Hidden Games

Little Drops Of Water, Little Drops Of Sand,
Make The Mighty Ocean And The Pleasant Land.
Thus The Little Minutes, Humble Though They Be,
Make The Mighty Ages Of Eternity.

– Julia Abigail Fletcher Carney

Sometimes she wondered how she got herself into these messes.

Alyce Watson stood outside the police station, long skirt whirling around her legs as she stared up at the massive, imposing building. Despite the bright daylight, despite the heat clogging the air, a shadow seemed to loom over the building. As she made her way up the stairs, a sense of coldness, of nothingness, draped over her shoulders. Her gaze zoned in on the massive doors, content to ignore the many different stares watching her ascent.

Pale hair whirled around her, dancing upon a hot, summer breeze. Brilliant, grey-green eyes were clear and impassive, a silent resolution held within them. She stepped up to the doors, pressing both palms against the massive doors. The opened under her touch, swinging open like some kind of cinematic scene in a movie or game.

On the inside, people paused what they were doing. One man stood from his desk, his eyes wide as seemingly glided into the room. Officers watched, dark gazes following her as she made her way towards the large, imposing man standing in the middle of the room with a stare to turn the hottest of flames to ice. It was this man she stopped in front of, hair cascading around her in pale, curling waves.

“Miss Alyce Watson,” the large man looked down at her, expression unreadable. He held out his hand, face devoid of warmth as she accepted the hand. He squeezed a tad too hard as he said, “I hadn’t expected you to be here until this afternoon. Have you settled into your hotel?”

“I have, yes,” Alyce murmured, voice soft and demure. She cast her gaze over the room, mismatched eyes sweeping over the wide-open space and all the desks crammed into little groups. “I’m sorry I was unable to call ahead and let you know. Have you chosen your man, Chief Balboa?”

He stepped to the side, one hand landing on the small of her back. “I have, yes. His name is Shane. Normally I’d have Sal on the lower blocks with a guest with your specialties, but he’s currently checking a few leads. Shane’s good, though..”

They entered the office at the back. Alyce sat, resting easily on the edge of the seat with her hands folded in front of her. A golden band rested on her left ring finger, glimmering in the cheery sunlight spilling through the window. The Chief’s gaze fell on it, a hint of surprise in his eyes as he said, “I hadn’t thought you were married, Miss Watson. Can I get you something to drink?”

“Water, please,” Alyce allowed her body to relax, to feel the shifts in the air as the police force went back to work. Chief Balboa vanished from view for a time and, when he returned, he came with two cups in hand – one was steaming and smelled of coffee, the other cold and without flavor. She accepted her drink with a smile. “Thank you, Chief Balboa. Is everything ready for my meeting with Jimenez?”

The Chief of the Police hesitated for a moment. “Yes, Miss Watson, everything is ready.”

Alyce studied this man for a moment, gaze darting between his eyes to the tired, dark shadows clinging to his worn features. His shoulders were slumped, his body almost rolling forward as if some heavy weight was pulling him down. Alyce rose to her feet, idly smoothing out the loose fabric of her skirt.

“Shall we begin?”

“That we shall,” Chief Balboa stood, downing his coffee in one swing. As he threw open the doors to the main part of the station, his voice echoed loud and hard. “Shane, get up and get ready to move!”

Not even a minute passed before a young man came running up, a prominent scowl on his face. He stopped just before them, chest rising and falling rapidly. Alyce wondered where he had been if he was so out of breath. Shane, however, rolled his shoulders back and said, “Ready for duty, sir. What’s my job?”

“You’re to take Miss Watson here down to B5 to see Jimenez,” Shane’s eyes widened as the words left his boss’s mouth before his gaze swung to her. Alyce met his stare without flinching. At her side, Chief Balboa continued, “You are to remain in the room with her at all times. Do not interfere unless she signals you to. Now go.”

Shane turned and left, Alyce on his heels. As they were making their way through the building towards the back where the stairwell and elevators resided, she asked, “Is there anything I need to know before going down?”

“He’s unpredictable,” Shane walked ahead of her, white button-down tucked into a pair of black slacks. His police coat was tossed over one shoulder, suspenders and guns on full display. He looked over his shoulder as he said, “Miss Watson, there are a few things you need to keep in mind. Jimenez isn’t a stable man. He’s dangerous. Frankly, I’d say you should keep your distance -”

“It’s Alyce,” Officer Shane paused, frowning. She hugged her middle, cold as she stood in the center of the long, brightly lit hallway. Alyce held this officer’s gaze, silent until he turned to face her fully, and then she said, “My name, Officer Shane. It’s Alyce.”

“Alright, then,” neither said anything for a moment, a veil of uneasy silence spilling over the two of them before he shook his head. Officer Shane’s lips pressed into a tight line before he said, “I’ll be honest. I don’t agree with the Chief’s decision to let you speak to Jimenez. The man’s violent, he’s a rapist and a murderer. Frankly, I can’t wrap my head around the reason why he’ll let you in the same room as that man.”

“Chief Balboa knows I’ll be fine,” Alyce made a gesture for him to continue. Officer Shane resumed his task of leading her through the precinct, light spilling through the open windows. She heard the distant ring of telephones ringing. “What should I expect when we’re in there with Jimenez?”

“He’s vulgar,” Officer Shane opened a door, holding it open for her to pass through. He took a ‘Visitor’ badge off one of the many hangers lining the wall, handing it over to her as he continued, “The man has a mouth worse than the drunkest of sailors. He’s known for his advances on women, so much so that none of the female officers are allowed in the room without two other armed officers as backup.”

He was quiet for a time, after that. His brow was furrowed, dark bags making his clear, blue irises stand out. As they made their way through another doorway, Officer Shane said, “He’ll try to get you to play one of his games. Don’t get roped into it.”

“Why?”

“The last woman that got involved in a game of his was raped,” Alyce felt a chill crawl along her spine at that. Her voice was low as she said, “So if he wants to play, say no.”

“Aren’t you afraid, Miss Watson?”

“Alyce,” she corrected him as they passed through another door. They stepped into jail, men and women lounging around on their benches. A few watched them as they passed, grim expressions lingering in her thoughts as they reached the end of the pathway. An elevator waited there, doors already open. “My name is Alyce, Officer Shane. I’m not all that fond of my last name. Too many people think of John Watson when they hear it.”

“And that’s a bad thing?”

“People often wonder if I’ll be as good as he was while completely disregarding the fact my skill set is of a different nature.” It was the truth, too. Alyce folded her hands behind her back as the elevator doors closed, Officer Shane’s light snort echoing through the room before he said in response, “You can say that again.”

She didn’t deem his response worthy of an answer. The trip to the lower levels went by in silence, neither speaking as he opened the doors and lead the way out into an open room. There were several doors scattered around. They went through one on the right, stepping into a long, dark hallway.

They were making their way down a flight of stairs when he continued, “I’m not sure if I believe it, myself. We’ll all see if you’re the real deal or not soon enough, eh?”

“That we will,” Alyce let her hand graze the railing, the cold metal biting into her skin as they went further down into the darkness of the precinct. Images rose and shifted around her, thousands of feet stomping down the stairs in uniform rising to the forefront of her mind. She let her hand fall to her side, idly stroking the golden band on her left ring finger as she said, “We’ll see soon enough if your suspect is the one you’re actually looking for or the wrong one altogether.”

Shane shot her a level stare, a hint of disapproval in his gaze. Alyce raised an eyebrow, voice even as she said, “That is why I’m here, Officer. How much further?”

It wasn’t far at all. They made it down to the last level, the cells looking more like they belonged to an isolation ward. They stopped halfway through, Shane opening the door to an empty room with a table in the middle. Cameras rested in the corners, all pointed at the table with one against the back wall, right over a second door, watching them.

“Take a seat,” Officer Shane was making his way across the room, towards the door. She took a seat, hands folded in her lap. Each camera she saw had a red light on them. Alyce closed her eyes, fingers ghosting over the cold band of metal resting on her finger. She felt Officer Shane’s gaze on her before he said, “Keep your wits about yourself. He can be unpredictable. Are you ready?”

Alyce inclined her head to say she was, indeed, ready. She heard the door open, Shane’s voice carrying as he said, “Come on, Jimenez. You have a guest.”

She could hear two sets of footsteps making their way towards her. She heard the sound of a chair gliding across the floor, the way the seat groaned as weigh settled into it. Alyce drew in a breath, scents coming to her – unwashed skin, old cologne, something sterile and utterly out of place, rancid breath – like phantoms creeping upon the unaware. She opened her arms, her hands settling on the table.

The golden band caught the light. Jimenez met her gaze without so much as glancing at the expensive golden band. He grinned, instead. His elbows rested on the table, fingers laced together as his gaze swept over her face. After a moment, he said, “You’re rather young to be looking into a murder, aren’t you?”

“You’re rather young to murder someone, are you not?”

He laughed outright at her words, his smile spreading as he said, “I may be young, lass, but age has nothing to do with getting blood on our hands.”

“I’m sure it doesn’t,” Alyce ran her hand through her hair, the pale strands gliding between her fingers. She brushed them over her shoulder, head tilted to the side as she said, “You have plenty of experience with that, don’t you?”

“Oh, that I do,” Jimenez leaned forward, palms flat on the table. His gaze dropped from her face to her neck to her chest. His gaze lingered their for a moment before slowly making its way back to hers, a darkness in his eyes as he said, “Though I prefer having blood on my cock than my hands, little girl. The feel of a lass’s tight, wet cunt drives me into madness in such a way that not even Hell could burn that sensation away.”

Alyce smiled, a touch of ice in her eyes. He seemed taken aback, sitting upright. Then his eyes narrowed, his gaze shifting to her hand as he said, “How does your husband fuck you, lass? Face in the bed, ass in the air? On your back, thighs pressed to your chest? Or maybe you ride him, begging him to slam you harder onto his limp, weeping prick?”

“You’re a rather vulgar man, aren’t you?” Alyce kept her gaze on him even as she heard a low growl-like sound escape the cop behind her. She felt his hand on her shoulder, the grip a tad tight. She held Jimenez’s gaze as she asked, “Mateo, isn’t it? You’re not from this country. Overseas, somewhere cold and harsh with little food to be had.”

Jimenez’s scowl was more pronounced. “Shut the fuck up.”

Alyce smiled, voice low as she said, “You didn’t get much to eat, did you Mateo? Your family was poor, your father dead. How did you keep warm at night when the ceiling was broken and ice-cold water dripped from the stones?”

“Shut the fuck up!” Jimenez snapped to his feet like a springboard snapped, eyes hard and teeth bared. He lashed out, the table flying and smashing into the wall. Alyce stayed where she was, legs crossed as he advanced. “You cunt! Who the fuck do you think you are, talking to me like that? I’ll fuck you up, girly! I’ll spread you open and make you bleed. I’ll plant a seed so deep inside of you no doctor will ever be able to get rid of it!”

“I’m sure you could,” Alyce folded her arms across her stomach, Shane’s hands tense on either side of her. She could feel the cop directly behind her, feel his jaws grinding as Jimenez raged and screamed. She didn’t look at him, a sense of calm spreading through her body as she said, “You could, Mateo. You’re obviously stronger than me. But we both know you won’t attack me.”

“You fucking cunt,” Jimenez closed the last of the space between them, his hands gripping the head of the seat. His eyes were like two burning coals, hot and angry and so very desperate. They were shining, underneath. Alyce held his gaze as his breath wafted across her face, listened as he spat, “Who the fuck do you think you are, coming here?”

Alyce tilted her head to the side, calm even as his hand dropped to her shoulder. She held his eyes, stared directly into those shimmering orbs, as she murmured, “Tell me about Jezze, Mateo. Tell me about the White Fire Coup.”

Behind her, Shane hadn’t moved. He wanted to, though. Alyce could feel as much, feel it in the air and taste in the energy wafting through the air. He was so very tense, ready to pull out his gun and fire. She tilted her chin up, glancing at the cop as she said, “You can relax, Officer Shane. I’m not in any danger.”

When a rough hand grasped her breast, her attention snapped back to the man in front of her. He was grinning, yellow teeth almost white compared to the darkness crossing his features. A spark of pain shot through her when he squeezed, her lips pressing into a thin line as he said, “You know about Jezze, do you? Did that bitch send you here? Did the slut tattle on me? Is that why you’re here? You looking for some answers, you little cunt?”

Alyce drew in a steady breath. She reached up, thin fingers wrapping around his wrist. The golden band glimmered, drawing his gaze a second time. He released her, fingers trailing the underside of her her hand before grazing the band as he said, “How about a game, lass? You seem to be a girl that likes a bit of fun.”

Alyce let him take her hand, his fingers intertwining with hers as he leaned in. His eyes were half-lidded, a look that had once undoubtedly held the power to seduce soft-minded girls into his hold. She held his stare as she said, “I’m not all that fond of games, Mateo.”

“I’ll make it worth your while,” when he tugged on her hand, Alyce stood. Behind her, the chair she sat it skidded across the floor. Shane was at her back, a steady force that cast her slight form in darkness. Jimenez didn’t seem to care the officer was right behind her when he said, “I can make you forget every bad thing that’s ever happened to you. I can take you to Nirvana, make you sing like an angle.”

Alyce stared through her lashes, expression settling into something soft and unassuming. His other hand glided up her side, caressing her waist through her blouse as she stood there. He leaned in, lips almost brushing hers as he whispered, “I’ll make you feel like a real woman, girly. I’ll fuck you so good that you’ll forget there’s any other man in this world other than me. I’ll plow you until you black out, I’ll fuck you until you beget a child worth more than the gold of a god.”

‘And Shane said he was unpredictable,’ Alyce looked him dead in the eye, ring-laden hand lightly caressing his cheek. His gaze never left hers, his breath hot caressing her face. She inhaled the scent of something humid and earthy, like an upturned grave. She smiled, a hint of something cold and unfriendly entering her eyes as she murmured, “Jezze was waiting for you, Mateo. She was sick and bleeding, dumped on a backstreet as naked as a newborn baby. Where were you when she was calling out your name? Where were you when she was rushed into the ER, bleeding out and incoherent?”

He withdrew as if she burned him, eyes wide and feverish and terrified. He backed into the wall, lean frame quaking as if he was on the verge of a seizure. His lips parted but not a sound came out, only muted words as he shook his head. Alyce watched him, a sad smile spreading across her face as the vicious, cold hue of her eyes vanished.

Jimenez stared at her. “What are you talking about?”

“Jezze, Mateo,” Alyce righted the chair that was toppled on the floor. She eyed the broken table, a frown marring her features. She looked back at him as she said, “She didn’t turn you in. Three days ago, she died after a man broke into her home and raped her. As she laid there bleeding, he shot her seven times in the chest and left. She crawled her way into the street, crying and hurt and begging for help.”

She watched as he sank onto the ground, knees to his chest and temple to his knees. She crossed the room so that she stood over him, silent as he shuddered and bit back what she knew to be a sob. She brushed a stray hair behind her ear, voice even as she said, “In the end, Mateo, her death is on your hands. The man who killed her was the husband of a woman you raped and killed. A man who suffered from PTSD.”

His head snapped up, eyes wide and rimmed with unshed tears. She leaned in, voice low and hard as she said, “When she needed you, you were here because you couldn’t control the urges you have and because you never sought out help for injuries inflicted in your childhood. Now your best friend is dead. It’s a shame, really. You could have become a man of power and reputation, someone people respected. Instead…you choose this.”

Alyce turned away, sweeping past Shane as she said, “I’m done here. Let’s go.”

 

She didn’t stop when he started to scream. She did stop when Shane grabbed her shoulder, nails biting through the fabric into her skin as he turned her around. She looked up at this officer, suddenly very tired and not all that ready to start talking. He held her gaze, perhaps seeking something she couldn’t see, and, after a moment, he asked, “What just happened? What was that?”

At the top of the stairs was Chief Balboa.

Alyce looked between the two as she said, “That man isn’t who you’re looking for.”

“Are you certain?”

“I am,” Alyce held her silence until the three of them were in Balboa’s office. She sat in the seat she had been in previously, silently taking the glass of water in shaking hands. She kept her eyes closed as she sipped on the drink, unsure of how she was to start the conversation coming. After a moment, she exhaled slowly and then said, “Mateo is not the killer you are looking for, Chief. This ring I’m wearing, it belonged to one of his last victims. I got it from her mother, after the body was returned.”

She sat the glass on her knee, shoulders slumping and head bowed. There was a low buzzing noise on the edge of her hearing, a deep, drumming echo residing underneath that. Alyce listened closely, trying to see if she could feel anything other than the depth of numbness settling over her body. When she opened her eyes, neither of them were looking at her. She turned, her gaze falling on the man standing in the doorway.

He was looking directly at her. She couldn’t read him. He stepped into the room, his voice calm as he said, “So you are the infamous Alyce Watson, one of the few descendants that still bear John’s blood. It’s surprising to have you here, of all places. Continue.”

“The killer has a keen eye for detail,” Alyce said, eyes closing once again. “Had Mateo been the killer, he would have been enraged I was wearing the ring. It would have been an insult to him, to try and flaunt it like I was Kelly. Mateo only saw it as a way to try and get under my skin.”

“Damn,” Shane sank into his seat, voice light as he added, “So what now? We have a killer on the loose, people are dying and different murders are overlapping.”

“We need to get more forces out. Sal, do you still have your contacts?”

“I’ll call Brett.”

“Chief, did you know Jimenez’s girl was killed?”

“What?”

“He’s doing it on purpose,” Alyce murmured, all eyes falling on her once more. She jerked when Sal’s hand fell on her shoulder, a comforting weight that offered silent encouragement to speak. Calming her nerves, she looked at the Chief as she said, “He’s making a point. He can kill and he can frame anyone he wants. You can’t stop him, as far as he’s concerned. He covers all his bases, leaves no witnesses. He’s playing with you.”

“Then what would you suggest?”

Alyce smiled bitterly. “He’s sent the invite, Chief. Answer it.”

 

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