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[personal profile] last01standing
Title- Pocketful of Lies
Part- 6 of ?
Rating- PG-13
Summary- After hearing a news report on the disappearance of Eyes Only, Max is slowly drawn into the mystery of what really happened to Logan Cale…[ML]
Disclaimer- I do not own Dark Angel
Parts1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10 | 11 | 12


CHAPTER SIX


Max stopped in front of Sandeman’s house for the first time in months. She avoided the house if at all possible. It held far too many unpleasant memories. She couldn’t pass it without looking to the doorstep and seeing Joshua’s body lying there prone and beaten. There had been so much blood; she’d thrown up right there next to her friend’s corpse. The she pasta she’d had for lunch that day came back up in all its former glory. She started at the vomit for a long time because it was better than looking at Joshua, lying there with his splintered left arm jutting out at an unnatural angle and his head lolling limply off a broken neck.

She probably would have stayed there, curled in a ball on the porch if it hadn’t been for the sudden realization that Alec had been there too. He’d been in some trouble and had needed a place to lie low. Terminal City had been too obvious but Sandeman’s had been the perfect solution. Simple, out of the way. It was all supposed to blow over.

Inside, the place had been a wreck. Not that Sandeman’s hadn’t always been a wreck--paint peeling, shingles falling off, papers strewn all around, front steps broken and misaligned. But this was past the normal disarray.

There had been a fight; that much she could tell. They must have caught Joshua by surprise and dispatched him quickly and efficiently. Alec, on the other hand had fought them tooth and nail.

But it hadn’t helped. They’d overpowered him, taken him. The only evidence she’d found was her barcode number, 452, scrawled on the wall in Joshua’s blood, White signing his work, making it clear that this was about Max. Joshua and Alec were just unfortunate bystanders, collateral damage. The thought made her stomach roll.

She stared at the old house stared for a long time. She hadn’t come back here since they’d got Alec back, a little worse for the wear. But Normal had sent her for a pick-up in the area and the only one around to trade with had been Alec himself.

It was a sunny day. But the memories colored the aura of the house turning every beam of light into twisted shadows. The place was a symbol of everything that had gone wrong in the past year.

Only today it wasn’t Joshua’s image burned into the front porch of Sandeman’s house, it was Logan’s broken body lying there on the steps. The color quickly drained from Max’s face and for a minute, she must have looked as pale as he was. As she watched, he struggled to push himself upright, but his ineffectual legs would not allow it. He collapsed back onto the porch and, on impact, disappeared from sight.

And all that left was the house, standing malignant on its rotting foundation shrouded in its own private cloud of despair.

Nothing on Earth would get her back inside.

***


When she returned to Jam Pony, she tossed her pick-up in Normal’s direction and ignored a couple dozen bip-bip-bips.

Alec grabbed her roughly by the shoulder and pulled her aside. “I found something,” he whispered, voice low and urgent like it never used to be. “About that imaginary friend of yours.”

“Spit it out already,” Max hissed.

Alec made a show of swallowing and she could see the deepening dark circles around her friend’s eyes. He was not one of the transgenics built for insomnia and the past night of sleeplessness was far more harmful for him than it had been for her. “It’s about Cale’s penthouse.”

“The penthouse was trashed,” Max muttered, ignoring that twinge of regret in the pit of her stomach. “The security guy said it happened a year or so ago.”

“There haven’t been any new residents since Logan Cale and he diedthree years ago.” there was a spark of life in that deadened gaze now, the thrill of discovery. “Why the hell would anyone call attention to themselves by trashing a place where the owner where the owners was deceased?”

“You’re right.” Max hadn’t considered that, hadn’t even noticed that fact. “If they were only looking for something, they would have wanted to keep it quiet but that kind of destruction is for sending a message. It makes sense.”

“Except the part where the message is going out to a dead guy,” Alec said, voice neutral. “Something sure as hell doesn’t add up.”

Logan’s face flickered in her memory just for a second, perfectly clear, perfectly formed. She would have thought that his face would have faded after time, that she wouldn’t recognize Logan clean shaven, without a face caked in blood, but there it was, clear as a photograph.

None of this fucking added up.

“The answer has got to be there, Maxie. Something in the penthouse, something you missed.”

“It’s a long shot, Alec,” Max replied irritably. “It happened more than a year ago. Anything that was there would be gone by now.”

“Maybe they haven’t touched a thing because it was haunted,” Alec said, exasperated. He wanted answers just as bad as she did but they were both grasping at straws. “Max, you asked for my help.”

“Alec…”

“And this is the only lead we’ve got.”

Max shook her head slowly. “Let’s go,” she muttered and then turned to Normal. “Me and Alec are taking off.”

“Slow down there, Missy-Miss,” Normal replied immediately. “You’re not going anywhere. We’re understaffed as it is.”

Max could hear the words he didn’t add. They lingered in the silence after his words: They were understaffed because still, after everything, no one was wanted to work with transgenics. She should be more appreciative. Normal for all his flaws, was on their side.

Alec approached Normal and smiled, cajoling like he always had, and two minutes later he turned back to Max smile fading from his face like it had never been there and said, “Come on, let’s go.”

Normal’s empty threat trailed them out the door, “If you two don’t come back after your lunch break, good luck finding a new job!”

***


“So, does Asha know about this thing of yours with Normal?” Max asked as they pedaled their way down to sector nine.

“What thing?” Alec asked, honestly confused.

“You expect me to believe you’ve got Normal wrapped around your finger without doing a thing?”

Alec let out a genuine laugh and it was one of the most welcome sounds Max had heard in ages. It had been too long since she’d seen a real smile on her friend’s face. It was so much brighter than the fake one that had lurked there for the past six months. There was such a difference that Max had to wonder how he fooled anyone. “I’m a persuasive guy,” Alec said. “All men do my bidding.”

They both started laughing, their bicycles weaving slightly as they moved. For a moment Max forgot it all, forgot about White and Joshua and the specter of Logan Cale and for a moment, she could just pretend…

The moment of peace was over far too quickly and by the time they reached the penthouse, reality had settle back in, its harsh oppressive weight, smothering the moment of lightheartedness.

They broke in through the skylight. The same way Max had on her first and only visit to Cale’s penthouse. In a way, it was a relief that there was something about this whole ordeal that was solid memory rather than the haunting ever-present déjà vu.

The penthouse hadn’t changed since the last time she’d been there, but somehow the sight of it still made her heart clench. She heard Alec take a sharp breath and was relieved to know she hadn’t overreacted.

“What the hell did this guy get mixed up in?”

Max shrugged, non-committal. “Just… Look for clues, Alec.”

“Clues?” Alec parroted. “Tell me what this guy was doing that earned him a firing squad?”

“A firing squad?”

“The electronics were definitely shot up,” Alec observed, moving through the room, feet crunching on the broken glass. “There are bullet holes in the walls…” He glanced to Max, expression changing to one of mild shock. “You mean you didn’t already know that?”

Max folded her arms across her chest and struggled to keep her face blank.

Alec turned back away from her. “What, did you sleep through crime scene training at Manticore?”

She opened her mouth to respond, but couldn’t come up with a suitable reply. She was too close to this. Too close to Logan. Alec on the other hand could take a step back and look at it all objectively, see the bigger picture.

Alec froze where he stood, something washing over his face, surprise, followed quickly by confusion.

“Alec!” she hissed. “Alec, what’s wrong?”

“I…” he started, stopped, swallowed. “I’ve been here before.”

“What? When? Was it a Manticore thing?” Her questions echoed across the dead apartment and Max half-expected to see Logan coming out of the shadows to offer his help. But it didn’t happen. All she could hear was Alec’s slightly erratic breathing.

“I don’t know when, but I’ve been here before.”

Max grinned humorlessly. “Déjà vu goes around.”

Alec shook himself and resumed his examination of the apartment, he moved slower this time, infinitely more careful. He’s realized this isn’t a joke, Max noticed with surprise, he’s taking it seriously, looking at every angle.

Alec cracked open the door to the bedroom and peered inside. “Doesn’t look like the firing squad came through the bedroom.” He slipped through the crack in the doorway and out of sight.

Max hesitated before following him in. It felt like an invasion of privacy. Like she should wait for Logan’s invitation before even thinking of going inside…

“What the hell are you waiting for, Max?” Alec called and she forced herself into motion.

The bedroom was plain and unexpectedly simple. There was a queen size bed with a dark quilt, reddish carpet, a night stand, a dresser. Sunlight was streaming in through the window but the dust that coated the entire room muted the colors almost beyond recognition.

“I don’t think anyone’s been here for a while,” Alec said.

“This doesn’t feel right,” Max whispered, keeping her voice low as if too much sound would strum up any ghosts that still lurked in this place.

“Look for clues, Max,” Alec ordered dryly, barely concealing a smile as he pushed open the door to the bathroom.

The wood panel walls were bare, empty. No posters, no art, no personality. She moved towards the dresser, pulling out the drawers in a haphazard fashion. There were varying amounts of clothes in each of them, shirts, pants… enough missing to suggest that someone had packed the bare minimum and left in a hurry.

Or maybe, she told herself sternly, he was doing a load of laundry when he got himself killed.

She pulled open another drawer. This one had socks, black, brown, gray, white, even a pair of bright red ones with Santa Claus on the sides that someone must have given him as a joke. They stuck out vividly against the other drab colors and Max reached almost unconsciously for them. But as she did, her hand brushing against a piece of paper.

Curiously, she drew it out. There was writing on it, a scrawling cursive script. After a moment she was able to discern the words:

That one’s a keeper, cuz. Thanks for coming. --Bennet

She flipped the paper over curiously and the sight of it took her breath away. It was a photograph of herself with Logan Cale, both dressed in nicer clothes than Max had ever seen. Her arm was resting comfortably on the back of his wheelchair, and they were both smiling and laughing. She almost didn’t recognize herself in the photograph, she seemed so happy, carefree… a perfect moment frozen on film.

Only, Max could swear it never happened.
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(no subject)

29/10/06 20:35 (UTC)
Posted by [identity profile] ishara.livejournal.com
Heee! Now it's all starting to come together... Excellent. I can't wait for the next part! :D