At The Golden Snitches, I've entered their "Writeathon", which is a last author standing type of challenge. For it, I've been writing original fiction, which is a refreshing change from fanfiction. So far, two rounds have passed, and I'm still crossing my fingers to enter the third round.
The two short pieces I've written are part of a larger story arc, my un-(never)-finished NaNoWriMo entry of two years ago. The info on it is here; it's called "Penelope's Wake" and makes use of my OCs from my fanfic "Shadows and Dust" (that's what I seem to be using fanfiction for: to make my own characters). And, being addicted to Photoshop, I even have a book cover and banner.
The first segment takes place sometime in the 70's - the first murder of the serial killer.
They entered the cramped sitting room, books piled up on every available space, even on top of the television and balanced on the narrow window sill. The mother was on the sofa, eyes glazed as she followed the movements of the characters on the screen. Likely she wasn’t the reading type, her pose and face registering little intelligence.
When the father entered the room, it was certain that the books were his. He looked like a university professor, the bow tie and somewhat garish paisley shirt revealing him to be one of those artsy types. He took one despairing look at his wife before turning to the police.
“Has Livi done something wrong, officers?” He peered around the WPC to the little girl, her colouring the same as her mother’s, but with the large eyes of her father.
The mother finally moved, turning her head, blindly staring at the door.
“Where’s Penny? I sent out Livi for her.”
A man, not in uniform, but bleeding policeman from every pore, stepped forward and cleared his throat. “That’s what we’ve come about, Mrs. Conroy.”
He fell silent, biting his lip.
Livi pulled away from the WPC. “I’m sorry, Daddy. Penny... I... she’s...”
She faltered, coming to her knees in front of her father. Only then does he see the small stain on the hem of her sleeve. A small, red stain. Tears ran down Livi’s face, but she did not scream or cry like a child. Her body shook with sobs, as though she were an adult, not a girl of ten, if she was even that old.
The father reached down for Livi, but suddenly hesitated, rising again. The blood – he was not a stupid man – repulsed him. He did not ask any questions. He did not need to.
The mother, however, did.
“What’s this, then?”
The inspector, who had not yet said his name, ran a hand through his thinning hair. He looked at the father, his watery blue eyes betraying everything.
“Dr. Conroy,” he began, but stopped to swallow. “I think you should sit down.”
The father stood straighter, glaring down at the inspector, who almost wavered under its weight. His hands certainly shook, and he tried to hide them behind his back.
“I’m very sorry to tell you this, but I’m afraid that your daughter–”
The mother carelessly waved a hand and rolled her eyes. “Livi’s always a troublesome one. Doesn’t surprise me if she’s caused trouble.”
Blinking, the inspector stepped forward. “No, Mrs. Conroy. It’s your other daughter, Penny. She was found–”
“I didn’t realise that the police were needed to find the girl. Just out with her mates, she is. Nothing to worry about. She always comes home.” The mother crossed her arms and turned back to the television.
The inspector closed his eyes, taking a long, deep breath.
“Your daughter is–”
This time, it was the father who interrupted.
The mother snorted. “How what, George?” How’d she forget the time?”
Livi leaned against her father’s leg, cheeks wet with tears.
“She’s dead, Mum! Penny’s dead and I found her!”
The adults looked down at the girl, her fists clenched and body tense as she glared back. Her father was the first to move, finally picking up his daughter – his only daughter now – and clutching her to his chest.
It was, however, the mother who spoke. “You’re wrong, Inspector. Penny wouldn’t be dead. You’ve found another girl.”
The inspector blinked again. “We’ve had a positive identification–”
“What? By her?” She nodded down at her daughter. “Just wants the attention, that’s all.”
Livi shuddered in her father’s arms.
“Mrs. Conroy, we’re very su–”
“No. Penny isn’t dead.”
She crossed her arms, shaking her head, back and forth, back and forth.
“Penny can’t be dead.”
“Mira.” All her husband needed to do was say her name. She looked over at him, her hard face weakening for the first time. “Mira, please.”
But he did not reach out to touch her, to offer any comfort. He only asked for her understanding, for her to comprehend that their eldest daughter was dead, her blood spilled onto the ground. She could deny and deny, protecting herself from the shock of the favourite child’s death, but eventually the denial would wear out, leaving only the bitter truth.
She seemed to falter for a moment, her lips quivering and brow lowering, her thumb pressing down on the power button of the remote.
The television clicked off.
The room became darker, the sudden silence adding to the suffocation.
“It must have been an accident, then,” the mother said, tossing her head with an air of false confidence. “A fall or something of the sort. She may not even be dead. Did you check?”
The father sighed, but said nothing. There was no point.
The inspector did not reply fast enough.
“Well, Inspector? What happened to my daughter?”
Her voice broke on the last word.
The inspector bit his lip, wrinkled his brow, then pinched his lips together firmly, as though refusing to allow the truth to emerge.
The father cleared his throat. “Inspector–”
“She was murdered, Dr. Conroy....”
Livi covered her ears.
“....and we’re still searching for any leads.”
Her father gripped her tighter.
“We would very much like your assistance in this matter.”
The father looked up. “Of course. Anything–”
The mother stared straight ahead, seeing nothing, hearing nothing. Now that the word “murdered” had sunk into her brain, there was no turning back. She began to mutter things to herself, things that became louder and louder with each passing minute, everyone watching and trying to ignore, but failing when she broke out into a screech.
“Penny! My child!”
It was the WPC, not her husband, who came forward to lay a hand on her shoulder.
The screeched turned into a scream.
The father turned to the police, wordlessly imploring them to leave.
As the inspector closed the door behind him, he looked back at the house. So plain, so lacking in anything to set it apart. It was a normal house, but what of the family within?
“Did you hear her, sir?” The WPC followed his gaze.
He blinked. “Hear what, Constable?”
The WPC was shaking her head. “That woman. She acted as though she only had one daughter, that Penny was her only child.”
The inspector let out a long breath.
“Makes you wonder who the real victim is, doesn’t it, Constable?”
She nodded and they walked away.
The curtains in the front window had been pulled aside by small hands, allowing curious eyes to peer out, the tear-stained face pressed against the glass. She watched them go, her mother’s screams echoing in her ears.
The second segment takes place in the present time or the near future, and takes place right before the beginning of the novel as I have it planned.
He was finishing up his last report when she entered, slightly drunk and more than slightly depressed, tossing her long coat on the hook with greater violence than usual. She didn’t need to say why she was here or why she was wearing that dress, the green one that turned her eyes a rich hazel. It wasn’t the sort of thing he was used to seeing her in.
She settled herself in the visitor’s chair, eyes wandering around his office.
“Hello Vivien. No luck this time?”
Her gaze sharpened, dark eyes narrowing.
“What else is new?” she said with a wave of her hand. “I must have ‘police’ written across my forehead. This is the second one in a month to run off to the loo then never come back.”
Grimm raised an eyebrow. “And they leave you to pay?”
Vivien relaxed, slinging one arm over the back of the chair.
“They leave before the drinks are even served.”
With a shrug, Grimm turned back to his desk. “At least they show some degree of politeness then.” He wouldn’t mention how she had enough to drink for both herself and her date. Her attempts at normality, when they failed – which was often – ended in this way, she falling into weakness, the one thing she vowed never to show.
Somehow, he was exempt from that rule.
She knew he worked late into the night, writing or attempting various experiments. She also knew that he was also a failure in the realm of relationships. When in doubt, appeal to the most experienced person in that field.
He did not like that distinction.
“I wonder why I have such bad luck all the time,” Vivien mused, staring at the ceiling.
Grimm pushed back the brown hair that kept obscuring his vision. He really ought to get it cut, but he never seemed to manage to make that appointment. Sorting out the strands, he bent over his report, squinting at the writing.
“Or do they just see all the scars? Do I look like damaged goods?”
Her voice broke into his thoughts of fractured tibias and the unpleasant tattoo of his last patient. Yes, he called them patients. He may not have been able to heal them, but he could, at the very least, diagnose them.
Vivien had mocked him over that belief, long ago, earlier in their acquaintance. He couldn’t expect her to remember that.
“Of course not,” he said out of the side of his mouth, not even turning his head. “But you’re the detective. You can see the signs if anyone can.”
She sighed loudly. “But I can’t see them on myself. Or is it in myself?”
“In. Definitely in.” Grimm was studying toxicology results with a frown.
“Ah, thank you.”
He was conscious of her silence and her eyes upon his back.
But he must ignore them, ignore her. It was growing worse, this way of being... not distracted so much as highly sensitive to her presence. She had a certain way about her that made people uncomfortable – likely the reason why she could not keep a date for very long – and often he felt this same discomfort. This, however, was changing.
The problem was that he was aware of why this change was occurring.
And that was only the first problem.
His hand paused, holding the pen. She was being uncharacteristically silent. Well, uncharacteristically for the mood she was in. Put her at the scene of a crime and she wouldn’t say a word; nothing would leave her head, not a single clue, not a single observation. Here, now, in this place, her silence was eerie, suspicious.
When she did speak, it was too close to his ear.
“Now that is a disturbing tattoo. How did you manage to handle all those spiders?”
Her hands were on his shoulders, her face beside his.
Fists closing, his fingers squeezed so tightly together that he winced at the pain, Grimm tried a little smile.
“Yes, it wasn’t at all pleasant. I don’t know why someone would have that done.”
He ventured another glance down at the photograph, the line of spiders running up the dead woman’s spine, and shuddered.
Vivien moved away so suddenly that Grimm felt cast adrift, the smell of her perfume still filling his nostrils. She did not sit down again, but rather wandered around his office, following the path her eyes had upon entering. Her actions were too fluid, too impulsive.
This had the potential for disaster.
“Stephanie was there to assist. She ‘handled’ those spiders, as you put it.” He turned his chair around to watch her move about the room. “And nothing here has changed since this afternoon, Vivien. You don’t need to skulk about like that.”
When she looked over at him, he held his breath.
“Something feels different. I don’t know what yet.”
He let it out again, out of relief or exasperation, even he did not know.
“What is different is that you are inappropriately inebriated, and I am unusually annoyed by your presence, so if you don’t mind....” He met her eyes for a moment, then glanced back at his work. Which was the barrier? Her, or the work? Each a barrier to the other.
She had stopped as he spoke, watching him with wide eyes that betrayed nothing. She was becoming sober, his company the equivalent of a splash of cold water.
Not a particularly charming role to play in her life.
“Would you like me to leave, then?”
Her voice had sharpened, each syllable slicing through the air. That familiar look appeared in her eyes, unnaturally fierce.
Grimm felt a twinge at the corner of his mouth.
She did nothing at first, eyes the only part of her displaying any emotion. It was her hands that he watched, not her face. That expression did little to irk him these days, but her weakness was in her hands, how she positioned them, how she held them, and right now, they were open, not quite relaxed, but without her veins popping out.
So he went back to his work, placing the photograph of the victim’s tattoo back in the file, hopefully never to be seen by his eyes again.
He was partway through the conclusion of his report when she finally shook herself out of that post-inebriated fury, once more taking a seat.
“I don’t know how you do it, Grimm.”
Her voice was low and quiet. He heard her cross her legs, adjusting herself on the chair.
“It only ever works on you.”
He knew that she would smile, but not laugh. She never laughed.
“It’s the problem with knowing someone too well, wouldn’t you agree?” he added, looking back to return her smile. “I daresay that you could do the same with me.”
She tilted her head sideways.
“I suppose so.”
They both fell into silence while he finished the last few lines with a flourish, setting the entirety into a neat pile for his assistant to collect and enter into a computer. Stephanie, poor girl, would stare up at him with her grey eyes, gently flecked with brown, unable to conceal her admiration, knowing that her plight was a hopeless one.
He smiled again at Vivien, mentally setting all case-work aside. He noticed too late that his hand was gripping the arm of his chair.
“Are you alright, Grimm? You seem a bit off tonight.”
Blinking, he checked his watch. Yes, tonight was correct. Almost morning, in fact.
He looked at her in that dress with her hair piled on top of her head, dark kohl accentuating her eyes, dark and fathomless, her feet strapped into slightly dusty sandals, and he wondered what would happen next.
“You see? You’re even more rude than usual. It’s one thing to call me out on my fractured state of mind, but quite another to continue ignoring me even after I’ve sobered up.” She stared at him through critical eyes, taking in each inconsistency in his appearance.
This wasn’t something entirely new, though. She should have known that.
“I was thinking about going for some fish and chips. It should be as good as meal as any,” she continued to watch him, though her voice was light. “What do you think?” She stood up, pushing the chair back into place.
Next moment, she had their coats in her hands, holding out his
“Come on, Grimm. You probably haven’t eaten since lunch.”
He let out another held breath, then took his coat, careful not to touch her hand. “Not even that. Though you’re not any different in that respect.”
“When I’m on a case, of course.” She opened up her coat and stared at it, as though the mortuary air had damaged it. “There’s no time for food when there’s a criminal to catch.”
“You sound like you’ve been watching those crime dramas again.” He put on his coat, fingers fumbling with the buttons. “What was it this time? Morse or are you again addicted to Prime Suspect?”
The bracelets on her arm were obstruction the simple action of putting on her coat.
“I feel a bit of an affinity with Jane Tennison, that’s all.”
She tried again, but the bracelets clanged in protest.
Grimm stepped forward. “Here.”
With a frown, she handed him her coat, extending her arms backwards in an exaggerated movement. He slipped it onto those arms, his hands later resting on her shoulders for a moment too long, but she did not pull away, as he expected. She was too busy working on the zipper. Perhaps the zipper had rusted or otherwise stuck, it being a coat she hardly ever wore. It made her look shorter, more... no, that couldn’t be the correct word. Not vulnerable. Not Vivien.
His hands loosened their hold, and she stepped away without looking back.
“There might be just enough pieces left if we hurry.”
Grimm followed. There was nothing else he could do.
Not long after, they were perched on a park bench that needed a good scrubbing. It had the unfortunate distinction of being under a tree that was popular with the local population of birds. There were other benches, but none with so perfect a view of the horizon, the city lights reflecting off the clouds to create a pink haze that never dissolved to blackness.
“A little overdone,” was his complaint of the meal. Not to mention greasy, but that was just how Vivien liked it.
“You should have written faster.” She took another crunching bite.
He set down his paper, still half-full.
“It’s getting late.”
She made an indistinct sound, still staring out into the distance.
“I heard you.”
Crumbling the paper in her hands, she rose, her eyes never leaving the horizon.
Grimm took the paper from her hands, walking down the hill toward the rubbish bin. She followed, though with a stubborn reluctance, arms crossed and jaw set.
“You have that meeting in the morning with the Chief Superintendent.”
“I was trying not to remember, thank you very much,” she called back through the night.
The paper tossed into its proper place, he rubbed his hands on his coat, the grease unpleasantly slimy on his skin. Already his stomach was churning under the stress of that overdone, over-oily dinner. Not what he would have planned for a–
“Now this is just the kind of date I’d wanted. I can’t believe I hadn’t thought of it before”
She came up beside him, hands in her pockets.
“A date?” He raised an eyebrow. “Don’t be so surprised about your bad luck if you take everyone out for fish and chips.”
Her answering glare was well worth the effort. It had been a mistake to remind her of that meeting even though the man himself had entered his office, explicitly telling him to remind Vivien.
Perfect. Just perfect. To know that the Chief Superintendent was aware of the extent of their friendship. It would not be difficult to leap to the next conclusion that he and Vivien were already sleeping together.
Already. Now who was leaping to conclusions?
Mind off somewhere in the distance, perhaps chasing that horizon, he was going to start walking away, but she stepped closer to him, her hand reaching out to touch his cheek.
“As good a date as either of us could ever have.”
Her thumb traced the line of his jaw.
“Even with the horrible food?”
She smiled again her strange half-smile.
“I rather liked it.”
Her thumb stopped on his lips.
Any thought of speech exited his consciousness. He held is breath, waiting, wondering.
“Grimm...no.... Arthur, you never answered my question. Do I look damaged?.”
She removed her hand; it dropped to her side, leaving him desultory, lost in the darkness around them. Her question didn’t help his state of mind, tossing him into memory, the things he’d seen her do when she thought no one was watching, her odd reactions to certain crimes, her relentless drive to solve all the cases that passed over her desk.
Each thing was a clue, but in what?
“Your silence is ominous.”
She had moved a few steps away, and he could just make out the shape of her face in the dim light from the faraway lamps. Although she made herself sound sarcastic, he could not believe in it.
“What I am trying to understand is why you think yourself damaged in the first place.”
Her face disappeared, but he did not hear footsteps. Grimm waited for her reply, unsure whether she had actually abandoned him, her feet too quiet on the thick lawn.
“I’m still here.” She was a fair distance away, her voice hollow, and the next moment, she returned, hand on his arm.
“I need a case.” The hollowness was turning to desperation. “Something to keep me from making a fool of myself. Look at me.” She pulled herself closer to him, hand gripping his arm. “I need something.”
Grimm looked into her face. He could not put a name to what he felt; it was all too complicated, as much as the expressions on her face, so varied and contradictory. But in the end, he could only pull away from her painful grip.
He could no longer see her face and that was good.
“I am not what you want, Vivien. Not now when you–”
There was no time to react. She moved without sound at such a speed, her hands taking his, her lips searching for his, but landing instead on his cheek, then his chin. He didn’t move, he couldn’t, then wouldn’t, then shouldn’t. He had thought about it for so long, the moment the gap between them, always narrow, would finally be bridged, but to happen now, when she was no more than desperate and bored, and he was uncertain and unable to resist?
“For once, you’re wrong,” she whispered against his face, the smell of their meal on her breath stunning his nose, then she found his mouth.
So there they were, in the dark, of a park, by a rubbish bin. He did not want this to be happening (only at the present moment). She wanted it, but not for the right reasons. The blackness around them swallowed these fears, these trepidations, and Grimm could not pull away, he could not let it pass him by.
Only when he came to that conclusion, every cell in his body focussed on her, there came the sound of a mobile phone ringing, chipping away at the very foundation of all things.
Vivien answered before he could stop her.
“Winter..... Who is this?.... Oh, the new one, I see. Now what is it?.... Okay, I can be there shortly.... Dr. Grimm?” She glanced over at him, eyebrows raised. “You’ll learn soon enough that he hates them.... I’ll collect him on the way.” She snapped the mobile shut, probably on the sergeant’s reply.
“A case.” She was breathless (still or only just now?), her eyes glittering. “A murder, no less. That’s why they need you. Come on.” She grabbed his hand again, leading him away.
“Vivien.” He followed, but with slow steps as she strained to pull his arm out of its socket. “A moment?”
She stopped and turned and looked back, her fingers loosening, then tightening around his before she moved against him. He could feel her heart pounding with an excitement that could not be experienced with too many cups of coffee or after a first, long-anticipated kiss.
They were under a light now, and he could see her flushed cheeks and feverish eyes, her lips parted slightly.
“Don’t be like this, Grimm.” She touched his cheek with the back of her hand. “It’s not over. I don’t want it to be.” She pulled his face down to hers. “Not yet.”
He repeated her words and saw her frustration, her desire to go.
“Not ever, if you must.” She tossed her head and turned away.
Grimm was left to follow, gazing toward the distant horizon.
I don't want to post these on a fiction site, so they're staying here for now. ;)