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Living Strange

Chapter Text

By the time all was said, done and most importantly documented, they had been at the duplex for almost three hours before Kate and O'Rourke were permitted to leave. Several fingerprints had been found, the size consistent with a woman, and they were being run in hopes of a positive identification. The bloody footprints being the same size weren't firm enough – there were literally millions of women living in New York, and hundreds of thousands of them would wear a size six shoe.

The body was confirmed as Ryan Cline. His death hadn't been quick, and likely not quiet. She wondered how many of the neighbors had heard and not called anyone, or only thumped on walls and shouted to keep the racket down. If he might still be alive if someone had called. If it had been the first time there had been screams and shouts.

Kate doubted it had been the first time. But it had become the last time for Cline.

Sometimes she wonders why she tried to save people. So many of them weren't worth it.

Kate shakes her head, not wanting to sink into that sort of sucking despair. It's like quicksand, pulling you in deeper and deeper until nothing helps, not good food, not friends, nothing. You just give up, and either die or become part of the problem. Kate doesn't want to be part of the problem. Not the human problems and certainly not the supernatural ones.

She gets a mocha on the way to their next stop. The drink is a third gone before Kate even realizes.

Several of the cops are worried about a new gang in the area. Buildings have been tagged with new graffiti, strange squarish shapes with complicated things inside, painted in yellow, green, red and blue. In other places, the shapes are done in black or white to show up over layers of older graffiti. The theory going around was the color wasn't the important part here, but the shapes.

Shapes that seemed familiar. Except Kate couldn't place them as she stared at the graffiti covered wall. It was only later that she used a pencil to sketch the five different shapes along a napkin that it clicked. Pictures from South America, showing old stone ruins and walls. Or on some of the museum displays about South America.

Combined with the theft of that obsidian knife, it gave Kate a bad feeling. A very, very bad feeling indeed.



A young Fyarl demon straightened his shoulders before marching into what had been a small park with a pair of trees and a little fountain. There had been an open area not even as big as one of the apartment buildings, with a sad little fire ring and a lopsided picnic table, easy to see across even in the darkest night. Now, it was no longer possible to see across the space due to the thick grouping of massive trees, hung with vines and strange flowers. Narrow pathways hinted at use, and he could hear the sounds of unfamiliar birds and something else.

The boring yard had become unfamiliar territory. Unfamiliar could mean dangerous, or at least interesting. There might be a way to prove himself, something to use to impress the girls. What hot-blooded young male didn't want to impress the girls? Well, he thought he remembered one of the elders muttering something about some type of demon or other that didn't have boys or girls, just all of them somewhere in between, but he didn't pay much attention to that. Whatever those were, they weren't like him, and he didn't think they lived here, so why did it matter?

Fy'Saterakath entered the trees boldly. In what felt like only a few steps, he could no longer hear the sounds of the city behind him. In a few more, he couldn't see the buildings between the trees any longer. He would deny the hard swallow and fluttering tension in his stomach.

This shouldn't be possible in the city. These trees shouldn't be here, the huge flowers shouldn't be here. He'd seen strange lizards and a monkey and what he'd thought was a stick that proved to be a big mantis and what he'd thought was a clump of leaves that proved to be a spider as wide as his spread hand. None of this should fit inside the sad yard with the lopsided table.

If he survived, Fy'Saterakath would admit to being afraid when he found the wide, brown river. The river with the water snake longer than he could clearly see with a head almost as long as his forearm. A snake that seemed to find him of particular interest…

That was a big snake.

If he lived, this would definitely be something to boast about!

End part 16.

Kate closed the notebook she'd jotted down the details of the stolen regalia in, and sighed. She'd been trying to compare the stolen artifacts to the information she'd found about Aztec priestly regalia, in hopes of getting some idea what to watch out for happening. It hadn't helped, but had instead given her a whole list of unpleasant things Aztecs had done to each other and captured enemies.

It didn't help that her information was limited. Historians and archeologists had a few examples of what the Aztec priests had worn, but nowhere near enough to be sure if it made a difference if the feathers were blue or yellow, if the cords used were white or red or black. Maybe it meant this priest had followed this god, or had been from that town, maybe it just meant there had been a good price on red dye, or he liked that color better. The symbols adorning the outfit were significant, though whether that meant by occasion, temple, or personal history Kate couldn't say. She didn't even know if the experts might be able to give more details, because she couldn't ask them with only the justification of an odd theft and some weird dreams.

Though the glyphs spray painted through town made her more certain something weird was going on, she still didn't feel like it was enough to talk to the historians. And the dream about the painted priest asking or the next vampire bothered her. She thought he'd been in her dreams again, though she wasn't sure once she'd woke up – just an impression of painted skin and someone out of context. The memories of what she'd dreamed slipped away, leaving only the vague impression they had been strange and vivid and not to trust vines. And she wanted another mocha.

One of the cops going off shift was talking, and when he mentioned finding a giant snake head in the middle of a street, it caught her attention. Apparently the snake head had been in the middle of the southbound lane until a yellow economy car hit it going forty in a twenty five zone. Economy car had ended up on its side blocking both lanes and having rebounded off a parked truck. The economy car's driver had been taken to the hospital, and as they'd been inspecting the scene they'd found the snake head. A head measuring nineteen inches in length, with enormous teeth and a tongue nearly three feet long. A giant snake head which looked to have been torn from the rest of the snake – and where was the rest of the snake? How in the name of everything did a snake get that big without people having screaming fits? The on-site police had been in contact with a herpetologist who'd declared the head as belonging to a constrictor type, likely a green anaconda, which meant the snake was non-venomous.

There was still considerable concern over the current location of the rest of the snake, and if it had been alone. Also, what had killed it? What did a snake that size eat and where had it been finding meals? And multiple people were having fits about the sheer size of the head.

Someone else had run into the two headed poodle. They'd had to get fourteen stitches and a rabies shot, and were still complaining. Apparently it was now dyed cotton candy pink, with white bows around each neck and the tail. Unless there was more than one two headed poodle in New York…

Kate hadn't even managed to open the coroner's report on the death of Ryan Cline. She knew it had been messy, but felt no desire to know the gruesome specifics. Just as she was about to open the file, O'Rourke told her they had a report of a body, and to just leave the paperwork for other cases on the desk.

Tashir met them at the car, his face grim and pale. Kate wasn't quite sure he was actually making contact with the ground, or however much contact a ghost who didn't realize he was a ghost could make. "There are ugly rumors. Homeless people disappearing, parks becoming vast patches of wilderness, and a green giant with a broken horn babbling about wrestling with a giant snake. Basements infested with tarantulas. Blue and yellow tropical birds flying about, and in one case a scarlet bird the size of a hawk carrying away a teacup terrier. Those glyphs are spreading. I don't like any of it."

"Ahh… did you hear about the giant snake head causing a traffic accident earlier?" O'Rourke asked. "I thought snakes didn't really get that big."

"Ordinary snakes aren't supposed to," Tashir agreed, his words soft and that hint of accent stronger. "There are things in motion which are far from ordinary. I don't know what's happening, but… I feel it shifting, like a boat moving on the waves."

"I'm afraid it will get worse before it's over." Kate was surprised to have spoken, but not at what she'd said. Tashir had just summed up somthing she'd been feeling for a while, and unable to put into words.

It did. The call had been from a hysterical student at a high school, showing up to meet one of the teachers for a study session. There had been a body, and a lot of blood, and the boy was almost incoherent. But he was definitely sure someone was very dead in there, and he wasn't going back inside and he didn't want to be alone there.

"Meeting a teacher alone for some sort of tutoring at eight o'clock? Sounds off to me," Tashir murmured. "Do we know who the body is?"
"No, it was apparently a messy scene," O'Rourke answered.

Messy didn't describe things with any justice.

The man had been stripped naked and tied face upwards across three desks. He had then been flayed, with even the fingers and toes, the ears completely gone, even his eyelids removed. Blood had sprayed everywhere. Whoever had done so had known what they were doing, and had flayed the dead man with such precision his eyeballs – bloodshot hazel – were undamaged, as were all of his teeth. His killer or killers must have taken the skin with them, as there was no sign of it anywhere in the room. His chest had been opened, and there was a gaping hole. Kate suspected there would be no heart.

"Why were there no footprints?" Kate wasn't quite certain who had asked the question, but there hadn't been any footprints in the room. Some of the blood had flowed under the door, leaving a smear by the doorknob where the student had opened the door before seeing a nightmare. He'd left smears of blood when he'd bolted for a phone to call the police. But there hadn't been any inside the room, not until they'd gone inside after the body.

No footprints from the killer or killers. No skin from the victim. No clothing from the victim. He was probably the teacher the student had been expecting to meet, but they'd have to wait on dental records to verify. No skin meant no fingerprints to check, no clothing meant no identification. And there were many, many men of approximately five foot eight with blood type A positive.

The rest of the night felt like a piece of cake after facing that mess. Some breaking and entry with theft. A few car accidents with nothing worse than a broken arm or the concussion, depending on your reasoning. A fight at a bar, again with property damage and commotion but no serious injuries. They spotted the pink-orange lightning of the Ghostbusters once, about three blocks west of their location, but continued towards the report of trespassing and potential home damage. It turned out someone who may or may not have been a dead brother in law had been standing on the fire escape and had absconded with the window-mounted air conditioner.

Through the whole night, Kate couldn't shake the feeling that things were only going to get stranger, and probably worse. She also thought she needed to talk to someone about Aztec rituals, no matter how awkward it felt.

End part 17.