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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.
Max watched as a huge, dome-like head thrust out of the middle of the pile of bodies. His jaw dropped at the long, double row of needle-sharp teeth that were displayed as the gigantic maw opened to release a bellow that shook the room. With another heave, the creature stood upright. In the shadowy recesses of the balcony Max uttered a single word, "Dybbuk".
Tearing his eyes from the event unfolding on the stage Max failed to see the Dybbuk reach out and grab one of the bodies. With a contemptuous twist of its enormous upper hands it tore the body into two pieces. A chunk of meat was ripped from one of the pieces by the long, jagged teeth.
Max looked down at the small, wooden baton he held in one hand and then back up at the scene on the stage. The disbelief in his eyes was burned away as they turned a dark, emerald green with the anger and adrenaline that flooded his system. He turned away as the creature further ripped apart the body with the claws on its thin lower arms. Slowly, and as quietly as he could, he stalked back up the balcony stairs and out into the corridor beyond.
Once out of the exposed doorway, Max stopped for a long moment and took several deep breaths. With a snap of his wrist the wooden baton he was still holding folding in on itself and he slipped it into a pocket of his sports coat. As he moved towards his two injured colleagues on the corridor's floor he shrugged out of the jacket and then placed it under Trevor's head. The young man's skin was beginning to look very pale thanks to the amount of blood he had lost. The collapsed lung that he suspected, was becoming more serious by the moment.
Max moved over to the unconscious form of Michelle and knelt beside her. "Lord, keep that beast busy for a few more minutes," he muttered under his breath as quick hands checked on his partner's condition. A low groan came as her eyes began to flicker open. Hastily, Max placed one hand over her mouth and a finger to his own lips. The initial panic in Michelle's eyes faded as she acknowledged his request for silence.
"Sorry old girl," he said quietly as he took his hands away from her mouth and reached for the bag he had brought with them. "We're not out of the woods yet. Giovanni's behind this and he's left us another playmate. Neither of you is any condition to help, so I'm going to take care of this myself."
Max replaced his hand gently against her lips as she was about to interrupt. "Just listen Michelle as I don't have the time to argue with you about this one. I need you to keep Trevor alive while I deal with this. And," he emphasized the last word, "you need to try getting hold of Doig. Tell him it's serious and to have Monique ready for Trevor. OK?"
Michelle nodded her assent, but the tightness around her eyes told Max that she was not happy with the situation. When he opened the bag and pulled out two swords in scabbards, Michelle said tightly, "Exactly what playmate has Giovanni left behind?"
Michelle's mind was whirling through the other encounters they had had with the fanatical Italian and the things he had sent in their direction. However, when Max said, "A Dybbuk," her forehead wrinkled as she tried to place the word.
Max looked down at his long time friend and companion and with a smile replied, "You need to study more, but in this case it's probably good for me that you can't remember. Anyway, take care of Trevor and get a hold of Nigel."
With another smile Max stood and slipped the scabbards off the two swords he held. With the longer, gently curved Japanese katana in his right hand and the smaller wakazashi in his left, he moved away down the corridor. He ignored Michelle's increasingly annoyed, but still quiet voice wanting to know what he was going to do.
Max worked at slowing his breathing as he moved down the corridor towards the staircase to the lower level. His long legs ate up the distance rapidly and he found himself at the top of the stairs more quickly that he wanted to. While he was trying to work his body into a more relaxed rhythm, his mind was whirling through different ways to approach the situation. Keeping to the wall he began to descend the staircase.
As the doorway to the exit hall came into view Max briefly considered stepping outside and calling for police backup. He discarded the idea as quickly as it had arrived, knowing that the police were not ready to deal with the monstrosity in the theatre. With a sigh, he took the last few steps and stood facing the closed entranceway to the auditorium. The sounds of tearing flesh grated through the closed doors. Max rolled his shoulders a few times to complete his loosening exercise and sent a silent prayer heavenward.
Decisively, Max stepped towards the closed doors and slowly pushed one side open enough so that he could look inside. Even though he knew what was happening inside, the sight caught his breath and he swallowed hard against the rising bile. The creature stood in the center of the stage, the bodies of the victims of the massacre surrounded it. The normally sickly grey skin of the Dybbuk was splattered with dark red in a parody of a Celtic warrior heading into battle. The razor sharp claws tipping its lower arms were gouging inside the chest cavity of the remains of a young woman while the massive upper arms pushed what Max thought might have been a leg into the creatures maw.
With slow steps Max slipped through the doorway, taking care to shut the door behind him noiselessly. Keeping to the back wall of the theatre he made his way around the circular chamber towards the steps up to the stage itself. His eyes remained locked on the monster the entire time watching its actions. Several times he took moments to stop and rotate his tightening shoulders and control his breathing before edging his way onwards again.
Time seemed to grind to a halt as the stage inched closer with agonizing slowness. Max weighed his own need for the open fighting space that the stage would provide with Trevor's need for help. Sweat popped out on his forehead even in the cold air of the theatre. Finally he put his foot on the lowest step of the stairs leading up to the stage. There was no place left to hide and Max moved upwards with more speed hoping to get to the top before the creature turned around.
Two steps from the top, as Max's foot came down, the tread gave a creak that seemed loud enough to fill the theatre. Without hesitation Max took the final two steps and gained the stage as the monster's head whipped around. Small, beady, black eyes took in the sight of live prey standing on the stage and they glinted with malicious anticipation. A bellow from the Dybbuk was followed by the thunk of flesh hitting the floor.
Keeping close to the edge of the stage Max stepped forward three or four paces. The katana led the way with a slight quiver, while the shorter wakazashi trailed closer to Max's body. His chest rose once more as he took another deep calming breath which stilled the quiver in the katana. The skin around his eyes tightened as he fought to hold his position as the beast kicked its mighty legs free of the corpses surrounding it and began to lumber towards Max.
Teeth flashed in a ferocious snarl as the pumping legs drove the creature within striking range. A fist the size of bowling ball came at Max's head like an out of control freight train. It blurred past as Max rotated on his rear foot then found himself having to deflect the lower clawed hands with his blades as they lashed out.
Suddenly the Dybbuk was past its intended target and tried to slow down but discovered that it had no more stage to work with. Max rotated back into position and cut left to right across its back which added to its momentum as it careened out into the orchestra pit and crashed like a toppled redwood..
Max turned to face the monster that was rapidly, and angrily, picking itself up off the floor. The few chairs that remained intact were shattered by fierce blows from its fists or legs as it began moving back towards Max. He flexed his hand around the katana's hilt before bringing it slicing down on the large hand that grabbed at him. A roar of pain was accompanied by the hand being withdrawn and Max could see thick green liquid oozing from the long, narrow cut.
The next moment Max threw himself to one side as the Dybbuk charged the stage and launched itself up at him. He rolled to his left and came back to his feet in time to throw his katana up to block another thrust by the clawed lower hands. As the creature lifted itself back to the stage Max glided backwards to give himself some distance. His fingers stung from the force needed to pierce the creature's skin. Taking advantage of the time it took for the Dybbuk to right itself, Max focused his mind and let the energy within it begin to infuse his body. Fresh strength flowed into his muscles as his adrenaline surged.
The Dybbuk stood to its full eight feet and threw both sets of arms in the air and roared its hatred. Max slid a step closer and the creature's attention was immediately focused back on him. In a parody of a gorilla the creature looked Max squarely in the eye and beat its massive chest with its huge upper arms. Max grimaced but his eyes remained locked on those of the monsters. He flicked the longer blade outwards but it was contemptuously ignored.
Just as it began to move towards him it staggered back as crack after crack of gun fire echoed around the theatre. Max jumped back in shock before glancing hurriedly around for the source. Outlined by the corridor light behind her, he made out Michelle leaning against the doorway leading to the upper balcony. A still smoking pistol was held tightly in her right hand. Max smiled grimly, filing away a note to talk to his friend about giving him some warning in the future, he turned back to the Dybbuk.
The smile disappeared, although the grimness ascended into his eyes, as he saw the beast still standing. Four bullet holes, oozing more of the green ichor, stood out on its chest and two red marks adorned its domed skull. With frightening speed the creature ran at Max seemingly oblivious to the holes in its chest.
Block. Parry. Block. Block. Max moved his swords into a glittering net of steel but discovered that defending against a creature with four arms left him no time to attack. He ducked his head to avoid a punch only to find one of the clawed hands driving towards his eyes. He managed to bring his shorter sword up enough to deflect the claws but they still cut into the skin of his forehead.
The sheer force of the blows from the upper arms was making his arms shake as he blocked yet another punch. He backed up in an effort to avoid being run over by the beast but found he was rapidly running out of stage. As he ducked underneath yet another wild swing from the monster he put himself too close to a raking blow from the lower arms that opened a long gash down his left side.
Max grunted with the pain and then threw himself to his left tucking his swords close to his body and rolling back to his feet. The move confused the beast for a moment as it tried to figure out where its prey had gone. Max took the respite to lash out at the Dybbuk's ankle. The sharp steel cut in and the creature howled in pain as it kicked its leg to get away from the sword that had hurt it.
Caught by surprise Max felt the sword torn out of his hand and fly out into the orchestra pit. With only the shorter wakazashi left Max warily backed away from the Dybbuk. In its turn the creature was looking at him with fury dancing from its eyes as it slowly began to hobble toward him.
A noise from above drew both their attentions and with astonishment they watched as the heavy stage curtain dropped down. With swiftness born of desperation Max flung himself backwards but still found his legs entangled in the thick velvet drapery. The Dybbuk was less fortunate and was caught in the center of the pile and it toppled to the floor. Its thrashings managed to help Max as it pulled the curtain off him. He stood and eyed the macabre scene as the Dybbuk pushed and pulled at the curtain that enveloped it.
A tear appeared as one of the clawed hand thrust through the material. Max wasted no time in jumping forward and slashing at the hand with his remaining sword. Two claws went flying through the air and the hand withdrew with a screech of pain. Max skipped around on the curtain trying to keep his footing as the Dybbuk's thrashing grew more frenzied.
He glanced around sharply at the sound of something landing on the stage but was relieved to find it was his lost katana. With a glance and a nod in the direction of Michelle he quickly retrieved the weapon. Placing the shorter blade on the floor he gripped the katana in both hands and watched for an opening. Several times, with lightning speed, he danced onto the curtain brought the blade slicing down and then danced back.
Dark stains began to cover the area that trapped the Dybbuk and its thrashings grew slower. Several more times he moved in, made a cut or thrust, and then moved away again. Eventually the movement stopped altogether. After long moments of silence Max turned to look up at Michelle. Weariness began to settle onto him now that the fight was over but a smile tugged at his lips.
As he lifted up one hand in a 'thumbs up' gesture to Michelle she suddenly screamed his name. Whirling around he brought the katana in a swinging arc from lower right to upper left. The blade cut through the curtain and deep into the creature's abdomen before exiting through its neck. Reversing the cut he instinctively repeated it from top to bottom in the other direction. The anger drained from the face of the Dybbuk to be replaced by confusion and surprise. Its knees folded under it and then it collapsed face first to the stage.
Max stood over the body for long moments. His heart was beating frantically although his breathing was calm and steady. Eventually he turned and looked up at Michelle. She was now sitting, propped against the doorframe. With a "Hold on old girl," he jumped from the stage and moved as quickly as his tired legs would carry him back to the main entrance to the theatre.
Max propped his katana against the doorframe before stepping out into the London night. He breathed the cold air in before calling out, "Inspector!"
Inspector Boot came around from behind a parked police car.
"Inspector I need an ambulance and some medics in here fast."
"What's going on?" Boot asked in annoyed tone.
"I'll explain shortly, but right now my two partners need medical assistance. The medics are the only ones to enter this building until I say otherwise."
Without waiting for a reply Max turned on his heel and headed back inside. With a shaking hand he picked his katana back up and forced his tired body back up the stairs to where his injured companions were waiting. His other hand was pressed firmly to his bloody side. Two thoughts kept playing through his mind fighting each other for dominance.
"Was Trevor going to survive?" was the first, and the other darker thought was "It's time to find Giovanni!"
|To Chapter Three...|
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