~ Chapter II ~
The first thing Sara became aware of was the throbbing pain in the back of her head. The second was a stiffness in her shoulders and elbows, and the realisation that her wrists were bound together behind her - she was tied up, by the feel of it to a hard steel chair with a straight back and narrow seat. She tried to open her eyes, but found that it made the pain in her head worse, so she stopped trying. She felt groggy, and couldn’t muster the energy to move despite the discomfort in her behind and the stiffness in her limbs.
A door opened somewhere nearby, and when it was closed another jolt of pain went through her head. She groaned as a metallic scraping sound pierced her head. A harsh voice, male, came from only a few feet in front of her. “Name?” it asked.
Sara grumbled, trying to find her voice - her throat and mouth were completely dry. “Where am I?” she asked hoarsely.
“Name?” demanded the voice again, louder this time.
Sara forced her eyes open, fighting back the urge to cry with the pain. The man in front of her was in his mid twenties, with long-ish black hair and the slightest hint of sideburns at his temples. He sat leaning forward in his chair, his elbows resting on the battered metal table between them. A surge of adrenaline dulled the pain a bit as her memory caught up with her. She sat up straight suddenly, grimacing when the restraints at her wrists tightened as she did so. “Where am I?” she asked, her voice much stronger this time. “Who are you? Where’s Camryn?”
“Camryn is dead,” he replied shortly.
She knew this already, of course, having seen her remains - the image flashed through her mind, making her gag in panic and disgust - with her own eyes. But hearing the words spoken so coldly, so without pity or sadness, struck her like a blow. “What happened? Did you catch the man who killed her?”
“Name?!” he said, louder than ever.
“You can’t treat me like this!” she yelled, pulling at her bonds; they only tightened the harder she tried. “This is police brutality! Untie me, now!”
The officer glared at her, the smallest of smirks crossing his face. “Tell me your name,” he said, more softly this time. “And I’ll think about it.”
She glared at him. She had nothing to hide from the police - she wanted Camryn’s killer caught and put in prison as fast as possible. But rebellion burned in her chest, fuelled by the pain in her wrists and back. “Lawyer,” she said shortly. She leaned back in the chair, forcing a triumphant grin - though she was sure it looked more like a pained grimace than anything.
The man chuckled, shaking his head. He rose, his chair scraping against the floor again. He walked around the table and past her without another glance, and returned through the door from which he had entered.
Sara looked around the room. It looked very much like the interrogation rooms she’d seen in police stations on television before, but for some reason something about it was off. The light overhead was flickering slightly, and seemed far too dim for the Queensbridge police department. The walls were tiled, and had a rather dingy look about them in the half-light. The mirror on the wall to her left, which she knew by instinct was a one-way window, had chipped flakes of white and beige paint along the edges, as if it’d been put up before the room had been painted. The table was at an awkward height, and the far left corner had a stain on it that looked suspiciously like blood.
She’d never known anyone who’d been arrested before, but she didn’t think that this kind of treatment could be normal - and she was positive that it wasn’t legal. “You can’t do this to me!” she shouted angrily, fighting against her restraints again - and again, all she managed to accomplish was a fresh wave of pain to join the rest of it.
She distinctly heard voices on the other side of the two-way mirror. They were raised, agitated, even angry. She wasn’t sure how many people were speaking, but she guessed it had to be at least three - two of them shouted at each other for a moment or two, and another, louder one overcame them both. There was silence for a few seconds, then the door behind her opened once again. She tensed as a set of footsteps approached her from behind. She was ready to kick, thrash, and bite at anything that came next - but to her surprise a pair of hands brushed against her lower arms as the knots at her wrists came lose and her bonds fell loosely to the floor.
“I’m sorry about Greg,” said a man’s voice, this one much calmer and gentler than the first. He moved out from behind her and pulled out the seat across from her. As the light flickered across his face she recognised him as the man from La Café Grande
. He removed his jacket and draped it over the back of the chair before sitting down. “My name is Joshua,” he said. “How do you feel?”
She threw him a filthy look before replying. “Really? Good cop/Bad cop?” She laughed darkly and shook her head. “I’m not saying a word to you people. You can’t hold me here, and when I get out of here I promise that each and every officer in this station will be printing resumes by the end of the week.”
The man shook his head slowly. “I’m sorry,” he replied evenly. “But we can hold you here. And though we’d rather not have to, we will if you don’t cooperate.”
“You tied me unconscious to a chair and locked me in an interrogation room!” she yelled, ignoring the effect it had on her growing headache. “My friend was murdered, brutally, and I almost went the same way, and you’re going to hold me here until I ‘cooperate’ with you? Who the hell do you think you are, *******?”
“I told you. I’m Joshua.” He held out his hand across the table. “Joshua Wright.”
She glared at his hand and folded her arms across her chest. “I’m still waiting on that lawyer,” she said shortly.
“There’s no lawyer coming,” replied Joshua simply, retracting his hand and mirroring her position. “We’re not cops, and we can hold you here as long as it takes to get answers.”
“... What do you mean you’re not cops?” she asked, forgetting to inject scorn into the question.
He shrugged. “I mean: we’re not with the police.”
She swallowed, fear tugging at her chest as her anger and scorn dimmed faintly. Had she been kidnapped? What exactly had she stumbled into? “Then who are you?” she asked, her voice cracking. “Where am I?”
Joshua hesitated before answering. “Torchwood,” he said. There was a sound, like something being thrown, from behind the mirror. He cast it a defiant look before turning back to her.
She turned the word over in her head for a moment, but came up with nothing - she didn’t recognise it. “What is that, some sort of private investigation service or something?” she asked.
“Sort of,” he said. “More like... special operations.”
She eyed him suspiciously, taking in his messy blonde hair and the thin layer of stubble stretching across his chin and lip. “Look,” he said, leaning forward again. “We need your cooperation on this. We need to know what you saw and heard tonight. The more you resist us, the harder it’ll be for us to track down your friend’s killer.”
She broke eye contact, staring down at the table. “Where is Camryn?” she asked. “I mean... where... where are her...”
“We have her remains,” he said gently. “We still need to examine them.”
“What about the police?” she asked. “Or do they out-source stuff like this to you guys?”
He laughed. “Don’t worry about the police,” he said. “They’ll be informed of anything they need to know.”
His laughter brought another wave of anger, but she forced it down. He was answering her questions, and she wanted to get as much from him as she could. “And her family? Have they been notified yet?”
He hesitated again. “Not yet,” he said slowly. “We... want to complete our investigation first.”
She looked up at him coldly. Something in his voice told her he was lying to her about why they hadn’t been informed. “So you’re just going to let them worry about her until you’re finished? You’re going to let her mother cry herself to sleep? Her father start drinking again? Her little brother wonder why his sister is never going to come home again?”
“I’m sorry,” he said, and though his voice was defensive his eyes reflected true regret. “But that’s how we do things.”
“Not good enough,” she said in disgust. “They’re her family. You can’t let them feed themselves false hope if she’s dead. They deserve to have some closure.”
“And they’ll get it,” he said. “Tomorrow evening, a body will be found at the Queensbridge Sewage Reclamation Plant. The machinery will have mangled the corpse beyond positive identification, but there will be enough left for dental records to identify it as Camryn Lee-Smith. A note will be found on her computer, saying goodbye and apologising for... what she had to do.”
Sara stared at him, flabbergasted. “Suicide?” she said indignantly. “She was murdered! You can’t do this, it isn’t fair! What about the monster who killed her?”
“We’re working on it,” he said plainly.
She rose from her seat, marching to the one-way glass. “She was murdered!” she screamed. “And you’re just going to let the man who did it walk away?!”
“No, we’re not,” replied Joshua firmly. “We’re doing everything we can to find him - including questioning you about what happened tonight.”
She glared at him, but it was hard to remain cold towards him the longer he looked at her. She rolled her eyes, and returned to the table. “How could I possibly help?” she asked. “I didn’t see the murder. I walked into the room about a minute before you came.”
He nodded, indicating the chair. “You may be more help than you think,” he said.
She paused for a moment, then slowly descended into the chair across the table from him.
“Thank you,” he said. He reached behind him into his jacket and pulled out an old file-folder. She caught a glimpse of an odd, stylised letter ‘T’ on the front before he placed it on the table in front of him and opened it. “Now, what’s your name?”
“Sara,” she said reluctantly. “Sara Wallace.”
“Nice to meet you, Sara Wallace,” he said, turning his gaze to the folder in front of him. He pulled a piece of paper from it and hesitantly slid it towards her. “Just... for the record: is this Camryn Lee-Smith, of 144 Banington Drive?”
Her heart rose to her mouth and was quickly smothered in vomit. The picture showed a young woman who most would have considered fairly pretty were it not for the fact that the left side of her face was missing, leaving only a bloody mass of twisted flesh. She turned away just in time to stop from spraying both the photo and Joshua in sick, instead splattering on the floor beside the table. She panted heavily for a few moments, her eyes closed, trying to force the image out of her head. She straightened, and when she looked back at the table the photo was gone.
“I’m sorry,” said Joshua again, not making eye contact - he was once again digging inside the file-folder.
She shook her head, her eyes closed again. “It’s not your fault,” she replied quietly.
He looked up at her, his eyes rather red and a guilty expression crossing his face. His voice, however, was as strong as ever as he asked: “Where were you when then victim was attacked?”
Sara shrugged. “He must have come in while I was in the back...” she muttered. “I was taking out the trash.”
“Into the alleyway?” he asked.
“No,” she said, shaking her head. “The owner doesn’t want us out there after dark. There’s a store room, in the back, that we, uh - the evening and night shifts, I mean - keep our garbages. The morning shift takes them to the dumpsters in the alley after sunup.”
Joshua nodded, making a small note in the folder. “Alright, so you took the trash to the back. Then what?”
“I heard... I dunno what I heard, it... it sounded like someone was going through the dumpster or something. I thought it was just skunks - we have problems with skunks all the time, all the food places in the area do. Then there was...” She paused, closing her eyes as she strained for the details. “There was a scream,” she continued finally. “From the alley. One of those screams that... seems to go on forever, inaide your head. Then there were more sounds... more crashing. I tried to call 9-1-1, but my phone didn’t have service for some reason.”
Joshua nodded, as if hearing what he’d expected. “Go on.”
“I tried to look through the peep-hole in the back door, but it was too dark. So I went back to the front to call the police from the landline. I told Camryn to lock the front door, and that’s when--“
She stopped abruptly, but Joshua didn’t push her for more. “It’s okay,” he said bracingly. “You’re doing fine. You got to the front, and Camryn was dead. Did you still try to call the police?”
“Wouldn’t you have?” she asked incredulously. “But the landline wouldn’t work either - I couldn’t even get a dial tone. And that’s when the... man, the man who killed Camryn, attacked me. I tried to fight him off, but he... he wouldn’t stop coming. I threw the phone at him, a stool... he just kept coming. So I ran. I was going to go through the back alley and try to find another open store, to call for help. That’s when you showed up.”
He nodded, finishing another note in his folder. “The back alley wasn’t safe anyway. There was another body, and I didn’t have time to clear the area before I heard you scream from inside.” He sighed, then looked at her with warmth. “I’m sorry you had to go through this,” he said. He pulled another sheet from his folder and held it against his chest. “I need to show you another photo, this one of the victim in the back alley.”
She nodded, bracing herself for another gruesome image. But when he lay it in front of her, it wasn’t as terrible as she had expected. The man’s eyes and mouth were open, and his teeth and lips were covered in blood, but his face was intact. The blank, staring grey eyes unsettled her, as if they were staring into her soul. She suppressed a shudder and she looked away after a moment.
“Do you recognise this man?” asked Joshua.
She wracked her brains for a moment. “No,” she said. “No, I’ve never seen him before.”
Joshua put the photo back into the folder and closed it. The stylised ‘T’ lay just above his folded hands, and she stared at it as he spoke.
“I’m sorry you had to go through all this,” he said again. “I need to give this to my boss, but after that I can take you home.”
She nodded, her eyes fixed on the folder on the table. “Why did he kill them?” she asked weakly, before she could stop herself.
“I don’t know,” he replied after a moment. “We have a few ideas, but... nothing concrete.”
“Why aren’t the police involved? Why are you investigating this instead of them?”
He pulled the folder from the table and slid it into the inside pocket of his jacket again. “We have a special interest in the case,” he said evasively.
“What kind of interest?” she asked. “He’s just a psychopath - unless you guys are specialists with these kinds of killers? Are you RCMP or something? CSIS?”
“We’re an independent agency,” he answered evasively. “Apart from the government, outside the purview of the city’s police. We investigate events and incidents of... unusual origin.”
She furrowed her brow. “What exactly does that mean?”
He gazed at her seriously for a moment, but didn’t answer her. “I’ll turn in my report, then I’ll be back to take you home. Sit tight, alright?”
“Well wait a minute!” she said, twisting in her chair to keep him in view. He turned to look at her from the open door, then disappeared behind it.
He returned within a few minutes, accompanied by an elderly man with thick grey hair, a bushy beard, and a warm smile.
“Hello,” he said, taking her hand in both of his. “I’m Dr. Davies - please, call me Alain.”
She gave Joshua a furtive look before smiling at Alain. “Sara,” she said, nodding. “I hope you’re here to give me something for this damned headache,” she laughed, impulsively massaging her temples with her free hand.
He smiled kindly, reaching into his pocket and withdrawing a small bottle. He popped the bottle open and tipped its contents into his hand: two pills, a smooth red one that she knew immediately was Tylenol, and a smaller, circular blue one she didn’t recognise. “Take the Tylenol first,” he instructed. “Then the blue one fifteen minutes later: it will help you sleep.”
“I don’t think sleep will be a problem,” she said.
“Take it anyway,” he said. “You have a mild concussion, and we want to make sure you sleep alright.”
She nodded, popped the red pill into her mouth and slipped the blue into her pocket. “Thanks,” she said.
Alain nodded, shook her hand once more, then turned and left the room.
“Let’s get going,” said Joshua, holding the door open for her.
When she stepped into the hallway, she looked the way the doctor had gone, but he had already disappeared behind a large metal door only a few feet to her right. Joshua guided her to the left, however, down a long, narrow corridor lined with rough yellowish stones. The lighting in here was about as bad as in the interrogation room, but had a much different effect: instead of feeling cold and lonely, the rough stone and dim light created a sense of warmth harshly at odds with the silver gun-handle Sara could see tucked into the back of Joshua’s pants.
They reached another door, this one also metal. Joshua pulled it open slowly, the hinges grinding slightly. The room beyond was a typically sized two vehicle garage, the vast majority of which was occupied by a full-sized black van and a black sedan - an Accord, she guessed. Joshua walked around the van to the passenger’s side of the sedan and opened the door for her obligingly.
“I don’t remember the last time a man opened my car door for me,” she quipped, crouching into the car. He smirked down at her as he closed it behind her, then walked around the front to the driver’s side.
He reversed out of the garage through a door Sara hadn’t seen while in the garage and that hadn’t made a sound it opened. The area immediately surrounding them was pitch dark, but Joshua navigated comfortably through what appeared to be a long tunnel between the garage and the street beyond. When they reached the partially lit street, Sara realised with a jolt that they were driving down a street she knew well - Albany Street, the main road running through downtown Queensbridge.
“Where am I taking you?” asked Joshua as he pulled up to a red light.
“Turn left,” she replied distractedly, turning in her seat to try to catch a glimpse of the building they had just come from. “I’m in the Villageview Apartments, on Lexington.”
It was no use. The crowded storefronts of the downtown core masked even the alley/driveway they had come from.
A pale green light in the distance promised to bring dawn shortly, and she glanced down at the clock in the dashboard - it was after 5:30. As the traffic light shifted to green and the van began moving again, Sara felt tired for the first time.
Joshua seemed to have read her thoughts. “Alain says you should be fine to go to bed by 6:00. If I were you, I’d take that second pill now, so you can crash when you get home.”
“I don’t think I’ll need any help crashing...” she muttered tiredly, grinning. “I could fall asleep here.”
“Doctor’s orders,” he replied. “It can’t hurt.”
“Alright,” she sighed, pushing herself up awkwardly in her seat, the better to reach into her pocket and fish out the pill.
She rolled it around in her palm for a few seconds, gazing at it in the half darkness. It was oddly cool to the touch, as if it had been refrigerated recently, despite having been in her pants pocket for a number of minutes. She popped it into her mouth. It seemed to grow colder after she closed her mouth, and it fizzed slightly after she swallowed. Her tongue felt oddly wet.
Josh, who’d been watching her silently, gave a single nod of satisfaction.
They were silent for a moment. Then: “So that man...” said Sara slowly. “The one who killed Camryn, and the man in the alley; were you following him?”
He glanced sidelong at her as he made a right turn. “All night, yeah,” he said after a moment. “Three of us had been tracking him from dusk. We lost track of him once he reached the downtown core, but we caught up with him a few hours later: there was an energy spike in the alley behind your shop - the homeless man’s murder, we suspect. I...” he stopped, his voice etched with apology. “I violated orders and went after him alone. He saw me coming, and tried to hide in the shop itself.”
She stared at him. “So--“
”Yeah,” he said, cutting her off. “It’s my fault that Camryn’s dead.”
She turned to look out the front window, not really seeing it.
“I’m... you have no idea how sorry I am, Ms. Wallace,” he said. “And I promise you that we will find the man, or creature, that killed her.”
She nodded. Not looking at him. “It’s Sara,” she said. “Ms. Wallace makes me sound like an old maid. I’m not old yet.”
“Alright... Sara. I’m sorry.”
She sighed, and shook her head. “Stop apologising,” she muttered. She’d tried to be angry with him, with Davies, witg their ‘independent agency’. But so far, the only person she’d managed to stay angry with had been the cold, uncaring beast whom she’d regained consciousness to. “It’s not your fault,” she said. “There was nothing keeping Camryn and I safe in there anyway. He may have killed us both if you hadn’t shown up.”
He nodded agreement, but his face was still an unbroken mask of regret. She looked at him levelly, and said: “You saved my life, Joshua.”
He didn’t answer. “Villageview Apartments,” he said suddenly, slowing the vehicle to a stop.
She realised with a start that they had reached the end of Lexington Street, where the building in which she lived stood. Joshua undid his seatbelt and got out of the car as she did, and fell into step beside her.
“Thanks for the lift,” she said, turning to face him at the door to the building.
“Any time,” he said. He stood with his hands folded behind him, watching her almost expectantly.
“Well... goodnight,” she said, thinking longingly of the soft, warm bed just upstairs and wishing desperately to crawl into it.
He nodded, still watching her intently. Her eyes began to droop, and she thought she could feel her limbs starting to go numb. “I guess I’m more tired than I thought...” she muttered, laughing softly.
He grinned, taking the key from her hand and unlocking the door himself. “Must be,” he said.
She didn’t even remember crossing the threshold. For the second time in as many hours, she felt the world around her grow dim as she fell into unconsciousness, Joshua Wright deftly lifting her into his arms.