Red Rooms

There have been a chain of murders across central Manhattan. All the victims are teenage introverts, as described by their parents. Never going out, always contained within the same four walls, scrawling ironically through social media. Police are dumbfounded as to what caused the many deaths. Allegedly they were the repercussions of an internet link, but the men were apprehended. Investigator Carrie McKee has been fascinated by the mystery of the case itself, and takes it on with the few leads she has. Little does she know that she was entering into something far deeper than she had first anticipated, that could cost her things she never knew she had. This wasn't a small case. This was something global. It was all over the internet.

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12. Cheap Journalism.

Carrie waited outside of the interrogation unit. She wasn't even allowed to observe. She knew why, of course. Mal didn't want her bursting into the unit fucking up the progress. She couldn't believe that Aaron was in any way a conspirator to the murder. She just refused to believe he'd go that far. Shaking her head, she cursed herself for being so devoted to someone she had a single conversation with. Well, two if you count the interrogation, which she assumed you wouldn't.  Speaking of which, this interrogation never seemed to end, and she hoped with the entirety of her being that he wasn't guilty. Partially because that would allow her to feel better about her own judgements, particularly of somewhat attractive men. Oh wow, did she really just think that? Well...it was a fair point, in her own opinion.

Pressing herself ambiguously against the wall of the interrogation unit, Carrie could make out indistinct mumbles from men talking, but it was difficult to say whether it was Aaron and Mal or the people observing them. Defeated, she returned to her seat, and sought amusement in the objects around her. A broken ceiling fan, an empty coffee cup. A pile of cheap journalism, an obese receptionist. Some hung-up jackets. It was going to be interesting, waiting in this treasure-trove. She picked up the pile of newspapers and colorful magazines from the table next to her and observed her findings. A cheap lifestyle magazine. No. Go NYC. No. She had a good grip on her life as it was and she wasn't a 'city gal' in need of a 'cultural roadmap' to shitty pop music and cheap nightlife. The New Yorker was the next contestant in the competition to amuse her. The New Yorker never elicited her attention, she hated comic strips. They were so crudely drawn, and she never got the jokes. Plus, even satire couldn't ease her discomfort, and she loved how sarcastic the book reviews were. Well, in any magazine but the New Yorker. 'Sorry David Remnick' she sighed, tossing the publication to one side. It revealed a fresh copy of the Manhattan Times neatly folded underneath.

'GIRL, 16, FOUND DEAD AT HOUSTON FAMILY HOME'

'Sixteen year old Alice June found dead in her bedroom'

'An unexplained tragedy for the June family'

'Cause of death unknown, forensics baffled'

'Possible indications of suicide or fatal seizure'

 

'Found at the foot of a static laptop screen.'

 

---------------------------

 

Carrie was still shaking when the interrogation concluded obsolete. She lifted her head only to be met with the bemused gaze of the receptionist, and one or two officers delaying their work ethic to observe her. The sickly feeling of exposure didn't bode well with her empty stomach, and she keeled over slightly. 

'Carrie.'

Slowly, she lifted her head. Mal towered over her with an empty coffee-cup strangulated in his fists, exhausted of its clean, cylindrical form. She was focusing more on the utensil than she was Mal, which earned her one of those patronising finger-clicks pressed up against her face. 

'Yes Mal, I see you.'

'You have a new status. Call it a promotion, call it derogatory. I guess I see it as a new experience for you.'

'What are you talking about?' She asked.

Mal looked uncomfortable about whatever he was about to say, Carrie could tell. His brows would always furrow downwards as if he was really confused, and his mouth would twitch just enough for her to tell he didn't like the current situation very much.

'Despite the interrogation being inconclusive...Aaron is still a threat. I need you to monitor him as a probation officer for the next fortnight. No one...no one else would do it, and I am required by law to assign someone to his sorry ass.'

Carrie felt like she'd just been shot in her empty stomach.

'W-what the hell why do I have to?' She spluttered, feeling her cheeks heat up. 

'Luke claimed Aaron was providing the firearms, and one of the six unregistered had passed through his hands. We aren't sure yet if he conspired in any way to Michael's murder. He needs to be put under surveillance until...until we can determine he is 'safe', and you're free, so-'

'How do you know I'm free?'

Mal looked completely unamused. 'Carrie, you're totally free.'

Sighing, Carrie heaved herself out of the chair and collected her purse. Aaron was brought out of the interrogation unit, and uncuffed. Relieved of the shackles, he ran his fingers through his hair and stretched his back. Carrie couldn't help watching him. His eyes caught hers, and he winked arrogantly. Immediately she returned her attention to Mal, who was handing her a collection of items. She could feel Aaron's gaze.

'Okay so here's an official probation report form.' Mal said. It was bright yellow, and came with a collection of pens.

'Sexy...' Carrie said sarcastically.

Frowning, Mal signalled the other detectives to evacuate. Turning once more to Carrie, he took a heavy sigh.

'I will email you everything you need to know and do.'

'Are you sure I'm not going to receive an email of 'Probate, probation officer'?' Carrie asked, grinning slightly.

Mal smiled.

'Oh crap!' Carrie snapped, and immediately she thrust the Manhattan times into Mal's chest. 'Look at this! Did-did you see this!?'

Mal's eyes widened, as he read the headline. 

'Static laptop screen.' Carrie whispered.

'Carrie, they were just links.' Mal muttered under his breath, taking the newspaper out with him, a concerned look on his face.

Leaving her and Aaron alone.

'Oh no, why'd I get stuck with you?' Aaron moaned, but Carrie could tell he was flirting with her, and she was usually useless at identifying that sort of thing.

'Pfft, my thoughts exactly.' She said.

Aaron smiled. 'I suppose your gonna take me home now? Put me to bed?' 

Carrie sighed. 'Let's just go, I swear to God you are too cocky.'

Together, they walked to the bus stop, seeing as all transport had abandoned them. Neither of them spoke until they'd exhausted the social awkwardness. 

'So...do you believe them?'

'Believe who?'

'The officers, believe that I helped Luke kill Michael.'

'I don't...know.'

'Well I didn't.'

'You say that.'

Aaron looked frustrated. 'I can't believe Luke did it. What the fuck was he thinking?'

'Maybe he wasn't thinking.' Carrie replied. 'God, I really hate interrogations.'

'Try being the one interrogated.' Aaron snapped back.

Returning to silence seemed to be the only viable option. The bus drove to a halt at the stop, allowing them to board and continue their journey to wherever Aaron's apartment was. Reluctantly, she stared out of the window behind him, tried to find people to define, but the townsfolk flew past too quickly for her to dictate their lives for them, define their stories. Instead, she focused on the pretty lights, watching the streets blend into a blur of pleasant color. The day seemed to be hurtling towards the evening, excited to be illuminated by streetlamps and restaurant windows. Maybe it just got tired of lighting itself up, something Carrie could certainly understand, at least. The streets flew past like a flip-book animation, and she found herself sighing, somewhat relaxed by the fast motions. Carrie never thought she'd find catharsis in the places she found it.

'Sorry for...snapping earlier.' Aaron murmured. 

'Oh wow, could this be...sincere?' Carrie smiled.

'I just...this is crazy. I don't know why but this whole incident...it's scared me, Carrie. Christ, it's scared me.'

Carrie felt her smile recede into a nervous frown. She surveyed his face, to find beads of sweat glistening across his forehead. His eyes were darting around the vehicle, only meeting hers for brief moments, as if fear propelled his eye sockets. Her mind recoiled backward to the memory of the newspaper article in the office reception. Found dead. A static computer screen. It was an incredibly bad omen to start a case with. If people really were dying, well...she would certainly be in the deep-end of a pool she certainly couldn't swim in. 

 

'I'm sure it will be alright. If you're innocent, our time together will prove it.'

 

The bus journey was short, and far more awkward than she had predicted. It came to a halt in a small suburban area, and Aaron urged her out of her seat. She realized just how badly he wanted to escape from the little confined space, so moved as quickly as she could out of the vehicle and onto unforgiving concrete. Her feet ached in her business heels. Aaron leaped down from the steps behind her like a child on their first day of school. She watched him take a nervous breath.

'I live just around the corner from here. Past the supermarket.' He spoke quietly. Carrie nodded and they began to walk. 

The neighborhood was quieter than Aaron, and even more enigmatic. Light bulbs on the brink of disrepair fought to illuminate old streetlamps, and even then, all they lit up were sad, shabby houses. Maybe it was poetic, Carrie didn't know. All she knew was that she was incredibly gratuitous for her shitty apartment complex. With its creaky floorboards, 'stainless' steel sinks and awkward storage space, it was almost blissful in comparison to the houses circling Aaron's shady neighborhood. She'd seen movies. People got killed here for sure. If not, there was certainly a cult somewhere.

Aaron's house was one of said shady houses, but this one was slightly smaller than the rest, and surprisingly a little better managed. More surprising that it was Aaron's house than anything else. It had a faded picket fence that circled a run-down lawn, reminding her only of the transient nature of the American dream. Aaron unhinged the wooden gate and opened it for her. 

'Thanks.'

'Don't mention it?'

She watched him as he unlocked the door, his back arching in frustration as the key refused to turn. 

'God fucking damnit, stupid old house.' Aaron spat, before dropping the chain of keys on his second attempt. Carrie reached down to pick them up, but was beaten to it. Gingerly she took back her hand and gave the seemingly angry man some space. 

'Look, I'll get it open, just a second.' He said, a frustrated tone to his voice.

Eventually they both got inside, and Aaron directed her to the living space. It was pretty neat and tidy for a computer hacker. Come on, there were obvious 'expectations' there. Making her way to the sofa, Carrie sat down on the leather seats and took out her laptop. Opening her email folder, she waited in apprehension for her 'babysitting tasks' which she could hardly wait to fulfill. Mal had left two emails for her, one even had a PDF attached. Oh, now he was all serious and organized. 

Hi Carrie,

Congratulations, you're babysitting that felon kid. There is no way we can leave this potentially dangerous man alone, surely even you know that. You're task is to make sure he does nothing an innocent person shouldn't do. I'm counting on you, just leave the case to the big boys for now. S'all I ask.

Mal. 

The fucking big boys. The big boys that still play a PSP in their office and put it behind a copy of the NYT to pretend they're doing something more intellectual. That they're more dignified than a manchild, privileged with a responsibility to manage disciples half his age with twice the maturity. Carrie found herself laughing, even though the sexism pissed her off. It was a pretty tired laugh, she had work to do.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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