The Shift: Book 1- The Anomaly Ch 5
Chapter 5: Clue
"Wh...what do you mean you have a lead?" I yell rushing out of the bathroom and run down the hall wiping the tears from my eyes. As I enter the lobby, I see Cody still on his cell phone, standing behind the desk in front of the office desktop computer. With him is James and Brandon huddling close, hunched over the swivel chair staring at the computer screen, both displaying stern faces. My sleeping Karma sits up, wags his tail and pokes his nose at me as I approach.
Cody looks at me with concern in his eyes, closes his phone, sits back down and says, "It's a video of some men forcefully dragging Grace out of her apartment building and...well...here take a look..." He turns the computer monitor in my direction.
I watch a dark, fuzzy video of two black hooded figures carrying a bound and tied blonde haired woman from the door of the apartment building. They carry her across the sidewalk into a parked, dark SUV. A third hooded figure stands off to the side of the camera. Once the blonde woman is shoved into the vehicle, and the door shuts, the third figure moves to the front of the camera. His face is masked, and he looks rather tall. He holds up a sign to the camera, and covers his face. The sign says, "Detective Ariella Foxx!" He he puts the sign down, then holds up another sign that says, "Now that I have your attention..." He switches signs with one that says, " If you ever want..." He switches signs again, "To see your friend"....and again, "Alive again,"... "Await instructions."
"What in the HELL!" I exclaim. "Why is my name on that sign? What does he want with me?"
"That's what we'd like to know." States Cody.
"They're targeting you." Says James.
"Why do they want me?" I ask. "That definitely looks like Grace. This video is from the security camera on Grace's apartment building. Where did we get this?"
"Yeah, that's Grace alright...Isn't that the dress you picked out for her to wear to the airport, Ari?" Cody asks with concern in his eyes. "The video was sent to us." He gestures.
"You've made plenty of enemies over the years, Ari. One of the many 'benefits' of the profession." James says. "Didn't you watch all of the security videos from that apartment building for Sunday through Tuesday, since Grace was last seen, Cody?"
"Yeah, I watched them all yesterday, and I didn't find anything suspicious...and spoke to many of the residents. The video showed her entering and exiting the building on Sunday, and Ari entering and exiting the building on Tuesday. And everyone I was able to talk to said they know nothing. I walked away empty handed." Cody says.
"But wait, if she had entered and exited the building on Sunday, how can that be her?" I point out. "She was supposed to leave to the airport early Monday morning.....what was the time stamp on those videos? What's the time stamp on this one?"
"23:55 Sunday." Brandon says.
"We need to get the rest of the video for Sunday. I hardly believe that no one knows anything. How could they have abducted her without anyone seeing anything?" Cody inquires. "I bet you anything the video has been spliced. That's the only thing that makes sense. They had to have cut out her re-entering, and then cut this video out."
Greyson struts through the automated doors of the office carrying two bags in one hand that look like they have to-go boxes in them and a drink carrier with two drinks in the other hand. He approaches me with a smile, puts down the drink carrier and hands me a bag, "Hey..there you are. You left without eating, so I got this to-go." He picks up one cup and hands it to me, "Diet Coke....what are you guys looking at?"
"A video....Greyson, look at this." I say and reach over Cody's shoulder to push the play button.
Greyson watches the video, and mumbles, "Well, that's interesting. Where did you get this?"
"It was sent to us," Brandon states.
"Can you make out the license plate number?" I ask as I reach over Cody's shoulder again and press the pause button at the point where the SUV starts to drive away.
"No...it's a poor quality video...the license plate number is too fuzzy to read." Greyson says as he leans closer to the screen and squints his eyes.
"Of course it is, it's a security video and it was shot at night." Cody sneers.
"I'll send a copy of the video to my headquarters and have it run through the enhancement software." Greyson completely ignores Cody.
"Why...when we can do it here." Brandon states.
"Oh...so you know how to do that?" Greyson teases his little brother.
"Absolutely! Just give me about 20 minutes and I will have a license plate number for Ari." Brandon smiles at me.
"Just get it done." I demand.
"Perfect." James says, "Cody, Greyson go to the apartment building, obtain those security videos and bring them back here so we can examine them closer. Ari, make out a list of people you think may hold a grudge against you and Grace. Study this video up close, see if you can pick up anything from it. Brandon, get that license plate number. I'll make some phone calls. Get moving! Pronto!" James directs and starts marching towards his office.
"Yes Sir!" We all salute the boss in unison.
I sit next to Brandon, reach down under the desk and scratch Karma's head. I watch as Brandon makes a copy of the video and pulls up the video enhacement software. He clicks a few buttons with ease, and the video uploads to the software. "Now we just sit and wait." He leans back in the chair and crosses his arms behind his head while watching me.
"I'm impressed." I smile at Brandon. "You did that with such skill." I playfully comment.
"So, what about your list?" Brandon reminds me.
"Oh, I don't know. I can't really think of anyone who would be able to reach me. Everyone I know that would want to get to me is behind bars." I say with despondency.
"Still, don't you think we should at least try to interrogate them?" Brandon suggests to me.
"Well...that would take decades!" I declare. "Do you know how many criminals I have put behind bars just in the past year alone?"
"Still...?" Brandon shrugs.
As I sit and watch Brandon, I begin to ponder.
What do these guys want with me? How do they know my relationship to Grace? Are they the ones who have been following me? Are they spying on me? Do they want money? What are these instructions that I am supposed to wait for? Do they know about my darkest secret?
Suddenly a lump forms in my throat and dispair fills the pit of my stomach as a revelation hits me like a 5 ton boulder.
"Ari?" Cody notices the apprehensive look on my face. "Hey, are you okay?"
If they know about my talent, then that could mean only one thing. They want me to be a science project. They want to sell me to the lab for millions of dollars. I've been staying under the radar my entire life, I can't surface now! I'm going to have to go on the run after I rescue Grace. I'm going to have rescue her alone. None of the others can know the truth about me, it'll put them in the line of fire. The only way to protect myself and my loved ones is to disappear forever. My life as I know it is completely over. Good-bye James, Cody, Brandon....Good-bye Greyson my true love. Good-bye Grace and Emma my sisters...and Griffon....Good-bye all of my dearest friends.... and last but not least....Good-bye my sweet Karma....I can't take you on the run with me, it's way too dangerous.
"I have to talk to James." I have to run this revelation by him. He would be able to guide me in the right direction....maybe he'll tell me to hunt my father down and seek guidance from him. Maybe he'll try to convince me to stay and fight...but that will only lead to death and destruction to all involved. That won't do. I stand up and fly into James' office. "James!" I exclaim. With the phone to his ear, he looks up at me and holds up his hand as if to tell me to wait.
"Yeah, okay...good...see you tomorrow. Thank you, sir." James hangs up the phone. "What is it Ari?" He stands up and moves around his desk, making his way to me.
I close the door behind me, before I start. "What if they are after me because of my....ability? What if they want to sell me to the highest bidder? What if they want to make a science project out of me? I can't let that happen!" I have the familiar feeling that I am about to start hyperventilating.
"Ari, you know we're not going to let them have you." He tries to calm me down.
"No...I know that. But you and Grace are the only ones who know that about me....none of the others know. This situation is going to force me to reveal my true self to everyone. That CANNOT happen!" I proclaim.
"You don't think that I have already thought that? Ari, they're not getting their hands on you. I promise." He tries to reassure me. "I called for backup."
The lump in my throat grows bigger. "James, you should not have done that. You know that with Grace in danger, I'm going to shift. I'm not always in control of it. You know that. Or did you forget when I shifted in front of you?"
"No! How could I possibly forget?" He announces.
We were on a raid along with the FBI. It was a drug deal gone wrong for an undercover cop. The FBI needed us to help bring in the mob boss and the undercover officer. James and I were on the scene. The entire building was surrounded by FBI agents, James, Cody and myself. We swarmed the building, but the mob boss had equipped the main support structures of the building with bombs. The bombs were detonated and the building came crashing down. A beam fell from the ceiling and was about land on James, and I immediately shifted and lept over him to protect him from the beam. I caught the beam in my powerful jaws and pushed it aside. Thankfully no one else saw the transition because James and I were alone in the room. The look of shock-and-awe were frozen on Jame's face for the longest time.
"Everyone will discover what I am! The whole world will find out! That can't happen! You know that!" My voice becomes louder with every statement.
"Ari...I won't let that happen. This is why I ordered you to stay behind the scenes during this investigation. You are not going into the field...remember?" James reminds me.
"James, it's me they want. If I don't do what they instruct, they're going to hurt her." My voice is shaking by now. "I have to go. It's either me or Grace...and I elect me."
"Ari, dear. Then you know what you have to do." James nudges me. He gives me a look as if he's approving of my decision.
"I have to find my father." I speak aloud. "Keep me updated."
As I am directing my small silver Sentry down the highway, heading to my mother's house my mind wanders. Karma sits next to me with his head out the window with his long tongue flopping in the wind and his eyes squinting. I recollect about the first time I remember shifting...
My father is a bit on the drunk side. He had attended his friend's bachelor party and was gone pretty much all night, he had ended up walking home. He's already upset, because his friends took his keys and refuse to give them back. My mother, had informed me that my father could never hold his liquor well. This is only hear-say, because I have never seen my father drunk. When he finally arrives home, my father and mother start arguing with each other and as he becomes angrier, he shifts into a gigantic Grizzly Bear. He did it to scare my mother, but he never meant it to hurt her. That's why, as she tells me, she is still married to him and had given him a daughter. Also, as she explains, because she remains deeply in love with him. I have never believed my mother's story about my father being a shape-shifter, not until the day of my first transformation, which just so happens to follow shortly thereafter.
The twins and I are walking home from a party that night. It's getting cold and late, and Grace, being the leader of the group, decides that it would be faster to cut through the park to get to our neighborhood. The leaves are falling off the trees, and a small breeze carries them away while we walk slowly, chitchatting about cute boys at the party completely unaware of the danger that is quickly advancing upon us. We know that we shouldn't have gone, as we are underage, and there's definitely alcohol there, but....it sure was a lot of fun!
I have a feeling that we are being followed, a tingling sensation down the back of my spine causing the hair on the back of my neck to raise. I nudge my friends to be quiet and walk faster. Looking over my shoulder to see if I could see anyone, a hand quickly covers my mouth. Terror stricken, I try to scream, but it comes out muffled. My heart starts pounding hard in my chest and sweat drips down my face. I shift my eyes back and forth searching for my friends, but they have already been thrown onto the ground. I know that I need to put up a fight, although it is against seven men, and I can't see their faces, all laughing and talking amongst one another. It sounds like they are divvying us up between each of them. As the moon rises further from the horizon, my captor turns me around, and I recognize him as a guest from the party my friends and I had just left. He mutters something like, "Ooh, don't you look lovely tonight..." and I think to myself now's my chance. I lift my knee hard into his groin, he drops me, crouches over and hollers a horrific word at me. In a blinding white flash, a crack against my left cheek sends me flying outside of the circle.
Only one thing comes to mind as I whimper on the ground holding my hand to my cheek, if only I was big and strong enough to rip those men to shreds. A low growl starts to fill in my stomach. Not knowing what was happening to me, all I hear are my friends' screams and cries while the men are hooting and howling within the group huddled around my friends. I witness two men turn towards me, with a mixture of hunger and anger in their faces. I creep into the shadows, hoping they don't spot me. Tear streaked, and my face throbbing with the feeling like it is on fire, I feel courage filling the cavities of my body and my muscles painfully start bulking up. A painful sensation of what feels like my bones breaking and rearranging themselves envelope my body and the dull ache of what seems like the reshaping of bone and muscle growing overwhelms me. I know that I would be no match for those men because I am only one teenage girl, scrawny and small, against seven large college men; but I have to try to save myself and my friends. Clambering clumsily onto all fours, while feeling the growl become louder and angrier as it starts to rise up out of my stomach and into my chest, my anger turns into fury. Feeling strength and courage coursing through my veins; I watch as my body bounds out of my hiding spot, release a loud roar and leaps toward the two men who are advancing on me. Only...it doesn't look like my body...I don't see my body at all, what I observe is a sleek black animal emerging from my hiding spot. It has a long black body and a long slender tail and sharp claws that shine in the moonlight. It has a short face with small round ears, and from what I can see it resembles a rather large black cat. Completely awe stricken, what I witness next is horrifying and remarkable at the same time.
The animal grabs one man in it's massive jaws by the throat and breaks his neck while it slashes it's powerful paw at the other man's chest, spilling his blood everywhere before dropping him to the ground. Then the cat bounds toward the rest of the group of men and springs easily over one of them landing in the middle of the circle, quickly attacking one after another, spilling blood and bodies repeatedly with violent and powerful swipes of it's paws and gnashing of gleaming white teeth. Then it looks around and recognizes no other threat, it sits down in between Emma and Grace, lowering it's head on Grace's lap. Grace and Emma are in their underwear with their clothing ripped and strewn all over the ground in a circle. I feel fear from the girls, but at the same time...wonder and amazement. They don't know what to think, a strange black panther-like creature leaping out of the bushes coming to their rescue. They know that this cat isn't going to hurt them, but they remain fearful as they back slowly away from it.
"Where's Ariella?" asks Emma, when she finally finds her voice. I try to tell them where I am, but nothing comes out, all I can manage is a low rumbling vibration in my throat (which could pass for a purr I guess) and staring hard at Emma's face, and then Grace's. Grace stares back into the my face and says quietly with a hand on the my velvety soft, furry head, "I don't know, but look...those eyes. Check out this cat's eyes..."
As I start feeling myself calm down, I start noticing myself drifting toward my body as a cat. I can feel a tingling sensation all over as I return to my body, and as my mind reconnects to my body. I am unsure and completely full of questions at this point and I know that I have to find my father. He would know the answers to all of my questions. I also know that my friends are going to ask a TON of questions as well and none of which I have answers to, leaving the situation completely awkward. The pain of my body reshaping itself had returned, and as I look down I see my hands again. I fall backwards onto my bottom, and I recognize my legs again, nude. As I sit, hunched over and wait for the twins to start pummeling me with questions, I keep turning my hands over and over staring at them, wondering if they are going to change again. Grace is watching me, and Emma keeps her eyes firmly on the ground.
"Wh—what just happened?" Whispers Grace, not scared, but concerned, only to break the tension and silence. Her eyes wide, skin pale, and her mouth is gaping at me.
"I...I don't know..." is the only thing that I could muster up, still staring at my hands.
"Where're your clothes?" Emma asks with a hint of caution.
I just point in the direction where I was hiding; Emma strains a look and then slowly stands up and walks to the bushes to retrieve my clothing.
"Have you always known?" Grace asks curiously, her face contorted into the strange shape...
"Well, my mom has told me that my father changes, but I never believed her...until now."Came my reply.
"Does...does it hurt?" Grace asks full of concern.
"Somewhat...but I think I'll get used to the feeling," I state.
"Have you ever...er... changed before?" Emma asks as she slowly returns to the group, handing me my pile clothes.
"No— this was my first time," was my answer while taking the clothes and examining them. They are torn and shredded, but I try to hide my bare body with what I could. "Oh....these were my favorite jeans..." I whine.
"So— what else can you change into?" asks Grace thoughtfully and curiously, then she shrieks as she picks through the scattered clothing on the ground. "My shirt! This was such a CUTE shirt!" She holds up a torn golden chiffon blouse that she slips over her arms and inspects the giant rip down the back.
I shake my head slowly, "I wouldn't know, this was my first time...remember?"
Emma cries, as she is dressing, "Oh...what will our parents say? What should we do about all of these dead guys? We've got to go to the police..."
"AND SAY WHAT EXACTLY? That Ari turned into a giant black cat and killed these guys? LIKE THEY'RE GONNA BELIEVE US! NONE OF US ARE CAPABLE OF DOING THIS KIND OF DAMAGE!" Grace yells at Emma... "Besides they'd dissect Ariella and turn her into a science project if they did believe us, and we weren't supposed to be at the party, we'd definitely get grounded for life because of that...GOD EMMA! Use your brain!"
"Well, we can't just leave them here..."Emma starts to feel tears well up in her eyes.
"Emma, they were gonna RAPE us, Ari's a HERO, she saved us. They got EXACTLY what they deserved...the scumbags. I say we just leave them here, they'll be discovered soon enough. They won't be able to figure out who did this, it definitely doesn't look like any human could've done this, besides no one will be able to pin us here, so no worries!" Grace says with complete confidence. "We should all just go home, and for—get everything."
"Grace, I think Emma's right; we need to do something about these bodies. Hide them or something." I state feeling nervous as I look around at all the blood and dead bodies, and the contents in my stomach start churning. I clutch my hand over my mouth at the smell of the blood in the air; besides I definitely don't want to become a science project, and I definitely don't want to go to prison for the murders of all these men, but I feel that it is only right that we do something about the bodies, but I don't know what would be the right thing to do. "Maybe we can tell my dad, he would know what to do," I say with urgency, feeling that something needs to be done, and fast.
"Ariella, if we tell your dad, then we'd get into trouble for being at the party..." is Grace's response.
"BUT, he would know that I was the one who did this....I'm telling him." This is the first time that I felt big enough to not go along with Grace's plans.
"Ari....you can't..." Grace grabs my arm as I start walking away.
"Try to stop me..." I growl as I push past Emma and Grace and take off running towards home. My heart is racing and tears are flowing down my cheeks fearing the unknown, but I feel that I am doing the right thing. Emma and Grace decide that it would be better to follow my lead and started heading toward my house too.
I arrive at the small brick house with the white picket fence and pull my car into the driveway. I clamber out of the car with Karma in tow. Walking up to the door, I wonder if my father is home or if he was still away on one of his assignments. Finally approaching the door, I hesitate before I start knocking. "What am I going to say to my mother?" I clear my throat and my knuckles meet the whitewash door.
Waiting and listening, I'm wondering if my mother is home. I grab ahold of the door knob and turn it. The door opens.
"Mom?" I call.
Chapter 6 coming soon!
Chapter 6 hasn’t been completed yet...please be patient, it will be coming soon.