CODEX Part 4: Among the Living

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Who's the Boyfriend, Who's the Foe

As soon as Zoe sat on the chair and opened her computer at work, she heard someone cough loudly. She pushed her glasses further on the nose and opened one of the many files she had stacked on her desk. It was about a missing child and as a person who disliked adults, she quite preferred searching for children.

But the cough resumed, even louder than before. If he tried even harder, he would have choked to death in front of her. Seeing how she wasn't reacting, the ghost decided to use a different tactic.

"Do you want me to tell you something interesting? It was Fauggerdy that told me to talk to you." Stefan started seeing how maybe that way she will give him her whole attention. "He said 'Do you see that lonely girl up there? She's always scoffing during my lectures as if she knows it all. You should have a chat with her, find out what is it that she's hiding.'"

Zoe rolled her eyes but the sunglasses hid her reaction.

"And then when I told him how interested you are in cults, he seemed to be very happy. It was on the same day he invited me to be part of his selected group. He told me that in Dante's Inferno, the deeper you went, the easier you could rise from hell. But in the world of today, it's quite the opposite. The higher you rise, the better you can see the road to hell." He explained rubbing his chin. "I never understood what he meant by that. What do you think?"

"I should leave me alone." She finally whispered.

"Oh, now she talks. Well, not yet. Not until you solve my murder. I did not kill myself, Zoe. You know that, you know who did it." He said narrowing his eyes at her.

Zoe rubbed her forehead and sighed. She didn't know anything and she had worse things to bother herself with than the death of a college student. Another cough drew her attention and this time she looked up with a glare.

"In a bad mood today, Lestrade?" Asked the detective with an eyebrow raised as if he was still thinking if he wanted to tease her or be serious. "Come on, we have to extract information from a suspect."

"What?" She asked not knowing what he meant.

"Patricia Lovell is, apparently, a good friend of Fauggerdy's. Also, she had an affair with your prof. They met at a hotel one week before he was found in that inappropriate way." He explained as they walked to the interrogation room. "I'll do the asking, you do the watching behind the glass." He said before he entered.

Zoe opened a different door and sighed as she watched Roberts sit and ask Patricia whatever he was curious about.

It was not even ten minutes in and Zoe noticed certain tremors of her left leg. It was as if she wanted to move it but at the same time, she didn't. Zoe focused more on how Patricia looked rather than what she was saying. She was in her mid 40's and had enough money to do some minor alterations to her body but she was visibly in very good shape. And then from her head, Zoe's attention fell on her neck. She had an interesting choker with an even more interesting stone that seemed to have a face carved into it.

At that moment, Zoe felt something tug on her pants. She ignored it at first but when it happened again she checked it out.

"Hello." Said the little child.

"How did you get here?" Zoe asked seeing how this was not a ghost.

The child smiled cutely. The difference between his looks and the atmosphere around him was significant. He had only one string of hair in an otherwise bald head and he was dressed in a teddy bear jumpsuit but it had deep holes and even dried blood. One of his eyes was swollen and the other half burned. Whatever happened to this kid must have been horrible.

"I came with mommy, of course." He answered. "I'm hungry. Can I eat something?"

"You should go back home now." Zoe said, her eyes softening at the sight of the child. She caressed his bald head before she suddenly covered his forehead with her hand. The endless knot shined for a second and the demon vanished.

But Zoe never expected the aftermath of her action to be so quick. She heard Patricia choke as if she lost all air in her lungs. The detective didn't believe her reaction to be genuine but after a few minutes, he got up and tried to aid Patricia in any way that he could. Zoe narrowed her eyes at the woman. It did look like a farce until her choker broke and she jumped on her feet with eyes wide and angry. Patricia turned and looked at Zoe. She knew who was behind the mirror glass because those human eyes lost something when Zoe vanquished the demon.

"Was there more than a deal?" Zoe wondered out-loud.

And then Patricia rushed out of the interrogation room. Zoe walked out in surprise and the two women met. Patricia smacked Zoe pretty hard across the face, throwing her sunglasses to the ground in the process. Zoe tasted blood on her lips and checked to feel the damage.

Officers came but a bit too late. Patricia stormed out of the precinct while Zoe stood there, still not able to register what happened.

"Hey, Lestrade, are you ok? She hit you hard." Roberts asked looking at his profiler. Zoe rose her head and the detective frowned. "What the-Have you cried?" And then he saw the scratch on her lip. "Come on, I have a tint for that. And for your eyes, you look like someone died."

Mehrdir watched everything from his hell mirror. He couldn't believe that a human had the nerve to hit someone who could easily break her neck. But Zoe was not like that, she would never use violence if there was another way. And still, he was angry. Seeing that detective touch her as if he cared for her was even worse.

"He's her co-worker." Gakhas commented from the side. "A true hero. Whenever something dangerous happens to poor, innocent Zoe, he comes in with his beige coat and lollipop and swipes her off her feet. What a hero!" Gakhas was literally adding fuel to the fire.

"He's a police man. That's what they do." Mehrdir tried to reassure himself.

"But just look at the way he helps her up. Isn't that so heart warming?" Gakhas asked using his sweet voice.

"Shut up."

By the end of the day, Zoe was drained of energy. Nothing spectacular happened anymore but she was tired. She grabbed her backpack and sunglasses and was ready to go home when Roberts appeared before her.

"Come on, Lestrade. I'm taking you out to dinner." He said wrapping his arm around her and leading her to his car.
"Well, well, well. He asked her out." Gakhas added in the ear of the greed demon.

"He didn't."

"Really? Let's see. It's just the two of them, in a decent restaurant, at night. Weird. Sounds like a date to-" he didn't even have to finish his sentence because Mehrdir was already gone. "-me. This is going to be fun."

As soon as they got in the car, Zoe figured detective Roberts was being nice because he lost control of a suspect which led to her being hurt. Watching him from the side as he drove, she didn't really see anything different about him. Actually, Roberts was not the type to look or speak in a strict authoritarian way, he seemed laid back and messy and at a crime scene he was not the one to order people around but preferred to stand back and take the scenery in in his own peculiar way. She never quite looked at him as to a man for obvious reasons. Be it far or near, nobody could compete with the memory of those dark eyes that could make her feel both love and hatred. But the detective was a good man and just because she wasn't romantically attracted to him didn't mean he wasn't attractive for other women. He just...wasn't Mehrdir.

"Tsk," she said, scolding herself for having these childish thoughts. She looked to the side disappointed in herself.

"Am-Am I that ugly that you had to turn around?" He asked as if he was genuinely offended.

"No. You're fine." She answered but chose to look out the window rather than at him. "The ugly one is me."

"Really? Cause now that your eyes are calming down, you're not that bad looking. Maybe a bit snobbish though." Roberts said so seriously that Zoe almost believed him. "Come on, Lestrade. Just relax."

She wanted to, she really did, but her mind was not listening.

When they arrived at the restaurant, she got out and almost wanted to return in the car if not for Roberts who quickly closed the door and almost pulled her in the lobby.

"A table for two." He said with his loose smile, charming the lobbyist right away.

Even as they were guided to their table, Zoe felt out of place. It wasn't a formal, five star Michelin place where water could cost as much as a house. Roberts was, after all, a detective not a millionaire. But it was a nice place with a jazz pianist in the background and with probably two Michelin stars. When she opened the menu, her eyes widened.

"We could have bought some burgers and I would have been just as happy." She mumbled looking at him from behind the menu.

"I know, that's exactly why I didn't tell you where we're going. Don't worry, I'll use my own card this time."

She felt even more pressured than before. Every time he took the team out, it was usually paid by the police force. Team-building or something of that sort. Now it felt more like a real date. That, or a night out with her same age step-father.

"So, why don't you tell me why you cried so much that you came to work with sore eyes?" He said as he placed the menu down.

She stared at him with no credible lie made just yet.

"I had a nightmare." She said warily. "I woke up and couldn't go back to sleep. That's all. I'm an adult, I can take care of such petty things by myself."

"Of course, of course. I meant to ask you this a while ago but, do you not have any friends Lestrade?" He asked leaning his head on one of his hands.

"I do. I have-" she looked to the side, on the window. It was nice that they were placed right next to it and could see the street outside. That's when she saw his face. "-friends." She ended slowly. "Why do you ask?"

"Because I never hear you mention anyone outside work. When you moved apartments nobody but me and the guys came to help. You don't seem to do anything but work and classes."

"Yeah. I do have hobbies. I like drawing for example." She said her eyes shifting on the detective. "I prefer to stay at home and watch movies rather than go out. It's a very stuffy city." She said ignoring how the familiar face was now closer to her. He was on the other side of the glass but his eyes were digging holes in her head. Besides, he started to knock on it to get her attention.

Roberts glanced out the window too but there was nothing.

"Is there something that's bothering you?" He asked seeing how she was taking peeks at the window.

"No. Everything is fine. Great." She said with a forced smile.

Luckily their waiter came with their drinks. He opened the bottle of wine and filled her glass first. That before he "accidentally" dropped it on her. She wouldn't have been so angry if it wasn't for the way the waiter looked at the detective. He was glaring at him, grasping the bottle tightly. She could easily see he was possessed because Mehrdir made sure to keep his eyes visible.

"I'm so sorry! You should get to the bathroom as fast as possible or else it will stain." The waiter said with a fake apologetic expression.

Roberts wanted to interfere but then realized something was off.

"No need. This shirt is not that important."

"But I insist!"

"No need."

The waiter raised an eyebrow and scoffed. He grabbed her hand and more or less dragged her into the bathroom. It was only when they were safe behind the door of the women's bathroom that Mehrdir came out of the poor waiter's body.

"Don't. Don't dare interfere with my life. The days when you could appear in order to mess with me are far in the past."

"But I-"

"I don't care. I made a choice when I left and I stand by it. Whatever I do or whatever happens to me doesn't concern you anymore."

"Do you really think I'm going to back off just because you say so? I didn't make any decision." He replied taking a step towards her.

"Well, that's a first. You come and stir shit up and then you leave me to deal with it. That doesn't work anymore. I don't know what sudden nostalgia came over you but deal with it by yourself, just like I had to do so many times." She said coldly and barely wet her shirt before she went out.

Roberts was standing there munching on gum with a thoughtful expression.

"I'm sorry but I feel really nauseous out of nowhere. I'll pay for my drink and leave."

"No need, they saw what happened and said it's fine. Come on, I'll drive you home. I need to make sure my profiler is safe." He said and got up.

The ride to her apartment was silent and not because Roberts wasn't curious. Actually, there was a lot he wanted to ask her but he decided it was best not to because she looked angry enough as it was. When they arrived in front of her building the detective slapped her hand when she moved to open he door. Roberts got out and like a gentleman opened the door for her. He even walked her to the door.

"I'm sorry for ruining dinner." Zoe started.

"No need. I could drink for free tonight and it wasn't even cheap." He said and they both laughed. "Do you want a lollipop? Sweet things usually calm me down." He said and grabbed one from his pocket. She was ready to take it when somebody else beat her to it.

"How nice of you, detective. I really felt like dessert." Mehrdir said taking the candy. However, instead of eating it he threw it away. "Yummy."

Roberts inspected this man and noticed he was somehow very familiar even if he hasn't seen him in his life. And then he glanced at Zoe who looked ready to explode but was also very tired.

"Well then, see you tomorrow at work Lestrade."

"Tomorrow is Saturday." Mehrdir announced as if that mattered.
The detective laughed loudly.

"Law doesn't have normal weekends, boy!"

Mehrdir glared at the detective until he left. Zoe was already by the elevator when he realized she left. The ride up to her apartment was tense. Mehrdir followed her as she unlocked the door and entered. And then she turned on the lights and saw the mess that was all over. She dropped her backpack and remained in shock.

"You move fast." She commented.

"I...didn't do anything though."
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