“I dreamt of the ocean again. The wind was blowing very strongly, and I was standing on that same beach. Foamed waves crashed at my feet, and the grey skies howled at my presence. The girl from the case, she was there still. She never says a word, her hair sweeps her characteristics away and I stand there waiting for something; I think for her to move or do anything. I’m paralyzed and she never says a word, and when she looks at me and I see her face, it is indescribably gut-wrenching. I’m not sure how many times I have seen her face now, but the fear rips me apart and I wake up.”
Alwin sipped coffee with his girlfriend Elizabeth across the table. She sat patiently listening to the dream, pondering if there was any reason for his recent night terrors. Someone had once told her that snacking late at night could trigger any sort of dreams, but these were recurring and she had noticed that Alwin was, in fact, eating less than normal. Whatever the cause, she did not want to push the issue and tried to reassure him.
“I’m sorry sweetie; I know it’s getting rough, especially with you working so hard on your case. I just don’t want you getting overly stressed – it’s terrible on your health. In any case, I think I can at least help…”
She placed her hand on his lap.
“There’s never a better time.”
Over and over again, Collins found himself going over the report that his partner Alwin meticulously wrote up. The gunshot wound to the head was not caused by a single bullet, but by two fired simultaneously. This couldn’t be possible, he thought. If two people were standing side-by-side, the trajectories of the bullets would have crossed and made wounds at angles; the bullets entered at the exact same time and at too close of a distance to have been caused by two guns. Analysis on the bullet remains pointed towards a colt .45 pistol, but he had never seen something like this before. He knew a weapons expert in the next town over, and set a mental note to check with him whenever he could make time for a day trip.
Collins rolled a cigarette between his fingers, thinking about the girl. Could something like this really be random? He saw two pieces of the puzzle: a strange wound and an even stranger handkerchief. The parents were useless in the questioning for the most part; he could only gather that she was adopted, had no readily apparent enemies, and the handkerchief was never seen in the house before. No DNA, not even a hair, was combed from the cloth, and for now remained much less important that the other lead.
He stuck the stick between his lips and breathed it in. Collins found solitude in being alone and spent countless nights to himself. Happy, he thought he felt. It had been so long ago since the person he thought he would share his life with had left and there had been nothing he could do to stop it. Instead of blaming himself, he focused that negative energy towards his work as an investigator. In the smoke, he thought he caught a glimpse of her face again. Everything had ended up in smoke.
“This one, this is what I saw her smelling,” Sam pointed to a picture of purple flowers with golden stamen. Dr. Methusda chuckled to himself, being the caretaker for the gardens and knowing every plant that grows in its soils.
“Sam, that plant is called Atropa Belladonna – deadly nightshade. Being one of the most toxic plants in the world, we don’t keep it here on the grounds. Could you possibly have been mistaken?”
“No, it was definitely that one. She was surrounded in it, enveloped like one of its own berries. It’s not something you’d get confused.”
The doctor scratched his head. Sam seemed to be earnest, but he needed more than this to track down the next Daughter.
“Sam, the Daughters share personality traits, ideas, dreams. We kept the first daughter here until we were ready to move, and finding the second was somewhat easy. All of the Daughters speak of the ocean, but this has led to a dead end, and now we need more than some fantasy about nightshade.”
Sam became uneasy.
“Well, the second Daughter had a piano in her room. Could that be something? Like, perhaps there’s one who likes to play music.”
“Explore that option until I find something else; other than this nonsense about flowers, it’s all we had.”
Sam left Keaton Place somewhat unnerved. He imagined his progress had pleased Dr. Methusda but the doctor seemed unnerved. Sam had definitely seen her with that flower, and began to imagine if the Daughter knew something about her fate. If he knew a bullet was going to fly through his brains, he would probably have poisoned himself as well.
He took Dr. Methusda’s advice and began to scout performances by local artists. Sam sipped wine and nibbled a fine cheese while listening to the duo Dag and Perry at a swanky uptown restaurant. His confidant was a woman that would act as his arm-candy – she adopted the name Olivia van Rosé for these events. With curly brown hair that went to only her shoulders and eyes as green as the money she valued, Olivia van Rosé was part sophisticated socialite and second-part mercenary.
Dag was on the cello and Perry complimented him on a grand piano. Notorious for their untraditional jazz compositions, the duo sparked local clubs and fine dining restaurants with an energy unmatched. Frequently, they partnered with local up-and-coming musicians and supported the local community in that aspect. Finesse met passion, and the result became a musical phenomenon. Tonight they played second to a singer who wanted to floor the audience for one night – she was practiced and Dag and Perry felt the fire of her spirit.
The lights dimmed. Heels clicked up to the microphone, and a spotlight fell on her face.
“Do you.” She kept her head down; her black hair in loose curls matched her little black dress.
“Do you see yourself as I do,” Her voice was soft, carrying the words long and seamlessly with the accompanying bass notes. Perry fired off notes in a slow jazz fashion and brought the entire evening together.
“I loved you the way you were, and the way you want to be, but never the way you are.” She lifted her head, and began to sway in the harmony. Sam’s attention was focused, and Olivia noticed his tension – he caught something.
“See me.” The songstress glided her hands along her sides, drawing them above her head and folding them to her back, emphasizing the curves of her body; voluptuous was her sculpture and sexy was her performance.
“See me the way you want to, it won’t be the way you do.” Alwin and Collins watched from the bar, having taken the night off from their lives to foster their old friendship. Alwin enjoyed a fine whiskey – neat; Collins preferred rum cocktails more than anything.
“Let me change your mind. Let me change your mind.” Her gaze affixed on Collins, and they connected wirelessly. Maybe it was the alcohol speaking, but Collins set his sights on her and planned out the scenario. He would catch after the performance, truthfully give his opinion on her performance and ask to steal her evening. Make her feel special, and she’ll return the favor – an idea that had never failed for him.
Olivia turned to Sam.
“It’s her, are you ready? We’ll wait until the end of the performance and make our move.”
Sam cocked his weapon, which he affectionately named Lilith.
Alwin turned to Collins, who noticed Collins completely mesmerized by the performance.
“So, what’s the game plan? I see that look in your eye. You have the hots for her.”
Sam and Collins spoke at the same time, unaware of either’s appearance or turn of events. Their lips moved simultaneously.
“The party has only started.”