Cedric let out a bloodcurdling scream, one that would put any horror movie damsel to shame, the sound pierced it’s way through the camp causing everyone to come running.
“He killed him! Cydnee murdered Pastel, someone get help!”
I had to stop myself from reaching for his neck and wringing it like dirty laundry, it was never ending with him, even though only seconds before he saw the body, he was ready to cease and desist this one sided rivalry with me.
“Oh my God.. what did you do to Pastel?!” Dr. Jhedav cried, as she reached down to check his pulse, but the far away vacant look and overall lack of life in his eyes were answer enough.
There was bruising around his throat, as if the sociopath that had done this, murdered my friend with his or her bare hands. I backed my way from the tent slowly, the sting of judgment in nearly everyone’s eyes was hitting me like a swarm of hornets, and made me fear I was guilty without due course. Jynx and his companions stood there looking amongst each other, while the rest of my immediate peers seem distraught beyond repair, aside from Shaw, Famous, and Zachari. I’m sure the two infiltrating special agents had seen many dead bodies before, but the other was probably in shock, his Asperger’s leaving him unequipped for this tragic situation out right.
“I went to bed next to him late last night, he was quiet, so I figured he was just sleeping. When I woke up, I left to grab a couple coffee’s for us but upon returning, he wasn’t responsive.” I tried to explain, looking around for someone, anyone, to believe me. “I swear I didn’t do it, Cedric walked in just as I had found him myself.”
“His body is stiff with rigor mortis, so either we’re to believe that Cydnee is sadistic enough to kill Pastel and sleep next to his body, or someone else is the culprit.” Yurika spoke out, looking from me to the body, then up to the person who essentially had my life in his clutches, Jynx Ellison.
He seem deep in thought, and only confer with his male companions, who didn’t seem all that affected by a dead body either. There was crying and whimpering among my peers, as Pastel was much loved despite his gossip queen reputation and flamboyant personality. Tears trail down my cheeks, but no one moved to comfort me aside from Aemous, who wiped them away with the soft sleeve of his burgundy cardigan.
“Cyd, gather yourself, this isn’t the time for tears, I know you didn’t do this.”
“If he didn’t do it then who did, I walked in on him standing over the body.. I’ve known him for years and I going to be the first to say I think he’s been overdue for a psychotic breakdown.” Cedric argued, intent on fanning the flames of the fire, he wouldn’t quit till I burn to ashes.
Our fellow coworkers murmur amongst each other, contemplating his words, as indeed, Cedric did know me best as far as they knew. Shaw knelt down to further examine the body, making sure not to touch or move it excessively, he look to me before addressing everyone else.
“This body has indeed been sitting for hours, and the pressure on the neck seems to have crushed Pastel’s trachea and cracked his scapula, whomever killed him had to have done it last night.”
“I left him with Grayson, Cedric, and Zachari.. he was excessively drunk, and I had something to attend to, so I left him with them.”
“He was fine when Zach and I took him to his tent… don’t try to put this on me bro, I’m no fucking killer!” Grayson interrupted, appalled to be listed as a suspect of sorts, Zachari didn’t say anything he just kept looking down at the body in shock.
“Zachari has fresh scratches, look at his wrists and hands, so something isn’t exactly right with your story. I swear I’m not trying to unjustly place the blame on anyone, I just want to show you that appearances can be deceiving and I’m not the only one that’s in a tight spot right now, I’m just as innocent as you are, until proven guilty.”
“Zachari was with me right after they dropped Pastel off, I admittedly was more than a little overzealous in the passion of the moment, as we were in celebration of us getting back together last night. So he can be accounted for, unlike you Cyd, so don’t be pointing fingers our way.”
“Cydnee, what were you doing so important that you ditched him anyway, from what I hear he was one of your best friends, do you have an alibi?” Jynx asked sternly, his cold golden green eyes locked on me suspiciously.
“He was with me.” Shaw spoke up quickly, his eyes fleetingly darting to me to confirm, while anything I might has said got choked in my throat as I swallowed back my sobs, wondering how my life had spiraled so quickly.
“You two haven’t spoken this entire trip, I call bullshit, what would you have had to say to each other?”
“Not that it’s any of your business Cedric, but there wasn’t much talking going on with Cydnee’s mouth preoccupied, and we were together most of the night.. he couldn’t have done this.”
I baulked, but quickly recovered, to save face. Aemous didn’t remove his arms from around me but I could feel him physically stiffen, clearly not happy with the thought of Shaw and I getting romantically involved again, whether a real revelation or not.
“We have to call the police, we are all in danger till we find out who did this..” Grayson said, he was trying to be strong but there was a sadness in his eyes as he brought a blanket over and went inside the tent cover Pastel’s body.
“No, that won’t be happening.” Jynx announced, causing a few gasps and a couple of angry outbursts amongst my other peers present, many of them still feeling like I was the guilty party and a deadly threat. “Hush, settle down.. as I was saying, we won’t be alerting the authorities just yet, because the only working communications are back at the Windigo Resort and the Arkham facilities nearby. We do have trained security personnel present there, but I’ve been alerted this morning of another incident that’s currently being investigated, we don’t have reason to believe these two occurrences are connected but to play it safe we have to allow the process to play out. It’s a shame to lose such a cherished member of our Arkham family, but we can’t just jump ahead of ourselves.”
“What do you expect us to do.. There’s a dead body lying in a tent in the middle of the campsite, are to we to just act like everything’s okay and continue on with the itinerary the likely murderer has planned out?” Karishma crassly disputed with our employer, as a few tears travel down her face, Cedric holding her tight rubbing her shoulders in comfort, as he wipe away his own nonexistent salt droplets.
These two were trying to have me crucified, the small crowd around us were already startled, calling for blood and retribution in the name of Pastel. Things were escalating out of control, and someone tossed a rock in my direction that set the group off, turning them into a roaring mob demanding justice.
Aemous dragged me away to safety as Shaw and Grayson, held back the more rambunctious members of the mob, Jynx screamed for order but as I was pulled away from the camp, for once, our commanding leader’s authoritative words fell on willfully deaf ears. The people wanted blood for blood, and mine seem to be the only way to quench their thirst.
Before we disappeared into the tree line, heading in the direction of the lake shore, I couldn’t help but to take one look back towards the tent that held my friends cold dead body. It was where Cedric, Karishma, and Zachari whisper with angst as they made several glances my way.
“Wow, I’ve never seen anything like that.. They just walk up to you and eat from your hand.” Famous mused, as he stood a couple feet away from me, skipping rocks into the lake.
I had a handful of berries, and a sparrow warily nibbled and picked at the pile of them, sitting in heart of my palm. All it did was remind me of Pastels stiffening body, lying in the tent back at camp, and that there was a murderer in our group that had yet to be identified.
When had the story of my life devolved into this mess of a mystery?
How could this have happened?
While I was busy chasing after Shaw and Aemous, playing capture the Spy, my one good friend and possibly the only person I could trust was killed, and I could very well take the fall for his death.
Murder.. Greed.. Espionage..
The three ingredients that had finally ruined the world I had worked through sweat, tears, blood, and bone to build for myself. Now, there was a good chance I would leave Windigo Isle with nothing but a jail sentence waiting for me at home, cursed capitalism would lead to nothing but punishment.
I hadn’t noticed the shaking of my shoulders or the continuation of tears trailing down my cheeks, till Famous Aemous wrapped one of his sturdy arms over my shoulders and once again wiped away the evidence of my despair.
“How could I have let this happen Aemous? I should have been there for him, but instead I was..” I paused, almost about to reveal my part in sabotaging his mission from the night before.
“Look, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t care about you and Shaw being together again, the bastard always seems to be one step ahead of me, but that’s my own fault.”
“It’s not what you think.. Shaw and I are not together again, he made that part up.” I carefully responded, trying to be as truthful as I could be, trapped in such a lie.
“So, there’s nothing going on between you two?”
“Yes, and no.. It’s complicated, more complicated than things should be.”
“Is there anything I can do to uncomplicate things for you?”
“I don’t know, with matters of the heart, you just never know what to expect.”
Before I knew it, his lips pressed hard to mine, the warmth of his breath filling my mouth with a delicious heat. I consumed it greedily, like I’d never get another taste of the ambrosia of his soft succulent lips, that had the faintest taste of honey left over from his morning tea. Our bodies melded together, forming one being, if only for a fleeting moment.
For I knew I had to let him go, as this wasn’t the place nor the time, no matter how picturesque and perfect the scene around us seem to be. Beneath the beauty of the moment, were the ugliest of lies, the most tragic of tales, and a betrayal that could set off a firestorm. Aemous had no idea I was the reason he was almost caught infiltrating the Arkham facilities the night before, and it was a betrayal I’d probably do again, for some godforsaken reason, I felt an unyielding loyalty to Jynx J. Ellison.
I was beholden to his cause, following him was the right path to take if I wanted to change and shape the world for the better, Aemous and Shaw had their own allegiances, specific agendas that directly conflict with my own. Astor Corporation and VIOtrex Industries wanted to cut Arkham Inc off at the knees, and take Jynx Ellison out by any means necessary, even if it meant using his own arsenal against him. My work, and that of my peers, could be stolen or sabotaged for their respective gain, leaving the company to burn to the ground, a hollow shell of its former self.
Aemous and Shaw were apart of that, whether they knew it or not… and I refuse to be complicit.
Still, it was a battle to will myself away from this man’s touch, as I still wasn’t sure what I actually felt for him. It was like pining as a child for candy, but then having to deal with the reality, it would eventually give you cavities. At this moment though, the candy sure tasted sweet, and all I could was want more, no matter the consequences.
“What the hell are you two doing?!”
I broke away from Aemous’s grasp to find Yurika, Jerry, and Shaw walking up on us mid embrace. I straightened and smoothed out my clothes, doing my best to avoid the steely cold glare I was receiving from Shaw, while Aemous seem almost amused by it.
Yurika could sense the tension and immediately tried to find sound reason to excuse herself and Jerry, but not before informing me that Jynx would making a decision on what to do about the incident from earlier this afternoon, and warn that as a prime suspect I should not travel far from the camp grounds.
“What are they doing with him? We can’t just leave him there wrapped up in the tent, the body will start to deteriorate, even though the weather has dropped with the new snowfall.”
“The security team from the nearby facilities have to be notified to take care of it, the body will be kept there till we figure out how to handle this incident and find a way to return stateside with no further complications. If I were you Cydnee, I wouldn’t be asking so many questions or answering anything until you find suitable legal representation.” Yurika offered, reminding me of the dire position I was in. “All should be fine though, as Shaw has given an account corroborating your whereabouts.. that is, unless the story has changed?”
She didn’t call me a slut verbatim, but with the way she arched a brow curiously, looking between Shaw, Aemous, and myself, she might as well have. My face burned with embarrassment but I didn’t say a word to dispute, and since no one else spoke up otherwise, she found that moment to take her leave with Jerry. The moment of silence that followed was torturous to say the least, the two spies shooting daggers with their eyes, the conflict of my questionable relationship with the both of them, was like a fuse to a bomb freshly lit.
“Maybe the story HAS changed.”
“I never told you to lie for me Shaw, you made that choice.”
“I know we haven’t even spoken to each other in days, but it should be obvious why I made it, for one, because I know you didn’t kill Pastel, and two, it’s because I lov..”
“So in other words, Cydnee wasn’t with you at all last night?” Aemous interrupted before Shaw could finish his sentence, it was abrupt with telling purpose and effective at rerouting the subject of conversation, from the way they direct their daggers to me I knew I was in trouble.
“That’s a better question to ask the man himself, where were you Cydnee?”
“Don’t you two look at me like beacons of innocence, neither of you were up to any good, and you both are slick as thieves. You clearly can never trust a Spy..”
“It was you, the saboteur?” Shaw inquired, but in that tone he had when he already knew the answer, he just wanted me to admit it out loud.
“Yes, it WAS me.. and I was right to do it, everything I’ve ever worked for is at Arkham, my future is within this company and I won’t let anything destroy that for me. Not some withering unreasonably wealthy old white woman on her deathbed, nor a government feeling obsolete and powerless in the face of a capitalist juggernaut ushering in the future of humanity’s destiny.”
“Cydnee, I don’t think you understand the effect of the choices your making, it puts everyone’s existence in jeopardy.” Aemous pleaded, but his words fell on deaf ears as I walked away, Shaw stopped him when he attempt to follow, somehow knowing I just needed my space to think.
I spent the rest of the day, being avoided by everyone at the campsite, like some sort of pariah. I was guilty until proven innocent, but no one else had bold nerve to call me a murderer to my face, most were only brave enough to give a fleeting nosy look.
It wasn’t till late in the afternoon, I receive invitation to the vigil for Pastel, he would have been touched people missed him that much, he’s probably up in heaven counting mourners as if they were ‘Likes’ on a Facebook status. Yurika and Jerry were the only ones willing to accompany me, Her, because she was both a lawyer for Arkham and my new Peer within the company, Him, for curious reason as he seem to be bit of a pariah himself.
The ceremony was lovely, several people standing to speak, giving stories and memories of his many eccentricities we found so endearing. Pastel was loved, most truly, and he would be missed. I went to wipe away some tears, when an egg hit me square in the back, I turn to catch the next square in the mouth. My companions move away swiftly, neither wishing to be unintended targets, as a few people hiss and boo at me.
The decision to walk away was easy, moving to the nearby lake that reflect the final purples, reds, and indigo blues of the setting sun upon its waters, it drew my attention in a welcome distraction. My tan sport coat was ruined, so I took it off and tossed it the ground, having a seat right there, letting the hypnotic waves of the water soothe my mind.
I still felt troubled by my battle with the loyalty, ambition, and ethical morality of my choices of late. No matter which way I justify my hypocrisies and convictions, or spin the facts of my decisions, I had fully transition into the person I fail to recognise.
The stranger within myself, was now entirely me..
The old me wouldn’t have looked at saving the life of an old woman as a hindrance, or find suspicion in the actions of a government investigation into the insidious actions of a corporation with assets it was invested in, for the reputation of Arkham ethics practices have always been questionable. Only now, these things impede on my progression to power, it was a thirst I never knew I had, so stealthily did I have a change a of heart and find myself at quarrel with moral integrity, the arise of such a conflict is what left me a perpetual troubled spirit.
I look up to the coming stars of the encroaching dark of night, hoping and wishing my prayers for guidance weren’t sent off into the nothingness of space, never to be heard. I look to spy upon the grace of God, it would be the only way to effectively save myself.
“Cydnee, there you are.. just who I was looking for, come take a walk with me, please.”
It was Jynx Ellison, he was alone, which was a rarity, especially since he seem to be leading me away from the larger group. Always a vision, even in the night, his hair was so shiny, even the moon and the stars seem to eerily shimmer off of him in the darkness.
“I know I’ve fucked up this time, and I think it could cost me, but I’m never one to bow down without a fight, and even then.. in most instances, if I bow before you, it is to merely cut you off at the knees.” His eyes were stern as he spoke, staring at me through the darkness, as if it were clear as day. “I think you know something, more than what you have let on.”
“Sir, what is this all about exactly?” I stammer out shakily, feeling in the midst of danger, as if I were in a horror film, this man put fear in my heart.
“The Van Duyn matriarch you met with, she was supposed to be dead by now, I’ve just received word the old hag is holding on and has been receiving help from the inside. We have a mole in Arkham’s ranks, possibly more than one. And in the sake of speaking frankly, you don’t look surprised enough by that information to please my tastes, that’s a problem.”
“Belladonna mentioned she had eyes on the inside, but she wouldn’t say whom, she alluded to several pairs but wouldn’t spill names.”
“I have word she’s sought out assistance from another associate of mine, Madeline Astor, it makes sense why they would team up against me, both are too weak on their own, but why now? What use is the Astor whore to her and how does it apply to me? My first thought would be to consolidate the treasonous assets, they both no doubt have amongst my ranks, but to what end?”
“Could she be trying to infiltrate our systems? With what you’ve shown us today, I’m pretty sure we have what could save her life, they both probably know that. There is also the possibility they know more than what meets the eye, maybe the sickness that has overtaken Belladonna, was just a kink in their original plan and not the initial purpose? ”
“Shit, it has to be Everlast and the Lazarus project they’re after.. but as far as I’ve been told, neither have even been tested yet, it’s too unstable to even attempt human trials from what I understand. That was why I added Shaw and yourself to the project, I needed results, you two were my last hope to impress the investors at an upcoming event, now that could all turn out to backfire.”
“What exactly is your gripe with these major power houses? I understand you’re all filthy rich and savage business savants but you people take it too far, you’re all willing to die and let the world burn with you.. this isn’t chess play, this has become capitalist warfare, to the death it seems.”
“That’s why I need you Cydnee, I need you to destroy all the data on Everlast and Lazarus that can be found on our systems at the Windigo facility, it’s patched into our enclosed network. It’s the only way, yet a part of my being keeps me from making the call, so I’m going to trust in you do this for me.” He paused, looking down at his feet, losing that alluring and unwavering confidence I so covet before. “It’s something I’ve been refusing to sign off on for a while now, despite Dr Jhedav and Dr Grannison’s insistence. I’m just not sure if what I really wanted is right, I wanted to rule the world, change it forever, mold it in my image.. I had the means to do it, I’m Superior in so many ways, and I wanted to share that with you all, yet still, I am but a flawed human being like everyone else.”
“That’s just it, who are we but merely human?”
He laughed, hysterically so, as if I had been a stand up comic, I fail to understand the laughter but I also fear to ask, as the answer could be the sinister fears of my worst nightmares.
“We can be so much more Cydnee, I can see it, Humankind can transcend itself and we can do it all together, that’s what I’m trying to accomplish here, my truest intent.. it’s the right thing to do with the power that I have, it just doesn’t always feel like it.”
“They say the road to hell is paved with good intentions..”
With those words spoken he broke down to his knees, and at first I didn’t realise what he was doing, but he was crying. It was the most silent cry I ever heard, and it was painful to watch, it never even occurred to me this man even knew how to cry, it was like witnessing a unicorn, but someone hit it with their car.
It was apparent conventional ways of trying to comfort him wouldn’t work, I would have to make a decision for him, he was unable to make. It was crazy, because moments ago I couldn’t even make the life breaking decisions for my own self, yet here I was being deferred to by a man that literally held the fate of the whole world in his hands.
“I shall make the decision for you, I will bare the burden to make things right.”
“If you do this for me Cydnee, I will be forever in debt to you, nor would you ever have to worry for naught, for your enemies will become mine, I shall make example of them. You would be an extension of me, one of the few I would consider in confidence, you would become a soul I should forever hold dear to me.”
“I just want justice for Pastel, we have to find out who did this to him..”
“Tonight I will have a meeting, since we should all be heading back to the lodges this evening, I’ve decided to cut this trip short as the weather advisory has reported a storm coming through. After the meeting, I’ll be evacuating the staff and guests back home, the authorities have already been notified about a situation at hand.”
“I didn’t kill Pastel.. I swear it.”
“I know that, your soul doesn’t wear the mark of a killer, not yet at least.”
The way he said the words, was so foreboding, it was almost as if he’d already read the chapters of my life in some book, like death was an inevitably to be stained upon my hands.
As he walked away, I could only clasp my hands together, and face my head towards the night sky, my lips moving fast as tears welled up in my eyes.
As I begin to Pray…