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Triple Murder in Riderside, Rebooted

Dr Archeville

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Date: September 14th, 2009

Family Slain!

Riverside - A gruesome scene greeted police officers responding to a 911 call for assistance for a home invasion. A teenager, his mother, and his grandfather were found brutally mutilated.

Investigators have not determined a motive for the killings, Sheriff's spokeswoman Grace Morales said.

The coroner's office identified the victims as 61-year-old Maury George Dickson; his 39-year-old daughter, Joan 'Jett' Mary Dickson; and her 16-year-old son, Richard Timothy Dickson.

Neighbors say the family seemed close, that they were never heard arguing and that they would often pile into a minivan to run errands together. But Richard's classmates reported him to be shy and withdrawn, and his teachers reported a recent slump in his grades.

The investigation is ongoing.

Avenger, The Scarab (II), and Slamdance all hear about this in their own way.

The family was slain either very late the night of Sept 13th 2008 or very early the morning of Sept 14th 2008. The paper reporting the story came out on the 14th. The 13th had seen some thunderstorms (and a full moon), but the 14th has just been hot (high of 97, low of 72) and muggy.

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It was late at night when Avenger arrived at the Dickson house, the costumed adventurer lurking in the dark overhang of a nearby tree as he studied the house. There were a lot of good reasons to be here; Avenger needed some crime-solving cred if he was going to work well with the police, and Jack needed to find out if a vampire was behind these brutal slayings. More to the point, though, the pictures of the Dicksons reminded Jack far too much of his own long-dead mortal family. He'd grown up in a neighborhood not too different from this one, though out in the suburbs almost to Bedlam, and it was easy to put the faces of his own mother, grandfather, and teenaged self over that dead family.

So he'd made what inquiries he could, finding out all he could learn from the neighborhood, the police, and his own supernatural connections. That had all been in the daylight, of course, well before sunset brought out his full vampiric nature. Now that he could do that, it was time to go looking on his own. Gotta make you guys proud, he mused as he slipped into the night, a puff of mist in the air as he drifted in through the Dickson attic window, far above and away from the police tape and cordon line below. It was time to hunt for answers at the scene of the crime.

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Sandro walked up to the house he hadn't been to in about 4 or 5 years. It looked the same except for the sickly yellow light from the streetlight on the corner. He could hear some traffic from a few blocks away but kept an eye on things because, as what happened to Richie, the city is getting darker and darker.

Sandro was walking to class, talking to Trica, when Richie bumped into him. Tricia said by because her class was in the opposite direction but they would have lunch together.

'Hey, man, I haven't seen you in a while... how are you doing?'

'I'm ok, I guess. Sandro, we're still friends, right?'

Sandro was a little put off by the question. He'd known Richie since before school. Their parents had put them in the same daycare as kids and they almost always ended up in the same classes. True, they were never best friends but they were always in the same circle of friends, at least until they hit high school. His dad's money had changed that, for better or for worse.

'Of course. Why would you th...'

'Because it took me bumping into you to say hi to me' as a shadowed look crossed his face. 'You should come by sometime. My mom asks about you. She heard from Tom's mom that you were helping out at some homeless shelter or something and figures your dad is punishing you for something. She said she'd write you a note if you need on.' And then he laughed like the old Richie just as the bell rang. 'There's something I ...'

'I will. I have to go, if I'm late to Mr. G's class again it's in-house detention for me.' as he waved goodbye and ran to class.

He felt guilty because he forgot about Richie five minutes after talking to him yesterday. And, today, the school was abuzz with what happened to him and his family.

And, now, he was standing on the sidewalk of his dead friends house. 'There's something I ...' It rang in his head. The last words he said to Sandro. Something I... have to tell you? Show you? It felt like Richie was reaching out and he just waived him away like the arrogant jerk he'd always been. That he was trying to change from.

That's when he thought he saw something move inside the house. 'Probably just my imagination' he thought as he took a quick glance down both side of the street. 'Yeah, and this isn't Freedom City. Probably some thieves stealing from dead people. Again.' Not seeing anyone, he reached into his backpack to pull out his gloves and mask. After slipping them on, he snuck up to the front door and peered in the window next to the door, not seeing anything, while feeling if the door was unlocked.

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She wandered through a thick fog. As the mists ebbed and flowed, she could see she was in some sort of marsh or swamp. The gnarled, twisted black corpses of trees spired up from the still greenish-black waters. She had no idea how long she had been walking. It could have been less than a minute. It could have been a lifetime.

She heard the sound of water splashing beneath her. Slowly, she turned her head downward, and saw that she had been walking on the surface of the water. She was struck, not by the idea that this was unusual, but by the idea that this didn't seem unusual at all.

More splashing. She looked up, and the grey haze retreated slightly to reveal a skiff or raft of some sort. The boatman wore an ocean of long black robes containing infinite folds and crevasses. He wielded an enormous scythe, which he repeatedly plunged into the water to pull the boat forward. His three passengers each stood in a line, their heads hanging down. An old man, a middle-aged woman, and an adolescent boy. Each held a bloody human heart in their hands.

In unison, all three passengers looked up and locked gazes with her. Their flesh was pale, tinted with blue and green. Their mouths hung open, slack. Their eyes were bloodshot, unfocused, seeming not to look at her, but through her.

The boatman turned toward her, revealing not a face beneath his cowl, but a skull. A canine skull, like a wolf, or a...a jackal....

Elena woke suddenly in her penthouse, sitting up so violently it made her abs ache. She wiped the cold sweat from her forehead and turned to the clock. Well past midnight. Damn. So much for a good night's sleep.... She rubbed her eyes and the bridge of her nose as she reached for the aspirin and water bottle she kept on the nightstand. I wonder why these vision always come with such a blasted headache. This one was so laden with random mythological references it finally collapsed under its own weight. I guess that's what happens when you spend a few thousand years reincarnating. All that religious imagery starts blurring together....

She grabbed a quick shower, hastily pulled on some very casual clothes (including a particularly distinctive red tank-top that didn't look like any fabric she had ever seen), and rode the elevator down to the lobby of 1 Pyramid Plaza. She stopped by the Starbase on the way to the basement. The barista saw her exit the elevator and had her double vanilla latte and toasted bagel ready before the cashier was done making her change. I'm so glad I managed to convince the board to keep this one open 24/7. Rank does have it's privileges.

Down in The Lair, or “The Bugcave†as Sofia liked to call it, Elena sat at the center terminal of the command center, sipping her coffee and scouring the internet and the late edition of the Freedom Ledger, searching for mention of recent murders or accidental deaths in Freedom City. There was no way an entire family perished by “natural causes.†It didn't take long to find an article about the Dicksons, and Elena's throat tightened a bit when she saw their pictures.

This bears looking into. She hesitated for a moment, took a final sip of her coffee, then took off running from the terminal. Running flowed into flying as the morphic molecules of her tank top re-arranged, leaking out from under her clothes and enveloping her in the scarlet-&-gold heraldry her predecessor had made famous. It didn't take much concentration to screen herself from the minds of others; she emerged from the secret underground exit silently and invisibly.

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The Scarab stopped short of the Dickson house, flying instead into the tree in their front yard. Hopefully, the leaves and branches will conceal me for at least a few moments. She diverted her focus away from screening herself, instead concentrating on pushing her eyes and her ears past herself, into the house. I'd better look before I leap (for once). It wouldn't do for a psychic to get ambushed. Or for a superhero to get arrested. Now let's see what there is to see...

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Downstairs... well, she wishes she hadn't peeked downstairs.

There's a few streaks of blood in the kitchen, mostly on the floor, as if someone had run and slipped through it. Otherwise, it's a very nice (if perhaps quaint) kitchen.

The dining room is a shambles, looking as if there'd been a big fight in it. The dining room table seems to have been chopped in half, and the hutch cabinet (and all the dishes on it) were smashed. Lots of blood here, too.

The living room almost makes her gag. The couch is thoroughly soaked in blood, as if the mutilated bodies had been piled onto it. The walls are also coated in blood. Most of the blood on the walls is in the form of bizarre symbols; about half are fairly crude and just slathered on, but the other half are fairly neat and precise, or as neat and precise as one can make with blood on a wall.

I can see why I was drawn here. My gods...haven't seen atrocities like this since the '30s. Since Germany...

The Scarab lets her senses snap back to their proper resting place, then floats up to the second floor, toward the bedroom containing the man in black searching so intently. In that outfit, my first thought would be "burglar." But for the fact that he's wearing a cape. Thieves don't wear capes. Heroes do. Heroes...and villains. I'll deal with the prowler on the ground momentarily. First, let's find out if our second-story man is a detective, or a suspect.

She hovered in front of the window and gestured toward the latch. It unlocked, seemingly of its own accord, and with another wave of her hand, the window burst open. She flew inside and "stood" a few inches off the ground, her arms crossed as she addressed the intruder in Joan Dickson's bedroom.

"I am The Scarab. Who are you, and what are you doing here?"

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Now that is a knife. Avenger takes a little while to look the blade over, comparing it to the sort of ritual objects with which he's familiar.

With his knowledge of criminology mostly gleaned from CSI and other forensics shows, Avenger opts to pick up the bloody knife and slip it into the gallon-sized Ziploc bag he keeps inside his bulky costume. (When you're built like Stuart Townsend rather than Dolph Lundgren, you have to use a little padding to make yourself look like the sort of huge, muscular avenger of evil that smashes his way through the criminal element.) That way he can compare it to the murder scene downstairs and then either put it back or bring it to the police, depending on what seems like the best course of action.

The sudden sick feeling of being watched is like a pit in his stomach, a dreadful blow that is only compounded when the nearby window begins to slide open. Avenger deals with that problem like any good costumed adventurer does with an unwanted interloper...he disappears. He takes shelter behind the furniture, watching as the new arrival enters. "Who's this supposed to be?"

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By the time The Scarab finished her sentence and took stock of the room, the dark-clad figure she had observed from outside was nowhere to be seen. Curious....

Standing up straight, perpendicular to the floor she was hovering a few inches above, she begins floating toward the master bedroom. As soon as it came into view, she gestured toward the footlocker protruding from the closet, then back toward herself. The footlocker lifted up off the ground and began floating through the air toward her...

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The Scarab... The name stirred vague memories of watching Freedom Friends reruns as a kid, but truthfully Jack had always enjoyed Raven or FORCE OPS much more than those hokey old shows from his parents generation. I need to watch more television. He was careful to keep his thoughts quiet, mentally "whispering" for all that he had no idea if that would actually do anything. Telekinetics were probably going to have some telepathic abilities, if he'd learned anything from TV; or at the very least some unfortunate psychic surprise. Is this my guy? In lieu of answers, Avenger kept a careful eye on the guy, trying to judge his nature as best he could.

At the same time, he kept as close an eye as his position allowed on the footlocker the Scarab seemed so interested in, creeping as close as he could get away with to get a better look. He wondered what he'd missed. Maybe he can help. I don't actually know anything about forensics here...

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The man in black is skittish, like a cat. If I chase him, he'll run and hide again. So I'll draw him in, let him come to me. I still don't know his intentions, but I'll probably find out soon, when he either attacks me, tries to flee, or joins the investigation. He was tearing this place apart. I interrupted him before he found whatever he was looking for.

Floating box in tow, The Scarab flies back out of the master bedroom, braces herself, and floats and downstairs. In the meantime, there is another to attend to. I've been neglecting our downstairs guest....

Once downstairs, she calls out to him. I can't see him yet, but he doesn't need to know that. She doesn't yell, but nor does she whisper. "You in the ski mask. You must be new at the whole 'crime' business. That yellow tape on the door means that, not only have the police already been here, but they'll be coming back. Many, many times." She turned her head, looking around for the intruder, trying to focus past all the blood. "You know, your friend upstairs, the Jason Vorhees fan, is much better at playing hide-&-seek. Come out, come out, wherever you are..."

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Jeez, it's like Halloween at the Eclipse tonight, Avenger thinks irritably as the Scarab heads downstairs to deal with the new guy. With this sudden crowd showing up for what was supposed to be a solo investigation, Avenger thinks seriously about dropping the case. But on the other hand, running away from a fight has never been Jack's style. If he is going to do this superhero thing, Avenger needs to be able to work with other superheroes. And if the Scarab is the nosy psychic that Jack is beginning to suspect he is, having another mind around will give Avenger time to suss out the man's bona fides before anything dangerous is uncovered.

Avenger gets downstairs by dint of flying down, drifting down to the living room through the chimney like the ghost of Santa Claus. Once there he casually reforms himself, looking around at the shocking scene of carnage all around. In the midst of horror, it's hard to remember his clever plan about surprising the others.

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I need find out what happened here. And that is going to leave me vulnerable. I need to get this scene contained. Which means I either need these others on my side, or out of the way.

Sandro steps out of the shadows as Scarab looks his direction, trying to look intimidating and sound mature.

"I thought you died?"

Scarab turned toward the boy in the ski mask and uncrossed her arms. "I did. But I got better. And I don't recommend it. Now who are you, and what are you doing here?"

"And, I don't know who you were talking to, but if you or your friend had something to do with this, I will bring you to justice."

"Hmph. I'm afraid it was a one-sided conversation. Tall-Dark-&-Disturbed up there isn't much of a first date." She raised her voice slightly. "But whoever he is, he was tearing those bedrooms apart. Whatever he's looking for, he didn't find it before I interrupted him. And..." She pointed toward one of the few spots on the carpet that wasn't soaked in blood. The footlocker floated down the same path and came to rest on the floor with an audible *clang*."...he missed a spot."

Hopefully, that will keep the boy distracted for a few seconds while I find out what I need to know.

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"Petty insults. Not the old Scarab." Avenger appeared in the entry hallway by stepping out of a darkened living room that seemed empty just a few moments ago, his black-clad, muscular body just an outline in the darkness from behind him. His implacable eyes studied the two other superheroes coldly, icy blue behind his black mask. While he was not entirely sure what's going on with the strange subtext between the other two men, they both seemed legitimate. What the heck; why not take a chance? "Murder's in here." He steps back in without seeming to wait for a response from the others, though of course he's actually paying them a great deal of attention.

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"Petty insults. Not the old Scarab."

"Back in the old days, we called it 'banter.' You modern heroes are too serious for your own good." Though she was speaking to Avenger, her gaze (or what they could see of it and extrapolate, from behind her mask) never wavered from Slamdance. "Besides, I had to do something to draw you out. You're too good at hiding."

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The Scarab probed the boy's mind for a few seconds more. He's no danger to me. Just another mask here to help. Satisfied, she raised her hand and pointed toward the window. The lock unlatched of its own accord and the pane swung open. "Come on in. The more, the merrier. Just try not to step on any evidence. And don't follow us into the living room unless you have a strong stomach. It's...it's pretty bad in there."

Still floating a couple inches off the ground, she followed Avenger into the scene of the crime.

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Slamdance here's there conversation and feels the mental probe from what he is assuming is the person in front of him.'Geez, nothing like a little tension to start the night' he thinks to himself.

He climbs through the window, keeping the Scarab in view out of the corner of his eye while doing a quick scan of the room to find the other speaker who was to good at hiding. With a quick glance to the kitchen and a look up the stairs, he follows the floating hero into the living room, steeling himself for the inevitable gore and hoping he doesn't make himself out to be the kid with his first encounter with other supers.

He has a moment when he realizes that this is his friends house... remembering running through these halls, Richies mom making them cookies... and nearly walks into The Scarab.

"Keep it focused" he mumbles to himself and stops, again hoping these two others don't expect him to follow orders just because they're older.

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When Avenger looked at Slamdance, his face implacable behind his mask, his voice was...sympathetic. "Younger than you look. Friend of yours?" Avenger stared at the legion of arcane symbols surrounding them, trying to draw focus amid all this blood. "Occult symbols are random. Might be gang. I can investigate." Back and forth, he paced the room, his booted feet neatly avoiding the markings on the floor for all that his peripheral vision in his costume was surely next to nothing. His armored head turned suddenly, a crinkle of plastic and fabric as he looked at Scarab. "Scarab. I have possible weapon. Item reading?"

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Slamdance follows Scarab into the living room... and freezes.

The living room, lit solely by the streetlights and occasional passing car outside, is a horror for Alessandro. And just as his eyes get adjusted, a beam of light from the full moon streaks in and brings things into sharper contrast.

The couch is thoroughly soaked in blood, as if the mutilated bodies of his friend, and his friend's two relatives, had been piled onto it.

The walls are coated in blood, their blood. A handprint can be seen here and there, but most is in the form of bizarre symbols. About half are fairly crude and just slathered on, but the other half are fairly neat and precise, or as neat and precise as one can make with blood on a wall.

The blood of his friend.

He cannot help but look, partly because the blood covers every wall, partly because a morbid part of him cannot bear to tear itself away.

It is too much for Allesandro. Primitive fight-or-flight instincts take over and his stomach heaves out all its contents onto the floor. [Allesandro is nauseated for one round, then sickened for two. ]

[[ Yes, Scarab saw the hand prints, too. ]]

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Slamdance stumbles to the bathroom after heaving his meager lunch, turning on the water while lifting up his mask and rinses his face.

"How could anyone do that to another person" he yells out.

He washes his mouth out with some more water, spitting it down the drain and replaces his mask before the others can get a glimpse of his face. 'I don't care what Mister Happy thinks about destroying evidence or contaminating it or whatever, that's Richie and his family out there.' he thinks to himself. Then he gives himself a little shake.

'Get it together...get it together. You chose to be here. And whoever did this isn't going to stop here... remember your research... killers and such always escalate. This person is going to do it again and it's just going to get worse. And you might be, or these two characters with your help, the only ones who can stop him.'

"Sorry, I've never seen anything like that before." is all he says as he joins the two others.

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The Scarab places a hand on Slamdance's shoulder. "You compare favorably to me. The first time I saw battle, I was deep in the reserves, as befitting my station at the time. But I caught a stray arrow through the shoulder. I voided my bladder right then and there. There is no shame in this, Comrade." And there's no shame in little white lies either, when they come from a place of altruism rather than self-interest. Sometimes, the truth doesn't serve the greater good. Otherwise, we wouldn't have to wear masks.

"Your compassion is an asset, not a liability. It not only separates you from the monster who did this, but elevates you above them. It makes you better.

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After attempting to comfort the young hero, The Scarab touches down in the center of the living room, and turns toward The Man In Black. "If you would be so kind, please place the knife on the floor in front of me. It's past time we got some answers here."

She gets down on her knees and places her right hand palm-down upon the floor, resting her weight upon it. Her left hand rises to her head, where her first two fingers rest against her forehead. "Thoughts and emotions leave impressions behind, like footsteps in mud. Echoes. And the more intense the emotions, the stronger and louder and longer those echoes will resonate."

She takes a second for a quick mental transmission to Slamdance. This will leave me distracted and vulnerable. I need you to watch my back. Keep an eye out, especially on The Man In Black. I'm not sure whose side he's on yet.

Then she closed her eyes, and opened up her mind.

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Avenger handed over the knife and stepped back, trusting the Scarab to do his thing while keeping a close eye out for any shenanigans. Having stayed expressionless through Slamdance's unfortunate display, he regarded the teenager with a penetrating gaze as they stood together in the aftermath. Holding Slamdance's eyes for a moment, he turned back to watch the psychic work. Under the mask, Jack felt pretty bad for the kid, but there wasn't much comfort he could offer without breaking character.

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Sandro follows Scarab's lead, keeping an eye on the stranger and keeping an eye out the front door for anyone passing by, especially the police.

"What's your interest in all this?" He asks the stranger, voice a little rough. "They call me Slamdance, by the way." He moves so he can protect Scarab just in case, a little fascinated by all of what he considers to be a bit of mumbo-jumbo. 'I'll just stand here... just in case'

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