September, 2014: Tate's Story - Chapter One

Whoa! And we've stumbled upon our first chaptered story! Surprise, surprise, it's NOIA.

However, you may be wondering, if you've read any of the other parts of this series, Tate? Who's Tate? We've never seen anyone by that name before! Well, first off, that's NOIA for you. Names are never consistent and occasionally stump even me. Second, you actually have met Tate before, though briefly, and under the name TJ. During this section we also welcome back Nik, now Annika or Ann. She's in the middle of her character overhaul where she becomes the brusque character who gets things done no matter how it will make her look morality wise.

My girl Frankie has also managed to escape main character status and pushed the obligation off on someone other unfortunate soul. If what I remember is accurate as well, if this is the continuity that I think it is, this is a particularly brutal version of their story as well so... she's probably dodged a bullet with this one.

So before you continue on, I'll say two more things. One, please, please, don't judge me for the way I spelled Greg. It makes me cringe too. But I can't hide my shame on this one. And, two, the date that this has been given is very vague and non specific. That's because I have multiple of these documents that say they were created on the same day, so I don't know when exactly this was written. It might even be earlier than September! And the title will be changing if I figure that out.

Word Count: 3584


Taking One for the Team

“Francine Silva, Annika Wilkins, Dorthy Johnston. Best friends. Supposedly kidnapped from their homes. All within the span of a day. Supposed, because no one has ever been able to determine what happened to them. No evidence has been found to support this, none has been found to disprove this. As of today, the fifth anniversary of their disappearances, there still has been no indication of where they went-”

A large coffee cup was thumped onto my desk, interrupting my train of thought and my mumbling. For the last hour I had been scanning over paper after paper of information, trying to find any detail I had missed, that anyone who had ever touched the case might have missed.

I wasn’t as annoyed by the interruption as I thought I would be though, because the smell of coffee immediately made me grin and wonder who the wondrous person that got it for me was.

“You finally stop! I’ve only been shouting at you for the last half hour, but apparently coffee is more important to you than your best friend, I am super offended,” and, while I would have been grumpy no matter who was talking to me, I was a little more irritated to see Graigg than I would have had it been anyone else. Even though he did get brownie points for getting me coffee and a pass for being one of my only friends, he was still a sarcastic ass and got on my nerves like no one else could.

I glared up at him, “What’re you doing here still Graigg?” I asked, taking a sip of the drink, not even minding the burn it left on my tongue afterwards.

He rolled his eyes back at me, “I told you earlier that I had to stay late tonight, but just because I'm stuck here suffering don't you feel like you have to as well," he said with a pointed look at the file sitting open on my desk, "I know that you feel horrible at the thought, but I promise that you getting some sleep while I'm still awake won't have any effect on our relationship," I really just wanted him to shut up, I really did. "Now, I suggest you head home and get some sleep, it'll be hard but you gotta take one for the team man,” he said, shuffling a few papers on top of my desk into a neater pile, I slapped his hands away before any damage could be done, I may have been a slob and not organized at all, but I knew where everything was and he could just take his nitpicking back to his own desk. And while I wanted nothing more than to smack the smirk off his face and strangle him for his mocking words, he did have an honest look of concern to him. Which was weird, because, usually, even if he was worried about someone for whatever reason, he managed to play it off and pretend that he didn't see anything wrong, him being this blatant, and yes this was blatant for him, was out of the ordinary.

“Don’t touch my stuff,” I snapped a little too harshly for the situation, but the little sleep I had gotten earlier was catching up with me and not in a good way, “What’s up with you anyway? You're being weird.”

His continued smirk was making me grind my teeth together and breathe deeply, I did not want to wake up without a best friend tomorrow, “Naw, nothing weird, just telling you to be a good little soldier and go get some fucking sleep, because if you don't I'll drag you home myself and tuck you into your damn bed so tight you won't wiggle your way out until next Tuesday.” The way he spoke was creepy considering that he never dropped his smile the entire time and I wondered if I had really brought him to the point where he was beyond pretending not to worry. I felt bad when I thought about it, stupid too, I knew that Graigg hated nothing more than having to worry himself about others and yet here I was just basically giving up on myself. Not enough sleep and way too much coffee, not to mention that I had barely been eating, I was too busy staring at the same papers for hours on end to bother with such trivial acts.

Sometimes I did come back from the storage room or the archives and find a sack lunch on my desk and I always made myself take a moment to eat it, figuring that one of the nice ladies up front had bought it for me, I was starting to think that my theory was... off…

That didn’t mean his behavior wasn’t freaking me out though.

I rubbed the back of my neck, feeling more than a little sheepish, well if that was true it made everything much more awkward than it already was, to know that my best friend had secretly been taking care of me all week, putting aside his own feelings to do so. “Man, I’m sorry, I didn't even realize...” Apology wise it wasn’t about to be my best, but at least I was still awake enough to realize that what I had done warranted an apology, not that he was going to let me finish it.

"What did I just say? I don't need an apology, I need you to go get some sleep in my stead, now get out of here before I drag your dumb ass out," I figured he would follow through with the threat if I didn't move at his chosen pace, so I quickly shuffled my papers back into a thin folder and locked it away within my desk. I had been working too long on that case for it to just up and disappear because I was too lazy to take simple precautions, better safe than sorry I always say. Or I always try to, sometimes I forget. And by sometimes I mean most of the time.

I left the coffee cup untouched except for that first sip, figuring that I had more coffee this week than the most stressed college student during finals.

I got up and we walked out the building, well more like I walked and he creepily stalked behind me, neither of us speaking until we left the cool air conditioning for a hot and muggy August evening. Standing under a dull street light made the bleariness in my eyes even more pronounced, making me rub at my eyes though I knew that that wouldn’t do anything for me, “See ya tomorrow then?” I asked, watching him closely, I had a feeling that if I turned my back on him just then that I would greatly regret it.

He smirked at me in response and I finally saw him return completely back to normal which actually made me feel a lot better, “You better be here tomorrow, you’re buying us lunch.”

I chuckled and bobbed my head in agreement, it wasn’t like it was an unfair request seeing as I had unintentionally been mooching off of him all week. I gave him a wave as I walked away, feeling like we were once again back to normal and glad for it, as it allowed the tension that had been building up in my muscles to relax.

Looking around at the poorly lit street I shivered, me and the dark had never been the best of pals, or pals at all for that matter, so it was days like these that I found myself to be extremely glad that I didn’t live at all far from work.

I yawned as I walked under a flickering streetlight, too tired to pay attention to what was going on around me, lost in thoughts that weren’t processing fully either. My lack of focus was probably why I ended up face planting seconds later, someone having bumped my shoulder with enough force to be unbalancing, not that it would have taken much to knock me over.

I winced as I stood, my hands throbbing from the skin that had been scraped away, my cheek stinging from my hands failing at keeping my face off the ground. I glared at the person who had just kept walking without another thought of me, “Hey!” I shouted, chasing after him, I grabbed his shoulder and pulled him to a stop when I was close enough, “Hello? Could you be any more rude?” I demanded, ready to say more when I finally fully took in his facial features, a gasp escaping me.

It was-it was me but it wasn’t, his face was warped, half a wide grin with insane eyes and the other stuck like it was permanently screaming. I jumped back when it reached for me, nearly screaming myself, my eyes widening as the man seemed to start melting, the screaming side shrinking away and the grinning growing wider, like it was becoming the whole being. Its cold fingers brushed against my throat and I feared for my life, I closed my eyes, ready to submit to my fate and then… it was gone. I opened my eyes and it was nowhere to be seen, the only memory of it ever having been there was the chill to my neck and the goosebumps on my skin. I rubbed my eyes, blinking rapidly like somehow that would explain everything and when it didn’t I realized that my exhaustion was getting to me more than I had originally thought. I was in such a state that I didn’t notice the woman standing over me until she spoke.

“Hey, you okay man?” Her voice was soft, like she was afraid that speaking any louder would set me off.

I swallowed thickly and nodded, not wanting to speak of my waking nightmare, “Y-yeah.” I couldn’t bring myself to say anything else, ending it at that and, hunching up my shoulders to try and avoid her gaze, I turned to continue on my way home. All I wanted was to go and sleep like Graigg had told me to, which was probably one of the only times I had ever wanted to do something he had told me willingly.

The woman stopped me, grabbing my shoulder much like I had grabbed the-the nightmare creature’s, “Are you sure? You look pretty shaken up, I saw you freak out about something too,” she sounded honestly concerned for me, why some stranger would care about what had happened to me was something I didn’t understand. “I saw you from inside, did someone mug you? Or were you like… assaulted?” She said the last bit quietly, looking me over, searching for some awful wound or injury that wasn’t there.

“No,” I said with a sigh, pulling away and crossing my arms, becoming more paranoid that I was about to be assaulted or something, it was late enough that I couldn’t help but wonder what she was doing out on the streets. Then again, she might have been wondering the same thing about me, “Nobody mugged me and I wasn’t attacked, just-just tired and hearing things.” There was not a doubt in my mind that my words would make her think that I was crazy.

“O-oh…” She mumbled, blushing, “How ‘bout you let me buy you a drink then?” She asked out of nowhere, startling me into looking up at her, making eye contact instead of staring at my shoes, “We’ll both get a drink and then I’ll walk you home, make sure nothing gets you on the way.”

She was grinning and I couldn’t help the small smile that found its way onto my own lips. There was something about her that, despite my inner misgivings, I liked. I shrugged even as I could barely keep my eyes open, “Sure, why not?”

She grabbed my arm with a laugh and pulled me along, right into the building next to where I had ‘freaked out’ as she had put it. When I saw the big window at the front of the bar, I realized that she must have seen me from there and actively decided to leave and come see if I was okay. Something about that was heartwarming, there didn’t seem to be many people like that anymore.

“You go sit over there, I’ll get us the drinks,” she said, pushing me towards a small table that sat in front of the window where a couple of glasses already sat, I figured that that must have been where she was sitting before.

She ordered fairly quickly and came back with a beer for both of us, the one for me that just happened to be one of the only brands I would drink, considering I didn’t drink that often. It was weird but I took it as a coincidence.

“I’m Ann,” her words made me jump, for a moment I had stupidly forgotten that she was even there with me, she held her hand across the table.

I took it, accepting her greeting with a blush, “Tate, nice to meet you.”

She responded as she had before, with a grin and we continued with small talk until both of our drinks were empty. Even after that we sat there chatting, just talking. It was odd to me how many interests we shared, and I thought a moment about asking her for an actual date. It had been a long time since I had been out with anyone for an actual attempt on a relationship, but at the same time I wasn’t sure.

We were in the middle of talking about a show we both watched when my phone buzzed, causing me to apologize and fumble around my pockets for it.

When I read the text waiting for me I cringed.

‘Ha, I fooled you! If I look back at this and it says ‘read’ I’m gonna make sure you pay for more than just lunch tomorrow.’

I cursed and quickly tucked my phone away again, Graigg was too smart for his own good and it was idiotic how he seemed to know me so well.

“Who was that?” Ann asked, leaning a little bit forward.

I shrunk down a bit, trying to decide whether I was more afraid of ditching the nice woman I met or getting Graigg even more angry at me, after a moment I realized which one was without a doubt scarier. “I’m sorry, that was my partner, I really have to get home or he’ll be even more angry at me,” I mumbled, standing up and pulling out my wallet, I didn’t feel right about making her pay for me.

She stood as well, pushing my hand down before I could say anything, “Don’t worry about it, now come on,” her hand wrapped around my wrist once again, “I did say I’d walk you home.”

We left the club and she tugged me along like she knew exactly where I lived, which didn’t make any sense, the few times I tried to correct her path she shushed me.

“So…” she started, “How long have you and your ‘partner’ been together?” Her voice sounded spiteful, mean, but-but I knew that I was just hearing things, especially considering that the only mood she had was happy and nice as far as I had seen.

It took me a second to realize what she was actually asking of me, I blushed fiercely when I did, “Oh-oh, no, that’s not what I-uh-I meant,” I stuttered, trying to quickly fix my mistake, “I’m a police officer, he’s my coworker, my ‘partner’, you know?” I laughed, rubbed the back of my neck with my free hand, noticing out of the corner of my eye how the buildings were slowly becoming less and less recognizable, “He’s always bothering me, making sure I don’t go overboard with coffee and that I sleep.”

She smirked, turning her head just enough to look at me with one eye, “Not doing so well on that whole sleep thing, huh?” I tried my hardest to make my laugh sound real along with hers, but her slow but steady mood change was freaking me out, there was something off about her, or becoming off. My guards rose without my permission, my time as a cop coming into effect, my instincts screaming that no matter what my brain was telling me the situation was quickly growing less and less favorable.

My instincts turned out to be horribly right when she stopped walking in the middle of a large empty lot, letting go of me and turning to face me, her taking on a warped grin. My eyes widened when I recognized the grin, the same kind of grin that my waking nightmare man had, wide and crazy and screaming of ill intentions towards everything. I wanted to run, I moved to run but she was faster than me, knocking me to the ground with ease.

She looked down at me, looming over me in a way that a woman who stood no more than 5’4” should have, “I’m really sorry about this,” she didn’t sound as sorry as she said, crouching down to look me in the eye, placing a hand on my shoulder, it took all my willpower not to flinch away. She was even still grinning, “I’m so happy that I got to meet you the same way as before though! Man, I miss those times, I’m sure you would too if you remembered them.”

Something dark crept into her eyes and I-I felt the smallest flash of familiarity in her features, something not quite strong enough to knock loose a memory if it were to exist. “What-what do you mean? I’ve never met you-you before,” I stumbled over my words, all my police training flying out the window at that moment.

“That’s okay, you aren’t meant to remember yet,” she spoke in her much too cheery voice, for the first time since she had gotten us lost she frowned, “I’m afraid I am going to have to kill you though, otherwise what use will you be to me?”

I was shaking, staring at her in horror, “No, you can’t be serious-”

A scream came out of nowhere, another woman appearing and tackling Ann before she could touch me and they both immediately went down in a mass of screeching women. The new woman came out on top in an instant, straddling Ann and keeping her from getting up. I couldn’t stop myself from gasping when the woman began to viciously beat on Ann, even if she had been about to kill me it was still brutal to see.

“Stop using my face!” The woman screamed, puzzling me so that I didn’t notice the third presence until they placed their hand over my mouth.

“Aren’t you just as cute as ever?” The voice was chilling, and-and unfathomably familiar, I took a deep breath and resisted the childish urge to bite his hand to get free. I also tried my best not to panic, because panic had never gotten me anywhere, when I looked over my shoulder and saw the nightmare-me grinning back at me, “You looked so shocked Iain, did you really think that changing your name would save you?”

I shook my head, eyes wide, I had no clue what he was talking about or even who this ‘Iain’ was. He laughed, his other hand grabbing my hair and turning my head back to the women, he rested his chin on my shoulder. As I was forced to watch on I noticed three shadowy figures approaching, one looking to be carrying something, another dragging, and one that walked freely.

“Ah,” the man’s voice was too close, I tried to shrink away from him, but he had a ridiculously strong grip on me, “Looks like everyone else is finally arriving.”

I heard a yelp and turned back to see that Ann had gotten the upper hand, sitting on the other woman’s chest and pressing her shoulders to the ground, a snarl on her lips.

The man laughed, “The gang’s all here?” He asked, I could feel his grin on my neck and squirmed, I didn’t like anyone that close to me and even Graigg hadn’t ever been so close.

A thickly built woman stepped forward, brushing away straight red hair, “No,” there was an almost… mechanic tone to her voice, “I’m sorry, mine managed to escape.”

The woman under Ann coughed, I could see the hint of a smirk on her face, “Thank gods, Frankie,” she was laughing even as the nightmare man cursed, finally moving away from me and shoving me to the ground. As soon as Ann rose from her position as well I crawled towards the woman from before and the two other people who had been thrown next to her. Both were unconscious.

I sat close to her, staring at the people around us with horror, “W-what’s going o-on?” I stuttered out softly, looking to her for help seeing as she wasn’t completely freaking out or unconscious.

She sat up with a shaky breath, placing a hand on my shoulder, whether to hold herself up or offer me some comfort, I wasn’t sure, “Don’t worry about it, it’s all just a dream,” and she slammed her elbow into the side of my head.

And I was out.

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