Disclaimer- I do not own Heavy Rain. If I did we'd definitely be enjoying the Chronicles in their entirety right about now. :(
Sorry about the horrendous wait. School's in, and it really wants me to have no free time at all. This was going to have more stuff, but I didn't want to rush through the extra sections just to fit them in under a certain word limit. A clean ending point popped up, so I decided to move the cut sections to Ch. 9.
This was edited by me, so please let me know if anything looks off (like the formatting! The bars are still trying to give me trouble), or certain actions don't work. Also, niki-nikster suggested a bit of a rundown of what happened last chapter, so here goes!
1. Madison heads to Alyssa's house, finds her missing, and the place swarmed with cops.
2. Matt starts work with Anita (an agent working with ARI) to parse together any leftover details from the case he was working on with Jayden.
3. Madison hits the houses of two employees that were working with CompuLabs before the data was stolen. She's given an envelope addressed to her that contains a photo with the word "FOOL" on the back of it.
4. She asks her friend Emmy to look it over, and they point out pawn shops, a wicked car, and an odd license plate.
5. Madison heads home, but she might not be alone. Jayden shows up and is almost tased. Good times.
Madison's fingers tapped along to no real rhythm from their place on his arm. No longer digging into him, they half-followed the tune she was humming, providing the only sounds on their strange elevator ride.
Jayden kept his eyes on the doors in front of him, concentrating on their faded metallic surface instead of the way her shoulder pressed into his side.
Tap, tap, tap. Tap, tap. Tap, tap, tap. Tap t-tap.
He looked over at her, his posture stiff as a board. Nothing even close to the distress he'd seen earlier was present. She was watching the floors pass by, her fingers continuing to tap when her humming stopped.
Opening his mouth to say, well, anything, he was cut off by the loud ding that signaled their arrival at her floor. The doors slid open, and she gave him a single look of relief before slipping her arm out of his to head down the hall.
He watched her leave, rooted to the spot as he waited for the rest of his brain to catch up. Not eager to wait itself, the elevator began to close, and he wedged his arms into the space between the doors to keep it open long enough to escape.
When he caught up to Madison she was back to humming again, and she raised her eyebrow as she fiddled with the lock to her door. "There you are. I thought I'd scared you off for a second there."
"What? No, not at all." he replied, shaking his head.
She snorted, giving him a look before pushing open the door with her foot. "Oh? I guess strange women inviting you into their apartments is part of the status quo?"
"Never did get that talk from my mother. And I was going to give you the benefit of the doubt and call you normal-" Even with her hands full, she still managed to deliver a sound punch to his arm. "Which you are. Ow."
"Damn straight." Madison called back, leaping off of the elevated floor the entrance/living room was on to the lower level that contained the dining room.
Eying the level, he put a gloved hand on his chin and wondered what mixture of chemicals could've inspired that idea. Yeah. Architectural ingenuity at its best. That's just asking for a lawsuit.
Making a mental note to avoid it completely lest he add more bruises to his bruises, he turned away from the safety hazard mocking him to take in the rest of the apartment. It was every bit the non-traditional type that one would expect for someone with an eye for art or design. Or hell, someone who was looking to shake things up, and stick it to tradition and conformity in general.
He'd never seen so many windows in a place, certainly not in an apartment, and not even in most houses. Looking through the windows lined above the couch in the living room, he spotted a few street lights blinking below. Madison could literally see almost anything from up here, giving her an interesting viewpoint to work with. He remembered the way she tried to photograph everything in DC, and wondered if she tried doing the same here. Hanging halfway out of a window, trying to maximize the angle for a great shot? He had no trouble picturing it at all.
*sigh* Danger-prone reporters. But what do we have here...?
Leaning back, he removed his hand from where it had rested on the glass and shifted his attention to the picture frames surrounding every inch of space around the couch.
Skyscrapers stretched high against stark white backgrounds in a few, while others focused on factories, older schools, landmarks, and even the odd fire station or two. It was an eclectic set, striking even, but something about it confused him.
Family. Where's her family? I could've sworn she'd have at least one picture of them up here.
He found one with Shaun, Ethan, and Ethan's wife, Grace, but frowned when the only others he could find showed men and women relaxing within the scene she was shooting. No father and sons, and no mother.
Huh. Guess not.
Jayden jerked away from the photos and almost tripped on her coffee table. When he managed to right himself, he adjusted his coat and pointed at the frames. "I was wondering how many of these I'd recognize. Grand Canyon, the Statue of Liberty...old family church?"
"That's my dad's old schoolhouse."
"Ah." He paused, shuffling on his feet while she kept her hands on her hips. The look in her eye, however, told him she was having fun with this. "You've been around."
"You could say that." Madison stepped forward to stand beside him, stretching her arms above her head. "Have you found the ones from DC yet?"
Moving his eyes from her back to the photos, he glanced around until one stood out. "Well, well. I don't think I'd ever be able to forget that building."
Even with what others would describe as a 'jaunty' angle, the J. Edgar Hoover building remained grim and imposing. Compared to other buildings, it was obvious that whoever designed it had purpose rather than appearance in mind.
"Eh, it has its charms." Madison offered, tilting her head to the side. "Strong, enduring?"
"Stubborn's more like it. I've seen blown-out concrete bunkers with more charm than that."
She winced. "Ouch, Norman. That's a little harsh."
Maybe, Maybe not. He'd spent enough nights wondering if he'd left work or was just imagining it to never really let the place earn any sympathy from him. "Sorry, the jaded paper-pusher wanted to get his two cents in. Anyway, I'm impressed. You've really got an eye for this."
"Flatterer. Though I will say that having a hobby that doubles as a career does help to keep food on the table." She grinned and started to head back to the lower level. "Feel free to toss your coat anywhere! I know it's cold out, but you shouldn't have to stay all bundled up like that in here."
"I'll keep that in mind." he said, pulling off his gloves while he opted for the stairs. "I wasn't planning on staying for long, though, since you do seem to have plans."
She switched on a nearby lamp as she crouched down by her bag, her hand reaching for it through instinct alone. Not long after, papers hit the table and Madison pushed them aside to make room for more. "I do, but I'm flexible," The second stack was shoved to her right, and she stood up straight, blowing her bangs out of her face. "and sometimes it's nice to be distracted. Coffee?"
"Uh, no, no thanks."
Her relaxed expression shifted into one of pure disbelief, her eyebrows scrunching together. "...No?"
Yeah, yeah, I know. Pigs are probably doing barrel rolls right as we speak. "Haven't been sleeping too well lately. Just too much on my mind, you know?"
"Yeah. I get that feeling." She lowered her eyes, but couldn't quite hide her uneasiness. "Sleep hasn't exactly been easy to come by over the last few years for me either."
Not after any of the shit we've seen, that's for sure.
The chair skidded across her floor when Jayden pulled it out, and he took a seat, clasping his hands in front of him out of reflex. "I've been meaning to ask you about something."
Grabbing the wine bottle by the neck, she dragged it over to the kitchen to open it. "Shoot."
"It's something I've been thinking about since this morning, actually. Had to take some time to turn it over, flip it around, see if it made any sense." The cork popped in the other room, and she turned around to gesture towards the bottle. "Nah, I'm good. Anyway, I picked up a newspaper and found it pretty difficult to ignore the ominous headline on the front page . 'Criminals still being questioned over theft.' 'Woman missing in connection to crime.'"
Madison had been walking back over the table, wine glass in hand, but stopped. She took a large drink and pulled out the chair opposite him, dropping down into it. "And you want to know if I'm looking into it?"
"I was going to get to that point eventually."
She rolled her eyes. "Of course I'm looking into it. It's one giant complicated mess, but I'm making my way through it. Why the interest? Missing work already?"
Yes. No. Little of A, little of B. "When something's plastered on every other channel, I just have to ask. And you'd try to be in the middle of the action, so..."
"You'd ask the nosiest person you know." She took another drink and set the glass down. "I'd have a hard time not doing the same if it was you doing the investigating, but it's a bit different when most of the information's classified or worse. Wouldn't want to find men in suits at my doorway late at night due to an indiscretion or two. Well, men who aren't you, that is."
He redirected his attention to his hands as she stood up to search through her bag again, this time extracting one lone object. A photograph. "I've been keeping my ear to the ground for a while now, which has mostly paid off. The men who hurt the hostages are locked up, and the two who were manipulating them are well on their way to joining them. There's just one giant problem. Someone else might be involved."
She handed it right to him, not even bothering to take her seat again. "And that someone might be connected to this photo."
Good ol' monochrome. Smart car, smartass plate. A store...wait, no, that's a pawn shop.
He tapped the sides of the photo while Madison looked on from where she was leaning against the side of the table. Glancing over her shoulder, she waited patiently for him to finish picking the picture apart, but he couldn't find much to go on. At least not from an initial go over.
"Someone's a Cars fan. The license plate seems to be the ticket, though."
"Does it say anything?"
He shook his head. "It's been a while since my brain's been given the run around by coding lingo. Those were not fond memories. But I think here it just adds up to fifty-three. At least it's not another sixty-nine reference..." Madison raised both of her eyebrows and he shut his mouth fast, offering the photo back to her. "But it's still unique. Should be pretty easy to track down."
His face was more than a little red when she slipped the photo away from him, twirling it between her fingers.
"Did you know Jameson?"
"Not well, but well enough if it makes any sense. ...I'd been talking to her about the case. She was my contact, and had been for a few weeks now."
Madison let her hands fall, keeping them in her lap. "We were careful. We had to be. Meetings were always short and at weird times and places that no one would bother to check. I'd just met with her a few days ago, so I don't know if what happened is a result of her giving out information in general, her giving out information to the media, or her being connected to the crime itself. I'm still trying to figure that out."
"What if someone did know about your meetings with her?"
She chewed on her lip. "Then I'm probably screwed."
"Okay, mostly." The wry smile she gave him didn't do anything to get rid of his deepening frown. "I've got enough eyes on me to begin with. This set's even worse, but I can and will work around it. Alyssa needs my help. This photo's either my link to her, or the asshole who took her. I won't be able to help anyone if I just give up and sit this out."
"I'm not saying you should! I'm just-" wondering if you're even remotely aware of how much trouble you could already be in. "I'm just saying that you need to watch your back, especially if you think you're being followed."
That wiped the smile right off of her face. "Is this what being psychoanalyzed feels like?"
Jayden pinched the bridge of his nose and sighed. "I'm not psychoanalyzing you. Trust me on that one. ...But whether you like it or not, I can see that you're nervous. I know I got the drop on you by showing up here, but the look on your face wasn't just due to surprise. Did someone follow you here?"
"No. I thought someone was watching me, but I left before he could get any ideas." she replied, picking at the hem of her shirt. "People have followed me to work. Found my address. Vandalized the front door of my apartment building. That was fun to explain to my landlord. When anything like that happens all I do is make myself scarce for a few days. Send them off on a while goose chase until they lose interest in that reporter chick who wrote a book about a serial killer."
She hopped up. "And if someone does decide to be stupid, I'll just whip out my taser, get 'em good and run. If I get stuck in a bad situation, I'll find a way to dig myself out of it. I can handle this."
"Did you report any of that?"
"Some of it, yes. Others, no. If this does get out of hand? They'll be the first ones I call."
"I mean it, Madison."
"So do I." she replied, turning to him. "I promise."
There was red everywhere. His hands, the sleeves of his coat, the floor-
His mouth went dry. Closing his eyes, he took a couple of seconds to collect himself, doing anything to keep his thoughts from shifting back to memories of red and white.
"Norman?" He slowly let his eyes open, tracing over the papers scattered across the table before daring to look up. "Everything okay?"
"Yeah. I just...I should go." He stood up and shoved his shaking hands into his pockets. "You're busy, and all I'm good for here is nagging you to death. It's also fucking freezing out, and the sooner I get that walk back to my car done, the better."
"...You sure?" she asked, looking equal parts confused and disappointed. "It's not that late out, and you're welcome to stay as long as you'd like."
"I'm sure. Besides, I'd rather kick myself out now, than have you kick me out later for being lousy company." he muttered to himself.
Her stance told him she was ready to argue, almost poised to, but she relented. He silently thanked her, considering all he wanted to do right now was drag himself back to his hotel room and put his head in his hands until the shaking stopped. The headache creeping up around the edges wasn't helping much either.
"All right. Just give me a chance to grab something before you go." she said, holding her hand up.
He opened his mouth to respond, but just like in the elevator she gave him no chance to object. Within a minute she had ducked over to the area hidden off to their right behind the glass pane, and returned, a long white scarf with thin red stripes in tow.
"You said it yourself! It does get freakishly cold here and I'm not using this, so..."
Between the temperature and her earnest expression, there was no way he could say no. She raised it up, indicating that he should lower his head, and he leaned forward just enough to allow her to loop it around the back of his neck. It went around twice, and she tugged it lightly to ensure that it wasn't too loose.
"I've got some pawn shops to hit tomorrow; five or six, I think." she said, smoothing the scarf down. "It's up to you, but if you're bored I wouldn't mind the company."
He watched her hands as they fussed around with the material, doing anything to keep them occupied. "Even if the advice is bad?"
The corners of her mouth curled up. "Even if it's bad. I'll even give you bonus points for staying on topic."
"Just don't do anything you'll regret."
She pulled back, a rueful look on her face. "It's a little late for that, Mr. Profiler, but what can you do?"
"It's-I don't... I don't know!" Everett Johns' hands were balled in his hair, his face white. "I wish I could even begin to explain why Alyssa's gone missing-"
Blake's hand slammed against the table. "Well, give it a fucking shot, because you're wasting our time and hers! You see his watch over there?" Larry held up his wrist, flashing the face of the gold watch at them. "That's a countdown. With all the time you've spent dicking around we're more likely to find her six feet under than alive!"
Johns' face twisted, each comment hitting harder than Blake predicted. He cared about Jameson. They needed that. But the information that could come from this fact just wasn't coming. Blake threw it at him over, and over, and over again, but Johns refused to budge beyond what he'd offered after Alyssa's disappearance was dropped on him.
So, he'd kept him locked up; with no one left to deal with but himself, he'd expected him to crack sooner than this. Johns was no longer putting up the resistance Alexander was, but they weren't getting anywhere.
"You talk to me now, and we can get her back." Blake stated, crouching down beside him. "Spare her from whatever asshole you decided to work with. You give me nothing, and she gets nothing. No help. Nothing."
Johns remained where he was, his head still down. He let himself inhale and exhale, regaining his composure bit by bit, and refused to look up or say anything until he did. Blake ticked off the seconds one by one, his pacing well on its way to wearing a hole in the floor. His fingers twitched as he clenched and unclenched his hands, keeping them by his sides instead of opting for one of the darker alternatives.
The other man eventually sat up, but still refused to look him the eye. "We'd worked together often. If I had to rely on anyone to get through the data and find any holes that could be exploited, it was her. She...didn't know about my collaboration with Alexander. She knew I'd talked with him and worked with him previously, but anything after that I kept to myself. We had actually started dating around the time the planning had started. ...He'd asked if she had any idea what was going on."
Johns nodded. "Yeah, though it was Ryan that passed this on. I told him exactly what I told you, but I didn't... I didn't want to take any chances, so I ended things with Alyssa as well."
Blake approached the table and leaned forward, planting both of his hands on the surface. "What did she do after that?"
"She went back to what she was doing, but I don't think she believed what I told her." he replied, chuckling. "Alyssa's always told me I was shit at lying, and she wasn't too bad at finding answers to her own questions herself."
"So you wouldn't put it past her to go digging around a bit?" Larry asked, his arms folded in front of him.
"I don't think I'd be surprised, but Ryan would've said-"
"Said what? That you needed to keep your girlfriend on a tighter leash if you didn't want to land your asses in jail? He was the one who talked to your little 'friend' the most, wasn't he?"
"Watch your fucking mouth!" Johns stabbed a finger in Larry's direction, unease giving way to fury within an instant.
"Please. Is that why her whole house was covered in cameras from your company? Was that Alexander's idea?"
"What? I have no idea what you're talking about-"
"You think Alexander gives a shit about what happens to you?" Blake cut in. "You were cut out of the plan the minute he decided to deal with NUL alone. How do you know he didn't cut a deal to dispose of Alyssa after she sifted through the mess you two left behind?"
"He didn't! We had everything planned out perfectly!"
"So, you both planned to take the hostages, is that it?"
"No, I-wait. Wait!"
Blake grabbed him by the collar of his jumpsuit and shoved him facedown against the table, the sound echoing throughout the room. "No? No? So that's another thing you'll leave Alexander to fess up to, eh?" He struggled against Blake's grip, but Blake forced him to stay down, ignoring both the camera on the other side of the glass and Larry's hesitant expression. "You fucking piece of shit! I don't give a flying fuck if Alexander was in charge! A woman is missing, and three people are dead because of you two, and there's no way in hell I'm going to let you slip by!"
A loud rapping caused him to freeze, his grip on Johns tightening by the second. Larry's eyes flicked between the door and Blake, and whoever was on the other side of the door began knocking again, just as insistently as before. Cartwright gestured for Blake to let Johns go as he went to answer it, not willing to let whatever was going on here bleed out into the rest of the station. Blake grit his teeth, counted to ten slowly, and backed off.
Ash opened the door, ducking in only far enough to stick his head in. Blake circled Johns as Ash relayed his message to Larry, and when the two were done talking Larry waved him over as well. Already on edge, their somber expressions did little to help him settle down. "The hell's with you two?"
"Perry wants to speak with you. He'll probably get to Cartwright in a minute, but it's about the case."
"What about it?"
"If I had to guess, I'd say we're screwed." Ash stated, holding the door open. "Haven't seen him in a mood this bad in a while."
"Fuck it." Blake pushed past Larry and Ash, irritated that the bullshit concerning this case was only continuing to pile up. With every new hint came another obstacle, and mountains of red tape to go along with it. Better to deal with whatever problems Perry was having now while they were still manageable. He pushed open the door without a thought, almost flinging it shut behind him.
Perry looked up from where he sat and sighed. "In case you weren't aware, we have a press conference tomorrow night. I was going to give the press enough of an update to placate them, but from what I've heard we barely even have that."
"Johns is telling me that Alyssa Jameson could've been targeted by NUL due to his connection to her. He thinks Alexander may have given her up once it looked like she could possibly pin everything on them. Give me more time with both of them. What they know could point to a place where she's being held. And if she's as valuable as they think she is, I'll serve this wannabe mastermind up on a silver platter."
"I hope so, because if this stretches on I'll have to pass the case on to someone else." Reaching over to the far side of his desk, Perry held up one of the local newspapers, its headline accusing the police of dragging their feet. "I'm sure you understand, Carter. After that fiasco with the Origami Killer, the public has become impatient and distrusting. We need results. We need to find the perpetrator, because without them the people will find another outlet for their anger and we can't afford to be that target. Not after the mess that happened last year. Is that clear?"
His face twitched once, then twice, remaining blank. "Crystal."
Heads were going to roll. If not Johns', Alexander's, or NUL's, then his. That fact was the clearest of them all.
An electronic sensor went off as the door swung open, announcing Madison's presence to the entire shop. It wasn't any different from the bell that had chimed last night, but right now it felt closer to a siren than a harmless ding.
She let the door to the pawn shop close behind her, moving away from it as quickly as possible. Only two other people were present, the shop's employee, and a customer, animatedly moving his hands in front of his face. While they were occupied she took her time looking around, moving from case to case. Assorted valuables stared up at her, rings, watches, necklaces and the like. One ring in particular reminded her for a moment of her mother's old wedding ring, and she bit down on the wave of nostalgia fast.
Funny how even though they say time heals all wounds, some still hurt.
"Can I help you find anything?"
Madison stopped in front of the glass case housing old phones and handheld game systems, and looked up. With no one else in sight she had their full attention now. "Yeah, I've got a quick question for you." She walked over to the employee and pulled out the photo. "Do you remember seeing a car like this?"
The man across the counter yawned, raising a hand to cover his mouth. "Kinda hard to forget that one. Half the cars in this area are half a ride away from falling apart."
"When did it come by?"
"A couple of days ago?" He scratched his head and thought for a couple of seconds. "Some bigwig stopped by and asked if anything had been brought in lately. Don't know why."
"Bigwig? Did you recognize him?"
He waved his hand back and forth dismissively. "Eh, one of those guys on TV. Left after I told him that what he sees is what I've got. Didn't take that too well."
Time is money. ...But hearing that does narrow down the list a bit. "I'd probably get the same answer if I asked, right?"
"'Fraid so, lady. Don't know why you're asking, but as long as you're willing to pay for whatever you find, go right ahead."
"Don't worry. I'll make sure to let you know." Madison replied, continuing her search.
Half an hour later she left the shop, ready to throw her arms up in the air.
Nothing stood out as Alyssa's, though as she was looking she wasn't sure if she'd be able to point out anything out if it was. Her coat and gloves had covered up any jewelry she could've worn, and since she had never got a clear look at her phone that was a dead end as well. The employee's dismissive attitude had worked well to keep Mr. Big Spender from picking up any clues about Alyssa, but it also worked against her as well. With no clear list of what had been turned in, she wouldn't be able to narrow down any items that could've been purposely brought there from Alyssa's.
The car's the obvious lead, but so much for hoping the shop would turn something up too. She wrapped her arms around herself and made her way towards her bike, glad that she hadn't bothered to extend an early morning invite to Jayden after all. Then again, if he'd shown up we'd probably be heading out for coffee as a consolation prize. *sigh* Great, now I want coffee.
She pulled her helmet off of the back of her bike as she climbed on, sliding it onto her head. The chill that came with the morning still tried to cut through, but as she started the engine, she let it go, zipping off down the street. With nowhere to go at the moment she found herself retracing an old path, taking in how different everything looked with a layer of snow covering it. The old lot where she used to park the junker she owned before her bike had been resurfaced, and she pulled into one of the empty spots off to the side.
Her old apartment was only a brief jog away, and she used it to get her blood running as her trip down memory lane continued. How long had it been since she'd been here? Madison trailed a hand along the wall as she approached the front door, noticing bars had been placed across most of the windows now. The brick showed cracks around the edges, and she still bet that the place couldn't stay heated to save its life.
She still couldn't knock it too much. After leaving Ohio, she had been left with next to nothing in a place that she was clueless about. The job offer had felt like her only chance to get out, something she had been desperate to do, so when she had to pick a place to live beggars couldn't be choosers.
Patting the wall affectionately, she gave the place one last lookover, and wondered briefly what path her life would've taken if she'd stayed; maybe even taken her dad up on his offer to work more closely with the fire department and their town's newspaper. It would've been safe. No Leland, no Shelby, no-
She pulled her hand back. No. Not even that. But thinking about alternate paths won't change the fact that it happened, and it's real. Pull it together, girl. I thought the point of this little trip was to summon up a few happy memories?
With one last look up at her old window, she started to wander back to the parking lot, swiping her boots over the snow-covered ground. Staring up at the overcast sky, she didn't pay any attention to her path as she wove back and forth on the sidewalk with her hands in her pockets. Something collided with her boot, skidding across the concrete, and she looked down to find an abandoned cell phone. Half-hidden under a bush, she had wandered too far into its space, unintentionally pushing it out of hiding.
She crouched down and picked it up, checking to see if it still had power. The screen lit up, giving her the prompt to unlock it. She did so easily enough, and hoped to find a way to contact its owner, or someone on their contacts list.
"Let's see if this trick still works..."
She dialed the last number on its list and waited. It took a few seconds, but someone picked up. "...Alyssa? Alyssa, is that you?" Madison stilled. The voice on the other side of the phone asked the same question again, urgency creeping into his voice with every word. "Alyssa, are you there?"
She hung up.