"So where are you having us fly off to this time?" Edward commented dryly as he stepped into the large conference room. He was soon followed by his colleagues and friends, Michael and Kimberly.
"Oh, Edward. I wouldn't be too grim about this assignment. You'll be in a nice warm spot for a vacation when you're done," Daniel said, a large, sarcastic grin creeping across his face.
"All right, Cassian. No more ring around the rosies. Where are we going and what's the case?" Edward asked, particularly irritated with Daniel's cocky manner that morning.
"Atlanta. Over the past few days there's been a selective outbreak of some new virus. There are suspicions that this isn't a natural occurrence, so we're going to be investigating this along side the Atlanta
VCTF," Daniel stated, shuffling through a pile of papers.
"VCTF? Isn't that the Violent Crimes Task Force? What do they want with this?" Kimberly questioned, sweeping a few whisps of her hair out of her face as she read a copy of the papers Daniel was reading.
"Yes, that would be correct. As I said, there are suspicions this isn't an accident. The cases have been too selective, mostly killing very well-off college professors and academy directors. So far the only link with the cases is the disease itself, but the government doesn't want to take any chances." Daniel informed them, answering all the obvious questions he knew the team would ask about the case itself.
"All right, when do we leave?" Michael asked, setting down the medical information that had been handed to him. Being the team's head security agent and information officer, he had little need for the papers.
"This afternoon. I suggest you hurry and pack; the flight leaves in two hours. Everything else you'll need will, of course, be provided for you there. Now, if you'll excuse me, there are a few things I need to attend to before we leave." With that, Daniel left the room. The team watched as he silently walked out, then began to talk quietly amongst themselves.
"I don't like the way this sounds. It seems like there's something that he's not telling us," Edward said, his normal suspicions kicking in.
"Edward, don't you think you're jumping to conclusions?" Kimberly eyed Edward suspiciously.
"No, I don't. Think about it, Kim. Cassian has been one step ahead of us since we met him. In more than half the cases he's brought us into, he's ended up having some personal tie into it one way or another," Edward remarked, placing his hands on his hips in a casual, yet serious manner.
"Kim's right. You're overreacting," Michael said, walking up to Edward and placing a hand on his shoulder. "Besides, you didn't say anything about the other half." He smiled and walked out of the conference room in the same direction Daniel had. Edward sneered slightly, only enough to make his normally smug face look even more so.
"Yeah, whatever," Edward grumbled, rolling his eyes slightly. He gestured to Kimberly to exit the room before him and quickly followed after her.
"Bailey Malone, I'd like you to meet Dr. Edward Marcase, Dr. Kimberly Shiroma, and Agent Michael Hailey. Bailey is the head of the VCTF here in Atlanta," Daniel introduced his three colleagues to the middle-aged man, who, in turn, shook each member of the team's hand.
"How do you do? I'm sorry we had to meet on such grim reasons," Bailey said sympathetically.
"Don't be. We're used to it," Edward informed him, unenthusiastically.
"Oh, well then. If you'll follow me, I'll show you to where we will hold most, if not all our meetings." Bailey turned away from the team and walked down a large hallway, not looking behind him to see if they were following. They soon came to a spot where the hallway opened into a large conference room headed by a giant computer display. What greeted them was a projection of the disease they were assigned to contain and neutralize.
"So far, this has been the only thing that we've been able to use to link the five deaths together. Plus the fact that each death occurred within exactly twenty four hours of each other." Bailey had sat down at the head of the large conference table that took up much of the space in the room. He looked up as a tall woman entered the room.
"Bailey, we just got the files of the five victims," the woman stated, not noticing the four stranger standing around the table feeling somewhat awkward. Almost immediately afterward she looked up, finally noticing them. "Oh, I'm sorry. Are you the bio-crisis team from Washington?" Before one of them could answer, Bailey spoke.
"Sam Waters, this is Doctors Daniel Cassian, Edward Marcase, Kimberly Shiroma, and Agent Michael Hailey. Sam is the profiler that will be working the criminal background and victim correlation analyses."
"Dr. Cassian," Sam repeated, "I've read your thesis on the physiology of psychotic human behavior. Very intriguing." She had momentarily disturbed Daniel from his concentration on the projection of the virus.
"Oh, um, thank you," Daniel replied, feeling himself blush slightly. A lop-sided grin tugged at the corners of his mouth as he turned to Sam to accept the compliment. He could see Edward attempting to restrain himself from snickering at his unanticipated embarrassment. *Yeah, Edward, just laugh your head off now and get it over with. You'll pay later.* Not knowing what else to say, he returned to stare at the projection of the disease.
"Um, I'd hate to be the ice-breaker here, but the more time we spend in here, the less time we'll have to investigate this thing," Edward remarked, scratching the bridge of his nose with his thumb nail.
"Oh, yes. I believe the first thing you asked to do was to take a look at the victims?" Bailey asked, mostly directing the question in Daniel's direction.
"Yes, that's correct," Daniel confirmed, not taking his eyes off the projection.
"All right, we have the bodies down in cold storage. I'll take you there myself," Bailey said as he stood. He turned and headed down the same hall that had brought them to the conference room. The team followed, but Daniel stayed back for a few seconds more to still look at the disease. Something about it sent shivers down his spine. There was something more to this than your typical isolated contagion. None of this could be happening by sheer coincidence. Whatever it was, he intended to stop it.
"So, Cassian, how come you never told us you were into psychology?" Edward remarked dryly as he entered the biopsy room, suited in the snug-fitting level four bio-hazard suit.
"Never came up, I guess," Daniel said, shielding himself from any unnecessary chit-chat.
"C'mon, Cassian. You major in something like that and it's not on your record? Something's not right with that," Edward continued, ignoring Daniel's obvious signs of distaste for conversation at the moment.
"Actually, it's a Ph.D., but right now that's not our most important concern. We have a job to do right now and I would prefer that we get it finished before we begin planning and writing my autobiography," Daniel retaliated, his last few words dripping with sarcasm. He noticed he had stopped walking when answering to Edward's mild attack on him. Stepping up to the metal table in the middle of the sterile-looking room, he pulled the sheet off the figure laying on it to reveal the body of a slightly over-weight man that appeared to be in his late fifties to sixties.
"Mr. Carl Jenkins, 59 year-old chair of the Georgia-Tech Genetic Research Institute. The latest of the five deaths. House keeper came in and found him dead." The team, minus Hailey, looked up at the new arrival into the room. It was obvious to anyone that Bailey was decidedly uncomfortable in the blue bio-hazard suit. "We haven't been able to come up with anything in here and were hoping you could."
The body's skin was terribly scarred with red and white boils, pustules, and bruise-like discolorations. Edward stared at them, turning ashen at the sight. He bent down to get a closer look at them.
"Hey, can someone hand me that light over there?" Edward asked, looking over to the specially modified magnifying glass. Kimberly reached over to retrieve it and pulled it to where Edward was. He positioned it over the same place where he had been looking at a few moments ago. "Cassian, get over here and look at this," he commanded.
Daniel obeyed and took the postion that Edward had to get the same perspective.
"What are those?" Daniel asked, feeling that they somehow looked familiar.
"I'd know these anywhere. They were caused by Ebola." The distress Edward felt was evident in his voice and face. When he was seven, he watched as the disease had claimed the life of his mother and father, and nearly his own as well.
"How can that be? You saw the projection of what caused this and they're nothing similar," Daniel argued.
"Guys, cool it for a second," Kimberly interrupted. "I found something that looks like a puncture mark from a hypodermic needle." The two had nearly forgotten she was in the room and moved to where Kimberly was. "Right there." She pointed to a small area of skin on the back of the body's neck.
Edward adjusted the lighted magnifying glass over the area. Sure enough, there was a small bruise surrounding a near undetectable hole in the skin.
"Hold on a second. Are there any tweezers in here?" Edward asked. Almost magically, Kimberly handed him what he asked for. Taking them, he strategically placed them so that each of the tongs weren't a millimeter away from the spot. He gently pressed the skin in causing an inch long fragment of a needle to stick out and pulled it out. "I'll bet anybody that this little thing has what we're looking for in it," he said, displaying the item like a trophy. "My guess is it broke off in a struggle and that most of the discolorations are bruises and not some rash caused by the disease. Nobody would've thought twice about this one bruise because of that," Edward noted.
"Well, Mr. Malone, it looks like you have more than enough evidence to prove that this can officially be declared as a violent crime," Daniel stated, turning to where Bailey still stood.
"Good. May I suggest we get out of these suits?" Bailey chuckled mildly, in spite of his discomfort. The team quickly agreed and exited the room.
Bailey sat in the large chair in his office, breathing a sigh of relief at being out of the stuffy bio-hazard suit. Just as he thought he was comfy, Sam appeared at the doorway.
"Can I talk to you for a moment?" she asked, wringing her hands momentarily in her normally habitual fashion, careful not to drop a file she held under her arm.
"Sure, Sam. What about?" Bailey inquired, gesturing for her to enter and take the seat across the desk from his.
"I've been running some background checks on each of the victims for some of the more obvious possible suspects. While I was doing that I was thinking of asking you whether we could ask Dr. Cassian to come with us when we went out and questioned the suspects, see what he might have to say."
"Why's that? Isn't he here to find out about the disease?"
"Yeah, I know that, but you know how I said I had read that thesis he wrote? That was one of the papers I was required to read when I was training to be a profiler."
"Sam, what does all this have to do with running the background checks?"
Bailey had been slightly confused by Sam's sudden change in subject.
"I ran the idea by him while I was waiting for an information search to finish. He liked the idea and I said I'd check with you to see if it was okay. By then the scan was complete. I came to you because I was wondering what we should do." Sam handed Bailey the folder she had moved from under her arm to her lap. He took it and opened it, scanning over the list of names on the first paper inside. Immediately he noticed why she had come to him. "He's one of the seven people to have been in studies under all five victims." Bailey closed the file folder, thinking what they should do about this.
"First, this isn't to go beyond the two of us, understand? I'm thinking we should just go about this as though he wasn't a possible suspect. If we question him now and by the slim chance he is who we're looking for, it may just ruin our chance. Now, go tell him I approve of your idea." Without waiting for her to acknowledge, he went back to reading the information she gave him.
"And this is where Mr. Jenkins spent most of his time when he was here at the institute itself," the young man stated to the group of Investigators. "Feel free to ask the workers anything you need to help
you with your case." With that, the young man left Bailey, Sam, Daniel, and John to their own devices. What was John's last name? O'Malley? Murdock? Oh, well. Daniel thought. He had just met him on the way over to the institute. He laughed at the thought of leaving Edward and Kimberly back at the labs to run tests on the disease and see if they could come up with something. He followed the group into the large research lab, gazing upon station after station of hi-tech equipment. Then, he saw him.
"Oh-ho, I don't believe this!" Daniel exclaimed, hardly believing who he had just spotted. He started walking in the direction of the man.
"Excuse me?" the person asked, slightly annoyed at the disruption. He looked up to yell at whoever it was, but had a change of heart when he recognized who it was.
"Daniel Cassian! What the hell are you doing here?" the man cried out, taking Daniel's hand and shaking it heartily. "How long has it been? Twenty years?"
"Jeez, has it really been that long?" Daniel asked in disbelief. "Yeah, I guess it has." Behind him, he heard Bailey clear his throat to catch his attention.
"Oh, I'm sorry. Alexander Waller, this is Bailey Malone, Sam Waters, and John Grant." Daniel opened his mouth to add something, but Bailey cut him off.
"Mr. Waller. I'm sorry to cut your reunion short, but my colleagues and I are with the VCTF. We're here questioning people about the death of Dr. Carl Jenkins. We've ruled out that it wasn't an accident."
"Oh, God. You can't be serious." Alexander stared at him, looking for some work that this was just a cruel, sick joke. "I mean, who would do something like that?"
Bailey looked to his three companions, especially at Daniel, and asked, "Mr. Waller, is there someplace private we could talk?"
"Um, yes. Follow me." Alexander led them to a small academic-looking office and gestured for them to enter first. Just as Bailey was about to speak, John's cell phone rang.
"If you guys need me, I'll just take this right outside here," John informed them, opening the door to let himself out. Bailey nodded and waited for him to shut the door.
"Mr. Waller, over the past five days, four other genetic engineering research consultants were killed in the same manner of Mr. Jenkins. So far, there haven't been many leads as to who may have done
this, but we ran background checks on just the people that they may have in common, and you were one of the few people that have known each victim for an extended period, like a few years."
"I don't think I quite understand. Are you saying that I'm . . . a suspect?" Alexander questioned, completely aghast.
"No, not quite yet. There are also possibilities that whoever may have done this could be someone that has had very little or no contact with the five gentlemen at all. We're just questioning some of the more obvious people, ones that turned up on simple name searches," Bailey told him, not wanting to alarm him.
"Oh. Just out of curiosity, may I know who the other victims are?" Alexander asked, raising an eyebrow. Bailey told him the names of the four other men as he thought each of them over carefully.
"They were all advanced studies professors I had for genetic engineering research. Wait, isn't Daniel something of a suspect like me? We had all the same classes together." He looked to the other man standing in the room.
Daniel had made the same connection, wondering why they hadn't asked him anything.
"Is that true? It seems that's the only thing that has Alexander as a suspect in this case." Daniel waited for either Sam or Bailey to answer him
"Yes, Dr. Cassian, it's true," Bailey answered finally, those being the only words he could think of without giving him a small speech about what they thought that really meant nothing. "I didn't think it would've been really necessary to tell you at this time," he added.
"Oh, I see," Daniel replied, knowing there had to be something else. "Anything else you would care to tell me?"
Bailey simply shook his head. The three questioned Alexander a bit more, although Daniel didn't seem quite as interested as he was originally. When they found out nothing more than they already knew, they left.
"We've questioned three of the seven suspects and the other four were out of town. We weren't able to come up with anything conclusive," Bailey announced to the ten other people sitting around the conference table. "We still have the consideration of Dr. Waller. He's the only person we question who didn't have an alibi for the nights of the deaths." He paused for a moment, looked to Daniel, then spoke again. "Dr. Marcase, have you and Dr. Shiroma come up with anything in the lab?"
"Amazingly, we have. The portion of needle that we pulled out of Carl Jenkins' skin did in fact contain the disease." Edward opened a small desktop and pressed a few buttons. "This is the original film that we have from taking tissue samples from each victim. In each of them, the disease is the exact same." He paused to press a few more buttons. "Now that we have a sample of the disease before it entered the human body, it's a whole other story. When you compare this second sample to the original, you can tell there's been massive amount of mutation. Also, now that we have the newer sample, we're able to draw a few more conclusions. Now we can tell that this is a genetically grafted disease of several others." He paused again to highlight a small portion of the disease.
"The portion I just highlighted is part of Southeast Asiadic hantavirus, the next is malaria, then cholera, and finally," he paused, taking a deep breath, "Ebola. To do this, someone has to have so very intensive training," he finished, closing the computer and leaned back in his chair, looking at everyone seated around the table.
They all seemed to be thinking over the information he gave them, except Daniel, who seemed somewhat agitated by it. "It sounds as though Mr. Waller may be your best suspect so far." With that, Daniel pushed his chair away from the table and got up, striding briskly out of the room. *Not quite like him to do that,* Edward noted. Michael and Kimberly noticed it, too, unlike the others that were sitting around the table with them. They wondered what had happened when he went with Bailey, Sam, and John to question the suspects.
For the rest of the meeting it appeared that what Edward and Kimberly had come up was the most productive of the day. By the estimates in the times of deaths of the victims, if the killer would strike again in the next four to five hours. They had someone keeping watch on possible new victims and each suspect. Edward was going to ask Bailey something, but he decided he better not as he walked in the same direction that Daniel had.
"Could you remind me again why I'm not a suspect?" Daniel asked hotly as Bailey entered the office. "Oh, yes, I remember now. You didn't find it necessary to tell me. I'm just as much a suspect as Alex is. We're both very well trained in the area of genetic engineering. With what I know we can do, something like that would be mere child's play. I have no alibi whatsoever, and you just look the other way."
"Dr. Cassian, I'm mildly surprised. Usually people are happy when I don't consider them suspects, even if they have half the evidence pointing a finger at them," Bailey remarked, sitting down in his chair. "Is there any reason in particular why it sounds like you want to be a suspect?"
"I just think that the justice system is lacking when a government official could be a suspect in several murders."
Bailey stared at Daniel, offended by his remarks. "Are you questioning my ability to investigate this case, even if you are a possible suspect?"
"Yes, I guess I am. And if you don't think that's the issue, then tell me what you think is." Daniel stood tall, crossing his arms over his chest.
"You want to know what I think? I think you're making a big deal out of this because a friend of yours is a primary suspect. You don't want him to think that you're going to drop that in order to duck under the law while he takes the blame. That is what I think! If you want to be a suspect, fine. Consider yourself one of our two major ones. Now, if you'll excuse me, there's some work I need to finish." He looked up to Daniel, waiting for him leave, and noticed that his once agitated face had calmed somewhat.
"Thank you. I'll be at my hotel room. If you need anything from me, you have my cell phone number." Daniel turned and quietly walked out of the room.
"Hey, Cassian. Mind telling what went on in there?" Edward asked as he noticed Daniel walk out of Bailey's office.
"Actually, I would mind. But, if I know you, you won't let up until I do, so, I will. The reason I walked out on your little report is that Alexander Waller is one of my best friends from college. All the men killed were professors of a few of our classes, classes that we had together. You can now officially consider me a suspect in this case." Daniel didn't wait for him to reply as he walked into the conference room to gather up the papers that he had left in there when he walked out. "Where's Michael and Kimberly?" he asked as if he hadn't said anything before that.
"You're a suspect?" Edward didn't really think that was possible. He knew that Daniel could be cold, but he was by far no killer.
"Did you not hear what I just told you? Yes, I am. If you see Michael and Kimberly, tell them I'm at the hotel and that I want them to call me. Good night."
Daniel stared blankly at the laptop sitting on the coffee table, reading the same page of the report over and over for no apparent reason. He pinched the bridge of his nose, took off his glasses and told himself now was not a good time to be getting a migraine. Michael and Kimberly had already called as he had asked them to and let them know what was going on. He didn't know what was going to happen, and in a way he actually hoped that another person would be killed, sick as though it may seem. Ever since the moment he had learned that he was a possible suspect, his day had just spiraled down from there. He glanced down at his watch, noticing how long he had been attempting to read the report. Picking up the laptop, he crossed over to the bed in the hotel room, sitting with his back to the wall and his legs stretched out in front of him. Before long, he fell asleep.
Daniel opened one eye at the sound of his cell phone, knowing that it wasn't the first ring that had awakened him. He sat up, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and noticed he no longer had his glasses on. In fact, the laptop was no longer on the bed. He looked to the floor, knowing that it could have only fallen, and was surprised that it was safely folded up and shut off, with his glasses sitting on top of it. Remembering the still ringing phone, he picked it up off the bed stand and answered it.
"Yeah, this is Bailey. After last night, you're no longer a suspect. Two more people have been found dead. Same symptoms. Mr. Hailey's on his way over to your hotel to pick you up now." Bailey paused a moment. "We're positive now it's Alexander Waller. He lost his watch last night and now we can't find him. And there's something else."
"What is it?" Daniel asked, not liking the tone of voice Bailey was using.
"One of the victims was his mother. The other we can't make a positive ID on; the disease ate away too badly at her face."
"Okay. I'll be over there just as soon as Michael picks me up."
"Wait. Are you sure you'll still be able to work on this case since you have personal involvement?" Bailey asked, not wanting anything to happen that could easily be avoided.
"Yes, I'm sure. I think I'd be one of the better people you could have on this assignment. I know what Alex is capable of and I may be able to predict somewhat along the lines of what he might do." Not waiting for Bailey to reply, he hit the "end call" button on his phone. He picked up his jacket on his way out of the room to wait for Michael in the lobby.
"Records seem a bit slow today," Bailey commented as Daniel strode in through the doors of the mansion with Michael following closely in his wake. "Still haven't gotten back to us on who the other woman is." Bailey opened his mouth to start telling him about the one victim they had the identification of, but, Daniel stopped him.
"I already know who she is. Not the nicest woman I knew, either." He walked over to where the two bodies lay, side-stepping the people from forensics taking pictures. He stooped down and sat on the backs of his heels, balancing cautiously on the balls of his feet.
Alexander's mother was easy enough for him to recognize, though she was much older than the last time he saw her. He looked at the other body when the glint of silver caught his eye. Not even thinking about finger prints, he delicately picked up a heart-shaped locket from around the body's neck, careful not to pull at it.
He stood suddenly, barely able to control himself. With a half-way normal pace, he walked out of the house to stand on the marble porch, carefully masking his emotions as he walked past Michael, Edward, Kimberly and Bailey. Once outside, thinking of keeping his composure was all he could do to keep himself from crying. He subconsciously gripped the locket in his hand, unaware that he had torn it from the neck of the woman.
"You all right, Cassian?" Kimberly asked cautiously from behind, knowing Daniel wasn't one for talking about his feelings. The little she had seen him do so was when he was dying of the Mayan bacteria.
"Yeah," he managed, keeping the welling tears in his eyes from falling. "Tell Bailey they don't have to rush records anymore. The other woman was Alex's sister, Abigail. She moved in here after their mother had a stroke."
"Okay." Daniel waited for her to leave, but she spoke again. "Is there anything you want to talk about?" Now Kimberly was the one who waited.
"About a year after I met Alex, he introduced me to Abby. After he did, he kind of regretted it."
"Why? Was he protective of her?"
"No, not hardly. We were both about five years older than he was. Just that whenever I came over here with him to study, I ended up talking to her." He laughed slightly in remembrance, his smile fading as quickly as it had appeared. "Not too long after we started going out. He hated it because I was spending less time with him and more time with her. We loved each other greatly, but when I wanted to ask her to marry me, my father told me that I had more studies awaiting me at Yale. With what he wanted me to learn, there was no way I had time for any kind of life outside school work. I didn't want her to forget what we had together, so I gave her," he paused, suddenly noticing what he held in his hand, "this locket." He held it up for Kimberly to see, letting it dangle gently from its broken chain.
He opened it letting a small, four-leafed clover fall out, along with something else. He bent to pick them up, taking first the small heart-shaped piece of paper. It was a picture of him and Abby on a day he remembered well but wasn't aware that there was a camera. His tears now fell freely as he placed his hand over his face, clenching his jaw to keep it from trembling. He felt as Kimberly walked over and kneeled down beside him, placing her arm around him. He sat down at the command of his legs, growing tired from the awkward position. He tried to tell her he would be all right, but it came out as a heaving sob. He quietly let the pain he was feeling out, having become too strong for him to hold back. Kimberly gently squeezed his shoulders, trying her best to comfort him.
"Shhhhh, don't worry. It'll be okay."
Edward wasn't sure how he felt about the day he just had. At first he had thought working with the team was disturbing enough, watching people suffer and die of incurable or nearly incurable diseases, but to know that people were dying at the hand of some mad-man by a diesease that was created with the sole intention of killing, well, it actually scared him. He knew the human could be dark and evil, but when you begin to work to stop it, you never really know how cruel it could actually be. That day he had seen that Daniel was hardly a match for it. Never had he seen him emote so freely, and in front of the people that he had least expected him to.
Now Daniel sat across from him at the conference table, surprising Edward that he was even there at all. He had the locket swinging slowly from his hand still, twirling back and forth in a lazy loop. It looked as though it had Daniel hypnotized. An occasional tear rolled down his cheek, but nothing in comparison to what he had seen earlier that day.
"Good evening, everyone. With the latest deaths, we've been able to find out who our man is. Now all we have to do is find him, and stop him," Bailey announced as he entered the conference room, acting as though hardly any of what had happened that day didn't transpire.
"Right now, we have both the research facility he works at and his home under surveillance, but we aren't suspecting much," John informed everyone as Bailey took his seat at the head of the table. Daniel didn't bother to listen. He knew what was going to be said, the usual, "let's-do-this-and-see-if-it-works" routine.
It was the same for finding a serial killer as it was for fighting viruses. Alexander had already killed the ones that had hurt him at the slightest. His mother would always critisize what he did, almost to the point of making the fragile boy cry. His sister had hardly done anything to hurt him, although her involvement with Daniel could've been the reason. He suddenly feared for himself. If that was the reason that he killed Abby, what does he think of me? He thought some more, feeling that there was someone else, someone that had hurt him far deeper than few people knew.
"I know who he's going to kill next," Daniel jumped in, a name suddenly hitting him. He knew he had interrupted someone in the middle of a sentence, but he had the answer for the question that was being asked. "Alexander's father, Collin Waller. He's being released from the state psychiatric hospital tonight. He was locked up there after beating him to near-death. That's who he would kill next. He's the one that hurt Alexander the most." No one questioned Daniel's hypothesis. They all quickly agreed and sprang into action, wanting to apprehend him as soon as they could.
"Mr. Waller, I'm surprised to see that you would be the first to greet your father after what he had done to you," the attendant commented to Alexander, who stood in the light of the small informational window as he signed several release forms.
"Oh, yes. Well, sometimes we aren't able to really explain what we do. Humans are actually really creatures of impulse. More than often than not we find ourselves thinking about what we did after the fact, rather than before. That's why some people are actually better off after they've been locked up for sometime," Alexander rattled off, not knowing where it had come from.
"Hm, I guess you're right," the attendant simply shrugged, not really knowing half of what was just spoken to him. He took the papers that Alexander had just finished and placed them in an envelope, then placed that in a large stack of identical envelopes. He returned to watching some sports game on a small, portable TV on a desk in the booth.
Alexander turned away from the window toward the dimly lit lobby, looking at the procession of cyclone fenced gates that led to a metal doorway at the end of a corridor. A buzz was heard as the electronic locks on the door and the gates were shut off. The door opened, letting a large pool of light flood down onto the floor, the door framing the silhouette of a bent-over old man. Alexander smiled, knowing exactly who it was. A guard led the man down the corridor, holding each gate open for him.
Finally, they reached the last gate, which the guard, too, held open for the man, but rather than follow him out, he shut it behind him, as he did with all the other gates.
"Father," Alexander stated to the whithered old man, his voice trying to hold some effort of joy.
"You? What are you doing here? I thought you'd never want to hear of me after . . ." Mr. Waller started, not finishing his sentence.
"Oh, don't be absurd. Of course I would," he lied in return. "Here. Let's get you home."
"Leave him alone, Alexander," Daniel instructed him, standing in the doorway of the exit.
"Ah, Dan. I see you've joined us for our little welcome party," Alexander chuckled, holding his arm around his father.
"Alex, we know it was you."
"What do you mean, Daniel?"
"The deaths. We know you killed those people," Daniel informed him, his voice calm and neutral.
"What, you mean with this little love potion?" Alexander produced a small syringe from his jacket pocket.
"Why'd you do it?" Daniel asked, taking a step closer to Alexander. He looked at Mr. Waller, who seemed to be oblivious to what was happening around him.
"Why? You know damn well why!" he shouted in return, pulling the protective cover off the needle.
"Just tell me."
"All right. They had hurt me. All of 'em. Yes, even Abby. You should be surprised I haven't killed you yet, Dan. You and Abby were together on it."
"Alex, we didn't mean to hurt you. Why didn't you just tell . . .?"
"Because you wouldn't've understood!"
"Yes, we would've. All you had to do was say something."
"What about the others?"
"I don't know. I can't speak for them." Daniel paused a moment, taking another step closer. "Killing people isn't going to make anything better."
"How do know that?"
"I just do. C'mon. Give it to me and we can get you some help." He reached a hand out to Alexander, knowing how inevitably dangerous it could be. "Please."
Alexander gently shoved his father to the side, looking like he was about to give in. Just as about Daniel was about to take the syringe from him, he plunged it into his own side and injected the vial into himself. His knees instantly buckled from under him and Daniel rushed to him to keep him from falling too hard.
"Hold on. We'll get you some help and . . ."
Alexander interrupted him. "No, it's not good. By the time the right help gets here, it'll be too late." Alexander struggled to get out before a series of body-wrenching coughs seized him. Just as it subsided, he managed to get out, "You could never understand."
Daniel watched as Alexander's eyes glazed over, his heart slowing to a stop, and his breath slowly dwindled from his chest. He quietly placed a hand over Alexander's face, gently closing his eyes and mouth just as Bailey stormed in with several other people from the VCTF.
"What happened here?" Bailey asked as Daniel rose from Alexander's motionless body.
"It's over," he replied. "It's all over."