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.

C.A.S.E. Files - Theatre of Blood

CHAPTER THREE

 

The silence of the building was broken as the three investigators ran up the stairs to the second level two steps at a time. The lighting was dimmer on the second floor and as they reached the top step they saw the reason - the candles had been relit and all other lights were out.

Michelle, who had led the charge up the stairs, slowed to a stop and looked askance at Max. "Where now?"

"Whatever we are dealing with will be long gone from the box, but that's still the most logical place to start. There's something about this I don't like Michelle."

Michelle noted the crease lines on Max's forehead. "What?" Her eyes continued to slide up and down the hallway they found themselves in. Nothing moved. Even the silence that their dash upstairs had broken had slipped back in unnoticed. She wrinkled her nose at the smell coming from the candles.

"I'm not sure, but there's something going on here that I'm missing."

Trevor noted the frustration in his bosses tone. Feeling like a third wheel around the two more experienced partners he tentatively offered, "Why would someone take the time to relight the candles? The police must have put them out like they did the ones downstairs."

Max turned quickly and grinned delightedly at the younger man. "Exactly! Why would someone take the time to relight the candles?" He looked first at Trevor and then at Michelle waiting for them to catch up with him.

As the spark of understanding leapt into Michelle's eyes the grin on Max's face grew even larger. "To block your ability to sense whatever is behind this," she said slowly.

Max nodded. "Yes. That's the only possible conclusion. Which tells me something else about…"

"They know what you can do!" Michelle interrupted. Her eyes flashed with unconcealed anger as she considered the repercussions of her words. "Any idea who?"

"Several names come to mind but nothing we've seen here so far gives us any solid evidence. We'd better get to the bottom of this soon. I don't like the idea of an unknown enemy that knows so much about us."

"Dr.Danielson, do you suppose that this whole thing was set up just to get the two of you here?"

Max noted the new confidence in Trevor's voice. "That's beginning to look like a very likely possibility." Max nodded his head once. "Michelle, let's get moving."

"Sure thing boss," she replied caustically while reaching inside her jacket. She pulled out a small caliber pistol and slipped the safety off. With a gesture Max indicated that Trevor should follow her and he took the rear position.

Moving at a slow pace and continually watching all around, they moved down the hallway. The décor on the upper level was similar to that on the lower, but with a dark wine colored carpet. Trevor noted the darker, still wet patches. Large double doors stood open at several points and they could see that they led into the main balcony seating area. As they rounded the curve of the hallway Michelle could see the doors to the private boxes ahead, one of which was partially open. She signaled her companions to get their attention before moving in the direction of the open door.

Trevor was clenching and opening his hands nervously by the time Michelle reached the open door and stepped to one side of it. He placed himself against the opposite wall making sure that he would not be in the direct line of fire should there still be someone inside. As Max slipped past him he mouthed silently, "Watch the hallway," before joining Michelle at the door. Trevor noted the slender wooden stick that Max held in each hand.

As soon as Max was in place Michelle whipped her leg out in a low thrusting kick that sent the door crashing backwards into the wall. Trevor could not help the small start he made even though he had been expecting the action. He grimaced as the noise felt like an intrusion on the silence that lay heavy in the building. He glanced back down the hallway checking for any signs of movement.

Meanwhile Michelle dropped into a crouch and spun into the now fully open door, her gun thrust out in front. After a long moment where her eyes grew accustomed to the gloomy interior she stood and moved into the box. The curtain was still moving slightly although the box itself was empty. She pointed with the pistol at the ornamental hooks that would have tied the curtain back. Max nodded as he noticed the missing globes that were present on its partner on the other side of the box. He turned slightly to look at the indentation on the wall near the door and his keen eyes quickly picked out one of the globes lying on the floor. He stooped to pick it up.

"Looks like we're going to have to do this the hard way doesn't it?" Michelle stated. She rolled her eyes heavenward and shook her head slowly then moved back out into the hallway in response to Max's distracted nod. He looked over the small, brass globe he held and at the place where it had been torn from before joining Michelle and Trevor.

"One at a time?" Michelle asked.

Max nodded without looking up from the globe he held. His eyes widened for a moment and his head came up as he asked "What are we dealing with here?"

"Magic," Michelle answered immediately.

"You're sure? That was my first thought but I'm not so sure anymore. This was torn off and it was thrown very accurately over a long distance." He held the brass globe up for them both to see. "What does that point to?"

"Max, do you know how annoying it is play twenty questions when we're in the middle of something?"

Max's response to Michelle's annoyed question was interrupted by a loud crash from further down the hallway.

As one the three investigators turned and began to move in the direction of the noise. As the rounded the curve of the hall, with Michelle once again in the lead, they saw one of the doors leading off the hallway was swinging shut.

Quickly, the three got into position around the entrance and Michelle stopped the door from closing completely. In a crouch she moved through it and entered a men's restroom. She moved further in and Max followed while Trevor moved to the doorway to keep watch on the hall. He glanced inside to see Michelle looking under the toilet stalls, while Max had his eyes fixed on the opposite wall. His gasp of surprise at the blood splattered far wall caused Max to turn sharply in his direction. He offered Max a chagrinned smile before turning back to watch the hall.

Max began to turn back to the far wall when he heard Trevor cry out in pain. He found the young man lying on the floor, blood beginning to pooling around him, and leaped to his side. Michelle pushed past both men and into the corridor looking for the assailant while Max dropped to his knees beside Trevor. He noted the signs of shock in Trevor's eyes and his ragged breathing as he tried to work out where the blood was coming from. As he reached around the body, he pulled his hand back sharply. More carefully this time, Max reached around again and as gently as he could, rolled Trevor over so he was laying face down. Sticking from his back was a knife with a blood red handle. It had entered slightly to the left of his spine and Max surmised quickly that if Trevor had not been turning back to the hall the knife would have gone straight through his heart. He slid the bag off his shoulder and reached in to retrieve the first aid kit.

"How bad is it?"

"He'll need a doctor and soon. It just missed his heart but I'm worried that it may have hit a lung. Is there anyone around?"

"Nothing. What are we facing here Max?"

"My guesses would be either an expert marksman or someone with your talent."

Michelle glanced at her partner with understanding lighting her eyes. She stooped to reach into the bag Max had dropped and came out with a small Nextel radio. Depressing the button she said, "This is Agent Jones. I need a medical unit dispatched to my location ASAP. Over."

She waited for a long moment before repeating her message. The only reply was the static playing on the radio's channel. Michelle looked at Max quizzically. "Try the phone," he said.

Michelle punched in the number for the C.A.S.E base. When nothing happened she looked down at the display on the handset and saw the 'No Connection' icon. "Max, the phone can't get a connection. We need to get out of here and fast. The police can call for an ambulance when we're outside."

Max looked up from the makeshift padding he had placed around the knife protruding from Trevor's back. It had managed to staunch the flow of blood although he did not like the wheezing sounds Trevor was making. He looked both directions and then stood up after grabbing a cloth from the first aid kit.

Wiping his hands, he said in a voice that brooked no argument, "You lead the way and I'll carry Trevor. Once he's with the police we'll come back in and finish this."

He dropped to one knee and carefully slid his hands under Trevor's body and rolled him onto his side. He got himself into position to lift and when he was ready, Michelle dropped down to help. Together they slowly placed Trevor over his shoulder in the classic fireman's lift position. Picking up the bag Michelle nodded once to Max who returned the gesture and they moved slowly down the hallway.

Max kept close to the wall while Michelle held a position in the center of the hall. They could see the stairs leading down to the entryway about fifty yards ahead. Max carefully shifted Trevor's weight on his shoulder and silently thanked the young man for not weighing more.

The stairs continued to grow closer with each step. As Michelle came abreast with another door she signaled Max to switch to the other side of the hall and they moved past it. Michelle had taken two steps when the door flew open and banged against the wall. She spun around like a ballerina on speed and brought her gun to bear on the now open doorway. In the next moment she threw herself forward and underneath a hail of objects that hurtled out of the doorway. Her dive took her to the side of the doorway and when she looked up she was grateful to see that Max had also moved across the hall and was on the other side of the door.

Slowly Max slid Trevor off his shoulder and lay him face down on the floor. Michelle got her feet underneath her and the two investigators took positions on either side of the open door.

Max pulled out the two wooden sticks that he had pushed through his belt. With a snap of his wrist they extended to double their original length. He glanced over at Michelle and nodded his head once.

Michelle pivoted on her left heel and placed herself in a low crouch in front of the doorway. The pistol was held out in front and her right side was covered by the door frame. On the other side of the frame Max mirrored her maneuver except he remained standing. The room was a mess. There were clothes strewn everywhere, the desk was upturned and several coat racks lay on the floor. When no attack was launched at them and there was no visible source of one, Michelle stood and inched her way into the room.

Max remained where he stood scanning the room for movement. His eyes passed over a mirror that was badly cracked and it was only on a second look that he glimpsed movement through the spider web fractures. "Michelle…"

Her scream echoed through the room and killed whatever else he had been planning to say. His gaze snapped in her direction to see, sticking from the rear of her leg, just above the knee was a red handled knife. Max covered the distance to her side in two quick steps and managed to hold her upright. Her eyes were barely cracked open as she fought against the pain.

In the next moment Max responded to the flash of panic that erupted in his head and pushed both of them into the room and away from the door. Michelle screamed again as the knife handle hit the wall and drove itself further into her leg. Max however, paid little attention and continued to push her into the corner before placing himself in front of her. As he looked up he heard a thud as a solid glass paperweight hit the wall opposite the door and hung in the air.

Another flash of panic erupted in his head and he dropped down into a crouch as the paperweight suddenly careened towards the point where his head had been. Once again it crashed into a wall and hung there. Max dropped one of the sticks he carried and made a grab for the paperweight but it moved upwards beyond his grasp. He was surprised when he did not get another warning of imminent danger but smiled grimly when a voice below him hissed through clenched teeth, "I've got it."

Max glanced down at Michelle who nodded to him though her face was screwed up into a mask of pain. He mouthed silently, "The mirror," and darted his eyes to the side. Standing up he turned once more to face the room. Almost as soon as he turned around he saw one of the coat racks begin to lift itself from the floor. It leveled out and pointed at him looking like a knight's lance, draped clothing hanging like some madwoman's favor. He stepped lightly forward, careful not to trip on the debris and was about to grab for it when a cry of pain came from the other corner of the room.

The coat rack fell back to the floor and Max turned to see a tall man step out from a tangle of coat racks, clutching his head. He recognized the man as being the star of the play, Edward Lionheart. He was still dressed in his costume which did nothing to hide the raw angled boniness of the man. Looks like a coat rack with arms and legs himself, Max thought.

"Give it up Mr.Lionheart."

Blood dripped from a cut on his left temple and he looked over with glazed eyes that struggled to focus. When they did, a dark smile pulled itself onto his face. He pulled his arm back in an extravagant gesture but before he could bring it forward again he was struck on the shoulder by the paperweight.

Max was not sure which scream was louder, although he thought Michelle's might have just won. The force of the blow unbalanced Lionheart and he thrust his foot out. It caught in a silk scarf that lay discarded on the floor and he tumbled forwarded. His scream changed to a gurgle as he landed heavily.

When Lionheart showed no immediate sign of moving Max knelt beside Michelle. She had passed out when the knife had been wrenched out of her leg. The wound was bleeding heavily so he grabbed a shirt that lay nearby and pressed it over the wound. He kept looking over at the still form of Edward Lionheart.

When he was sure that Michelle was not going to bleed to death he walked over to check Lionheart. He tried to turn him over but initially the body would not shift. He grabbed the man with both hands and pulled. He heard a crunch and found himself staggering backwards as the body finally moved more quickly than he expected. When he looked at the body that was now laying face up, he saw that Lionheart had fallen on one of the hooks of a coat rack. Max checked for a pulse but there was none. He sighed before turning and moving back to Michelle.

With a grunt he lifted her and moved back into the hallway and placed her on the dark red carpet beside Trevor. He fetched the bag that Michelle had discarded and pulled out the first aid kit again. The wound was nasty as the knife had been twisted before it had been pulled out. Using the meager supplies he had, he bandaged the leg tightly to try to stem the bleeding. Then he reached for the Nextel radio.

As before, the radio and the cell phone returned only static. His eyebrows drew together as he puzzled over the implications of that and tried to work out how to get his two partners out. He did not relish the idea of leaving them here while he went to get help.

Max jumped as the loud speakers crackled and then erupted into life.

"Max. I am surprised that you let Mr.Lionheart get as close to killing you as he did. You must be losing your touch."

Max's eyes tighten and his lips compressed into a thin line. The silky Italian voice, even masked by the speaker system, could only belong to one person. "Giovanni."

"Unfortunately you are not out of the building yet." Max could hear the smug satisfaction in the voice but it was the humorous tone that worried him most. "If you would care to look at the stage, you will see that I have one more surprise for you. One that even with all your clever skills you will not survive."

As the voice fell silent Max looked across at the door that led into the main balcony area and stepped over to it. He looked through and down to the stage. His mouth opened slightly as he watched the mound of bodies heave and shift.

To Chapter Two... To The Conclusion...