Catch the previous parts here.
Joe felt the cool breeze on his face as he waited for the elevator to take him downstairs. The view from the common area was breathtaking; the building he was in towered most of the others in the area. He could see the bay, with ships lined up against the wharf. The people down there were like tiny ants to him; probably working as hard. He heard a ping, which meant the elevator was here. He got in silently and pressed the button for the ground floor.
He didn’t know what to do next. He’d cleared his day completely out of eagerness of visiting the doctor, not realizing what he would do once his appointment was done. He was on the other side of the city; home was about fifteen miles away. He felt hungry; it was half past noon. He stopped at a hot dog stand and bought some food. He was munching on his hot dog when someone tapped his back from behind. Joe turned to find out who it was.
“Hi!” It was Casey.
“Hey, what are you doing here?” Joe asked, pleasantly surprised to see her.
“I can ask you the same thing. Bit far from your neck of the woods, isn’t it”, Casey replied, wrapping her arms around his neck in a friendly hug.
Joe realized why she was here. She worked for the magazine, whose office was right across the street from the doctor’s. Now he had to explain; suddenly feeling uncomfortable. He hadn’t told her about his visit.
Casey sensed his discomfort and took her arms off him, now looking into his eyes. “Why the long face, Joey?”
He liked how she called him Joey. They were really close, and she was just the person to pep him up.
“Never mind, we’ll talk about that later. Hot dog?” Joe offered. Casey took a big bite of the one he was holding, leaving only a piece of the bun in his grip. Joe grimaced, and stuffed the remaining bun in his mouth. Casey threw her head back and laughed, and Joe followed suit.
“I have the afternoon off. They sent me home to work on a piece due tomorrow. I’ve already finished it, but didn’t tell them!” Casey told Joe, the mischief evident her eyes. “Want to watch a movie?”
The day wasn’t so great for Detective Derek Shabannah. His doctor’s appointment was cut short, and someone scuffed the paint off his car while it was parked in the parking lot. What sort of retard drives like that? How does someone manage to scrape the paint off a stationary car? He drove into work with a scowl plastered on his face.
His colleagues steered away from him. He was a nice guy, but you did not want to catch him in a bad mood. Shabannah was a brilliant investigator, a magician when it came to analyzing evidence. His eidetic memory gave him an edge over the bad guys. But he had a bad temper, probably why he was still a detective all these years. Ticked off the wrong people. He was divorced; his wife leaving him, partially because of his temper and for most because he never treated her the same way as he did his job. Dr. Obermeyer was a friend; he’d helped out on many cases that needed a psychoanalyst’s perspective on what the suspect would do next. The doctor was always spot on with his analysis, and had graciously made himself available when his friend came to him for help while his wife left him. He was also Shabannah’s anger coach; the detective had made tremendous progress after about two years of intense therapy with him.
Shabannah took off his coat and wrapped it around his chair. He took a seat at his desk located at a quiet cubicle in the corner. Everyone at the precinct preferred to give him space. He had a few close friends at work, but he never got along with anyone else.
He saw a large yellow manila envelope on his desk labeled “Jacob Street”. He’d heard of this case. It wasn’t really a case; just two unlucky people caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. The file had come to him for routine inspection, just to rule out any sort of foul play. After all, two people had died, that too under mysterious circumstances. He opened the envelope and pulled out the contents. He’d read the report later, he’d caught most of the gist on the news. He looked at the various photographs taken at the scene as well as CCTV snapshots taken at random intervals during the incident. A specific person in the pictures caught his eye. He’d seen this man before.
He tried to recall where, and realized who the mystery man was. The same guy he’d seen at the doctor’s office. Now he understood why the man was there; watching two people die can be overwhelming for a normal bystander. He picked up the report to read about this character. The report identified the man as Joe Russo, graphic designer, a local. He looked at multiple pictures of the man closely, and something stirred in his mind. The guy’s expression wasn’t right. At one point it looked like he wanted to scream, as if he already knew what was about to happen. Shabannah did not believe in coincidence. This wasn’t open and shut after all; he was going after this man.
Casey dropped Joe home after a fun-filled day. Together they had watched a movie, gone dancing and followed it up with a wonderful dinner. Joe was in high spirits. He didn’t want the night to end, but Casey reminded him of her piece that was due the next day. He kissed her forehead and bid her goodnight. Casey smiled, sat in her car and drove off.
Joe was tired after his long day. He changed quickly, relieved himself and got into bed. The night was almost over for him. He closed his eyes, the fatigue helping him drift off into sweet slumber.
Joe saw himself in a large banquet hall, surrounded by hundreds of people. Everyone was well dressed; maybe he was at a ball or a wedding. He was sharply dressed; he didn’t recognize that tux he was wearing. He had a glass of champagne in his hands, half full. He didn’t recognize any of the faces at the event. Except one.
The tall, blond woman dressed in a pearl white dress, stood all the way across the room. Joe was mesmerized by her. She looked stunning, and was surrounded by a bunch of people. He transfixed his gaze on her, slowly but surely petrified. A sudden shatter of glass behind him broke the spell; he turned momentarily only to see a waiter sprawled on the floor, apparently having slipped on the table-cloth. The waiter was now wearing the contents of the glasses he was carrying, but otherwise he was all right. Joe turned to get another look at the woman, but she was gone.
Only to be replaced by another figure, a figure far too familiar. She was wearing white as well, only with an ugly-looking crimson splotch on her midsection. The splotch seemed to be growing by the second, and in a moment the figure collapsed. Joe realized what had happened, and gasped. He woke up violently, hitting his head on the night stand.
He hoped against hope that this wasn’t going to be true. This was now getting personal. He couldn’t let the blonde woman get Casey. Not while he was still breathing.
To be continued…