scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
Why Creative Writing Teachers Should Encourage Reading and Writing of Genre Fic

First off, literary fiction is a myth, and I mean that both figuratively and literally. The western tradition of writing comes not from what we think of as realism in the realm of literature, but from a mythical and allegorical understanding of the world. Some of the earliest literature that most students are exposed to is Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad, (some students get to read Virgil’s Aneid and the Epic of Gilgamesh as well,) which contains magic, action, interpersonal relationships, contradictions, people’s political and philosophical thoughts, improbable adventures, romance, horror, gods, fate, and long sea voyages. It’s also one of the world’s best-known works of fanfiction. (After all, Homer did not invent the stories of Odysseus or Achilles any more than Hesiod invented all the stories of the Olympians. Homer is just who we attribute the composed and written versions to.)

Most “literary” fiction that is presented to students as a classic has similar elements, yet escapes being labeled as “genre” fic because it’s old, or written by famous people. Just going down my own high school required reading list – Frankenstein and Dracula are both in many ways horror and adventure novels, Great Expectations (actually, anything by Dickens) is a long, slice-of-life type soap opera with adventure, mystery, and supernatural elements, Romeo and Juliet is actually just a stage adaptation of a much older tragic romance, (Shakespeare is the world’s most famous author of fanfiction in the English language,) The Scarlet Letter is essentially a work of magical realism with some psychological horror, The Great Gatsby is yet another tragic romance with slice of life and soap opera tendencies, and Brave New World, 1984, and Fahrenheit 451 are all sci fi.

All of the above were not written to fit the specifications of “literary” fiction as imposed by English teachers: they were all written for the mass market of their day. Any teacher who insists that “fantasy,” doesn’t sell should be banned from teaching anything with magical or supernatural elements, such as Dracula, Hamlet, Macbeth, The Odyssey, The Divine Comedy, and many works of Edgar Allen Poe, to name just a few staples of the middle and high school English curriculum. (They’re also living under a rock, since many of the best-selling franchises of the 90’s and the first decade of the 2000’s have been fantasy or sci fi, a genre which also includes superheroes somewhere along the spectrum.)

There is no one true literature, and here's how genre fiction makes you write better anyway )

 TLDR; If you teach "literary fiction" as being both completely seperate from and better than "genre fiction," you're doing it wrong. If you say that "It's that way because that's how literature is taught," you're committing a variety of logical fallacies, foremost among them being appeal to authority. If you say that my essay is essentially wrong because I have a degree in science instead of literature, you're technically launching an ad-hominem argument in conjunction with your appeal to presumed authority. And since anyone with access to wikipedia can sit here and play spot the fallacy as well as I can, it's time to start thinking critically about why people revere literary fiction so much (besides that they're taught to in school.)
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Haven't finished reading Poor Unfortunate Souls yet?

That's okay. All but two of Christian Grey's crimes were committed canonically, over the course of Fifty Shades of Grey and the first nine or so chapters of Fifty Shades Darker. This is just the list of ones that I managed to research.
Christan Grey’s crimes according to Washington State Law, and his subsequent sentencing:

Warning: Christian Grey's Crimes include stalking, rape, kidnapping, identity theft, unlawful imprisonment, physical, psychological, and financial abuse, and if I've missed something, let me know. I went for the big ones during the sentencing. Every one of these crimes is supported by evidence within canon.
Rape in the first and second degrees. (In canon, he 1. breaks into Anastasia’s apartment after delivering a threat to rape her, 2. threatens physical harm to her in his parents’ boathouse unless she has sex with him, 3. Just read any chapter with a sex scene in it, there will be coercion involved (second degree), 4. Any of the several times he got Ana drunk (second degree).)  Rape in the first degree is a class A felony and has a minimum sentence of ten years, and in Washington the convicted party has no chance of a reduced or deferred sentence, and cannot be released in the first three years of his imprisonment.

My jury recommended a minimum of ten years for Leila, ten years for Sophia, and ten years for Anastasia. (30+)

Improperly Obtaining Financial Information, Identity theft (He has the bank account numbers and social security numbers of all fourteen of his victims in canon. In the fic he also transferred funds from his victims’ accounts. Welch is canonically an accomplice in the act of obtaining this information and was also charged.)

Since there are fourteen counts, Grey and Welch are repeat offenders, making their identity theft felonious each time even if they hadn’t stolen anything. As we know from canon that he has messed with Anastasia Steele’s bank account to the tune of at least $24,000, (adding it is still a crime, because he got in there illegally - would it have killed him to write a check?) and felony identity theft is a minimum of two years plus restitutions. *Warning, it’s a PDF. My jury went for two years per girl. (28+, for a total of fifty two years so far.)

Kidnapping in the Second Degree (In canon, he attempts to carry Ana away by force. Ana didn’t press charges in this fic, but Sophia did.) Kidnapping in the second degree with sexual intent is a Class A felony and holds a minimum sentence of ten years.

My jury gave him a minimum of ten years for Sophia, ten years for Leila, and three for Anastasia, who didn't speak against him. (23+ or seventy five years so far.)

Unlawful Imprisonment (He had Leila involuntarily committed to a psychiatric hospital in canon. This is illegal. After the timeline between canon and my fic diverged (June 11) he also had Leila restrained and held within the private practice of his therapist, which is also both awful and illegal.)

Unlawful Imprisonment is a class C felony, and according to Washington state law, knowingly restraining someone is Unlawful Imprisonment. This can, to the best of my knowledge, be added to the kidnapping charges above, so if we say three years each for Leila, Sophia, and Anastasia, our current total is eighty four years in prison.)

Stalking (This is absolutely and completely canon. Instances of stalking in this fic which occurred to Leila or Sophia in this fic are either canon or are legally identical to those experienced by Anastasia Steele to the best of my knowledge.) I did not find a minimum sentence for stalking, mostly because I’d already racked up close to ninety and was more interested in the Unlawful Imprisonment.

My jury recommended a year each for stalking Leila, Sophia, and Ana, but my inner judge would like to give him an additional four for his contribution to Leila’s mental state. Officially, we’re at eighty seven.

Custodial interference in the first degree. (He used Leila’s personal and financial information to control her medical and mental health treatment in canon. He has no legal relationship to her whatsoever, being neither her husband nor her next of kin, and should have no right to dictate her treatment even if Leila was found to be temporarily or permanently incompetent to decide her own treatment.)
Custodial interference is a class C felony, which probably means a minimum of two years or so. Our total is now at eighty nine years.

Perjury and contempt of court. (Grey lies so often in canon with no concern for whether or not Ana or anyone else will discover the truth that adding perjury to his list of charges was pathetically in character. All that I really needed to do was make sure that the judge was female to guarantee that he’d make a misogynistic comment that would get him charged with contempt.) this is the only crime listed in this sporking that he has not outright committed in plain sight in canon.

My jury gave Grey a year for being an unrepentant dickwad and for insulting the judge, bringing the total up to ninety. (Okay, so the words ‘unrepentant dickwad’ probably didn’t feature in the jury’s actual report.)

I don’t know much about sentencing, so I went with the minimum for all that I could pin on him. It's possible that I undercut it, yet it still came out to a lifetime. Your romantic hero being eligible for a lifetime in prison is a sign that you’re writing romance and likeable heroes wrongly.

Many, many thanks to Gehayi and to Ket Makura for sporking Fifty Shades of Grey and Fifty Shades Darker as well as helping me find several of Christian’s crimes. If anyone knows of ones that I have missed, feel free to add them here. If anyone has more legal knowledge than me (I’m an environmental science [chemistry/biology/geology] major, after all,) then feel free to correct me here!
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

In the end, they had to move the trial out of Seattle. It was a preventative measure to keep Grey’s relative fame from influencing the jury – and to keep the jury relatively free of past connection to any of his businesses. Before the trial, however, Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc filed for bankruptcy: an infamous CEO is not good for stocks, even when the board of directors is only too eager to fire him in an attempt to save their public image. I lost track of the financial wrangling after a while, but it appears that after the bankruptcy, the company shook off its various investments and emerged more or less in one much smaller piece, under a different name, with different management. It was bought up almost instantly by an electronics company named after a raincoat.

The trial itself took nearly a week. Grey was charged with fourteen counts of felonious identity theft, stalking, unlawful imprisonment, custodial interference, kidnapping, rape in both the first and second degree, and to top it all off, perjury and contempt of court when he lied about each and every one of his charges and screamed across the room that the judge was a filthy whore.

Nobody sitting on the side of the prosecution was surprised in the least. Especially not when the jury took only six hours to find him guilty of all charges, and to recommend a sentence of ninety years or life imprisonment.

Grey’s evidence against Elena Lincoln was not considered admissible by the court after he had already lied on the witness stand. The sudden lack of financial aid from Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc and the lawsuit that her husband brought against her within the month, however, ruined her personal fortune, and would have ruined Esclava if Franco hadn’t bought it right out from under her, at what I’m told was a ridiculously cheap price. He allowed all of the workers to stay with the company if they wanted to, and before long the chain, renamed Liberté, was open again. Nobody ever asked where he’d gotten the money, but rumor had it that he had an older sister who had decided to fund the purchase.

Sawyer and Taylor were tried separately for their involvement in Grey’s crimes, and found to have only been accomplices under extreme duress, so they were each given a year of community service. The last I heard, Sawyer was teaching a practical self-defense class and volunteering at the humane society rehabilitating neglected dogs, and Taylor was working for a nonprofit dedicated to raising money and awareness for a variety of mental health disorders, and driving down to Oregon every weekend to see his daughter Sophie.

Although Leila and Sophia testified against Grey, Anastasia Steele did not. It seemed to me that she still didn’t understand what he’d done wrong, and I wondered how deep you could sink into denial without drowning in it. After the trial, she left Seattle.

It bruised my heart all over again when Kate called us to say that Ana had found out she’d hired us to investigate, and proceeded to blame Kate for everything, before packing her things and moving to Georgia to stay with her mother while she looked for a new job. I told Kate that she’d done all she could, and that it was the right thing, but I’m not certain it sank in.

Some people will always hate you for saving them.

Allie and I took on a few more cases that summer, but by late August we both felt that we’d overstayed our welcome in that world. The days, never terribly warm in Seattle, had already started to loom down to fog and soon the mysterious scent of wet leaves would be in the air. It was time to go home.

With the kind of timing that would do a psychic proud, Officer Rayne turned up for an impromptu visit on the very day that we’d finished packing everything up, donated everything we couldn’t carry, and run out the lease.

“Going somewhere?” she asked in surprise, raising an eyebrow at the sight of our apartment, completely bare except for the furniture that had come with it.

“Home,” I said to her, and didn’t bother explaining further.

“I forgot, you’re not from around here, are you?” Since she was standing in our doorway and wearing a t-shirt with a cartoon skunk on it, the question was unofficial as well as rhetorical. “Business in town not what you expected?”

“Anything we can do for you?” Allie asked her. The hurrying but supposedly casual tone she used never works on cops. They see right through it.

Officer Rayne was not the exception that proved the rule. “Yes, actually,” she said, taking a step forward into the empty apartment, “You used to be a stage magician, right? Now, I know how you saw a lady in half and put her back together, but I’m still curious as to how you break a reinforced security door neatly down the middle and forget to put it back the way you found it.”

I exchanged a glance with Allie. We’d planned to be gone in fifteen minute, and this looked like a long conversation if Officer Rayne got any traction.


She cut me off in the middle of stepping forward. “Ah, yes – I forgot, half the show is really the assistant doing all the work. Why don’t you tell me how you managed to get into the Fairmont – and the Escala building, for that matter?”

“She’s not my assistant,” Allie said, sighing. “And for that matter, I’m not a stage magician and never was.”

Officer Rayne’s eyebrows tried to reunite themselves with her scalp.

“Why don’t you sit down?” I asked her. “The furniture’s still here.”

With a completely unnecessary roll of her eyes, Officer Rayne parked herself in a chair and Allie and I took the fold-out couch. I gave Allie a little prod with my foot, seeing as the explanation here was more of her department.

Allie poked me back and went for the blunt force approach. “I’m not a stage magician, I’m a real mage. I bend the laws of physics, and I can prove it to you.”

For a moment, Officer Rayne just stared at us. Then she frowned. “You’re a wizard?”

“If you need a title, I prefer Mage,” Allie replied.

“Are you for real?” asked Officer Rayne in disbelief.

I rolled my eyes. “Don’t pay any attention to her,” I advised the officer, “There’s an unnecessarily complicated system of titles and responsibilities to go with those two words where she grew up. She keeps getting bent out of shape when people who don’t know any better use the wrong one. The only thing that you really have to remember is not to call her Lady Veldon – that’s her sister.”

Officer Rayne blinked. “You’re what, European nobility? You don’t have an accent.”

Allie smiled. “Further away than that.”

It took a moment – and a few blinks – for Officer Rayne to work her way to the next question. “Okay, then, what does she do?” she asked, tilting her chin at me.

“I see auras,” I explained.

“… Auras,” she repeated, “like… new age medicine and crystals and Ouija boards and dancing around Stonehenge kind of auras?”

“No. I see magic,” I corrected her, “Or, if you want to get really technical, I have a form of synesthesia that allows me to see extra energy leaking into our part of the multiverse as colored lights, noises, smells, and other fun sensations. Some people, like Allie, are able to harness a fair bit of that energy, while other people, like you and me, get only a little of that energy attracted to us.”

She seemed to consider it. “You’re aware of how completely nutty you sound, right?”

“Extremely aware,” I told her, “If it helps, I was still shocked when I found everything out, even though where I grew up everyone knew that magic existed, even if they mostly ignored it.”

“Where you grew up.” Officer Rayne was fast becoming an expert at making a flat, bemused statement and having it interpreted as a question.

“It was a completely different world,” I explained, with more than a little sense of the irony. “To make a very long story extremely short, there are plenty of alternate worlds due to the technical nature of the actual high level laws of physics, and Allie can travel between them: I’m just riding shotgun.” Seeing the officer’s look of blank disbelief, I turned to Allie. “I think you’d better prove to her that we’re not completely crazy,” I said.

Allie sighed. “Pick a piece of furniture -”

“No,” Officer Rayne cut in, “You don’t get to pick the proof – it could be rigged somehow. Here,” she said, pulling a pen out of her bag.

“Turn this into a caterpillar.”

“Transfiguration only happens in fairy tales and fantasy novels,” Allie replied, “pick something that is actually possible in the real world without breaking the laws of physics.”

As she spoke, the pen slowly and smoothly lifted off the table, floating upwards until it came to a rest in front of Officer Rayne’s face. She gaped at it for a second before she snatched it out of the air and felt it all over for wires.

“Right, what else can you do?” she asked quickly. “Because, assuming that you didn’t find a way to rig that, I need to know. Is it just the stuff from Matilda, or do you need a wand?”

“Fire’s always easy,” Allie replied. “Got a post-it?”

Officer Rayne offered her a folded napkin instead, and Allie took the pen back from her and scratched a perfunctory string of symbols. Then she held it in front of her face and we all watched it combust.

“The symbols help, but aren’t always necessary, unless you want to do something specific,” Allie explained, as the flames turned from yellow to blue to green, then to red, “They also keep things from getting out of hand, and once you start the spell, you don’t have to worry as much about getting distracted. Some people still prefer speaking the spell, or tend to get caught short. I can do this in my head and you’d never know it was me, but I’ve been in practice since I was five, so you probably don’t need to worry about meeting anyone else who can.”

The flame went out. Officer Rayne leaned forward and snatched up the charred napkin. “How many of you are there?”

“Usually, about one in every twenty has enough magic to use,” I told her, “But around here, on your world? I’ve got no way to be sure, but I doubt it’s more than one out of a hundred, and most of those would probably go through life never knowing.”

“We don’t mean for you to worry too much about mages,” Allie added, “But you do deserve to know.”

Now the officer’s look was calculating. “If I learn the symbols, then I can tell if magic’s been used -”

She broke off as Allie shook her head. “The words and symbols don’t have any power, really,” Allie said, “They’re more of a means of focus, or a bit like a personal programming language. You train yourself to direct energies according to this or that command, and since you’re the conduit, they’ll keep on behaving that way when your back is turned, rather than, say, starting a forest fire.”

Officer Rayne winced visibly, then seemed to settle into her disappointment. “All right. I’ve seen enough movies to know that playing with the forces of nature isn’t actually a good idea, no matter how much I’d like to be able to use the Force,” she said, “I’ll probably have more questions in a minute, but for now I’ll settle for knowing why both of you took such extra measures against Christian Grey.”

Once again, Allie and I traded a look.

“We were concerned that he might be controlling his victims through magic,” I told Officer Rayne, “as it turns out, he wasn’t, but -”

“You mean that mind control actually exists?” she interrupted, suspiciously.

Beside me, Allie twitched in her seat, and I laid a stilling hand on her knee. “Not precisely,” I said, “It’s more subtle than that – the best scientists have only just been able to start pinning down the possible particle physics behind magic, it’s interactions with the mind are completely unknown -”

“Cut the lecture, I’m here for the evidence,” said Officer Rayne, leaning forward in her seat, “If there’s any possibility that someone’s out there, doing awful things to people with magic -”

“Then you’ll never hear about it,” Allie cut in darkly. “You wouldn’t even know about it if it happened to you. You’d go on seeing what he wanted you to see and the only way you’d ever know is if he made a mistake. And if you ever meet someone with that sort of ability, my only advice is to shoot him dead on sight.” Her eyes were digging holes into Officer Rayne, and I reached over and squeezed her hand.

“The chance of that is about one in four billion, or even less, near as we can tell,” I said, trying to be comforting.

Officer Rayne still looked alarmed. “That means that there’s probably one or two of them out there in the world right now,” she protested.

“Everyone chooses what they do with their gifts,” I replied. “If it’s any comfort, we can’t even be sure that the membrane of this universe is even thin enough to let that amount of energy through. The turbulence when Allie and I arrived was unbelievable.”

It was a poorly timed joke, and earned me a look of utter disbelief from Officer Rayne, but the tightness in Allie’s face and eyes uncoiled.

“Backing up a step,” I continued, “when I observed Christian Grey’s aura, it appeared to consume the auras of women that he interacted with, and it left… traces on some of his victims.” I stumbled over the thought of those twining grey vines, but continued on quickly. “There are some things that can leave a mark on a person’s aura other than magic – the onset of some mental illnesses, traumatic events, travel between worlds done very wrong – so, while I couldn’t rule out the possibility that Grey was a mage, I also couldn’t rule out the possibility that his physical actions were causing those traces.” Especially since I’d heard Sophia’s story before I’d checked her aura, so there had been no way to tell if my brain was incorporating what I already knew, or if the disorganized part of my brain that actually took in and sorted that particular type of energy was even functioning properly at the time.

I was used to second guessing my own brain by that point, but that didn’t mean that I had to like it.

Allie took over. “Of that one in twenty people who are potential mages, four out of five are usually what we call latent mages: people who have a borderline capacity to direct energy, or who have simply never tried it due to lack of knowledge, lack of training, or lack of dedication. People like that can sometimes use their abilities, but they tend to be sort of one-trick ponies. Some are, say, extremely lucky at cards, or very good with animals. In a lot of cases it can be more of a charismatic thing – people are drawn towards that energy, even if you don’t use it and nobody but Lindsay can see what’s going on.”

“But for most people, their latency does nothing unless they’re in a very dangerous situation,” I added, “focused by fear or desperation, really. Then it kicks in and you get things like mothers lifting cars off their children, soldiers dragging wounded comrades impossible distances to treatment, people surviving for amazing amounts of time without food or water, that sort of thing.”

“What she’s trying to say is that we did some extra digging on Christian Grey between his arrest and his trial,” Allie put in helpfully. “His adoptive parents, Carrick Grey and Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey, have been quite public in the past about their middle son’s adoption and -”

“I actually look these things up,” Officer Rayne reminded us, “Clearance, and all that, which neither of you officially has.” She didn’t sound too much like she was scolding us though, just thoughtful. We’d dumped a lot of information on her in the past half hour. “You think that his magic got, um, triggered or something due to child abuse, and it sort of - if this is even possible – takes energy from other people?”

“If it does, this would be the first case we’ve seen,” I said. “But it would explain why his aura seeks out women, and since your magic is part of your mind, it’s entirely possible that when he seeks out a young woman who reminds him of his mother, he’s breaking down her resistance with his aura before any of his other abuses start. There’s a very small field of research starting up a few worlds over that suggests that sudden changes in the amount of extradimensional energy you receive can have a negative impact on your mental health.” I shrugged, not knowing how else to explain it.

“So the abused became the abuser, is that what you’re saying?” Officer Rayne asked, settling back and crossing her arms. “I’d say that if you take out all of the psi-ability mumbo jumbo, that’s hardly an original statement.”

“Well, it’s what I’ve got,” I replied. “If there’s anyone else in the multiverse who sees auras, I’ve missed them in passing, but you’re free to consult them if you like.”

“Linds, knock it off,” Allie said. “She’d be lost even if you’d given her a textbook. And that’s not a comment on your competence,” she added, turning to Officer Rayne, “but it’s just that we might as well ask you to wake up one day and start playing with the Higgs Boson -”

“Oh, so that does exist?” Officer Rayne asked.

“Well, there you go then,” Allie said, waving a distracted hand as she unfolded from the couch. “I know it’s a lot, and if we were planning to stay any longer we’d answer more of your questions, but… it’s how the world is. You’ll get used to it.”

Officer Rayne didn’t look so sure.

“What happens if we do start having problems with mages?” she asked.

Allie just winked at her. “We’ll check in from time to time.” It was only natural for Officer Rayne to worry, but given what we’d seen of this world, she’d never have a problem. Still, checking in wouldn’t hurt.

Once Officer Rayne had left, we locked up the apartment behind us, and nearly tripped over the package that had been left for us by the front mailboxes. There was a brown box about six inches tall, and a foot and a half by about a foot wide, addressed to both of us.

Allie slit the tape with a word and I picked up the postcard that was nestled on top of the wrappings. The writing on the back was tiny.

Allie and Lindsay,
Thank you for everything. It’s not enough, I know, but without you I wouldn’t be out here, or anywhere in particular, really.
I wanted to write earlier, but I just couldn’t find the words. There was too long that I couldn’t say anything, could hardly remember everything. My throat used to close up whenever I talked about anything that reminded me of it, but yesterday I finally talked to my mom. She cried, obviously. So did I. She’s been coming with me to all my doctor’s appointments, for emotional support I guess. Maybe to keep an eye on me? I don’t know though, it’s been kind of weird. I haven’t spent this long at home and actually been happy since I was eighteen.
Mark’s going to be back in a month. He says that if I want to stay separated or get divorced, he’s fine with it, and is behind me all the way. I don’t know, though. I mean, I’ve known Mark half my life, and I’ve always thought of him as something safe and solid, hard to move, just there. Supposedly, he had a crush on me since we were seventeen, but we really haven’t spent much time together since the wedding. He was only home a month before he went back to Iraq, and then I was in the hospital, and now I guess I’ll see. I don’t feel like an army wife, but maybe that’s a good thing. I’m thinking of commuting to school in spring term, depending on how things go.
Until then – see that lighthouse on the front? Yeah, I’m going to paint that.
-- Leila Cooper Williams

“Hey, she returned my coat,” Allie said, and dived into the box, effectively shredding the wrapping. “Got it washed too, I see.”

I smiled and tucked the postcard into my pocket as she shrugged on the trenchcoat, settling it on her shoulders like a superhero’s cape or a medieval cloak. Then she offered me her arm, and, as an afterthought, sent the packaging sailing towards the bins with a flick of her other hand.

“Ready?” she asked.

“For the next great adventure? Yes,” I replied, and we both stepped forward.

The afternoon sun shone merrily down on the square of sidewalk where we’d just been standing.
* Apparently, Lindsay still hasn’t acclimated to our world. You only get one guess as to which electronics company is named after a Scottish raincoat.
** Christian Grey’s multiple class A felonies are what racked up to ninety years. The fact that we as the audience know he has raped fourteen girls should put him well over ninety years alone, but given the amount of information available to my fictional Jury (not all the girls were able or willing to come forward,) he got as much as they could conclusively prove him guilty of, which is still complete removal from civilized society. I’m posting his crimes and my notes on them separately, as a sort of appendix.
*** Taylor and Sawyer’s sentencing might not be 100% realistic, but I think a sympathetic jury (such as the entirety of the readers of this fic) could probably settle on it. Let me know what you think.
**** Having Officer Rayne reference Harry Potter was tempting, but since this book is set in 2011 she’s a bit old for it to have been a sure bet. Matilda is by Roald Dahl, but it’s more likely that Emily Rayne has seen the 1996 movie.
***** The Higgs Boson was discovered on July 4 2012, and Fifty Shades is set in 2011.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

The thing about Seattle is that even the police stations are proud of their coffee.

Not that I was in any state to properly enjoy it; the combined forces of fading adrenaline, a long night, and boredom had caused me to take an unscheduled desk nap. A nap which was rudely interrupted by a hand holding a cup of what looked like suspicious station coffee, but tasted like the first step towards forgiveness, maybe mine.

I was really, really out of it.

“Well, well,” said an exasperated voice that I recognized from over the phone, “I should have guessed. What part of ‘do not confront Christian Grey’ didn’t you understand?”

I looked up at a scowl, which matched the uniform. Officer Rayne was in maybe her late thirties, early forties, had short hair, and looked like a particularly strict grade school teacher.

Well, it wasn’t the first time I’d faced the music after throwing the rules away when they kept me from doing the right thing. It was kind of a pity, though – I’d been starting to like Officer Rayne.

“I know you hear this all the time, but it sort of happened on accident.” I smiled at her without any real hope that it would help. After all, she was just doing her job, and I was undeniably in her way.

She snorted, then gestured at the other cop in the room, the one who had firmly cemented his role as good cop when he’d given me the coffee. I hadn’t noticed anything except that his hand held caffeine on the first go – now I saw that his hair was gathering around his ears out of some frantic herd instinct, and that he had the eyes of a long-time officer. Better yet, at least as far as I was concerned, he had a smirk threatening to escape his professional expression.

“Tell him that,” Officer Rayne said. “He’s Officer Cross.” Then she turned to him. “Frank, meet the newest pain in my ass.”

The smirk poked its head out the door. “The private detective?” Cross asked.

“One of two.” Officer Rayne’s exasperated sigh and the subsequent widening of the smirk were good signs.

I decided that was as good of an opening as any.

“Lindsay Pilot,” I put in. “Usually, I’d have come into the station under my own power, but…”

Officer Cross’ smirk was approaching Cheshire proportions. Apparently, word had gotten around the station while I’d been busy taking a desk nap.

“Miss Pilot,” he began, “We need to take your statement regarding the events of last night - well, earlier this morning,” he amended, checking his watch.

To make a very long story extremely short, I told him the essentials. There were holes in the story – usually magic-shaped ones – that I was just too exhausted to try and patch up, but Officer Cross didn’t ask me many questions. By the time I was finished, it was the dog end of the night and my mouth tasted like cold station coffee and a dead hamster. All I really wanted at that moment was to go home and crash on the bed, safe in the knowledge that Christian Grey was currently taking his nap in a cell. Maybe some time in the next century, I’d go boil myself in the shower.

Officer Rayne, who was a good cop with a healthy dose of cynicism, bought approximately fifty percent of it. Officer Cross, who was cast as the sympathetic cop today, just sat and listened and took notes. Lots of notes. Notes that I was too groggy to read upside down, even if he hadn’t been a good enough cop to keep his arm in front of them so an irrepressibly curious and irredeemably nosy witness couldn’t see what he was writing.

It might even have worked if I wasn’t too tired to get nervous, or even to give a damn.

I finished everything with a skull-splitting yawn. The coffee was gone, and it hadn’t even made a dent in my by now monumental caffeine tolerance.

Cross flipped through his notes. “So, in the time since you were last in contact with Officer Rayne, you and miss Aliea Veldon followed Christian Grey to Bellevue in order to observe his actions, have been harboring a fugitive from a mental hospital, followed said fugitive to Christian Grey’s place of residence, somehow came into contact with two members of his security team, discovered that he was staying at the Fairmont, immediately went to the Fairmont, again attempting to find said fugitive, and… entered the hotel room. You neglected to tell me how, by the way.” His voice was quiet and not quite amused any more. The smirk had disappeared some time during my statement.

I decided to cut to the chase. “You know it’s all in how you phrase it,” I told him, “I do actually know my job, and you’ll find that nothing that Allie and I have done in the course of our investigation has been against the law.”

Technically, we’d probably been guilty of trespass in Escala, but trespassing was one of those laws that’s easy for the police to ignore if nobody’s actually complained to them about it. I didn’t think that Taylor was going to complain. Besides, all they had was a vague glow on the security cameras.

“It’s your job to check, of course,” I added.

“Of course,” Officer Rayne replied dryly.

“As far as Leila being supposedly a fugitive from a mental hospital, Allie cleared that with Officer Rayne,” I added, “I’m not a psychologist, but I believe she’s been wrongfully imprisoned. She definitely wasn’t committed voluntarily, and she can’t have been committed here by a family member with power of attorney, because her husband is deployed and her parents are still on the east coast. As far as I know, she’s still listed as a missing person in Massachusetts.”

“She is, actually,” Officer Rayne told Cross, “I looked her up yesterday.”

“If you can get a hold of the records of the hospital in Massachusetts, as well as the one here, I’ll bet you a cup of coffee that you’ll find that Christian Grey or someone who traces directly back to him had her committed at both of them.”

Cross looked at me with subdued interest again, while Rayne seemed not to know whether to perk up or not.

“Did she tell you which hospital?” Cross asked me.

She hadn’t, and I sincerely doubted she was going to want to talk to me now. I realized that I was going to go home to that pile of neatly folded sheets on the pull out couch and the accusing silence that lurks in hollow places, like the inside of emptied soup cans and the extra mug sitting in the sink.

I shook my head. “I’d start from the one closest to Escala, or just the downtown area, and work my way out,” I said. “I think that maybe he’d have tried to keep her close by.” My unprofessional knowledge of psychology had firmly placed Grey in the box of ‘asshole who will milk the most human suffering possible out of any given situation.’ It wasn’t an unbiased assessment, but it was right anyway.

“That your hunch?” Cross asked mildly. I noticed that he’d dropped the whole somehow getting places at three in the morning angle of questions for the time being. The benefits, I supposed grimly, of cooperating with the police.

“We found Leila downtown,” I told him, “unless a twenty three year old woman who currently weighs about ninety pounds soaking wet and has two injured arms managed to walk all the way across Seattle after breaking out of a psychiatric ward, she hasn’t come from very far away.”

This time, Officer Rayne smirked at Officer Cross and he frowned at her.

“If you could tell us once more for the record why you went out hunting for your houseguest at three in the morning,” she continued, using the kind of professional voice that encourages you to fill in the blanks.

That sounded like a wrap-up question if I’d ever heard one. “She left us a note that she was going to confront Christian Grey,” I replied, summarizing quickly, “It was sort of imperative that someone find her and talk her out of it.”

“Did you fear that she would commit suicide?”

I’d known the question was coming and it still stuck sideways in my throat like a fishbone. I tried to explain and couldn’t get that barb of emotions out, so I swallowed quite a bit.

“Yeah,” I said.

“Any particular reason why?” Officer Rayne asked, leaning back and crossing her arms at me. “As you’ve explained to us, you’re not a psychologist. Why did you choose to go and try to help Leila on your own? Why not call in the police, especially if you thought she might force entry somewhere? Why not bring in a professional, someone who actually is qualified to assess the situation and to keep things under control?”

I’d thought I was too tired to be angry. What would have been a flash of irritation at the way that Officer Rayne had detached herself from the situation, the way she picked it all apart after the fact, on a full night’s sleep and in daylight, coiled behind my ribs.

“It’s not that -” I stopped myself before I said too much, forced myself to wait until my eyes no longer burned. “Look, I know the signs,” I told the officers, “you don’t have to be a psychological genius to -” I stopped myself again. It didn’t seem to be working. Anybody who says I have an analytical mind and a sharp tongue hasn’t seen me falling apart in a police station at the first wince of dawn after a difficult case. “She’s got scars from attempts,” I said instead. “Grey was abusive to her in every possible way, and I know that at least two of her attempts were prompted by contact with him. I should have called the police, but I thought we could catch her before she got to Escala, and you’ve already heard – and agreed with – my unprofessional opinion that she’d panic at the first sign that someone wanted to hospitalize her again. I can’t say I blame her.”

I pushed my glasses up and rubbed at my grainy eyes. A strain of music floated past my ear as I saw the dusty, denim blue haze of Officer Rayne’s aura. Something with horns. Bizzarely, I smelled the sweat of horses and had the distinct impression of gravel crunching under my feet. It was gone when I looked at her again through my glasses, and saw the wrinkles forming on her forehead, and the bags under her eyes that only come with living on a diet of coffee and useful work.

It was terribly quiet in the interview room for quite a few minutes. Long enough for my anger and frustration to saddle up and go out prospecting to find my lost adrenaline, and for disappointment to put on its house slippers. I presumed that I’d eventually be let go, and so would Allie. But they were going to put Leila in a tiny box again, at least until they’d contacted her parents and decided whether or not she should have been in a psychiatric ward in the first place.

I couldn’t help the feeling that I’d failed her.

“What’s going to happen to her?” I asked Officer Rayne. Her expression did a brief, bad impression of a smile.

“Special Victims is sorting out a safe place for her,” she said. “Pending an assessment to make sure she’s not still a suicide risk. She’ll contact you if she wants you to know any more, until then -”

“Yeah, I know. Give her some space.”

Officer Rayne walked me out down the halls dimly lit by the pre-dawn greyness coming in through the windows, which had already overpowered the buzzing fluorescents. Allie was sprawled on one of the benches, asleep with her face tucked into her elbow, looking for the entire world like napping on couches in police stations was ordinary and fairly comfortable. Rayne and Cross must have interviewed her first, before they got around to me.

I proceeded to shake her awake.

“What, no coffee?” she said to Officer Rayne as soon as she’d levered herself up from horizontal and was on her way to her feet.

“Only the first cup is free,” Rayne replied, a little sharply. I concentrated on her expression for the first time since I’d left the interview room, and wondered sleepily why she looked so frustrated. Then I wondered if she was angry at us. “If you’d been good little detectives, we might let you visit for a while, but as it is -”

“As what is?” I asked, and then found myself staring cross eyed down my nose at Officer Rayne’s finger.

“I don’t know what you two idiots thought you were doing,” she said in a very angry undertone, “but you came very close to jeopardizing this investigation. Grey is likely to press charges against you both, now that he’s got that expensive lawyer in there with him, and your names are all over our case files. Do you know how that looks to a judge, especially when your ex-military friend went all Die Hard and probably would have shot Grey if we got there a minute later?”

“Taylor’s more of an acquaintance,” said my mouth.

Even Allie glared at me.

“Look, I know your type,” Officer Rayne said to me, “You’re a smartass with an overdeveloped sense of justice who thinks that you can make a difference. In most circumstances, you’re probably even right about it, as long as you stay out from underfoot of official investigations. But when you do stick your fingers into the official pie, it’s not just a millionaire businessman sueing you – it’s days of police time fixing what you’ve screwed up, it’s contaminated crime scenes and crucial evidence that’s suddenly inadmissible, it’s disqualified testimony, it’s you potentially getting hurt or even killed. You think you’re Sherlock Holmes, Lord Peter Wimsey, Nero Wolfe, Dupin? You’re in the wrong century. After ten years of experience, you should know better than that.” She shook her head, stepped back, and glanced between me and Allie. “Both of you should. Just… go home. Don’t leave town, someone might decide to call you in later.”

With that, she turned and left.

So did we, racing the sun home in a cab. The world was just waking up around us: in half an hour or so, cars would race down the streets like ants down the corridors of an anthill, thoughts and instinct driving forward, building. Everyone in their appointed place, doing their appointed task. At dawn, the city no longer felt empty, but made of numbers and delicate gears, the way the mathematicians dreamed of it. It was a city that breathed the easier, I thought, now that it was no longer playing unwitting host to Christian Grey. It was the poorer for having failed Leila, and despite the early rays of the sun painting the buildings gold, I knew it would be a long while before my conscience let me forget how much better it would be if I could reach back and erase the past. If I stopped arriving just a minute too late.

When I opened the door to the apartment and the comforting hand of the sunlight between my shoulder blades was long gone, the spare sheets were still neatly folded on the couch, and there were still empty cartons of Chinese lying on the floor, collecting silence like dust, echoing with doubts.

I went to bed. Allie was there to chase the silence away.
* It’s not a modern detective drama if nobody banters with some friendly but disapproving officers of the law.
** Again, I owe Gehayi research kudos for figuring out which hospital Grey used to unlawfully imprison Leila. And for doing a damn lot of timelining and other detective work.
*** Officer Rayne may have been borrowing my reading list. Sherlock Holmes should be fairly obvious, but the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries are written by Dorothy Sayers, Nero Wolfe belongs to Rex Stout, and Dupin stars in Poe’s Murders in the Rue Morgue. Other book recommendations from my years long research project on how to write mysteries includes The Thinking Machine stories by Jaques Futrelle, Lord Darcy Mysteries by Randall Garrett, Inspector Lynley Mysteries (The TV series, not the books,) and Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple mysteries.
**** Damn. I’d intended this to be much happier… but Lindsay’s overdeveloped sense of responsibility doesn’t necessarily allow for her to be happy when she thinks she could have done more to help someone. And I totally wanted sap but forcing it wouldn't have worked. There’s always the epilogue, though!
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Chapter Eleven: War Far From Over

Chapter Warnings: Mild fantasy violence, some regular violence, there are guns, mentions of rape and identity theft, PTSD again, big pile of conflicting goals, don't try this at home at your local hotel.

“What do you mean, you can’t find Leila?” asked Taylor, echoing my alarm. Allie looked like she was struggling to keep her concentration on her spell without actually speaking the words aloud.

Sawyer shot Allie and I a sidelong glance as he replied. “The files she was working on haven’t been copied, she’s not in any of the rooms, and as far as I know, she’s not in the apartment.”

“But where would she go?” I asked.

“I don’t know!” Sawyer almost shouted, turning from me to Taylor, “I leave her alone to do the job, and then she’s just gone - this was always a bad idea -”

“It was necessary,” Taylor said, cutting him off, his voice suddenly much brisker. “Shut up and think, private! If she’s not in the penthouse, she’s gone somewhere, and I want to know where!”

Sawyer was still blinking at being addressed as private, but I had a sneaking suspicion. “When you say you got Ana and Grey out of the apartment, how did you do that, exactly?”

“They went to the Fairmont,” Sawyer replied automatically, before realizing who was asking. “Is there a reason we’re telling them everything?” he said to Taylor in almost the next breath.

The Fairmont… Cleaned up, Leila looked so much like Ana… And she certainly hadn’t left our apartment earlier tonight intending to help two security guards sort papers.

I reached out and grabbed Allie’s hand, ruining her spell for good. “She’s gone to the Fairmont to confront Christian Grey,” I said.

“Stay here,” Taylor ordered us immediately, though we’d already turned for the door.

“Absolutely not,” Allie snapped back, and I was half way out of the room behind her again.

“I’m coming -”

“For God’s sake, stay and finish your job!” Taylor said to Sawyer, and that was the last thing I heard of the two of them before the four-step of Allie racing down the stairs with me drowned out all other sound, but not all other thought. We could get to the Fairmont Hotel on foot almost as fast as Taylor could by car. It was a good thing, I thought, that Allie and I were so used to running.

We settled on a high speed jog down Fourth Street, but when a dark grey car passed us doing about fifty five at Union Street, I knew we’d be walking in on the aftermath. We still ran the last block, dodged the lightweight bistro tables next door, nearly tripped over the shrubberies lurking in our way, and hit the doors at a breathless pace.

There was a minor commotion at the check-in desk, which was probably going to tie Taylor up a few minutes, but we weren’t headed there: Allie had already put her tracking spell to good use. “Upstairs,” she said, and we marched quickly past the front desk before anyone could think to stop us. Then there were even more stairs.

“I think,” I panted at Allie on the fourth floor, “that it was safe to use the elevator.”

She didn’t bother replying to that. “We’re close,” she said, and darted away, upwards and onwards, down the empty halls of the early-morning hotel, casting about for the right room.

Most mages who are more powerful than average, and moderately clever, can get regular, tumbler locks open with sufficient preparation: a spell that mimics a key might rely on changing air pressure, or a spell that detects the tumblers might aid a mage in picking the lock more traditionally. For key card doors, you have fewer options, but melting or destroying the latch is one of them.

Ever-subtle Allie cracked the door in half down the middle and pulled it out of its frame. We weren’t exactly spoiled for time.

It was a good thing that she did, because we were only just in time.

Lelia was standing in the middle of the room, gun pointed at Christian Grey.

I could say that I spent time examining the surroundings and coming to conclusions about the events that had lead up to this, but that would be a lie. I was more concerned that somebody might get shot – and though I wasn’t sure I’d weep tears of grief were Leila to put a bullet in a certain scumbag CEO, an untrained gunwoman running on revenge and almost twenty hours without sleep was not a good scenario.

Allie and I pulled up very short on the inside of the door.

I saw Leila’s hands trembling, Grey smirking at her, and the terrified face of Ana behind him in the second before her gaze flicked over to us, he lunged, and she pulled the trigger.

He was on top of her before the echo of the bang had faded, one hand around her throat while the other twisted her wrist around. The gun hit the ground before I was halfway across the room, knocking over an end table and a lamp that were in my way – and Allie tore Grey off

Leila with all the force of a minor hurricane, blasting him into a couch, which capsized backwards onto the floor with a thump.

“Lindsay, help Leila,” she said tightly, her spell keeping Grey pinned to the furniture.

I went and gently chivvied Leila up and off the floor. She was going to have some bruises on her neck and her wrist – thankfully it hadn’t been the injured one – but for now she was more shaken than damaged, and breathing in ragged little pants.

Unfortunately, miss Anastasia Steele chose that moment to try our patience.

“What do you think you’re doing?” she half-squeaked, half-shrieked, “What did you do to Christian? Who do you think you are?”

I’ve always entertained the thought that I can practically hear Allie’s eye-rolls; this one was a classic for all the senses. “Room service,” she replied, and Ana floundered in the depth of her sarcasm, gaping like a goldfish.

Meanwhile, Lelia had shaken herself together. “Why did you stop me?” she shouted, shoving me away and diving for the gun. I attempted to tackle her gently, which resulted in me getting a very sharp elbow to the face, which knocked my glasses askew for a blurry brightly washed-out moment. I shoved them back on.

“Leila, it’s all right, it’s me, I need you to calm down -”

“Traitor!” Leila screamed at me, “I could have fixed this! I could have won!” she kept screaming at me as she turned on me and started fighting back.

Allie had telekinetically shoved the gun out of the way, but Leila clawed at my arms and I had to practically sit on her. It was too easy – she was too shaky and weak, still – but I ended up with a throbbing eyebrow and scratches across my chin in the minute or so it took to subdue her. Once Leila was sprawled, exhausted on the floor, I registered that Ana was still shrieking at us and that the much lower pitched shouting was Christian Grey.

“SHUT UP!” Allie bellowed at them, and made a gesture that dumped Ana on her ass and pinned the struggling Grey back on the couch.
For a moment, there was blissful silence while I took the opportunity to surreptitiously work my jaw and try to pop my eardrums back into place. If the gunshot hadn’t woken the whole hotel, Allie certainly had.

“The police are on their way,” she informed everyone, and I could see that she was swaying on her feet with exhaustion, “so everyone shut up and sit down so they can arrest us all together, yeah?”

“They’ll take me back and put me away,” Leila said in a small and squashed voice – I was still holding her restrained by leaning on her.

I eased off her, but she didn’t bother moving even when I sat up properly. Instead, she lay there like a puppet with all its strings cut, empty even of anger.

“I never should have trusted you,” she said, and I heard her voice break.

I blinked a lot, and swallowed. I must have gotten dust in my eyes and throat during the fighting. Yeah, right.

Predictably, Grey sneered, looking at us all with cold, predatory eyes. “Do you know who you’ve just assaulted?” he asked, “By the time my lawyers are done with you, you’ll never see daylight again.”

“Christian will hire the most expensive lawyers in the country,” Ana piped up from where she was still sitting on the floor. This time, when she got back up, I saw that she was wearing a very ruffled silky nightgown that was in grave danger of eloping with gravity. “Don’t you understand? They’re going to sue you and put you in jail,” she said with a high, nervous laugh, “There was never any way that you could get away with this! Even if you could delude yourselves into working with this – this psycho,” she spat, pointing at Leila, “who just can’t give up – how did you ever think you could get away with this?”

Surprisingly, the fact that she had seen her asshole boyfriend tossed across the room by someone who hadn’t touched him, and the fact that she’d just been knocked on her ass with no apparent physical cause hadn’t entered her mayfly-sized brain.

“Actually, we’re here to make your boyfriend answer for his crimes,” I informed her, before deciding to ignore her completely in favor of trying to help Leila, who twitched away.

The running footsteps in the corridor had to be Taylor. Strange, how he was only a few brief moments behind us – the cops would be here soon.

“What the hell?” I heard him say when he saw the broken down door and the strange tableau before him.

“Taylor!” Ana cried when she saw him, “Leila attacked us!”

“This is your idea of a secure location, Taylor?” Grey barked at the same time, “Restrain this rabble immediately!”

“Don’t worry, Miss Steele, I’m on it,” Taylor said, not even bothering to acknowledge Grey, whose face was slowly going the color of an apoplectic fit, and crossed the room to Leila’s side right away, reaching for her elbow. “Come on, you’ve gotta get out of here,” he said to her in an undertone, but she flinched away.

Then he turned one of the most chillingly murderous glares I’ve ever seen on me. “What the hell did you do to her?” he growled as he stood up.

Allie had taken half a step towards us, despite needing to focus to keep Grey restrained, and I shook my head at her.

“Mr. Taylor,” I said quickly, “I swear to you that we are still on the same side -”

Shut up, now.”

“What do you think you’re doing, Taylor?” Grey demanded, and Taylor finally looked directly at him, letting an expression of satisfaction cross his face.

“What I should have done years ago, Sir,” he said, drawing his gun and pointing it at Grey. Because we needed this cat’s-cradle standoff to get even more convoluted. The only blessing was that Grey turned white and, miraculously, shut up.

“Drop it!” Ana shrieked, and my head snapped up – she’d picked up Leila’s gun and had it trained, shakily, on Taylor. “I can shoot, you know,” she continued uncertainly. “What do you think you’re doing? Doesn’t Christian deserve your loyalty after he generously used his money to save your daughter?”

Taylor didn’t look at Ana, but he didn’t shoot either.

“Miss Steele,” he said, “Your Christian Grey has ordered me to help him steal the identities of eight young women in the past four years, conduct illegal espionage, sabotage his competitors, and look the other way as he repeatedly beat, raped and persecuted young women such as yourself – all because I was desperate, and he offered to pay for the bone marrow transplants that saved my daughter Sophie’s life.”

Ana’s brain tried to turn over, but failed to gain any traction. “No,” she said, and her gun’s trajectory wandered around the room, “You’re lying, he wouldn’t do that, not my Fifty -”

“Police!” yelled a voice from the hallway, “Drop the guns and put your hands above your heads!"

* I owe Ket and her instructive videos from the sporking of chapter 8 research kudos for showing many ways how Taylor, Allie, and Lindsay could not only get into the Fairmont, but discover the room number and get through the door. I ended up going with magic anyway. :D

** Fairmont Pictures are here (scroll down) and here. I spent some time reconstructing the floor plan from the 360 tour, but it’s not perfect. I’m pretty sure based on that and logic that the hallway door opens on the living-room area with that fireplace, though.

*** … Yeah. Everyone who was rooting for the “rescue Ana” storyline, I stuck to the canon portrayal, where she is several ells deep in the Nile and has the self-preservation instinct of a frog in a saucepan.

**** Meanwhile, I’ve been sitting on my research into Leila’s mental state as suggested by canon, so have some research here. (Most of these are various legal perspectives, but I also have some research on Complex PTSD, which I found pretty valuable as a baseline source of different symptoms in PTSD from domestic violence and psychological abuse that aren’t always recognized in literature that focuses on post-combat PTSD.)

***** The fanwiki says that Grey pays for Sophie Taylor’s schooling (Incidentally, I named Sophia Colonomos before I knew that Sophie Taylor existed,) but Gehayi and Ket mentioned the possibility of a medical procedure in their sporks… and I’ll take them as more authoritative than the Wiki, any day, as the wiki editors don’t appear to have actually read the books. EDIT: Except the one who just dropped in to tell me that they lurk at Das-Sporking and that they've been trying valiantly to raise the overall content, but that they're fighting a lemming army to get shit done. Everyone, bow to the valiant anon who makes our research at least somewhat easier. (By the way, I also stand corrected in that it's never explicitly stated that Grey paid for any medical procedure for Sophia, but my headcanon has already diverged from canon at this point and will not be moved.) :D
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

The staccato click of shoes grew closer, and a man in a grey suit entered the room.

My first thought was relief – he wasn’t Christian Grey – but he was still definitely armed and professional. I could tell because of the military stance and the earpiece, and decided, from the way that our captor subtly paid attention when he entered, without taking his eyes off of Allie or myself, that he was important.

It took a few seconds for my brain to click into gear beyond registering that I’d probably seen him distantly amongst Grey’s security entourage at the party. I blame the fact that it had to be nearly three in the morning.
The double take that he did upon seeing us was enough to jog my memory.

“Who are you,” asked Jason Taylor, “and why are you here?”

I mentally sighed. “I’m Lindsay Pilot,” I told him, “This is Aliea Veldon, and we’re detectives.” Then, trusting that it was now all right to make more than the minimum amount of movement, I leaned back in my uncomfortable seat. “I don’t suppose the name Lelia Williams means anything to you?”

I could feel the look of fond exasperation that Allie was giving me. More than that, I could feel the tension slowly starting to seep from the room, like air from a leaky balloon.

Taylor opened his mouth to say something, but there were a few soft footfalls that cut him off.

“I told you not to come,” Leila said softly from the doorway.

The spring-tightened corner of my soul relaxed as I looked at her. I could almost hear Allie’s shoulders unwind next to me. Leila looked a bit ruffled, and Allie’s coat hung on her like a deflated circus tent, but she looked calm and was only hunched in on herself a little. Considering where she was, it was almost a planted flag of defiance.

“Lindsay insisted on chasing you down so that she could remind you when your stitches had to come out,” Allie said.

“You know these people, Leila?” Taylor asked, eyeing us suspiciously.

She came half a step into the room, and nodded at him. “They’re working with the police to bring him down,” she said. “They took me in.” Her eyes flickered down to the painfully gleaming tiles, and though her expression didn’t exactly tremble, it flickered a bit.

“This is ridiculous,” I said to Taylor. “I take it you’re no longer holding us at gunpoint?” I stood up and crossed the room to offer Leila a hug. She put her arms around my shoulders and hung on with surprising strength. “Believe me, I know you want to help,” I told her when I let go, “but you don’t have to do any of this alone. You don’t have to work with these guys unless you really want to, and-”

“No, we have a plan,” she said. “And I do want to help. I think – well, this is the least I can do. I found out that he’s been… controlling… her, by telling her how dangerous I am.” Her voice quavered a little. “I shouldn’t have come back.”

There were only two people here who could have told her that, so I split my glare between Taylor and Sawyer. Hadn’t they ever heard of giving people only the information that they actually required?

Taylor was unimpressed, but he’d put his gun away and apparently instructed Sawyer to do the same, which effectively meant that Allie and I now outnumbered them. “And how did you come into this?” he asked, extending his cynicism to Allie as well as me.

“We were hired to investigate Christian Grey, and we have an overdeveloped sense of responsibility,” Allie replied, deploying an equally sardonic eyebrow.

“By who?” Sawyer chimed in.

“You can’t seriously expect us to answer that,” I replied. “Your turn: what’s the plan?”

“Ladies first. How did you come into contact with Leila, and why are you here?” Taylor’s voice was all business. “Sawyer, we need to get back on track before Welch or someone shows up – take Leila and keep making the copies. Leila, are you good to go get what we need?”

“Yessir.” Leila replied, and gave a frankly awful salute.

“Good girl,” Taylor said, giving her his full attention and an almost paternal smile. “We’ll be out of here as soon as we’re done.”
I watched the relief slide over her face before she turned around and disappeared through the door again. Sawyer shot a glance at his boss before following her, giving her a wide margin of space.

That left Allie and I alone with Taylor, which meant one of two things: he trusted us, or he was confident that he could take us. Either way, he gestured for us to sit down with him at the table, and we cooperated.

“Think carefully before you answer,” he said in a low voice. “If you’re only trying to get information out of her, I swear you’ll live to regret it.”
I could feel my indignation bristling up, so I took a deep breath and tried to answer diplomatically. Allie got there before I did. “We bumped into her on the street,” she said, “Like we’ve already told you, we were hired to stop Christian Grey, and that’s what we’re here to do.”

“If you think you can force her to testify, you’re wrong,” Taylor continued, his voice level and somehow painfully earnest. It was the voice of a man who doesn’t need to rely on volume or anger. “I’m willing to do whatever it takes to put Grey away, but if you think you’re going to drag her through all that, again -” he shook his head. “I’ll testify myself, give more information than you knew existed – but you have to let her go.”

The indignation settled out of my shoulders. “We’re not exactly officially with the police,” I said. “Private Detectives. I’d just hoped… she left us a note,” I finished lamely, and shrugged. “Said that we should contact you if -” unexpectedly, I felt my throat swelling with the ache that came just before tears, and Allie shifted closer to me. I tried to clear my throat and only partially succeeded. “I thought something awful was going to happen, so we came straight here.” It was all I could still manage to say.

I watched Taylor sag, and scrub at his face.

“What a mess,” he said, and I couldn’t help but agree.

“What about you?” Allie asked, drawing Taylor’s gaze. “We’ll work together better – or at least get in the way less – if we know what you’re up to.”

Somebody had clearly given Taylor pointers on how to drag himself back together. In under a second, he’d gone back to efficiency and command.

“You don’t want to get involved,” he said. “Grey’s dangerous. I’m sure you know that already, but – no offense – you don’t understand what he will do to you. And he’s not the only one who we’re going to take down. I still wish that we didn’t have to get Leila involved, but the truth is, we needed her, to get him to leave the building without us. In a couple hours, we’ll have enough information to go to the police and give them everything, including the evidence against everyone who has been enabling Grey, and they’ll be able to catch them all in the same net.” He glanced between me and Allie and came to a decision. “I’ll let you out the back way with Leila before we do. She’ll need somebody to help her get out of the way.”

It seemed fair enough to me. We’d come to see Leila safe, and we couldn’t push our way into the circle of this heroic conspiracy any more than we could force the police to allow us to investigate alongside them.

“This isn’t our first rodeo,” I told Taylor, “but all right. Allie?”

Allie made a dismissive gesture with her hand. “You’re in charge of this investigation,” she said. Her eyes were tired, and my heart swelled painfully when I realized what she was trying to say. Of course she’d want me to keep talking, cover for her while she tried to scrape together some magical protection for Taylor and Sawyer.

She’d keep going until she dropped.

“The girl that… Ana,” I fumbled. “She’ll be okay?”

Taylor nodded, but grimaced. “All right as she can be,” he said, “don’t worry, we’ll take care of it. With any luck, Grey won’t know what’s happened until he’s been arrested. She’s a sweet kid, and she doesn’t deserve anything he’s put her through.”

“Nobody does,” I said, quietly. “If it helps – between your case and ours, there’s almost no way he can walk free. Leila’s testimony could help, but she won’t need to if she doesn’t want to.” And I was fully resolved that after tonight, our couch was hers for as long as she needed and wanted to stay. Home was something I doubted she’d had much experience with in the last few years, and if she didn’t want to go back to her parents in Massachusetts right away, she should have somewhere to stay.

Taylor nodded and stood up. “Please stay in this room and out of our way,” he said, “this will be over far more quickly if I don’t have to stay here and watch over you.”

At that moment, Sawyer stepped back through the door.

“I can’t find Leila,” he said.

* I fixed the medicine fail in Anoxic with the gracious help of dragonclaws, who should know. PSA: keep your bandages clean and dry, and your stitches away from water to prevent infection, and use iodine or chlorhexidine to clean them rather than rubbing alcohol, to prevent scarring. Never use hydrogen peroxide. This has been a public service announcement by Scribbles.

** An overdeveloped sense of responsibility is not the same thing as an overdeveloped sense of vengeance.

*** After so many self-contained chapters containing multiple days, I have to say it’s nice to be able to do proper cliffhangers again.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Chapter Nine: The Sound of Never

By the time we returned to our apartment after a cold bus ride, my phone was well and truly dead and it was almost two in the morning, with a sky full of cold stars.

Our apartment was also empty. Eerily so, in fact, considering that we’d left that evening with Leila comfortably installed on the couch. She wouldn’t have just gone for a walk: not in the middle of the night.

Nothing appeared to have been disturbed; everything was clean and in its proper place, the door and windows were still shut, and the sheets had been pulled off the fold-out couch and neatly folded.

That sight sent my heart diving down into my gut.

I crossed the room towards the phone and the notepad we kept beside it, and I only confirmed my suspicions. My thoughts ran out of my head like water under a bridge when I picked up the note that Leila had left for us.

I’m sorry.
I know what I have to do now. I can still save Ana, and probably some other people too. If I stop him now, nobody else will have to suffer. I won’t be coming back, either way.

Don’t come looking for me.

Thank you for everything. I hope you can prove what he’s done, but not everyone can wait that long. Talk to Jason Taylor; he knows nearly everything and will help you if you tell him I sent you. I’ll put the spare key under the welcome mat when I go. If I win, I’ll find a way to pay you back for everything, if not, IOU.

Don’t worry about me, and don’t blame yourselves. I don’t intend to die tonight, but if I do it will be for a good cause.

- Leila

I stared uncomprehendingly at the spots that had bled from the ballpoint pen for a long moment while Allie read over my shoulder. She’d written almost straight through the paper, in a round, even, girlish handwriting that for some reason surprised me.

Allie made a move to rush right back out the door, and I reached over and grasped her wrist before she could leave.

“It’s no use,” I told her, “she’s been gone for hours.”

She didn’t want to believe me, but I knew. There were, on second glance, neatly rinsed dishes in the sink, a pair of cartons in the trash, and very few other traces of our vanished guest.

Allie kicked the sofa quite hard, but I went into the bathroom and checked the first aid kit. We were out of bandages.

Something in my heart thawed.

In my experience, a woman who suddenly resolved to kill herself didn’t take the time to have leftover Chinese for dinner and change her bandages first. Nor did she take several packets of antiseptic wipes, extra clean bandages, and the bottle of ibuprofen.

“Damn it,” Allie said from the living room, “She took my coat.”

The only question was, where? I doubted that she’d gone to Grey’s parents’ home – for one thing, she’d known that we’d be there – but realistically, she could be nearly anywhere. Even if she’d intended to leave when we’d last seen her, she’d taken the time to eat, change her bandages, clean up after herself… she could have left any time between about six thirty and, say, midnight.

I conjured up my memory of how she’d been when we left. She’d been relaxed, more so than yesterday, and I thought – hoped, really – that I would have noticed if she’d been lying about staying in.

She’d obviously been agitated when she left the note, but she’d written it slowly. She hadn’t been in any hurry.

Allie got quickly out of my way as I bolted from the bathroom and violently tossed the Chinese cartons out of it. She wouldn’t have stuffed it too far down, not with fresh bandages – there.

I fished out the crumpled piece of notepad paper triumphantly, only to be interrupted.

“Lindsay,” Allie said, in a hollow voice, “you’ll want to hear this.”

She held out my cell phone; she’d pulled it out of my purse and plugged it in. I walked over and we put our heads together to listen to a voicemail from only hours before.

 “… a really stupid idea,” Leila’s voice said from the speakers, tinny and quiet. “I thought-” the rush of passing cars obscured whatever else she said. “- broke in at Escala, through the garage. I trashed that awful car, I know he bought it for her, just like the one he bought for me. They saw me-” Another car drowned her out. “I didn’t get to finish. There’s a back entrance. I have to try, but I don’t think I’m going to make it.” She seemed to reach a quieter place, because the level of noise in the recording abruptly went down. “Anyway, I thought you ought to know that -”

The message was cut off in a beep, and Allie was halfway across the room already. She tossed a pair of pants out of the door of our bedroom at me, and had changed out of her dress by the time I’d managed to unhook the catch that held the zipper of my own dress in place. I suspected telekinesis.

“We can be at Escala in thirty minutes if we hurry,” she said as she jammed her bare feet into her shoes without bothering to untie them first. “That message was left at a bit after eleven, but -”

Almost three hours ago. Not that it would stop Allie, I thought, as I finally worked the zipper free and threw on yesterday’s shirt. We were out the door the second I’d snatched my partially-charged phone off the counter and had my shoes on my feet.

Downtown Seattle in the small hours of the morning is like any other major city – dark, chilly, and vaguely eerie, with the red eyes of stoplights glaring balefully at anybody half-jogging down the sidewalks, barely stopping to check for oncoming traffic.

Escala loomed ominously above us, a jagged spike stretching away towards the empty darkness of the sky, loosing itself above the line of streetlights in the clammy night.

There was nobody but us on the street surrounding it, and no signs of life other than the swoosh of a passing car and the burning lights of the lobby across the street from us. We needed to get in, to follow Leila, but we weren’t getting in that way.

“Around back,” I muttered to Allie, and we headed towards the back of the building, searching for the telltale red eye of a fire exit nicely hidden in the shadows. Were there cameras? Probably. I searched the darkness for them, but found nothing.

By unspoken agreement, Allie and I passed the door the first time, pulled up the hoods of our sweatshirts a little further down the road and returned in a haze of bright blue light.

Allie worked quickly, short-circuiting the automatic alarm in the fire door, and telekinetically pushing it outwards just enough that we could slip through. She stopped only for a second on the inside, to throw the cloud of light away from the door and to turn the alarm back on, then she was only a few steps behind me as I found the stairwell and we clattered up it at a slightly winded run. There were far too many floors, and we were headed to the top.

My heart was pounding when we reached the top, and I hardly had the breath to make any smart comments when I turned the corner and found myself face-to-face with a gun for the second time that night.

The person holding the gun was definitely focused on us, this time. I got a good look at him – tallish, age impossible to guess, hair cut so short that it could be brown or blond, standing like a soldier – while I stood as still as possible in the stairwell. He didn’t shoot us, though, which I took to be a very good sign.

He reached up to his earpiece with his free hand. “Intruders apprehended, sir,” he said, and listened for a second. “This way, please,” he told Allie and I, gesturing with that same hand rather than with his gun, never taking his eyes off us.
We walked in through the door. We didn’t exactly have a choice about it.

Even at gunpoint, my mind had to register how white the room that we were ushered into was. It glared in the light of what seemed like a thousand fluorescent bulbs. The click of footsteps on tile gave way to a view of the dull shine of a long glass dining table in the center of a white and grey room.

“Sit, please,” said our captor, and Allie and I traded half a glance as we did so. Behind us, the gloom of the Seattle night at twenty two stories up pressed against the glass, sealing the apartment.

It said something about the direction of our lives, I thought, that this still ranked as one of my most pleasant experiences with being captured and held at gunpoint. So far, at least, our captor showed no interest in killing us or obtaining information – probably waiting for his boss, I thought.

For several long moments, nobody spoke. I could hear, in the distance, the ticking of a clock, but no other noises.

Adrenaline had stopped burning through my body, and it was now drizzling away through the cracks. I was two parts terrified, one part morbidly curious, and three parts exhausted.

I couldn’t help but notice that nobody appeared to have called the cops, and the phrase “deal with it ourselves,” lurked menacingly in my mind. All I had to go on at this point was that Christian Grey was probably not a mage – and that mages weren’t bulletproof.

Then I couldn’t help but sneak a glance at Allie – one which I knew our captor saw – only to find that she was staring at him, waiting patiently. All she needed was a moment of distraction, I knew, and then she would take my hand and we would conveniently disappear, out into another world, where we couldn’t be reached or followed. We could walk the worlds, work our way back to Seattle, pick up the case as if we’d never been gone. The perks of working with an adept were that you could go anywhere, and given the requisite moment, run away from anything.

The price, of course, would be abandoning Leila, assuming that she was still somewhere in this apartment. If we left as soon as our captor’s back was metaphorically turned, we might never find out what had become of her.

I wasn’t going.

There was a second, when I considered how best to let Allie that she needed to form another plan. Then I heard the click of footsteps on a tiled floor, steady, determined and getting closer.

I rallied my stubbornness and my anger together and prepared to meet Christian Grey.

* Leila seems to have a thing for long coats. I don’t blame her. Lindsay does, though – stealing Allie’s coat is her job.
** For the timing on all their arrivals, I checked in Google Maps. A lot. I have a timeline and addresses, if anyone else wants to be that anal about it.
*** These are some of the places that I found the pictures and layout of the Escala penthouses. Yes, houses. And they're not as big as canon claims, either.
**** I would apologize for the cliffhanger, but I’m really not sorry in the least.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
I really should be working on Thesis or Poor Unfortunate Souls, but... it's been so long since I've played "Spot the Fallacy." So you get an educated rant/freeform essay/rebuttal.

Sexism and Wish-Fulfillment:

I found this quoted recently.

"A smoking .45 and six corpses at his feet is a male fantasy. A woman will settle for one live hero at hers.

I’m sorry, but no.
I read that on a usually intelligent, pro-feminist blog. Granted, it was:

1. A quote from elsewhere, specifically a piece by Daphne Clair in Dangerous Men and Adventurous Women.

2. An interview on a blog about good and bad romance novels, and they were using it in context as a way to explain why so many romance novels and romantic plotlines feature “bad boys,” or at least a subplot of a man finally “settling down” with a woman, treated as a contest between the genders wherein the woman ‘wins’ by causing the man to realize that he wants monogamy with her.

3. Otherwise a pretty good interview that can be accessed here. (It’s about the prevalence of virgin heroines in romance, and hits both the “lazy writing” and “society’s fetishization of good sex as the only indicator of a truly worthwhile romantic relationship” angles.(1))

It still strikes me as a mode of thought that needs correcting, since assigning gender to wish fulfillment or escapism in literature is a generalization wrapped in a stereotype stuffed in a fallacy.

The first point is that this false dichotomy is traditionally heteronormative to the point of being a caricature, along the lines of “Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.” I’m not even going to go into gender identity here – I’m not qualified to do a deep analysis – but the primary fallacy of categorizing broad swathes of the population and saying that they all want the same thing. There are plenty of people, including men, who don’t necessarily like James Bond type violent thrillers, and women who don’t like romance novels. The assumption here seems to be that people’s literary tastes are primarily influenced by their gender above all else, and that women’s reading in particular is mostly influenced by their (presumably hetero) sexuality. The idea that it paints the typical male reader as stereotypically bloodthirsty and violent, at least in his paperback wish-fulfillment fantasies, is just as bad, but I’ll save that for later in my rant. What about people who *gasp* don’t give a damn about sex, a relationship (or monogamy), or “taming” anyone? Granted, you could say that those people are in the minority and don’t fit the standard romance novel demographic, given that they’re not all heterosexual middle class females with somewhat sheltered upbringings and romantic aspirations, so romance novelists and those discussing romance novels can safely ignore them. That seems a bit exclusionary to me, because it should be pretty clear to anyone connected with reading, writing, media or fandom that people don’t have to be able to project their whole selves into a character to enjoy them. Plus, what people want for their favorite characters isn’t necessarily what they want for themselves.

Secondly, I’d like to point out the huge popularity of action-oriented fandoms among the female population. Works like Lord of the Rings and Star Trek and Sherlock, starring primarily male main characters(2), varying degrees of sausagefest-ness in their supporting roles, and plotlines that feature fighting, exploration, and crime, have plenty of fangirls. In fact, fanfiction for all of the above is overwhelmingly written by girls and women. And while there is a lot of shipping going on in this fanfiction, there’s also a lot of the original action and adventure premises. In fact, since very few shipping fics that don’t exist solely to have two characters do the deed can avoid including these elements, I’d say that there’s an overwhelming presence of action and adventure plotlines. Female authors writing about female characters and focusing on adventure, exploration, intrigue, and action are also very common – see any of Tamora Pierce’s books, approximately half the works of Diana Wynne Jones, and Anne Mc. Caffery’s works outside of Pern. Check out Ursula K. Le Guin’s more recent books, especially the Gifted universe, or Madeline L’Engle’s heroines, for whom coming unstuck in time, or rescuing their family members from diabolically conformist planets most definitely does not take a backseat to romance.

Making the same point, but in reverse, how many male authors have written romantic plotlines as significant chunks of their series? Taking the examples above, J.R.R. Tolkien may not have written much romance into the final draft of Lord of the Rings, given that the only romance that we witness during the plot is that of Eowyn and Faramir, but had romances – Beren and Luthien, Elwing and  Eärendil the Mariner, Arwen and Aragorn – play an enormous role in the backstory and future of his world. As far as Star Trek goes, how many points during the original series alone were potential or past love interests brought in for Kirk, Spock, or McCoy? Sherlock, being an adaptation of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, which contains one of the few authorially confirmed asexual characters in literature, is also a little bit low on main character romance, unless you happen to ship Sherlock and John. Still, several attempts are made by Moffat and Gatiss to bring in competent female characters as love interests: Molly Hooper and Sarah Sawyer stand out, though John’s string of easily-dismissed temporary girlfriends serve very little narrative function except to show the passing of time. The third season will supposedly see John married, as he was in the original stories, to Mary Morstan. And there are plenty more male authors who devote a significant amount of their male protagonists’ time to romance, successful or not. Poe is perhaps the most famous for his protagonists’ borderline obsession with the women in their lives: read Ligea, Annabel Lee, Berenice, Eleonora… anything he wrote that’s named after a woman, actually. Alexandre Dumas had romance at the heart of his “historical romances,” relying on it to provide motivation for his protagonists and pathos to their opponents. D.J. Mac Hale, Timothy Zahn, and Jim Butcher all have significant romantic plotlines in their series, and they all take care to have their female characters competent and plot-relavant.

Thirdly, I’ll put the final nail in the coffin, by listing the fondest wishes of some major characters which directly contradict the false dichotomy that female fantasies are romantic or domestic, while male fantasies are adventurous or full of action. Please note that some of these are not the case for the whole plotline, but they’re significantly large chunks.

Keladry Mindelan, from Tamora Pierce’s Tortall Universe: Become the kingdom’s second-ever lady knight. (Alanna of Trebond also counts: she wanted to be a knight, but had to pretend to be a boy throughout her training to get there.)
Vierran, House of Guaranty, from Diana Wynne Jone’s Hexwood, itself a mind-screw wrapped in an unreliable narrator wrapped in a double take: Bring down the corrupt Reigners. Preferably while not getting herself or anyone she knows killed.
Michael Carpenter, from Jim Butcher’s The Dresden Files: To be able to spend more time with his (enormous) family, hopefully in a world where it’s safe enough for him to do so. Granted, he’s a supporting character, but a very major one.
D’Artagnan, from Alexandre Dumas’ The Three Musketeers: He has three major goals throughout the book. The first is to become one of his majesty’s musketeers, the second is to chivalrously protect his queen’s reputation, the third is to woo and later rescue his lady love.

You don’t even have to write characters of your own gender to get it:

Eowyn of Rohan, J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings: Defend her country. It’s seriously that simple – attack Rohan and you’d better believe this lady will be riding to slay you.
Peeta, from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games: Although he’s got a pretty general goal shared by all the tributes (don’t die,) he spends a huge portion of the book being crazy about Katniss, and it’s largely due to that that he can’t accept the idea that she might die in the arena.(3)

In conclusion, I think we can safely throw out the idea that a particular genere or theme inherently appeals to a specific gender. Fiction is meant to be inclusive and, above all, entertaining: if your readers care about the characters and the world you present, they should be pleased to read more whether you send everyone out to sabotage the evil empire or whether you finally get those two characters – you know which ones, don’t play dumb – together. Including action shouldn’t be done halfassedly in order to “widen the fanbase” and neither should adding an irrelevant romance.

(1) I’ll save this – and the rest of the interview - for another rant later. Suffice it to say that I found this a very interesting interview in multiple ways, though I have more rant fuel for later with this quote:

[on virgin heroines] “There are a lot in categories in particular that annoy the shit out of me: usually the ones that have reached the age of 25 or whatever without ever once experiencing the least flutter of sexual desire. It's not so much because I find them unbelievable as immature - are they really in a position to engage in this intense committed long term relationship?

The Interviewee is clearly falsely conflating emotional maturity with sexual desire, as if one cannot be had without the other. While at least one person has acknowledged that romance doesn’t work if both partners aren’t mature enough for the relationship, which is a real problem in romances that I’ve seen, the rest of the quote shows a lack of awareness.

(2) Yes, I know about later seasons of Star Trek featuring significantly more recurring  female characters than the original series, but the fact stands that the most recent non-reboot series, Enterprise, still featured a 70% male bridge crew, wherein females received exactly the same percentage of representation as nonhumans. Janeway’s bridge crew likewise had only three female members at any given time, giving them a 66.6(repeating)% male presence, which ties with Voyager as having the highest female presence in the bridge crew in the whole franchise.  At any given time, at least one of the females on a Star Trek bridge crew, assuming that there are more than one, will be a twofer demographic: female and some species of alien, cyborg, empath, etc.

(3) No, I haven’t read the second or third book of The Hunger Games. I haven’t seen any movies either. I liked the first one okay, but I’m not a major fan of extremely obvious and absurdly powerful dystopian societies in my literature, so I never looked for the next few. In case you were wondering, I didn't finish 1984 either.

TL;DR – Don’t make gender-based generalizations on the internet. Somebody like me might find them and use you as an example. 
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Warnings: Elena Lincoln, child molester, makes an appearance in this chapter. Dr. and Mr. Grey are up a river in Egypt without a paddle. Taylor has PTSD and is still the better man. Panic attack. Mentions of public sex act native to fifty shades canon. Standard warning for all party chapters: Grey's Aura is a creeper in it's own right.

As the first dance auction started up, Allie explained her shiny new plan to me in a low voice. With all of the technical terms stripped from it  and  all of our subsequent discussion removed, it was simple: Allie was going to attach a spell to Anastasia that would protect her and allow us to track Grey so long as he was with her.

That was assuming that we could get her to hold still long enough.

Allie and I managed to approach the stage from the side as the dance auction went on for the first two candidates; people were milling around now, some walking out onto the lawn, others headed for the bathrooms, and a few just table-hopping, talking to people who they hadn’t been sitting near at dinner. Our protracted admiration of melty the swan and his twin brother was hardly noticeable, even if Allie was muttering under her breath in Latin.

The first candidate, whose name started with a J, was bid on and exited the stage, blushing and smiling and waving, then the second. I paid little attention to their unlikely biographies, even though I wasn’t much use during the spell casting process except as a buffer to keep people from knocking Allie into the dripping ice sculpture, and perhaps as moral support.

“Damn it,” Allie said, sometime during the second miniature bidding war, “This would work so much better if we could get closer to her!”

She went right back to casting her spell before I could reply. I couldn’t think of any way that we could approach Ana outside of following her to the bathroom, and I very much doubted that it would end well. I contented myself with glancing around the crowd over my glasses in quick bursts. I saw green and gold and red in one corner, blue and purple and an oily black in another, motion and stillness, sounds and smells, twisting and glowing and pulsing low across the backs of my eyes in a kaleidoscope of humanity, but nowhere did I see magic happening, so long as I didn’t turn towards Allie and risk an instant headache, the kind that you get walking out into a sunny afternoon after sitting all day in a dark room staring at a computer screen. So far as I could tell, Allie’s magic was meeting no resistance whatsoever from any of the guests, including Christian Grey, whose aura lurked slimily around him at the table closest to the stage, pushing away the auras of those around him.

“Beautiful Ana plays six musical instruments, speaks fluent Mandarin -”

I looked up at the stage involuntarily, and saw that Allie’s spell, searingly bright, was busy tearing grey vines off of Anastasia, crunching them into ash, but I had to look away after that fraction of a second’s glance. I pushed my glasses up and closed my eyes, kneading the bridge of my nose.

I missed seeing Grey approach the stage, at least until his ridiculous opening bid of ten thousand dollars.

Possessive bastard, I thought, hoping that the bidding war would take a while, because by the concentrated look on Allie’s face, she wasn’t quite done. What she was attempting to do might take a while to get right, especially without prior preparation. In the meantime, miss Anastasia Steele could do worse than to stand on the stage and look pretty.

Another man, this one rather older than Grey, bid against him, and kept bidding against him, long after the money had crept up from stupidly expensive levels to ludicrous and onwards towards levels where I assumed they had to be bidding with fake money or with arcade tickets. In the end, however, Grey won, and I realized that the other man probably hadn’t intended to win, just to keep driving Grey to bid higher.

It was over too soon – for Allie at least. She swore as Ana and Christian walked away towards the house.

“Didn’t get it?” I asked.

“I didn’t finish,” she snapped, pushing her hair out of her eyes, “I should have started the protective spell first, not the tracking spell -”

I cut her off by offering to get her a glass of water, before she could give me a play-by-play of what she ought to have done, and headed out into the crowd. I thought as I passed that I could sense a bit of discontent, but that could have just been me. The first half of this party had dragged on and on, but there was only about half an hour left in the first dance auction, judging by the rate at which the previous three bidding wars had gone, and I suddenly felt rushed. The maple ice cream and the roast duck were eyeing each other distrustfully in my stomach, and the whole party seemed brighter and faster after I had spent so much time looking at their auras, though not much more relevant.

It took me two tries to find our table, and a waiter to fill the decanter of water. He tried to offer more wine, which I stoutly refused. By the time I made it back to melty the swan, who was starting to sag more than a little, Allie had left for the nearest chair, and was sitting in it with closed eyes, outwardly quite calm.

I bumped her hand with the glass of cold water and she swallowed half of it in one gulp.

“So what is done?” I asked her, as she sipped the remainder and smoothed her dark blue dress back down over her knees.

“The tracking spell,” she said, “I didn’t quite finish the protective spell. It was harder than I thought, with some resistance. Did you see -?”

“Yeah, I saw,” I said. “It was odd – he wasn’t doing anything, at least, his aura didn’t get brighter, but the part of it that was attached to her just kept flowing back into place whenever your magic got a hold of it.” Just like the vines that had covered Sophia. My temples were starting to ache in a distant way; I should have gotten myself a glass of water as well.

Allie nodded. “At this point, I’m not certain I trust myself to tell whether or not he’s a mage,” she said, “but whatever was interfering with me, it was definitely not just lack of preparation and complexity of the spell.”

I mulled this over a moment in my mind. “I’m not certain he’s a mage,” I said, after a moment, “If he is – or if he knew that he was – I think he would have confronted you. He doesn’t seem like…” I realized that I was talking mostly to myself as Allie stared tiredly into her water glass. He hadn’t seemed like the type of person not to attack a potential threat in any way he could, and if he were a mage, there was almost absolutely no way that he wouldn’t have sensed Allie’s interference with whatever his aura or his magic was doing to Anastasia Steele. Allie is many things when it comes to magic, but subtle isn’t one of them, not when she’s pressed for time.

Once you removed all of the therefore, what was left very strongly resembled a hunch.

“Come on, you need to get out of the crowd,” I told Allie, and hauled her towards the nearest empty table, before shamelessly flagging down the next waiter and asking for a whole pitcher of water. In the background, the master of ceremonies’ nattering monologue on the life story of the next girl in the auction wormed its way into my distant headache. Wasn’t this party over yet?

We hadn’t been at the table for long enough for Allie to recover when we were approached by the orchestrators of the whole tacky fiasco, Dr. and Mr. Grey.

Dr. Grey was wearing a dress that could only be described with the word sparkles, and Mr. Grey was still wearing his ludicrous gold mask. It gave his face an eerie, carnival-like quality, especially when he was negotiating a glass of red wine around it. I wouldn’t have recognized them from a distance without it, but I very much doubted that I would ever have been permitted to get a word in edgewise before I found out who they were if I hadn’t.

Dr. Grey greeted me with a stretched, chirpy smile, what was obviously her “hostess” voice, and long road of words that she didn’t wait for a reply for. I was lost for a second, smiling and nodding, until she got to the point.

“And I couldn’t help but notice, you aren’t Mr. and Mrs. Kavanaugh,” she said.

“Obviously,” her husband put in, and grinned at his own cleverness.

“And I was telling Carrick that they must have sold their tickets to you,” Dr. Grey continued on as if she hadn’t heard him, her arm still threaded through hers and her smile barely moving as she talked, “so I thought we just had to come and meet our new guests, it’s so seldom that we meet friends of the Kavanaughs that we don’t already know! Though, I have to say, you both look a little young to be friends with Roxanna or Alexander, maybe you’re friends with one of their children?” She finally paused for breath, while I debated whether or not to bring Kate into it, then decided that it couldn’t hurt to tell select portions of the truth.
“Kate suggested that we use the tickets,” I told her quickly, “We’re new to the area, and she thought that we could really use this sort of introduction to -”

“Wonderful!” Dr. Grey beamed, “Just wonderful! It’s so seldom that we get young people at these balls, and if either of you are looking to settle in the area, I have a friend who is in the real-estate business – she can find just the spot!”

My smile felt stiff. “Why thank you very much, Dr. Grey,” I said, “I’m sure that would be very helpful.” And then, because I was, deep down in my soul where I couldn’t quite see it, angry enough to tear down empires and stomp on the smoking ruins, I opened my mouth again and took the offensive. “Allie and I are hardly the only young people here,” I said, “there were plenty at your table.”

Mr. Grey laughed loudly, “Oh yes, our children! Christian hardly counts as a young person, though – he’s always so serious.”

“Now, Carrick, that lovely young lady of his is doing him some good,” Dr. Grey said, in a tone that didn’t match her plaster smile. “I’ve never seen him look so satisfied and relaxed.”

“He isn’t doing her any good.”

The Greys blinked at me, and Dr. Grey’s expression flickered from anger, to insecurity, to dismissal, all in a moment.

“I’m sure that it isn’t any of your business,” she said, “but I only want what’s best for my son, and if after all this time he has finally found the love of a good woman, I don’t intend to question it. It will be the best thing for him.” Her voice was decidedly chilly. “For that matter, I hear you were also quite rude to my daughter when she asked if you would help with our little auction, and I’m not sure who you think you are, behaving so awfully as a guest in our home…”

“I’m not certain what you or your daughter know about manners in the first place -”

Allie’s face emerged from the tablecloth. “Linds,” she said distinctly, “leave it alone.”

I remembered that we weren’t here to fight anyone, and shut up. Dr. Grey smiled at me triumphantly.

“Yes,” she said to Allie, and the hostess voice was back, filled with sugar. “Let’s have a pleasant conversation, with none of this silly jealousy.”

Allie gave the Greys a look that was all eyebrows and nostrils and the echo of a family tree with roots so distant that they required a telescope to see.

“What I meant,” she said, “was that everyone here has said all that they really need to say, and since the first dance is over, I intend to find a much more pleasant way to spend my time and Lindsay’s. If you are jealous of us, Doctor, then I suggest that you stop sticking your head in the sand and admit that not all is perfect in your little world, and certainly not with your daughter, who clearly learned her manners from you, or with your son, whose manners you witnessed much more closely than us during the auction. Good evening.”

We left for the dance floor as Dr. Grey turned red as a strawberry.

“You could have just asked me to dance,” I said to her as we started what was most likely a waltz. At least, Allie led and I followed; she was taller, and she knew the steps.

“I don’t like them either,” she replied as we stepped sideways.

“Clearly. Now we know exactly how miss Mia Grey came to be,” I muttered. Then, a thought occurred to me. “You’re feeling better, then?”
Her lip twitched. “I think I can manage a waltz. Besides, we can keep a better eye on the happy couple this way.”

I rolled my eyes at her, but managed to keep an eye on Christian Grey and Anastasia Steel whenever my head was pointed in their direction. We danced at least two dances in a comfortable silence before I thought of something else worth mentioning.

“What did you mean, about Grey’s manners?” I said, “I saw everybody at their table giving him the stink eye, but I don’t know what for.”
Allie’s voice was dry, but not at all amused. “Three words: public hand job.”

Well, that was now firmly number one on my list of all the things at this party that were in bad taste. Allie cracked a small smile at my expression. “Couldn’t it have waited?” I asked as we revolved on the spot.

“Apparently not – wait, she’s making a break for it.” Ana was headed towards the house, and Christian was following her, though several other partygoers kept accosting him.

“Time for me to earn my keep,” I said. “You keep an eye on Grey, I’ll snoop after Ana.”

I wandered off in the direction of the house and presumably the toilets, keeping Ana in sight a good ten or fifteen feet ahead of me, and then made an absolutely stupid-looking turn towards the food tent when she appeared to change her mind halfway there. The tent was empty except for a couple in a back corner and a woman in black checking her phone, and I could see through the side that had been rolled up that Ana was heading for her table and the purse sitting on top of it. I wouldn’t be surprised if it was missing some cash.

It would be far too obvious if I followed her in, so I stood out of sight in the shadows and pretended to be rummaging through my purse.
The woman in black approached Ana, and though I wasn’t close enough to hear what she said, I was more than close enough to hear the tone of the conversation. If Anastasia Steele had been a porcupine, the woman in black would be surgically removing needles.

They sat down, and I gave up pretending to look through my bag and walked right into the tent and sat down at a table with my phone out. It was nearly out of battery, I noticed, and there was almost no signal, but it meant that nobody would give me a second look, not that the people I was eavesdropping on were particularly observant.

“I’ll be brief, Anastasia. I know what you think of me . . . Christian’s told me.”

The woman in black had at least figured out Ana’s hostility towards her. Maybe if I listened long enough, there would be a clue in there somewhere. I glanced briefly around the tent and noticed two men standing military straight in the middle of the doorway, looking around their surroundings on a wary schedule. Then, I mentally cursed. I hadn’t thought to look for other people who were watching Ana and Christian.

“… be obvious to you that Christian is in love with you. I have never seen him like this, ever.”

I bristled a little, and made a note to investigate the lady in black, because it was just too much of a coincidence that she was walking up to one of Grey’s potential victims and boldly declaring that he loved her.

“He won’t tell you because he probably doesn’t realize it himself, notwithstanding what I’ve said to him, but that’s Christian. He’s not very attuned to any positive feelings and emotions he may have. He dwells far too much on the negative. But then you’ve probably worked that out for yourself. He doesn’t think he’s worthy.”

No shit, I thought. Considering that from all I knew about him, he got off on his own arrogance and his ability to intimidate and terrify women, ‘not attuned to positive emotions’ was the understatement of the year.

Unfortunately, I’d sat down at the wrong table to be able to see Ana’s facial expression, so I had no idea whether or not she believed what she was being told, and I didn’t dare get up now and attract attention. She’d stopped giving off the body language of a porcupine, though, which wasn’t good, considering the situation.

“I’ve never seen him so happy, and it’s obvious that you have feelings for him, too,” The lady in black continued. “That’s great, and I wish you both the best of everything. But what I wanted to say is if you hurt him again, I will find you, lady, and it won’t be pleasant when I do.”
Ana laughed nervously while I tried to puzzle that one out. My best guess was that the “again,” either referred to one of his many exes, or to the brief amount of time that Ana had broken up with Grey.

And if I’d truly been a great detective, I would have known ahead of time that I ought to record that threat for future reference, because it seemed rather more ominous than the mere words that it was made of.

The lady in black got angry. “You think this is funny, Anastasia? You didn’t see him last Saturday.” She was flustered and started the sentence twice, probably spraying the tablecloth at the same time.

Ana rose to the occasion admirably. “I’m laughing at your audacity, Mrs. Lincoln. Christian and I have nothing to do with you. And if I do leave him and you come looking for me, I’ll be waiting—don’t doubt it. And maybe I’ll give you a taste of your own medicine on behalf of the fifteen-year-old child you molested and probably fucked-up even more than he already was. Now if you‘ll excuse me, I have better things to do.”

The first thought that went through my mind was What? which was followed closely by Who? and then, tagging along in the back, the realization that Ana had just gotten up and was marching right past me, leaving the lady in black with her mouth hanging open, and me in the lurch.

She’d made it to the flap of the tent and walked directly up to Christian Grey at the same moment that I noticed that I had forgotten to act like I was quietly texting someone, and hurriedly buried myself in my purse. I had my tube of lipstick and tiny mirror out by the time that the bodyguards glanced at me, and was in a prime spot to gaze directly at the evil scumbag while pretending to carefully apply my makeup.

He was frowning at the lady in black while Ana wisely walked right past him.

They left the tent behind quickly, and I had no hope of catching up with them. I did, however, have a hope of following the lady in black undetected, so when the bodyguards had melted out of sight and she had stalked off towards the house, I followed her.

The dancing was still in full swing as I walked out of the food tent, but the Lady in Black wasn’t headed towards the dance floor. In fact, she was headed towards the house, and I hurried along behind her, staying out of sight. Since it was quite dark by now except for those pink lanterns, it was quite easy to go unremarked, but not very easy to see where I was putting my feet as I cut across the lawn. I could only tell the location of the Lady in Black from the glitter of her gold mask ahead of me, at least until she approached the house, which was lit up like a Christmas tree, and had columns looming portentously over the entrance.

She walked right into the house uninvited – to be fair, the doors were open and there was a decorative little sign affixed to one pointing the way to the bathrooms – and I got to the open door just in time to see her open a door.

I followed her down the hall, past a pair of rooms that were bleached white, aside from eye-assaulting peacock blue and gold curtains, a staircase that very clearly intended to sweep, and a chandelier that dripped crystals. I listened at the door she’d left open a crack, and discovered that it was an empty hallway.

A hallway that was, thankfully, carpeted. My shoes weren’t going to make a sound. I crept down it anyway, being careful about where I stepped, and listening hard.

“… seems so careless,” I heard the voice of the lady in black saying as I approached a door that stood conveniently ajar. “You know, Grace, how much I care for your son. I hesitate to tell you, but I don’t think his girlfriend is really that good for him... I spoke to her only a few moments ago, and I’m afraid to say that I think she’s only after his money.”

Whatever Grace replied, I was at the wrong angle to hear it. Eavesdropping in houses was a lot harder than eavesdropping at a party – though I still had my near-dead phone as an excuse – because I had to be wary of every other noise besides the muffled conversation taking place in the room at the end of the hall, just in case someone snuck up behind me and caught me poking my nose where it didn’t belong.

“I know, it’s just terrible how many conniving women have gone after dear Christian,” the lady in black said, and I heard a rustle as she either got up or shifted positions on her seat. “I assure you, Grace, I will do everything in my power to continue to give him good advice and keep him out of their greedy clutches.”

When I heard Grace speak, I recognized in a moment the voice of Christian Grey’s obnoxious mother. I also wondered if everything around here always revolved around Christian Grey, or if it was only when he was present.

“I… thank you, Elena,” Grace said in a tired voice that didn’t match the one she’d confronted me with at all. “Thank you for looking out for him. I know that he’s headstrong, and he won’t listen to me at all – but I have to believe that he’s going to be all right, that Carrick and I raised him right.”

“Don’t mention it,” Elena - Elena Lincoln, I guessed, the one who owned Esclava and who had her business firmly in Grey’s pocket – said in a tone that seemed a little too smug and condescending for me. “After all, it isn’t our dear Christian’s fault; you and Carrick have done so much for him, raised him above his heritage and given him all he could ever want. He’s done so much, and it’s all thanks to you and not his crack whore birth mother.”

There was some more murmuring, and I snuck back towards the foyer, playing it safe. I had a sinking feeling in my gut as I headed back outside, walked down the long drive lit with its paper lanterns, and went to find Allie. By the dying clock on my phone, it was only about half an hour from midnight, and the party should be breaking up soon.

I found her standing casually next to Melty the Swan, who was now looking positively droopy, and looking warily out at the now-thinned crowd.

“Where were you?” she asked me, “Mr. Egotistical has been ready to blow a gasket since the last dance.”

Even as I watched, Ana’s dance with the elder Mr. Grey was rudely interrupted by his son.

“Eavesdropping,” I replied shortly, “on Mrs. Manners and her seriously creepy co-host.”

Allie made an encouraging noise in the back of her throat, and kept scanning the crowd, “There’s a lot of security around,” she said to me without looking at me. “I wonder what’s up?”

I followed her gaze and saw the two military-stiff outlines that had followed Ana to the food tent earlier. In better light, I could tell that they were both wearing suits that would have made them recognizable as security guards even in a movie.

“No idea, but they’re with Grey,” I told her.

“Want to cut out before the fireworks?” she asked, “I don’t like the look of this lot, and it’s not as if we have an exact mission here... we can’t exactly prevent Ana from going home with him.”

Especially since they had arrived together, I thought. Still, we’d definitely learned something tonight, and I was starting to worry a little about Leila alone in our apartment. It was probably the safest place for her, all things considered, especially since Christian was definitely here, but it wasn’t as if she knew that.

“Yeah,” I said, not relishing the long and decidedly chilly walk down the driveway before we even found the street. We’d have to find a place to catch a cab, and it was looking like it would be well past one o’clock when we got home. “Are you done working magic for one night?”

Allie nodded. “It will take a little bit for it to take – the resistance was a lot higher when she was dancing with him – but yeah. Let’s just stick around for a few more minutes and then cut out the back way – I think that if we cross a few of these golf course lawns, we can cut out some travel time.”

Since we were hardly the only ones who decided that the end of the dancing was a good time to leave, we had to wait several moments until much of the remaining crowd had dispersed, to avoid making it obvious that we hadn’t come in a limo. If I hadn’t been the one to insist on blending in originally, I’d have been even more tempted to just leave. It had gotten awfully cold, in a pervasive, clammy way that made me think longingly of hot cocoa, quilts, and Allie’s ridiculously tent-like greatcoat. We didn’t have any of those on hand, and I was counting down the minutes until we entered a heated cab. We stood there, staring alternately at the badly concealed security guards and the stars in the night sky, until half the party started to head down to the lakeshore to watch the fireworks.

We got swept in that direction by the crowd, away from the road, and I had finally had enough.

“Let’s just sneak out that way,” I said to Allie, pointing northward. Somewhere out there, I knew that there was another road, which led back towards the country club that we’d passed on our way in, which just had to be an acceptable place to obtain a taxi. “Nobody’s looking at us.”

We headed towards the cover of the trees, being careful not to trip over anything ornamental in the dark.

The music burst over Lake Washington with a deafening sound, and the first fireworks screamed up into the air in a metallic wail. We hadn’t gotten far, merely a handful of yards from the small crowd installed on the lawn, but it was quite dark. Even so, I noticed movement by one of the giant oak trees ahead of us, and sped up a couple of steps to have a look. Behind me, I could hear Allie, who attempted to follow my abrupt change of direction and cursed as she tripped over something, but I my attention had been adjusted for me.

The first word that came to my mind was panic attack. The man who was standing with his back pressed flat against the oak tree was clearly one of the security guards, and he was just as clearly trying to keep control of the fact that he was shaking like a leaf. I didn’t want to crowd him, but when the third firework went off he flinched and overcorrected so hard that I was surprised his teeth didn’t rattle in his skull. I could tell that he was trying to take deep breaths and failing.

“Excuse me,” I said as I walked forward, so that I didn’t startle him, “but are you okay?”

He turned to face me and I only saw two definite things in the faint light from the house: the first was that his face was nearly drained of expression, and the second was that yes, he was definitely armed. The gun that he’d whipped out and trained on me was my first clue.

I held my hands up and looked as non-threatening as possible, which is easy when you’re blonde and five four. I prayed quickly that Allie was still out of sight and cursing at an azalea or whatever other shrubbery had gotten in her way.

“I just want to know if you’re all right,” I told him, and gave a very non-threatening smile, which he probably couldn’t see. After a second, he blinked and tucked the gun away.

“I’m sorry,” he said. Another round of fireworks went off, in a series of sharp, stattaco snaps, and his head whipped around towards the lake for a second. “You looked very different in the dark.”

I ran the wars of this world through my head. Afghanistan or Iraq? It didn’t matter, though, because even if this man had just pulled a gun on me, this was no place for him, especially if the next person to walk up on him was just as twitchy.

“We all look strange in the dark,” I told him, and offered him another invisible smile. “I didn’t mean to startle you. Do you need a… glass of water, or anything?” I didn’t actually move, aside from the smile. I just didn’t really know what to do – or rather, I did, but the knowledge had been startled out of me a few seconds before. Who knew I’d end the night feeling sympathy for one of Grey’s security guards?

I heard a step behind me and saw, out of the corner of my eye and around my glasses, a familiar cobalt blue light. More fireworks exploded over the water, but I had all but stopped hearing them. I was seeing them as they battered the poor man in front of me instead.

“Or you could go inside, if you like,” I said after a moment of silence. Allie was right behind me, not saying anything just yet.

That finally got him to respond. “No thank you,” he said, a little roughly. “I’ll be fine.”

I doubted that. “I’m Lindsay Pilot,” I told him, stepping forward slightly and giving him my hand to shake. “This is Aliea Veldon.”

After a second of hesitation, he took the required step forward and shook my hand. “Jason Taylor,” he said.

“Security Guard,” I finished for him before I even thought, as he stepped back.

I couldn’t see his face, but I could tell by the silence that I’d startled him. Then, he seemed to gather himself together a bit.

“We ought to leave, Lindsay,” Allie said behind me as a stream of roman candles echoed into the night. Reluctantly, we walked away and faded like the crackle of gunpowder into the night, beneath a black sky traced with lines of reeking smoke.

* This line is straight from canon: “Beautiful Ana plays six musical instruments, speaks fluent Mandarin -” It is now duly attributed. Likewise, all Ana and Elena Lincoln’s lines are grabbed directly from canon, though the atrociously meyeresque use of the dash may have been corrected to commas. Then, I shot the canon. With a cannon.
**Again, Kate’s parents have no canonical names, so I invented.
*** Dr. Grey is like a snippier version of Esme. Since Carrick doesn’t seem to have a personality, as such, I imagine that most of the denial is coming directly from her.
**** In case you missed the original post, Grey Manor is based on Elvis’ mansion, Graceland. (Which is unintentionally hilarious, because it is so obviously Grace Trelyevan-Grey’s tastes that influence this house.) In any case, I have taken a minor liberty with the floorplan and added a hallway that allows for direct access to the “Jungle Room,” from the main foyer, because I really have no idea how that wing is even connected to the main house. As it stands in the floorplans I found, you’d either have to go outside or up the stairs to get to it.
***** This chapter’s brick reference is to the Sherlock Holmes novel A Study in Scarlet, by sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Cookies for everybody who gets it!

Warning: The editing buffer has been reached and I’ve got thesis presentations next week. New chapters will not be up by next Tuesday.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Chapter Seven: Wisdom of Sight
Contents and Warnings
Chapter 6: Anoxic

The next night we laid out our battle gear.

Technically, they were party dresses, but my eyes had recovered enough by that point that I could sort of see the mirage-like overlay of defensive spells covering them, and despite the fact that Allie and I were going to be dressed up like princesses on a budget, we both felt more like knights.

Somehow, I managed to fit the tuning fork, a whole wad of litmus paper, several pens, a tube of red lipstick, and my wallet into a tiny clutch purse with my cell phone. It wasn’t much in the way of weaponry, but confronting any potential mage was Allie’s department.
She didn’t need to carry anything with her in order to be dangerous against a mage.

She also went over the plan a little bit obsessively while I helped her get ready. It wasn’t as if I hadn’t already heard it.

“If Grey turns out to be a mage, and figures out that I am as well, you’ll have to get everyone else out,” she repeated, as I tried to cover the pair of double-horseshoe shaped scars on her upper arm with concealer. They were enough darker than the rest of her skin to be easily recognizable, and one thing we didn’t want to be was recognized.

“I’ll pull the fire alarm,” I promised her, and she twisted her neck around to give me an unamused look. “Believe it or not, I do remember how to keep out of the way when you have a disagreement with another mage.”

She made an impatient waving motion with her free arm. “People are going to panic a lot quicker if they start to actually see magic happening than they would at home. You saw how Kate reacted to levitating a table.”

“I’ll get everybody out, don’t worry.” I was sincerely hoping, however, that Grey was not a mage. If he was, though, Allie and I would need all the warning we could get: I very much doubted that Grey would care about harming his parents’ guests with stray spells. “And, though I can’t promise I can keep them from panicking, I can at least get them panicking in the right direction.”

Allie is in command of the silverware )

* Lindsay’s a Midwesterner. It’s a food tent, not a marquee, because this event is barely a step up from the county fair.
** I looked up the recipe for Sabayon, and I have to say, it seems more eggnog than pudding to me, especially when it’s served in a glass. (And I know that it’s supposedly pudding, but… do you see any pudding in this recipe? I see mostly eggs and alcohol.) If someone here has actually made or eaten it and it is not in fact some variation of eggnog, I do apologize for Allie getting it wrong. J
*** Four different wineglasses is canon. Yes, they set out a separate glass for each wine on the menu and they’re sitting there, cluttering up the table. In the name of sanity I let the coffee cups and multiple plates be brought out with the individual courses.

Fair warning: I've caught up to my editing buffer (blame my thesis) so you're going to get another week of no update... after next chapter. I am getting this whole party out there no matter what.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

Chapter Specific Warnings: Mentions of suicide and suicidal ideation; emotional, psychological, financial, and physical abuse; rape; probable depression; PTSD all over; death; Christian Grey is a very awful man; anhedonia, memory loss, and avoidance symptoms; emotional flashbacks; trigger warning for people being triggered; Leila tells her story and guys, it's not pretty.

Back at our apartment, with a mug of cocoa in front of her, Leila folded herself up into her ratty trench coat like a turtle into its shell, but eventually she told us the story, and by going back and forth and in and out, we were able to link it up together into something achingly and nauseatingly familiar.

Leila had been a nineteen-year-old art student specializing in marketing and graphic design, who had applied for a marketing internship at Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. when she met Christian Grey. Her story of his lies was enough like Sophia’s that it sent chills down my spine, but she’d had no nearby home to run to. She left him twice and came back, convinced that she was insane.

“I can’t remember anything,” she told me, picking at her mug of cocoa, “I don’t remember dropping out of school but I remember that I didn’t have any other option.  I’d moved in with him – he said he’d pay for me to go back to school when I was feeling better, but I just… I couldn’t. He said it was all right if I never did go back because you can’t really teach art, you can’t teach someone to be an artist. But my mind was empty,” she said, “He’d taken all my inspiration, all my ability to make things. And I kept telling myself that it was just how much I was in love with him that I couldn’t focus on anything else, and that nothing he did was really that bad, it didn’t hurt…”

She shrugged, then rearranged her knees on the sofa, small and far too fragile for comfort. I listened in a sort of haze, so disgusted that one human being could do such things to another that it was hard to physically do anything. My anger and pity and disgust had all retreated far away from me into the distance.
“It seems so unreal,” Leila muttered, almost whispering, “I thought… when I got married, I thought what a pity it had been that I couldn’t save him,” she finished bitterly. “It feels a lot like it happened years and years ago to someone else, like I read it or it was all just a terrible dream, because – I remember being happy, but I’ve never been happy since then. I wasn’t happy, or excited, on my wedding day.”

I nodded, and felt cold.

“I remember he sent me flowers a couple weeks later,” she said, “but I didn’t see the card until the next day. Maybe I knew, though. Maybe I felt it. He was always saying that I…” she swallowed hard, “that I had such a beautiful soul, so many emotions, so much intensity and that was why he loved me so much, because I loved him like no one else ever could. But I was too sensitive, I couldn’t keep myself together, that was what was wrong with me, it was all my fault that I couldn’t keep myself together despite everything he did for me and he kept trying to fix me with his love, and why didn’t it work for me, because BDSM had solved all his issues and given him control over his life…” Leila nearly choked on her own sob, then wiped angry tears out of her eyes.

“Look, I didn’t come to you so you could pity me,” she said, “That bastard stole years of my life, and I can’t have them back. But I need help, I can’t approach him – the last time I tried I just, it was so much easier just to give up. I thought maybe if he found me dead in his apartment I could save whoever was next by exposing everything he’d done. When they investigated, they’d find out all about him, and my life wasn’t worth that much if it meant that nobody else suffered. He’d already taken my art, and my happiness, and my money, and I knew he was going to eventually take my life. He always said he’d kill me rather than let me belong to anyone else: it never occurred to him that I only belong to myself.” She smiled, tremblingly, “I… I would have stayed quiet, because I was that afraid of him, even after last year, when I – but my husband’s still in Iraq, and -” she took a sobbing breath, “and he has a family, his parents and his little sister, I couldn’t, if something happened to them because of me… I can’t, I don’t deserve them. And my parents, I never dared to tell them anything because Christian would know if I did. He’d go after them to get to me. But if he’s busy chasing me they’ll be safe, and maybe when it’s all over he won’t be interested enough to go after them.”

She looked up at us then laughed bitterly.

“You don’t believe me,” she said.

“I do,” I replied, and then realized that my voice didn’t even sound like my own. “We started this case because he’s with another young woman, and her friends are worried about her safety.”

“Anastasia Steele. She should run away and never come back,” Leila said, “Why – why is she happy? Why doesn’t she know? Why couldn’t I tell her?” She sighed, and her shoulders sagged. “I know I’m not the only one, but when I saw her and she seemed so unconcerned, even though I wanted to tell her everything, I just couldn’t. It was like there was something blocking the words in my throat and I just… I don’t know what I said. Why couldn’t I save her?”

I didn’t have any answers for her, and the silence hung for a bit in the room, like a greasy cloud of regrets. Leila finished her cocoa. Allie was there, in a vaguely comforting way, and I stopped letting my brain run in circles when Leila pushed up the sleeve of her trench coat and I caught a glimpse of the bandages beneath.

She’d taken some pains to keep them clean, I could see, but that wasn’t going to be enough, especially if she’d been living as rough as I thought she had.

Allie saw them too.

“Do you have any place to stay?” she asked, in that concerned, inviting tone which meant she was preparing to tuck Leila even further under her wing.

Leila gave us a brittle smile. “Yes,” she replied.

“Any place better than an alley, I meant.”

The smile disappeared.

“At the very least,” I told her, “You’re going to need a hand with those bandages.”

She wasn’t happy about it, from the way she hunched down into her trenchcoat again, but in the end, when I’d pulled the medical kit out of the bathroom, she offered up her left arm for my inspection. On the inside of her pale wrist, there was one large, raised red line with neat stitches, some scabbed over, and two ghostly white ones, one much longer and steadier than the others, and my blood ran in cold lines in the veins of my own arms. Leila was right handed.

“How long have you had these stitches?” I asked her.

“I couldn’t stay in the hospital,” she replied, quietly, “He had them watching me. They wouldn’t tell me anything. Even before I left Connecticut.”

“If these stitches get dirty, you’re going to have an infection,” I told her as I washed her arm with iodine from the first aid kit. I washed the rest of the arm with soap and water too, careful not to get any on or too close to the wound. There was no telling where her arm had been, and it had turned several shades paler after being washed. “You're going to need to go to a doctor and have them removed sometime soon, too.” There wasn't any skin growing over them, and while I theoretically knew how to take stitches out, I had no idea how long she'd had them in. Plus, I'd feel better about everything if she saw an actual doctor and made sure that nothing else was wrong.

Leila bit the corner of her lower lip in what seemed to be a nervous gesture. “You wouldn’t happen to be a doctor, would you?”

I snorted. “Hardly,” I said, “I've never taken out stitches, but I’m pretty good at patching her up,” I added, pointing my chin at where Allie had taken it upon herself to refill Leila’s cocoa mug while I dug out the antibiotic ointment. “She always manages to get some sort of scrape or bruise.” Of course, Allie being Allie, the fact that they were scrapes and bruises was always a contradictory comfort. God knew we’d been in our share of sticky situations in the past ten years, and any one of them could have gone sour – or sourer. I’d always held that scars were proof that you’d escaped alive, and maybe one day Leila’s would be old enough that they would fade into the past, only visible in a certain angle of sunlight.

Unbidden, the image of long, crooked lines, pale against the tanned underside of a wrist, rose to the forefront of my mind. Once I’d shaken it off, I reached rather decisively for a fresh bandage and wrapped Leila’s arm securely.

“You really should take a shower,” I continued to her as I wrapped, “and have something to eat that isn’t cocoa. My sweats will fit you, more or less – Allie’s would be horrendously long on you – and we can get your clothes washed.” Personally, I doubted that all the stains would come out, but my concern was more in the realm of the sanitary than the cosmetic. “We have plenty of food in the fridge, and even Allie can figure out a can of chicken soup and a grilled cheese sandwich for you.”

“That happened once,” Allie proclaimed from the kitchen, amused but arguing on principle, “You’d be able to burn soup too if you were also trying to get a critical piece of evidence back from the landlady’s cat at the same time.”

“And yet it never occurred to you to turn the stove off,” I replied. “I rest my case.”

I turned back to see that Leila was actually smiling, truly and honestly, at us.

“I’d like that, I think,” she said.

“You heard the lady,” I told Allie. “Chop chop.”

“Bossy woman,” she replied, “And chopping is not how you open a can.”

I rolled my eyes in her direction – which she couldn’t see – and then looked Leila over. The tense hunch had gone out of her shoulders.
“All right, other hand,” I said, and examined the yellowed bruise in the back of her right hand, over the veins. She winced as I turned her arm over and found the horizontal double track of parallel scars running across that wrist, rather than down her arm. It looked as if the mark further from her hand matched a shorter line across the top of her wrist bones, but the injuries were old and shouldn’t have been that painful, I thought.

“When did you hurt this arm?” I asked.

She pulled her arm away from me and looked away, at the floor again. “It was… the car, just, it was raining and… the brakes…”

“Slow down,” I told her. “What car?”

Leila took a deep breath. “Geoff’s car,” she said, “we were driving along in the rain and he… he’d given me his coat because I had to leave mine behind at the hospital, and he said we’d better get out of town, that he had a grandmother in Kentucky who I could stay with for a while, so things could get sorted out, and then there was this car without it’s lights on and I don’t think he saw it in time, and -” she swallowed abruptly. “We went right through the guardrail when he swerved, and we weren’t going that fast, really, but… there was so much blood, and if I’d stayed there, they would have made me go back to the hospital.”

She looked at me appealingly: sometime in the past hour, it seemed that she’d come to trust me, to some degree, for some reason. The knowledge of it settled heavily on my shoulders.

“Who’s Geoff?” I asked.

“He’s a friend of Mark’s from boot camp,” she replied, “He’s home on leave and he was the only person I could think to ask to help me leave, because they took away my license at the first hospital. Everybody else has kids. He… I didn’t think he would, but I finally got him to come see me, and he helped me leave after I got out, even though they could have arrested him. He said he wasn’t ever going to leave a man or woman behind.” Leila smiled in a painful, watery way. “I guess I failed there too.”

Numbly, I examined the yellowed, diagonal bruise across Leila’s collarbone, which was a over a week old and fading out of existence. To my inexpert eye, nothing appeared to be broken. Allie came in, bearing a cup of orange juice, a bowl of soup, and a crooked grilled cheese sandwich on a lunch tray that she’d dug up from somewhere. I excused myself into the bathroom to wash my hands.

I met my own eyes in the mirror as the water ran too hot.

My mind was too empty to think philosophical thoughts about how it was impossible to avoid death, especially if you were a detective, or about how you couldn’t keep yourself from being affected by your cases, and some of them were a special hell in and of themselves.
Sometimes the brain just clears out to make room for something else.

The thing that wormed its way in was the cold silence. The absence of breath. The running fear, running forever, always on the move towards something promised to be better, always on the run from the last disappointment, the last whispered words. The slow click of windshield wipers in the rain, always circling back to the start, unable to break the cycle. The sun-brown hands where the first few age spots had begun to mingle with freckles, with the long white lines in the soft underside of the wrists, invisible unless you knew the right tilt of the light to unbury the past. Isolation.

My wrists burned with ice and I discovered that the reason my fingertips hurt so much was because I was gripping the counter so hard that my fingers had turned white. I let go and sank to the floor, resting my forehead on the counter as I fought down the shadow of nausea. Throwing up couldn’t purge memories, even if my hands still smelled like disinfectant.

I didn’t have to stretch far to imagine Leila, trapped like a rat in a maze, running from the knowledge of what was real by taking refuge in unreality, fighting a persecution that was all too real despite her own doubts, deciding to trade away her own breath, lying lifeless on the floor for who knew how many minutes, hollow. I’d never understand it either, but I thought – I hoped – that she hadn’t given up: that something inside her still rattled the cage in the hopes that it would be set free.

I knew that she needed more help than we could give her – chicken soup does admirably for the common cold but not for fear – but in her place, would it even be possible to trust someone who wanted to lock her up for her own safety? I didn’t think so. If she’d broken out of at least one hospital, with help or not, another one stood a good chance of making things worse instead of better, and somewhere deep in my tired heart I was rebelling against the idea of Leila, caged and absent of breath.

If her husband was still deployed, I doubted we could reach him, but someone who counted as Leila’s family ought to know where she was. And I ought to call the police and report to them that there was a traffic accident connected to the case as well.

I heard a knock on the bathroom door.

“You all right in there?” Allie asked, and I closed my eyes, seeing her leaning against the doorframe, looking impossibly graceful and lopsided and concerned and careless at the same time. She had a way of standing as if people should salute when she passed, but you wouldn’t know it from the way she just sort of unwound herself everywhere at home.

“Yeah,” I said back, still not moving.

“Gonna come out?”

I took a deep breath. “Give me a minute.”

I made myself busy, dragging out a fresh towel and washcloth for Leila, putting the soap and shampoo in a prominent place, and then realizing that if she got her bandages wet, I’d have to change them again. Well, it wasn’t as if we didn’t have more of them, and it wasn’t as if I hadn’t already seen her wrist, so I’d take care of that when the time came, because I did not regret that coaxing her into having that gash treated had been my first priority.

When I stepped out of the bathroom, Leila had devoured her dinner and was nursing another cup of cocoa. I couldn’t even have been gone ten minutes.

In the meantime, Allie had dug up some sweatpants and a t-shirt for Leila, so once our guest had disappeared into the bathroom and pushed her clothes out around the cracked-open door, I threw the filthy shirt and jeans in the washing machine with some towels and waited until the hum of the machine and the pounding of the water had created a sound barrier.

“We’re going to have to call officer Rayne,” I said, at the same time as Allie opened her mouth.

“I think you should have a look at Leila’s aura to check if there’s… the same thing as Sophia,” she said.

We stood there a second until I nodded. “All right,” I said. It wasn’t as if looking at her aura hadn’t already occurred to me, but I found myself strangely reluctant to do it. Until Allie had suggested it, I hadn’t even noticed that I was avoiding it for no good reason, especially when I’d checked auras so often over the years since we’d began doing investigations that it was now second nature to me. I supposed I’d just been busy taking care of Leila, but Allie could have helped too. Now that I thought of it, we hadn’t exactly been playing to our strengths ever since we’d heard Sophia’s evidence. That needed to stop, and not only because we might be facing a trained and dangerous mage tomorrow night if the worst-case scenario came true.

Allie looked at me consideringly, then shrugged. “It might not tell us anything, and I can only guess how disturbing what you saw in Sophia’s aura was, so if you don’t want to…” she trailed off, and I shook my head.

“It could tell us something, and this time I’m prepared for it,” I replied. “Besides, I’ve been meaning to do it.”

I could tell from Allie’s expression that she clearly didn’t believe me, but she changed the subject anyway.

“Are you sure you’re okay?” she asked me. I could clearly see the concern in her dark blue eyes, and didn’t have to ask how she knew. Over the years we’d gotten good at reading each other.

With a halfhearted shrug, I settled down on the couch, and she followed me.

“Remember the Hillcrest case?” I asked her.

Allie grimaced. “The suicide? Yeah, I thought that was it. Though I admit that reaming the police out for not warning you before they let you walk into that room was not the brightest thing I’ve ever done.”

It was a mark of just how long ago that case had been that I remembered Allie’s furious indignance fondly and the horror that had gripped me entering into that case hardly at all. The days before we’d actually become any good at crime-solving were now a matter of nostalgic memory, the same as our youthful misunderstandings with the police force back in the city we had learned to call home.

Home felt like another universe, which was only fair because it was. I’d be more than happy when it was time to leave Seattle and go back to the old familiar faces, and a world where magic of all kinds was out in the open.

“You know,” I said as a thought popped into my head, “I sort of wish Evvy and Martin were here. Especially there’s that charity ball tomorrow night. And if it’s going to be as tacky as Kate said, I’d pay good money to see Will and his impeccable Admiralty manners putting them all to shame.”

Allie snickered at the thought of our oldest friends on the force and the perpetually scruffy inventor on the Greys’ property.

“Evvy would take great pleasure in arresting someone like Christian Grey,” she said. “Her accent would probably put in an appearance, just from pure satisfaction. ‘Ah am arrestin’ you for the followin’ violations of the law…’” she continued, mimicking Evvy’s hardly perceptible horse-country drawl as badly as she possibly could. “Will would probably deliver a long speech about behavior unbecoming to a gentleman, wait for someone to take exception to it, and then let them figure out that he’s the new superintendent of the expanded Aegis.”

“And before we knew it, Martin would have made a perpetual motion machine out of the silverware, or be happily explaining the physics of radio transmission to half the guests using a diagram he drew on the tablecloth,” I added, joining her amusement at the ridiculous scenario.

“That would be a real party.” Allie shook her head fondly. After a few moments, her smile faded. “I’m going to go call Officer Rayne. She can add that car crash to the list of things that her department is investigating. Maybe when Lelia’s a little calmer we can figure out where it happened.”

I nodded, but she hovered there for a moment. Twice she opened her mouth to speak, thought better of it, and closed it again. Finally, she cleared her throat.

“Was your mom’s aura like these ones?” she finally asked, quietly.

Quickly, I shook my head. “No,” I said. “It was the same color as goldenrod, never covered by anything, just… I couldn’t tell by looking at her if it was a good day or a bad one. She tried to hide her problems from me, to make me think that we had it lucky and she had everything under control.” It still felt strange to smile about that, but crying about it was the only other option and there are only so many tears you can shed. “It wasn’t the auras that reminded me, but my mom had those same scars…” I gestured towards my own smooth right wrist. Unlike me, my mother had been left handed. Then I sighed, and tried to pass it off with a shrug. “I just want to help before it’s too late,” I admitted.

Allie’s face was full of sympathy, but she didn’t seem to know what to say. Instead, she leaned over and gave me a quick kiss, before heading out to the tiny balcony in our room to make the call. I cleaned up the dishes, wrestled the fold out couch into position, and dug out the spare sheets and blankets to make it up, keeping busy again. That I had learned from my grandmother.

Leila must have used up all the hot water in the building by the time she came out with damp, combed hair and bare feet. Cleanliness had greatly improved her appearance: it had been upgraded from bag lady to wide eyed waif.

I looked at her over the edge of my glasses.

Immediately, I felt a stabbing pain between my eyebrows, along with a quick impression of boiling grey something as I clapped my hands over my eyes and squinched them shut. Shit. Not again.

“You all right?” Leila asked, and I waved one hand in reply.

“Poked myself in the eye,” I lied, and my eyes were watering like crazy already. It felt like a sharp weight was trying to compress my skull, constantly, out of tune with my frantic heartbeat. I waited for it to die down a little before I moved, fumbling for the refrigerator and punching the ice button until I heard cubes rattle down into the tray. Somehow, I managed to grab two of them and press them against my forehead. It helped a little.

When I took my hands off my eyes, I made quite sure to push my glasses into place before opening them. The lights glared yellow on the linoleum of the little kitchen, and I still had to squint, but I could see the little lines that separated the tiles quite clearly. I stood there nursing my headache until my heart stopped pounding, but I didn’t try to look at Leila’s aura again.

I could feel frustration gathering in hot prickles behind my eyelids: I’d never needed to be careful of what auras I looked at or how long until a couple years back. I’d thought that my eyes had recovered from the time I tried to see through a grand scale illusion and temporarily succeeded, which had the approximate effect of staring at the sun, and had burned out my ability to see auras for the better part of a year. Apparently, I’d been wrong about that, and right about the headaches instead.

My night just keeps getting better and better, I thought, only to realize that there was no longer any relief in sarcasm.
* Leila’s story, beyond what can be gleaned from canon, is also based on Ana’s and a lot of research into symptoms of PTSD and major depression caused by abuse and gaslighting from Psychopaths and Malignant Narcissists. And now that I’ve written it, it’s time to dip Grey into a vat of 10 molar hydrochloric acid.
** Geoff is the in-canon name of the man who was killed in a car accident in Kentucky as he drove cross-country with Leila. Nothing else is told to us about him in canon, or about Leila’s husband, who I named and sent conveniently overseas just prior to Leila’s mental breakdown. The logic is shaped strangely, I know, but since I’m dealing with a timeline that originated in E L James’ head, the logic sort of has to squeeze in together as best it can.
**** Since I want to wrap this up by Sunday of ELJ’s timeline (June 12th) there are only a few more chapters, and the logic has to cram in like sardines. As always, if you know something I don’t know, drop me a line!
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)

The process of sharing what we knew with the Seattle Police and the opening of an investigation can best be described as necessary tedium. It required several statements, which included trips to the Seattle Police Station, and before we knew it, the case officially belonged to those with the power to make arrests. Our anonymous informant, we were assured by Officer Rayne, who had been assigned to the case, would be perfectly fine and justice would be served to the best of her ability. There was also a developing financial investigation, and the department was busy tracking down the other young women who had been photographed with Grey.

I was almost comfortable leaving the case in her hands. There was still the little matter of whether or not there was magic involved, and of the original case; having determined that Christian Grey was a clear and present threat to Anastasia Steele, it was our duty to keep an eye on whether or not he was trying to slither his way back into her life.

The only complication was that, despite the fact that we knew where she lived and worked, we hadn’t been able to ‘accidentally’ meet her even once. It wasn’t for lack of trying: we took an increasingly suspicious number of walks around her neighborhood, at first to set litmus paper and scan for magic, then just to eyball the place. Something about seeing the apartment building that she shared with Kate still standing was comforting, and we rang the doorbell regularly on the off chance we’d be there at the right time.

After we had met Sophia, Allie had slipped one of our warded business cards under Ana’s door when it hadn’t been answered. Unfortunately, it’s extremely hard to ward an apartment against physical intrusion, and even harder to put protective wards on a person you’ve never even met, not that it could stop us from trying.

Officer Rayne, however, did not know any of the numerous pressing reasons why we should continue to investigate, just a lot of perfectly valid, procedural reasons why we shouldn’t.

“Look, the investigation officially opens tomorrow,” she told me over the phone. “There’s already an ongoing fiscal investigation on Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. that will take over the identity theft investigation. The department would appreciate it if you stuck to investigating for your other client from then on, since it will make procedures less complicated.”

I thanked her, and mouthed ‘tomorrow’ at Allie, who was sitting across the kitchen table waiting to hear the news. “Is there anything we can do in the meantime to speed the investigation?” I asked.

“Yes,” Officer Rayne replied, “do not approach Christian Grey.”

“That’s not part of the plan,” I replied, entirely truthfully. Any watching that we were going to do would be at a respectable distance.

Officer Rayne made a somewhat amused noise on the other end of the phone. “Well, if you have nine years of experience like it says in your ad, you should know that we appreciate the help you’ve already given us but would legally prefer to do without your further involvement, except if we have to contact you to answer more questions. Just out of curiosity, though, why does your ad also say ‘magical advising, investigation and consulting’?”

I’d almost forgotten we’d put that in the ad before we realized that it wouldn’t be taken seriously here. “Oh, that?” I asked, preparing to cheerfully lie through my teeth. “Allie’s a former stage magician. We get jobs like you wouldn’t believe disproving psychics and miracle shows.” I couldn’t manage an entirely straight face, but over the phone it didn’t matter. As I said it, Allie snorted and crossed her arms.
It was true though: we did get jobs that Officer Rayne would never believe.

“How very Houdini of you,” Officer Rayne replied, sounding like she was ready to laugh.

We continued to investigate, obviously. In fact, we met with Franco that same day in a tiny café that was decorated like the inside of a scrapbook. It also had ridiculous prices, but it smelled heavenly.

Franco was about six feet tall, dark haired and grey eyed, and shaped like he had been poured into a mold labeled “underwear model.” He also had an accent so thick that it was sometimes hard to tell what he was saying. After he greeted us, I stepped forward to take over the interview, hoping to cut directly to the chase without having to detangle his vowels for any longer than was necessary.

Oui, I ‘ave cut ‘air of all zees mademoiselles ‘oo come ‘ere with monsieur Grey.” He said, leaning back in his chair as if he intended to be looked at. “Zey are belles mademoiselles, but zey never return.”

I slogged through the rolling r’s and looked over at Allie, who was staring at Franco with a concentrated expression, almost a glare. I kicked her ankle under the table, earning myself a redirection of the glare, which softened a bit by the time it hit me. I had no idea what it was about Franco that was rubbing her the wrong way, unless of course it was the accent, which was entirely too gooey to be cut with a knife. Maybe a blowtorch.

“How many young women have come in with Grey since you have been employed at Esclava?” I asked, shuffling my notes on purpose. It’s a great tactic: most people sit up and attempt to marshal some form of organization if you look efficient, organized, and most of all busy. I think it’s the secret shame that everyone carries, left over from their mothers nagging them about it through their teenage years.

It didn’t work on Franco: he smiled and relaxed further into his chair, lounging in it like he owned the place. I wondered if he even had a spine, or if he was actually made of airbrushed muscles and nothing else. “Three years I ‘ave been working ‘ere, five mademoiselles come in with monsieur Grey.”

Franco said it with a smile that was entirely too confidential, and I felt my face go hot to the roots of my hair. I forced myself to focus. We knew the names of four of Grey’s most recent victims, but if he could give us any more information…

I glanced at Allie, who had shifted closer to me in her seat, and she didn’t even spare me a flicker of a smile in reply. She was too busy staring at Franco behind a face that was entirely too calm and uniterested.

Sighing internally, I decided to move this along before we were all sitting down with some of Officer Rayne’s colleagues, explaining to them why tables and chairs had suddenly become capable of flight.

“Do you remember their names?” I asked, without looking at him.

“Yes, Zere was… Bianca, tres belle, Sofie en December, Alise, Madeline… and Leila.”

I nodded, and matched the names to those we already had. “Leila – do you remember her last name?”

“Leila Cooper,” Franco replied, after a moment of thought, “’er ‘air was most beautiful.”

I smiled, made an approving noise, and resisted the urge to bang my head against the table. It wasn’t entirely Franco’s fault if he fit every stereotype of the French hairdresser, and it certainly wasn’t his fault that Allie had somehow gotten a bug up her nose about him during the interview. That was on Allie, and I was going to ask her what she meant by it, because even if it did make my toes curl a bit, trying to get into some sort of glare-off with informants was not a good idea.

Even if they did insist on using obnoxious and probably fake accents.

“Do you remember anything else about any of these young ladies?” I asked him. “Perhaps about how they acted around Grey or what they said?”

“Zey were not entirely… how you say… comfortable?” Franco replied after a moment’s thought. “Zis Leila en particular, she seem to me very unhappy, and zis is not right. She should be très excité, not so sad.” He looked directly at me with eyes so grey they were almost silver, and I found that I could hardly move. “All zat I know is that Christian Grey is not a good man,” he said in a low voice, “you must be careful, mademoselles.”

“That’s nice,” Allie cut in dryly, and I twitched around abruptly in my seat. In the last few moments, I’d been so intent on listening that I’d almost forgotten she was there. “I’ll be sure to remember your expert advice.”

Once more, I resisted the urge to bang my head on the table.

Franco smiled unpleasantly. “A wise decision.” His accent had vanished, probably taking the same route as Allie’s professionalism.

It was time to wrap this up, and it wasn’t just because I thought that if the tension in the room was wound any tighter it would snap.

“Would you be comfortable with being contacted again by us or possibly the Seattle Police department?” I asked Franco.

“Oui,” he said, his accent making a surprise reappearance, and I stuck out my hand. Allie crossed her arms and refused, childishly, and I wasn’t anywhere near close enough to give her a discreet kick in the ankle to make her knock it off. Franco shook my hand with surprising strength once, and then quickly took his own hand away. My last sight of him as Allie and I left was of him examining his own fingertips.

“Mind telling me what’s up?” I asked Allie once we were safely outside. It seemed to break her out of her own thoughts. “What exactly is wrong with Franco?” I clarified.

“I don’t know,” she said, sticking her hands in her pockets. “I dunno, I just… had a feeling. Like he was more dangerous than he looked. Maybe it was my imagination.” She offered me a hopeful smile, and I rolled my eyes.

I didn’t think that Franco had looked dangerous. Or rather, he looked like he could put a person in grave danger of buying cologne. “Maybe he’s a mage,” I replied, and Allie shrugged. Either way, Franco got ticked off on my mental list of interviewable witnesses, and on my list of people who presented a mystery that was probably not directly connected to ours.

Our next angle of investigation came directly from the client: Kate e-mailed us from Barbados in a minor tizzy over the fact that one of her college friends had told her that Ana and Grey had come together to his art exhibition.

Fortunately, she had a plausible excuse for us to meet Grey and finally settle the question of whether or not he was a mage; Christian Grey’s parents conducted a yearly charity auction event that her parents regularly received tickets for, and Mr. and Mrs. Kavanaugh apparently had no objections to donating their tickets to a couple of Kate’s “friends.”

Unfortunately, the event was Saturday evening, which gave us only two days to prepare for it and still try to run down new leads on Lelia Cooper.

This time around, Allie got researching duty while I got to run errands, chanting this is a business expense in my head the whole time. According to Kate, the charitable event we were crashing was formal in a way that precluded scruffy private detectives coated in mud up to their knees from going unnoticed. It was, in fact, a masked ball, which was great for us blending into the crowd, and bad for identifying Ana or Grey.

When I returned to our apartment, bearing bags, later that afternoon, she had news: there was a Leila Cooper who had been mentioned in a local paper in Conneticut about a year ago, when she had gotten married. The picture more or less confirmed her identity: she was a slender, brown-haired young woman in her early twenties, with honey-brown eyes a scattering of freckles, and a fresh bob cut. Her new last name, Williams, hadn’t been helpful for searching, and neither had her new husband’s name, Mark, but Allie had managed to turn up two articles. The most recent was from approximately four months ago, listing her as a missing person who had last been seen leaving for the grocery store and begging anyone who had any clues to her whereabouts to contact the police.

Allie didn’t read me the third printout.

“It’s notice that she was recovering in a mental hospital, also about a year ago,” she summarized, “not really any leads.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Recovering from what?” I asked.

Rather than shrugging and telling me that the paper didn’t specify, Allie looked uncomfortable and fidgeted with the printout that she wasn’t letting me see.

“Sit down first, okay?” she said, and I unceremoniously dumped my shopping bags, full of the necessities for our planned bout of spying, on the coffee table, before joining her on the couch.

“Leila Williams,” Allie said quickly, “was first reported missing last year at the beginning of June, and found about three hundred miles from home in a hotel room suffering from an overdose of sleeping pills.”

I heard the words pass through my mind but they didn’t leave any tracks. I just swallowed and nodded, letting her know that I’d heard. I didn’t ask who’d found her. I didn’t ask if there had been an investigation.

I tried very hard not to think how much damage was done in a minute.

Sensing my distress, Allie reached out and pulled me into a hug.

“Don’t worry,” she said, “We’ll find her too.”

It was probably unreasonably optimistic to think that we could find Leila, but I knew my Allie and her stubborn ways. If it was possible, we’d at least try.

For me at least, the next day had an ominous air, and that was even before we found anything worth mentioning.

Allie and I were walking yet another restless circuit outside of Seattle Independent Publishing, which had the twin distinctions of being the workplace of Anastasia Steele and having the most generic business name I had ever seen in real life, the very next afternoon. We had more or less given up on detecting any sort of magic, but went on picking up the litmus paper and putting down fresh strips anyway. The best way to lose clues in an investigation is, after all, to dismiss a lead as unimportant.

Since I was the one who remembered where we’d stuffed the litmus paper, including behind the downspouts in the narrow alley behind the building, Allie was the first to see her.

“There’s someone hiding behind that dumpster,” she told me in a low voice, before standing up and moving to the middle of the alley. There was a scuffling noise as she walked very slowly around the dumpster, and before I could say anything, what I thought was a very small, very dirty old woman scrambled out from behind it and skittered down the alleyway towards me, then stopped abruptly.

Her dark hair hung down in strings to her shoulders and her skin was grayish around the deep bags under her eyes; it seemed to hang on her just like the trench coat she wore, which had its shoulder seams near her elbows and its sleeves rolled up until her pale hands could be seen. The moment I saw her clearly, I decided that she was actually quite young despite the thinness of her cheeks. What was more, her face seemed to be stuck in a fuzzed-over expression of fear and sadness, which didn’t change even as she looked tiredly around between me and Allie. It was only when she looked up and her light brown eyes didn’t seem to see me that I realized who she probably was.

Call it a hunch, but all I had to risk at this point was my dignity.

“Leila?” I asked, abruptly, and that got her attention – she flinched, focused on me, then glanced back at Allie just standing there in the middle of the alleyway and evidently decided that trying to get past me was a better choice.

“Yeah?” she said warily, and took half a step forwards. “Who are you?”

“I’m Lindsay Pilot,” I told her, “that’s Allie Veldon. We’re detectives.”

Narrow as the alley was, there was plenty of room for Leila to bolt straight past me without either of us brushing the wall.

I had just turned around and started to run after her when I heard a gut-wrenching honk. I tore out of the alleyway expecting to see her bouncing off the hood of a car, but to my relief, I saw her disappearing down the sidewalk, coat flapping behind her. By then, Allie had caught up to me – why were we running again? I would have stopped if I’d had more than a second to think about it, but at that moment Leila ran full tilt into someone’s bike leaning against a bike rack, and went down in a skinny tangle of limbs. I winced as we skidded to a halt behind her, talking full stop.

“It’s okay,” I said quietly to her as Allie tried to pry the bike and its overly long chain away, “We’re not with the police and we don’t work for Christian Grey. We only want to ask you a few questions and then you can leave.” A bunch of people had gathered around us by that point, and a teenage boy helped Allie stand the bike back up while I knelt on the ground next to Leila. “It really is okay.”

“Are you all right, miss?” asked a middle-aged man with a briefcase, and Leila flinched away from him.

“All right,” she said to me in a very soft voice, “I guess we can talk.” She wobbled to her feet and led Allie and I to a convenient bench a little ways down the block, ignoring everyone who was clustered around as they dispersed. Then she sat there like a stump.

“You’re Leila Williams?” I asked, and she nodded. “Allie and I are investigating Christian Grey -” Leila flinched at the name, “and would like to ask you some questions about him. If you want, you can remain anonymous, but I’d like your permission to tape this interview.” I held up my recorder and wiggled it as proof.

Leila glanced between us for a moment, then shrugged. “Yeah. Go ahead.”

I clicked on the recorder and then found myself unprepared to ask any questions. It was quite clear that Leila wasn’t going to volunteer information on her own. We sat there for a minute until Allie started talking.

“Why did you come to Seattle?” she asked.

“To get away.”

“From Connecticut?” Allie asked, and Leila looked at her sharply.

“How do you know that?” she nearly squeaked, “You are working for him!” Then, she seemed to crumple, and put her face in her hands and her hands on her knees. “I… I don’t care anymore,” she said, though it came out kind of muffled. “Go ahead. Put me away again. I know I’m crazy, but I told her – I told her! Or at least I tried…”

“We’re not going to put you away,” I told her firmly, hoping that she’d understand that I was telling the truth. She just looked at me with tired eyes.

“We’re just going to keep talking to you,” Allie added, “you can walk away at any time.”

Leila let out a small snort. “So talk.”

I made eye contact with Allie, but she seemed to be doing better than I was.

“Why did you want to get away from Connecticut?” Allie asked patiently.

“You know why I wanted to get away from Connecticut.”

“Actually, I don’t.”

“Liar. If you’re not a pair of his flying monkeys, you’re with the cops, and you already know everything else, so why don’t you know why I left Connecticut?” Leila glared at both of us. “For that matter, why are you wasting time sitting here asking me questions?”

“Because we don’t actually know the answers,” I replied, “We’re looking for evidence in an investigation on Christian Grey and all that we know is that you were once in a relationship with him.” And that you’re wandering around outside the building where his current girlfriend works, which isn’t half suspicious. I kept that one to myself; it couldn’t have helped.

There was a sickeningly despairing smile on Leila’s face. “I came here to stop him,” she said, “I’m not going to let anyone get in the way of that.”

“Then let us help you,” Allie said earnestly.

It wouldn’t have worked if I’d said it; Allie had an innate confidence that made people think twice about protesting when she took them under her wing. When people hit rock bottom, they were apt to suddenly see her as a safe harbor, no matter what they thought of her at other times. Right at that moment, she glowed with promises.

After a moment, Leila nodded.

I had to put this chapter and the next through a major edit using the lovely timeline that Gehayi whipped up for me, which is why it’s late.

* I got my information on police investigation procedure from various places. None of it is specific to Washington or Seattle, and it might be contaminated by my longstanding love of NCIS. As always, if I fucked up, give me your sources! I discovered about halfway through that while I know how this works in the world Allie and Lindsay are from, I don’t know how it actually goes in the real world.
** If I fucked up the French accent in any way, assume it’s because it’s fake. J (Sub note: I know that “Franco” sounds Italian and Ana said his accent was Italian, but 1) Ana is dumber than a bucket of bricks, 2) I desperately wanted this easter egg before I got to the heavy stuff with Leila. Anyone who recognizes what crossover character Franco probably is gets a cookie! [And everybody who already knew gets a cookie anyway.])
*** No, the fanwiki does not have Leila’s actual maiden name listed, so I made one up. Thanks to Gehayi, I know that Lelia appears to have 1) gone home to her parents in Connecticut, which was a smart move, 2) gotten married there about one year before the Fifty Shades timeline, then 3) had a nervous breakdown two weeks later, causing her to be hospitalized.
**** I had Leila speak like an actual young American adult (rather than the weird way that James had her talking,) because it just makes more sense, damnit!
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)

Chapter Four: A Great Sadness on Earth
Contents and Warnings
Chapter Three
They say that a burden shared is a burden halved.

Maybe that’s true for some people: I hope it was true for Sophia. The three of us spent the next two hours on that bench, and Sophia told us all she could bring herself to say. She cried at times, and shook with anger. It’s difficult to describe the depth of the disgust and hatred I felt for Christian Grey as her story continued, revealing the lengths to which he had gone to manipulate and misinform her, but I felt as if I could quite cheerfully sentence him to death for all that he had done to Sophia and at least twelve other young women – I was certain that the twelve “exes” had suffered the same fate – and what he was doing or planning to do to Anastasia Steele.

After the words had run dry and we had given Sophia some time to compose herself, I braced myself for the necessity of asking more questions and hoping that they didn't cause her any more distress.

“Now that we have some evidence of a crime,” I told her, “We’ll be turning our evidence over to the Washington State Police so that they can open an investigation. If you want to remain anonymous, they’ll respect that, though they will probably ask if they can interview you. When they’ve finished their investigation and there is a trial, you can also testify if you want to.”

Sophia nodded. “I… I think that’s what I want,” she said, “to be anonymous. I’ll try to tell them what happened if it will help them save anyone else, but I don’t think I could stand to be in the same courtroom as him.”

"And no one can possibly blame you for that,” Allie added definitively. She fished one of our business cards out of her pocket and passed it to Sophia. “Remember that if he contacts you again, call the police, but not before you’ve gone to a safe place with people that you trust. If you ever feel desperate or unsafe, or if you ever need advice, you can also get in contact with us. We can help you take some extra precautions.”

“No, I couldn’t – you should probably just leave it to the police,” Sophia replied earnestly, “If he knew that I’d contacted you -”

“He won’t.” Allie’s voice rang with assurance, and I felt a pang of pride. It was no wonder that people sought her out for their defense and safety, even those who had never seen her commit her whole being to such a task.

“He’ll still go after you if he knows you’re investigating. It’s not safe,” Sophia insisted. Then her eyes flicked towards me worriedly.

“Especially for you, Ms. Pilot -”

“Lindsay,” I corrected automatically.

“- because he really hates blondes.”

I’m afraid my eyebrows tried to crawl up onto my scalp when she said that. “Hates blondes?” I repeated. That had not been next on the list of questions.

Sophia fidgeted a bit. “He mentioned a few times,” she said quietly, “he’s hated blondes since he was adopted. He said the social worker who found him after his mother died was a blonde, and he said that the woman who taught him BDSM was blonde.”

“Did he ever mention that woman’s name?” I asked.

“Elena,” she said. “Elena Lincoln, she owns a spa where he made me go once. I think he did it just to show off how much money he has, but I can’t remember the name.”

“Esclava?” Allie supplied.

“That’s it,” Sophia nodded. “I thought it was really weird that he would bring me to her salon if he hates her so much, but he told me that she gave him the money to start his business, so he repaid her by investing in hers. He did say that she was good for him, but he always said it in a way that made me think he was protecting her for some bizarre reason.”

I made a mental note to advise the police department to look into whether or not Esclava had been used to deposit Sophia’s savings. “We’ll have the police look into her too,” I promised. “Do you know the names of anyone else who might be involved?”

Sophia thought about it for a minute. “He has a bodyguard, or security expert, or something, named Taylor,” she said, “and someone named Welch, who he called when he had a problem with Lelia.”

“Lelia?” I asked, “Who’s Lelia?”

To my surprise, Sophia looked extremely embarrassed and worried. “I don’t actually know,” she admitted, “he was always talking about her though. He said she was the last of a long string of disappointments, whenever he tried to have a long-term relationship. She supposedly went crazy with jealousy over him, almost committed suicide and had to be locked up in a mental institution. At the time, I thought it was just wonderful of him to still be taking care of her, but… If she actually exists, I’m afraid for her.” She shrugged a bit and shot a glance at Allie and me. “I feel really stupid now.”

“Do you know her last name?” I asked.

She shook her head. “I’m sorry, no,” she said. “But I think I know who might. There’s a stylist named Franco who works at Esclava. I’m pretty sure that he’s given all of… of his exes… haircuts.” She smiled wanly. “He was really nice and just… you know, a trustworthy guy. At least, he seemed that way to me, and I guess I can’t always be wrong about that. I think he’ll help the investigation if he can.”
It was back to Esclava then. “Aside from when you e-mailed him about your bank account, have you been in contact with Christian Grey since December?”

“No, I don’t…” Sophia swallowed. “I don’t think so.” She wiped her hands on the thighs of her jeans and looked up into the blue of the late afternoon sky, then pulled out her cell phone. “It’s late,” she said, “I really ought to go home.”

“Will you be all right going home?” Allie asked immediately.

After a second’s hesitation, Sophia nodded. “Yeah. I’ll go back to Antigoni and tell Alexander he can drive on our way home. It’s about time for him to get off anyway, and somebody had better remind him that he hasn’t finished his placement test for calculus. I’ll be fine.”
Sophia stood up and shook hands with Allie. I reached up and slipped my glasses a little lower on my nose before moving forward to shake her hand.

I nearly missed the handshake because of what I saw. Sophia’s aura, which was a warm amber color that put me in mind of autumn honey, was bleeding away from her through a mesh of barbed grey lines that twisted around her like greedy vines. Though I knew it was only my brain making pictures from the energy my eyes saw, I could have sworn that they were digging into her, feeding off her, tearing at her own aura and swallowing it in sticky clumps. I could see a wild shivering of the aura over Sophia’s mouth, as the grey vines crawled over it and were shaken off, but her limbs and torso were covered in them. I tasted copper and iron and despair and saw the sound of nails being dragged down a screaming chalkboard. The vines were always watching, always there, vines made of blood and mouths and veins of fear –

“Are you all right?” Sophia asked, staring at me.

I tried very hard to resume a normal expression, scrambling to push my glasses back up. “I’m all right,” I said, “I… uh… just thought of something.”

The normal expression was apparently a failure. Sophia didn’t look convinced.

“She’s a brilliant detective, but her eureka expression leaves something to be desired,” Allie cut in, placing a hand on my shoulder. I didn’t even bother giving her a dirty look, because I was too busy pushing my glasses back up into position. “If you’re sure that you’ll get home all right, the brilliant detective and I will just head on out to do our investigating, detecting and deducing. You can call us if you have any questions.”

While Sophia waved and headed off down the street, I just stood there, swallowing repeatedly. I knew the nausea was all in my head, but I still tasted iron and the slime of fear was coating the insides of my throat.
Allie watched Sophia turn the corner out of sight, then slipped an arm around my shoulders and steered me a little ways down the street in the opposite direction.

“Still there, Linds?” she asked in a voice she probably meant to be cheerful. I blinked at her and she took her free hand and untwisted a section of my hair from my earpiece. “What did you see?” she asked, urgently.

It took me a minute to make any sound. “You slipped her a protection spell on our business card, I hope?” I asked a bit quaveringly.

“The strongest one I had,” Allie replied, guiding me forward again, “Backed up with a whole lot of righteous anger and a good shot of completely justifiable overkill. If you can walk fast, I think we can catch the bus back to the ferry.” I sped up just at the sound of her voice. “I’d feel better, of course, if we could pull out all the stops and put a huge, Christian Grey excluding ward on her house, but most likely we’d get ourselves arrested.”

“Can you put that kind of ward on a person if they don’t have a very strong aura?” I asked.

“I’d have to do a lot of tweaking, but yeah, probably,” Allie said, “I could base a design off of the ward I put on Evvy’s dog tags – yes, before you say anything, I asked before I started playing around with those, you know she never takes them off – but those really were a best-case scenario, it would be much harder if I couldn’t get my hands on something that the person always had on them. Does this have something to do with what you saw when you looked at Sophia’s aura, or are you just trying to change the subject?”

The bus was just pulling up to its stop, so we ran the last half a block to board it and flopped down in a back seat. Allie glanced around us, and no doubt decided that eavesdropping was unlikely coming from the elderly man reading a newspaper and the teenager who kept pushing his headphones back into his ears when they fell out from nodding to the beat.

“All right, twenty questions is over,” she said. “What did you see?”

I told her. Explaining an aura, especially one that’s being interfered with, is an imprecise business, and usually the primary sense involved is sight, though in a synesthesia-inducing way: if I truly was hearing, smelling, tasting or touching all the things that an aura suggested to me, I’d be able to sense them while wearing my glasses… at least, according to the two people in all the worlds who had any idea of how my extra sense fit into the great and complicated theory of magic. Sophia’s aura was something of an exception in that I knew it wasn’t very strong, but I’d sensed it extremely strongly.

When I was done, Allie looked grim.

“Is he controlling or harming them with magic?” she asked.

“I don’t actually know,” I admitted, “I mean, I’ve seen people who had entwined auras before, but -”

“Entwined is a bit weak of a word,” Allie muttered. “That sounds more like an aura that’s eating hers. His, I suppose. I shouldn’t be this surprised that his aura is a creepy predator.”

I laughed a little desperately. “And it’s a visual pun,” I said, and shook my head. “Christian Grey has a grey aura, I never would have guessed… Look, Allie,” I said, sobering up, “I don’t actually know what it means, or if it’s part of a spell, or if the protection spell will work. I’ve seen some pretty weird auras, and this one is giving me data that I don’t know how to process. It could be natural. It could be her own magic stewing its way through and fighting everything she’s been through – you know that’s when magic kicks in for people with miniscule amounts of latency, when they absolutely need it to survive. We should have brought the tuning fork.”

“Assuming that it wouldn’t just pick you up in preference to some spell stuck to another person’s aura,” Allie replied. “Still, I don’t like it.”

“That makes two of us.”

After the long trip home on the bus and then the ferry, we finally hit the apartment in the light of the early evening, and flipped a coin to determine who “won” the responsibility of phoning the first of our findings in to the police. I’m only about ten percent sure that Allie didn’t rig the toss, but I had plenty of research to be getting on with anyway.

I could hear Allie’s voice in the living room as I lay down across the bed and checked the facts. About half an hour later, I heard the door creak open instead, and looked up to see her leaning against the doorframe.

“And the police?” I asked.

“We can bring the recording in tomorrow,” Allie replied, “It will take them a bit to determine whether or not they can open an investigation, so it sounds as if we’re still on all the other aspects of the case.” She looked down at my computer. “Still researching?”

“Yeah,” I said, scrubbing at my face, “All I’ve really got so far is that whatever Grey thinks he’s doing, it’s not BDSM. Though, the lack of informed consent was the first clue there…”

Allie came over and rested her chin on my shoulder, reading over it. “I didn’t know people did anything that could make them bleed for fun,” she said.

“And here I thought you kept getting yourself in trouble because you enjoy having me patch you up afterwards,” I replied, somewhat grumpily. “The other thing is that the Wikipedia page for BDSM has been edited at least four times in the past three weeks. I can’t exactly tell what the edits were, but the page seems pretty accurate now.”

Allie reached over me, opened a new tab, and brought up Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc. To my utter lack of surprise, it had also been edited recently to show the correct information – and the date of its last most recent edit was the same as one of the last four edits to the BDSM page.

“Someone tell me that’s a coincidence,” I sighed.

* Grey totally would have someone change Wikipedia to misinform potential victims about BDSM. He wouldn't do it himself. I imagine it's Welsh's job.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
Chapter Three: Love is not a Panacea
Contents and Warnings
Chapter 2

Chapter Specific Warnings: some discussion of rape, stalking, gaslighting, emotional, financial, and psychological abuse, and PTSD all around.

I was woken in the early hours of the morning by Allie sitting up in bed beside me.

“Allie?” I asked, probably incomprehensibly.

“Where are we?”

My heart sank. “Seattle Washington,” I said, “The USA, Earth. In bed in our apartment, where we’ve lived for almost a month now.” That might not have been the clearest explanation ever, but it was half-past-stupid o’clock and my brain still wasn’t working properly.

Allie conjured a light and the room was suddenly both visible, though fuzzy on the edges, and faintly tinted in blue. She looked around suspiciously, and I reached over to her hand, working my fingers between hers. I could feel the wild drumbeat of her pulse slow down as she recognized the room and lay back down, the light dying as she did so.

“I can’t remember,” she said, “are we still following him, or was that another nightmare?”

“He’s dead,” I said. You know this. “He has been for three years now, and he’ll never hurt anyone again.” The damage already done was more than enough to be going on with. Allie hadn’t truly believed she was still hunting another adept since we’d come to Seattle, but given the kind of case we were working on, I should have been more prepared. I should have. I could try to excuse myself because I’d been tired, but I should have seen the warning signs. It’s not like I didn’t know how to be armed against this sort of thing.

She seemed to believe me, despite her confusion. “I dreamed that the skull he had with him was telling us how to fight him,” she said, slowly, “but… I’m not a necromancer, so that’s impossible. And besides, you weren’t with me when – are you sure you’re real?”
“Pretty sure,” I replied.

“Then stop blaming yourself,” Allie said. “I think I remember the new case, and I know you’re thinking that we never should have taken it.”
I looked at her sharply in the darkness and saw nothing but the muted glow of her aura, which illuminated nothing. Nonetheless, she went on.

“I did agree to this case, remember. I knew what it was about, and that’s why we have to take it: we’ve got to do our best to help those who need it -”

“And our best is better than most,” I finished for her. No, I hadn’t been thinking that we should never have taken the case: I’d been thinking that Allie should never have been involved in it, as impossible as that was.

She leaned her head against my shoulder and I could feel her smile. “Aedifex, but I hope you’re not another dream,” she mumbled. I couldn’t say that I hoped the same. If only none of this was real… “Tell me something I don’t know,” she said after a moment of silence.

“Prove to me you’re really here.”

Someday my well of unshared knowledge would run dry, but I hoped that by then we wouldn’t need it anymore. Hopefully we would stop needing it before I scraped the bottom of the happy memories and had to cast out across the nights of the past for the secrets I once kept in silence.

And maybe someday I would somehow dredge up new, good memories from the muck, and remember the bitter with the sweet.

“Well,” I said after a while, “tell me if you already knew this, but the day I met you, I still had my very first library card.”

“For… what, eleven years?” she asked.

“I’m good at hanging on to things,” I replied.

I’m just bad at hanging on to people.

After a while, research tends to blend together. A large amount of what we truly needed had to be found online, but over the next couple of days we started to find a pattern that was helpful, despite being disturbing. It was actually due to a personal fashion blog that we managed to identify the first photo.

“Thank goodness for shallow people,” I said when I finally found a name. “And for people who will post photographs of anybody who has enough money.”

“Believe it or not, Lindsay,” Allie said from where she was draped over the couch working on the same digital trail from a different angle, “there are women in the world who are attracted to redheaded CEO’s in stupidly expensive suits, rather than smartass nerds with cute librarian glasses.”

The important thing was that four most recent photos had names: Sophia Colonomos, Madeline Fisher, Bianca Fiorenti, and Alice Wu. All four of them had gone to area colleges sometime in the past two years, and had been somewhere between the ages of eighteen and twenty three. Each of them had brown hair and a small frame. In their photos with Christian, they wore piles of makeup and revealing dresses, but on their own facebook profiles they were more likely to wear t-shirts and pose with pets, art projects, or plastic dinosaurs. Sophia, Madeline, and Bianca all currently had no activity on their facebook profiles: Alice had deleted hers, and seemingly hadn’t used her MySpace since some time in high school. Together we scrolled through the messages on Sophia’s wall that had been left since March. They got increasingly sparser as they headed into May, but a few dedicated friends kept going.

Hey, you still alive, Soph?

Call Me!

R U gonna be at graduation?

If you’re still planning on taking chem. 201 next year, I have a textbook to sell.

Are you even on campus?

Hey Soph, if you’re not on because you’re feeling blue, have a baby ocelot video. It’s better than a kitten video.

JSYK, the stuff you left in the room is now in my parents’ garage. Come get it whenever. I know you want your Iron Man poster back.

Seriously. Call Me.

The story was close to the same on the other pages, though activity had stopped earlier for Madeline and even earlier for Bianca, close to the same time as they’d last been seen in public with Grey. In the meantime, we’d run against two brick walls in the financial search: the fact that Mr. Lincoln was currently engaged in suing his ex-wife, and the fact that Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc was undergoing “fiscal reorganization,” whatever that meant. In the end, our only lead was an old facebook post of Sophia’s, advertizing for “half off gyros at my aunt Louisa’s restaurant, Antigoni!” and helpfully giving us the address in the middle of Silverdale.

It was a long shot, but it was a lead, so we found ourselves headed into Silverdale to ask uncomfortable questions and hopefully not get kicked out of Antigoni before we had a chance to try the food.

The plan had been to work into the questions gently, but directly if we could get the aunt to talk to us, relying on Allie’s natural air of authority to delay any questions as to why we were asking. We were hoping that a near-decade of experience in asking the right questions at the right time in the right tone of voice might lead us to the next link in the chain.

The plan had reckoned without Louisa Galantis. The restaurant wasn’t that crowded, since it was almost two on a weekday by the time we got there, but the staff made up in energy for the sparse number of patrons. When we arrived, there were three tables filled with elderly couples, two truckers, and a small handful of high school students, who looked to have finished their food some time ago and were currently playing paper football with a napkin. The only other person in the room was a college-aged waitress with a nametag that read Lena, who bustled forward to take our order.

“Actually, we’re here to speak to Mrs. Louisa Galantis,” Allie said before she could ask us if we wanted a table or a booth.
Lena looked between the two of us rapidly, “Mom’s probably busy in back, but I can pop in and ask her if she has a minute. Are you with the newspaper?”

“No,” Allie said with a smile.

About three minutes and one hallway cheerfully papered in gigantic sunflowers later, we found ourselves in the neatly filed back room of Antigoni, facing a plump woman in her early fifties with an impressive collection of laugh lines. She rose from her desk to shake our hands.

“How can I help you today, misses…?”

“Aliea Veldon and Lindsay Pilot,” Allie replied immediately, while I offered an encouraging sort of smile. “We were hoping you had the time to answer some questions about your niece, Sophia Colonomos.”

The friendly expression got wiped off Luisa’s face like rain off a windshield. “Alexander,” she called through the open door, “these two ladies are in the wrong place: please show them out.”

In the doorway behind us, a young man who was clearly heavily involved in a sport that required weightlifting shuffled into view.

“You see, we went to school with Sophia and we’ve started to get worried -” I started, but Luisa snorted.

“As what, graduate students?” she asked sharply. “That school never brought her anything but pain. If you were really her friends you should respect that she needs her own space and that she has decided not to go back. Now go.” She put her hands on her hips and Alexander shuffled back in the doorway, giving us a route out. We stayed where we were.

“We don’t mean to disturb her,” I said conciliatingly, “but we believe that if you could answer a few questions it might help her, and someone else.”

That was when Luisa got angry. “Then you can tell him to go fuck a porcupine,” she snarled, “And get out of my restaurant.” She strode forward and we found ourselves being herded from the room, then down the hall, before either of us could formulate a reply. In fact, we escaped from the back door of the restaurant in under a minute, drawing surprised looks from everyone we passed.

“We’re detectives!” Allie shouted to Alexander as he was about to slam the door behind us. “We’re hired to stop Christian Grey!”

He paused for half a second, then the door was shut a little less forcefully than it could have been. It was still hard enough to be considered a slam, though.

Allie and I stood in the back parking lot under a row of Chinese lanterns, at a literal dead end.  There was stunned silence for a moment, where I fiddled with the chain of the key around my neck, then Allie spoke.

“I think it’s about time for us to stop pretending to be students,” she said.

I rolled my eyes at her as we started around the building to the front parking lot, taking our time. I had been hoping to have a real, tangible lead to follow, and I was just sighing over the fact that I didn’t, when I heard a door slam behind us. I turned around first, and almost immediately saw a familiar face who I had never actually met.

We all stood there for a moment while Sophia finished taking off her apron.

“Is it true?” she asked us, still hovering by the door, “that you’re hired to stop him? Or did you just say that so my brother wouldn’t throw you out?”

“Yes,” I said, “we’re going to try, anyway.”

Sophia walked a little closer to us, but not much. “That’s good,” she said, slowly, “he… he needs to be stopped. Just don’t, don’t ever go near him, he’s…” She stopped, and took a deep breath. “I might sound crazy, but if there’s any chance that he’s with anyone again, you need to make them leave him. If -” there was a hitch in her voice, “if it will help, I’ll tell you what happened. Though, if you are detectives, I’d rather you didn’t – I mean, this can be confidential, right?”

Allie and I agreed simultaneously.

Approximately half an hour later, Sophia had gotten her aunt’s permission to leave work for the day and the three of us were sitting on a bench under the trees behind the Silverdale library in relative quiet. After a brief explanation as to why it would be best for us to record her story, Sophia agreed, turned on the voice recorder herself, and then stared at it for a good three minutes before she started to speak. At first the story unfolded in tiny pieces, but then, after a few false starts, it all tumbled out.

“I thought he was the best thing to ever happen to me,” Sophia admitted, staring at her hands while Allie and I tried to give her and her story the right amount of space. “I met him when our school had a food drive to support his feed Darfur campaign, and it turned out I was the only member of our school service club who both had a car and the time to drive the boxes of donations to his office building. At first I thought he was just interested in the club, but then I figured out that he was looking at me, and I… I mean, I honestly hadn’t known who he was before that, but I was so flattered to be the center of his attention. He just… he had this way about him of being so set against the world, and he always said that it was him and me against everyone else. I guess looking back I was pretty stupid, but it only took about a week before I decided to go along with dating him in secret and… and the other things.” She blushed, and fiddled with her hair a bit before she continued.

“I didn’t really know what I was getting into.” She said, in a quiet, strained voice, “I’d never really had a boyfriend before. Growing up in Silverdale, I just already knew everyone in school and, well, aside from those roller-skating dates in middle school, it just never happened. I never got asked. Boys were always looking at Lena, and not me. So I… I really thought he loved me.”

There were tears forming in her eyes, so I dug a kleenex out of the pack in my purse and passed it to her before she could start crying in earnest. She seemed to take it as a challenge to keep it together, and spoke very quickly. “He said that I was the only one he’d ever loved, that I was everything he’d been looking for, if I only understood how lonely he’d been I’d… but he didn’t care, not really. And I was just – so stupid – for believing him and after everything I just froze up inside and let it all happen, even after I told him I didn’t want it any more he kept sending me presents and then he broke the lock off my dorm room door when I didn’t let him in – I’m sorry, I’m not making any sense.”

“It’s okay,” I said, a bit uselessly.

“Take your time,” Allie added.

She nodded. “He… well, he said the law was on his side, he’d given me a contract about the things he’d like to do in bed, a bunch of information on something he called BDSM that he wanted to try for three months, but I never signed it. I said I’d think about it and I’d let him know. All I ever did was sign his non-disclosure agreement. But he took me out on his boat that one night and… and I didn’t even remember what happened until later, after he’d just dumped me at the end of the semester when the three months were up, without a word, after he’d taken my old truck because he said it was too dangerous for me and he’d rather I had a nice safe car – I just stopped being able to go to class. Everybody, I thought everybody knew, and that everyone was judging me for being as sick as him, being with him, not being good enough -”

Sophia paused and blew her nose. “I remember in – I think it was the end of January, after classes started up again – this graffiti appeared on the wall of my dorm on campus. It called me a slut and then I… I found out that I was failing half of my classes, I’d go to class and not be able to remember which class it was or what I was supposed to be doing, and my roommate took me to Wal-Mart to get ice cream and I found out that my checking account was frozen, and then I remembered that he had my bank account number along with the ones of the other twelve girls -”

There was the next link, I thought.

“ – and then it turned out that there was no money in my account at all. I sent him an e-mail, demanding to know what in hell he was doing with my money, but his only response was that if my bank wasn’t safe, it was a pity that I never signed the contract, because he would have found me a better banking service. He said that if I was still with him, I’d never need money. That it was my fault for not giving him what he needed -”

“Do you still have this e-mail?” I interrupted as gently as I could.

She nodded. “I think so. I deleted the second one, though – he sent another one when I didn’t reply, telling me that if I continued to – to defy him, he’d come and teach me my place again. I threw all my stuff in a bag and came home that night.”
I could see that her hands were shaking as she blew her nose again.

“I’m sorry,” she said, stuffing the Kleenex and her hands between her knees, not looking at either of us. “I don’t want to burden you with all my troubles. I thought I could say this more sensibly, but I didn’t really know why I’d panicked and run home until just a few weeks ago, really, because I could still remember when he’d sworn that he was in love with me. I – at the time, I thought that I could help him. He’d told me enough about his childhood that I felt sorry for him, and he convinced me that he loved me and that I was in love with him. I thought he needed saving from his anger, from his terrible past, and so I couldn’t understand why I was so afraid of him.” Sophia’s voice got smaller and smaller as she spoke.

“I didn’t remember that he’d raped me.”
* I really am sorry that this became so much about my own characters, but I originally picked them because they’d have strong reactions to the situation, and because I wanted characters I knew really well to kick Grey’s ass.
** I’m from the Chicago area, so there’s a lot of family-run Italian and sometimes Greek restaurants where I live, but I did check that there are Greek and Italian restaurants in Silverdale. (There are.) Yeah, I named Sophia’s Aunt’s restaurant after Antigone… my Greek doesn’t go as far as my Latin or Spanish, I’m afraid.
*** I don’t think BDSM is sick. I think Grey is sick. Sophia doesn’t have the ability to differentiate the two right now.
**** Sophia’s schedule and college information is based on Evergreen State College, selected on the basis that it was the closest state college to Silverdale and its schedule fit my timeline nicely. Repression of memories, as well as trouble processing short-term into long term memory, are symptoms of PTSD.

Fuck this chapter, guys. This and Lelia’s chapter were the hardest to write.
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
Chapter Two: Illuminating Nothing
Contents and Warnings
Chapter 1: Birds on the Wire

Esclava looked like a beauty salon – a stupidly expensive beauty salon, which conjured up images both of hot towels and of the concentrated stare of people who were paid to think of and point out your physical flaws – and I looked like a bimbo. It was part of the plan: we would have gone in together, but Allie in a beauty salon wouldn’t have been believable. Even with my considerable bias towards her features, “beautiful,” was a word which, for her, took second place to “striking,” “concentrated,” and “determined.” Her job was to case the area for any evidence that the businesses were protected by any form of magic, and to keep an ear open as she blended into the crowd on second street.

I think she was afraid they’d try and cut her hair.

I gave her a last look as I stepped up towards the door, then pasted what I hoped was a self-conscious smile on my face and entered. No one was waiting, so the receptionist was able to receive me immediately. My first thought was, oh shit, this is the kind of place where they expect you to make appointments.

“Hi,” I said, vapidly twirling a strand of hair around my finger, “my friend, like, recommended that I come here, and I was hoping to make an appointment, because I heard you were, like, totally approved by Christian Grey.”

Between the vacant act and the name-dropping of a man who I had come to dislike more intensely the more I researched him, I already wanted to barf – and then I noticed that there were no prices anywhere visible, and I actually thought there was a possibility that I would.

Dear God, how much could a simple haircut even cost? It didn’t matter, since I didn’t actually intend to get my hair cut, but I had a feeling that if they could, they’d charge me a nickel per breath for actually breathing their air.

I must have looked – or acted – as young as the receptionist, because she suddenly broke into a wider-than professional smile.

“Oh, Christian Grey is dreamy,” she said, “He has such great taste too, but he hasn’t been in here in, oh, nearly six months. I’d just die to be one of the girls he brings in, he buys them the works.”

“He is mega-hot,” I churned out as an agreement while I filed away that fact and hoped that the receptionist was completely sarcasm blind, deaf, and dumb. What was with these people? Ever since I’d taken my research on Grey to less business-oriented forums, I’d come across the startling realization that the man with reddish hair and grey eyes was generally considered to be one of the best-looking young CEO’s in Washington… which baffled me. I guess money will make anyone attractive, but I certainly didn’t run away with Allie for money or looks, and I sort of treasured the idea that she’d asked me to because I dazzled her with my sharp wit.

“Speaking of Grey, he was going to bring someone in next week,” the receptionist said as she bent over her shiny, smudgeless computer, “but he’s canceled, so we have an opening on Wednesday at one for our all-over-package, and if you can’t do that, we can get you in on Friday at twelve.”

Since I didn’t plan to attend the appointment, I was going to be as picky as was humanly possible in the hopes she’d chatter more. “Oh,” I said, “I was really hoping to get some of the same things done as – oh, I’m so bad with names, but she’s a friend of my friend Hannah, you know  – who came here about five months ago with Christian Grey. She said she felt like a new woman.”

“Oh, you mean Sophia,” the receptionist said, without even having to check her computer “She had the seaweed facial, her eyebrows threaded, a Brazilian wax… the whole all-over package. I’m glad she liked it.” Then she frowned, “I’m not authorized to give out client information, you know -”

“Oh, don’t worry!” I chirped, “All you did was save me a text.” Her brow smoothed over. “If that’s what she had, I’d like that on Friday, but – what’s a Brazilian wax?”

The receptionist raised a pencil-darkened eyebrow a fraction at me, then explained.

“Any luck?” Allie asked me as I hit the street outside.

“Grey had an appointment there for next Wednesday that he canceled, probably because Ana dumped him,” I said, as I adjusted my stride to her own, longer one. “The last girl he brought there was called Sophia, he brings different girls in fairly regularly, and buys them a hugely expensive full-body spa treatment, including a waxing treatment that I’d genuinely like to un-hear. I – well, assuming my name is Angelique O’Claire – have an appointment there next Friday, and since I gave them the number of last night’s Chinese take-out, will be persona non-grata there quite shortly.”

“Well, there’s a start,” Allie said. “Meanwhile, neither Esclava nor any other building on this block is protected by any form of magic, and that’s not just my judgment, but the judgment of our infallible little gadget here.” She patted her pocket where I knew she’d stowed the highly magic-sensitive tuning fork she’d set out to scan the streets with. Judging by the lack of any more noise coming from it than a low buzz that crept in on the edges of the subconscious, it wasn’t sensing anything other than Allie’s own aura.

“Looks like he’s not a mage,” I said.

“Or not trained enough to use magic in an organized fashion to protect his own business interests, or not actually that invested in Esclava,” Allie replied, “Meanwhile, I put down the papers, so we should know if any magic happens on this street in the next few days.”

I nodded. Magical litmus paper was yet another of the most useful minor spells she’d ever adapted for detective work. There was no fighting entropy, so some energy was always wasted in a spell, and it would trigger the energy-hungry inactive spells on the pieces of newspaper that Allie had tucked into planters and the nooks and crannies of streetlights. Assuming that any mage preformed any magic there in the next couple of days, before the spell started to disintegrate along with the newspaper, that is. I was beginning to think that, aside from having a new name to add to the list of potential clues, Esclava was a dead end.

“So, I take it it’s time to take a stroll around Grey’s Ego Incorporated like good little pedestrians?” I asked lightly.

“How could you guess?” Allie asked, offering me her arm as we headed Southwest down Second Avenue towards Downtown Seattle. It was a quick walk, and although the sky threatened rain, we didn’t need my umbrella.

When we reached the main offices of Grey’s company, I realized that I’d been right: the building was indeed a testament to ego, though a slightly pitiful one. At about twenty stories tall, the building was straining to be taller than the one next to it with the addition of a decorative-looking roof. We stopped across the way to form a plan, since Allie insisted it was her turn to try her hand at information-gathering, now that the threat of a haircut or waxed eyebrows was safely behind us.

“It’ll be easy, Linds,” she said, “I’ll pretend to be applying for a job as a secretary or something.”

I looked at her doubtfully. Allie is about five eight and, even on good days, gets chucked out of places of legitimate business for looking disreputable, and asking too many questions. It’s not her fault; she seems to have her own sub-clause of Murphy’s law that dictates that, if an investigation continues for long enough, she will be dragged through a sewer, have a vegetable cart explode on her, have to crawl through an oil-slicked machine, or otherwise become absolutely filthy. Between that and the fact that people with any sort of sensitivity to magic are often put off by her sheer intensity, and that people who actually can do magic know she’s miles beyond their league, she gets labeled dangerous and disreputable far more than is strictly fare.

I couldn’t see her as a secretary. For one thing, she doesn’t even use all of her fingers to type.

“Yeah, but you don’t have a résumé on hand,” I told her, mentally adding fake resumes to the list of useful legal-but-dishonest paperwork we ought to keep around.

“How were you going to start asking around?” she asked, “It’s not like the salon, where people just walk in.”

“Pretend to be applying for a job,” I replied immediately and without irony, “which I am dressed for, while you’re not.” Given that I’d worn flats that were going to hurt my feet if I kept wandering around Seattle in them, a pencil skirt, and a shiny blouse, while she’d worn jeans, sneakers and a T-shirt, it was fairly obvious.

“Where were you planning to get a résumé?” Allie replied.

“The library,” I said promptly. “We passed one on our way down, a couple blocks before the Columbia Center.” I pointed towards the quarter-circle shaped tower of the Columbia Center to the north. “They’ll have computers that are free to use and quarter printing, most likely.”

In the end, it took us about twenty minutes to type and print the fake résumé, which was accomplished by agreeing that it should look as average as possible, and inventing four fake companies with four fake phone numbers to approximate eight to ten years of employment, brainstorming a bland list of personal accomplishments and a generic college name, and spending ninety cents on printing three copies at fifteen cents a page. Then we left, after making some very necessary adjustments and going through the necessity of acquiring a library card.

After that little detour, I was left standing on the sidewalk in Allie’s t-shirt, with the magic litmus, the tuning fork, and the two extra copies of the résumé as a slightly less scruffy version of Allie, wearing my blouse and some hastily-applied makeup, disappeared into the jaws of the corporate behemoth.

I pulled the tuning fork out of my pocket, struck it on my thigh to tune it to my own aura, and headed on a slow circuit around the block, stuffing scraps of magic litmus into every crack and crevice I could find, glancing occasionally over my glasses for the lingering aura of any spell as I went. I didn’t see anything but the blur of distance on the surrounding world, but that didn’t exactly prove anything, and I shouldn’t have needed the tuning fork anyway.

As I had fully expected, it was an uneventful walk. Once or twice, I thought I saw the fork twitch, but when I doubled back, it was nothing. People who saw me must have thought I was hunting for a cell signal.

I’d only made one circuit of the building when I saw the doors swing open and Allie step out, entirely disgusted. I hurried down the sidewalk to catch up to her.

“That was quick.”

“Tell me about it,” she said, “all of their job applications are submitted online. Are you done?”

“No magic, papers distributed,” I said, “Though, I did have a thought: the fork doesn’t really sense far into walls, so how far does it sense upward?”

Allie looked up. “I’m willing to bet not twenty stories,” she said. “And speaking of that, let’s get out of this street.”

We went home by bus, both steeped in the silence that came from not yet holding all the threads of a mystery. Once there, we heated up last night’s Chinese and ate while performing our respective tasks: Allie drawing up and refreshing spells, both the defensive sort and ones for gathering information, while I hit the internet once more to search for the full name of Sophia.

Naturally enough, I started with Facebook, checking for posts within the last six months that referenced Esclava. This lead to a lot of scrolling through advertisements and badly-typed comments sent from phones. At the end of two hours, I’d gone back six months, and made a list of every woman named Sophia or Sophie who had commented on Esclava’s page, followed the links back to their profile page, and checked their pictures. I had four brunettes, one redhead, an Asian-looking girl with black hair, three blondes, two girls with rainbow-streaked hair, and a handful of cosplayers, anime characters, landscapes or still life photos, and pokemon. Given that I couldn’t even be sure anyone’s profile picture was actually of them, they were all still possibilities, though the five whose age - as listed on their profile – was over forty were admittedly unlikely. I gave up for the time being and started pouring over the photos that I had bookmarked last night.

“I feel like a stalker,” I grumbled after a long time spent staring at tabloid-quality photographs, mostly of Christian alone, but sometimes with dark-haired young women, his family, other businessmen, or, in one case, posing with an unamused-looking dean from a local college on a graduation stage. I pushed my glasses up and rubbed my tired eyes.

“Well, I feel like a tailor,” Allie replied from the floor, where she was busy chalking defensive spells on the insides of all our clean clothes. Knowing the usual range and efficiency of her spells, I had a feeling that we were both going to be something like magically armored tanks when and if it came time to confront Christian Grey or any mages or nonmagical support he might have. Given the few times we’d had to use those sort of spells to their fullest extent, I could only hope that we were going to be overprepared.

“Not the same thing…” I muttered. Then, the darkness of the room and the lateness of the night struck me. “What time is it?” I asked.

Allie looked up at the clock. “About ten,” she said.

I groaned and glanced back at the computer screen. I’d had my fill of Christian and his “unknown women,” several hours ago, and while I’d gotten through most of the available photos from the past few months, I’d only identified two of them as containing Ana. The only one where her name was mentioned had come from the online edition of her own school paper, and I had half a thousand tabs open in the vague hope that I’d have better luck tracking down the mysterious Sophia or some other girl, giving us somewhere else to start.

For some reason, I strongly suspected that Allie’s new armory of spell-enhanced clothes was going to be more useful than my researches that night.

“Well, at least tell me what you’ve got,” Allie said, finishing with her chalk and draping the last shirt over a laundry basket.

I rapidly marshaled my thoughts. The glare from the computer screen was quite obnoxious, and it wasn’t as if I needed to look at it anyway, so I closed my eyes as I explained. “I’ve got about sixteen results from Esclava: ten are Sophie, six are Sophia. Of the Sophias I have one brunette, but she’s sixteen, and one who is twenty and blonde, and a youngish woman dressed up in a trenchcoat, a rainbow scarf about ten miles too long for her, a fedora, and what is obviously a wig.”

Allie chuckled, and the sound was cheerful and homey over the whirring of the laptop fan and the humming of the refrigerator. “Everyone else?” she asked.

“Fairly old, ages unknown, picture obviously not themselves, or profile locked,” I replied, “I added about five high schools and ten colleges to my page before I friend-requested them.” The great thing about my name, as opposed to Allie’s, is that everybody has known a Lindsay during school, and then more or less completely forgotten what she was actually like. “I’ve also gotten evidence of at least four different girls with Christian Grey in addition to Ana. All of them have brown hair and are fairly slender, and they look quite young. No names yet.”

“And your eyes hurt,” Allie noted.

“Only a bit,” I protested, opening them again. The light from the computer really was quite glaring, but I could have sworn that the ceiling light had gotten yellower as well. Allie was standing in front of me with a mulish expression, mixed with concern, spread across her face.

“You’re going to have to get your prescription checked.”

“I just did.” I very much doubted that the increasing headaches had anything to do with my prescriptions. I also very much didn’t want to talk about what they probably did come from, not when Allie was half-convinced that I shouldn’t be looking for auras right now to begin with.

“Then you’re clearly too tired to think straight,” Allie concluded. “And that doesn’t help anyone, especially if you keep worrying about the case. Come to bed.”

She took my hand and I rose from the chair and followed her.

* Yup, gabbing about other customers was not a good thing for the receptionist to do.
** I used Google Maps and the approximate location of Spa Noir and the Columbia Center to estimate the distance Allie and Lindsay walk. I’ve walked double the distance through Chicago in about half an hour, so while I don’t know much about the actual route and whether walking there is a great idea, it’s physically not a hugely taxing walk. My headcannon is that Grey’s building is one of the smaller ones on James St, a couple blocks down from the Columbia Center.
*** All information on the Central branch of the Seattle Public Library was gathered here.
**** Given that Ana doesn’t know what the internet is for (fanfiction and kitten videos, why do you ask?) and Grey has a definite type, it’s possible that many of his victims haven’t been very internet savvy, though admittedly Facebook is a low bar when it comes to technological prowess.
***** I’m pretty sure there’s an internet rule that there will always be someone cosplaying, and it’s pretty often some iteration of the Doctor. J
scribal_goddess: (scribbles)
Chapter One: Birds on the Wire
Contents and Warnings
Like most things in life, it opened with a knock on the door and a distraught client on our couch. I bustled around making tea, glancing at our client over my glasses, while Allie introduced us and assured the poor girl that we were here to help.

“I’m Aliea Veldon, and this is Lindsay Pilot,” she said, introducing us, “we specialize in cases of misuse of magic, but we will take any case that we believe is in our power to solve.”

The girl, who was in her early twenties, strawberry blonde, and quite pretty, looked at Allie with red-tinged eyes and the expression of someone busy composing themselves enough to speak. Over my glasses I could just make out the faint, plum-tinted blur at the edges of her outline: her natural aura. Compared to Allie, whose form was completely obscured by cobalt-blue light even now, when she wasn’t actually doing any magic, the purple shadow was especially faint. This girl was not a mage, and she certainly wasn’t carrying any spells on her, knowingly or not. I set a teacup near her on the end table, adjusted my glasses, and sat down next to Allie.

Allie shot me a questioning glance, and I shook my head, which she knew to mean that I hadn’t seen any traces of magic. Meanwhile, our client was taking her time to get her thoughts in order, having taken the teacup and started playing with the spoon.

“We have coffee, if you want some,” I told her.

She looked up and tried for a smile. “No, thank you. This is just… hard to explain. I didn’t even know about magic until a couple of days ago, and now I’m consulting a pair of wizards about something I don’t really believe in, because I’m just that desperate.”

I toed Allie’s foot out of pure habit before she could correct our client, and she gave me an unamused look.

“If you don’t mind my asking, miss…?”

“Kavanaugh. Call me Kate, though, please. I know it’s a mouthful.”

“Kate then. What made you believe that your troubles might be magical in nature?” I watched very carefully as Kate put down the cup, clasped her hands over her knee, and began.

“It’s not my trouble precisely: it’s a friend, actually my roommate, and I’ve come to believe that she’s in danger from the man who she is currently dating.” As with so many clients, once the story started she continued on without seeming to want to stop. “Just a few months ago, before graduation, I had to do a story on a Seattle or Portland area businessman, as a sort of inspirational piece for my college’s newspaper. I chose Christian Grey – CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings, and spent a few weeks trying to get an interview. When the interview rolled around, I had picked up the flu, because half the rest of the editing staff had it, and I asked Ana if she could do the interview for me.”

Ana must be the roommate. “So, it wasn’t possible for you to reschedule?” I asked.

Kate fidgeted again. “Well… you know. It had been a pain in the ass to set up that interview, and I really wanted it to go in the newspaper before all the space was taken up by graduation.  I really should have, but Ana’s an English major and I figured that as long as she stuck to the questions I’d prepared and got it all taped, it would work okay.”

It was at this point that Allie cut in. “What happened at this interview?” she asked.

“I don’t actually know – I have the recording, but aside from Grey being condescending, nothing they said there really seems have any connection to Ana going out with him.”

Allie and I both opened our mouths to ask the same questions, and realized it at the same time. She looked at me and I gave her a nod, mentally dividing up the necessary questions.

“Do you still have this recording of the interview?” Allie asked.

Kate hesitated. “Yes, I brought it – do you really think it will help?”

“Every scrap of information helps,” I told her, “meanwhile, I don’t think you’d quite gotten to the point where Grey and Ana started dating, or why you think she is in danger from him.”

She nodded. “She started dating him, I guess, after the two of us and José had gone out for pre-graduation drinks. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but she’d had too much to drink, felt sick, and said she was going to call someone for a ride home… and she never did come home that night. I was worried about her, but she didn’t call, and later I found out that she’d spent the night with Christian Grey, who up until that point she’d never so much as mentioned. There are some people who I wouldn’t worry as much about in that situation, but Ana is… well, naieve, really. She had never dated before, and used to blush if someone mentioned underwear, or if I swore, but suddenly she was completely convinced that she was in love with Christian Grey. He came to our apartment, just barged in there, then our graduation – she’d known him for less than a week – and he was suddenly taking her to all these different, expensive places, and she never talked about anything else but him. But I’ve seen them together, and when he gets a certain tone of voice, she flinches.” Kate pursed her lips, then shrugged. “I knew something was wrong at the time, but… I didn’t really know exactly how wrong, you know? It seems so obvious looking back on it, but really I was graduating, and packing, and sending out resumes throughout that whole week, so maybe I didn’t notice as much as I should have. But then he convinced Ana to sell her car, and that was just wrong. Ana would never, ever in her right mind sell that car: she’s had it since she was sixteen, and her stepfather helped her buy it. She even named it Wanda.”
Kate took a deep breath, then continued, “There was just something so wrong about that, it made me start searching for information, starting with my notes from the interview. I thought that he’d never dated anyone out in the open, publically, but when I dug a little deeper I realized that whenever he brought a date to a charity function or shopping anywhere, he did it at places his family owned or invested in, and that they weren’t girls who attracted a lot of attention. I couldn’t find out any of their names; there are really very few pictures of him at public functions.  I finally got some information, from Elliott – by a really weird coincidence, I met Elliott the same night that we went out for drinks, and he’s Christian’s adoptive brother – and he told me that Christian always dates girls who look almost exactly the same: brown hair, big eyes, shy girls who haven’t dated much. None of them stuck around long – the longest, Elliott said, was about three months. He was concerned too – he said his brother was always angry, and it ended up driving all his girlfriends away.”

She fell silent for a long moment, and I decided it was time to ask a few clarifying questions. “How did your roommate, Ana, get his number?” I asked.

Kate frowned. “Now that you mention it, she said he gave it to her when she interviewed him.”

I felt a little chill run up my spine. “Do you know of any specific times when Ana seemed uncomfortable around Christian?”

“Yes,” she replied immediately, “When he came to our apartment – they had sex, not even bothering to be quiet about it, and then he tried to leave right after, and he made her cry – I shouted at him for a good ten minutes at least. He just sort of… stared at me, like I didn’t exist. It was creepy. Then, she was always kind of antsy about the gifts that he gave her: some books, which he was clearly just using to show off how much money he has, phone and a computer. She definitely didn’t want him at graduation, and I thought that when she went to spend some time with her mother in Georgia, it would be the best thing for her. I figured her mom would have the easiest time talking her out of dating Christian, but from what I can tell, the asshole actually followed her there. She broke up with him, came home early, and doesn’t intend to ever go back as far as I can tell, but the fact that he followed her makes me feel really guilty about leaving for Barbados in a couple of days.”

Allie tapped a finger on her knee thoughtfully.  “You said that Elliot was concerned about Ana and Grey’s relationship when you talked to him?”

“Yeah. I know it looks kind of hypocritical that I think Ana was moving too fast with Christian when I’ve known Elliot for the same amount of time, but right now we’re sort of friends-with-benefits, and it turned out that my parents knew his mom. It’s been fun, but I’m hardly looking to settle down with him… well, you know.”

This time, Allie nudged me with her foot before I could say anything at all about sudden romances. I nudged right back.

“Could you describe Elliot and your initial impressions of him?” I asked, “It might help us get an idea of what the whole family is like.”

“Elliot? Funny, impulsive about relationships but sensible about money, really high energy, a little dense when it comes to his family. He’s runs a green construction company and is really busy during the work week. He’s a good guy, but it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he’d never even suspected there was anything wrong about Christian. He’s got a sister, Mia, who is honestly kind of a ditz, and their parents are pretty nice, but really stiff: both of them are workaholics, perfectionist types. Mr. Grey is a lawyer and Mrs. Grey is a pediatrician. Oh, and their house is tacky as all hell, because Mrs. Grey is such an obsessive fan of Elvis that they modeled their house after his.”
I nodded, and beside me, Allie was doing the same, faking understanding. We hadn’t been in this world long enough to understand any pop culture references, and the burning question of “Who is Elvis?” didn’t seem terribly relevant to the investigation.

Allie looked at me, inclined her head slightly towards the door, and, when I nodded, turned her most capable, all-will-be-well-just-trust-us smile on Kate. “Well, I think that’s all we need so far,” she said, “If you’d just leave us your phone number and that interview, we’ll contact you if we have any more questions or when we have information that you need to know. Our rates are quite reasonable.”

Kate reached for her purse. “I just want you to know, I do feel somehow better about all this now that I know it’s not in my imagination,” she said, rising. “All the same, I’m not entirely sure I feel comfortable about the two of you investigating Christian Grey – I just have sort of a feeling that he’d be very dangerous if he found out someone was investigating him.”

“Allie and I are quite capable of taking care of ourselves – and each other,” I assured her, “please don’t add us to your worries.”

She looked skeptical.

“Pick a piece of furniture in this room,” Allie said suddenly.

“Um. The coffee table?” Kate said. I interpreted her expression as ‘unsure what the hell Allie was talking about.’

Allie nodded, and the coffee table slowly rose six inches into the air. Kate let out a little squeak and overbalanced backwards into the couch, purse and all. She had the presence of mind to yank her legs well out of the way as it continued upward, until its feet were well above waist height, and slowly sank back down. Then she sat up, shakily, and passed her hand over its surface, checking for wires.

“The magic is real,” Allie told her, “and it gets results.”

If Kate had known the first thing about magic, she would have been just about as impressed as she was shaken. Spur-of-the-moment telekinesis is hard, especially in such a controlled manner. More than ninety nine percent of the population can’t push so much as a pencil, after all, and real mages don’t start raging tornadoes of death like they do in cartoons. As it was, though, she handed me a flash drive, a card with her phone number on it, and a Polaroid photograph, muttered her thanks, and fled through the door before I could do more than get indignantly proud of Allie.

“That went well,” Allie grumbled.

“I’ve always told you that there’s something scary about levitation,” I replied, “not that it isn’t an improvement on sudden fire and all, but you have to admit, it’s kind of creepy.” I was sorting through the items that Kate Kavanaugh had left with me, and when I got to the Polaroid, I stopped.

The first had two young women in it: Kate was wearing a bright pink tank top, laughing, with one arm stretched out into the corner of the picture, presumably holding up the camera. The other was around another woman, who could only be Anastasia Steele. She was tiny, most likely less than a size four, pale, and had a curtain of rich brown hair hanging over part of her face. Her large blue eyes and her baggy t-shirt made her look several years younger than Kate, perhaps seventeen.

I stared at it for a moment, quietly shocked at how young they both looked: Allie had come around to stand behind me and look over my shoulder. She also appeared to be reading my mind.

“Were we ever that young?” she asked me, her hand a comfortable weight on my shoulder.

I shook my head. “Yes, but I’m not certain we were ever that innocent.” By the time we were twenty one, we’d lived on a half-dozen different worlds and counting. Needless to say, our continued education had been sporadic.

Then, I shook myself. There was no use standing about feeling old when there was work to do, so I placed the photograph on the coffee table and held up the jump drive.

“So, internet or interview?” I asked Allie lightly. “You decide.”

Allie had her lips pressed together into a thin line. “Interview,” she said, and plucked the jump drive out of my hand, heading for her laptop. I booted mine and began to exhaustively search the public record, starting with business sites, because I hoped I wouldn’t have to delve deep into electronic flashing tabloids before finding something. I had no desire to be spending part of this paycheck removing viruses, or this afternoon dealing with a sparkly-font and flashing pop-up induced headache.

The part of research that is always the hardest is finding the right sources and putting together the basics. Fortunately, the CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc – and wasn’t that a pain in the fingers to type, given that it sounded like the name of a company in a bad office comedy – was hardly low profile. To put it in layman’s terms, he had an ego that was visible from space, and, unfortunately, the money to throw it around.

About three quarters of an hour had gone by before I heard a noise from the couch, where Allie had been sprawled with a laptop, taking notes as she listened to the recording of the interview.  I looked up to see Allie sitting up on the couch, her arms crossed, scowling at the computer. One of the couch pillows was resting at the threshold of the door.

“Problems?” I asked her.

“Kate,” she replied grimly, “was not exaggerating when she said this guy was a massive douchebag. He spent this whole interview – actually, he started this interview - by flat-out saying that he runs his business by manipulating his employees. No, sorry, by “incentivizing,” them, which I’m pretty sure isn’t a word. He’s also extremely creepy and offered Ana a job immediately after getting really mad at her during the interview and starting to ask her personal questions. In any case, none of this is evidence exactly, but it tells you a lot about his twisted mental state, and I think he might be a mage.”

That was news to me. “What?” I hadn’t found anything suspicious in my internet trawling, and I definitely knew what to look for. “I thought they were really rare in this world – well, trained ones, anyway.”

Allie shrugged. “It’s just a feeling,” she said. “He talks a lot about taking control by thinking that he can control things,” she checked her notes, “No, that he is ‘born to control things,’ and how he feels powerful because he’s the boss of thousands of people, and that he doesn’t have to answer to anyone, including a board of directors. I’m assuming he has one, though he says he doesn’t.”

A little chill centered itself in the back of my skull. “Well, that’s either textbook narcissism or a textbook evil mage,” I said, “and given that we know that he seems to go after a certain type of girl… do you think he’s controlling them with magic?” My mouth was dry when I finished the sentence.

“He might not be a mage,” Allie replied, though I could see that she was gripping her couch cushion quite tightly, “He could be controlling them some other way – emotionally, financially –”

I crossed the room and sat down next to her, resting my hands on her elbows. “He might not be a mage,” I confirmed. “And even if he is – I can conclusively prove to you that he grew up in this world. He’s got childhood records – newspaper announcements of his birthday, adoption papers, a birth certificate – he isn’t an Adept, Allie. No matter what else he is, he’s not an Adept.”

I had to swallow hard at the end of that sentence, but Allie looked up and met my eyes. I smiled gently at her and she twitched her lips in return.

“Well, no matter what he is,” she said, “I’m going to start preparing spells and wards.”

“Leaving me to deal with the paperwork, as always,” I said, shaking my head. “So far, I’ve got only a little more than you in the way of actual evidence.  I turned to take my printed sheets off the printer, but Allie just lazily waved a hand and floated them over. Only one of them tried to flutter off the stack on the way. “All right,” I said, straightening the papers and adjusting my glasses. “Christian Grey is the CEO of Grey Enterprises Holdings Inc., which he started after dropping out of college, in Harvard, Nebraska. The initial investment of one hundred thousand dollars was contributed by an anonymous donor, and the company specializes in electronics and telecommunications, employing about four thousand people -”

“Four?” Allie asked, “Not forty?”

“Nope, four thousand, and this printout is from its own website.”

Allie’s eyebrows went up to a great height. “Somebody’s a liar,” she said, and settled back comfortably against my shoulder.

“Like I was saying, four thousand between two main branches, one devoted to telecommunications, the other to investments and marketing. They don’t make their own phones or carry their own coverage, it’s more of an… internet type of thing? I don’t know, it says that they diversified last year into ‘apps,’” I made air quotes, “whatever those are, and four G and anyway, that’s where they lost me.”

Allie nodded. “What else did you find out?”

“That someone has edited his Wikipedia page,” I replied, “Contradicting some of that information. For example, it says that he went to Harvard – with links to the university, which incidentally looks like the kind of place where your sister would just sink into the ivy and become one with the grounds – and that his company employs forty thousand people instead of four thousand. Incidentally, the list of companies that his has invested in on their official site doesn’t match the Wikipedia one. Only one company has been removed; a chain of pricy beauty salons named Esclava.”

“Well, there’s your coincidence.”

“Exactly what I thought,” I replied, tucking my hair behind the earpiece of my glasses, “These salons are owned by a Ms. Elena Lincoln, fifty-two, a divorced socialite who kept Mr. Lincoln’s name. Guess what one of their advertising slogans is? ‘Beauty truly is skin deep.’” Allie made a fake gagging sound, and I continued. “However, I found our second coincidence in this little tidbit; Elena and her ex-husband often attended or hosted charity functions along with Dr. Grace Trevelyan-Grey, and Carrick Grey: Christian’s adoptive mother and father.”

Allie closed her eyes for a minute. “Let me guess: Elena remained friends with the family after her divorce, while her husband did not.”

“Ding-ding, we have a winner! Elena and Grace are, in fact, involved in an event about two and a half weeks from now, on the eleventh of June. Yes, I’d say she kept in contact with the family.”

“Fascinating,” Allie yawned, “all that this tells us is that Grey comes from money, throws around money, and yet he claims to be a self-made man.”

I snorted gently. “If by self-made, you mean ‘makes up his own story as he goes along,’ then yes. It tells us something else: Grey’s salary is public record, and it’s outrageous. More than the company should be able to afford. And I looked at the price on his apartment. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was in debt up to his eyebrows, and the company with him. I don’t know how badly Esclava needs the money invested by Grey’s ridiculously long and pretentious company Inc., but there’s a possibility that this is all about money.”

“Isn’t that cheerful,” Allie replied, before looking at the clock. “We should hit Esclava tomorrow, because I have a feeling we’re going to be here through dinner. I’ll go get take-out before I start gearing us up; what do you want?”

I considered it. “Oh great and mighty sorceress, summon me a szecheuan chicken,” I said.

*  I got my information about whether or not Kate is authorized to release the interview of Christian Grey here:

I am assuming that, once he had consented to the interview (as the CEO of a company he most likely would have had to sign a written release,) the contents of the interview, unless specified by him to be private, would have been a matter of public record, since they were to be published by a newspaper.

If you think I made a mistake, please correct me!

** Kate knows rather less about the extent of Ana’s interaction with Grey than we do, of course.
scribal_goddess: (A very bad book)
Poor Unfortunate Souls

Author’s Note:
I would be lying if I said this was a fanfiction.

This is a mystery in which a large amount of the Do Not Want aspects of the Fifty Shades series is discovered, dissected, discussed, and prosecuted for, in what I fervently hope is a cathartic or at least informative manner. As such, feel no compulsion to read or comment on this if it disturbs you, nor if you feel the material would be triggering. This story gets fairly heavy on mentions of assorted mental illnesses and Washington State Law, which have been researched using the DSM V and the Revised Code of Washington. Everything about private detective and police procedure is correct to the best of my knowledge: feel free to tell me if it isn’t, because if it isn't, I want to borrow your sources.

Massive List of Trigger Warnings:
Discussions of: rape, stalking, emotional abuse, psychological abuse, gaslighting, financial abuse, and identity theft. Christian Grey demonstrates signs of either being a malignant narcissist or having antisocial personality disorder, nearly everyone in this story has PTSD, discussions of other mental illnesses, mentions of possible child abuse, malpracticing doctors and psychiatrists, Fifty Shades misrepresents BDSM and uses it as an excuse for domestic abuse, wrongful imprisonment, offscreen violence, mild onscreen violence, there is no trigger that Fifty Shades does not hit.

That said, if you read the Das-Sporking sporks, you’re probably prepared for this, because this is the fic where Christian Grey is investigated by two very pissed off detectives who know the law and gets locked away for good. It's also the one where there's urban fantasy and wizards who do the right thing and don't take kindly to Grey's antics. For those of you who already know them, this involves detectives Aliea Veldon and Lindsay Pilot: for those of you who don't, it's really quite self-explanatory.

Chapter 1: Birds on the Wire
Chapter 2: Illuminating Nothing
Chapter 3: Love is Not a Panacea
Chapter 4: A Great Sadness on Earth
Chapter 5: To Catch a Shadow
Chapter 6: Anoxic
Chapter 7: Wisdom of Sight
Chapter 8: Rotten Houses
Chapter 9: The Sound of Never
Chapter 10: The Stolen Years
Chapter 11: War Far From Over
Chapter 12: Conscience
Epilogue: A New Step

Appendix: Christian Grey's Crimes as defined by Washington State Law

As of July 2017, all the links have been fixed to point to dreamwidth entries rather than Livejournal.


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