Wednesday, 4 April 2018

2.45 All is Well


Another afternoon of work. Tula has been quickly moving up the ranks, finally landing that full time job she wanted so much, along with the drab uniform. Work could not possibly be going any better.  

"Morning, sleepy head," Rafael greets her. 

She keeps her eyes closed. Truth be told, even though her, ahem, side activities haven't properly started yet, her day job is keeping her busy. Piles of paper work to go through every night, hundreds of emails during the day, dozens of phone calls and dinners and lunches and meetings and briefs and thinking. It's the perfect job for her, but she can't deny the months of high energy output are starting to get to her. Just a little bit. 

Added on to the spontaneous and always nightly meetings with Morrigan on recruiting strategy...well, no wonder she's tired.

"Morning," she mumbles back, wanting to rub her eyes but remembering that her eye shadow cannot be smudged. 



By the time their elevator reaches the bottom floor, Tula manages to look more awake. 

"Hope that power nap was energizing enough," Rafael says to her with a smile. 

She doesn't look back, adopting a cool, regal expression, "In politics we don't nap, we close our eyes to strategize." 

"You ever consider business? You sound exactly like every manager I've ever had," Rafael laughs. 

Tula turns and smiles at him, "Mergers? Meetings? CEOs? Just sounds like a smaller scale version of what I do now." 

"Uh huh, sure. Anyways, gotta run. Have a nice day!" Rafael says quickly, dashing to his car pool. Moments later, Tula does the same. 

Another busy day lies ahead of her. 

***



After her shift, Tula is interrupted by the shrill ringing of her phone. She wonders if one of their "important connections" wants to reschedule their next meeting or dinner or whatever with her or her boss. 

"This is Tula Winterly speaking, how may I help you?" she answers. 

"Hey Tula, long time no see," a deep voice says on the other end, "Too busy rigging elections to talk to me anymore?" 



Tula recognizes the voice instantly, "William? Hey, you're right, it has been a long time. What's up?" 

"I just got a promotion and want to celebrate. Want to go to the Brightmore with me in about an hour?" 

"Hmmm, let me check my schedule," she pretends to go through her phone's calendar for a while, "I should be free. In an hour, right? I'll see you there." 



It was a mad dash home for her nicer clothes and some overnight things, but Tula makes it only minutes late. 



William doesn't seem to mind. 



"I normally don't do...fancy, but I figured with all the money I can rake in now, might as well, right?" William jokes nervously. Was that a dumb thing to say? He glances at Tula, her expression unreadable. 

That was probably a dumb thing to say, he chastises himself. 



Tula notices that he's being pulled into his own thoughts. She smiles flirtatiously at him, stroking his shoulder. 

"There are a lot of ways to celebrate..." 



Somehow, they manage to pull their clothes the right way around by the time they reach the next floor. 



William struts happily into the dizzyingly green bar. He just can't believe his turn of luck; a bonus payment, promotion, and even a commendation? 

"What was this promotion even for?" Tula asks as they walk towards the bar.

He feels on top of the world tonight and happily divulges, "Nothing huge. Just helped clean up some spill over from Bridgeport into some small town super far away. You ever heard of Appaloosa Plains?" 

Tula shakes her head, "Apple Loose?" 

William laughs, "Something like that. Crime here is going down. I guess because it's all spilling over elsewhere. Terrorizing people here just got boring, I guess. We're all too used to it. It's awful what this city can do to people..." he trails off and scratches the back of his neck. 





Tula is about to ask another question when suddenly, William bolts. 

"All these people...I can't," he calls out, practically sprinting out the door. There's only so many people at once that he can stand. 

"Wait for me!" Tula calls out from the bar. She manages to speed-walk her way to the elevator, careful not to trip in her heels. 



She's very understanding of his social anxiety. 

"There's a lot more we can do here anyways," she says in a husky voice. She nips his ear teasingly. She'll have to wait to press about whatever he did in her hometown. 



***



All is well in the world. 



Tula wakes up groggily well into the afternoon. Good thing it's Saturday. 

"William?" she calls out. 

"In here," comes his reply from behind the bathroom door. "Getting all wet and warm for you..." 

Tula giggles, choosing not to answer. She glances at the bedside table on William's side and sees his phone laying on it. 



Her curiosity gets the better of her and she quickly swipes it. 

"Ugh, so many missed calls from the office," she groans to the door. 

"I'm sure they can survive without you for one day," William replies, the end of his sentence cut off by a yawn. 

Tula takes as many photos with her own phone as she can. Can't have William tracing sent messages from his own phone now can she?



"You'd think so, but you'd swear the office would fall a part without me there from their messages," Tula sighs. She types numbers and names into her own contact list. She finally goes to her bag and pulls out one of the other things she brought with her here; a GPS tracker, a gracious gift from the Organization from her last meeting. It's much easier to gather data on recruits when you can know where they are. She slips the device into the SIM card slot and closes it. 

Knowing where Bridgeport's finest are will surely give her peace of mind. 




William gets out of the bathroom and lets Tula have her turn. When she gets out, however, she finds a text on her phone saying he's gone upstairs to work out. She makes herself a very late lunch and mulls over what to do next. 



Tula takes a good look around the house while William is pumping iron. She can assume that Romeo isn't home, or at least not in his room, if William is using it to exercise. 

Romeo is also several positions above William in the police force. Maybe she made a mistake in bugging William's phone instead of Romeo's. William's phone is now with him upstairs, so she can't do anything about that, but maybe Romeo brings home case files... 



She glances outside and sees Romeo fast asleep on a lounge chair. 

His phone is nowhere in sight. 



Acting quickly, she searches for his device. It's sitting innocuously on the kitchen counter. 




Like William's phone, there is a PIN. 



Also like William's phone, the code is broken easily enough. You wouldn't think the "finger print smudges" over four spots on the phone's screen would work in this day and age, but it seems people don't change too much. 

There's not much on Romeo's cell phone- chat logs on some dating apps, very normal photos of beaches and clubs on his camera roll, some co-workers' phone numbers. 

And then there's the emails. A small string of them. The Hemlock case. 

Morrigan's last name is Hemlock. 



As Tula reads on, she realizes she and her boss will need to move quickly. 





And so, in the dead of night, Tula makes her way home. Once safely in the apartment, she makes a phone call. 

"Morrigan? BPD knows where we work. We need to move, and we need to move now."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
AN: 

Boooo, ironic title. Booo, cheap cliffhanger. Booo, cheap plot devices. 

I've just gotta say, William is so difficult to stage scenes with because as soon as there are people around that he doesn't know, he runs away. Seriously. That might be how some of us loners feel on the inside, but to actually do it... No wonder Tula's bosses could never approach him! 



Tuesday, 6 February 2018

2.44 The Club


If Tula were to recount this day, she would have said it was just like any other. She got up, had breakfast, chatted with Rafael, and then had a completely ordinary shift counting ballots at town hall. Her co-worker Jeffery then gave her a lift home and drove off once she was safely in front of her apartment building. 




It was all perfectly routine until she found herself drawn to a woman standing just on the edge of the apartment complex. Her glowing eyes indicate vampirism, but there's nothing else overtly remarkable about her. This is why when Tula's body fills with cold fear, she doesn't run, but is confused. Nothing has ever made her feel scared before. 



"Yes, come closer dear," the woman says with a frighteningly wide smile. Her huge eyes are roaming and unfocused, flitting about and never quite making eye contact. 

"Look, if you want money, I don't have any-," 

The woman cuts her off with an unhinged laugh. If the situation weren't so bizarre, Tula might think the woman is doing her best impression of a cartoon villain. 

"Money? I have far more than enough of that. No, no, little bird, that's not what I'm after." 

"...little bird?" 

"A parrot, of course! You may not share the same plumage, but you know the saying; "Birds of a feather". Though when Pablo told me of his little, unassuming niece, I didn't expect you to really be this dull." 

It finally dawns on Tula who this woman is, "You must be from the organisation Beau used to work for." 

The woman's face contorts with rage, "Merrick! That lying little scoundrel! Should've gutted him when I had the chance. But he's clever! Got away, made some deals..." her fingers twitch by her sides. 

"You met my uncle?" Tula changes the subject, "I didn't know his organisation was related to yours." 



The woman tsks, "You didn't do any research on the family business? I was told that you're smart. Parrots, always tricky! Can never tell when they really know something or when they're just repeating what they're told. No matter! Come now, little bird, we must go to your new...perch." She takes Tula by the wrist and roughly tugs her along. Tula knows this woman could snap her arm like a twig if she wanted, but she isn't using her full strength. Tula manages to dig in her heels and slow them down.



"What? Where are we going?" 

 "Ask too many questions and you'll be riding in the trunk!" the woman snaps. Before Tula can say anything else, the woman's fingers are on Tula's shoulder, pressing down with inhuman strength. A sharp jolt of pain passes through her body before she falls, completely limp.




When she regains consciousness, a blindfold is roughly ripped off her face. Tula blinks, disoriented, as she takes in her surroundings. A plain, grey garage greets her. There is no furniture except for a heavy, metal table and some dingy patio chairs. Instinctively, Tula looks for the nearest exit, only to see a firmly locked garage car door. 

"Finally awake! Ready to sing me a tune?" the vampire woman greets her. 





Tula glances behind her and sees a man, also with glowing eyes. Another vampire. 




"Oh, don't pay any attention to Michael," the woman says, redirecting Tula's attention, "He's just...hired help. I could take care of any foolish attempts at exiting this conversation, but Michael's way is... neater." 





Tula meets the woman's eyes, unflinching and unafraid. It obviously disturbs her to have her authority challenged, and she raises an eyebrow. Young humans are normally easily cowed! All of her previous recruits were shaking in their boots by now, bargaining with her and begging her for their lives! She pouts. She rather likes that part. 

"There won't be any need for that. Just tell me what you want," Tula replies calmly. 


"Well, I could tell you, but there's a much easier way." She nods to Michael. 




Before Tula has any idea what's happening, Michael has already lifted her to her feet locked in a crushing embrace. His jacket is dripping wet with rain and the cold causes Tula to shiver. 




To any outsider, this might just look like an intimate moment. Michael's nose is almost touching Tula's, his hands are cradling her face. He looks almost loving in his touch, his fingers seeming to caress instead of crush. 

But Tula is paralysed. She pushes Michael's arm with her right hand ineffectually, trying to escape the hot burrowing pain in her skull. 

Stop fighting, a male voice fills her head, you're making this much harder than it needs to be. 

Tula doesn't respond, desperately trying to find a way to flee. There must be a way out from this. 



The woman's eyes go wide with astonishment when Tula screams and her eyes fly open. Michael is obviously bewildered, his balance being compromised enough that Tula is able to push him away from her. 

"What the hell was that!?" Tula's question is one of pure surprise, her expression dazed but not fearful. The woman frowns; why can't this woman be terrified? It's not like she's making it hard! The nerve. 

"Michael, take care of this!" the woman has no patience to speak verbally. 




Michael quickly regains his wits. In a flash he's on Tula's other side. He instantaneously exploits their eye contact, a blinding light emanating from his eyes and soon emitting from Tula's as well. 



This is far less painful but more invasive and numbing than whatever he was doing earlier. Tula can't even think as he probes her mind, finding the information he wants. 



Only moments later, Tula is released. 

"She's clean," Michael informs the woman. 



"Good. Excellent work, Michael."



Michael allows himself to bask in his employer's praise. He's the very best at what he does. Why else would he have been hired by this organisation? He's particularly proud of this one, it seems. Her mind was difficult to infiltrate- moreso than the average human's- but in the end he extracted what was needed. 




Tula mentally quickly regains her composure, but gracelessly tumbles into her chair. Noticing the woman's unbridled glee at her demeanor finally giving away, Tula decides to play into it. She hunkers down, her gaze meek and hesitant. The woman smiles. 




"I'm glad to see Michael's gentle touch hasn't made you too flighty," the woman says, smirking at Michael. "Well, was that little weasel Merrick right? Will she bring more volunteers for our... unique needs?" she telepaths to Michael. 


"Yes. If she puts in the necessary effort, she shouldn't have much trouble helping us," Michael replies. His tone seems unimpressed; after all, he's seen many gifted con artists in his time here. 

"You need to watch her carefully. She can be as deceitful as she is charming," he adds, frowning as he thinks of her ability to escape his telepathy. In his personal opinion, this alone makes her too dangerous to hire, but he knows Morrigan is in need of Tula's services. She wouldn't listen to his stronger reservations. He's surprised that she listens to him at all. 

"W-what do you want?" Tula makes her voice quiver. Glancing between them, she wonders why they're staring at each other so intensely. 




The woman's eyes snap to Tula's, who immediately looks away. Her smirk becomes wicked in its intensity. 

"Your help, of course. You're good at what you do, yes? Convincing others to do what you want?" 





Tula laughs, unable to contain herself, "Convincing? What I do is...more subtle. I don't so much persuade people as I do...make them realize that all along what they wanted was what I want." 





Morrigan's eyes droop, clearly disappointed. The fear on Tula's face dissipated far too quickly.

"I see. Well, your talent has not gone unnoticed. Work for us and we won't drain you dry of every single drop of plasma in your veins. Once we can trust you not to mess up your tasks, you'll the find the monetary award quite a bit higher than your ballot counting."



She looks at Michael, now looking bored, "Well, is there anything else for this meeting?"

"The initiation ritual," he patiently reminds her.

Her eyes light up, "That's right! There's a little custom we have here for... new members of our little family."

Tula raises an eyebrow. Another test?



Michael pulls her roughly out of her chair, standing her up in front of Morrigan. 

"It's been a while since I've fed from a bird..." 



Before Tula can react, Morrigan's fangs are deep in her neck. The pain is not as bad as she expected, but the sensation of her blood being sucked out is definitely uncomfortable. She reflexively pulls at Morrigan's arm, but her grip is solid and unflappable. 



Morrigan pulls away, smirking and grinning triumphantly. 

"Welcome to the club."