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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9. Impact.

The next morning flicked harsh light against Carrie's eyelids through the slits in the curtains. Like a door-to-door salesman, the light was...impassive; it didn't care if it was a disappointment. That night Carrie had wanted to sleep, and not to wake up, but without pills, chloroform or a switchblade, waking up was imminent.

Maybe next time, Carrie thought.

She reached over to pick up her smartphone. Her eyes widened in surprise; Elin had messaged her.

'Hey mom, having gr8 time over here, seen some amazin art you probably wouldn't like lol, know how u h8 nakedness. Hope u ok + not working 2 hard. Phone's being funny with calls atm but I will call when I can. Much luv xxxxx El.'

Carrie smiled through tired eyes before making an effort to get out of bed. She'd be strong today, for Elin. Texting back a sugar-coated response, Carrie noticed an inbox notification. From Mal. Oh crap, was this about the taxi fare? She panicked, primarily because she didn't have the ten dollar fee.

OFFICE. NOW. CODE RED.

Carrie stared, bemusedly, at the message. Well, she didn't think taxi fares were a code-red scenario, but with Mal you simply never knew.

Sometimes Carrie longed for a simple routine, but with this job you had to relieve yourself of simplicity and indulge in the complex, and the stupid. The only thing that made it worth it was the bog-standard check at the end of the month.

Carries mind hung onto the events of yesterday like a mourning widow, regretting her swift departure. Carrie longed to return to central park, to have an enticing conversation, as the harsh winds distorted the lines between what was professional and what was not. She could talk to someone freely, no longer bound by her badge. Aaron was the only person she'd ever met, that she thought she hated, but in fact enjoyed talking to more than anyone else. It was really weird. They'd only ever spoken twice, and that was in the same day. The events stained her memory, as she grabbed her purse and stepped outside.

 

The office was a blue of panic. Manic howls as spilt coffee bled into suit fabric. Clicking heels and flustering paper. Carrie stood at the mouth of the office; like a documentarian she was intrigued by the animalistic behavior. She couldn't remember the last time people had reacted like this. Surely it wouldn't be taxi fares. Would it? Carrie eyed them all accusingly. You guy's have all done it.

 

Catching sight of Mal trying to quell the panic amused her. He was wobbling atop an office chair, wavering his arms around.

'Everybody! Jesus, Everybody! Calm...down! It just means we finally have some real work! Gosh, get it together!'

He noticed her, and leapt off the chair, an action he quickly came to regret, as his back cracked into place.

'Ouch, shit...Carrie come...come here, quickly.'

'Did you forget to flush Mal.' Carrie joked, gesturing at the abundance of panic.

'Carrie this is no time for your sarcastic bullshit.' Mal snapped, and he sounded deadly serious. It was a tone of voice she wasn't used to, and it scared her, a little bit. She followed him into his office, where the door was hesitantly shut.

 

'One of the men responsible for the link scandal was shot. This morning.' declared Mal. 'The young man that accidentally posted his contact information. Michael Baxton.'

Carrie paused, slowly allowing herself to take in the information. Shot. Dead. As in, not-coming-back-to-life dead.

'Guess this won't be as easy as we thought.' Mal said.

________________________________________________________________________________

'So, redemption or your run-of-the-mill shooting?'

'We think it was in redemption of his 'accident'.' Mal explained. 'Either way, it was certainly no accident.'

Carrie sat amongst Mal and a few background associates, in his messy office. No effort was made to clean for the guests, infact it looked messier than usual. Perhaps a result of the shock the events had inflicted upon everyone at MIU. They faced a flickering projection of a young man sprawled out on the floor of an apartment corridor, the entire contents of his skull ever so slightly surpassing his distorted figure. A clear gunshot to the back of his head. It was horrific, kudos to the photographer. Carrie remembered watching horror movies where photos of the victims were so blurry it was almost astounding to watch protagonists give the images a name, a face, a location...Now, looking at this grotesquely clear projection, it was a bittersweet notion to see technology had learned from these old 90s movies.

 

'There was no trace of a weapon of any kind.' he said. 'However I have been informed that Luke Hughes, one of the apprehended males in association with Michael has been taken into the station, for possession of six unregistered firearms.'

'Jesus, who has six?' Carrie squeaked, her throat dry from the anticipation. A colony of disapproving eyes turned to recognise her, sitting at the edge of the table. A few men tutted to themselves, a few others returned their gaze to Mal, as if urging him to kick her out.

'Ah, Carrie...' Mal said, metaphorically throwing eight years of friendship out the window to pretend he didn't know her 'that well' to please some tight-collared associates. She would have reacted more externally, but she felt as though she needed to be there. She wanted to hear this.

'Carrie, it is under my knowledge that you interviewed an Aaron Mcallister, who at the time was working with these two gentlemen?'

As much as Carrie hated the way he was treating her, she cleared her throat, nodding in confirmation. 'Yes, he was helping them prevent the distributed links from being tracked.'

'Do you think that there's a chance Mr.Mcallister could be at all to blame for Michael's death?'

'No sir.' She shot back, a little too quickly, turning a few heads. 'I-I mean, he already somewhat regretted his involvement. I think after he got out of the police station, he was...grateful everything was over and done with. It gave him his excuse to...disconnect himself.'

Mal didn't look completely satisfied with her argument. 'We will need to bring him in.' He demanded, nodding to one of the employees. 'Make the arrangements.'

Sighing, Carrie eased herself out of the plastic chair, but Mal stopped her from leaving.

'You're coming to the station with me.' He instructed, receiving a slowly exhaled sigh.

'Seriously?' Carrie murmured.

'Seriously.' Mal smiled.

 

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