Out of Sight, Out of Mind

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“Maybe the whole thing backfired on him?” Agent Black suggested.

Agent McCoy didn’t look up from the report, but merely grunted.

“I mean, Sticks was an experiment, right? Maybe his brain just shut down. Or maybe he wigged out and offed himself with his own powers.”

Another grunt.

“It can’t be a coincidence. We’re tracking down a guy who can kill people with his brain, and when we find him, he’s in the same state as all of his victims. No visible physical damage aside from a nosebleed, but the brain is completely fried.”

McCoy handed the papers to Black, who glanced over them briefly.

“Yeah, a list of victims in the area. It’s not like he hasn’t left us an entire trail to follow. I guess he stuck around here for a while.”

“Last one. Look at the date.”

Black stared at the paperwork for a second. This particular death, while identical to the others, happened three years ago. Sticks had only been loose for two weeks.

“Shit.”

 

“What if he always had these powers?” Black said as they climbed the stairs to the third floor. “I mean, before he was caught and selected for experimentation. He could have killed the victim back then.”

McCoy and Black had been partners for two years now, which was why Black knew McCoy’s grunt meant “You’re reaching.”

“Yeah, he wouldn’t have bothered with the knife. Damn All-Tech. I didn’t join the FBI to track down psychic mutants.”

The third floor of the apartment building was pretty much identical to the first two. Paul Jones, age seventeen, had died here three years ago. It had been declared the results of an unexpected seizure, so there was no real investigation.

Sticks’s body was also found in the alley behind it, so it seemed like a good place to start.

“You want to do the talking this time?” Black asked with a grin.

McCoy just knocked on the door.

The first thing that entered Black’s mind was that the young woman who answered was notably ugly, and he hated himself for thinking it. He was an FBI agent. It was his job to help people, not judge them. But at the same time, he couldn’t help dwell on her gaunt cheeks, her sallow skin. Her dark brown hair was pulled back, and there was something unsettling about it, but he couldn’t quite seem to figure out what.

She was also wearing a thick red cloth tied over her eyes. He didn’t know how he managed to take in every unattractive feature of her before noticing that.

“May I help you?” she asked.

“Sorry,” he said, recovering his wits. “I’m Agent Black. This is Agent McCoy. FBI. We’ve got a few questions. How long have you lived here?”

“I moved here a little over three years ago.”

Agent Black exchanged a look with McCoy.

“Did you know a boy who lived here around that time? Paul Jones?”

She shivered. “The one who died. Yes, I knew him. He was… unpleasant.”

“Could you elaborate on that, ma’am?”

“Where are my manners. Please, come in, come in. Can I get you some tea?”

It was answer enough. None of the other tenants had said it directly, but it had become increasingly clear that Jones was a bully. It wasn’t hard to imagine him picking on the ugly, blind woman.

The FBI agents entered the apartment. Clay pots and bowls of every size cluttered the living room. Various machines were organized neatly in one corner. Agent Black could only guess that they were used to make pottery.

“Tea won’t be necessary, Miss…?”

“Ceto. Meda Ceto. Are you sure?”

“Ma’am,” McCoy said, glancing about. “Do you have any pets?” Black stared at him as if he had never seen his partner before.

“Pets? No. We’re not allowed pets here. Why do you ask?”

“I thought I heard something. Nevermind.”

Miss Ceto placed an old teapot and cups down on the table. “Just in case you change your minds.” She sat down, and gestured for them to join her. Black did, but McCoy stayed standing, looking cautiously around.

Black gave his partner a meaningful glare before turning back to Miss Ceto. “I know this was a while ago, but did you notice anything strange around the time Mr. Jones died?”

“I don’t think so. I had only been here a month, though. If there was anything strange going on, I wouldn’t have been able to tell. I thought his death was a seizure. Why is the FBI suddenly interested?”

“That’s not important, Miss Ceto. Have you…” He had started to pull out a picture of Sticks to ask if she’d seen him, when he caught himself. “Have you ever met a man named Steven Ticks, also known as ‘Sticks’?”

She shook her head. “No. Not by either of those names, at least.”

“Do you hear something?” McCoy said. His hand twitched towards his gun.

Standing up, Black walked over to McCoy. “What is wrong with you?” he said in a furious whisper.

McCoy didn’t meet Black’s eyes. “Thought I heard a hissing sound.”

“Oh, dear,” Miss Ceto said, apparently perfectly capable of hearing their whispered conversation. “That would probably be Molly.”

“Molly?” Black asked.

“The Petersons – they live next door – their boy has pet snake. He’s not supposed to have her, mind you. She sometimes gets loose and comes here. She likes to curl up in my pots.” McCoy jumped away from the nearest collection of pottery as if he had been burned.

“Thank you for your time, Miss Ceto,” Agent Black said, grabbing his usually stoic partner and forcing him out of the apartment.

 

When they were gone, Meda removed the blindfold, blinking at the sudden increase in light.

“Molly,” she called out. “Are you here?” The corn snake obediently rose out of one of the larger pots. She held out her arm and Molly slithered up.

“Did you come to keep me company?” Meda asked her. “After that man – Sticks, I suppose he is called – broke in here, I can’t really blame you for worrying over me. And I do appreciate being able to look someone in the eyes. We had best be getting you home, though.”

With a sigh, she began to wrap the cloth over her eyes again.

Prompt: Genre Mash

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Another interesting prompt courtesy of GuyRand. This week’s prompt is to take one element common to fantasy, plus one element common to sci-fi and put them in a plot common to modern day life (e.g. aliens with magic plan a jewelry heist or amine-style ninjas versus space pirates, a la the amazing race).

Good luck and good writing!