Washington:Dark City

Locklear opened up the FFK and began to pass out gloves to everyone. A delicate examination of the room was in order, and nothing was being left to chance. "Romano, check the computer. Locklear, check the kitchen. Tyler, do a sweep of the rest of the floor outside the apartment. I'll look in the closet," ordered Sanchez. Everyone moved out to do their respective tasks.

Romano sat himself down in front of the PC. It was definitely on, so he clicked the monitor button and waggled the mouse to see if it would respond. Sure enough, the screen flickered to life. Fortunately, it wasn't even password locked. Romano clicked through the installed programs; a word processor, some spreadsheet software, BloombergLive stocks, VRgirl. Nothing unusual stood out. He was about to kick up the internet browser, but noticed there was an unread mail icon in the task bar. He clicked on it, and Outlook Horizon launched. Amidst the typical business emails already read, the one that was unread had a chilling message...

To: williammarsh1982@hotmail.co.uk 
From: williammarsh1982@hotmail.co.uk 
Received: Fri 18/09/2020 04.29

William deserved to die. His power is now mine.


Romano quickly checked the sent items, and found the same email listed. Someone, presumably the killer, had used this computer to send an email to itself. There would be no point it tracing it. Still, they had a good clue about the time of death. Romano called out his findings to the others, and then launched the internet browser. The homepage was a customised iGoogle site, listing a variety of links that were presumably William's favourites. Romano started to work through them to look for anything unusual...

Sanchez wandered around the room to get a feel for the place. Her eyes rested on the painting above the bed. A sorrowful figure with deep haunting eyes looked back at her. The grey and dark tones gave an unforgiving depth, whilst the differential focus between the foreground and background caused by the short, thick strokes of paint gave her a headache just looking at it. It wasn't a nice picture to look at. An embossed plaque on the frame titled it "L'obscurité Dedans" by Anton Beraud. Sanchez tried to get her mouth around the pronunciation.

"It's pronounced lobs-kur-EE-tay duh-don," Locklear's voice carried from the Kitchen, "It means 'Darkness Within' or 'Darkness inside'. The original was painted in the 19th Century. Beraud was the first artist to experiment with light-reacting paint."

"When did you become an art expert?" Sanchez asked.

Locklear looked up from behind the refrigerator door, "I minored in Art History whilst studying Law at State."

Sanchez mulled over the hidden depths of her team; Romano the secret geek, Locklear the unrepentant artist. What next - Tyler, the nuclear weapons protestor? She smiled briefly at the mental image of Tyler holding up a 'No A-Bomb' sign at a rally. Shaking her head, she refocused on the investigation and pulled open the closet. As the closet door opened, an internal light came on illuminating a mirror on the inside of the door. Sanchez found a range of professional business attire within; suits, shirts, shoes, belts, shoes. Everything was neatly arranged. Eighty percent of the closet was taken up by smart office wear. The remaining twenty percent was taken up with a number of drawers, each containing socks, boxer shorts, t-shirts or other casual clothes. William Marsh lived to work.

Locklear called out again from the kitchen space. "Drappier vintage, magnum size," he said, holding up a bottle he had pulled from the refrigerator door. "Mr Marsh knew his champagne." He moved over to the trash can and looked inside. "There are no empty bottles in here, so he probably wasn't drinking last night. Everything else in the refrigerator is only a couple of days old, organic stuff too. Let me check the bathroom."

Locklear headed towards the toilet. Sanchez moved next to Romano to see if he'd discovered anything else. He gestured at the screen which was displaying a forum called 'The Inner Sanctum' and said, "This site appears quite regularly in the history files over the past month. It appears he was a regular here."

Sanchez leaned forward to look at the text. "The Internet's premier Witchcraft forum?" she queried.

"Mmm hmm," Romano agreed, "and judging by Marsh's posting history, he's upset quite a lot of people for threatening to share secret rites or something with the press. Get this! There's one poster called Jadis who threatens him with 'the fires of hell' for breaking his oath, although to be fair there are numerous postings after that berating Jadis."

"It's a lead at the very least," commented Sanchez.

Out in the hallway, Tyler had just completed a recon of the entire floor when the lift chime sounded and out stepped Wetherly. "Over here," he called as she stepped out. Wetherly joined Tyler at the window near the fire escape. "Just come from the lab?"

"Yes. There was nothing specific that was keeping me there, so I thought I'd come back. My team will contact me if they discover anything else. How's the investigation going?" Wetherly asked.

"The others are searching the apartment. I've checked the other windows and I've just discovered this," answered Tyler, pointing to the window lock. Wetherly leant forward with interest. The lock on the window had delicate scratches around the edges of where the key would fit. He also pointed to a magnetic reed switch, part of the alarm system, that had an extra magnet covering it rendering it useless. She looked at Tyler, who pulled open the window. He was still wearing the gloves that Locklear has passed around. They both looked out down below. "This is the alleyway that Sanchez and I found the fire escape ladder had been used recently," Tyler continued, "so this may have been an entry location."

Stepping back from the window, Wetherly reached into her coat pocket and pulled out a small stubby torch. Clipping an orange filter over the top, she shone the light over the frame, paying close attention to the lock and reed switch. Nothing caught her eye, so she frowned. "No signs of any finger prints, which is unusual in itself, I guess."

"Wiped clean?" Tyler queried. Wetherly shrugged her shoulders; there was no way to be sure.

Tyler and Wetherly returned to the apartment, just as Locklear had finished his bathroom check. "No illicit drugs," Locklear reported, "A few headache tablets, some herbal sleeping tablets and some very expensive aftershaves. All quite regular. I even checked in the cistern in case something was stashed," he looked at Romano who nodded. They both knew about the common places drugs were often stashed.

Sanchez and the others listened intently to Tyler's discovery of the window. Romano recounted his findings on the PC. Locklear had a request, "Wetherly, I see you've got a torch there. Do you have a UV filter?" Seeing her nod, Locklear pulled the curtains closed and said, "Shine your light on the painting above the bed."

Wetherly affixed a new filter to the torch, and clicked the switch. The face on the painting suddenly transformed from a sorrowful, downcast expression to an angry, malevolent sneer. The ultraviolet inks within the canvas had morphed the hollow soul to a demonic one. Romano recoiled, and Wetherly quickly shut off the torch in fright. Locklear opened the curtains. "That's clearly no ordinary copy," whispered Locklear, clearly impressed, "to have such a faithful reproduction of detail. Marsh must have had a lot of money, or very good contacts."

Sanchez blinked a few times to try and clear the image from her mind. What was their next move?