In Empty Doorways

MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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Rain pattered the cobblestone streets heavily, a dismal feel for a dismal occasion. As Cameron approached the carriage that waited for him outside 17 Poe Avenue, December's police headquarters, he pulled his hat low over his eyes, and popped his collar high, trying to keep out of the rain. As he stepped lightly into the carriage, a tinge of pity for the carriage driver struck his heart, but he brushed it quietly to the side. Everyone had their duty, himself included.
He checked his revolver, making sure it was loaded. Though the law frowned upon such means of force, he was a careful man, and trusted not a soul, especially when the victims he was chasing might yet live still.
With a crack, the carriage lurched forward, travelling dutifully towards Croft Manor, 38 Redwood Lane. He dug into his coat, and produced a small file, a dossier on the family he went to see first.
Victor Croft, the victim of a recent kidnapping, was a wealthy banker, who had many enemies. Every single one of those enemies happened to have an ironclad alibi for the night of the kidnapping, however. In his free time, Victor would visit a 'Madame Graves', a woman who claimed to allow her guests to speak with the dead. Cameron scoffed at the idea- nonsense, all of it. The man had two children. One, Sofia, and another, dead at childbirth, Baron. His wife was suspected of whoring herself out for extra funds on the side, but there was either no proof, or, Cameron suspected, police apathy. He suspected the latter to be more likely, as he'd noted that he was the only volunteer to arrive to December to investigate the kidnappings, and he was from another city entirely.
As he folded the file back, and placed it gently back into his coat, he gazed out the window, watching the city pass by him. December was unlike August, its doors darkened with shadows and its bricks worn and old. The people that walked the streets kept their eyes away from each other, tending to their own business, and even the occasional peddler didn't shout out their stock like the ones he was used to back home. Men and women alike seemed so distant from one another.
Just as he had begun to reason as to why this was, the carriage again lurched, and the horses that pulled it let out a loud whinny. Cameron pulled his hat back onto his head, and opened the carriage. He walked to the front, and patted the horses, before throwing a coin to the carriage driver. The driver tipped his hat, and thundered off, leaving the inspector alone. Utterly alone, he noticed, as the street was completely empty. He straightened his jacket, and cleared his throat, before approaching the manor, and rapping purposefully on the door. A woman, dressed in black- the wife, he assumed- opened the door. He raised his badge.
"Cameron Douglas, police inspector. I'm here to find your husband."
 
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MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance as long as there's adventure
The inspector's gaze drifted over to the younger woman, who he assumed to be the daughter. He looked her over, and noted that she wasn't dressed in the same mourning attire that her mother was dressed in. The fact that the mother was so early in a stage of mourning despite no body being found was enough of a red flag already, he was pleased to find someone who wasn't so willing to give up.

"I can try," he said, giving an almost unnoticeable smile.

He turned back to the older woman.

"Miss, I would ask you a few questions regarding your husband's past."

After a short session of questioning, which led him to the same conclusion he was previously inclined to pursue- Madame Graves- he took a brief look around the home, as much as the wife would allow. When he felt as though there were no more leads here to pursue, he started for the front door.

"Miss, I will do everything in my power to return your husband to you." He visibly looked her over, taking note of her dress. "You needn't mourn so quickly, I am sure he still lives." He turned to the younger girl, who had been watching him closely the entire time. She was perceptive, and might have seen something, or known something. "If I may, miss, would your daughter see me out? I have, of course, already called up a carriage."

The woman saw no problem, if she even cared at all, and bid her daughter to see him out. As soon as they'd cleared the front gate, Cameron approached his waiting carriage, but turned to the girl, his eyes looking intently into hers.
"If you know anything, and I suspect you and your watchful eye know plenty," he began, taking out his notebook, "you will meet me at this address tonight, in two hours. It is a pub, three doors down from headquarters here, and it's where I've been given lodging. I'll be in the common room. And, madame," he said, worriedly, "be careful. There is a foul aura about these streets tonight."

Without another word, he handed her the scrap of paper he'd scribbled the address on, and entered the carriage, bidding the driver to thunder off back towards headquarters, and the tavern in question, The Hanged Man. The hour grew late, and the weather still projected a dismal grey sky over the city. He would not disturb yet another family today. Besides, come midnight, he had a seance to attend.
 

MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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Cameron jumped slightly as the girl set herself down in a seat next to his, his mind having wandered to not only what awaited him, but also the eyes that had been watching him since he'd entered the pub. Every man, woman, and even child that scampered through his locale acted as if he was a fell wind, blown in from some wicked barrow to claim their very souls. Eyes glared at him from the lids of tankards, and barmaids paid as little attention as possible to the foreigner.

When he'd first arrived, and taken his seat, he had noticed a man with an eye patch who had paid a bit too much attention to him. He wore no hat, which the inspector found a bit strange, given the rain. A long, brown coat dusted the backs of his knees, and his dress underneath seemed none too noble, and almost intentionally inconspicuous. All of these things the inspector had taken time to put into his notes. Just before his current companion had arrived, the man had quickly looked at his pocket watch, paid for his drink, and excused himself, slipping away cautiously into the night.

He broke from the sanctum of his thoughts, and turned his attention over to the girl, taking a moment to properly take in her facial features. He found her attractive, and she evidently took excellent care of herself. Those were dangerous traits, for a woman to walk alone at night, in any city, and he silently kicked himself for not offering an escort. He shook himself from the self-penitent trance, and leaned forward, meeting her eyes.

"Inspector Cameron Douglas, August police division. I'm not from around here, I'm sure you gathered. Do you drink?" He kept his voice low, as to avoid drawing attention. Before she had a chance to answer, he waved over a barmaid, bidding her to bring over a bottle of whiskey and two small glasses. "You can call me Cameron, or Cam, if being so personal suits and comforts you." He flashed a faint smile.

"And who," he began, as the barmaid quickly dropped off his drink and removed herself from the table, "pray tell, are you?" As she answered, he poured a bit of the drink into each glass, and slid one across the table to her, leaning back with his in hand.
 
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MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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The inspector nodded, taking out a small binder of notes. The girl was very confident in her manner of speaking, and very evidently was trying her best to seem strong during a difficult time. He almost found comfort in the fact that, in this bleak city, there was a person who held on to the smallest light.

With her words came a phantom of dread that hung over the inspector. How dangerous could a few kidnappings possibly be? The city seemed normal enough, even if it lacked... friendliness. He had not yet felt scared, but as her speech sunk into him, he felt himself doubt his strength.

"You have a deal, Sofia. I'll ask you what I questions I have, you'll answer them, and then tell me what you have to say. And I will do my damnedest to find your father." He paused a moment, before looking over his notes. "Firstly, what was your father doing the night he disappeared? Had he been acting suspicious for any period of time before his disappearance? Did you ever convene with this 'Madame Graves'? Lastly, do you-" he paused again, making sure she wasn't staring too intently at his eyes, "-suspect your mother, or any of her 'associates', had anything to do with this?" He folded his notebook over, tucking it back into his pocket, and took a sip from his glass, feeling the liquid burn on its way down. He leaned forward, looking at his companion.
 

MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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The inspector took note of the girl's harsh opinion of her parentage, but she seemed honestly fixated on finding her father. He only hoped that they'd find her father alive. "I will see to the affairs of this 'Lovework' soon enough, and find out if anyone else saw your father that night. On my oath," he said, nodding.

Cameron was briefly taken aback by the girl's offer- nay, her insistence- to accompany him to the seance, but that quickly changed from concern to intrigue. He downed what was left in his glass, and leaned forward.

"And you're awfully quick to offer to accompany me on such a difficult and dangerous assignment, if what you say is to be believed," the inspector said, raising an eyebrow. "I suppose," he continued, leaning back for a moment and drawing a sharp breath, before standing, and placing his hat firmly on his head, "that it is only fortunate that I planned on asking for your accompaniment already." He flashed a brief smile, accompanied by a wink, and stepped over to the other side of the table, offering his hand out. "After all, one doesn't attend such events without accompaniment."
 

MourningStar

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As she spoke, it seemed like the city itself began to sink into him, implant itself in his bloodstreams, meld with his very bones. He suddenly thought that he saw a pair of eyes staring from an alley, and when he glanced to focus, they were gone. He heard whispers from closed shudder windows, and the few people that walked by who kept their heads down seemed to be paying much more attention. A dog howled like a highland wolf from a few streets away, and the birds, the birds, they watched. Nothing more, nothing less.

The inspector shook himself from his focus on the more frightening things around him, and focused instead on the girl. Beneath the exterior he presented her with, he was, slowly, growing more frightened, but her confidence and firmness, it was genuine. It gave him hope, and strength. After he figured he'd been glancing at her too long, he broke away.

After a brief period of walking, the pair came across the address he'd found on Madame Graves' business card, set tenderly on Victor's bedside table. It was a fairly unassuming little warehouse, with a gruff looking doorman stood outside, leaning against the wall. A pipe hung lazily from his mouth, and his hair was matted down from the rain. As the inspector approached, the doorman stepped forward.

"Oi. Name?" he said, taking the pipe in his hand.

"Douglas. Inspector Douglas. The girl is-"

"Not on the list, inspector. Afraid the madame only takes appointments, and she's booked for another in ten minutes. You and yer lassie need some directions elsewhere? You look..." he looked at Sofia, a grin that made Cameron uncomfortable growing across his face, "... lost."

Before the inspector was able to answer, the warehouse door creaked open, and a woman, old of age and wearing a foreign-looking dress and unnecessary amounts of golden jewelry (so much so that she rattled when she moved her arms) stood in the doorway. Despite her age, she seemed well-kept, and no doubt had many gentleman callers.

"Inspector, I've been expecting you. The girl is an unexpected element, however." She turned to the doorman. "Dear Evan, I'm afraid Mister Mallows won't be attending tonight. Fortunate, isn't it, that the inspector and his companion thought to attend at this hour?" She turned to walk inside, leaving the inspector, Sofia, and the doorman standing, all dumbfounded, in the light rain. She looked over her shoulder. "Well, dearies, come in."
 

MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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The inspector noted the worry in his companion's eyes, and lightly patted her on the back as a form of reassurance. He looked at the madame, as she swayed her way into her den, and he rolled his eyes. He had no time for trivialities, and purposefully thundered in, dragging his reluctant accompaniment with him.

The warehouse was much bigger on the inside than the exterior let on, and the small hallway that Madame Graves sauntered down opened into a large, decorative room. A table with an ornate cloth sat in the middle, with at least eight chairs surrounding it, and a fogged-glass crystal orb situated in the center. Small vials of sage and a spice the inspector didn't recognize sat carelessly about the table, as if unimportant. Candles were the only source of light, as the warehouse had no windows, and the candles that were put out melted nonchalantly over their holders. Looking around, Cameron noticed all manner of occult symbolism adorning the walls, noting symbols of at least three of the world's major religions openly displayed, and even more of the world's minor religions. He felt unnerved. The inspector wasn't a religious man- that wasn't to say he was anti-religion, but he held the belief that his job was on earth, heaven could be left to the angels.

He was shaken from his inspection of the room by a cold hand touching his face. His head shot to face the woman, Graves, who stood closer to him than he'd like to allow. When he had last noticed her, she was halfway across the room. She moved uncomfortably quietly, and quickly. He took a step back, almost yanking her away from his face. He'd wished that Sofia had warned him, but when he noticed her looking around as well, he didn't have it in him to blame her.

"Oh, dear inspector," the madame said, letting her hand fall, "there are many who would love to talk with you. You have many angry ghosts about you. I can almost see the energies tugging and floating about your neck..." the inspector took another step back, clearly perturbed. He straightened his collar, almost instinctively running a hand across his neck. There was nothing there. He knew that.

The woman let out a laugh. "You have seen many souls to the noose. You can only expect them to be displeased with you. But they aren't all, they aren't even the loudest. Young lads call for you, like an old friend they haven't seen in years. They lay, tenderly, in the mud, far away. They did not die by your hand, but you were not there to save them, were you?" The inspector shook his head. He wouldn't have any more of this nonsense.

"Graves, enough. Sit down. We have to talk about Victor Croft."

She raised an eyebrow, and flashed a smile, walking slowly over to her table, hips swaying hypnotically. The inspector rolled his eyes again. As she sank down into a chair, looking between him and Sofia. "Well, darlings. Sit down, then."

Cameron looked over at Sofia, and cocked his head to a chair. He walked over, and sat down across from Graves, seeking to avoid her. She unnerved him.
 

MourningStar

A Perfect Criminal
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Fantasy, Sci-Fi, Romance as long as there's adventure
Graves leaned forward, gently setting her hands on the table.

"My dear Sofia- it is Sofia, isn't it?- it is not every day I am asked to disclose the personal lives of my clients." The Inspector started to stand, but Graves raised her hand, motioning for him to sit down. "But given the circumstances, I see no reason to be secretive. Your father, Victor, was so very generous to me, with his visits, and his money. He would request- every Tuesday, like clockwork, to make contact with an entity that he called 'Her'. Of course, I was not present, so to say, during their interactions, so I have no idea what they talked about."

The Inspector shot up, slamming his hand down on the table.

"Graves, you are a charlatan. And if you are not, you will allow us to speak to this 'entity' immediately."

Graves' head lulled slightly to the side, her eyes locking with the inspector.

"Inspector, I resent that accusation, and would be glad to put you through to Her."

The inspector sank down into his chair.

"Join hands," the Madame said. Glaring at her, the inspector put his hands on the table, taking Sofia's in one hand, and reluctantly taking the Madame's in another. He felt the older woman caress his hand, and he aggressively tapped the table, as if to signify her to stop- something that elicited a laugh out of her.

Graves whispered some things, and the room seemed to darken, unnerving the inspector slightly. The crystal orb in the center of the table grew misty, as if drawing all the light in the room towards it. Graves' eyes rolled back into her head, which craned back, as she started convulsing.

"It is heeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeere," she said, her voice taking on a deeper, rougher tone. The inspector looked over at Sofia, and raised an eyebrow, then back at Graves. Graves' head snapped to look at the inspector.

"I do not want to speak with you," she said, looking wholly displeased.

"Right," the inspector stated. "Well, Sofia. You... have your chance. Ask it, I suppose."