Dancing with Demons *NaNoWriMo 2019*

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Detective Harrison Richards has seen it all. The goriest murders, the most disturbing crime scenes, and cold blooded criminals whose taunts would keep you up at night. What he hadn't seen, however, was someone falling in love with a suspect. *Cover by Infinite_Exho*

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3. Chapter 1: The Chase

It was sunny out. I’d just sat down with my hot cup of coffee, breathing in the crisp autumn air. The sound of soft chattering and laughter from inside the coffee shop was soothing, giving me something better to focus on than the deafening sound of cars and the shouting from people walking by. The leaves splashed against the sky in bright golds, reds, oranges, and browns. I noticed every small movement, every person walking  by, brief strings of overheard conversation. I took a deep breath and sighed, my breath puffing out into the air in a white cloud. My eyes snapped open as the chair across from me scraped against the concrete, piercing my ears with a loud screech. A beautiful woman sat across from me, her grey eyes sparkling as she took her seat and swept her long, blonde hair over her shoulder. Her own coffee, which laid untouched on the table, was stone cold and collecting film on the top. Her red nails, red like the leaves on the trees, were a stark contrast against her bright yellow flannel and scarf. 

 

It was the perfect day to discuss a murder. 

 

“Hello, Harrison,” my companion said smoothly, picking up her congealed coffee and taking a sip, the drink sliding down her throat in one solid, slimy trail. I shivered in disgust but made no comment, cupping my gloved hands around my own cup to keep the chill away.

 

“Rose, always a pleasure. How’s the new boyfriend?” I asked cooly, already knowing the answer. Rose wrinkled her nose and made a face of disgust, setting down her styrofoam mug.

 

“Awfully dull. I ended it a few days ago. What about you? Found your Prince Charming yet?” she replied, smirking and looking at me over the tops of her gold, wire-rimmed glasses. Heat crept up into my cheeks, but I remained expressionless. 

 

“Prince Charmings aren’t really a thing anymore, you know that better than Ido,” I answered with a clever smile of my own. Rose warmed the frosty air with a laugh, her entire face lighting up. No emotion ever dulled down with her. Always dramatic, she was. Now that we were past such pleasantries, it was time to get down to business. I set down my coffee and placed my hands on the table, interlocking my fingers and looking at Rose expectantly. Rose reached down and put her briefcase up onto the table. 

 

“How much do you know about the case?” Rose asked, pulling out several files and handing them to me. I shrugged, pulling a pair of my own glasses from my pocket; black, square, and thick, the opposite of Rose’s. 

 

“Only that it’s a case that went cold around four or five years ago that has something to do with murdered and missing children. Somewhere in one of the richer neighborhoods,” I said. I inspected the file name and frowned. “What does the Xavier case have to do with this one?” Rose’s smile vanished. Her eyes grew stormy. 

“Another group of children went missing. Three boys, and two girls. They were exploring the abandoned Xavier mansion. We think there might be a connection between the two cases.” I quirked an eyebrow, but opened up the file in front of me anyways. The file was for one of the two youngest sons, Thomas Xavier. The file was almost empty, except for a medical file and a newspaper clipping. I picked up the newspaper first, the story an already familiar one to me. 

 

The bodies of Charles Xavier, Lilian Xavier, and their two daughters Hannah, age six, and Maria, age twenty, were found in the basement of their home, located at 294 Clitherow Gardens. All four of the family members suffered from head trauma before they were brutally murdered. Autopsy reports show that both Hannah and Maria died from strangulation, whereas Charles had been shot several times point blank in the chest, back, and head, and Lilian had been severely mutilated, her stomach cut open and her ears, nose, and fingers removed and her eyes gouged out. The two twins, seventeen-year-olds Johnathon and Thomas, were never found. The rest of the house was undisturbed; there were no signs of a struggle or stolen items. The murder was clearly an act of malice or perhaps revenge, and not an attempted burglary. 

 

“Thomas and Johnathon...were they ever found?” I inquired, putting the newspaper back into the file and pulling out the medical file. Rose shook her head, her eyes regaining that familiar spark. 

 

“That’s the other connection between the two cases. We think there’s a possibility-”

 

“That they’re alive? That’s not just a possibility, it’s obvious. There was no sign of a break in or a struggle, so the murder, or murderers in this case, would have to be someone from inside the house. I don’t know how the boys managed to stay hidden from the police, but they did. We work with imbeciles, I swear,” I said with disdain. Rose rolled her eyes. 

 

“Tell me about it. I’m surprised they even made the connection now,” she admitted. Her fingers tapped lightly against the glass tabletop. “I almost turned down the case, but...well, you know me. I can never turn down a good mystery. And if Thomas and John are really alive, I’ll definitely have my work cut out for me.” She plucked the medical files out of my hands before I could read them. I made a sound of protest, but she put up a hand. I huffed and folded my arms across my chest. “Both John and Thomas are a piece of work...but poor Thomas, he definitely got the worst of it. The police were called that night in the first place because one of the neighbors saw Charles…” her voice trailed off, and I stiffened. 

 

“I see,” I said quietly. I could handle almost anything when it came to cases. Murdes, kidnappings, drug rings, the lot. Child abuse? That hit far too close to home. I cleared my throat, ignoring my instincts to run from this, and looked back up at Rose. “What exactly made Thomas worse off than John? They were both in the same situation. What made Thomas different?” Rose smiled sadly and gestured to the medical file. 

 

“You know what DID is, right? Used to be called multiple personality disorder?” I hesitated before nodding. “He was diagnosed with it at twelve. Children develop dissociative identity disorder due to repetitive trauma during critical years of development. It causes their personality to not form correctly like other children. Sometimes it’s not severe, and people can’t even tell when the personalities switch. With others, though, like Thomas, specific personalities with different ages, races, genders, etcetera can form. Thomas had three known personalities.” Rose pushed the file back towards me and I picked it up. 

 

“Poor kid...was he aware that he had DID? I know some people never find out until they’re diagnosed,” I said, studying the file more. There were no specifics about any of Thomas’ personalities. 

 

“Yes, he was. When he was examined, he was able to answer specific questions asked about his personalities. Look on the back.” I flipped the paper over. “Two of the personalities had names, Marcus and Antonio. The third…” Rose fidgeted with her scarf. I waited for her to continue, but she just looked at me expectantly. I looked down at the file. There were several pages to it, with questions and answers between Thomas and a psychologist. Each page was dedicated to questions about a specific personality. The last page only had a few lines. The title at the top? ‘It’. 

 

“‘It’? Really? This has to be some kind of  joke,” I scoffed, closing the file. Rose glared at me warningly, but I was not wavered. I wasn’t going to waste my time reading about a disorder that people in the medical community weren’t even sure really existed. “Come on, Rose, he was twelve! If he really was a victim of abuse, he probably made all this up to get attention-” Rose slammed her hands down on the table, her eyes blazing, cutting me off. 

 

“Just take the damn file, Harrison. You might think you know everything, but something’s going on here that’s bigger than we think. Call me when you finish.” And with that, Rose picked up her now empty briefcase, threw her coffee into a small trash can near and table, and stalked off angrily, her heels clacking obnoxiously against the pavement. I huffed and took the files, holding them under my arm and grabbing my coffee. It was still warm, thankfully, and I drank it as I began to walk home. 

 

It had warmed up considerably while Rose and I talked. It had grown cloudy, though, and the air was thick with the promise of rain. I quickened my steps, cursing silently as the wind began to pick up, the momentary warmth snatched away in an instant. It was days like these that I regretted my particular tastes, including not being able to wear a coat over a suit. It looked ridiculous and felt awful and unprofessional. It was very cold, though. My tie whipped up into my face as I fought with the lock on my front door, and I yelled in frustration and kicked it with all my might. All that got me was a shock of pain in my foot and a glare from a passing elderly woman as I yelled out several vulgarities. I grabbed the handle and jiggled it, throwing my weight against the door until it finally gave way, opening quickly and sending me flying to the floor. I laid face down for a moment, my face squished into the carpet, and sighed deeply. 

 

“Harry, is that you? Are you alright?” There was only one person I allowed to call me Harry. I looked up to see Mrs. Pennyworth, the woman who rented out the apartment next door to mine, standing in my front door. Her wrinkled face was creased with worry as she hobbled in, closing the door behind her and coming to my side. She reached down to touch me and I recoiled, shooting her a pointed glance. “Oh, oh, right, no surprises. I’m sorry dear. Do you need me to get these papers for you?” She began bending down I could practically hear her old bones creaking in protest. I sprang to my feet, fighting back my churning stomach as I placed a hand on her shoulder. 

 

“It’s alright Mrs. Pennyworth, I’ve got it,” I said, forcing a smile and picking up the scattered files. “How are you today?” The crows feet around her eyes crinkled as she smiled. 

 

“Oh, I’ve been fine. Been cooking all day. Mr. Pennyworth and I are having some friends for dinner!” She said cheerfully. I grimaced when my back was to her. Her husband had been dead for three years. “Would you like to join us? I’m sure you’d have a good time!” She continued. I smiled and shook my head. 

 

“My apologies, but I’m going to be working tonight. I appreciate the offer, though. Perhaps another time?” I replied. Mrs. Pennyworth chuckled, patting my cheek. My eye twitched, but at least I’d seen it coming. I preferred to initiate contact, if I had it at all. 

 

“Alright dear, if you insist. I’ll bring you a plate when we’re done; goodness knows you’re much too thin!” She chided, wagging a bony finger at me and clicking her tongue with disapproval. I couldn’t help but smile as I gave her a curt nod. Her disapproving look turned to a wide smile. “Good, good! Now, dear, forgive me, I’m quite embarrassed, but could you bring me home? I can’t seem to find…” her voice trailed off for a moment and all that came next was some inconsistent mumbling. I frowned deeply and offered her my arm, which she took gratefully, patting my hand. “Such a Good boy, taking care of me all these years.” I just nodded, letting her chat away without really listening as I led her out my door and up the rickety stairs to her own apartment. They really needed to be fixed. They were old and wooden, and I feared every day that one day Mrs. Pennyworth would come down and they’d break right out from under her. She clung to me and hummed softly as I opened her door for her, leading her into her small apartment. It had only one room for accessibility, and no kitchen. An aid was due to come in around ten minutes to bring her dinner and get her settled in for the night. I hoped this aid would be a good one. I’d had to report the past three for negligence. 

 

“Let me know if you need anything, alright? You have my number?” I asked as I settled her down on the couch. She reached for her blanket and I quickly grabbed it, settling it over her lap. She smiled up at my gratefully. 

 

“Of course I have your number, Tyler! Why wouldn’t I have my own son’s number?” Mrs. Pennyworth replied with a chuckle, her eyes soft with affection. I gave her a strained smile, tucking the blanket around her and kissing her cheek. When I gave her a quick hug, I slipped a post-it note with my number on it in the pocket of her fluffy pink bathrobe. She always checked there for hard candies or gum. I was sure that she’d find it later. 

 

“Of course, how silly of me. I’ll see you later,” I said, saying one last goodbye before heading out the door. A young aid went rushing past me, and I glowered at her.

 

“You’re late,” I snapped, grabbing her arm and stopping her before she could enter the apartment. She huffed, blowing a lock of hair out of her face and glaring at me. 

 

“Yeah, I know, and you’re making me even more late. Shit happens, alright?” she hissed, wrenching her around out of my grip. 

 

“Shit seems to happen every fucking day to you people! If you keep this up, I’ll report you,” I threatened. She laughed in my face, shoving past me towards the stairs.

 

“You must be that retard everyone’s told me about. Why don’t you stop harassing me and my charge and remind your own damn business? You’re not needed here!” she said in a sing-song tone, opening the door and opening inside. 

 

“Retard! How dare you-?!” The door was slammed unceremoniously in my face and I heard Mrs. Pennyworth cry out in surprise from inside. Fuming, I went to open the door again, only to find it locked and bolted shut. I cursed under my breath and stopped down the rickety stairs (probably not a good idea), my hands shoved deep into my pockets. I hated this town and everyone in it. Except Rose. And Mrs. Pennyworth. But just those two. Everybody else could rot in hell. Okay, maybe Morgan was off the hook, but only because he was my older brother. I huffed and re entered my apartment. The familiar, organized chaos inside immediately calmed me. Everything was exactly where it was supposed to be. No changes, no roommate to mess up anything, nothing. I picked up the files from off the floor and walked into the living room.

 

Papers were scattered everywhere. They were on the floor, on the table, stapled and pinned to the walls. They were all where I wanted them to be. There were dirty dishes scattered here and there. I didn’t want them to be there, but I just couldn’t get myself to do them. I sat on the old, sagging couch across from my coffee table, setting the files down and retrieving a few more out from underneath my laptop. To anyone else, seeing a guy dressed in a full suit pouring over some old files with papers and random household items scattered around probably would have been a reason for concern, but to me, it was a safe space. It was home. A soft mew from by my feet startled me and I looked down. I smiled as I saw my cat, Snowball, brush against my legs, her bright blue eyes looking up at me.

 

“Hello. Did you miss me?” I said, picking her up and setting her in my lap, stroking her long, white hair. Snowball started purring, padding at my leg before settling down in my lap. She nuzzled against my hand every time I pet her, and meowed every time I tried to shift. I snorted, situating her in my arms so I was holding her against my chest, then picked up my laptop and the files I needed. She pressed some kittens licks on my chin before settling in my arms, purring softly. 

 

“You’re purring. That means you’re happy,” I said pointedly. Snowball mewed and her tail swished as I carried her to the kitchen. “Thought so. Animals are so much easier to understand than people.” I filled Snowball’s bowl with food and set her down. As she ate, I pulled up a chair at my cluttered kitchen table, pushing away some of the dirty dishes and loose papers and setting up my laptop, placing the files from Rose on the left side. I got my sound cancelling headphones out of their case and connected them to the laptop after powering it up, inhaling deeply before exhaling, relaxing a bit as all possible distracting sounds were eliminated. Now I could focus. 

 

The medical file provided next to no information about Thomas or his various… personalities. I wasn’t quite sure what to call it**, since the terminology had changed from Multiple Personality Disorder to Dissociative Identity Disorder and there were new things. I would have to look into it later. I gathered from the files, however, that Thomas’ had a positive view on two of the split identities. He called them Marcus and Antonio. I scanned the files over and over, but Thomas refused to answer any questions about either of them. I tossed the file away from me in frustration, opening my laptop so quickly the top half bent almost all the way back. I grimaced and quickly straightened it, running a hand through my hair. My leg bounced under the table and I rocked back and forth, trying to figure out where to go from here. 

 

“I wonder…” I muttered under my breathing, getting onto my laptop and typing Thomas’ full name into google. The first thing that popped up was an old youtube video from around the same time as the medical file. Thomas’ face was the thumbnail. It was the same picture as the medical file too; pale, face drawn, eyes dark. I couldn’t read his expression, but something about it made me uneasy. I quickly scrolled past the video, clicking on several of the provided links. After just a few minutes of scrolling, I was able to piece together that both Thomas and his twin, Johnathon, had been subjects of a case study. There were interviews with both boys, but one grabbed my attention in particular. It was the same video that had been at the top of the screen when I’d first started my search, but it was the caption that caught my attention. 

 

It is my only friend

 

I tilted my head slightly, hesitating before clicking on the link to the video. It immediately opened with the camera zoomed in on Thomas’ face, his expression completely blank as he looked directly into the camera. The camera zoomed back out, then cut angles so Thomas and a doctor sitting across from him were visible from the side. The doctor had a clipboard, writing down some notes before turning her attention to Thomas. 

 

“How are you feeling today, Thomas?” she asked, her voice practically oozing with false sympathy. I wrinkled my nose almost in unison with Thomas. 

 

“I’m fine. Can I go home?” Thomas asked, folding his arms across his chest and glaring down at the floor. The doctor just smiled and took notes on her clipboard again, ignoring the young boy in front of her. 

 

“From what I’ve been told, your… special… condition, is very interesting. Many people with your condition do not realize-”

 

“Just say disorder!” Thomas snarled, but his whole demeanor had changed. His voice even sounded different, like someone from Brooklyn or somewhere else deep in the city. He stood straight and tall, his eyes blazing and shoulders square. The doctor smiled in satisfaction. 

 

“Who am I speaking to now?” she asked, her eyes staring directly into Thomas’ like he was some sort of puzzle she was trying to pick apart. It reminded me of how some therapists my parents got for me looked at me. I shuddered at the thought, forcing the memories back and trying to continue focusing on the video. I rocked slightly faster. 

“You know damn well who, you’re used to this by now. Now just cut to the chase and ask the questions you want,” Thomas snapped. The doctor chuckled. 

 

“I’m afraid I’ll need your host for this, Antonio.”

 

“Nope, no can do. We can’t just switch on command, lady,” Thomas (or should I say Antonio?) said, crossing his arms and looking at the doctor sitting across from him with a firm expression. She pressed her lips into a firm line. 

 

“My, my, somebody’s touchy today. And it’s Dr. Anderson. You should know that well enough by now.” Antonio’s jaw clenched. “Perhaps you could answer some of my questions. It’s about the...other one.” Anotnio’s lips curled up in a sneer, but he said nothing to protest. Dr. Anderson smiled and continued. “Very good, thank you. I knew you’d be reliable.” I watched on, becoming increasingly more frustrated as I did. The entire situation was confusing. 

 

Thomas’ expression kept changing. Sometimes it was blank, sometimes he curled his lips back or wrinkled his eyebrows or looked completely calm. His body position kept changing too. Sometimes he was hunched over or sat up tall or couldn;t sit still, getting up and pacing around the room. He kept yelling at the doctor, but it was hard to tell if he was angry, or afraid, or both. I didn’t like it. It was confusing. It was hard enough to read Rose’s faces sometimes, and she was always dramatic so it was easy to tell with her. Thomas was subtle. I missed a lot of what he was doing. I couldn’t even concentrate on some of the things he was saying half the time. I paused the video and took my headphones off, rubbing my temple in frustration, my foot tapping rapidly under the table. This was getting me nowhere. I went to grab my phone but hesitated, glancing quickly at the clock. It had already been two hours since I’d gotten home. Two hours, seven o’clock, Rose was always having dinner around seven. Would I be bothering her if I called? Would she be free now since her boyfriend was gone? I gnawed anxiously on my thumbnail, glancing from my laptop to my phone. The tapping of my foot and my ticking clock were the only sounds. I was about to turn back to my laptop in defeat and attempt to rewatch the video when my phone began to ring, startling me. I shook my head quickly, taking my glasses off and setting them aside before picking up the phone. 

 

“Harrison Richards speaking, who’s calling?” I asked, crossing my legs and sitting back in the chair. 

 

“Hey, Harrison, it’s Rose. Have you looked at the files yet?” My eyes glanced over the discarded files and black laptop screen. I bit my lip. 

 

“I tried to. The files are sparse, and the videos I found are…” My voice trailed off.

 

“Confusing?” Rose asked. I sighed, my shoulders slumping. 

 

“Yes, confusing. I’m sorry. I really did try-” 

 

“It’s ok, really. Why don’t you come over and we can work on it together? We can have dinner to. I know you haven’t eaten yet, so don’t even try to tell me you have,” Rose replied. I rolled my eyes, getting up and pacing as we continued talking on the phone. 

 

“Fine. I’ll come around in about twenty minutes. Want me to bring the files, or do you have copies?”

 

“Bring them, please. I have the brothers’ more extensive medical files, but you have the papers from the actual investigation. We need both,” she answered. There was a loud bang in the background and I flinched. “Sorry! Sorry. I dropped a pot.”

“...You’re trying to cook again, aren’t you?”

 

“Hey, you said you liked my cooking! Besides, it’s pasta. Pasta is easy!” Rose protested, a slight whine in her voice. I tapped my fingers against my kitchen counter, letting the silence hang for a moment. Rose said nothing, but then let out a loud, long groan. “Fine. I’ll order. Text me what you want and I’ll send it in. Chinese, tacos, or burgers?” 

 

“Burgers, please. I’ll send specifics when we hang up. See you in a few minutes?” I said, checking my watch for the time Rose’s house was about a ten or fifteen minute drive. If I left now, I’d get there by 7:30 pm. 

 

“Sounds perfect. Bye!” Rose hung up the phone with an audible click.I quickly sent her my order before grabbing my laptop, the case files, and my wallet (just in case) and running out the door. 

 

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