Q ~ Beautiful Dreamer~
|Title:||Q ~Beautiful Dreamer~|
|Synopsis||Sara King is an ordinary young woman when her life is turned upside down by the death of a close friend. With the help of the mysterious Diana Smithson, Sara seeks out the man behind the deed and in doing so, discovers a secret world beyond her understanding!|
|Additional Notes||Part 1 of the Q series|
“You have it?” the room was pitch black, as had been promised to the client. He had wanted no chance of there to be any slip ups. He had already been suspected by the authorities and was keen to remain on the other side of a jail cell at that moment. He was also down on his luck, with little chance of success in his usual ventures and with less savory characters on his heel, he was eager for any chance at something which might turn his fortunes. So the moment he had heard about the opportunity, he jumped at the chance to be a part of it. After all, there was little left for him otherwise, apart from the obvious one in his life and that he had long grown tired of. The darkness was briefly interrupted by the soft glow of an ember on the end of a cigar. He coughed. He was not fond of tobacco, the filthy stuff. However, he was not about to argue with the man about his vices, as he did not want to jeopardize the chance at hand.
“Of course I have it, I always keep up my side of the bargain.” The client could feel the man’s steely gaze on him, a feeling of sheer power behind it. Even in the darkness his prescience was unnerving. It was the same feeling a prey would feel in the sight of a predator, that inevitable doom, the knowledge of which would push anyone to clear desperation. At the moment though, the client was far past that which would have warned him of this and had given into the notion that only in other venues would he find that which would be his salvation. The man pushed something towards the client, what little light cracking through the closed windows revealing it to be a rather beat up case. It was of the sort which was rather common around the city, one which nobody would bat an eye at. It was perfect for what was to be done in other words.
“You’ll take care of the rest, correct?” There was a chuckle from the shadowy figure, not one of happiness or really joy but one of a sadistic pleasure, like the chuckle a child may give off pulling the wings off a fly. If anyone were to hear that sound, they were to be sure to know exactly the sort of person it originated from and it was one which was best left alone. The client shifted uncomfortably in his seat. For a few moments he had his doubts, that perhaps he should take that which was his and leave the shadowy room behind, to be nothing more than a bad memory, one to fade away in time. However, it was but a moment and that moment did not last long, for his mind was set and resolute, though perhaps a bit foolhardy and driven by desperation. Silently, the client took the case with his shaking hands, his nerves betraying his own inner conflict. Standing, he made his way to the door, leaving the dark room behind, in hopes he would never see it nor it’s inhabitant ever again.
The sun shone brightly down on the city, the great capitol of the north. People went to and fro on their own business and there was a general atmosphere of prosperity which had eluded many other places. There also was the undeniable sense of quiet, cold smugness on the part of inhabitants, not so much in the way they spoke but perhaps in the way they carried themselves as they walked the streets and boulevards of the city, or as many had chosen to do, take the local streetcar. Each of these ingenious machines could be seen moving along specially laid rails placed in specific points along the roads, allowing passengers to embark and disembark where they wished. It was quite popular and looked upon as a sign of the great industrialization which was occurring all over the country.
Sara King certainly knew this fact as she stepped off one of the metallic carriages, as she had spent nearly two hours traveling from one area of the city to the other that day. She was certainly hard to not notice, with her short blond hair styled in the latest fashion, her sharp blue eyes like two piercing pools of water and most notably, the fact that she happened to be fairly tall, taller than most the other girls in her age group. The fact that she had come from one of the wealthier families in the city also seemed to make her a target for the gaze of many a fellow citizen, not that she really cared. She had become used to it and simply took it as a part of life. She blinked and winced a bit at the brightness of the sun as she gazed up to the blue sky. It was an absolutely perfect day, one for which those of both noble and common blood could share in, one that was made for all to take part, that was to bar none from its full beauty.
“Latest News! Unsolved murder haunts city! Police seek out witnesses to Krakgrand homicide!” Sara frowned slightly, looking at the paper seller on the corner. These words were a daily reminder of the ugly shadows hiding beneath the sunny exterior of the city, the darkness which would so often creep out just long enough to remind one that no matter how wondrous you may believe life to be, there were always some ugly truths just waiting to destroy you. She paused and dug through her purse, pulling out a few Krona. She may not have wished such things were to happen, but at the very least, she thought to herself, she could know more about what it was that was occurring, if only to remind herself that not everyone was experiencing the luxuries and safety that she herself were accustomed to. Offering the coins to the boy, Sara reached out to receive the paper, only for her hand to suddenly be blocked by another, taking the item before she could properly secure it.
“Pardon me” Sara looked up and her eyes locked on the source of the voice. It was a young woman, not much older than herself. She was dressed rather oddly, though not to say she wasn’t too unusual in that sense, but rather she seemed to be one who wore clothes which seemed just a tad too eye catching, enough to stand out but not enough to draw attention. Her hair was long and brown as coffee with subtle shades of black mixed in, part of which seemed to curl around her cheeks slightly. Her eyes were hidden behind a pair of sunglasses with unusually blue lens, dark enough to obscure the color of her eyes. Whoever she was, she gave of an intense air about her, like the hot wind on a summer’s day and just standing near her made it hard for Sara to breath. The woman glanced at Sara, at least that’s what she thought as she couldn’t make out anything about her eyes. If she did, Sara could feel it right down to the core of her being. For a second, which seemed to last for an eternity, they stood there, staring at the other, before the woman slowly walked off, melding once more into the crowd. It took the impatient cough of the news seller to bring Sara back to reality. Receiving her copy, Sara quietly walked away, her mind reeling from what she had just experienced and for the briefest of moments, she saw the world in a different way.
The mansion of the King Family was not very large, nor was it very old. The family had originated in England years before it came to Sweden and had already been fairly well known there. It had been during the reign of George the III that the patriarch of the family, Joshia King, had decided the north would do his relatives good. It had taken several years for them to be accepted into the greater society of the country, but by the time of Sara’s father, one Jon King, they had become as native to the region as any old family. It sat near the edge of the city and was adjoined by two other homes, both of which belonged to equally prestigious families. As Sara walked towards the gate, she glanced at the home to the left. It belonged to the Johnson family, a clan which owned the local iron company and had done well with the rising fortunes of mechanization. Looking closer, she saw slight movement behind one of the windows, something which Sara knew very well belonged to the single daughter of the family. Tora was well known among the locals as “always curious, always snooping” and was often treated politely, though if possible avoided so as to keep their own personal affairs to themselves. Even now, Sara could see that she was there, probably trying to see what Sara had been up to and what perhaps she was bringing home with her, something the girl had done since they were both children. While some might label such behavior disturbing, Sara never felt such, in fact she found it somewhat amusing to say the least. It was harmless and she knew her neighbor held no wishes of harm towards herself.
The sound of an engine quickly drew Sara back to the present and turning, her eyes rested on the familiar chasse of a red Studebaker Special, it’s driver removing a pair of driving goggles from their face and placing them on top of their head, something which Sara realized of course was completely unnessicary, but the driver was always fond of them, so she never argued the point. The driver was Sara’s other neighbor, a woman named Annie Nealson. The Nealsons were of a much older family then Sara’s and in some ways were of greater prestige. When her father died, much of the inheritance had passed unto her, making her quite popular throughout the city for the number of suitors she had. The other thing which had made her stand out which was the same thing that made her such a good friend for Sara: she never seemed to feel upset. She was always smiling, always happy and even when things got tough, she would find a way to see the bright side of it. She was, if it could be said, Sara’s closest and best friend.
“Enjoying yourself, Annie?” Sara said, patting the front of the car, before quickly drawing it back. She knew Annie was very protective of her vehicles. “I thought you swore you would never buy another one? What does this make? Three?” This question seemed to make Annie frown for just a second before her friend once again burst into a smile. They never took their teasing that seriously.
“Another one?? This one is the best yet! Look at the color!” Annie hopped out and affectonitly patted the side of the vehicle. Sara couldn’t help but chuckle and walking forward, pushed the goggles down onto her friend’s face. As the both laughed, they were suddenly interrupted by a slight cough and turning, they gazed at the man standing before them. He was dressed rather well, though at the same time it seemed whatever he wore was ill fitting. His moustache was well trimmed, his hair slicked back and he looked at all times to be the very model of the modern man. However, all that seemed to mask a tired look to him, as if he wore the weight of the world on his shoulders and couldn’t hide it no matter how hard he tried. He looked awkwardly at the two women, the silence between the three being seemingly unending.
“Annie…I think it’s almost dinner…” The man finally managed to cough out awkwardly. Annie for her part quickly snapped herself out of her stupor and gave a warm smile. She was never one not to give a welcoming grin.
“Of course, Eric! Sorry, Sara. We’ll have to talk again!” Annie said, stepping away from the car and head back towards her own home, the man following behind her like a pathetic little puppy dog. She paused for a moment at the steps, then turned back towards sara, giving her a wave, before entering and shutting the door behind her. Sara had always felt a bit sad for Annie. While Eric wasn’t a bad man by any means, he had always been somewhat weak willed and secretive. There had been so many people who had fought for Annie’s hand and Eric had been simply another face in the crowd, but he was at the time, she had felt sorry for him and Sara had always felt that played some part in the quick marriage, that and the fact that he seemed the safest choice at the time. There had been rumors of course, of his gambling, of his padding of accounts but nothing had been proved and nothing could be proved. After all he was such a small man, there was little that he seemed capable of. Still, Annie seemed happy with him and treated him well and in such things, that made Sara happy. Turning back to her own home, Sara quietly walked through the gate and into the mansion.
Slowly day gave way to night and as was with such places, the nobles and high bloods of the city soon gave way to less savory sorts. Shadows grew long in the streets and darkness began to creep in, under the pale moonlight which shone above. It wasn’t unusual in the north for there to be the odd cold chill but that night it seemed unusually cool, as if something was riding the winds like a great creeping shade, waiting to envelop all that it came across, smother it until there was nothing left to give. The waters grew still and those people still out huddled close together, some in the company of friends and family and for their own sheer enjoyment and some to protect themselves from the things they feared. For as of late there had been a growing fear, not spoken of out loud of course, none would do such a thing as it was rather unpopular to speak one’s minds in matters such as that but whispered in corners and alleyways, said in hushed tones. There had been of course the murders, everyone knew about that, but that wasn’t unusual. Death was always something which had been a matter of nature and everyone had accepted that. Even the police saw nothing too unusual about it and had simply given it to be caused by the usual thieves and vagabond mongrels who would at times find their way into the capitol. Tonight, however, seemed an especially cold night, one which seemed to hang uncomfortably close to the ground, one which seemed to haunt those who were still out there, prowling the night, moving through that darkness.
To the woman, standing under a lamppost, which seemed to illuminate mere patches of light along the street, she felt it in her bones, in her very core. There was something here in the city, something growing and waiting, like a terrible predator, stalking it’s unknowing prey, waiting for the right moment, the first mistake, the first stumble, before it made itself known. She knew that it was thus, how could she not? She had traveled here for the express purpose, to find that which was to come, to find it and stop it. That was the problem with shadows. You never knew the truth source until it had already been cast. She looked at the watch in her hand, clicking it open and gazing at it’s face. 10 PM. It was now quite late. Some would argue it was no time for a lady such as herself to wander the streets, unless they identified themselves as the sort who would. The woman knew this but cared little. She had come to rid the city of the foulness which was slowly infesting it’s spirit. She was not to be deterred by mere etiquette. Snapping the watch shut, she placed quietly placed it away and began to walk into the shadows of the night.
Eric sat in the study, gazing at the object in front of him. It was case, a simple brown case. There was nothing special about it, beyond the fact that it looked rather worn and beat up, as if it had been used for many a year and had gone on many a journey of its own. Besides that, it was simply a case, the sort for which a traveler might carry on some business abroad. He did not fully understand why he had been given it, or what he was fully to do with it. When he had made the deal, the desperate deal, all he had understood was that he was to take the contents to somewhere on Gasgrand, where there would be someone to pick it up. That is all he had been told and it had seemed simple the first time he heard it but now...now it somehow seemed like a monumental task, as if he could barely comprehend going through with it. He cursed his own weakness, the very thing which had gotten himself mixed up in all of this. If he had only greater strength to avoid the card table as he had always promised himself, he thought to himself. Now it seemed he had little choice in the matter unless…He glanced once more at the box. Whatever it was inside must be fairly valuable, given the circumstances in which he had contacted the owner. Perhaps if he were to take whatever it was which was inside the case, take it and resell it himself. He slowly reached for the case, gently flipping the twin latches on either side. As he moved to open the lid, he paused. Were those footsteps? Soon the sound became increstly distinct: movement outside the door. Eric scrambled to hide the case, placing it underneath the large table, just as the door opened and his wife poked her head in.
“Eric, are you coming to bed? It’s getting late.” She had genuine concern in her voice. Eric knew that while their marriage had been flawed, she had never been malicious or uncaring towards him. On the contrary, she had been rather accepting of him throughout the years they had been together. They may not have been in true love, but she had always been respectful of himself and his choices, which was a terrible mistake, he thought to himself.
“In a moment…I have a few things to prepare for the office tomorrow.” He looked at Annie and for a brief moment he saw her facial expression change. Perhaps it was doubt or perhaps it was worry. Maybe his lies were far more transparent then he thought, he wondered, trying not to give himself away further. However, it seemed to pass fairly quickly, whatever it may be, as she gave a small smile and nodded to him.
“Alright. I’ll be in the bedroom then.” She said, slowly closing the door behind her. He waited till her footsteps had completely stopped before he was able to breathe again. He gazed down at his hands, which were starting to tremble horribly. This was starting to take it’s toll on him, all the secrets, all the lies. He had been burying them down for so long that up until now he hadn’t thought of the effect it was having on himself. The sleepless nights, the sudden intensity of every sound in the room, the waking nightmares, he was certain that he was going mad. Now, however, he had a chance. He had a way to escape from it all and to be free from all the troubles he had compounded, to be free of all the tragedy which had struck him. Looking back at the old case, he carefully picked it back up and placed it in front of him. This was the key, once he found out what was in it, he should be able to find someone who would accept it for a fair bit of money, perhaps somewhere around 5000 Krons or maybe even 15,000 if he played his cards right. Yes, that would do nicely, he thought as he slowly unlatched the case once again and slowly opened it, that should cover all his debts and leave a bit more to allow him to start anew at the same time.
Glancing into the case interior, his excitement turned quickly to confusion then to disappointment. Most of the inside was empty, with the one exception being a large wad of newspaper sitting in the middle like a small nest. Picking it up, Eric quickly unwrapped it, after all you only wrap something up in material like this if it was either fragile and valuable. However, his confusion only deepened once the last piece of paper was removed. It was a small glass bottle, about the size of a salt shaker, filled with some sort of liquid, which seemed to be of a rather pungent blue color. The entire thing was topped off by metallic pointed cap, the like of which Eric had never seen before. This was the object he had been tasked to hand over? This was what he had sold his soul for in exchange for a new beginning? It all seemed like some cruel joke, like once again whatever hope there had been for him had been cruelly yanked away from under him. It was a bitter realization and one for which was all too sobering. Carefully turning the bottle in his hand, he watched the liquid slowly move, rather like syrup when it’s cold, he thought to himself. He wasn’t sure what he was going to do now. Nobody was going to take whatever this was and without that money, he sure to be found out. He’d lose his position, he’d lose his home, he’d lose everything that he had tried so hard to maintain. His only chance now was to run. Yes, that’s what he would do. He still had a few Krons left and it should be enough to afford a train ticket out of the country. He could travel to Norway and perhaps contact Odenoff. He still owed him a favor and even though he had told him he would never do anything to pay off the money debts, the least he could do would be to help him get someplace safe. Eric winced and cried out in pain, dropping the bottle into the case. He had been so busy turning it over, he hadn’t remembered the sharp top, the needle like protrusion resting on it’s cap. He looked at his finger. It was just a scratch but it seemed to feel like it was burning. He grimaced, gazing at it. It wasn’t really anything to worry about. After all, how much trouble could a small cut cause?
“Everything is prepared then?” The man gazed out of the window, the light of his cigar acting as a single burning light in the middle of the darkness. He was silent, a deep silence, an unnerving silence, of the sort which for any normal person would find off putting. His company was not simply any normal person. “I asked you a question. “ the other figure said, more insistently. The individual didn’t seem annoyed nor was it a loss of temper in his voice, but rather it seemed to be a feeling of clear determination, of one who had a goal in mind and was of the singular persuasion to finish it. There was a deep sigh from the other man, who slowly turned to face his partner. He wasn’t a man who usually took such words lightly, such arrogance but at the moment if they were to succeed, sacrifices had to be made.
“Of course. Once the case is delivered we can begin.” He took another puff of the cigar, letting the smoke drift through the room. There was a slight cough from the individual, but the man ignored it.
“What if it isn’t, what if the fool tries to do something with it!?” The individual realized quite quickly that he had panic in his voice and slowly calmed himself. It would do no good if they were to start panicking at this early stage. “What happens then?”
There was a chuckle, a deep growling chuckle. Like that of a predator spotting the weakness of it’s quarry. If the individual could properly see in the darkness, they would have seen the man smiling, a rather cruel but amused smile at that. Even then, the individual had felt uneasy around him. There were certain people in the world who had that effect, certain people who had the ability to make others feel fear simply by being in their presence. This man was one of those sorts and the individual knew it.
“Then, we shall simply have an excellent demonstration to our buyers” the man said, turning back to the window and returning to his silent thoughts.
Sara slowly opened her eyes, blinking a few times to let the sleep out. It was dark in her room, almost pitch black if not for the light of the moon bleeding through. She wasn’t sure why, but for some reason she couldn’t fully sleep that night. Perhaps it was the dream? She tried to think back. She did remember she was dreaming something but it was getting foggy the more she thought about it. Something about green? A green color. She sighed and laid back on the soft covers, looking up at the ceiling of the room. Perhaps she was worried about the plans her father had told her about, something which had greatly excited about him but which had had not gone into any great details about. He was always like that, ever since the death of her mother. He was always making plans and only revealing what they were at the last moment. It was rather childish really, she thought to herself. She shifted sideways, gazing at the sliver of moonlight. She thought about the strange woman from earlier in the day and what she had felt during that moment. She thought about Tora and her instiance spying on everyone, her insatiable curiosity of everything that was around her. She thought of Annie, poor Annie, the kindest person in the world and saddled with so much due to that and yet she could smile through it all, even when, Sara thought, it was overwhelming her. Sara frowned a bit as she heard a dog barking. It was one of the neighborhood dogs no doubt, most likely trying to scare one of the stray cats which so often frequented the area. Sara sighed, realizing this meant she most likely wouldn’t be getting back to bed for another few hours. After a few moments, the barking stopped and Sara gave a sigh of relief. At last she could finally get some shut eye. Snuggling into the pillow, she closed her eyes and then almost immeidatly bolted upright as the sound of glass shattering came to her ear. That sound wasn’t from the house. It was outside. It was from next door and from the sound of it, there was only one place it could come from.
“Annie!” Sara jumped out of bed, nearly tripping over in the process and quickly grabbed a robe. Rushing out of her room, she quickly passed by her father’s bedroom, doing her best not to wake him. He wouldn’t approve of her going outside at this time of night, even if it was in defense of a friend. He would have suggested calling the police and that would have been perhaps the smartest thing to do. However, Sara was not one to go for the safest route and at that moment all that mattered was the safety of her friend, the person she had grown up alongside, the person she was always willing to protect. She ignored the cold of the night, she ignored the fact that the light in the Johnson family house was on, meaning Tora was watching. She ignored all other things until she reached the Nealson home. The first thing her eyes rested on was the source of the sound from before. The largest window leading into the house had been shattered completely, as if something of great force had pushed its way in or out of the structure. This sight gave her pause for a moment and the caution she so easily threw off slowly began to build. There was a good chance whoever had done this was still in the house and perhaps even armed. Even more sobering was the fact that they may have great strength if the window was anything to go on. She stood there for a few seconds, trying to collect her thoughts. However, the thought of Annie being in danger brought her back to her original intentions. Taking a few steps back, she forgoed the use of the front door, as she was certain of the fact it would be locked, and with all her strength made a leap through the broken window, landing on the floor badly, but not enough to do any injury unto herself.
Slowly picking herself up, she found the main living room in complete disarray. Shelves torn down, furniture thrown to the floor and in some cases smashed. It was a scene of utter chaos. As she moved to the kitchen, the dining room, the guest room, she found them all the same. Destruction, violence, everything that had been placed with such love and care destroyed. These sights on caused her to become more and more worried, her footsteps to quicken, her throat to become dry. “Annie? Annie, are you there??” She called out but everything was silence. The entire home seemed abandoned, like a ghost of its former self. She paused, turning to look at the one area she had not yet visited: the master bedroom. She stood there, staring at the door for a long time, uncertain of whither she should open it or not, to gaze in and see what might lay on the other side, if it might dispel her worst fears or simply confirm them. Carefully placing her hand on the doorknob, she turned it and slowly, very slowly opened the door.
It was just as dark as the rest of the room and just as silent. As her eyes slowly adjusted to the shadows which bathed it, she could see, much to her relief that the room seemed untouched. There was no sign of the destruction from the other rooms and if anything it appeared as if it had been left in a state which suggested nothing had happened in the first place, as if it was just another night. Sara slowly began to relax, this was at least a good sign. Taking another step forward, she stopped in her tracks. She moved her feet slightly and found she had not mistaken what she had felt. The floor was wet and not just wet but the liquid, whatever it was, was warm. Her heart began to slowly beat faster, her palms growing colder. She could feel her entire body begin to tremble as she tightened her fists. With an almost wooden motion, she looked down.
There was Annie or rather what was left of her. There was no mistaking it. It was her. Broken. Shattered. Dead.
Sara’s legs quickly gave out, causing her to fall to her kneels into the rapidly growing pool of blood. She stared at the sight before her, her body absolutely numb, her mind unable to process anything around her. As she gazed at what remained of her friend, she saw one thing which seemed to be left unharmed, one thing left intact. It was clutched in Annie’s broken right hand: her driving goggles. Her favorite object and something she treasured above all else as a symbol of her dreams and her hopes and her joys. She had received them as a present from her father before he had passed on, mostly to humor her in her love of all things fast. Sara gently picked them up, holding them carefully in both her hands, looking at her reflection in the lens. Something in her suddenly snapped, as if a light had been suddenly turned off, a storm suddenly breaking. She clutched the goggles, her eyes welling up with tears, like a flood which had been held back for far too long.
Sara screamed and screamed and screamed and it echoed through the house, through the darkness, through the night and it wasn’t a scream of fear or a scream of horror but a scream of loss. It was a scream of utter pain and anguish.