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Vincent impatiently spat a cloud of nicotine out of his lips, quickly inhaling the smoke through his flared nostrils.

It had been a solid twenty-minute period since James entered the O’Malley’s territory. However, Vincent had gone through an entire pack of Lucky Strikes during his ‘watch’. He basically spent over forty minutes inside the wretched Tesla, smoking his agitation away, locked and loaded in case of any unanticipated conflict breaking between his partner and the O’Malley detective.

His black-ringed eyes were trained upon the dark painted wooden door of the residence until they became sore. The unstable man was beginning to debate interfering, if it wasn’t for the familiar silhouette of James making his way towards the vehicle.

The blue eyed man yanked the car door shut as he shuffled into his seat, causing the entire automobile to rattle with force.

Retrieving the cigarette from between his lips, Vincent swallowed the gulp of nicotine along with the lump forming in his throat. He examined James thoroughly once, twice and thrice in hasty glances and the knots twisted his stomach tighter every time; he didn’t have the PC with him.

Sloppily, the man with the scarred skin hugged the burning stick with his lips again, knowing that no amount of cigarettes could make a difference.

What the fuck are we gondo now?” Vincent drawled, exhaling a puff of smoke, as he stared out the blemished window, without casting a glance in James’ direction. The emotion lacing Vincent’s words sent shivers down the latter’s spine, littering his skin with goosebumps; James was torn between succumbing to the destructive rage threatening to take control and allowing the gravity of their situation to sink – sink
through to his unbreakable egotistical consciousness and drag him further down with it.

He was in denial. He refused to give into the new reality; a reality everyone –including himself- had seen coming. The only dissimilarity was that everyone hopefully held onto that inkling of said reality, while James lived in denial of Karma.

Seems like his father was right all along – “When you’re puttingood in the world, and the whole world’s spittinit in your face, rest assured and don’t moan about it, son – ‘cause you’re fine.” He used to say.

Because when you ain’t, and the world keeps on giving you free passes? Well, that’s when even heaven knows; you belong way down, down below.”

Several years back, he dismissed these words as nothing but that of an old, withered man – desperately trying to leave anything with a meaning behind him so his memory wouldn’t be lost in the oblivion we know as death. Several years back, he never found –didn’t even bother searching- for significance in his father’s words. Yet, he found himself too far in a road there was no way back home from, reminiscing the
only memory that could at one point, have saved his wretched life.

However, none of that compared to the raw trepidation he felt coursing through his veins, and numbing his senses with the venomous realization of something he never imagined ever entertaining even the notion of. Something – he was certain, and gravely persistent to keep just that; something that could have gone wrong, something that could have slipped his mind.

He was so bigheaded, so arrogant and careless, until it became what had gone wrong, in what he thought was his perfectly designed ploy.

James was being swallowed into the bottomless and eager abyss – his denial – until Vincent managed to bring him back into Earth. He barely had the luxury of the chance to get his act together, but the fear dilating Vincent’s hazel eyes was making it all the more impossible. The man
with the bleached hair and disfigured skin, whom had never displayed any kind of an emotional reaction, was now barely suppressing the hysteria shaking his body.

“You said that fucking bitch had it! If she doesn’t have it, then who fucking does?!” Vincent seethed, with protruding, pulsing veins visible on his neck. His heavily inked knuckles turned snow white as he griped fistfuls of James’ coat, holding onto him like he was his last resort to salvation. The latter only managed to stare back into Vincent’s unblinking, perilously enraged wide eyes with nothing but hopeless distraught.

“The fucking Churches do.” James breathed, as if he was astonished by his own conclusion.

However, what he hoped to be the ray of shining light - their deliverance- it only seemed to fuel Vincent’s blind rage. A harsh grimace etched itself deeper onto Vincent’s tattooed face, as his clutch became unbelievably stiff if it was even possible; he wasn’t buying any of James’ bullshit.

“The Triplets? The FUCKING TRIPLETS?!” he bellowed, droplets of saliva landing onto James’ face as the monstrously raging man
expressed his distress. “YOU THINK I’M FUCKIN’ ROUND, JAMES?! YOU THINK THIS IS FUCKIN’ FUNNY?!” Vincent failed to keep
his composure under the looming threat’s mercy. Whoever had the PC and those damned files basically has a noose tied around their not-so-untouchable necks – capable of kicking the chair anytime they please. And as much as the once invincible Vincent Moore hated to acknowledge the facts; there was not one person he knew of capable –or has the nerve- to pull such precarious stunt, other than them.

He waited. Vincent waited for James to laugh in his face, tell him that he was only messing with his head, that he had everything with him the whole time. He waited –even prayed to a God he constantly taunted and never believed in- for it all to be just a sick prank his partner was pulling. James only shook his head, banishing any hope Vincent had of it all being anything but a reality.

“What the fuck d’you mean?”

“They’re fucking back, man.” James’ voice cracked, his words caught in his throat, suffocating him. “All of them.”

Vincent released James from his vice clutch, shoving him away as if he was the plague. He refused to believe such thing – James must be bluffing; because it only meant one thing, something that not only both of them were sure of, but the entire city of Buckley was, too. And they were never more wrong. “It’s not them.” The scarred man kept muttering to himself, profusely rubbing the scarred skin of his face. “Vincent, nob—“



That was enough to silence Vincent. It left him astonished, dumbfounded. He never forgot that Mitchell Jefferson knew of what they kept buried away, however, that wasn’t anything to lose sleep over; Mitchell was nothing but ashes – and he couldn’t be more grateful. So, why would it matter if he knew of their little dirty secret anymore? What was James so terrified of and where the Hell was the fucking PC and the files?!

If it wasn’t for the raw, fearful look plastered across James’ face, Vincent would have never believed that such thing could become a reality – a reality in which he had no privileges in, any longer.

- - - - - -

“Scott, buddy—“ Elliot was unable to finish his plea, but not because of his lack of words, rather the unforgiving manner his only son used to close his bedroom door. Scott bounded down the set of stairs with no intention of listening to his father, not even of looking at him one last time. The sight of the dark colored backpack carelessly slung over the young man’s shoulder, caused Elliot’s heart to sink to the pit of his

“Why’d you need that bag?” Elliot’s strides grew wider, his breaths short and rapid. “Hey, don’t you turn your back on me, kid!” he barked, determined to keep the panic which began to take over at bay. He managed to keep up with his son’s pace, and reached out a large hand to grasp the teenager’s shoulder. Just as Elliot’s fingers grazed the surface of his son’s raincoat, Scott wrenched his body away as though his father’s touch
could melt the flesh off his bones.

“Why the Hell does it matter, why does it matter if I leave, Dad?!” Scott snapped, turning to face his father with a sour grimace. Elliot opened
his mouth to argue, to tell Scott how much it really mattered, how much it would absolutely destroy him. He felt his lungs caving in on themselves, his hollow chest tightening as the words he was so terrified of uttering, suffocated him – he was so afraid of allowing his emotionsto bleed through, for the fear of the wounds which never seemed to heal, to reopen.

“Why would it matter when you’re so busy protecting everybody, but the only family you have left?!”

“That’s not—“

the majority of his vocal strength, “I waited, Dad.” his voice faded into a whisper, his brown eyes glistening with tears of so many different emotions – with an animosity Elliot never thought he would ever get to witness again; Scott resembled his mother in every aspect and it shredded Elliot apart every time. “I waited for you to come, and thank God – you did eventually!” the teenager stifled a bitter laugh behind his dehydrated lips. “And you actually had the balls to bring her along with you?” The corners of his derisive smile twitched into a hateful frown.
“What’s next? Ask me to call her ‘mom’?”

Elliot was tongue-tied, helpless against the guilt that burdened his shoulders and the cutting words his son all but spat. The disappointed, hateful and disdainful glower of his son was excruciating, to the point where he felt like a sinner deserving of an assigned seat in the deepest and darkest pits of Hell.

“What the fuck is wrong with you?! What kind of a fucking father, husband – what kind of a FUCKING MAN ARE YOU?!” Scott shouted in a voice neither his father nor himself knew to be within him – a voice that represented everything which Elliot should have been.

Elliot held his head downwards in disgrace, unable to meet the convicting eyes of his son.

“Scott, please,” he pleaded desperately, vulnerability evident in his entire being. “I can’t lose you, too.”

“You lost him a long time ago.” Scott countered, “I suggest you don’t try to find him.”

The sound of the front door smacking against its frame resonated in the entire residence, the memory of the once whole family reverberated throughout the lonesome walls for the last time – until it remained echoing in Elliot’s ears like the gunshots he had grown so familiar with,
before the cruel ringing of silence settled in; it was over.

His dark, blank stare scanned his surroundings for what felt like the first time since a while; every corner, every piece of furniture, every rug, every chair and every table – each held a memory of something that was long gone and he couldn’t bear the pain of that realization.

It took a few minutes to regain his consciousness, before he forcibly tore his burning eyes from the spot where he had last seen his little boy and turned away. His chocolate brown gaze fell upon an astonished, wide-eyed Sherrie, whom stood by the edge of the kitchen’s entrance.
They both held each other’s gaze, both pairs of eyes as wide as saucers, portraying the same form of anguish. Elliot glanced feebly back at the front door, before he met Sherrie’s doe-like emerald stare, allowing a couple of tears to race down his cheeks.

The young woman wanted to say something, anything that would provide a sense of comfort and belonging to the lonely man before her. But what she witnessed robbed her of words; nothing could mend what just broke within Elliot. The look in his tearful eyes, what they portrayed, as though he was asking her: ‘what am I supposed to do now?’ and it shattered her heart beyond repair not knowing the answer.

Elliot finally broke eye contact, limply making his way up the stairs.

Sherrie followed closely behind him, not having the heart to leave the older man by himself. They eventually reached Elliot’s personal office, the chair which James used as a seat was still in the same spot, triggering the unpleasant memory to resurface in Sherrie’s mind. The brunette
made his way towards what he liked to call a ‘Crime Board’, his towering, broad shoulders blocking the majority of the view from the much smaller woman.

The strawberry-blonde woman shuffled to stand by the detective’s side, distracting herself by studying the surface of the hung panel, attempting to understand the meaning behind the cluttered mess of newspaper cut-outs, sticky notes, red-marker scribbles, snapshots and colorful strings attaching everything together. Sherrie kept anxiously glancing back and forth between Elliot and the board before them, the
look in his eyes bleak of anything readable and it unsettled her.

As she parted her lips to ask Elliot about his feelings, he gave an unpredictable answer that rendered Sherrie speechless. Abruptly, Elliot lunged at the hanging board, his colossal hands shredding pinned documents and pulling apart the strings connecting them. The loose strings clung to their locations upon the wooden panel, as if they were wordlessly crying out in protest to Elliot’s violent outburst – as if they were attempting to tell him of something he no longer wanted to see.

“Elliot, stop it! Stop, this is all you work, you ca—“ all Sherrie could think of doing was attempting to hopelessly restrain Elliot’s muscled arms, but she didn’t get the chance to proceed, for the lost man unpredictably shoved her away from him defensively.

“NO, IT’S NOT!” Elliot boomed deeply, turning to face the female with doe-like, alarmed green eyes. “Everything I did, everything I’m doing; I only went through with it because it made me feel better about myself!” he grabbed one of the remaining pieces on the wooden board behind him, viciously ripping the thin material and chucking it at Sherrie’s feet. The young woman couldn’t help but flinch at the impulsive gesture, directing a look of disbelief towards Elliot. What was the meaning behind his words? Why would he want to tolerate twenty years of investigating and closing cases of horrific homicides, just to silence his conscience? What horrid act had Elliot committed, that had him so
willing to do anything to atone for? Or did this have some sort of a connection to him losing his wife?

All of her previous questions only appeared to breed more questions with no answer, and it was overwhelming Sherrie beyond what words could describe. It felt like her body was crippling from the inside out, as though some kind of a poisonous substance was eating away at her faith and hopes.

“Lana’s gone, so is Scott; it’s all my fault and no matter what I do, it wouldn’t leave me alone.” He somehow found his way towards the nearest seat before he collapsed in it, burying his face in the palms of his clammy, cold palms. Sherrie wanted to ask him – pressure him into telling her what was it that burdened him so much; what took his life and family away from him?

Elliot thought that it had all died in the past, and Lana was the only price he had to pay for his silence. After all, God never forgets one’s sins; but is only giving us chance after chance to repent for them.

However, not all take advantage of those chances. Perhaps, if Elliot had taken one of those many chances; the truth was never a high price to pay, in comparison to a life without Lana, at least.

Sherrie was speechless; what could she possibly say, anyways? All that she was capable of was acknowledging just how vulnerable Elliot trulyis. A burdening wave of guilt washed over her, as she couldn’t help but worry over the fact that Elliot was most likely giving up on their case. She felt selfish.

“Is that why you agreed to help me? Is that all what this case means to you; just another shot at repenting?” She couldn’t control the edge in her voice, and frankly, it didn’t really concern her. She wasn’t even concerned about Elliot’s vague revelation, because she couldn’t see past that nothing meant anything more to him than an opportunity to redeem for his mistakes.

“Sherrie, whoever did that to Devin, we’ll find him. Just—“

“—forget about it.” Sherrie bit frigidly; she had seen it coming. A dull look of indifference clouded the vulnerability which once surfaced through Sherrie’s emeralds. She couldn’t restrain the hateful glower she directed at Elliot. The man that managed to stir the stiff, frozen hope through the stubborn despair inside of her abruptly became the most insufferable person in her life.

“I never s—“

“—you don’t have to.” She didn’t have it in her any longer; fighting to prove her ludicrous conclusions to be an actual reality. “You don’t haveto do anything for me anymore; there’s nothing to be done, anyways.” She affirmed. Sherrie made her way down the set of wooden stairs, with
Elliot following. “Sherrie, I promise you that I’ll make this right – I will find whoever’s behind this all.” He desperately trailed behind her.

Sherrie remained silent, composing her temper with difficulty. “There’s still so much to be done, and I assure you that we’ll have concrete leads to that bastard.” Elliot fought the urge to beg Sherrie to listen, to understand.

To stay.

However, she didn’t seem hesitant to leave and return to her house, where she could be as vulnerable as a deer in headlights. It was like she was fully convinced that Mitchell had been dead for years, despite the fierce fight she put against all who defied her. The young woman readied herself to exit the residence with her luggage in hand. “I’m keeping my word, Sherrie.” Elliot begged one last time, not knowing what else could be done as he watched the last bit of color fading from his life. “We all know how that ended the last time.” She countered, as she
stepped out of the open door.

“Tell James not to worry, I won’t be filing any lawsuits.”



STAY SAFE, AND SPECIAL THANKS FOR @Jacky_Pringle_Velasquez ! I hope I got the name right... 😅
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