?"
"Antonia was a woman who preferred to listen rather than talk," she informed him, "She was only a member for a very short amount of time, three months I would guess. Her brother was the problem in her life and I always got the impression that she wanted to run as fast as she could away from life,"
"Now, tell me about Marie and how she came to be in this group,"
"I knew Marie and Anna rather well," she answered, "Anna used to visit the same tea shop that I go to every Thursday, and we became quite fast friends. She introduced me to Marie and both of us told each other everything. About my...first husband," she smiled stiffly, "And she told me about her life. It was her idea to set this group up, actually, but Anna and I took over most of the day to day business. Are you sure you didn't know?"
"Perfectly," he told her, "And what exactly was Marie's story? Forgive me; I'm still not completely convinced that she was exactly what she told you. And I still don't see the connection between her, and why she would kill two women who were abused, and a volunteer,"
Mrs Cavalli folded her arms, "How the mighty have fallen, Timekeeper Leon," she mocked him, "I remember the days where you were on the hunt for the Red Petal Killer. You seem to have lost most of your pride since then," he looked at her pointedly, "I'm sure you have met Richard Daniels, Anna's father," he nodded, "I'll put it simply, he wasn't the nicest man to have as your father, and Marie didn't like him,"
"Thank you," Leon said tersely, "I don't have any more questions for you," she nodded sharply, walking toward the door, "Mrs Cavalli," she turned back to look at him, "That protection offer is still available to you if you still require it,"
"Thank you, Timekeeper, but I know that Marie won't try and kill me," she smirked, "I haven't done anything wrong, and I was Marie's friend, despite whatever she turned out to be. And it's a pity, really, because you're trying to tracking her, and it appears you are still falling behind again,"
"How do you mean?" he asked slowly.
"Marie Howard was the most careful person I knew," she told him, "The most meticulous, and the most planned personality anyone could wish for," she shrugged delicately, "You must have wondered why exactly she made a mistake ten years ago which allowed you to catch her," he didn't say anything, "There is a difference between being caught and being patient,"
15 Years Ago
"There a point to all of this that we haven't worked out yet," Leon said to Marie as they walked down the street. It was illuminated softly with the street lamps and it was freezing, "Why is someone killing all these women? What's the point?" he drunk some of his coffee, "Maybe if we find the motive then we find the person, but there wasn't anything stolen from their person, and although time was stolen, it's only to leave behind a specific number. I wonder what they do with the time,"
"Use it," Marie answered, "Bank it, invest it," he watched her turn around slowly, looking behind them, "And I thought it was obvious, sir. Why they were killing the women?" Leon looked quizzical, "Fun, Leon. If it's not robbery then it has to be fun. Otherwise what would be the point, unless it was because of revenge or something else?"
"Revenge is generally a good motive, except we haven't found anything to link the two victims," he told her, "So I suppose you're right when you suggest fun as a reasonable motive. We just have to find the clearly insane person who decided it was a good idea to get on the wrong side of the law. I'd like to have a very long conversation with them,"
"Oh, I'm sure that you will have a conversation with them, Leon," Marie shrugged, still walking backwards and frowning slightly at the scene, "I'm sure they'll run for their lives, as you say, they are insane. When do you think they will make a mistake?"
"Eventually they'll get too arrogant, step too far over the boundary, and make a mistake," he replied, "And I'll be there to catch them, and you'll be there with the handcuffs and the car," she nodded slowly, "What do you really think about it all, Marie? If you were a killer, when do you think that you would make a mistake?"
"If I ever made a mistake," she told him, "Then it would probably be because either I had enough of what I was doing, that I'd want to be arrested, or it would be because, like you said, I had thought myself invincible," she looked at him carefully, "Or maybe because of no reason at all, and it was just luck that it all fell into place. That's what I think,"
He looked down at her, "Do you think we'll find this killer then?"
"I think that there is every chance of the person killing again," she informed him, "However I don't know what the future hold. Anything could happen," she looked up at the night sky, "What can I say, Leon, nobody is perfect, and not everyone knows how to make sure that they stay safe," she smiled, "You and me though, we'll be fine, and everything will fall into place. Just like it should,"
He punched in the number for Month Daily Prison, and held it up to his ear, "Month Daily Prison," Timekeeper Klass spoke into his ear, "How can I help you, Leon? Come to brighten my day up a little?"
"Perhaps I am," he told her, "I need to talk to Marie as soon as possible," there was silence on the end, "I know that she's allowed to receive phone calls, Klass, I need to speak with her as soon as it is possible," he checked his watch, "Preferably in the next five minutes, I. Rather short for time today, and it's very important that I talk to her,"
"As you wish, Leon," she replied to him, "Every word that is spoken between you will be recorded and written down, and you aren't to give her any information pertaining to the victims' families, no matter how much she asks you. You have to agree to this or I can't let you speak to her at all,"
"I understand," he said, "Please may you send me through," there was a low dialling tone in his ear as he was being connected to the phone that would be available for Marie to use. He looked at Korsqq, sitting on the stone bench behind him, "Do you think that she'll listen and answer my questions?" he asked sarcastically.
"I think that she'll probably reveal some kind of information to you, most likely deliberately because she wants to see how far she can push you until you break, sir," Korsqq answered bluntly and Leon's mouth twitched a little in amusement, "Other than that, sir, I think that she'll probably mislead you in a million other different ways because you called her and not the other way around for once,"
The phone clicked through, "I'm here," the familiar voice said, "Raymond Leon finally calling me isn't this interesting,"
"I always thought you were insane, Marie, but I never imagined you were this depraved," he said into the phone, "Abused women, now that is twisted. Antonia Kentwood, now Rachel Lighthower and Sara Luxembourg," there was silence on the other end, and he knew she was listening carefully, "Women who had already been through hell and you gave them even more. How you live with yourself, is truly beyond me. You ought to be in a mental hospital, not in prison,"
"The jury was split on that verdict," she mused, "But you're wrong, Leon. Sara Luxembourg wasn't abused, not that I remember. She had problems, all those tiny little problems that make up humanity, but then who doesn't have that issue? But abuse," there was a sigh, "I'm afraid you're quite mistaken there. When I knew little Sara she was all of fifteen years old, a little too young," there was a long pause, "Did Margaret Cavalli tell you all of this? I had hoped for her discretion,"
"You don't choose your friends very well," he taunted her, "She told me about your father,"
"That man was not my father," her tone was clipped, "You're trying to rile up, Leon, it's not going to work, I assure you. And Margaret is not my friend, not really. If she was...well then she wouldn't be there, she'd be off doing something much more worthwhile than what she's doing right now,"
"She's running a help group for abused women," he reminded her, "But of course you wouldn't think that was important. Why did you even suggest to set it up? You got Anna involved as well, and I know that she wasn't abused, she told me everything," there was a bitter laugh, "You never talked to people that you didn't knew. Hell, you never talked to people that you did know. It doesn't make sense,"
"Think," She said, "Think ever so carefully. You're so close, Leon, so clever as well. Why would I even conceive a support group? You know me so well. Start from the beginning,"
"There's a problem with that logic, Marie, and that is that I never knew you, only a mask," he closed his eyes, "Abused women," she hummed, pleased, "All those years ago, when you killed Antonia Kentwood, you had an accomplice and that was different. That was revenge for something, she was personal, not someone that you randomly picked off the street. And now two other women are dead and connected to the same woman. Was she your mistake?"
"I thought I told you that there were no mistakes concerning me," she sang, "Think, Leon, you taught me once upon a time and now I'm teaching you. All those pieces of our lives that never really made sense, all those unanswered questions. All leading to one point, one little point that you have got to understand. My mistakes,"
"Are not mistakes, but preplanned choices leading to a plan that no one else knows," he finished, "How wonderful," he could practically imagine the smile on her face, "Except you're missing one very important point, Marie, and that is that you were always too arrogant and you always underestimated everyone else. You're practically telling me your whole plan,"
"Oh, so close, Leon," Marie replied, gleefully, "You're so close to the answer that I might actually be worried for baby bird," there was a pause, "Play chess with me, I'd love to see how you have changed,"
"Pretty please, we can play chess and you can interrogate me and I can tell you everything that you need to know," Leon looked at Korsqq, who shrugged lightly, "I get ever so lonely in here, no one to properly talk to. No one that I care to talk to anywhere. No one of interest,"
"You suggested the idea of that support group because you were trying to find someone," he said and there was silence, "Abused women, a group of women that had been through hell and survived it. Women that had been broken so terribly that the only way of repairing them was to change what they were before, and you knew that from experience. Some women retreat into themselves, some women become stronger, and some women...some women become something else entirely. You found someone like that and you broke her mind,"
"I'd like to say it was more seeing a different perspective than breaking her mind," Marie answered quickly, "One man's hero is another man's devil, and I really did help my baby bird see the light in that respect,"
"She came to that support group for help," Leon looked at the sky, feeling utterly despondent, "She came for support in whatever hellish situation she was in and you took her, and you fashioned her into a weapon that you could use for entertainment. Picked up and then dropped like a hat. You don't care about this woman; you just want to have fun,"
"First mistake is that you imply that I don't care. I care in the way that I know how to care," she said, "Second mistake is that you believe that what I did was wrong. There isn't anything right or wrong in this world. Millions die while few live, everything can be right or wrong depending on the person. I made something stronger where it was broken and I did it without regret or pity,"
"Your whole life you've been running from something, Marie, and I swear that I am going to be there when it catches you," he promised, "Everyone who comes into contact with you catches fire and burns,"
"And you'll always be there to put them out," she answered, a note of sorrow echoing through her words, "Raymond Leon, the man who will always continue chasing the monsters because he dare not look back. You're the same as me; we are merely opposite sides of a coin. You pick people up and then you forget about them when they aren't worth anything to you anymore. And you will always chase me because I made you look back just once, and I made you regret,"
"What you did wasn't for me, it was to please yourself," he dismissed.
"Why can't it be both?" she questioned, "Why can't you just accept that this needs to happen. That fighting the inevitable is not the way to do things. Ray, you need to accept the fact that you will never be happy unless you're trying to triumph over me,"
"Molly Hooper and Stephanie Caelian," he said, and there was a sudden tension on the other end of the phone, "So they are connected to you. What story do they have to tell? No mark on their bodies, they even have time left on their clock, and yet they died,"
"Usually I'd asked where you got that information from but only one person in the world knew about those two," she replied, "Forget about Molly and Stephanie, they're just people who never came out of the dark. Focus on those that will die, rather than those that are already dead because I promise you, Ray, I promise you that those that have a shining Light to guide their path, will never be lost. And those that do not have a lamp to light their way will always be lost and serve as those that seek to catch them,"
"Marie..." there was a click and a dial tone buzzed in his ear. He looked back at Korsqq, "She hung up on me, I must have touched a nerve,"
The blonde haired man looked wary, "She's a caged animal, sir," he told him, "Caged animals tend to lash out violently when they're provoked,"
10 Years Ago
"Am I dangerous?" Leon merely stared at the woman in front of him, "Am I a threat to all those that are in this building? I am unarmed, yet there are guards posted outside my door, and I wear handcuffs and bits of metal that mean nothing,"
"You know why you have to wear them," he said slowly, "You know that they are there for the protection and the safety of other people and yourself," she offered him a wide grin, showing all her teeth, "What you have done, and what you represent to this country is enough to make anyone try and enact revenge on you. You've torn apart twelve families,"
"Are you sure, Leon?" she whispered, "Very sure? You think that I would do that? You think that I killed all those women, leaving pretty red petals next to them," she moved forward violently, the chain that bound her to the chair preventing her from getting very far but Ellini next to him jumped back in fear, "Give me the evidence, give me the motive, and the means, and the place where I killed them. Give me the names of each and every one of those women, and give me the reason...the reason, Leon, why I would do it?" she slumped back, "Because you have nothing,"
"You were our friend," Ellini said quietly, and Marie rolled her head back, producing a loud cracking noise, "You worked with us, you went out with us, laughed with us. Why would you do something like this?"
"Why?" the word was drawn out slowly, "Why, why, why?" green eyes sparkled, "Beating around the bush, are we? Counting your chickens before they've hatched. Are their witnesses to my crimes, is there anything you can spot that links me to the Red Petals Murders," she looked at Leon, "Can you tell me, darling? Or have I broken you too much for an answer?"
"I don't answer to you, Marie,"
"Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall, Humpty Dumpty had a great fall," she sang softly, "All the King's horses and all the King's men couldn't put Humpty together again," she laughed, "Let me put it to you straight, you have a media storm outside your Headquarters, and there is nothing you can do to calm it. This organisation is broken, and I always win,"
"Not now," Leon said calmly, and she chuckled, "You've been here for three weeks, Marie, and I am going to hold you for as long as I possibly can," he leaned forward, and Marie's smile slowly faded, "And I will break you down piece by piece so it hurts every time, and eventually you will tell me everything that you've done. But there won't be anywhere left to hide from me,"
"Oh Leon," Marie looked slightly regretful, "You've finally decided to play with me, how wonderful," she smiled kindly, "And I will tell you now, just so you know. For everything that you take from me, I will take from you. Because I've taken everything from you and all you can do is struggle against me. Tick Tock, goes the clock, and all the years we fly. Tick Tock goes the clock; you and I will die,"
Month Daily Prison
"Tick Tock," she picked up the photo frame, running a finger down it, "Tick Tock, Tick Tock," she placed her hand to her head, "We kicked her and we mocked her," she let out a hiss, placing the photograph down on its face, the picture hidden from sight, "Little Molly Hooper and Stephanie Caelian. Well, we didn't see that coming, did we?" she rubbed her arm, a tremor of pain running down it, "Silly Molly Hooper, Mad Molly Hooper," she lay on the bed, looking at the white ceiling, counting down the seconds, "Who did you tell, Anna, who could possibly know about those two? Who could have possibly told him?"
So here we go, new chapter, hope it's good. Certainly getting longer each chapter.
Till Next time