Later that night Blaithe had just finished programming the scanners to accept Steve’s and Lucky’s handprints. The boy wandered off with a smartphone Blaithe had given him.
“Who do you want to recruit next?”
“I will leave that decision to you. Take some time to review the files and we can make a decision tomorrow morning. “. Blaithe checked his watch, “That’s all the time I have tonight. I’ll be back at eight. Goodnight.”
Just like that Steve was left alone. He grabbed a cup of water and made his way up up the stairs. On the third floor he was headed to his room when a shadow moved in the corner of his eye.
“Agh! Damn it kid, that’s seriously creepy.”
Lucky was sitting in the dark, his door open. The light from his phone illuminated his head blue amid the darkness.
“I’m about to turn in. Is there anything you need?”
Lucky shook his head.
“Alrighty. We can get this organized tomorrow, get you some furniture. If you need anything just knock.”
Steve couldn’t help but shake his head as he locked his bedroom door behind him, he wasn’t sure how to deal with that kid.
He grabbed the files off the desk and flopped onto his bed. Picking one at random he opened it. A photograph of a young girl stared at him from a hospital bed. Pale white skin, messy black hair, shadows under her eyes so dark that they looked like bruises. She didn’t look much older than fifteen, with brown eyes staring wide. If anyone could have been said to be haunted it was her.
The caption under the picture said “Andree Nichell”. Something about the picture just plain looked odd. Very uncanny valley, like a photoshop with incomplete alterations.
After a few moments he realized what the difference was. The girl’s reflection on a nearby cup of water had inverted colours. Black skin, white hair
“Weird.” Tossing the other files aside he started to read.
Starting as a young child, Andree had an imaginary friend, named Aimee. A harmless figment of imagination her parents thought. A normal occurrence for an only child. The figment persisted through the years, growing stronger rather than fading away. It became clear that this figment was a dark and violent thing, as evidenced when she was five years old and her parents found her having butchered a cat. Andree insisted that it was Aimee who killed the cat.
Andree was taken to a therapist, and after months of treatment Aimee faded away. Andree was pronounced as healthy and normal as could be expected.
Two years later, while she was seven, Andree began suffering nightmares. While she slept she would be held captive by terrifying dreams, and awaken having scratched herself until she bled.
Again she was taken to a therapist, and prescribed medication to ease the anxiety and nightmares.
Six months later an elderly neighbour was found dead in their home, by all accounts mauled violently by some sort of animal. Suspiciously, the home was locked tight with no open doors or windows and no evidence of any animal or intruder.
Afterwards, once per month, there would be another attack. Pets, stray animals, mailboxes, vehicles. There was no discernible pattern to the attacks, save that they occurred in the vicinity of Andree. Dawn would rise and reveal some new violence that had occurred during the night. Scratches and claw marks were the only trace left behind, no fingerprints or hair or any of the usual evidence. After several months the attacks began occurring more frequently, until they reached a rate of once every fourteen days. Some neighbours reported hearing scratching at their doors during the night, or even footsteps scampering over their rooftops.
Andree’s parents confided in their therapist that they suspected she might be sleepwalking, or otherwise responsible. It was agreed to place cameras around the house, to monitor if the girl was leaving the house during the night.
The cameras did not detect anything, and still the attacks continued. Relieved and guilty, her parents confessed about the cameras. Starting that night the pattern changed, over the period of the next month every camera in a five hundred meter radius was destroyed.
The neighbours were growing suspicious, and a few filed complaints with the police. The family therapist recommended taking Andree into a hospital for observation and testing. Fearful, the family fled to stay with relatives a few hours away.
For a week there were no more attacks in the old neighbourhood, or in the area they were visiting. At the end of the week the therapist was found dead in his home. He had been mauled horribly, torn apart and scattered throughout the house.
This was taken as proof, albeit gruesome, that Andree was innocent, as she was a hundred and thirty kilometres away from the crime scene and had been awake all night watching a movie marathon with her cousins.
The family did not realize this until they saw it in the news the day after.
When they arrived back home they were questioned by the police, but it was clear that they were not even in the city, let alone near the crime scene.
Three days later they receive a call from their relatives, one of Andree’s books had been left behind. In it was a detailed drawing of a mauled body, which matched the dead therapist. Details were included in the drawing that were never released to the public, the smearing of blood on the walls, the exact layout of the room. It was a detailed recreation of a room Andree had never been in. Even at that age she was a talented artist.
The police again came to visit, revealing that they had a witness, who briefly saw a young girl through the window of the therapist’s house.
The details were damning, and Andree was taken to a psychiatric hospital for review. She was put on new medication, and for a time there were no more attacks. Her parents were distraught, exhausted by the unceasing barrage of hope and horror, and decided it was best for Andree to remain in the hospital, at least for a while.
The night Andree found out that she would be forced to stay, her parents died in a car crash on the way home. It was never officially linked to her, but traffic camera footage shows her father suddenly swerving directly in front of oncoming traffic.
Andree stayed in that hospital for the next four years, and there were no more attacks. However her nightmares returned, with force. Every morning she would awake with bleeding cuts. New medication would only be effective for a few weeks at a time. Any restraints on her would cause a panic attack, and she would relapse with more hallucinations. The only solution was to leave her free to hurt herself, and desperately try to find some medication that would help her.
At twelve years old she was transferred to a different facility. This new clinic was better equipped to treat her, the doctors were more specialized. She stayed there for two years, until the night when two dozen of the staff and patients were slaughtered. Andree escaped that night, fleeing into the city.
Over the next two years there were sporadic sightings of her, but keeping track of a single teenaged girl in the city was problematic at best. Now, at sixteen years old she was living on the streets.
The most recent photograph was dated one week ago, a cellphone picture showing a scruffy teenaged girl wearing an oversized hoodie and carrying a backpack.
Steve rubbed at his eyes and tossed the file down. Where the hell had Blaith found these candidates, and why the hell would he want to be anywhere near them? Ghoul was bad enough, with the risk that he’d spaz out and be unstoppable, or infect them with some plague he didn’t even know he was carrying. Now the old man wanted to invite in a little emo girl who appeared to have amassed a body count in the low thirties before she even hit adulthood.
“Sure, why not. She’ll fit right in with Kat.”
That thought made him realize that at some point during his reading he’d decided to recruit Katherine next. If anyone was suited to tangle with ghost girl it would be her and Ghoul, between the two of them they should be able to survive anything she threw at them. Maybe.
Sighing, he shut off the light. For a long while he stared at the ceiling, maybe it was a bad idea to be reading about the murderous little girl who kills people at night.
Eventually he sighed and grabbed his phone. Opening the browser he started searching for medical supplies, odds were pretty good that they would be necessary in the near future.
Steve had spent a few hours that morning putting up drywall in his room and was sitting at the kitchen counter eating a bowl of cereal when Blaithe arrived. Katherine’s file was opened in front of him, Steve had been browsing it as he ate. Most of it he already knew. Ghoul was asleep on the couch, he had apparently decided it was a bit more comfortable than the floor in his room upstairs. The older man picked his own stool.
“Hey. I’m thinking we should get Katherine next.”
Blaithe cocked an eyebrow, so Steve continued, “She’s not very friendly, but neither are the people you’ve got your eye on. This Andree girl, I’m not sure I could survive it if she decides to get violent. Kat probably could.”
“I look for the best in people, getting beat up is what Kat’s good at.”
“You’re a real gentleman. It’s a sound plan, let’s do it.”
“We should try to get her before she fights tonight. She tends to get a little crazy afterwards. I think it might be best if I go alone.”
“I would have thought you’d want Lucky there, he is eminently suited for emerging unscathed.”
“Well yes. Sending him in is the smart move, but I don’t think we should play that card yet. Hopefully not too many people know we have him, and I’d like to keep it that way. If we announce that he’s with us, people are going to act against us. Fame, money, or just for the challenge. He’s got so much reputation that fielding him will escalate things.
Or even if nothing happens, and he we get Kat and everything is rainbows and hand holding, he loses some of his mystique just from being spotted without doing something impressive.
“You have a point. We still have not discovered who it was that initially abducted him either. What is your next move?”
“Andree. From the sounds of it she is essentially the opposite of Lucky, pure offence. Much like with Kat, I’d prefer to be on her good side. Even if her abilities turn out to be less than advertised, she comes with some reputation. If we play it right, we can use that to our advantage. Spin it so she looks weak, play up the mystery surrounding her and spread the word that it’s just hype, or work her reputation so she sounds like the angel of death. Both plans have their drawbacks, we won’t know which is best until we get there. Do you have a lead on her location?”
“I’m told she frequents the shelter on 68th and Midland. Should be able to find her in the dinner line for the soup kitchen.”
On the couch, Lucky muttered and rolled over. He slid right off the cushion and sprawled onto the floor.
“Morning.” Steve waved a spoon in salute.
Lucky took a moment to get his bearings, then heaved himself upwards. “I need a beer.”
“Sorry, kid. Last call was at midnight.”
The teenager grumbled unintelligibly and trudged off up the stairs.
“I’ve got corn flakes!” Steve yelled after him.
“What are your plans today, before going to see Kat?”
“Got some more files to read. Still some renovating to do. Could use some more furniture, beds and such for the last three rooms.”
“I can do that last one, I’ll bring Lucky with me as well. Oak and Yew are taking the day off so you’ll have the place to yourself.”
“Just give me a call when you’re back so I can put some pants on.”
As soon as the others left, Steve was out the door as well, but out the fire escape at the back. He had already investigated the door, and the building’s alarm system, and it only recorded when the door was opened when the alarm was engaged. Since the garage door was also being opened, he had a few seconds before the alarm would activate. It was a bit of a security weakness, but it was coming in handy.
Not wanting to leave any evidence, he couldn’t use the fire escape ladder, because it was an older style that would need to be manually pulled back up. No point making it too easy for someone to get into the building.
The ground was a good thirty foot drop onto hard pavement. Not exactly the kind of thing he made a point to do very often, his power didn’t make him that durable. Still, a few risks were called for in the pursuit of secrecy. He stepped off into the air and plummeted down.