Thursday, July 17, 2014

Episode Two: Jolly Rodger


“It’s always amusing that TV can reduce a crime to a simple narrative of motive and execution...we only wish reality was just as simple.” -Former Behavioural Analysis Unit Profiler Mark Tracy, at his retirement ceremony in 2004.

April 30, 2014,
00:24 local time
Unknown Location,
rural Georgia outside of Savannah

“Hello,” said a man sitting in a chair with a camera mounted on a tripod pointed in his direction. The video was being streamed live on an obscure video sharing site known as MyStage, with the video to remain there once the man finished recording. The man was wearing a Guy Fawkes mask and a hooded sweatshirt emblazoned with the Orlando Solar Bears’ logos and team colours, with the mask modified to include a speech modifier that made his voice ominously robotic. He was sitting in the attic of an unfurnished log cabin, surrounded by nothing except the wooded flooring and paneling, with only a small crack in the roof and the lamp he brought with him providing the only lighting in the room. “I understand what you are feeling watching me in this state but I implore you not to be alarmed, for I am a vehicle of good. It won’t mean that all of you will survive my wrath but understand that this is only the beginning of The Salvation. My name is Jolly Rodger, and tomorrow starts the Year of Reckoning.”

Rodger paused, took a deep breath and chuckled before continuing sternly. “I wish things did not have to come to this. I wish the world was a better place...but you, the people of Florgia, have conspired against that. You have constructed a world full of hedonism and selfish carnal pleasure, a world where women and men sleep with whomever they like without any regard for boundaries, decency or any other kind of implications. You claim this is a world of ‘love’ and ‘inclusion’, yet you have decided that your 24-hour party will not include me. I have yet to understand what I did to deserve this ostracizing, but here I am, an outsider in a place that claims to have none.

“However, I am not simply motivated by revenge. No, I am motivated by the Truth, and making sure things are done right, and all this carnal pleasure is wrong. What’s worse is that some of you won’t take ‘no’ for an answer and continue to indulge in your pleasures and your fantasies, and if you have to trample over someone else to do so, then you will do so. It is a selfish attitude, and it will be this selfish attitude that will get you killed. For I am the world, and I’m taking back what’s mine.”

Rodger continued filming, carrying the camera and a flashlight with him, outlining more of his plot and showcasing the various weapons that he had in his arsenal as he walked through his house. Eventually, he came across a tall, closed closet with a lock on it, and, as he unlocked the closet- awkwardly fumbling with the flashlight as he nestled it momentarily underneath his shoulder- he mentioned that inside the closet was his “prize”, the one possession that will make the Year of Reckoning worth it. He opened the door to reveal a svelte blonde woman clad in a bikini and short shorts with a cleave gag over her mouth, with her feet tied together to a bolt on the floor and her wrists bound together to a hook on the ceiling, causing her arms to be outstretched. As she saw Rodger she was whimpering, terrified at what was going to happen, a feeling Rodger made note of.

“Aww, muffin,” he said, “don’t be afraid...the binds are temporary. I’m going to take you to a better place.” He then approached the girl and gave her a hug, holding her tight to his body, and lifted his mask slightly so he could give her a kiss on the cheek. He then put his mask back down and continued to hold her, rocking her back and forth gently, which soothed the girl momentarily though she couldn’t shake the feeling her terror was only just beginning.

May 1, 2014
09:49 local time,
The Carolinian Imperial Palace,
Macon, Georgia

“Your Highness,” said Secretary Rita Johnson, calling Carolinian Emperor Chet Miller through the Palace intercom, “President Reddick is here to see you.”
Oh great, Miller thought to himself, What does the jackass want now? “Send him in,” Miller said, his thick, Georgian drawl being on full display. Joey can’t be up to too much trouble, can he?

After ten minutes of walking through the Palace’s halls- lined with statues and paintings of great Southern figures like General Robert E. Lee, Martin Luther King Junior, Al Gore and Strom Thurmond- North American Union President Joseph Reddick found his way to Miller’s office. Clad in a black business suit with matching slacks and an intense glare to boot, Reddick was all business today, hoping Miller could give him some answers.

Thus, Reddick wasted no time after entering Miller’s office. Miller, a large, muscular man with a thick goatee who played football in his youth for the Florida State Seminoles, stood in stark contrast to the lean but no less physically fit Reddick. Miller’s suit was yellow, blending in with the office’s sky blue decor, as the Emperor prefered bright colours to remind him to stay positive even when it became apparent it would be impossible to do so.

“Emperor Miller,” said Reddick, smirking without offering a hand to shake, “so good to see you! It was nice passing by your ironic display of statues.”
“You’re an odd one to speak of irony yourself,” replied Miller, returning the favour, “considering how warm your voice is but how cold your approach is. Haven’t you learned by now that actions speak louder than words?”
“Judging by your actions in Carolina, you have yet to learn the value of a few good words.”
“At least I have more than words to give.”
“That’s not going to change your predicament, is it Emperor?”

Miller curled his lips, furrowed his brow and let out an exaspirated breath. He shook his head briefly before smiling.

“Why don’t you have a seat?” Miller said, taking his own seat behind his desk. Reddick chuckled, eager to comply.

“Don’t take this as a sign of weakness,” Miller said, looking Reddick straight in the eyes. The President didn’t even flinch.
“Weakness, Sir?” Reddick said with a chuckle. “No no...it confounds me why you keep thinking I’m here to defeat you. Despite what you think, we have the same goals.”
“I don’t know how when you insist that I consider resigning.”
“Chet, I know it’s tough to give up power...but I refuse to be blind by reality. Your approval rating in the Empire stands at barely 35%...I could never win an election with those totals.”
“...and you don’t understand what my people don’t understand...that I have to do what I do to keep the Empire together. An Empire that, may I remind you, has the largest economy in the North American Union, one that you depend on for your continued reign as President. I know a good lot of my people- including myself- abhor Daisy Dukes, ‘twerking’ and getting ‘crunk’, but if allowing bikinis and beer keeps this Empire together then I’m going to do it.”
“Is it worth it? Your nation has always been conservative...that will never change...so why go against the will of your people? Don’t they matter?”
“...and this is what you Boston yuppies don’t understand...the best choices for a nation are not always the most popular. First of all, I’ve got those Florgia idiots that want an independent state just so they can have a nation that will allow their ‘party state’ to continue running without hindrance...so I have to placate them, a little. Further to that point, the beaches and atmosphere of the area provide us with billions in tourism dollars, dollars I cannot so easily replace. Second of all, I aim to keep the Carolinian Empire a modern state, one that is not stuck in the ‘backward’ past...I must allow some liberty in this country, or else the rest of the world will not invest in it. Unlike the rest of the Union, I am not interested in being a lackey for the Romans and Arameans...I need to be my own state, just like we were before the end of the Cold War. I know, I am a ways away from establishing that here, but realize I am already ahead of the curve...most of the NAU had their economies decimated and still haven’t recovered, all stuck at around $10,000 GDP per capita...us, we’re at $25,000, and growing.”
“You still suck at the teats of the Romans and Arameans to do it, though.”
“I never said my situation was ideal...but we learned that if we have to temporarily work with our enemies in order to get past them...then so be it.” Miller then leaned forward and looked Reddick straight in the eyes. “That’s a lesson you ought to learn, Joey.”
Reddick returned the glare. “Maybe so...but I’d rather stand on my own two feet than compromise who I am...that’s a lesson you ought to learn, Chet.”

June 2, 2014,
06:54 local time,
The Lincoln Apartment Complex,
Buffalo, Roman New York

Sergeant Richard Meen got out of his taxicab and looked up at the address, just to make sure he came to the right building. Seeing that the number on the front awing matched the number that appeared on the set of keys that he was given, he smiled and proceeded to walk into the complex, zeroing in on the elevator.

Once he got to his desired floor, Meen walked out of the elevator, striding confidently to his assigned room. At the door, he paused to dig out the appropriate keys, which he used to enter the apartment.

Room 728, he thought to himself, well, that punk doesn’t know what’s going to hit him.

After locking the door, Meen took off his jacket and donned his campaign hat, striding into position right in front of Antivirus Task Force member Thomas Bartlett’s bed. Even though Meen was well into his sixties, he was well built, with every one of his muscles toned, standing tall and erect just so he could properly lord over Bartlett’s bedside. He then fixated his eyes onto Bartlett’s, giving him a glare that could pierce the most confident of souls. He tapped on the shoulder, and seeing Bartlett was still fast asleep, he took a deep breath and began his job.

“Hey! Sleeping Beauty,” Meen bellowed, his voice strong enough to rattle the ground beneath him. “It’s 7 o’clock! It’s time for you to get up, you lazy maggot!” Bartlett, though, continued to lay there, fast asleep, dreaming of wildflowers and cornfields and ignoring the Sergeant’s pleas.

“Oh you think this is funny, don’t you, punk?” continued Meen, yelling even louder. “Is this how you want to go about your day? Sleeping your fat a** all day while the rest of the world is actually productive? How do you think you’ll like it when you sleep there all day when you could have done something with it? How will your team think when you decided to callously ignore them? Huh? Wake up you f***ing scoundrel, you’re not a baby anymore you filthy puke!”

Bartlett still didn’t flinch, with his snoring getting louder. Meen got angry, taking another deep breath and deciding that Bartlett’s sleepiness had gone too far.

“That’s it!” he shouted. “You’ve done it now! You have shown yourself to be nothing but an a**hole with your selfish desires! You care more about your bed than doing what you need to do! You should be ashamed of yourself, you putrid sloth! You leave me no choice but to take that bed and flip it- and you- so far down the room that you’ll be sleeping with your kitchen utensils shoved so far up your a** that you’ll never love your bed again! I’m going to count to three…if you’re not awake before then, off goes the bed! One!”

“All right,” said Bartlett, letting out a big yawn and getting up gingerly, groggy from the night before. He then approached Meen and gave him a hug. “You are the best man…no wonder they call you ‘Drill Sergeant Meenie’ at the Base.”
“No problem,” said Meen, flashing Bartlett a warm smile. “It’s what I’m here for…at least you want me to be here.”
“I know…some of those kids…they can be tough to deal with.”
“So, do you want me to come back tomorrow?”
“Nah…my alarm clock should be fixed tonight, so I’ll be good. However, I think we should go get breakfast. What do you think?”
“Sure. I hear there’s a new bagel place down the road…I think that’d be a great place to go.”
“Get’s my vote.”

Bartlett then left to take a shower and put on his clothes for the day, leaving with Meen twenty minutes later. In the hallway, he was confronted by his neighbour, Maggie Jenkins, who walked out of her apartment at the exact moment Bartlett left his.

“Hey Maggie,” said Bartlett, flashing a smile at Jenkins.
“Don’t you ‘hey Maggie’ me,” said Jenkins, still groggy and clad in her pyjamas, with her curly hair frazzled. “You and your Drill Sergeant managed to wake me up too.”
“I’m sorry…you know that I am.” Bartlett shrugged meekly before continuing. “Listen, why don’t you come with us for coffee…I’ll pay…I feel bad I had to drag you into this…it’s just…”
“Yeah, yeah, your stupid alarm clock…I’m sorry my dog confused it for a chew toy.”
“Not quite sure how that happened…but like I said before, it’s all good. Fido will grow to be a wonderful dog”
“…as soon as he passes obedience school…which he thankfully starts today. Let me come back and get some proper clothes on.”
“All right.”

Jenkins then went back inside her apartment to get dressed and join the pair.

“How’s an alarm clock a chew toy?” Meen asked, puzzled.
Bartlett smiled and put his hand on Meen’s back. “Richard buddy,” he said, “sometimes it’s just best not to think about it.”
Meen laughed briefly before Jenkins came out to join the two of them, prompting the trio to start their walk to their breakfast joint.

June 2, 2014
08:23 local time,
Galla Claudia’s Office, Foederatio Borealis Imperiale Indagatores Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Hey Claudia,” said AVTF member Phineas Malcolm, as he knocked on the open door of the office of his boss, Galla Claudia. Given the sensitive nature of the AVTF’s work as a matter of Roman national security, the AVTF moved to the FBII’s headquarters in Buffalo, so as to better monitor front line defences.
“Phineas,” said Claudia, flashing a warm smile while attending to matters seated at her desk. “Good to see you. What’s up?”
Malcolm took that as his cue to take a seat in front of Claudia, upon which he leaned back in the chair and smiled before continuing. “Oh you know, the usual...keeping up on my end of the team’s research into The Virus. I never thought those guys would reveal so much about themselves but I was wrong.”
“It’s amazing what the illusion of anonymity brings, doesn’t it?”
“I know...makes me wonder, though, if these guys really are criminals in the first place.”
“We can’t know for sure until they commit a crime but I err on the side of caution...having this information on a Site that promotes illegal activity is never a bad thing. This information will come in handy one day, trust me.”
“Yeah...and some do very well to take advantage of the non-tracking of IP numbers, E-Mails or names...those ones are starting to frustrate me a little.”
“Have you tried connecting them to the users you do know via messages or wall posts?”
Malcolm gave his head a shake. “Wow...I can’t believe I didn’t think of that...it’s so obvious.”
Claudia smiled before continuing. “Don’t sweat it...you’ve been working hard on this. Sometimes we miss the obvious because of it. Just keep at it...you’re already far ahead. You’re doing fine...it’s Thomas that needs a kick in the tail.”
“You’re right boss, thanks.”

With that, Malcolm left Claudia’s office, a renewed sense of vigour coming over him as Claudia resumed her desk duties.

May 1, 2014
12:22 local time,
Main Street Strip,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

*SMACK*

The reverberations on her left buttocks had barely started to subside when Cassie Gordon, clad in nothing but sandals, a bikini top and bottom, ran screaming towards her assailant, waving her fist violently as she did it.

“Just what do you think you’re doing?” Gordon said to the man when she finally caught up with him, clutching his shoulders tightly and shaking him as she spoke.
“Oh come on,” said the man, whose muscular build was on full display with a shirt with its sleeves cut off that said “I F*** on the First Date”. “You’ve got a fine a**…I’m merely respecting it by giving it a love tap.”
Gordon let go of him and couldn’t help but chuckle, shaking her head. “Is that what you call it? A love tap? So you think smacking my butt without permission is a gesture of love, right?”
“Of course, I would only do things out of love.” The man grinned, thinking he won Gordon over with his charm.
“Well, how can it be a gesture of your love for me when you don’t even bother to ask me if I would like to have my butt smacked? It’s not very loving is it when you don’t care about whether or not I’d like it.”
“Seriously, girl? Why should I need to ask you? You know you like it…you just don’t want to admit it.”
“Then maybe I should tell you how much I love your face by sending my fist right into your jaw…how much would you like that?”
“All right, all right.” The man put out his hands and patted the air, gesturing for Gordon to calm down. “I’m sorry…I shouldn’t have done that…you’re right, I shouldn’t just focus on what I like…if I like you, which I do, then I should care if you’d like what I do with you. Like I said, I’m sorry.”
Gordon wagged her finger and was stern in her reply. “Let this be a lesson to you.” The two of them parted.

“I can’t believe these people,” said Ike Johnson, sitting on a bench, to Gordon as she walked by.
“You saw the whole thing?” said Gordon, stopping to address spike-haired bleach-blonde Johnson that complimented Gordon’s flowing natural blonde locks.
Johnson was sheepish in his reply. “Yeah I did.” He then lowered his head and mumbled as he continued, though Gordon could still make out the words he was saying. “I’m sorry…I took a look at him and realized he could beat me to a pulp so I thought better of getting involved…then I realized I shouldn’t be afraid of him so I came to run up to you guys…but I started too far away and couldn’t get there in time…I’m sorry.”
“It’s okay.” Gordon sat down next to the slender Johnson, who was shirtless, and started to rub his back. “You meant well and at least you tried. Too many people in Daytona don’t do anything and that’s why the society is what it is.”
“Thanks.” Johnson looked up to flash a warm smile to Gordon. “You’re the first woman to thank me…I get quite a few that vilify me.”
“I know…that’s only because some women don’t understand what it is meant by ‘rape culture’…I know better than to think most guys are rapists or want to rape…we just live in a society where it’s easier to rape because prosecution isn’t where it needs to be and rapists get all sorts of apologies for their actions. I’d love to go to the police but they’d look at what I’m wearing and conclude I ‘deserved it’ when I didn’t.”
“True that…I guess the people here are worried that if we start convicting rapists ‘the party will stop’ or something like that…of course, the irony is that if we let sexual assault continue unchecked, it’ll make people less likely to come out, not more likely.”
“Exactly…I’m glad you get it. I know I’d be more open to having fun with someone new if I didn’t have to worry whether or not each new guy is a creeper…or worse.”
“Um…uh…my name’s Ike.” Johnson then meekly outstretched his hand, which Gordon grabbed heartily.
“I’m Cassie”. Gordon smiled as the two shook hands. “It’s okay…you don’t need to be afraid. Why don’t we continue to discuss things over lunch?”
Johnson smiled. “I think I’d like that.”

The two of them proceeded to start walking towards a diner, after both realized it was their favourite restaurant on the Strip. The two of them got to talking and started to get to know each other quite well, with Johnson feeling as the date progressed that he bonded with Gordon and could see himself dating Gordon in the future. It was special, it was idyllic and then...it was over.

Towards the end of the date, Gordon let out a loud yawn, tired from the night before.

“I’m sorry Ike,” Gordon said afterward, lowering her head and chuckling, embarrassed at how loud she was. “Sister’s bachelorette party last night…she went hard.”
“Aww it’s okay,” said Johnson, putting his hand on Gordon’s shoulder and rubbing it. “If you’d like, you can fall asleep on my shoulder.”

Gordon immediately got up and gasped. “I beg your pardon?” she asked, her eyes and her mouth widening as she started to back away from him. “Is that what you think this was? An attempt to get into my pants? I should have known…you’re a cad just like the rest of them.”
“No, no!” Johnson pleaded, tears starting to form in his eyes. “I’m sorry…I didn’t mean it like that…I would never think that way…it slipped…came out the wrong way…please, please…I’m not that kind of guy…I’m sorry, I’m sorry!”
Gordon shook her head slowly and gave him an icy glare. “Save your words…none of them will be good enough…ever. We’re through.”

Gordon left the restaurant in a huff, leaving Johnson a whimpering mess at his table. He continued to stay for a few minutes past closing time, with some of the staff taking pity on him and making small talk, but for Johnson, none of that could make up for the blown opportunity he had with Gordon. After leaving the diner through the back doors and eventually boarding a bus that headed southward towards his car, all of the feelings of loss of Gordon overcame Johnson. She was yet another one that “got away” for Johnson, who’d yet to have a real girlfriend, and with so many other failures under his belt, he began wondering if something was wrong with him- or, as a friend told him, if it really was the women to blame. Once he got to The Cracked Egg Diner on Highway A1A, he got off the bus and started to walk with more urgency.

May 1, 2014
13:28 local time,
Port Orange, Florida

“Head on down to the Flint River/Make ourselves a little catfish dinner/Baby you’re with a winner winner/You know I’ll treat you right/’Cause that’s my kind of night,” said Jolly Rodger, singing along to country musician Luke Bryan’s song, “That’s My Kind of Night”, as he sat down inside The Cracked Egg Diner. He said to himself that he was really going down to the Halifax River, not the Flint, though it didn’t change that he’d do a little catfishing while he was there.

He ordered a coffee before looking fondly at his car, the one that would provide so much destruction to Daytona later. Like many of the cars in Daytona, his was a hatchback, a 2011 Rover 100 in particular, so on the outside no one would notice the car he was driving.

Inside his car, though, on his passenger side was a semi-automatic assault rifle, resting on the seat with a pulley attached from the trigger. The gun’s nozzle was pointed upwards so it fit snugly into a hole in the passenger side window, with the windows tinted to obscure the view of the gun. Rodger called it “The Decider”, since its mechanism for killing would determine the fate of all those unfortunate to be stuck in its path.

May 1, 2014
14:01 local time,
Main Street Strip, Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

I wish that date wasn’t so horrible, thought Gordon to herself now that she had the proper time to reflect on the date. He seemed like such a nice guy, but I was wrong. As Gordon continued walking down the street, her phone went off, indicating she had a new message. She looked at it and discarded it nonchalantly, but it did give her a thought- since the weather was still sensational, she figured it’d be a great time to return to the beach, even though her pale skin was already starting to freckle crazily.

As she was walking, in the distance she saw three men get into an argument with a car while it was stopped at a Stop sign, with a hair salon just past the intersection to the car’s right. After a few moments of heated arguing, Gordon thought she heard gunshots before seeing each of the three men collapse to the ground, each with gunshot wounds that would be fatal. Gordon gasped in horror and froze in fear, worried that the gunman saw her, like most of the street’s numerous denizens and patrons, but soon that fear turned into panic. The car revved up its engine at that point and started to move forward, a hail of bullets raining from the passenger side as it drove.

Soon, the once quiet tranquil air of the beach was replaced by the disorienting din of screams and bullets. Dozens of people were killed, mostly the women patronizing the hair salon who froze at the sight of the men being gunned down, unable to come to their senses long enough to react to the danger that befell them. Gordon, though, had a few more milliseconds of reaction time to work with, and as the car drove ever so menacingly towards her, she frantically searched for a place to hide.

Oh gosh, oh gosh, OH GOSH, she thought to herself as the events unfolded in front of her. Her breathing became heavy and her movements were rushed, as Gordon knew that any nanosecond wasted could cost Gordon her life. Inside, her stomach began to churn out of fear, with the food she’d just eaten threatening to explode out of her like lava in an erupting volcano. The dizzying racket of the bullets didn’t help much, hindering Gordon in winning the battle with her nausea. Eventually, she found a plastic garbage can to hide behind, with the moment’s rest causing her stomach to release the pressure on its contents allowing it to be hurriedly expelled.

She wouldn’t have a chance to finish her hurl, as almost as soon as she rested behind the garbage can she felt a crack pierce her chest, felling her instantly. Only a single bullet managed to hit her, but it went right through her body, with the force of the impact so great that her head hit the pavement so hard that it cracked her skull. Her only solace was that the blow knocked her unconscious, meaning she wouldn’t have to see herself be turned into the mess of blood and ooze she’d become, unlike some of the other victims. However, just like the rest of them, it was only a matter of time as she lay there that her life would so agonizingly deplete itself.

May 15, 2014,
10:11 local time,
Main Street Strip,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“So they still haven’t reopened the strip,” said AVTF team member Julia Pearl, wearing her trademark superhero outfit, a blue criss cross halter bikini top and miniskirt, inspecting the eerily deserted segment of Daytona Beach.
“I can’t blame them,” said Englishman David Wilcox, clad in a dress shirt and pants, who taught Pearl her profiling skills at Coos Bay. Wilcox started his career with the British National Crime Agency, eventually becoming top profiler, before moving to the Aramean Special Crimes organization of the powerful Aramean Empire in the Middle East to lead their profiling team in 1989. Pearl’s research into The Virus caused her to seek out Wilcox for an unrelated matter, before Wilcox was called upon to examine the troubling scene left by Jolly Rodger. Rodger managed to escape police after his shooting, after which the police found the video of his manifesto. Unfortunately, the girl in the video could not be accounted for, as no missing person report was filed for her.

“Judging by the video,” continued Wilcox, “this is only going to be the beginning.”
“We obviously know this guy’s a narcissist, all by the mere fact that he shot a video, sent it out and gave himself a comic book moniker, so striking again is a given, I agree…just what will he do next?”

The 72-year-old Wilcox, though, didn’t answer, choosing to look further at the crime scene. Having been a profiler for the better part of 42 years, the bald but still physically fit Wilcox wasn’t surprised by anything at the scene, although it didn’t make it any easier to see. Though quite a bit of it was cleaned up, there were still blood marks, other bodily fluids, bullet casings and other debris lying around, making the once boisterous Strip feel like a warzone. For Wilcox, a scene like this reminded him of The Troubles and the eerie scenes in Northern Ireland that he was forced to witness many moons ago. As he examined, silently, he pictured the crime scene as it played out in his head.

So the UnSub starts at Highway A1A, turning left to drive up Main Street, he thought to himself. He’s stopped at a Stop sign and seems ready to shoot but these men get into an argument with him, so he wastes no time shooting them dead. Then he starts driving, and, judging by the bullet trajectories, he drove really slow at first and concentrated his bullets in that one area, by the Fern Lane Hair Salon, before speeding away. He seems to have continued firing, but, due to his speed and the fact he was likely weaving around traffic, he didn’t hit much. Since most of the people there were too busy trying to hide no one called 911 until it was too late but that wouldn’t have mattered...he was out of the area in 30 seconds, and his license plate was not a registered one anyway.

Regardless, this was more than just a random shooting...this was a targeted attack designed to look like a random shooting. Plus, the precision of the attack with the methodical approach and military grade weaponry suggest an UnSub with a military past, or at the very least a fascination with the military. He also has to be good with tools, as there is no way the gun would have fired unless it was jerryrigged to do so inside the car.

At the very least then, Jolly Rodger is looking to wage a war...just what kind of war? Judging by the video, it could be a religious one. It was at this point that Pearl interrupted him.

“What do you think, Professor?” Pearl asked as she approached Wilcox again.
“I determined this much,” said Wilcox, the tenor in his voice starting strong before it trailed off at the end. “Jolly Rodger is a man on a mission…a religious mission. He believes he is fighting a war, a war that he believes he needs to wage against society, but it is also a war that he believes he needs to fight on his own, or at least it is a fight he needs to start. The only question I have is- what kind of war is he fighting?”
“I know it’s not overt,” said Pearl, furrowing her brow as she spoke before delivering a slight fist pump, “but he does talk about Daytona Beach having a ‘24 hour party’ full of hedonism and sex, one that he feels he ‘wasn’t invited to’. He does talk quite a bit about the overtures with women that they rejected, and lamented about they kept going for men with ‘dubious credentials’, plus Rodger blames women and their ‘deviant’ practices for the decline in social morality. I also think the fact that he started his spree- and directed the most of his shots- at a hair salon was no accident. Professor Wilcox, Jolly Rodger was a misogynist.”
Wilcox paused, raising his head and furrowing his brow to contemplate Pearl’s words fully before responding. “It does make sense, doesn’t it, that Jolly Rodger is waging a war against women…many serial killers target women anyway and Rodger is the next in a long line of them. He’s just chosen to do so wrapped in religious ideology and social reconstructing. Good work Julia, I knew you were special from the moment I laid my eyes on you in class.”
Pearl smiled. “Thanks Professor.”
“I’ll send the profile out to the various police stations in the Empire…hopefully now that we’ve got his personality his person- and the woman he’s kidnapped- will come out of the woodwork.”

May 24, 2014
23:14 local time,
The Sands of Time beachside event,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“Still nothing,” said Johnson, letting out a heavy sigh and kicking some sand beneath him after seeing for the tenth time that night that Gordon had yet to text him back. This was the first night he was out of his house since the fateful date, and, by many accounts, Johnson thought he’d rather be somewhere else. Since he wasn’t Gordon’s Facebook friend- a request he sent and resent many times since the date- he didn’t know of Gordon’s fate and that she wasn’t in any condition to respond to the many messages he left her.

Maybe Jefferson is right, thought Johnson, referring to his friend, local DJ Jefferson Percy who dragged him out tonight, I need to let go…if Cassie isn’t willing to put the effort into the relationship that I am, then she isn’t worth it. He then took a look around the beach, seeing the thousands of patrons all dancing, drinking and having a good time while he was huddled in a corner by the outdoor washrooms. Look at all those pretty women…there’s so many more opportunities for me tonight…I can’t focus on Cassie forever…I might miss out on a better girl, and she’ll be here tonight. Not a single person- not even Johnson- was wearing a shirt, making the event a cavalcade of “bare-torsoed” guys and bikini-clad women. It was at this point a friend of Johnson’s and Percy’s girlfriend, Ashley Myers, stopped by to visit Johnson and give him a hug.

“Hey mopey,” said the curvy Myers as she wrapped her arms around Johnson, which Johnson reciprocated. “Don’t tell me you’re going to stand here all night. Let go of Cassie…she’s not worth it.” By this point, their hug finished and the pair stood in front of each other.
“How’d you know I was thinking of Cassie?”
“C’mon…it’s all you think about. Jeffrey tells me all the time…drives him nuts.”
“I just don’t understand…I’m so bad with women…I keep screwing up…Cassie…I thought things were different and then I said what I said, putting my foot in my mouth- again.” He hung his head low and sighed, remembering the frustrating afternoon.
“Isaac…seriously…you do this all the time. You think every girl is ‘The One’ and you pine incessantly after her, without realizing that just about every week you’ve got a new girl in tow and the old girl you used to pine after is no longer a thought to you anymore. Point is…you’re much better with women than you think you are, Isaac.”
“You think so?”
“Yeah…all you’ve got to do is learn not to get attached so quickly. You have to start evaluating women and be a better judge of who’s worth your effort, instead of just pouring all of your effort into a woman the first time she expresses interest. Pace yourself…but expect something in return if you do something for them.”
“It sounds so selfish though.”
“It is…but the truth is we all have to have a little bit of selfishness. We aren’t going to be happy unless we feel like we’re getting something out of life, and that’s selfish no matter how you look at it. The point is not to make it ‘all’ about you but rather to realize what your ‘limit’ is in doing things for others before you ask yourself, ‘what’s in it for me’?”
“Makes sense.”

At this point, a girl walked up to the pair, barely able to stand up straight after having way too many drinks and drugs. The curly-haired brunette in the leopard-skin bikini took one look at Johnson and Myers and decided to give each of them hugs, which Johnson and Myers reciprocated but were befuddled by it.

“Do you know that girl?” asked Myers, turning to Johnson.
“No,” said Johnson, returning the same confused look. “Do you?”
“I don’t. I just hope she’s okay.”

The two of them continued to look at the brunette, who continued to stumble along aimlessly while breaking out in laughing fits over the slightest bump. In the distance, a man could be heard yelling in the direction of the brunette. It was Percy, who seemed to be deeply troubled by the brunette’s state.

“Honey?” Myers asked, approaching Percy who was doing his best to keep watch on the brunette. “What’s wrong?”
“That girl,” said Percy, a tall, slender man, sighing as he tried his best barefoot to trudge through the soft sand below him. “She’s not old enough to drink, and yet somehow she managed to get a lot of alcohol.”
“Oh?” said Johnson, a concerned look overcoming his face. “How do you know?”
“A friend of mine told me,” said Percy, letting out a heavy sigh while looking long at the stumbling brunette. “Says her name is Nancy, but I can’t confirm it. Her purse is nowhere to be seen and her pockets are empty, so I don’t know how she got in or paid for the event. I think I’ve got a rogue bartender feeding her drinks and sneaking her in, but I can’t figure out who it is. Point is,” Percy paused to cuss and rub his face with both of his hands before continuing, “she could get this entire party shut down if we don’t get rid of her.”
“Jeffrey,” said Myers, rubbing Percy’s back, “I know this is frustrating but it’ll be okay.” She let out a few measured breaths herself, looking around while her brain went into overdrive trying to figure out the best solution.

Meanwhile, Nancy’s stumbling eventually led her back to the area near the stage, causing her pursuers to momentarily lose her in the crowd. Eventually, Johnson spotted her, and zeroed in on her, taking her by the hand and attempting to dance with her. By this point, Nancy’s bikini top was taken off, leaving her topless- which wasn’t against Carolinian laws, but culturally it was still not accepted, so Johnson worried about more retribution against the party. He decided the best way to guard against the sight was to pull Nancy towards him and hold her continuously- that way no one would be able to see that she was topless.

Keeping Nancy contained was a challenge, as her stupor meant all she wanted to do was frolic aimlessly. She did recognize that Johnson was trying to help her and every so often she’d return the hugs he was giving her, but every now and then she’d let go, causing Johnson to grab on to her hands and contort his and her arms in such a position that her breasts could not be seen before Nancy decided to hug Johnson again. All the while, various people in the crowd saw Nancy and were concerned for her, though no one did anything as they figured that Johnson looked like he had a handle on it.

Then the pair eventually found themselves right in front of the fence that sectioned off the beach for the party, with Johnson finding himself with his back right up against the fence. By this point, the drugs took a heightened turn in Nancy’s bloodstream, causing the sensations of her fingertips on Johnson’s skin to be enhanced. She felt a burst of energy and felt the need to hug Johnson tightly again, before moving her head fast towards Johnson’s and giving the unsuspecting Johnson an open mouth kiss on the lips. Before Johnson realized what was happening, Nancy had stuck her tongue in his mouth and started making out with him, a move that Johnson would eventually reciprocate, worried that he’d be rude if he just swatted away her face from his. A few seconds after the pair started to kiss, another yell came from the crowd. It was Percy’s friend, Cam Morris.

“Hey!” screamed Morris, his eyebrows crossed and his hand extended with a purposeful finger pointed directly at Johnson. “Just what do you think you’re doing?” The force of Morris’s yell was enough to rattle Johnson and end the kiss, causing both Nancy and Johnson to look at Morris confused.
“I’m sorry,” said Nancy, slurring her speech and slumping her head.
“No no, Nancy, you didn’t do anything wrong,” said Morris, who spoke softly towards Nancy before raising his tone when he addressed Johnson. “You,” continued Morris, angrily thrusting his finger at Johnson, “you did everything wrong.”
“Look, look, look,” Johnson stammered, all of his nervous energy coming to the fore. “It’s not what you think…she started it-”
“That doesn’t matter,” said Morris, curtly cutting him off.
Johnson sighed and breathed heavily, feeling the pressure of the situation mounting and feeling weaker by the minute. “You don’t understand…I didn’t force it…I didn’t try anything with her…she just thrust herself on to me and once I realized what was happening it was too late. Besides…I…I…didn’t want to be rude…and I figured if she’s with me, she won’t be hit on by guys who will actually take advantage of her. You…you gotta believe me, I’d never try to hurt her in any way...I care about her...this isn’t what you think.”
“Was the kiss wrong?” said Morris, now folding his arms and staring at Johnson with intent, his eyebrows again crossed. When Johnson, too scared to respond, didn’t offer an explanation, Morris decided to repeat what he’d just said, only this time with his voice raised louder.
“Yes,” said Johnson meekly, lowering his head in shame with his voice so soft that Morris barely heard him.
“You’re a pathetic little runt,” said Morris, sneering at Johnson. “Getting your jollies from underage girls.”
“I...I didn’t know she wasn’t 18,” said Johnson, with tears forming in his eyes that shortly began flowing out. “Oh man,” he continued, blubbering uncontrollably, “I can’t believe what I’ve done.” Nancy was really 19 but Morris wasn’t about to give Johnson the benefit of the doubt by telling him.
“I think it’s time for you to leave,” said Morris, sternly. He grabbed Johnson’s arm and started to tug him, but the stronger Johnson shook off the skinny Morris’ grip.
“I can leave on my own, thank you,” said Johnson angrily through his tears. He then proceeded towards the exit with Morris looking on intently as Johnson forlornly sauntered. Meanwhile, Morris clutched Nancy’s hand as if it was gold, which led to Nancy letting out a scream that caught the attention of Percy.

“What the heck is going on?” Percy said when he got to Morris.
“That guy,” snarled Morris, pointing in Johnson’s direction, “took advantage of Nancy. I caught him kissing her.”
Percy gave Morris a look of incredulousness. “What are you talking about?”
“You know, they were making out...that’s wrong on so many levels.”
“Cam...Ike wouldn’t do that, and if he did, he’d be the first one to tell you that it was wrong.”
“Oh he did admit that it was wrong...took some doing, though.”
“Look, I’m not trying to defend the action...but I know Ike wouldn’t take things too far...he probably got caught off guard...he didn’t seek it out. Besides, you should already know that he’s not the first one to make out with an intoxicated girl, and he won’t be the last. You’re making a mountain of a molehill here.”
“Excuse me for wanting to protect Nancy.”
“Hey, I want to protect her too, but let’s not do anything rash. At the moment, we still don’t have any idea where her clothes are and how she’ll have the money to get home...I think that’s more pressing.”
“At least we’ve got one less evil guy to worry about.”
“You and this silly idea that every guy is evil with ulterior motives...seriously Cam, give that a rest. That doesn’t apply here, Ike’s a good man.”
“Yeah, but he’s stil a man, and you know how men behave at these events...they see people like Nancy as nothing but objects...and that’s the problem with our society...women are always viewed as objects. Didn’t Jolly Rodger and his misogynistic ways teach you anything?”
“Oh gosh...this again? I’m going to find her and her stuff.” Percy left in a huff, not allowing Morris time to reply.

Morris was apoplectic, but decided against pressing the issue further. Not being able to spot Nancy, he decided to take a break from the party, going for a drive to cool off his anger.

Nancy, for her part continued to dance, even though as the hours pressed on Percy’s worry about the party continued. He couldn’t do much, though, since he couldn’t find Nancy’s stuff anywhere, though for the sake of the party, he soldiered on.

June 2, 2014,
6:08 local time,
Daytona Beach Police Dispatcher’s Unit,
Daytona Beach, the Municipality of Daytona

“Hello?” Spike Torrens, the Daytona Beach Police dispatcher, said as he picked up the phone. “This is Officer Torrens of the Daytona Beach Police Department, how can I help you?”
“I think I found the Jolly Rodger killer,” said a man’s voice at the other end of the line.
“Oh? Well that’s good. How do you know?”
“Well, a friend of mine saw him taking advantage of this drunk girl...apparently he was sober and yet he decides to make out with a girl who clearly cannot consent. Then he had the audacity to defend the action, as if he was right to do it. He clearly believes, like Jolly Rodger does, that the world ‘owes’ him a girl, and there’s no length he won’t go to secure that- my friend saw that tonight.”
“OK, sir, but you didn’t see anything, did you?”
“No, but I’ve dealt with this same person my friend described and I’ve seen him take advantage of girls. I can safely assure you this person I am telling you about is Jolly Rodger. I have no doubt.” The caller then went on to describe other incidents he experienced with the shooter, each of them incidents with women.
“Can you describe this person for me?” The dispatcher got excited, since the person being described fit the Jolly Rodger profile perfectly.
“I can do even better. His name is Isaac ‘Ike’ Johnson, and he lives here in Daytona Beach.”

June 2, 2014
10:00 local time,
AVTF War Room, Foederatio Borealis Imperiale Indagatores Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Hello everyone,” said Claudia as her team filed into the small room and sat at the round table. Claudia stood at the front, remote in hand, with a projector screen unfurled behind her. “First of all, I’d like to say that I’m proud of each and every one of you- so far, you guys are providing excellent work researching The Virus, and I’ve been getting nothing but praise from my superiors...so good job.” Claudia smiled as the rest of the team nodded their heads, full of smiles themselves, and high fived each other.

“One question,” said Claudia, turning her attention to Bartlett. “Thomas, how’s the report on the Edmonton Predator going?”
“It’s going well,” said Bartlett, flashing a contrived smile.
Claudia shook her head and looked Bartlett straight in the eye. “Thomas...I know you haven’t started it yet, but I do need that report.”
Bartlett was curt in his response before flashing another contrived smile. “Okay.” Bartlett didn’t understand the rush- the Predator’s trial wouldn’t be until October, and it was only going to be a ten page report, if that, something he could write in an afternoon. The Predator case, which Bartlett followed extensively, was the first confirmed Viral case, which was why Claudia wanted it early, but Bartlett thought a month early would be good enough.

“On to other matters,” said Claudia, turning to the screen and clicking on the remote, bringing up a picture. “This is Isaac Johnson, 26, of Daytona Beach in the Carolinian province of South Georgia/East Florida. Later this week, it is expected that Daytona District Judge Sue Alderman will formally convict Johnson of being the Jolly Rodger shooter, based largely on the report of Doctor David Wilcox, the renowned profiler first for the NCA and then the ASC, of which our own Julia helped out on, as I am aware. Since Johnson confessed to being a Virus user, it is our duty to research him and further understand his motivations to add to Judge Alderman’s report.”
“The Judge is the infamous ‘Boy Named Sue’, isn’t he?” Bartlett asked.
“You’re right about that,” said Claudia, eliciting a small chuckle from the room.
“Poor guy though,” said Bartlett, “I’d hate to live with that name.”
“True, but he’s quite the tough customer, so I think it worked out,” said Pearl. The team nodded their heads in acknowledgment before continuing to other topics.
“So what’s Johnson’s user name?” Malcolm asked.
“Police weren’t able to locate it,” said Claudia. “His computer’s browser prevents his visits to The Virus from being recorded, as the feature prevents Johnson’s history as a whole from being recorded on his computer.”
“Certainly suggests intent to commit a crime,” said Malcolm, “only question is whether or not it’s this crime.”
“That’s what we’ve got to find out,” said Claudia. “I don’t think it’ll change the outcome of the case, but whatever input we can put in there will be valuable.”
“Part of the profile mentions that Jolly Rodger is a misogynist,” said Pearl. “How does Johnson qualify?”
“Police say he has a long history of ‘sexual incidents’,” said Claudia, “stemming from incidents at work and at school. He doesn’t have a criminal record but that could be because before Jolly Rodger, the police hardly ever took sexual crimes seriously, always shrouding them in victim blaming.”
“Judging from recent reports, the Daytonans have been making up for lost time in a big way since Jolly Rodger,” said Malcolm after leafing through his notes. “The shootings seemed to have spurred lawmakers to finally address the amount of rapes the society has...they just can’t agree on a law yet.”
“So wait, he was arrested two weeks ago and already he’s being convicted?” Pearl asked. “That’s quick.”
“Remember how Carolinian Law works,” said Malcolm. “All they have is a single judge overlooking all the evidence before passing their ruling. Parties invested in the case are only required to give staments, which can be- and mostly are- done in writing, though it can be in front of the presiding judge, who approves all statements anyway. Hence why Carolinian justice works so quickly.”
“I understand all that,” said Pearl, “but usually the process only takes a month at most for serious crimes...this one isn’t even at two weeks...it’s unusually quick.”
“I’m told the case is airtight,” said Claudia. “Ike has no alibi for the time of the murders and there isn’t a single witness account, video or picture that backs up his story or shows someone else is Jolly Rodger...but, as I also understand, Jolly Rodger parked his car in an area without cameras and wasn’t well traversed, which could mean this is a frame job or Ike deliberately used the place to maintain plausible deniability.”
“Since Johnson is a resident of Daytona Beach, I think the second option works better,” said Malcolm. “One thing I am uncomfortable with is that they’re convicting him without physical evidence.”
“I’m told that could change,” said Claudia, “but I don’t know why yet.”
“Still no ID on the girl in the video, right?” Pearl asked.
“That’s correct,” said Claudia. “Lots near matches in the missing person database but no direct hits, unfortunately, so Daytona Police haven’t tried looking for her, writing her off as a runaway. They also seem to be more concerned with saving Daytona’s tourist image than anything else.”
“Kidnapped the right girl,” said Bartlett, sarcastically. “If no one’s looking for her then she’ll be his slave forever.”
“...and it fits Johnson,” said Pearl, raising a finger, “since he’d be the type to kidnap a girl for her ‘services’ due to his frustration at not being able to get a girl any other way.”
“Let’s not jump to conclusions,” said Claudia sternly but smoothly. “We need to find out everything we can about Ike and see what we can add for the Judge so he can make the right ruling. So stop everything you’re doing now and focus on Ike.”

With that, the AVTF left for their desks to do as much research as they could on Johnson.

June 9, 2014
14:54 local time,
Tomoka Correctional Institution,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“You are in a lot of trouble,” said Detective George Millet as he stepped into Johnson’s cell. Millet had a burly physique and a thick goatee, accentuated by a steely glare from his eyes and a rough, gravelly voice with a thick Alabaman accent. He stood over the chair by the desk in front of Johnson, panting heavily and curled into a ball on his bed at the sight of Millet, of which Millet helped no further by giving him a furrowed brow look right into Johnson’s eyes.

“I got so much,” snarled Millet, “that I could have you electrocuted ten times, Mr. Johnson...or, as you liked to be called, ‘Lady Killer’.”
“ ‘Lady Killer’?” Johnson asked, confused.
“Oh don’t play games with me, son...that’s your handle on ‘The Virus’. You’ve used it extensively...and how do I know this? You use a lot of regionalisms for Daytona Beach, you reference The Cracked Egg Diner numerous times, among many other local landmarks around your house in Wilbur Bay, you talk about your schooling, your degrees, your jobs...I mean, your whole life is on that Site. Got pretty easy to figure out once we had the breakthrough.”
“Okay.” Johnson shrugged his arms and his mouth. “Just ‘cause I’m a Virus user doesn’t make me a criminal.”
“It does when you ask a lot of questions on the Site about how to get away with crimes, including a drive-by shooting.”
“You...you...oh gosh...” Johnson did his best to fight the tears that were coming, but all he could do was slow them to a trickle. “You don’t understand...I’m a writer! I want to write crime fiction! That’s why I asked those questions...oh gosh, why can’t you believe me?”
Millet could only shake his head. “Look at you, Isaac, you blubering piece of s***...your tears are the tears of a criminal. No one cries if they’re innocent- the Reid technique taught me well.”

Millet paused for a moment to chuckle before shaking his head.

“There is one thing that could help you out,” said Kip Farkner, Millet’s partner, who knelt down and put his hand on Johnson’s shoulder, speaking softly. Farkner had an average build with boyish looks that made him look like he was Johnson’s age when he really was 36.
“What? WHAT?” Johnson said, barely able to contain the excitedness over the news.
“We found the gun used in the crimes hidden underneath your seat cushions- ballistics proved it.”

Johnson, at this point, was devastated, unable to conatin anymore his sadness. He didn’t know how the gun got into his car- he hadn’t used his car in months, unable to pay for the insurance- but given how the detectives were treating him, the writing was on the proverbial wall, if it hadn’t gotten there physically yet. As tears flowed from his eyes and his sobs grew uncontrollably louder, the two detectives were beside themselves in belly laughter, slapping each other on the back and high fiving as if their favourite sports team won the championship.

After they finished celebrating, they gave Johnson the grim news: at 6PM tomorrow, his execution would be held, since by now his conviction was a mere formality. Farkner finished the address by quoting the movie “300” by telling Johnson to “eat hearty tonight, for tomorrow you dine in Hell.” Both detectives let out belly laughs before proceeding outward, guffawing and cackling as they went, with Johnson reduced to nothing but tears in his forlorn cell.

June 9, 2014
15:01 local time,
David Wilcox’s hotel room, The Ramada,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“Ah, bollocks!” Wilcox shouted as he angrily pressed the power button on the TV remote. His favourite soccer team, Huddersfield Town F.C., had just blown a 2-0 lead in league play against Arsenal, losing 4-2 after the referee inexplicably added two more minutes to the end of the game than he was supposed to. Huddersfield had a chance to break into the top six teams in England’s second division with a win, but now they face an uphill battle.

He got up from his bed and opened the liquor cabinet to fix himself a drink. As the burn of the scotch hit the right spots in his appetite, Wilcox got to thinking about the current case. Always the perfectionist, Wilcox wondered if maybe he was too quick to assume that Johnson fit the profile of Jolly Rodger.

Okay, thought Wilcox, so Johnson was a Boy Scout, and during his time as a Scout, he fired a BB gun and has always had a fascination with firearms and the military, according to our records. He’s good with tools, as friends describe him as a whiz at solving any kind of problem, which explains the ‘creativity’ of the application of his weapon of choice. He’s also known to make getting a girlfriend a lifelong goal of his, so he’s got religious fervour...

...The problem? I’m not sold on his misogyny. Sure he has quite the history of inappropriate actions and remarks, but they seem to be pure misunderstandings, not acts of deliberate sexual misconduct. In one job, he was fired because he gave a girl a hug, even though that girl started to cry on his shoulder and reached out to him- he just held on too long. Another job he lost because the women at his workplace didn’t like that he always said hello to them and engaged in small talk with them, even though he never said anything inappropriate. Then there was the time he stared at a butterfly that happened to land too close to a woman’s bosom...*sigh*. If only his father had taught him how to talk to girls instead of repeatedly abusing him because of yet another ‘misunderstanding’ he wouldn’t be in this situation.

He curled his lips and pondered, sighing again thinking of Johnson’s predicament. He then decided his next course of action was to reach for the phone and make a call.

June 9, 2014
15:09 local time,
Daytona Beach General Hospital,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

Gordon struggled to open her eyes, the sedatives she was on still trickling out of her system. In and out of surgeries for weeks, Gordon barely managed to survive the attack, being the first one paramedics found once the shootings ended. Her body- especially the left side of her face and her entire backside in general, including her head- had now become a mess of scars, bruises and stitches, the result of her many wounds and surgeries. That was of little concern for Gordon right now, as, for the first time in weeks, she could finally realize what was going on.

“Where,” said Gordon, speaking weakly with a breathing tube fastened through her nose and various IV’s protruding her blood vessels. “Where...where am I? What happened?” She began to panic, looking around frantically at the various tubes connected to her body and was about to start tugging at them when nurse Colby Walters walked in, alerted by her rising heart monitor.

“Cassie,” said Walters calmly as he walked in towards her, grabbing her hand and clutching it softly. “Cassie...it’s okay. You’re at Daytona Beach General...you’ve been here for a few weeks. You survived the shooting...you’re a lucky girl. If that bullet had hit you just a few quarters of an inch to your left, it would have struck your heart and killed you. You’re safe now...you’re surrounded by top level nurses and security guards, and, thankfully, your police protection won’t be needed anymore since the shooter has officially been convicted.”
Gordon sat up a bit on her bed, blinking her eyes as she let out a small huff. “Wait, wait...my shooter has already been convicted?” She was still in a daze and couldn’t process everything Walters told her quickly.
“Yes he has...so you don’t have to worry about anyone coming to get you anymore.”
“Who...who is he?”
Walters pulled out his phone and browed the Internet briefly before finding Johnson’s picture and showing it to Gordon as he explained who Johnson was. “Isaac Johnson, from right here Daytona Beach. Interesting story, that guy...he has a string of misadventures with girls that he claims were only just ‘misunderstandings’ but now that he shot up Daytona we know what they really were- the actions of a boy who felt entitled to women and thus felt like he didn’t have to ‘control’ what he said or did, with the frustrations reaching their boiling point on the fateful day.”
“You...you...you guys got it all wrong...Ike didn’t do this. We had a date earlier that day...he said something stupid so I called the whole thing off. Then, one of the last things I remember before the shooting was that he sent me a text message, from the beach, with a crude drawing with ‘Sorry’ written in the middle of a heart. That was, maybe a minute or two before the shots rang out...there’s no way he could have been the shooter. Where’s my phone? I’ll show it to you.”
“Your mother has your phone...but seriously, Cassie, you’re defending him? He fit a criminal profile produced by David freaking Wilcox, the man who taught the Behavioural Analysis Unit what they know, Ike’s the same build as the shooter in the Jolly Rodger video, he has no alibi for the time of the shootings...heck, they even found the gun in his car.” Walters chuckled in disbelief over Gordon’s words before continuing. “I think you need some rest...your brain is still frazzled.”

Gordon sighed, still very tired, as Walters readjusted her bedsheet, allowing her to fall back asleep a few minutes later.

June 10, 2014
07:29 local time,
Reception Desk, Foederatio Borealis Imperiale Indagatores Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Hello,” said a middle aged woman in a business suit and thick-rimmed glasses as she walked up to the front receptionist, sitting behind a huge counter. “This is Foederatio Borealis Imperiale Indagatores Headquarters building, right?”
“Yes ma’am,” said the receptionist, a young, perky blonde with curly hair and a wide smile which belied the fact that she was just trying to get through the day. “You’re at the official Foederatio Borealis Imperiale Indagatores Headquarters building. Do you have an appointment?” The receptionist flashed another wide smile at the businesswoman who returned the favour with a furrowed brow stare. The receptionist, though rattled by the glare, decided to maintain her smile, hoping it may calm the businesswoman’s nerves.
“No, I do not have an appointment.” The businesswoman straightened her blazer and readjusted her pose so she stood up straight and thumbed her nose at the receptionist. “I am here to see a one Galla Claudia, who as I understand is now the lead investigator in the Jolly Rodger case. Please let me know how I can obtain a pass so I can see her.”
“Ma’am.” The receptionist again smiled warmly, although it was futile since her nasally high pitched voice had gotten on the businesswoman’s nerves. “I’m sorry, but for security reasons we can’t just let you walk right in...we need to get clearance first.”
The businesswoman, angry, mocked the receptionist, imitating her voice. “ ‘I’m sorry, but for security reasons we can’t just let you walk right in...we need to get clearance first.’ ”
“I’m sorry...but I don’t make the rules...that’s just how they go.”
“I’ll have you know missy that I don’t give one whit about the rules with my son’s life on the line!”
“Relax...clearance won’t take that long.” As she continued, she placed a clipboard with a form on it on the countertop in front of her.  “All I need is for you to fill out this form...then we can run a quick background check and then we’ll notify Agent Claudia that you are here and then, if she’s available, we’ll get you an escort and a pass to proceed into the building. OK?” The receptionist then flashed a wide, toothy smile, with her eyes perking up.

The businesswoman, though, lost her cool.

“That’s it!” she shouted, banging her fists on the desk and throwing her hands up in frustration. “I don’t have time for this! My son is due to be murdered at any moment and all you guys want to do is throw a whole bunch of red tape at me!” She then wagged her finger pointedly at the receptionist before continuing. “You should be ashamed of yourselves! I thought the Romans were all about justice...what a load of crock that is.”

“You’re Rhonda Johnson, right?” Wilcox said warmly to the businesswoman as he walked in through the door, wearing an ascot, a cream-coloured dress shirt and pants with his blazer slinged over his arm. “Isaac’s mother, correct?”
“Yes,” said Rhonda, tilting her glasses downward to get a better look at Wilcox. “Who are you?”
“My name is David Wilcox...I used to be the head profiler at the NCA and the ASC before retiring to become a professor at Coos Bay Academy. I handled your son’s case in Daytona Beach. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” He smiled and outstretched his hand for a handshake.
Rhonda wasn’t having any of it, slapping Wilcox hard across his left cheek, causing him to fall back a bit before regaining his footing.
Wilcox felt his cheek, still stinging from the blow, and grimaced. “That will leave a mark.”

The slap was finally enough to catch the attention of the uniformed officers in the lobby who all pulled out their guns, with one, a burly African-American woman, walking towards Rhonda.

“Ma’am, I’m sorry, we can’t let you stay here,” said the officer. “You’re going to have to come with us...you’re under arrest for assault.”
“No no,” said Wilcox, stepping in front of the officer and gently placing his hand on the officer’s arm. “I deserved that...the Isaac Johnson case is one of my deepest regrets.”
“Oh, is that what this is?” Rhonda said, putting her hands on her hips. “This is just a regret to you? What are you going to tonight?” Tears started to form in Rhonda’s eyes, as Rhonda was unable to stop them any longer the more she thought of her son’s fate. “What are you going to do, huh? You might beat yourself up about it, right? Maybe you’ll shed a tear...who knows? At the end of the day...you’ll go to bed...” Rhonda paused to wipe tears from her eyes, with her voice noticeably cracking, “and you’ll get up tomorrow and you’ll continue to work on cases and eventually this will just become an afterthought. Me?” By now Rhonda was blubbering, barely able to contain herself anymore. “Tomorrow I won’t have a son...my only son...and I won’t have him back for the rest of my life...and there’s nothing I can about it...all because you made a mistake. For you this might be nothing but for me...for my baby...this...this is everything!”

Rhonda then fell to her knees and collapsed to the floor, a blubbering mess of tears and uncontrollable sobbing. Wilcox stood, frozen, concern overcoming his face with his own worries about the case gaining a new sense of urgency. From the elevator came Claudia, who had been expecting Wilcox but instead zeroed in on the crestfallen Rhonda.

“Miss,” said Claudia, bending down and trying to get level with Rhonda’s face. “Are you okay? What’s wrong?”
“That’s,” said Wilcox, his voice cracking slightly, “that’s Rhonda Johnson, mother of Isaac...reminding us all how urgent our matters are this morning.”
“Without a doubt,” said Claudia assuredly. She then placed her hand on Rhonda’s back and started to rub it, softly. “Rhonda, I’m Agent Claudia...when you’re ready we need you to come with us...we need your help.”

June 10, 2014,
08:08 local time,
Danforth Grayson’s cell, Amherst Imperial Prison,
Amherst, Roman New York

“Wakey wakey,” said prison guard Titus Aurelian, passing by Danforth Grayson’s cell. Grayson, who tried to catch a few more winks after roll call, was lying on his bed, twisting and turning in a valiant effort to go back to sleep. However, Aurelian’s flashlight and the rattling of his prison door kept that from happening; although this time Aurelian had a very good reason for keeping him awake.

“Come on now,” implored Aurelian. “You can’t sleep all day. You have a visitor.”
“A visitor?” said Grayson, doing a double take after lifting his head from the pillow. “That’s impossible, I haven’t fallen asleep yet.”
“Yes Danny, you have a visitor,” said Reddick from outside of the cell. Grayson smiled at the sound of his voice and rolled out of bed as Reddick entered.

“Oh hey Joey!” Grayson said, walking up to him. He tried to give Reddick a hug before Reddick put up his hands to stop the action.
“Please Danny,” he said curtly, “I’m not here for pleasantries...we have important business to take care of.”
Grayson sighed. “You win this time, but seriously, you need to lighten up. You know Chandler Bing, from ‘Friends’? You need to be more like him.”
“No I don’t. First of all, I don’t know why people think I look like him and second of all he’s a smarmy man-child who thinks life is one big joke...I’m sorry, but I’m a respectable human being!”
“If you say so...you just keep forgetting that you need to earn it.”
Reddick angrily wagged his finger. “I’m the President of North America! That’s all the respect I need!”
Grayson chuckled and shook his head before responding. “I respect you...I have ever since our first case together. However, other people in our orbit won’t always respect authority just because you have it.”
Reddick made a nonchalant look. “I know that.”
“...but I keep having to repeat it to you.”

Reddick sighed, knowing that Grayson was right. He thought better of arguing the point since he had important matters to discuss, so he went on to different things.

“I’m sure you’ve heard of the Daytona shootings,” said Reddick.
“Of course,” said Grayson with a wide smile. “How could I not? I heard the operation went swimmingly.” Reddick nonchalantly put a Daytona newspaper down on Grayson’s desk, with the headline “The Party’s Over”. Grayson smiled and read a few lines of the story, nodding in approval.
Reddick sighed. “It did...but I still worry about how it will play out. All I know is that Daytona’s ‘partying lifestyle’ has taken a massive hit because of the shootings but what will happen to Daytona is anyone’s guess. It could galvanize the Florgians to take up arms in the belief that Jolly Rodger was sent by Carolina or it could galvanize Carolina into suppressing Florgia and getting some much needed stability.”
“Relax.” Grayson smiled, speaking loudly but calmly. “It’ll be what it will be, but I believe as you’ll soon find out, sometimes the turns we take in the game don’t always produce results at first, only to bear fruit later. Joey, you’re a smart man...you’ve held on to power in this shambolic facade of a Union for eight years because you play your cards right...you gotta trust your instincts on this one...it’s better than you think.”
“Maybe so...but I know one day a war will come, and once that war comes I know I’ll need as much backup as I can. I can’t do this alone.”
Grayson chuckled and sighed. “Did you seriously think you were going to come in here and find some way to secure my early release?” He then laughed sardonically before continuing. “Yeah, the Romans are really going to go for that...you forget, I have cameras trained on me 24/7, so if anything they’ll hear that and keep me here longer. Besides, I kind of like it here- the avocados are amazing...oh, and you really need to try the pickled eggs...especially with the creme brulee...oh it’s to die for!”
Reddick gave him a blank stare.
“What? Sure this ain’t the Ritz Carlton but prison still feeds me, clothes me and gives me a place to sleep, among other amenities. I might get used to this.” Grayson smiled a wide, toothy smile and nodded his head with delight.

Reddick was still not pleased, standing there in silence with his arms folded. Grayson thus dropped his light-hearted tone.

“Look,” said Grayson, getting up and looking Reddick in the eye. “Don’t panic too soon...you’re doing better than you think. Just remember this: some days, you’ll be the early bird that catches the worm. Other days, you’ll be the second mouse that gets the cheese. Think about that.”

June 10, 2014,
08:21 local time,
Galla Claudia’s Office, Foederatio Borealis Imperiale Indagatores Headquarters,
Buffalo, Roman New York

“Glad you could join us today Rhonda,” said Claudia, seated at her desk, leaning forward and smiling with her hands clenched together in front of her. Rhonda was seated in front of her desk having regained her composure, with Wilcox sitting next to her. “Can we get you anything? Coffee? Tea? Water?”
“I’d love a Big Mac actually,” said Rhonda with a wistful chuckle. “Ike...he loved those...I never knew how...he’s so skinny yet he could eat ten of those burgers.”
“Isaac’s still a young man,” said Wilcox. “His metabolism is still strong so he can handle large intakes, sometimes multiple ones in one day. As he gets older his metabolism will slow down so he’ll have to cut down on those Macs...it’s why McDonald’s and Rex Vulputate advertise to young adults and teens...because their stomachs can better handle their food.”
“Oh,” said Rhonda nonchalantly, “I see.” The only thing on her mind was getting to see Isaac eat another burger.
“I’ll see if I can get you a Big Mac,” said Claudia, smiling. “Might have to fly it in, though, because I think McD’s is on breakfast.”
“It’s okay,” said Rhonda, forcing a smile. “I just want to see my baby eat one again.”
“That’s why we’re here,” said Claudia. “Dave called me last night to raise his concerns about the case, and we need your help to get to the bottom of it because I think his concerns have merit.”
“Let me tell you a story,” said Wilcox calmy and softly, “almost 50 years ago I had my first profiling case for the NCA. Back then, profiling was in its infancy so it had a lot of doubters as an investigative tool, so you can only imagine the kind of pressure I was under. I was 23 and fresh out of University where my PhD paper that laid the groundwork for profiling caught the eye of the NCA, only too eager to put in practice. Anyway, I was tasked to find the infamous ‘London Samurai’ who had killed five men with what seemed to be a katana. It being my first case, I was bound to make more than my fair share of mistakes, including the most critical one that I rushed to the conclusion that the culprit was a Japanese-Englishman. Junchiri Tazawa faced murder charges based on my profile, and despite doubts over the validity of Tazawa’s confession- one that I engineered- I pressed onward with the conviction. Tazawa would be sentenced to life imprisonment, based solely on a flimsy confession and a shoddy profile. Four years into his sentence, Tazawa would die of a heart attack brought upon because he was bullied incessantly in prison.”

As Wilcox spoke, Rhonda leaned in and listened with great intent, while Claudia sat patiently, already knowing the story herself. Wilcox took a deep breath and sighed before continuing. “A year after that, new evidence in the case popped up,” said Wilcox, soldiering on, “implicating a one Stephen Drew Pierson, a sword enthusiast. I remember thinking about the profile and I realized I should have landed on him, because he fit the profile far better than Tazawa did. Based on the new evidence and a new profile generated by me, Pierson was convicted and Tazawa was officially exonerated. At that time, I could have admitted my error and let Tazawa off the hook but my pride got in the way. In the ensuing inquiry about Tazawa’s wrongful conviction I stuck to my guns and said that I merely did my job and used the evidence that was present at the time, arguing that myself and the NCA should not be held liable because the appearance of new evidence is something beyond our control. I explained that you can’t always get a conviction 100% right, but so long as you can convince a jury then the percentage doesn’t matter. The inquiry accepted my explanation, and refused to award Tazawa’s wife and her three sons any compensation.

“A few days later, I received a package from the Tazawas. It was a series of photographs that showed the family through the years. First was a set of about 35, showing off how they lived when Junchiri was alive.” Wilcox raised his head and smiled, continuing wistfully. “They had a beautiful home near Plymouth, overlooking the sea. I remember very clearly the waves as they splashed against the rocks, the sight of Junchiri birdwatching while enjoying a warm summer’s day, the kids frolicking in the garden...it looked like Heaven.” Wilcox paused briefly, sighing, the mood in his voice darkening. “Then came one page of photos, of which there were only eight, one that showed the Tazawas forced to ‘couch surf’ in the aftermath of Junchiri’s incarceration and death, with one picture showing them wrapped in a blanket with a cup in front of them, panhandling because they’re homeless. I was devastated...I couldn’t believe what happened to them. Then, on the last page of the photobook was a note that said, ‘for you, the mistake may have been just part of the job, but for us this was everything. Think about us the next time you make a mistake.’

“I cried at that moment, for the rest of the day and into the night. I called in sick for weeks from work too devastated from what I had done to soldier on. Eventually I decided that from that moment, I’d do my best to make sure I got the profile right, and if I had any hint of an error, I would correct it right away and get the correct person behind bars...because I don’t want Junchiri Tazawa to have died in vain.”

“Wow,” said Rhonda, mesmerized by the story. “That’s awful. So what made you land on Isaac in the first place and what changed your mind?”
“Actually Daytona Police got to Isaac,” said Wilcox. “I played no part in that, but since Isaac was being convicted on my profile I owed it to myself to make sure they got it right...so I spent a lot of time researching it. I knew that Claudia and her team were researching Isaac so I asked for her help...and when I determined Isaac wasn’t the culprit I went to fix it right away. Problem is...Daytona Police won’t hear my objections, so I had to turn to Claudia.”
“Which is why we’re glad you’re here,” said Claudia. “However, we can’t waste too much time. Rhonda, let’s start with the obvious- does Isaac have any enemies who might be inclined to frame him for murder? He didn’t seem to mention any while on The Virus, but he could just be hiding that information.”
“Ike’s a very private guy,” said Rhonda, “he doesn’t say much, not even to me. His father, though, knows quite a bit but only because he’d beat the information out of him...and sometimes I wonder if what Ike said was true or just what Trevor wanted to hear. Even then, I never hear of any bullies or jealous lovers or any of the kind that would hate Ike enough to frame him for murder...I mean, he’s not perfect but he’s not the sort to make enemies.”
“Trevor...he does come up a lot in Isaac’s writings,” said Wilcox, leaning forward. “He was fond of punishing the boy and I wonder if framing him for murder would serve as some kind of an ‘ultimate punishment’.”
“If that were the case,” said Rhonda, sighing, “he’d have done it from afar...Trevor and I separated four years ago...we’re still finalizing the divorce as we speak. I suppose it’s a possibility, though.”
“Fits with the motive,” said Claudia. “Isaac had a behavioural problem that Trevor seemed to want to ‘fix’, he just never seemed to go the right way. What started this whole thing? We only have sketchy details since the suspension report wasn’t filled in properly.”
“When Ike was 15,” said Rhonda, letting out a heavy sigh, “he tried to befriend the most popular kid in school. The kid knew this so he set up Ike, telling him that if he grabbed a girl’s bottom he’d be part of the ‘cool club’. Ike was only too eager to play along, deciding he wouldn’t just smack one girl’s bum but several, thinking he was earning many ‘points’. Eventually it got all the way to the principal who, you would expect, wasn’t too thrilled about it. Ike was suspended for five days, upon which he understood the gravity of his actions.”
“Kids...” Claudia said, shaking her head sideways. “What happened with the other kids and were there charges pressed?”
“Ike identified the kids who tricked him,” said Rhonda, “but the teachers found no evidence they could use against them so they escaped punishment. I don’t remember the kids’ names though...it’s too long ago for me to remember. As for Ike, the police declined to press charges since the parents of the affected kids all knew Ike and knew he didn’t really mean any harm, feeling the suspension was enough of a punishment for him.”
“So what did Trevor do?” Wilcox asked.
“Well,” Rhonda said, “we have a shed outside where we keep many of our gardening tools and winter supplies...Trevor would often use that as the place he’d drag Ike for a beating. After the suspension, Trevor forbid him from entering the house, locking him up in the shed and leaving him there for over a month, only letting him out for school. I checked up on him to give him his food and wake him for school, plus I helped fashion a bed for him to sleep in, but other than that- and Trevor’s beatings- Ike was alone.”
“Wow,” said Claudia, “now that’s excessive...as if the beatings weren’t bad enough.”
“Trevor came from an ‘old school’ background,” said Rhonda. “Corporal punishment was the norm so he was just trying to instill that in Ike. I didn’t see his punishment at the time as excessive.”
“It’s drastic,” said Wilcox, “the beatings and being locked up in a shed...but I guess in context of how you’ve raised him what Ike did was drastic and you had to make a point.”
“We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one,” said Claudia. “What happened after the punishment?”
“Well,” said Rhonda, who took off her glasses momentarily to wipe her forehead. She took a deep breath before continuing. “This is where things got off the rails. Trevor decided he no longer could trust Ike around girls at all, so every time he caught Ike talking to one, he would beat him, with the beatings getting progressively worse. Everybody at school started to notice how much more withdrawn he had become because he was too afraid to interact with others. However, Ike always wanted to interact, especially with women, so he always tried to jump into conversations and get involved...but each time was awkward, with so many incidents being pure misunderstandings...it’s why he got in trouble so many times.”
“His lack of confidence made him appear ‘creepy’, so he was an easy target for his superiors,” said Claudia.
“Exactly,” said Rhonda. “He needed to learn how to interact with people but Trevor thought the only solution was to beat him and banish him to the shed.”
Claudia’s and Wilcox’s eyes both widened with shock. “Now that is excessive,” said Wilcox, with Claudia still trying to comprehend what horrors Ike went through.
“As Ike grew up,” continued Rhonda, “he got bigger and his fear of Trevor started to subside, although he still felt it for years. He began trying to defend himself during beatings, eventually getting to the point where the two of them would just be fighting. It got to the point where, one day, Trevor decided he had enough of Ike challenging his authority so he picked up a knife from the kitchen and wiggled it in Ike’s face, telling him he was going to stab him right there. Fortunately I was home and able to diffuse the situation by striking Trevor in the head with a rolling pin, and, at that point I took Ike by the hand and ran out of the house with him. We drove for hours before we settled on my mother’s house in Orlando, where I’d call the cops on Trevor. Since that point,” Rhonda paused, with tears forming in her eyes, “Trevor has been out of our lives, and Ike and I have lived together, alone. We’re still putting things back together but it’s so tough...and then this happens.” Rhonda then lost her composure as she bent over and started to cry uncontrollably, causing Wilcox to rub her back.
“It’s okay,” said Claudia, leaning forward and speaking softly, “you were so strong...you did very well.”
“Take your time,” said Wilcox, continuing to rub her back softly as Rhonda cried. “Let it all out.”
Rhonda sat up in her chair, tears still streaming from her face but she regained some of her composure. “Thanks for your help,” said Rhonda. “This has obviously been a lot...I think I’m going to go, have something to eat and call you guys later.”
“Please,” said Claudia, speaking softly but urgently while looking Rhonda in the eye. “Do not hesitate to do so.”

Rhonda nodded and left, leaving Claudia with her next task- assemble her team (with Wilcox in tow), notify Daytona Police and head for Daytona Beach to hunt for more clues. Claudia determined that since the society created Jolly Rodger and served to frame Isaac, she needed to better understand how Daytonan society worked.

June 10, 2014,
10:45 local time,
Outside the office of Guru Gotthegirl,
Ormond Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“Hey pretty lady!” shouted a man to a woman walking on the sidewalk across the street from him. “Why don’t you come over here and I’ll show you what a good time is!” The woman simply gave him a look and continued walking away, dismissing him which caused the man to turn his attention down the sidewalk. He was ready to dismiss the incident until a police officer stopped him in his tracks.

“Catcalling is sexual harassment,” said the policeman, only too eager to write up a citation.  He thrusted it in his face and just walked away, with the man looking in horror.

“$150?” he shouted, “this is an outrage!” However, by this point the officer was already too far into the distance, where he wrote another ticket to a man caught staring at the same woman.

The citation was inspired by a bylaw passed in the wake of the Jolly Rodger shooting aimed at ending Daytona’s “rape culture”, a culture that was said to have caused the shooting. Virtually any kind of unwanted attention imagineable- from touching to unwelcome words to even looks- were criminalized to various degrees in Daytona, with the definitions so strict it gave the appearance that virtually any interaction between men and women was illegal. Men- the overwhelming culprits and targets of the bylaw- had to walk virtual tightropes just to get consent from a woman, and sometimes not even that was enough to avoid a crime.

Meanwhile, Bartlett and Malcolm got out of their car and started to walk, discussing their case as they did. In doing so, they passed by a sign that said that Daytona was the “former home of the Daytona 500” and a billboard that proudly declared that the song, “Blurred Lines”, and male-oriented network Spike TV, among other entertainment, would no longer be broadcast in Daytona.

“So since dad left, Ike tried to make up for lost time by trying to learn quickly how to pick up girls,” said Malcolm, walking with Bartlett towards the office of famed Pick Up Artist Guru Gotthegirl, or more simply “Guru”, the stage name of David Patterson.
“Makes sense that he tried Guru,” said Bartlett, “he’s only been the No. 1 sought after PUA in the Daytona Beach area for over ten years.”
“Yeah but do his methods work?” Malcolm asked, a tinge of sarcasm in his voice.
“Didn’t for Isaac,” said Bartlett with a chuckle, concurring with Malcolm.

As the two of them got closer to Guru’s office, Malcolm stopped Bartlett to impart some wisdom.

“Now, no leading questions today Bartlett,” said Malcolm forcefully, thrusting his forefinger at Bartlett.
“Woah, woah, woah now,” said Bartlett, putting his hands in front of Malcolm. “I know this already...you don’t need to tell me.”
“You’re still new at this Bartlett, and I want to get this interview right. Isaac depends on it.”
“Relax buddy.” Bartlett chuckled softly before continuing on. “This isn’t my first interview...this ain’t my first battle with the samurai.”
Malcolm put his hands on his hips and looked Bartlett straight in the eye. “Excuse me? First of all, I’m Korean, not Japanese...if you’re going to make racially-charged comments then at least get the race right...not that you should be making those comments in the first place.”
Bartlett shook his head and sighed. “I’m sorry...I didn’t think it would offend you. It’s not like I called you a samurai...and besides, samurais are noble.”
Malcolm continued giving him a death glare.
“All right, fine...I’m sorry. Truly and deeply...look, we gotta a case to solve, let’s just bury the hatchet, shall we?”

Malcolm reluctantly agreed, and the two of them walked into the Guru’s office. After informing the secretary- who a short, skinny woman of Cantonese descent that spoke very little English- of the purpose of their visit, they got to the Guru’s quarters.

The entrance was stylized to look like the gates of the Taj Mahal, and inside was a decor meant to mimic the design of an Indian palace but upon closer inspection, much of the design was wrong. His walls and even the floor were painted white, which typically is the colour of purity and humility, qualities that the Guru and his office clearly lacked. He had a statue of an elephant in the middle of the room, modeled after an African elephant and dressed in regalia that befitted Persian Emperor Cyrus the Great more than the Gupta Emperors. He had fake trees that were representations of palm trees. He also adorned his office with other ornaments, like plastic alligators and several large plastic tigers, which upon closer inspection were representations of Siberian tigers, not the Bengalese tiger. His furnishings- which included a couch at the back wall where he had all his books and a few scattered “easy chairs”, including one by the fireplace along the left hand side wall- were all plush fabric coloured red, which contrasted with white in India since it represented violence and white is a colour of peace. A man-made stream flowed from one end of the room to the other, with the stream deep enough for someone to have a bath in, while the office’s loudspeakers played tranquil, ocean-wave sounds interspersed with the howls of an owl, a wolf and a mackaw.

Malcolm and Bartlett couldn’t help but shake their heads at all the mistakes that Guru made, but they decided they had more important things to do than expose how deep of a fraud he is. They looked around the room for him, seeing nothing but a few girls of Indochinese and Burmese descent in nothing but bikinis, something Malcolm made note of since they appeared to be all underage.

Eventually Bartlett spotted Guru- who seemed to have fallen in love with too many tanning salons- sitting by the fireplace, laying down on an easy chair with his legs spread far apart. In between his legs was a white woman, Felicity Smith, a young, svelte nuible blonde in her birthday suit, who was performing fellatio on Guru.

“Oh yeah, that feels so nice!” Guru said through a thoroughly fake Indian accent, panting and moaning as he was being pleasured. “Your lips wrap around me so tight...oooh yeah, flick that tongue! Work it! Work it!” Eventually Guru’s panting got heavier, with the intensity of his moans increasing causing Smith to work faster. A few moments later the Guru let out a welp of ecstacy, as he climaxed into Smith’s receptive mouth, which she gulped with great delight. When Smith finished swallowing Guru’s load, she got up, smiling at Guru. Guru readjusted his robe and gave Smith a hug, after which he smacked her on her butt, joking, “see baby, when you’ve got me, you don’t need coffee.”

“Guess you don’t get up unless you get off, right?” Bartlett said, sarcasm tinged in his voice.
“There’s nothing like starting a Tuesday morning with a nice, good BJ,” said Guru, grinning and putting on his turban. “How may I help you wonderful gentlemen? Are you here to enrol in my class?”
Malcolm and Bartlett wasted no time producing their badges. “Phineas Malcolm, FBII” said Malcolm before pointing towards Bartlett, “and this is my partner, Thomas Bartlett. We’re here to discuss a former client of yours, Isaac Johnson.”
“The Jolly Rodger shooter?” Guru said, confused. “I never taught him...not once.”
“Care to explain how Rhonda Johnson’s credit card shows a payment plan for your classes then?” Malcolm said sternly.
“Fine,” said Guru sighing. “I taught him...even though I don’t want to remember it...he hurt me the day of the shooting.”
“He did, or Jolly Rodger did?” Bartlett asked pointedly. “We don’t think Ike is Jolly Rodger...we think someone is trying to frame him...maybe someone like you, or a classmate.”
“I can’t see why I’d frame him,” said Guru. “The shootings ruined my business...and I don’t recall him making any enemies...he was shy and withdrawn.”
“In some way you are connected to the crime,” said Bartlett. “It’s no secret that PUAs like you contributed to the culture of sexual misconduct that was so pervasive in Daytona before the shootings, since you all only view women as prizes to be won, as if dating was some kind of carnival.”
Guru waved his finger back and forth forcefully and rapidly. “Woah, woah, woah,” he said, “you got it all wrong. There was no sexual misconduct, because we gave women what they wanted- nice, wonderful sex. See, you have to understand...if you know what you’re doing you can do whatever you want with a woman...sexual assault only happens when you’re awkward about it, like Isaac was. Women want men who are assertive and aggressive, often telling or giving the woman what she wants even when she doesn’t realize it.”
Both Bartlett and Malcolm gave Guru an incredulous look. “So I can jump a woman in a back alley and it won’t be rape, right?” Malcolm said.
“Not quite,” said Guru, “surprise attacks or forcing a woman into doing something she doesn’t want is poor social form and is a sign of a man who is not really assertive...no, you need to be subtle and escalate slowly, but never relenting or relinquishing control once you start. A woman wants to be dominated...she doesn’t want to be overwhelmed.”
“Oh okay,” said Bartlett, feigning agreement. “So how does a man do that? I suppose you teach that right?”
“The Guru Method,” said Guru, grinning widely. “It starts by approaching the target and saying something that sounds like a compliment but is really a neg in disguise.”
“Neg?” Malcolm asked.
“Short for ‘negative statement’,” said Bartlett, after which Malcolm nodded his head.
“Then,” said Guru, “once you’ve shaken the target’s confidence, she will start to feel insecure, which is when you pounce and show her what kind of a dominant man you are. That’s how I got my lovely ladies.”

Malcolm shook his head and looked at Guru with obvious disgust.

“Cut the crap, Patterson,” he said, angrily. “Two of your bikini girls don’t have their third mollars fully formed, meaning they’re no more than 17 years old, and two others don’t have fully formed tibias, meaning they can’t be any more than 16. Oh, and the fifth? Her second mollars have yet to form and her tibia also isn’t developed yet, meaning she can’t be any more than 13.”
“...and that girl sucking you off?” Bartlett interjected, “she’s a 19-year-old runaway from Abilene, Texas. Been reading about her and cases like hers since my high school days.” Bartlett then grinned before continuing. “I’m glad I found her.”

Patterson sighed and bit his lip, taking off his turban and dropping his fake accent, which caught the room off guard.

“Okay fine,” he said, “those prostitutes, I paid for them from overseas...got a good deal on them so I decided to plunk down my money. I admit...it’s not a good thing but...I like them young, but I didn’t know they were underage, I swear. As for Felicity...”

Patterson took a look in her direction and let out a heavy sigh, but it wasn’t until Felicity gave him a warm smile that he felt at ease.

“I met Dave at a rest stop,” said Felicity, interjecting. “Two months ago, actually. I’d been hopped up on coke and heroin that if he didn’t find me I don’t think I’d be alive right now. You were right, Agent, that I ran away...I ran away with a boy who promised me that we’d see the world but the only thing I remember seeing were his fists...so I spent many years running away from him, being homeless and shooting up all kinds of drugs. Really, Dave’s been a saviour...and if I got to keep up appearances to help out his business, then I will.”

“See Agents,” said Patterson, “we’re not evil. We’re misunderstood. We love women...that’s why we want to seduce them. It’s the people who don’t understand who we are and what we do that demonize us. People like Ike. He was eager at first but after a while he started asking all these questions before quitting the program. Then I heard about Jolly Rodger and it all made sense. I lost a dear friend in that shooting, a guy by the name of Smokey.” Patterson then began to cry, causing Felicity to instinctively put her hand on his back and start rubbing. “He was one of my first clients...taught him so well and we became best buds afterward. He was getting ready to settle down, having found a girl he loved and left behind...” Patterson paused, sniffling and blubbering before regaining his composure somewhat, “he left behind these wonderful goldfish...they were all he had...and that Jolly Rodger took him away from them.”

As Patterson cried uncontrollably, Malcolm and Bartlett stood motionless, trying to process what was happening. They sympathized with Patterson’s plight, although they found it strange one of the things he was crying over was a goldfish. Still, a pet is a pet, they realized, so they decided not to comment on the strangeness of the ordeal.

“We’re sorry for your loss,” said Malcolm, “we really are. If you work with us, we can mitigate the charges you’ll face...I don’t think we can let go of the fact you’ve hired underage prostitutes, even if you’re unaware of their age, but if you work with us we might be able to get you on the Union Sex Offender’s Program, where only the police know and have to know where you live. It may mean you’ll have to leave Carolinian territory, but at least you’ll be a harder target for vigilantes. I hope you understand.”
Patterson curled his lip to the side and nodded slowly, forced to accept his fate. “I do,” he said.

“If you don’t mind, we have a few questions about Smokey,” said Bartlett.
“Okay,” said Patterson, recovering his composure somewhat.
“Did Ike and Smokey meet?” Malcolm asked.
“They did,” said Patterson. “Smokey was at that point a ‘coach’ in my program and took Ike under his wing. They became close and partied together quite a bit, with Smokey taking him to all sorts of unique events just so Ike could ‘broaden his horizons’...see, Ike was so indecisive that we never knew he really liked out of life, so we had to ‘research’ it by trial and error. Since Smokey was open minded, he was the perfect coach for Isaac.”
“Did Ike and Smokey have a falling out?” Bartlett asked.
“As far as I understand the two kept in touch even after Ike stopped coming to class,” said Patterson, “but that could mean anything. See, I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss Ike, especially because I can’t think of anyone else who’d have the motive to kill Smokey.”

June 10, 2014
10:16 local time,
The home of Jefferson Percy,
Daytona Beach, The Municipality of Daytona

“Here he is!” Myers said, opening the door to the third bedroom of the house, which doubled as Percy’s recording studio. Myers, wearing her favourite sundress, answered the door for Pearl, clad in a blue crop top and short shorts, and led her to Percy, who was seated with two other men, the tall, pale and gangly Skip Peerless and the buff goatee’ed African-Daytonan Taylor Pruitt, at the mixing machine, all of whom were wearing loose tank tops and shorts. In one corner of the room, on a window sill, a watch stand was present, though the watch was missing. As Pearl entered and sat on stool near the machine, the men turned around in their chairs and greeted Pearl with handshakes. Myers smiled, pleased to have fulfilled her duty, and addressed the gathering before she left.

“Does anyone want anything?” Myers asked with a huge smile beeming from her face. “A sandwich? Lasagna? Beer? Wine? Coke? Water? Anything? I’ll make it.”

Three of the four gathered declined, but Pruitt piped up.

“I’ll take some of that leftover lasagna,” he said, “and some of that Merlot too.”
“All right,” said Myers, who couldn’t contain her excitement, “coming right up!”

“You’ve got a wonderful wife, Jeff,” said Pruitt with a smile as wide as his voice was booming.
“Yeah,” said Pearl, “she’s wonderful...tell me Jeff, are you only dating her because she fulfills traditional gender roles?”
Percy held out his hands defensively. “Woah now...since when is it wrong for a woman to be accomodating and welcoming? I don’t care if it’s a ‘traditional’ role for a woman, it’s just good common courtesy to take care of your guests and make them feel welcome in your home...you’d do the same thing too, right Agent?”
“Of course, but it’s wrong when only the woman does it. I don’t see you lifting a finger.”
Percy was defiant. “I’m the breadwinner...I work hard as a DJ...I didn’t become Daytona’s top promoter by slacking around. Besides, I let her work...she doesn’t have to stay in the house. She just chooses to.”
“Oh, you ‘let’ her work? Tell me Jeffrey, what else do you ‘let’ her do?”

Percy got up and angrily thrusted his forefinger at Pearl.

“Look,” he said, looking Pearl in the eye, “if you’ve just come here to patronize me then I’m going to have to ask you to leave.”

After a brief pause, Pearl spoke up.

“Well Jeff,” said Pearl, “I’m operating under the assumption that Ike isn’t Jolly Rodger, something you agree with, and I’m looking for someone else who’d fit the description...technically you and your misogynist ways fit the bill.”
“Woah now,” said Pruitt, “Ike’s our buddy...we’d never do that to him.”
“Besides,” said Peerless, “Jeff and I were in the studio when the shootings occurred.”
“...and I was asleep,” said Pruitt, giving Pearl a death glare.
“Can anyone back up those alibis?” Pearl asked, smirking.

It was at this moment that Myers returned with Pruitt’s food.

“Okay, so how’s everyone doing?” Myers asked, smiling as she gave Pruitt his lasagna and wine.

“Well, ‘Ms. FBII’ here is accusing the three of us of murder,” said Percy. “Says we’re ‘misogynists’.”
“Agent Pearl, seriously?” Myers said, putting her hands on her hips.
“Yes,” said Pearl, confidently.
Myers shook her head in a huff. “You got it all wrong,” she said, her voice raising as she spoke, “I love Jeff...I always have. No one is making me stay home and take care of things...I chose to do that. See, feminism has it all wrong...they seem to think that women have to have lives identical with men to live right when they don’t. No, it should be abour having the choice to do that or not...and I chose to be a housewife. Jeffrey makes enough on tour and with his events that I don’t need to work, and he has such strange hours that someone needs to stay behind and take care of the house, so I do it. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
“Ms. Myers,” said Pearl, “as a feminist myself, I never said that what you’re doing or what you chose to do is wrong...being a housewife is well within your rights. My problem is Jeff’s attitude, where he says that he ‘lets’ you work...I’m sorry but Jeff shouldn’t be thinking that the choice is anyone but yours.”
“Gosh,” said Percy, “it was a slip of the tongue...wrong choice of words. Of course I leave that decision with Ashley...that shouldn’t even be a question.”
“Yeah,” said Pruitt, “you know who else had a lot of slips of the tongue? Isaac Dwight Johnson. He loved women...whomever set him up knew that we’d be caught up in the hysteria to think clearly and they were right. ‘Rape culture’ was such a ‘problem’ that Jolly Rodger forced us to ‘solve’ things, and Daytona knew the image of women getting raped all the time was bad. So Daytona responded with absurd laws that criminalize just about every action you could do with a woman, hoping to ‘turn things around’ when they won’t. Instead, all we’re getting is a lot of good men in jail for things they don’t mean and one- Isaac- to be executed for it.”
“So you believe this is a feminist’s plot?” Pearl asked.
“Yes,” said Pruitt. “With Jolly Rodger likely being a male feminist, but yes. It’s the only way that Isaac was so quick to be singled out and convicted.”
“Besides,” interjected Percy, “you never hear of the men who died in that shooting...it’s all about the women.”
“Misogyny sells,” said Peerless. “Women, they know this...the story of the ‘damsel in distress’ has been around for milennia...it’s easy for women to play the victim, and for men to play the perpetrator. Isaac made the perfect candidate...he’s a loner, he has a history of misunderstandings with women and he’s not your ‘conventionally attractive’ guy...it’s easy to sell him as a ‘creep that needs to be dealt with’.”
“It seems like a bit of a stretch to assume that this was all done to frame Isaac,” said Pearl. “Since the police report wasn’t filed right away, I believe Isaac was a victim of circumstance...Jolly Rodger needed a lot of luck to pull off his escape and even to pull off the crime...he had to have a lot of other people he could frame just in case Isaac didn’t work out.”
“Not necessarily,” said Peerless. “If you really knew Isaac and knew how private his life is and how little his mother kept tabs on him, framing him wouldn’t be that hard.”
“However if you need alternates,” said Pruitt, “what about the three of us? We’re known for defending men’s rights and get shut down by feminists a lot...including when we tried to have a talk about misandry when Daytona was drafting their laws.”
“What happened then?” Pearl asked, intrigued.
“A few days after the shootings,” started Percy, “Daytona held a town hall meeting to discuss what laws we needed to implement. All sorts of people came up, talking about how society is slanted with men victimizing women, using the abstract like the damsel in distress to the factual, such as our high rape rate...if you were there, you’d be convinced that every man in Daytona was evil. I tried to go up there and explain things in rational terms, saying that while our rape rate is high it doesn’t mean all men are rapists- I had data and anecdotes to support it too, hard data no one else had. I wound up being shouted down and booed off the stage barely a few seconds after I got up there, with my speech being branded as hate.”
“OK,” said Pearl analyzing, “but your rape rate is pretty high. 400 per 100,000- at least that’s what the estimates say, because rape was poorly reported- is high.”
“Yeah,” said Percy, “but there are way more than 400 guys in Daytona, right? Plus the vast majority of those rapes are date or acquaintance rapes. Besides, you hit the nail on the head with the poor reporting- the main problem was that the police widely ignored or downplayed rape reports, meaning so much as getting an investigation, let alone a conviction was next to impossible. Fortunately now the town addressed that but they’ve gone the wrong way with it.”
“I remember one guy at the meeting threatened to shut down the party we were throwing a few weeks later,” said Peerless. “Fortunately that didn’t happen, but when Nancy was around we got worried.”

Pearl’s ears perked up upon hearing about the party, and a thought came to her.

“Your party,” said Pearl. “I think your frame artist attended it. Our team dismissed it since the person who reported it said he only ‘heard’ what Isaac did at the party and thus may not have been there...but he described what Isaac did in almost perfect detail, and that Nancy character was suspicious. Your friend, Cam Morris, kicked out Isaac for what he did with Nancy, right?”
“Yeah,” said Percy, “but I know Cam...he was merely looking out for the interests of the party. He knew, like I did, that if the police found out about people making out with drunk girls we’d be shut down immediately, and he simply cared about Nancy’s well-being. Plus he admitted to me afterward that he overreacted, like he tends to. That’s all it was...he wouldn’t report Isaac.”

June 10, 2014,
10:49 local time,
The Cracked Egg Diner,
Ormond Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“Listen,” said Morris, speaking softly into his cellphone that he pressed against his ear, “something is wrong.”
“What’s wrong?” replied a robotic voice at the other end of the phone call, concern tinged through its voice.
Morris took a sip of his coffee and readjusted his chair before continuing. “You said to me the case against Ike would be air tight, that no one would be able to question it.”
“I did, yes.”
“Well somebody is...the FBII.”
“How do you know?”
“My ‘friend’, Jeff, told me the FBII just questioned him about Ike, claiming that he was framed. How could they arrive at that conclusion if all they have is a profile? Ike fits it perfectly.”
“Remember something about profiles, Cam...they still have a lot of skeptics. I’m sure this is just one FBII agent on a hunch...they’ll eventually see that the profile was right. Besides, Ike has less than 8 hours left before he’ll be executed on live television...do you really think he’ll get cleared before then?”
Morris sighed. “I guess you’re right.”
“Don’t worry about it...we got this covered.”

With that, the pair said their goodbyes, but Morris still wasn’t satisfied. His mind wandered, still angry at Johnson, and though the payback felt nice, nothing could make up for the loss he still felt today.

March 31, 2004
20:56 local time,
Al Volante nightclub,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“Oh man, this night is going to be so awesome!” Janice Morris (nee Parker) said to her new husband, Cam, while the two of them waited in line to get into the club.
“I know,” said Cam, planting a kiss on Morris’ lips. “It’ll be nice to have some nights off and not have to DJ for a change. Now we can dance together.”
“I hope DJ Fred plays ‘Children of the Night’. That’s my favourite!”
“I know sweetie...and he will. I promise.”

A few minutes later, the doors to the club opened, upon which the patrons outside eagerly poured in to the club.

As soon as they entered, the newlyweds jumped on the dancefloor, swinging and swaying to the music without a care in the world. For the two of them, hailing from Orlando, this was the first night of their honeymoon, taken to coincide with Daytona’s “Sunshine Festival”, ten days of non-stop raves that represented the pinnacle of North American electronic music. They planned to spend the entire ten days there and maybe more- Morris’ fledgling DJ career meant that he had the flexibility to live wherever he liked.

The two of them danced together at first, filling themselves with liberal amounts of alcohol and drugs. They were both full of happiness and energy, and were eager to spread this vibe to anyone they met, with patrons later commenting that the couple gave “the best hugs”. Janice was wearing pigtails on her brunette hair, complete with plastic lens-less glasses, a white tank top she rolled up from her waist to expose her midriff, bright orange panties, knee-high socks and a frilly tutu skirt, with her wrists full of beaded bracelets called “kandi” she handed out- along with a hug- to everyone she met. Cam too had his fair share of kandi that he doled out along with hugs, and he was dressed to the nines on this occasion, wearing a white tank top himself, goggles, baggy pants rolled up to his knees and his brown hair gelled so that it had multiple spikes. Throughout the night, the pair danced alternatively amongst themselves and with the multitude of friends- new and old- that they engaged with that night.

Once the night wore to midnight, the legendary DJ Fred was to take the stage, with Nakatomi’s “Children of the Night” typically ending his set. At 11, Cam decided to check out Al Volante’s second room where another DJ- Percy- that he heard of but had never heard live was playing, telling Janice that he’d be back for 11:45.

As he danced to Percy’s set, though, Cam realized he was getting lost in the music. Percy’s style- a dark trance that mixed in some traditional house music along with edgier happy hardcore tunes- was revolutionary to Cam, and Cam made a note to find a way to work with Percy in the future. Thus, when the time came to meet back with his wife Cam was still partying to Percy, and when his set ended at 12, Cam was right there in the booth trading contact information with Percy, hoping one day the two would collaborate.

Cam then went back to the main room, knowing he’d have to apologize to Janice. He expected to find her quickly only to see that she was nowhere to be found. Did she leave without me? Cam thought, did she get mad I wasn’t back when I said I would be? His mind started to race, and the MDMA-induced synesthesia started to tint everything in bright, emphatic red. His teeth started to gnash like crazy, almost obliterating the pacifier he had placed in his mouth, with the burn in his throat reaching unbearable levels due to massive dehydration.

It still didn’t stop him from looking, and Cam searched the building as well as he could, racing around as he went. He first scanned the dancefloor again, looking carefully, but didn’t see her, causing Cam to dart to the DJ booth to see if she was hiding there. When she wasn’t, Cam went for the upstairs balcony to get a better look at the lower level, only to be frustrated again.

By this point, “Children of the Night” started to play, and tears formed in Cam’s eyes, as the one moment he had to share with Janice he’d be unable to. He went for a look inside the second room and the club’s small patio and got frustrated again, at which point he had no choice but to acquiesce to his thirst.

“Water,” Cam gasped to the bartender as he lunged onto the bar railing. “Water! Water please!”
“I’m sorry sir,” said the male server, “we don’t do tap water here. You can get a bottle of water for $5.”
“$5!” Cam screamed. “Are you insane!”
“It’s okay,” said a voice behind Cam, “I got this.” Cam turned around to see Percy giving the bartender a $5 bill.

Cam pounded away at the bottle as soon as he got it, finishing it in an instant. Percy then bought him another and then another, only for Cam to finish those too. Eventually, Percy looked into Cam’s bloodshot eyes and realized not everything was all right.

“Cam?” Percy said, looking directly into Cam’s eyes. “Are you okay?”
“I’ve downed ten ecstacy pills already,” replied Cam with a maniacly nervous laughter, “how could I not be?”
Ten pills my friend? Are you out of your mind?” Percy then put his hand on Cam’s shoulder. “I think maybe you need to go home.”

All Cam did was pull Percy towards him, holding Percy in a long, tight embrace while Cam cried uncontrollably on his shoulder.

“I can’t go home,” said Cam blubbering, “I need to find her first.”
“Her?” Percy said, confused, “who’s ‘her’?”
Cam was silent, deciding to continue crying on Percy’s shoulder.
“Cam, it’s okay...you can tell me. I’m here to help...I’ve always been.”
“She’s...she’s...”
“ ‘She’? Who’s ‘she’?”
“My wife!”

At this stage Cam’s crying turned into all out wails, enough to draw the attention of nearby partygoers who alerted security. A tall, muscular blonde male security guard approached both Percy and Cam.

“Sir?” The guard asked, tapping Cam on the shoulder, “are you okay?” When Cam didn’t answer, Percy turned to the guard, holding Cam up with one arm.

“This man has lost his wife,” said Percy. “I’m not sure when she left but he can’t find her at all...I saw him looking around for her. Can you help is out?”

The guard nodded for “yes” and radioed his colleagues after getting a description of Janice. After about half an hour and several false leads, the guard finally told Cam that Janice was nowhere to be found.

“We’re going to notify local police,” said the guard. “Usually in cases like these she just wandered around and got lost...they tend to turn out OK. Don’t worry man.”

“Cam,” said Percy, still propping Cam up, “why don’t we go for a walk? Maybe that will clear your head.” Cam nodded his head for “yes” and accompanied Percy out of the club’s doors.

The two of them walked for several minutes, arm in arm with Percy doing most of the lifting. Despite his worry Cam had seemed to be in good spirits, as Percy and Cam got to bond a little more. Eventually, an hour into their walk they came across a park, and the sight of what appeared to be someone sleeping on a bench caught the duo’s attention.

“Stupid homeless people,” said Percy as he took a look at the woman lying on the bench with her stomach against the backside of the bench and wrapped up in a large blanket. “Come on now,” he continued, shaking the woman, “get up, Cam and I need a place to sit.”

As Percy continued to shake the woman, the pair soon realized that she wasn’t asleep- she was unconscious. Percy and Cam, with the effects of the drugs starting to wear off, decided to move in for a closer look, deciding to turn her face towards them. Her head turned a little too easily, revealing that her throat had been slashed. Her body was still about as warm as Cam’s, indicating she hadn’t been dead for more than hour, but it was apparent that her killers had moved her body to the bench, since there was not a drop of blood on the ground. Her blanket, though, was soaked in her blood, as it was used to help contain the initial bleeding, and another stream of blood was seen running down her legs, indicating that she’d been raped.

Upon seeing her face, though, Cam started to cry, with a pit developing in Percy’s stomach, as they saw through the scars on her face to eventually realize who she was.

“My...” Cam said, blubbering, “my baby! My baby...NO!!!” Cam continued to sob uncontrollably. He then cradled her face in his hands, stroking her hair and seeing the pearl earings he gave her for her birthday this year, before placing her forehead next to his. His wails grew louder and louder and the tears flowed endlessly, with Cam having trouble coming to grips with what he saw.

“Who did this to you?” Cam said, despondent, “why? Why?! WHY?!?” He continued to cry some more before summoning the courage to talk again. “If only I hadn’t left you...if only I’d stayed with you this wouldn’t have happened...I’m sorry Janice, I’m sorry. I failed as a husband...if I can’t protect you then maybe this was right, because I don’t deserve you. Why? Oh gosh...WHY?!?” He then put his lips onto hers and kissed them one last time, and while her lips were still warm, her unresponsiveness meant the kiss would only ring hollow.

Percy then put his hand on Cam’s back, causing him to get up and give Percy a hearty embrace, something he reciprocated.

“Dude,” said Percy, “I’m sorry...I don’t know what to say. Just don’t beat yourself up man...there’s no way you could have stopped this.”
“Yes I could have,” Cam replied, sobbing, “we could have danced the whole night instead of splitting up.”
“That may be true...but you’ve been apart from her before and this didn’t happen. Please, Cam, this isn’t your fault.”
“Whomever did this is going to pay for it, I swear!”

Passing by the bench was Isaac Johnson, out for a walk because Trevor was again his same old unbearable self. Johnson saw the commotion so he decided to enquire about it.

“Hey,” said Johnson, meekly walking up the pair, stopping halfway befoe Percy egged him on. “What happened? I heard some screams and I got concerned.”
“You heard what?” Cam asked, his mouth agape with feelings of astonishment and disgust ensnaring him.
“Cam, relax,” said Percy, patting Cam’s back. “I don’t think this kid did this.”
“Liar!” Cam shouted, angrily thrusting his finger at Johnson. “Liar! He heard screams! He either did it or is hiding who did!”
Johnson curled away from Cam and meekly hung his head, before starting to cry.

“Oh, look at the poor baby,” said Cam in mock sympathy. “Do you miss Mommy?”
“No,” said Johnson, continuing to cry, “she can’t help me against Daddy.”

Percy, seeing enough of Cam’s antics, had to interject.

“Hi,” said Percy, putting his hand on Johnson’s shoulder. “My name is Jefferson Percy, but everyone calls me ‘Jeff’. Excuse my friend...he just lost his wife today. What’s your name?”
“Isaac,” said Johnson, appreciating Percy’s warmth, “Isaac Johnson, but everyone calls me ‘Ike’. I’m sorry about your friend’s wife. What happened?”
“Do you see that woman lying on the bench?” Percy then turned Ike so that he could see the bench. “That woman isn’t sleeping- she’s been killed. Someone raped her and then slit her throat.”
Johnson gasped. “What? How could someone do that? Have you guys called the police?”
“No. We haven’t had the chance to...we just discovered the body ourselves.”

Johnson wasted no time, pulling out his cell phone and calling the police, who arrived in mere minutes with three police cars.

“Hello,” said one policeman getting out of his car with a man in a business suit. “I’m Constable Mike Rogers,” said the officer before gesturing to the man in the suit, “and this is Detective Spike Torrens. What’s the matter?” Johnson went up to the officers and explained the situation, to which Torrens walked over to take a closer look.

“Judging by the body temperature,” said Torrens, analyzing the scene, “she’s only been dead for an hour, maybe an hour a half at most. Obviously, she’s been moved, because with this injury you’d expect a lot of blood on the ground but we don’t see a drop. Seems like the assailants had their way with her, slit her throat, waited for her to bleed out, used the blanket to wipe her up and then move her to this bench, where she’d pass as a sleeping transient. We’re probably looking at multiple assailants here.”

Torrens then turned his attention to Percy, Cam and Johnson.

“Now,” he said, “none of you saw the attack happen, is that correct?”
“No!” Cam interjected loudly. “This Isaac Johnson character heard screams! He did it! He had to have done it!”
“Cam,” Percy said, putting his hand momentarily on Cam’s shoulder, “settle down. Detective, this is my friend, Cam Morris’, wife, Janice. He’s still traumatized about the discovery.”
“Are you Isaac?” Torrens asked, staring Percy directly into the eyes.
“No,” said Johnson, “I’m Isaac. I was out for a walk when, maybe ten minutes before I called you, I heard screams and raced over to the scene to see what happened. I didn’t see anything until I got here.”
“Is that so?” Torrens turned his glare to Johnson, who was clearly rattled by it, a reaction Torrens made note of. Johnson seemed like a viable suspect to Torrens but he had to nail Johnson’s associates first before he could charge Johnson as well.
“Where were the two of you when this woman was killed?” Torrens asked, turning his attention to Cam and Percy.
“We both were at Al Volante until about 1AM or so,” said Percy, which Cam confirmed. “We were both only out for half an hour before we stumbled upon the body. You can check with the club to confirm our story.”

The interviews continued for some time afterward, with Torrens eventually clearing all three people. Torrens’ investigation would reveal that the culprits were three partygoers at Al Volante, all men, who took the drugged and easily sociable Janice outside of the club shortly after 11 and gang raped her before stealing her valuables and killing her.

However, before it went to trial procedural motions kept the felons out free, although they’d later be convicted of murder. Torrens had insisted that the trio be charged with rape, but the Daytonan District Attorney refused, worried what a rape charge would do to a Daytonan economy dependent on tourism. Torrens argued that shouldn’t matter, knowing that in those times any kind of sexual assault was pushed under the rug with most women already knowing the unofficial rate of sexual assaults was high. Torrens would be demoted to dispatcher as a result, though the police union meant he kept his detective’s salary, although Torrens still harboured resentment for the demotion. He felt a small sense of poetic justice when Jolly Rodger went through, since it forced Daytona to re-evaluate their promotion of “hedonism” and actually address their rape problem.

As for Cam, though he’d be contented with the fact that the felons were caught and sentenced to death for the murder (but not the rape) of Janice, but he never bought Torrens’ claim that Johnson had nothing to do with the crime. He eventually developed an obsession with Johnson, pledging to one day frame him for a crime. He also pledged to do that to Percy, too, jealous that Percy stayed atop the Daytonan promotion summit, earning millions, and that he and Johnson eventually became good friends.

Eventually, Cam’s obsessions with backstabbing his new friends turned into full blown misandry. Not a night would go by in his DJing rounds where he’d look at the men in attendance with scorn, and the women in the crowd with love. The events he hosted had policies heavily skewed towards women, with men being charged double the female cover, women getting better drink specials and better access to the events, and the men being more easily denied attendance, with several kicked out for frivolous incidents. Since Janice was raped, Cam concluded that male entitlement to sex caused it, and vowed one day to end it in Daytona, hoping his DJ career would allow him to do that.

However, Cam was never the best at promoting, and an incident in October 2009 essentially sealed his fate for good. At an event in Port Orange, he saw a man start to fondle a woman he appeared to have just met on the dancefloor. Enraged, he walked with purpose to the man and pulled him off the woman. He threatened to call the police, explaining that what the man was doing was sexual assault since he was taking advantage of the woman. The woman intervened, explaining that the man was actually her husband, but it didn’t sway Cam. Cam dismissed the woman’s claims believing she was drunk- which she was- and motioned for security to remove the male.

The male got verbally defensive, causing one of the guards to punch him and another to kick him in the shin, felling him instantly and allowing him to be carried out easily. It wouldn’t end the story though, as six months later the man would win a $5 million lawsuit against Cam for defamation. The suit bankrupted Cam and the bad publicity gutted his independent DJ career for good, causing him to work several odd, menial jobs he never could be bothered to stick with and forcing him to take whatever DJ gig he could find, even if it was with Percy. One person did give him solace, though, and though she never paid him, the experience was immensely rewarding.

June 10, 2014,
10:03 local time,
Sunshine Women’s Shelter,
Daytona Beach, Municipality of Daytona

“I’m telling you right away, Agents,” said Marla Kirk, the self-proclaimed leading feminist of Daytona after taking over the Shelter in January, to Claudia and Wilcox, all seated in her office, “you’re searching for a needle in a haystack. There’s hardly a shred of evidence that you will find that will implicate anyone other than Isaac Dwight Johnson.”
“We beg to differ, Marla,” said Claudia, sitting up straight.
“Ike doesn’t fit the profile, Marla,” said Wilcox, leaning forward. “We’ve re-examined it several times, and not once do we feel that it describes Ike at all.”
Kirk let out a sardonic chuckle. “Seriously, guys?” Kirk chortled, “Ike fits it to a T. How else do you explain all those incidents with women?”
“As we’ve already explained,” said Claudia, doing her best to hide her anger, “those incidents were born out of misunderstandings, not because Ike developed a hatred for women.”
“Besides,” said Wilcox, “we’d think a woman like yourself would have more issues with a guy like Smokey, Guru or DJ Percy...they’re more aligned to be your enemies than Ike is.”
“No,” said Kirk, “while Reggie, Dave or Jeff represent many vile things in this world, none of them pose the threat that Ike did...Ike was a creep. You saw the tape...he’s the geek that believes he’s owed the princess at the end of the game, only for him to realize that this is life, not a game...no woman ever deserves to be treated like that.”
“I find it quite surprising that you are not willing to entertain the possibility that it could be someone else,” said Wilcox. As Wilcox prattled, Claudia took notice of a photo thanking the volunteers of the shelter, a photo that included Cam Morris and Cassie Gordon both prominently and showing lots of enthusiasm. “I’m quite saddened, really.”
“Be sad,” said Kirk, getting up from her desk. “Be sad all you want.” Kirk gave the agents a steely glare while she continued. “Now, if we’re done here, I have some things to take care of.”
“Well, it was a pleasure,” said Claudia, delivering a fake smile.

Wilcox and Claudia wasted no time leaving their seats, walking purposefully out of the shelter. Once inside their car, a civilian rented Fiat Croma, Claudia and Wilcox analyzed what they found.

“She wouldn’t let go of Ike,” said Claudia, “like she was obsessed with him, which I find to be very odd behaviour for a person like Kirk.”
“She definitely sounds like she’s part of the plot,” said Wilcox. “What I also find interesting is that she referred to the other gentlemen by informal names, as if she was familiar with them. Smokey wasn’t Reginald Cousins, he was ‘Reggie’, Guru wasn’t David Patterson but ‘Dave’ and DJ Percy wasn’t Jefferson Percy but ‘Jeff’. I think she, or someone she knows, is stalking them.”
“Interesting point,” said Claudia, “although a person in her position may have dealt with them enough through protests and town council meetings and the like to develop a level of familiarity with them. We’ll keep it on the backburner, though.”

Wilcox paused to look at his phone, noting that Pearl texted him to tell him she thought Morris might offer a lead, although she only thought of it on a lark.

“Cam Morris,” said Claudia, leafing through images online on her phone, “what’s he look like?” She browsed for a few minutes before eventually landing on Morris’ picture and recalling the photo she saw in the shelter. “Ah, there he is,” she said upon arriving at the picture. “He was in the picture at the shelter where they thanked the volunteers...so he may be connected, but he doesn’t fit the profile...I mean, he’s written a lot of articles online blaming men for Daytona’s string of rapes, and, according to Percy’s and Ike’s witness reports, Cam was way too quick to villfy Isaac for what he did at the party.”
“I don’t think you’re going to get many people agreeing with you on that last part,” said Wilcox. “Few would think a guy making out with a girl who is high is doing the right thing.”
“Isaac’s intent wasn’t there though,” said Claudia. “Gender-flip it- if Isaac was high out of his mind and started making out with Nancy, he wouldn’t hear the end of how he shouldn’t have done it and gotten so high in the first place- remember, according to the law, an intoxicated person can still be convicted of sexual assault. The only thing Ike was guilty of not realizing what was happening fast enough.”
“Hmmnnn,” said Wilcox, “good point.” He then leafed through some files on his phone and realized that Morris had played that exact card in an incident with a man making out with a woman at another event.

Wilcox then paused, sitting up and mulling things over before he continued, a proverbial light bulb going off in his head.

“The profile,” said Wilcox. He sat and thought for a while before coming to a realization.

“What if we got the profile wrong?” Wilcox said. “What if Morris deliberately did things to throw off the profile, knowing that if he escaped the shooting, that’s all we would have? You know, I remember a detail I had dismissed but now I think it comes up with greater clarity.”
“What is it?” Claudia said, intrigued.
“The shooting began with Cam stopped at a light,” said Wilcox. “He engaged three males- one of them being Smokey- in conversation before pulling out a gun and shooting each one dead. At first I thought it was just an argument but Cam stopped the car first and only fired once he had the men in front of him. This wasn’t a spur of the moment shooting- it was personal.”
“So he hates Smokey and his friends,” said Claudia, nodding along.
“...and what kind of person is Smokey?” Wilcox said.
“A pick-up artist,” said Claudia, a light going off in her head. “So we don’t have a misogynist...we have a misandrist.”
“Not just that,” said Wilcox, “but we’ve also got a reluctant, likely submissive, participant. Since he threw us off on the misogynist angle, he’s likely throwing us off on the other angles- including the narcissism. Think about it- does the ‘Jolly Rodger’ moniker make any sense? He’s not a pirate, and he shot indiscriminately, indicating that he wasn’t concerned about people surviving.”
“Okay then,” said Claudia. “If so, he’d have to have a slip somewhere.”
“Take another look at that picture,” said Wilcox, pointing at Claudia’s phone. “Notice anything?”
“He’s wearing a bracelet with Dwight D. Eisenhower on it,” said Claudia, looking at the picture, “just like Rhonda Johnson did.”
“...and guess what just got reported missing,” said Wilcox, showing Claudia a text he just received.
“Inform the team,” said Claudia with purpose, starting up the car and driving off. “Let’s get him.”

June 10, 2014,
10:56 local time,
Cam Morris’ apartment complex,
Ormond Beach, the Municipality of Daytona

“Bartlett,” said Malcolm to Bartlett after putting on his seatbelt and preparing for the drive over to Cam Morris’ apartment complex, “I’m sorry about earlier.”
“No, I should be sorry,” said Bartlett, getting his seatbelt on. “I was insensitive.”
“It’s water under the bridge...you didn’t mean any harm and I goaded you into it.”
“It’s okay, really.”
Without skipping a beat in the conversation, Malcolm turned on the engine and started the drive. “Bartlett, do you know why Agent Claudia and I push you so hard?”
“Why?”
“Because I don’t think you understand exactly what you’re dealing with...you’re still in your ‘college mode’ when you need to get into real life.”
“I don’t understand.”
Malcolm sighed, pausing to find the right words to say. “That report about the Edmonton Predator...I know it’s a drag, but I need you to understand something about it.”
Bartlett shook his head and sighed, having a feeling Malcolm would bring up that report. “Malcolm, that report isn’t due for another four months, and I can whip it up in my sleep. Why do I need to do it now?”
“You know why? Because the longer you wait, the more opportunities there are for the Predator’s defence team to get the case thrown out. See, law enforcement doesn’t work like college- your professors might not care when you hand things in, but a judge and lawyers do. The Predator’s lawyers know we don’t have much of a case without that report, since it’s his activity on The Virus that revealed he was the true mastermind of the plan, and the longer you wait to hand in that report, the more the defence team can convine the judge that it does not exist.”
“Come on now, why would the judge believe that?”
“Because lawyers are sneaky...they know every trick and loophole you can think of to win their case, and they’re always looking for more. Don’t believe for one second that they’ll wait for you, patiently...no the defence is going to do everything they can to get the case thrown out quickly. Furthermore, the longer we wait to get our stuff in, the less professional we look, and that will undermine our credibility which will damage our case. So when Claudia says she needs that report...we need that report.”
“Okay.” Bartlett nodded, and then smiled politely.
“Just think about it, okay?”

It was a few moments later when the pair arrived at the scene.

“Cop cars?” Malcolm said, noticing the scene after getting out of his car once in the parking lot of the apartment complex.
“What are they here for?” Bartlett asked, confused.
“I don’t know,” said Pearl, readjusting the gun in her ankle holster, “but something tells me they’re not here to say ‘hello’.”

The three agents still got out of their cars and walked confidently to the officers, among them Sheriff Tory Moses. Moses wasted no time stepping in front of the trio.

“Good morning Sheriff,” said Malcolm after identifying himself and the rest of his team, looking the burly Sheriff in the eyes. “What happened here?”
“Simply put,” said Moses through his thick handlebar moustache, with a thick, gruff drawl. “You guys are not welcome here anymore.”
“I’m sorry?” Malcolm said, perplexed. “Did we do something wrong?”
“No,” said Moses, “we just don’t need your assistance anymore...the investigation has concluded.”
“We still weren’t finished, though,” said Bartlett.
“Did something happen to Cam?” Pearl asked with a worried look.
“We don’t care if you’re not finished,” said Moses, sternly. “We reviewed the investigation as it stood and concluded that no further information can be gained.
Pearl furrowed her brow and put her hands on her hips, staring Moses in the eye. “I’m not sure this is even your call to make,” said Peral“in any case, what happened to Cam?”
“That’s proprietary,” Moses said indignantly.
“I’m sorry, but we’re the FBII,” said Malcolm. “Considering this is- or at least was- our case we are privy to that information.
“You keep thinking that,” said Moses, curtly.

A few seconds later, Claudia and Wilcox arrived at the scene, which they wasted no time in joining.

“Hi Sheriff,” said Claudia, delivering a warm smile. “How’s it going?”
“Oh I’m pretty good,” said Moses with a chuckle. “How are you doing?”
Claudia answered smugly. “Well, I’m a little confused about what’s happening here and why no one told me that you’d be here.”
“We’ve finished the investigation, based on some new information.” Moses flashed his own smug smile and readjusted his belt.
“Oh? What new information?” Claudia glanced at Moses’ wrist and took note of his watch.
Moses folded his arms. “That’s proprietary.”
“That sensitive, right?”
“Yes ma’am.”
“Is it as sensitive as the bribe you took to get that Rolex?”

Upon saying that, the team took a look at his wristwatch and saw that it was a Rolex- a brand new one too.

“Bribe?” Moses said, nervously, “I bought this new.”
“You couldn’t have done that,” said Claudia, folding her arms. “That watch is worth a quarer of your entire earnings for the year, and I know you were convicted of tax evasion last year because you were penniless- I helped on that case.”

Moses stood in stunned silence and began fidgeting with whatever he could get his hands on- his moustache, his glasses, his hat, his belt buckle and even his loose front tooth, which grossed out Bartlett. He then chuckled nervously, but decided against speaking up.

“Who gave you the Rolex?” Malcolm asked, his arms folded.
“I...I don’t know,” stammered the Sheriff. “I don’t know, I swear. All I know is that when I returned home this morning to take an early lunch- like I normally do- I saw a box on my front porch. As soon as I picked it up, this man dressed in all black with some sort of a ‘Hallowe’en’ mask came from behind and shoved a gun into my back, telling me he would kill me if I didn’t help out Cam Morris today. He told me the Rolex has a camera on it and that he’d know if I complied...so he watched me put it on. After I did, he then walked away into his car, parked on the other side of the street.”
“You expect us to believe that story?” Pearl said, getting in his face. “A man in a costume, dressed in all black in hot Daytona Beach, that no one in broad daylight saw?”
“I live in a secluded neighbourhood and I got a camera in front of my house,” said Moses. “You can verify that way.”
The team still disbelieved him, but Claudia decided they had more important things to worry about.

“Since you’ve demonstrated that you’re less than noble a human being, let alone a sheriff,” said Claudia, “how about you tell us where Cam has run off to with Rhonda and maybe we’ll ‘forget’ about the whole bribery thing? Or I arrest you for obstruction of justice and end your career right now? Your choice.”
“How can I believe you?” Moses said. “I’m a cop too...I know your tricks.”
“Okay,” said Claudia, turning to her team, “who wants to ready their handcuffs? Julia, do you want to do the honours?”
“Sure,” Pearl said, eagerly pulling out her handcuffs.
“Okay, okay, okay,” said Moses, holding his hands out defensively. “He’s gone to the eastern shore of Crescent Lake, by Salt Creek. I’ll tell my men to arrest him.”
“No,” said Claudia, “just let us through, and be discreet about it. If he thinks something is amiss he may take matters into his own hands and put Rhonda in further risk. We can’t afford that.”
“Very well,” said Moses. “I’ll relay that order.” Moses radioed his men and informed them of the situation, allowing the team to head out.

Along the way, Wilcox asked Claudia a question about her motives.

“Don’t you think it’s an unnecessary risk, saving Rhonda at the last minute?” Wilcox asked. “It’d be easier if the police dealt with Cam than us.”
“Yes I know, it would be,” said Claudia, concern tinged in her voice, “but we’re being watched. Somebody knows that we’re on to the situation with Ike and they want to stop us from interfering. If Rhonda is to survive, Cam has to at least believe the situation hasn’t changed, and he won’t believe that, obviously, if the cops come rushing after him. Besides, he’s likely driving over there now- any indication that something is amiss will make him change course.”
Wilcox adjusted himself in his seat and leaned in towards Claudia. “Who could be watching us, though? Not The Virus, you don’t think- Ike is a member of the Web site, and they protect their own.”
“Ike isn’t a criminal, though. He’s one of several on that Site that won’t use it for nefarious purposes, plus it’s clear that no one on The Virus is setting him up for the frame job- he wasn’t hired like Tyrone Simmons was to commit a crime so that he could later be framed for it. He was just simply a convenient scapegoat, a user The Virus possibly thinks they can expel, for the simple reason that he’s not a criminal, since Virus users are naturally wary of non-criminals using their site.”
“Perhaps...or it’s all just a matter of coincidence that he was on The Virus in the first place...Cam’s obsession with him began long before Ike joined the Site.”
“That too. It could also not be The Virus- forces in Carolina are interested in keeping Ike as the culprit. This very well could be a political move- lots of people here in Daytona want this thing resolved, so there’s a lot of motivation to stop our investigation. I just know it’s not Marla or Cam who confronted the Sheriff- neither can afford to give away a Rolex.”
“The benefits of friends in high places.”
“Meaning, we have to watch it.”

June 10, 2014
11:49 local time,
Salt Creek, Crescent Lake,
Flagler County, Florida

“MOVE!” Morris said, pulling Rhonda Johnson violently from the back seat of his car. Johnson, with a steady flow of tears, had her hands tied behind her back, with a blindfold and a cleave gag affixed to her mouth. She wore nothing but a white tank top and short shorts, and also had her ankles bound during the journey but now was the time for Morris to release those bonds.

Morris pulled her up, and pushed her forward, urging her to march. When she didn’t, he clubbed her in the back of her head with his gun, a minature assault rifle, and shouted at her to move. This time Rhonda did so, although the tears continued to flow and she still moved slowly, gripped with the fear and uncertainty that was to befall her.

Morris couldn’t care less about her plight, pushing her harder and harder every step of the way. Every time she resisted moving forward was a blow to the back of her head and a strong tug of her hair to pull her back up, meaning she eventually was forced to comply. After twenty agonizing minutes, Rhonda and Morris found themselves at the water’s edge.

“Get down on your knees!” Morris yelled. Rhonda, still crying, was trembling, paralyzed by fear, and didn’t move an inch. Morris helped her out by grabbing the back of her head and smashing it against the ground, before proping her back up on her knees.

He then pointed the gun right at Rhonda and pulled back the safety valve, resting the barrel on her forehead so she could feel it. He then lowered her cleave gag.

“Here’s what I want you to do,” he said, forcefully but calmly. “I want you to suck my d***, whore, and swallow it...and if you bite or pull or try to harm me in any way, you will be shot. Do you understand?” Rhonda nodded “yes” and readied her lips for the agony, as Morris dropped his pants.

Morris breathed a sigh of relief when Rhonda put her mouth around his penis and sucked at it, with the breaths turning into breaths of joy as she continued. Despite being an unwilling participant, Rhonda decided to make the most of the fellatio and pull every trick she could to make Morris enjoy it, figuring it may make him sympathize with her. When Rhonda started using her tongue to flick at Morris, Morris let out welps of joy, with an ear to ear grin almost as wide as Crescent Lake itself.

What wasn’t happening was Morris getting aroused. Sure, he got somewhat hard as Rhonda performed her duties, but as the seconds turned into minutes, Morris wasn’t anywhere closer to a full erection than when he started. As the oral sex progressed, Morris got increasingly frustrated, wondering why it was taking him so long to get excited when Rhonda was doing such a good job.

“Faster!” Morris blurted to Rhonda, growling as she sped up. “FASTER!” He then let out several short but loud grunts and started to thrust on his own into Rhonda’s mouth. Still, try as he might, the erection wasn’t coming, so he made the decision to put his hand on the trigger.

“Cam Morris! FBII!” Claudia shouted as she got to the scene, her gun drawn. “Put down the weapon!” Soon, the rest of her team arrived in tow, joined by Daytona Police officers including a sniper camped out in a nearby tree.

Rattled, the surrounded Morris looked around him frantically, relaxing his finger from his gun trigger and giving Rhonda enough of a pause to make an escape to hide behind Pearl. He was too frightened to realize that he hadn’t yet pulled up his pants, though he cursed loudly when he realized he had lost Rhonda.

It was here that Wilcox intervened.

“Lower your weapons guys,” he said to the rest of the team and the officers present (though the sniper kept his gun ready), walking towards Morris. “Cam, it’s okay,” Wilcox said, softly. “We’re not here to hurt you...you can put your weapon down and pull up your pants...let’s have a chat, can we?”

“No,” said Morris, who now began to whimper, “you don’t understand...Isaac Johnson ruined my life...he took my wife from me even if he didn’t do it directly...he has to pay for it, and pay for it now!”
“Come on now Cam,” Wilcox implored, still speaking softly. “Even you know that’s not why you’re here. You wanted us to come here...we all know that you were reluctant to partake in this plot, but you did it anyway thinking it would heal the old wounds when it doesn’t.”
“No,” stammered Morris, “I thought of this plot! I’m the only actor in it!”
“Cam,” said Pearl, “it’s okay...she’s not here anymore. She can’t boss you around.”
“She?” Morris said, a perplexed look overcoming his face. “I have no idea who you’re talking about.”
“Marla Kirk,” interjected Claudia. “We know about you and her. We know she fed you the idea for the plot...we know she’s obsessed with Ike just like you are. We know you were worried about how it would turn out, hence why you failed to create a proper moniker for yourself, and now you know your fears are being realized, so you stole Jefferson Percy’s Rolex to bring us here. So, let us help you.”
“No,” said Morris, getting stern. “I am a willing participant.” Morris then put down his weapon and spoke into his cell phone. “Boys?” Morris commanded nonchalantly.

Immediately the Daytona Police officers that were there turned their guns on the AVTF, and almost in one fell swoop, each of them lowered their safeties and reached for the trigger. Mere seconds later, shots would ring out, with several dead afterward.

None of the dead, though, were the AVTF, as, unbeknownst to Morris, Aramean snipers were called in as soon as Claudia made the order to head to the scene. The snipers found a way to hide in the tall grasses and even in the lake, and shot dead every Daytona officer present, while shooting Cam in the back of his leg, missing his artery.

“Nice call,” said Claudia to Wilcox after calling paramedics. “You really tricked him. I didn’t know the Arameans had a special forces team in Palatka.”
“I knew,” said Wilcox, “that once he figured that my profile nailed the wrong guy he would think I got it all wrong, so I had to play to that sensibility. Besides, when a criminal wants you to go to them, it’s almost always an ambush, especially when we’re dealing with a military enthusiast like Cam is. As for the Arameans...how else do you think the Carolinians have been keeping the Florgians in line the past few years?”
“Good point. The only problem is now...” A look of concern overcame Claudia’s face as she continued, “now the cat is definitely out of the bag...we can’t hide The Virus forever, especially now that politicians seem to be taking part in it.”
“I think you’re overanalyzing...we don’t have any proof that politicians are using The Virus for their own ends.”
“Think about it, Dave...if the Sheriff can be so easily manipulated to stop our investigation, who else in Daytona is that interested? We seem to be the only ones trying to save Ike- everyone else wants to bury him.”
“So what’s next?”
“Well, we pay Cam’s apartment a visit and send some agents to arrest the Sheriff. Then we take on Marla Birk tonight when she gets on stage at the town council meeting to uphold Ike’s punishment. Hopefully by that point we’ve got enough to bury her.”

June 10, 2014
15:25 local time,
Daytona City Hall,
Daytona Beach, The Municipality of Daytona

“I still don’t understand why we have to have this meeting,” said Kirk to her assistant, Jessie Balmer, as they sat in the pews of a City Hall meeting room waiting for Judge Alderman and his staff to take their places behind the pulpit. “Ike did it...there’s no question of that.”
“It’s likely those stupid MRA’s,” said Balmer, shaking her head and chuckling sardonically. “They’re angry that you took the power from them...never mind that you were the only one that made any sense at that first town hall meeting.”
“That stupid Percy...always up to some trick. He had an event over the weekend where over 1,000 people asked for refunds...apparently knowing that people like Ike attended his parties was enough to derail his career...which is good because he deserves it.”
“I agree...too many women were taken advantage of at his parties...and he takes advantage of his wife, doing all that housework. Poor woman...she can do a lot better.”
“I choose to think about the positives...how girls now can wear what they like in schools and in public with the guys punished for not controlling themselves...how we got rid of Robin Thicke and Sir Mix-A-Lot and countless others from our airwaves...how men now must meet a much higher standard in order to get consent from a woman for sexual contact...how mothers now have the right to stay home and receive a stipend for it...how abortion is now legal and freely accessible...how we got rid of all the strip clubs and those awful bawdy and burlesque shows and told those women that no longer will they be objectified.” Kirk beamed a wide smile and let out a blissful sigh. “Yeah, we’ve got a lot of work left to do, like getting Percy and his cronies kicked out of Florgia, but Jessie...let’s focus on the positives first.”

It was here that Daytona Mayor Roger Benson took the stand to formally start the meeting.

“Ladies and gentlemen,” said Benson, shifting nervously behind the podium, “it is now 3:30 on June 10, 2014. Today we are gathered here, because of Ike’s lawyers, to re-evaluate his conviction, with this being the final step before we get to the stage we all want it to get to and that is his execution. So let’s get this over with quickly...meaning it’s my utmost pleasure to introduce you to the Honourable Judge Sue Alderman.”

As the crowd cheered, the 86-year-old Alderman rose from his seat in the front and walked gingerly towards the podium, the years of stress taking a physical toll on his body. After his introductory speech, he took to the Judge’s bench situated behind the podium.

Once he took to the bench, he welcomed anyone gathered to come forward to deliver a few words concerning the case. Most of the speakers were victims or relatives of the victims reminding those gathered of the impact Jolly Rodger had on their lives, so they added little to the proceedings, but Kirk- like she had before- would stir the pot with her speech.

“Good morning,” she said gregariously upon taking the stand, her wide, pearly white smile beaming for all to see. “I’m Marla Kirk and it’s a pleasure to be here today!

“However, enough with the pleasantries. You guys all know why I’m here, and it’s not just to remind you that Ike needs to have his life terminated tonight. No longer will the man who loves Big Macs terrorize us any longer- with his misogyny and, evidently, his dietary choices.” A small echo reverberated as the crowd laughed at Kirk’s last statement, which cause her to smirk at her cleverness before she continued on.

“As we know,” continued Kirk, authoritatively, her booming baritone commanding the room, “Jolly Rodger shook the sensibilities of Daytona to its core. We realized that for far too long we have seen the scourage of male entitlement of women take over this city, and Jolly Rodger made us realize that. However, arresting and convicting Isaac Dwight Johnson is only the beginning- I believe it is time that we also pass a bylaw where we identify anyone in as a Men’s Rights Activist or a Pick-Up Artist as a criminal. We have already decided to criminalize the behaviours- now we must criminalize the organizations that promote such behaviours.”

Meanwhile, away from City Hall was Bartlett, placing a call inside his car as the team was assisting Gordon- who had transfered back to her house for rehab- to come with them to City Hall.

“Hello?” Sophie Mullens, an FBII Technical Analyst, said as she answered the phone, following it up with a loud crack of her bubblegum. “Omigosh, what is it now?”
“Are you at a beach?” Bartlett said, believing he heard seagulls crowing in the background of Mullens’ side of the conversation.
“Like, totally,” said Mullens, snapping her bubblegum again. “It’s 100 degrees out man, like, I’m not going to sit in an office all day man, you know?” Mullens then readjusted herself in her chair and fixed her diamond-laced bikini top before taking a sip of her mojito.
“Man, I’d love to have your life...I hate being in an office.”
“Like I already told you, like, I gotta phone that’s like, just as good as the computers in Quantico. Like, you already know that.”
“Right, right, of course...anyhow, Sophie, we need you to restore a picture. A woman by the name of Cassandra Anne Gordon from Daytona Beach tells me she has a photo of Isaac Dwight Johnson on the beach at the time of the Jolly Rodger murders...however, her mother had to factory reset her phone since it was too damaged after the shooting. Can you restore the picture and send it to my phone?”

Silence befell the conversation besides another loud crack of bubblegum. Faintly, the tapping of keys could be furiously heard, and a message appeared on Claudia’s phone as she was stepping outside of the house and towards Bartlett. It was the picture that Gordon said she had, and it was sent to everyone’s phones, including Gordon.

“Dimples, you are good,” said Bartlett, smiling.
“Almost as good as you, Dark Rasta,” replied Mullens, smiling as she ended the call.

With the picture in tow, the team finally had the proof to exorate Isaac, so they drove frantically to City Hall to make their case.

When they got there, Kirk was still at the podium, explaining the details of her plan when Gordon, painfully trudging through the doors on her crutches, interrupted her.

“I never thought in a million years that it’d ever come to this,” said Gordon, her appearance shocking everyone in the room. She had multiple bandages wrapped around her to cover the many injuries and wounds she sustained in the attacks and the subsequent surgeries, with one wrapped around her head and covering her eye. The other eye was blackened, and scars could be seen covering her face. She wore an oversized purple T-Shirt to cover even more of the bandages, although some were still visible depending on how she moved. Her legs, though, were on full display through cutoff jean shorts, and they were a show of nothing but bruises and scars, with one bandage wrapped around her knee. Gordon was in no shape to resume her normal life and still had months of rehab to go in order for her to retain normal bodily function, but she decided today that since she was well enough to defend Isaac that she had to, considering that this was his last chance.

“I know guys,” said Gordon, putting her head down as the crowd gasped at the sight of her, “but hold your gasps. The real gasps should be directed at the front, because Marla is the real enemy.”
“Cassie!” Kirk shouted, astonished that Gordon would suggest that about her. “How could you even say that? We’ve worked together for so long now...you know I’m not the evil one here.”
“It took me a while before I realized it, but now I know, because it’s people like you who give feminism a bad name. You see, Marla, you believe you’re helping people out with your suggestions and the like, but the truth is your brand of ‘feminism’ isn’t about helping people and promoting equality. You are all about passively aggressively playing the victim just so you can get what you want.”
“That is absurd!”
Gordon winced as she adjusted herself on her crutches, but her voice remained one filled with conviction. “Then explain to me your choices, and explain to me why rapes still haven’t dropped since you took over.”
“Well, change like that will take a while...I’m sure you know that.”
“Then I’m pretty sure you also know we’re not going to ever get rid of the rapists or the misogynists completely.”
“That’s what you think.” Marla then stood up at the podium, briefly tugged at her blazer and flashed a smug smile.
“No Marla, that’s reality. Something you don’t live in.”

Gordon grimaced again as a sharp pain pierced through her forearm. It was only a stinger but the pain was still unbearable, as her joints were still getting used to the workload, and it would continue since she was far away from her morphine. Eventually it made gripping her crutches nearly impossible, but thankfully for her an astute observer was kind enough to give Gordon his seat, with a microphone given to Gordon.

“I’m sorry,” Gordon said, panting heavily to regain her composure. “I shouldn’t even be out here today but I have business to take care of.”

Gordon took another breath as Kirk rolled her eyes and let out an audible yawn. Gordon was unfazed.

“I must ask, Marla,” said Gordon, “did you really think things would get better when you banned “Blurred Lines”, most rap songs and a whole host of other material? Yet, you say nothing when a woman sings about objectifying herself, or about objectifying men.”
“The answer is pretty simple,” said Kirk, “when a woman celebrates her sexuality and her sexual prowess over men, she is liberating herself, telling herself that she is beautiful and that she will be under the control of no one. When a man talks about his sexuality, it is only about what he can get out of women, in order to control them and assert whatever dominance he believes he has left. Furthermore, when TV, billboards, radio and the like constantly bombard us with images of scantily clad women and promotes them as objects of desire, it normalizes the behaviour, telling men that it is OK to objectify when it is wrong.”
“How sick and demeaning of you.” Gordon shook her head as she continued. “Do you know all the men in the world? How can you generalize so simplistically and so self-righteously that you can even think that only women can appreciate the beauty of the human body and men cannot? I mean, gosh, seriously? I know we’ve met our share of demeaning men but we’ve also met our fair share of men who treated us with respect...we just tend to remember the cads because their actions are more memorable.

“Secondly, how can champion the idea of teaching men the concept of respect yet say that purported images of objectification ‘normalizes’ objectification behaviour? What, are men robots incapable of independent thought, unable to differentiate between fantasy, allegory and real life? You reveal yourself to be the hypocrite that you are, because that argument essentially says ‘boys will be boys and there’s nothing we can do to stop it’. Besides, if we’re going to complain about objectification we ought to go both ways with it- why is it that Madonna and Christina Aguilera can get a pass for objectifying men in their songs but Justin Timberlake cannot for his songs? If you’re going to rally against objectification, then go both ways with it.”

“Yes, but men have not been oppressed for thousands and thousands of years,” said Kirk, “we have to tip the balance.”
“First of all,” said Gordon, “you know nothing about history if you claim that to be true...many societies were equal, and some even favoured women. You’re just projecting your worldview onto a group of peoples that never saw it that way. Second of all, if we are to promote equality, shifting the wrong to one gender to another doesn’t do that. All you do with that is transfer the issues and suddenly we’re back at square one, with one gender being ‘lower’ than the other one, and we have this fight all over again. You don’t combat misogyny with misandry- you combat it by teaching that if we all work together, and not against each other, we can all achieve much more.

“I want to end with a clear example of the issues of Kirk’s beliefs with the abolition of the dress codes in Daytona’s public high schools. I read about what happened yesterday, and it helped inspire me to work through the pain and drag myself to the meeting.

“For those who are unaware, 15-year-old Peggy Sue Mankins was sent home on June 5, 2014 from James Falwell Memorial because she was wearing nothing but a sports bra, panties and ankle boots, with everything she needed for school in a Pokemon backpack. Since the school’s dress code required pants to be worn and shirts to at least cover the midriff, the principal sent her home. When Mankins protested, the principal argued that her clothing would ‘distract the boys’. So Mankins approached Marla here and raised a fuss, with Marla pointing out- not wrongly I might add- that it’s not Mankins’ or any other woman’s job to ensure the boys do not stare or otherwise disrespect women. Not surprisingly, due to the hysteria we’ve caught ourselves in, Mankins won, and now schoolchildren have the right to attend school in whatever fashion they wish, if they even decide to wear any fashions, that is.

“Was the school’s reasoning absurd? Of course it was- it’s not the girl’s job to ensure the boy has his self-control, it’s the boy’s. However, does this mean the answer is abolishing dress codes completely? Of course not. We needed to tweak them, sure, and make them more relevant to the modern age, as well as teach boys self-control and respect...not get rid of them. School is to teach kids about life, and in many jobs, they require dress codes, many far stricter than the typical high school dress code. Other instances, such as going for an evening to the opera, per se, also have their own dress codes...and these codes have nothing to do with ‘oppressing women’. No, it’s all about the situation and knowing what’s appropriate. If Peggy were at the beach, or in a yoga class, or a gym, or a track, or worked as a trainer, an athlete, or was simply at the park or out with friends then her attire would be acceptable. If Peggy had to work in a bank or as a server for Caesar, I’d be hard pressed to find anyone who’d think she’d be appropriately dressed.

“This is the problem with you Marla...you just want to whine so that you get what you want, when life isn’t like that. Meanwhile, the real problems don’t get addressed at all. Access to abortions still has way too many roadblocks. Education for girls is still uneven and underserved worldwide. Women are still being overwhelmingly denied leadership positions. Maternal rights haven’t moved an inch. Oh, and the wage gap is still as high as ever...except for you, someone who’s made millions because of this campaign, because, in your mind, some people are just more equal than you.”

“Ooooh,” said Kirk, trying to hide the grimace she now felt, “well if you think that got me, think again.”

Gordon could only smirk, knowing that she had gotten to Kirk.

“All right,” said Kirk, sighing, “if I’m so wrong, then what’s the right way of doing things?”
“First of all, we need to understand that we’ll never get rid of rape,” said Gordon. “It’s unsavoury to think of, but it’s reality. However, we can mitigate it, and lower the rate substantially. We start by teaching our men that masculine validation isn’t about how much sex they have but the meaningfulness of the relationships they have- that every moment, even if it’s fleeting, is one worthy of treasuring. We continue by telling men that they’re not dirty if they’re sexual, and that women are not dirty if they’re sexual...that sex and the human body can be works of art, and are not something that we should be ashamed of or disgusted with...it’s something to treasure and to admire. We teach common sense, by reminding people that it’s not safe to venture down dark alleys at night or be unaware of your surroundings, and to watch your drinks and how much you drink, while also remembering that forgetting those things won’t absolve someone from committing a wrong because of it. We also make sure that when we prosecute a rape we don’t focus on what the woman was wearing or what she was doing- merely whether or not the standard of consent was met. We tell people not to be afraid of each other but rather to set clear boundaries about what we are and are not comfortable with doing with other people, so that way we know who the real respectful people are. Finally, we work with the men, not against them, because if we are to achieve real equality, that’s the only way to do it. We don’t tell women to be afraid of everyone, because once you fear someone they become your enemy and that only leads to fights which we really need to get past.

“...and it starts by letting Isaac Dwight Johnson go.”

As murmurs and shocked glances overcame the room, Kirk could only shake her head and chuckle.

“So that’s what this was all about?” Kirk said. “Saving your ‘boyfriend’. Some kind of a ‘feminist’ you are. I got news for you, young lady...you won’t be saving anyone. Judge Alderman, take her away.”

“Not so fast!” Claudia said as the AVTF burst through the doors.
“Galla!” Gordon said, relieved. “What took you guys so long though? Did you have to leave things to the last minute?”
“Sorry Cassie,” said Claudia, “but parking was a nightmare...the municipal rates are outrageous...you guys might want to look at that.”

“Silence!” Kirk said, pounding her fist on the podium. “Do you have anything to say Agent or are you just here to waste more time?”
“Oh we got plenty,” Claudia said with a smirk. “We did some digging at Cam Morris’ place...we found a lot of interesting stuff. We know about your cabin in Savannah, where you filmed the video and where all the weaponry was found, and we know that ‘Nancy’- which isn’t her real name- is your daughter, someone you ‘gave’ to Cam to help him facilitate his own obsession with Johnson. Quite the ploy you have there, drugging her up and dyeing her hair just so Cam could ‘use’ her as a lure to frame Johnson at The Sands of Time. Of course, Ike being the target at that event was a stroke of luck- we found Smokey Cousins’ goldfish at Cam’s apartment, as well as a pendant that belonged to David Patterson depicting the Indian god Ganesh. We also found a comic that Cam posted online that featured evil characters that were caricatures of other Pick-Up Artists and Men’s Rights Activists that Cam hated, including a lasagna-loving African who looks a little too much like Taylor Pruitt. There were even a list of names that Cam had compiled, scribbled under the heading, ‘People I can frame for Jolly Rodger’, as well as details of how to manipulate the criminal profile to throw us off Cam’s path...we weren’t looking for a misogynist (which Ike isn’t anyway), but a misandrist like Cam.”

“That stuff is all planted!” Kirk shouted in a huff. “Cam isn’t so stupid as to leave all that evidence behind!”
“No, you’re right,” said Claudia, “he’s not...but he is reluctant enough a participant to not care about leaving the evidence behind. He wasn’t sure about this whole ‘Jolly Rodger’ thing from the start, and when the time came to come clean, he explained everything, including all of your connections to the crimes. He did tell us that if Jolly Rodger was successful he’d have used the new laws you brought in to take down Isaac if he didn’t do it with Jolly Rodger, so the fact that he could frame Isaac with that crime was an incredible stroke of luck.”

“You still have no evidence except the ramblings of a lunatic that I’m any way or shape involved in this crime,” said Kirk, folding her arms.

Claudia pulled out a sheet of paper and showed it to Alderman.

“Your Honour,” said Claudia, “this is the credit card bill for an Army Surplus store located in Rockford, Illinois that shows purchases for all the guns and ammunition for the attacks. Whose name is on this bill?”
“Marla Kirk,” said Alderman, shocked.
“Didn’t you come from Rockford, Marla?” Claudia said with a smirk.
“Two years ago, yeah,” said Kirk, sheepishly.
“Now, this didn’t enter the national database because you had the record hidden,” said Claudia. “We had to get an Illinois warrant just to secure the record. Why? Because you threatened a lawsuit against the store because the storefront manager had the gall to compliment your hat...you always like to use men, don’t you, Marla?”

Kirk chuckled nervously, while furiously eyeing the room for a quick escape route.

“Do you know what else I found interesting?” Claudia continued. “ ‘Nancy’- or Isabel Morris-Kirk- is the daughter of Cam, someone who Cam sired when he was just a teen and you were his high school teacher...no wonder you were so ‘hush hush’ about Isabel...you and Cam didn’t want to admit that she existed. Poor girl...and, small wonder Cam became a twisted man incapable of healthy relationships and concepts...you took advantage of him by taking away his chldhood. Pretty easy to raise a fervent soldier when he’s already your slave.”

“That’s all very nice, Galla,” said Kirk, smirking, “but you still haven’t proven that it wasn’t Ike behind the wheel.”
“On the contrary,” said Claudia, sending a picture to Alderman’s phone. “We recovered the picture you asked Alice Gordon to destroy, and, as Judge Alderman will see, it’s proof that Isaac wasn’t anywhere near the shootings when they occurred. Therefore, he can’t be ‘Jolly Rodger’.”
“Agent’s right,” said Alderman, looking at the details of the photo, as well as the official record from Gordon’s phone company, “Ike Johnson is no killer. You, Marla Kirk, are though. The evidence provided today by Agent Claudia is enough to convince me that you and Cam Morris were the real culprits, so I’m going to release Isaac and put you two in his place, unless the FBII will take you into custody.”
“Your Honour,” said Claudia, “that would be best.”
“Very well then,” said Alderman as police officers formally arrested Kirk, “this meeting is adjourned.” Alderman then struck his gavel and got up from his seat, with the rest of the crowd starting to scatter towards the exits.

As Claudia left, she paused briefly to look at her phone, noticing that Bartlett had finished his report on the Predator, done while the team looked for parking. She smiled, happy that Bartlett understood why she needed it, before reassuming her urgent pose as the team prepared to get Johnson from prison.

June 10, 2014
17:15 local time,
Chet Miller’s Quarters,
Carolinian Imperial Palace,
Macon, Georgia

“Hello everyone listening in Atlanta and the surrounding area,” said the DJ on Miller’s radio. “This is 94.7 FM, Power Radio playing all of your hits...if you haven’t heard the news, there’s a new twist in the ‘Jolly Rodger’ story where a new suspect has been captured...more details in a moment.”
“New suspect?” Miller said, confused, sitting at his desk.
“In the meantime,” continued the DJ, “we have a request from an unknown caller, who’s dedicating this song to our Emperor, Chet Miller. Here’s Florida Georgia Line with ‘Cruise’...and hey, it’s a great day for that.”
Miller sighed and shook his head, getting angry. He knew who sent the request- now he had to think about how to deal with the problem.

June 10, 2014,
17:30 local time,
Tomoka Correctional Institution,
Daytona Beach, The Municipality of Daytona

“Come on Ike,” said Johnson’s guard as he undid the locks to cell door. “Get up, it’s to leave.”

Johnson stood up from his bed and hung his head, sullen as he realized that this meant the end. He hoped for one more miracle to pull him out of his misery, but as the minutes ticked closer and closer to 6PM, Johnson began to lose hope. By now, seeing his guard unlock his door while another fasten cuffs to his wrists and his legs and chain both together, Johnson’s hope was all but lost.

As he walked down the hallway of Death Row, he thought about his life and the joys it brought him. He was glad that he got to live in Daytona, where the weather was always nice. He was thankful for his friends, the few that he had, because people like Percy were anchors when Johnson felt like he was floating away. Finally, he was thankful that he managed to finish high school and that, despite all the crap his family put him through, that he still was able to get through it.

Then he thought of his family and suddenly saddness overcame him. How Johnson wished he had a loving father, not someone who beat him to a pulp just because he got out of bed the wrong way. How he was jealous of other children, who were close to their parents and did many things with them, even into adulthood...oh, how Johnson wished he could say the same about him and his parents. He wondered what it would be like to have a sibling, especially a brother, feeling that if he had someone who could relate to the torment that he went through how much easier his life would be. He then thought about his mother, and how although she tried very hard to keep him happy, she was still ineffective at stopping Trevor’s fists.

Then the thought of all thoughts came to him and that was the fact that he was going to die alone. Oh how he wished he could have had a girlfriend at least once in his life and felt what it was like to have another human being love him and actually love him. He also pined about how the only person he kissed was Nancy, and how he wished he hadn’t- that kiss was a curse, he thought, because without that kiss he might not even be walking towards his death right now.

Then, suddenly, before he entered the chamber with the electric chair, his guard received a note as Claudia walked in behind them.

“You should be thankful,” said the guard as he undid Johnson’s chains, with a look of confusion on Johnson’s face. “They’re letting you go son.”
“What?” Johnson said, flabbergasted. “Why? I don’t deserve this...I never did. I deserve to die.”
“Isaac,” said Claudia warmly, “Agent Claudia with the FBII. Don’t say that. You have a lot of people who’d miss you if you left.”
“Really?” Johnson said, disbelieving. “My father beat me, my mother couldn’t stop his fists, my ‘friends’ never paid me one visit to me in prison and I have no girlfriend to speak of...so, really, who’s going to miss me?”
“Come on now, Ike,” said Claudia with a sigh, “your mother sought me out just to get you free, traveling all the way to Buffalo just to do it. If that doesn’t say ‘love’ then I don’t know what will.”
“I guess that’s a start,” said Johnson sheepishly, “but it won’t erase years of hurt, at least not overnight.”
“Look,” said Claudia, looking Johnson straight in the eye, “you now have a chance to do that, erase all those years and rebuild your life. There are so many people out there who wish they still had their mothers...you do. Treasure that.”
“My mother won’t be around forever,” said Johnson. “When she’s gone, who will I have left? I have no friends...I’ll just die alone, like I am now.”
“No, no...trust me,” said Claudia, outstretching her hand. “You’re not going to die alone, just please, trust me on this.”
“In any case,” said the guard, lording over the door to the electric chair, “we can’t fire up the electric chair and kill you because we don’t have the order to now...so if we did, that would be classified as murder. So, go with Agent Claudia...you can’t stay here.”
“Oh all right,” said Johnson, despondent. He took Claudia’s hand and walked with her out of the prison, although he had his head down the entire time and didn’t seem too excited that he now had his freedom. All he could think about was going home and killing himself, just like the guard said he should do.

The first person he saw was his mother, who ran up to Johnson and gave him a long, hearty hug. Johnson cried, being held in his mother’s arms, although he was shocked at seeing the many scars adorn her face. He was too caught up in the moment to ask about them, though.

As he completed the hug with Rhonda, a figure on crutches caught his eye as she was stepping out of one of the AVTF’s vehicles.

“Cassie?” Johnson said, shocked but excited upon seeing Gordon. “Is that you?”
“Yes,” said Gordon, whom Johnson barely recognized through all the bandages and scars. “Yes Ike, it’s me...and I’m sorry. I’m sorry I blew you off...I’m sorry I hurt you.” Tears started to form in her eyes as she continued to talk. “I’m sorry that I wrote you off so soon...I’m sorry that I...that I was so callous and that I was so mean.” Gordon began sniffling as she really started to cry, overwhelmed at the situation. “I’m sorry I didn’t see who you really were back then and how great of a guy you really are...I’m sorry you had to go through this mess, and I’m sorry I couldn’t save you sooner. I’m sorry...I’m sorry...gosh, I don’t know what more to say other than please, Ike, I’m begging you...I want another chance.”

Johnson flashed a smile before retracting it, a thought coming before him. Before had a chance to speak, Claudia knew exactly what it was he wanted to say, as Gordon watched on, eagerly, tears endlessly flowing from her eyes.

“Ike,” Claudia said, “Cassie was shot by Jolly Rodger...she was in and out of surgery for weeks...in fact, she’ll need to be in rehab for many more months, if not years. She shouldn’t even be outside of her house...yet she mustered up enough energy to come out today and speak passionately in front of Marla Kirk and stand up to her and her silly policies. She did all that to save you, and if it wasn’t for her, you wouldn’t be standing here today.”
“You...you did all that?” Johnson said, gasping though his smile was returning, “you did all that...for me?”

Gordon, her tears of angst turning into tears of joy, nodded “yes”, which prompted Johnson to walk up to her, wrap her in his arms and give her a nice, long kiss, which caused the AVTF and Rhonda to have wide smiles.

He got so wrapped up in it, though, that he knocked Gordon momentarily off balance.

“Easy there, Tiger,” said Gordon, readjusting herself with Johnson’s help, “I’m still on crutches...I can’t lean back too much.”
“Right,” said Johnson as both chuckled and looked at each other lovingly. “I’m sorry...I guess I’m just so happy this worked out.”
“Me too,” said Gordon, as the two of them resumed their kiss.

“No matter what you think, or how difficult the situation or how treacherous the journey, you are never alone in tackling it- you might not always see it, but never think you don’t have a helping hand.”- The Oracle of Delphi, Yearly Missives, 2009