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This story was originally online at Avengers 2000 site.
This is my very first original story. The concept behind C.A.S.E. Files came from a roleplaying game that I was involved in many moons ago. There were only two players and the gamemaster and everything revolved around a detective agency specializing in the paranormal.
My character in that game was Dr.Marcus Maxwell Danielson, and the other player character was Michelle Jones played by my very good friend Anne Marie.
So why didn't I write these stories about M&M Investigations? Well mainly because I couldn't remember the complete details of the stories we played out and didn't feel that “coming” close would be fair. So I took the characters and moved them forward in time to become part of the pan-European security agency C.A.S.E.
This first “file” serves as an intro to the characters of Max and Michelle. It also introduces several of the supporting characters and one of the major villans of the series.
There is nothing too gruesome in this tale of murder and mayhem. Rather, the intent is to build up the suspense and keep you wondering who is going to survive.
Hopefully it worked.
Trevor Dickman quietly closed the main door to the Civic Theatre then turned to join his two colleagues. Max Danielson, his immediate boss, was standing about ten feet into the main foyer of the theatre looking around. The harsh glare of the lights seemed to accentuate the grey that ran through his dark hair. He looked like a great hound that was scenting the air for his next destination.
Michelle Jones on the other hand had her 'game face' on. It was not possible to tell what she was thinking although she radiated a sense of alertness. Trevor had not been in Iceland for the case that had almost decimated two S.I.X units but he had read the reports. If this was going to be anything like that, he was very glad to be in their company.
As he stepped alongside Michelle, Max stepped further into the foyer. There was no sign of any trouble in this part of the building. Trevor watched as Max stepped to the double doors into the main part of the building. Slowly, as though he were expecting something to jump out at him, he pushed one of the doors open. Trevor noted that Max was wearing tight-fitting black gloves. He dug out his own pair and pulled them on as Max opened the door wide enough for them all to see through.
Even the word bizarre did not exactly describe the scene in the main vestibule of the theatre. It seemed as though every flat surface was home to at least one candle. They were short, fat, stubby things and each one looked as though it had been burning for hours by the wax trails around them. There must have been hundreds of them, Trevor thought. There were several red splashes visible on the dark green carpet and more on the walls. Trevor wondered briefly if this is what Rorschach patterns looked like.
"Let's see what we are dealing with," Max announced quietly as he stepped through the open door.
Michelle was quickly at his side and she offered him a quick glare before returning her gaze to the room. If Max noticed the look he did not seem to pay it much attention as he gestured impatiently for Trevor to join them.
As Trevor moved through the door he saw Michelle stooped down and pushed a wooden doorstop under it. Only then did Max release the door and move further into the room.
"Michelle, Trevor, we need samples of these candles. Make sure that you are wearing gloves and keep your handling of them to a bare minimum." With that, he put his bag onto the floor near the doorway and drew a small knife from his jacket along with a plastic bag. Michelle followed suit, and Trevor hurried to follow their example.
While his two partners moved to different parts of the room, Max called over his shoulder, "Don't get too far apart. We don't know what we are dealing with yet."
Under breath Michelle muttered, "Yes father," and shook her head.
Max stepped close to the counter of the concession stand and saw the candles that littered its surface. Without touching anything he looked over the counter and several splashes of scarlet were clearly visible on the floor and over the popcorn machine.
With a grimace Max turned his attention back to the candles. He took a deep breath, which was difficult in itself as the air contained a rancid odor. With deliberate effort he slowly extended his mind outwards until it touched the candle. He could feel the general miasma of evil lapping at the edges of his mind and with a force of will pushed them away. Honing his attention into a needlepoint he touched the candle.
Instinctively his mind reared back from what it touched and he found himself taking a step back as his body followed. It was times like this when he wanted to curse the way his talent worked. The only thing he could think of being worse was if his senses defined the evil as a taste instead of smell. In this case, the candle reeked worse that a ten day old garbage heap at high noon in Calcutta.
"If you keep trying to be the sole hero on this case I'm going to kick you upside the head and send you back to the office."
There was solid reprimand in Michelle's voice as she stalked over to her old partner and Max knew that he should have waited before trying that particular trick. "Sorry. Enthusiasm got the better of me. You're right I should have waited for backup."
The apology was genuine and appeared to appease the tall, powerfully built woman. "Just see you do," she added with less force.
Max nodded agreeably as he turned to face the concession stand again.
"Do I have to ask what you found or do I need to pound it out of you?"
Max turned back and grinned sheepishly at his taller companion. "The candles reek of evil which means one of two things."
Michelle suppressed a groan as Max fell into his lecturing voice. She shared a raised eyebrow with Trevor who had to cover his mouth to hide his own grin.
"Either, the candle has been used in a large number of unpleasant magical ceremonies, or it was created in a very nasty manner. Considering the number that appear to be here and the Detective said the whole theatre is covered in them, both seem to be unlikely. What this does however, is make it almost impossible for me to sense if there's anything else in here with us. There is simply no way to filter through this much unpleasantness and to be perfectly frank, I don't want to even try. That means we stay close to each other and take this one step at a time. I'm assuming that neither of you found anything else in this room?"
At the silence in response to his query Max said, "Well, let's take a look in the theatre itself. Everyone ready for this?"
From the apprehensive look on his face, Max could tell that Trevor was not looking forward to entering that particular room but smiled encouragingly at the young man when he nodded his assent.
"Max." Michelle paused until she had his attention. "Have you tried getting a reading from one of the candles?" There was hesitancy in her words that reflected her concern about what such an action would cost him.
"No. I'm going to avoid that unless I have no other option. Just the idea of touching one makes me feel ill. Let's check our other options first." He watched as Michelle nodded her head then turned back to look at the door to the main theatre auditorium.
"Max…" there was a hint of warning in her voice this time.
"Just waiting for you Michelle. Of course if you keep dragging your heels I'm going to have…"
He was interrupted by a blow to his shoulder as his companion walked past him. Trevor could not quite hear the words that Michelle whispered under her breath but the wicked grin on Max's face was contagious.
Michelle pressed her hand to the door and slowly eased it open. The reek of the candles was not as evident inside as one by one they entered. It was decorated in a style common to many theatres that had been built around the turn of the twentieth century. At the highest point of the stalls seating level, where they currently stood, they looked down over twenty three rows of deep burgundy velvet seats. Slender ivory colored pillars held the balcony aloft and several private boxes sat overlooking the stage. The curtains that ensured the privacy of those in the boxes were also deep burgundy and they in turn matched the stage curtains.
It was the stage that drew the three investigators attention. Heaped, unceremoniously in the center of it was a pile of bodies. It must have been a relatively quiet night as there could have been no more than seventy there. Michelle offered a silent prayer thankful there were no children's bodies visible. "Do you know what was playing here?" she asked. The silence in the room felt unnatural and Max heard Michelle's words slip into it.
"Edward Lionheart was starring in a new production of 'Hamlet'," Trevor answered quietly.
"The Shakespearean actor?" Max asked in surprise. "I haven't heard of him in a long time."
"From what I learned, this is the fourth Shakespeare production he's starred in here this season. The critics have slammed all of them."
Max turned a little and with a sardonically lifted eyebrow he said dryly, "Well we can rule out a bad performance as the cause of this."
"Max," Michelle uttered in a shocked tone. The look on his face when he turned back asked 'what did I say' although the twinkle in his eye gave the truth.
"Let's move down to the stage. Keep your eyes open for any evidence as we go. Michelle, do you agree that there's nowhere near enough blood here?"
Michelle led the way down the stairs. Her head slid side to side as she examined the seating for clues. "There are small spills here and there, but not enough based on the causes of death the police cited."
Without stopping Max pushed the zipper on his bag open and reached a hand in. He felt around until his hand closed around its target and he pulled out what appeared to be a deep sea diver's flashlight. He thumbed the switch on and it immediately cast a pale pink light over the area. Trevor bringing up the rear of the group noticed the marks on the seats and floor that it highlighted.
"Tell me what you see Trevor," Max's polished bass voice asked commandingly.
"The ultra-violet light is showing that there was a lot more blood here at one time. It looks like someone went to a lot of trouble cleaning most of it up. Why?"
"Good question, and one I think I know the answer to. We'll see in a few moments."
Slowly, they continued their descent to the stage. The light continued to highlight blood stains many of which were quite extensive. Trevor noticed the way Max kept looking around the entire room as if he were searching for something. The silence in the room was beginning to grate on Trevor's nerves. As he glanced up at a private box on the upper level his foot caught the edge of a step and he found himself lurching forward. He managed to catch his balance by flinging his hand against Max's back. That in turn caused Max to hit the flashlight against a chair. The noise reverberated and seemed to fill the entire room and seemed to linger for an interminable amount of time.
As he straightened back up he saw the faint annoyance in Max's face and the outright anger on Michelle's who had whipped around with the grace of a lioness at the noise. "Sorry," he managed to get as he felt the blood rush to his face.
"Take it easy Trevor. We don't need to injure each other."
The slight smile on Max's face helped Trevor relax enough to quietly add, "I thought I saw the curtain in that box move."
Max and Michelle both turned to look in the direction he indicated. Everything was still in the box. They turned to look back at Trevor.
"How sure are you?" Michelle asked keeping her voice low.
"Well, I only thought I saw the curtain move out of the corner of my eye, so I can't say it definitely did. When I looked up my foot missed the step and I didn't have time to check."
"Max, I'm not the sensitive here, but I'm starting to get a very bad feeling about this."
Max nodded once. "Let's get to the stage as quickly as we can without taking any chances. There's definitely something not right about all this."
With more urgency they resumed their march down the stairs. Max turned the ultra-violet flashlight off although it remained in his hand. Michelle led them down to the front of the stage and then around to the steps on the left hand side. With a glance around the theatre Michelle bounded up the steps coming to a stop on the corner of the stage. After another, longer, look around the room and the stage, she gestured for Max and Trevor to join her.
Max made his way up the steps followed closely by Trevor who was being very careful about his foot placement. "Michelle, take a look at the bodies for any tell-tale signs. Trevor, I want you to keep your eyes open. Particularly on the room itself."
With that Max thumbed the power on the flashlight and swept it around the stage. His expression immediately grew grave at the sign and symbols the ultra-violet light revealed. The entire stage had symbols of various types over it. Circles were predominant although in moments Max picked out symbols from over half a dozen different magical styles in moments. A large circle inside an even larger circle looped around the bodies. The space between the two was filled with symbols that Max stepped closer to examine.
"This makes no sense," he muttered.
"Is it safe to cross this Max?" Michelle asked quietly over his statement. She stood ready to move in any direction as she awaited his answer.
Yes. The circle's been erased so you can cross it without a problem."
"What makes no sense?" she asked as she stepped gingerly over the faintly visible circles and examined the nearest body. Blood stains were centered on the chest and as she leaned forward she could make out the large puncture hole over the woman's heart.
"The variety of symbols that are here. I've already seen Arabic, Egyptian, Old English, Latin and half a dozen others. I've never seen a mage mix so many styles. In fact," he paused a moment before going on, "some of these are contradicting each other. What do you have?"
"Looks like it was done with a knife. A large one too." She moved to one side slightly and examined another body. "Yeah, definitely a knife. Sharp, with a good point. The cut through the neck is clean. I'm no forensic expert but I'd have to say the cut was made from above. This guy must have been about six feet, so whoever did this is big."
As the two old partners continued their examination Trevor continued to watch the entire room. His skin felt tight and he made an effort to slow his breathing down. He tried hard not to look at the bodies behind him on the stage. His gift allowed him to feel the resonances of magic and the entire pile of bodies seem to be covered by them. Unfortunately, his gift didn't explain what they were, or for what they had been used.
As he looked upwards towards the balcony he wished that someone had thought to turn all the lights on up there. There were too many dark places near the back of the balcony, up by the doors. Ever since he thought that he had seen the curtain move, he had been feeling like he was being watched. A chill ran down his spine as, out of the corner of his eye, he caught the movement of a curtain. The same one he had thought moved before.
"Dr.Danielson," he breathed quietly and then repeated it again with more authority.
Max looked up at the sound of urgency. Catching sight of Trevor's concerned expression he stood and moved slowly to stand by him. "What is it Trevor?"
"The curtain did move sir. That time I saw it for certain. I didn't see anything behind it, but the curtain itself did move."
Max studied up at the private box and he too could see that one of the curtains was indeed moving very slightly back and forth. He would not have noticed it with a casual glance.
"Michelle," he called without taking his eyes off the box.
"Already here Max, and yes I see it too. How are we going to play this?"
Max took a moment to reply. "As best as I can tell there's no supernatural evil up there. It's difficult to be sure, but I don't believe there is."
He paused, then in a loud voice called, "Come out now. We know that there's someone in the box and it would be better for you if you show yourself and come peacefully. If you are injured we can help you."
"Subtle Max," Michelle murmured caustically.
The next moment found Max diving towards Trevor and with grunt of exploding air the youngest member of the team went down hard. A silver orb the size of a tennis ball crashed into the stage going directly through the point where Trevor had been standing. As Max rolled to his feet and placed himself in front of Trevor, who was still trying to catch his breath, another silver orb came hurtling from behind the boxes curtain.
Much to his relief, the orb stopped, suspended in the air, about six feet away from Max. Then it reversed its direction and hurtled back towards the box. It crashed into the curtain and pulled it away enough for Max and Michelle to noticed the door to the box bang shut.
"Good work Michelle. It appears that we have them on the run. Let's get up there before they can find somewhere else to hide."
Michelle nodded her head and then moved to help Max get Trevor back on his feet. "Come on Trevor, the games afoot," Max excitedly urged his young associate on.
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