It had been the first time in weeks she had been around other people. She was feeling the lights and the air drain out of the small building that the company had rented for the Christmas party. She hated this feeling. It wasn’t normal as she watched the people, she had worked with for the past few years interact with each other while she sat at the sidelines. The cattiness of teenage years seemed, even more, stinging at this point in her life then at anytime prior. She was alone in a room full of people.
“Get up and go talk to someone.” she heard a voice coming from in back of her that she would know anywhere.
“No one wants that, Aaron.” she replied without looking up from her drink which she had taken to stare at the carbonation bubbles rise from the bottom.
“Why do you say that?” he asked as he pulled the grey fold-out chair on the left of her and sat down.
“Aaron, no one wants me around them. You know that.” she said as she turned and looked into blue eyes that were so much lighter than her own.
“Kid, come on. None of this is your fault.” He said with a sigh.
“I have a bullseye on my back. Everyone knows it too. No one wants to be caught up in this.” she said.
“Has it really been that bad?” he asked as he tilted his head to look at her. “Have you even eaten yet?”
“I can’t.” she said.
“You look thinner than you already were and super pale. Kid, you need to eat something.” Aaron said.
“I can’t.” she replied again.
“You can’t keep going on like this.” Aaron said as he shook his head in her direction.
“Until he is caught Aaron, I can’t do much of anything.” She said softly.
“Is it really that bad?” Aaron asked as he noticed different units looking in their direction.
“I am locked away in a basement at work. I have guards on my street at night. Yes, Aaron, it is that bad.” she replied. ”I can’t do my work. I can’t even look at my emails without a chance that he will reach me there. It is never-ending. He is now laser-focused on me because of… well, you know.”
“The book.” Aaron stated.
“I guess he sees it as a challenge.” she replied. “He drove four people to suicide with his actions and the haunting nightmares that resulted. I should have thought this through more when the idea went through.”
“How could any of us know what he was going to do?” Aaron said.
“I should have known.” she said as she let her head hang down. “I should go. I am making people uncomfortable.”
“You are not.” Aaron stated.
“Look around you. I am” she said as she blinked rapidly as she stood up. She wasn’t going to cry. She really wasn’t going to cry here in front of people.
“Kid?” Aaron said as she grabbed her bag and started out the door. When she had passed through the open door into the awaiting darkness, her friend stood there and watched thinking it was almost apt that was the way he saw her. She was always going into the abyss that was the darkness. The tiny doctor was the one they called in when things had hit the fan, and she never seemed to bat an eye at anything. He knew better as he watched her deal with it on her own for so many years that when this case came in five years ago, no one expected that it would result in a five-year-long chase for a ghost.
The ghost had struck two more times since then. Every time she had been called into the scene as everyone else had been called out. She would do a walk through and then start doing her job. She had become somewhat of an expert on everything as she got a little older. With her photographic memory, she could see parallels that no one else could. She was one of the ten that first took the case, five years later she was one of five that were still alive.
She walked to her car that was only a few yards away from the building. She never felt like she was utterly alone, but that was due to the fact she did have the guards around her even though she didn’t always see them. She knew they, the ones who pushed her to release the book, were trying to protect her. They had hope as well as she had that it would push him to make a mistake. A mistake that they could see and would allow them to catch him before too many others died as well. However, all it did was focus his attention on her. The growing span of time was becoming alarming to her as they had to move her from her office as flowers were being delivered to her. The gifts arrived like, and when they moved her office to three different buildings and then to the basement, the gifts began at her house.
The emails were the worst of everything he did in her mind to her. She could picture the details he had so eloquently captured on the keyboard were enough to make anyone scream. He was a stickler for the details. She had blocked his email from one address, but he always found a way to get around that. If it wasn’t on her work computer, they showed up on her personal accounts. She was living in fear. Fear was something up until she looked into the mind of a psychopathic depraved killer she had no real concept of. He wrote things to her that would make even the best horror authors cower in the corner. She would have been on his list anyway he had done this to them all, sending the taunts and even calling in the night to leave voicemails for them to start off their seemingly ordinary day. Suicide was the way out for them, and this killer had driven them to it.
It wasn’t a way out for her. She knew that when she had the book published. In a way she saw herself as the protector of the last four men left, she would take the brunt of his wrath so they could focus on catching him. The problem was, in the end, how do you find a ghost? No one thought that far ahead or clearly. This had become too personal for them all.
She thought back to an hour ago as she had walked into the building and people looked at her. The haunted looks in their eyes as she tried to plaster a smile on and continue as if she was an average person instead of the shell of one. They all held the fear as well. As if being in the same room as her would mean certain death for them as well. They all nodded as she walked passed praying, she didn’t stop to talk to them. She was becoming used to the looks and that feeling of being isolated. She thought was didn’t they realize she was doing all that she was to keep them safe, but she knew no one cared about that side of it. No one wanted to see anything but their own safety. It was one thing to put your life on the line in the call of duty but not so much anyone else’s issue if you drew the attention of a maniac away from everyone else so they could go home at night to sleep peacefully. She couldn’t remember the last peaceful night of sleep she had gotten.
As she drove away from the holiday party, there was a slight sigh of relief that passed through the building. Aaron looked around, and he could finally see what she had been eluding too all along. People were scared of having her to close to them. He wanted to lose his temper and scream at everyone, but he knew she would probably kill him for doing so. She had lost weight since the book went to the best sellers list. At a time that she should be the happiest for reaching that goal, she was at the lowest point in her life. She was wasting away before their very eyes.
“Is the Angel okay?” A large man walked up to him as Aaron watched her leave.
“No, Takeda she isn’t.” Aaron responded as he knew the rest of that division was now behind him.
“Is there anything we can do to help?” Oda asked.
“That isn’t like you, Oda.” Aaron responded.
“Regardless let’s say I owe her a favor.” Oda replied with a wave of his hand.
“I don’t know how to help her.” Aaron stated as he was still facing the door.
“This is about the warehouses, isn’t it?” Toyotomi asked.
“Yes,” Aaron replied.
“Bastard has gotten away with it too long.” Uesugi replied.
“I think with the help of some of these people in this room. She will be his next victim.” Sasuke said bluntly.
“No. She won’t break.” Aaron said. “That’s why she did it all.”
“She chose this?” Masamune asked.
“It was a choice she made. She released the book knowing that something like this would happen. The people here don’t get it though. She did it all to save them from being a target. Reaching out to her won’t place a target on their heads, he is a hundred percent focused on her.” Aaron replied as another member walked into the circle of men.
“She didn’t expect the outcome though.” the newcomer stated and smiled as he thought of her. “The people she meant to save turning their backs on her.”
“CJ can’t we do more?” Aaron asked as he faced the man who walked into the circle.
“And, son, what more can we do? We have a guard around her, we have moved her around between the buildings we have available to us, the only thing we could do is move her completely, and she refused. Yes, before you say something I offered to do that. None of us expected that he would take it this far though. She was expecting a few emails, hate mail, whatever. Not what she got.” Cj replied. “None of you are wrong in thinking she could be next. You don’t know her like we do. She is a lot stronger than she looks.”
“We do know that.” Oda replied a faint shadow passed over his face. “We worked with her before.”
“Ah yes, that op.” CJ said as he grimaced with the memory.
“Then let us repay the debt we owe her.” Oda said to CJ.
“And how exactly would you do that?” CJ asked.
“Anyway, we can.” Toyotomi said.
“Do you all feel this way?” CJ asked as he looked around the group and saw the light in their very different eyes as the nodded or said yes. “Well then, I can’t tell you what to do as it is now stand down and all of you have some free time on your hands. All I will say is watch yourselves.” The older man walked away chuckling at the turn of events that just happened.
“What does that mean?” Ishida asked.
“It means he is letting us do whatever we want.” Ieyasu replied with a hint of sarcasm.
“What do we want?” Yukimura asked.
“Yukimura that should be evident. She saved us once before now its time for us to repay it with interest.” Takeda replied.
“So we are agreed?” Masamune asked.
“Yes.” they all said.
“I assume Bettison that you know where she lives.” Kenshin Uesugi asked of Aaron. Aaron was looking at his unlikely allies and nodded.
“Well then. Lead the way.” Akechi said. “We need to go over the facts before we can do much of anything else.”
“You don’t already know them?” Aaron looked at the man.
“I know all the conjecture, not the facts. I don’t know much about the original case which this all stems from, and that is where we need to start from.” Mitsuhide Akechi stated.
“Then we can plan our own attack and counter-attack if need be.” Mitsunari Ishida said.
“We will need them.” Aaron stated grimly. “This is not going to be easy.”
“We don’t ever do easy.” Hideyoshi Toyotomi said.
“Because what’s the fun in that?” Masamune Date replied.
“Then it is agreed. We should meet with her immediately.” Oda stated as if the annual holiday party wasn’t going on around them and they were in a conference room on base.
“She won’t just discuss this with anyone.” Aaron stated.
“Well then call her to go to the SCIF,” Mitsuhide said. “She is too good not to go.”
“That is true.” Aaron said. He picked up his phone knowing that she would answer. She did on the second ring.
“What?” she asked.
“There is a new development, and we need you in the SCIF.,” Aaron said.
“Which one?” She asked without hesitation which led some of the men to smile at how predictable she was. Mitsuhide held up three fingers.
“Three.” Aaron stated.
“That is green teams SCIF.,” she replied.
“Yes.” Aaron said.
“Fine. Give me twenty minutes to get there.” she replied.
“Make it a half an hour, Kid.” Aaron said as they all looked at their watches.
“Fine. See you then.” she replied, and the line went dead.
“Let’s head over and get it online.” Mitsunari said.
“Looks like we have plans for the holidays now.” Nobunaga Oda stated. “Anyone have an issue with this?”
“No boss.” They all said. All of them were glad to have something to do. As the Alpha team for the area, they hated not having something to do as things got slow and they moved Bravo team and Charlie team up to take over for stand down. They all grabbed their jackets and walked out the door in packs of two and three’s.
The people in the room had no idea what was going on as the best of the best walked out of the party. People just watched as they did. No one but the two events together or the fact that Bettison was with them. The leaders of all the squads all knew each other, but there was little overlap of duties between the blue team and the alpha green team. They merely just assumed that it was to tame in the holiday party for them. Their departure just made more room in the building for the others to be able to breathe.