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DayDreamer

The Deadly Scoop

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I knew the girl was trouble as soon as I saw her. Her pink dress was like someone had thrown bloody clothes into the wash with the whites. You just can't do that; you gotta separate the whites. Such a naive girl wouldn't know, but he knew all too well the pain of trying to intimidate a gangster in a pink dress shirt because someone didn't separate the whites.

 

Davion Dreven's face was obscured by both his fedora and his tented hands, as his steely gaze stared out through the blinds of his office window, through the trickles of rain running down, onto the dimly-lit street below. Holly Hearts often came to Dreven with work suited to his trade, and he had always managed to fulfill her requests, taking some satisfaction in watching and reading the results of her scoops in the coming days thereafter. But this time was different. This time... it was personal.

 

One of Holly's camera crew had disappeared recently. They weren't particularly close, but Holly was the sort of celebrity who cared for her assistants and staff. The police hadn't found anything, and had given her a metaphorical shrug as a response to her demands for answers. Of course, she was by nature not one to let a mystery lie, and so she had come to Dreven.

 

"I'll do it, of course." he replied, turning his spinning chair around to face her again. He squinted slightly at the sudden cuteness he was seeing, such a sharp contrast with the gritty, dark streets outside his window.

 

"You're not worried about how dangerous it might be? It is rather more dire than my usual requests."

 

Davion chuckled, "Miss Hearts, danger doesn't even bother me enough for it to be my middle name. I'll call you when I've found your guy." he stood up from his desk, towering over her petite build, and guided her out his office door. He watched her hips sway as she walked away, and shook his head - it was unfortunate, yet understandable, that she was taken.

 

After she had left, he turned to his secretary, "Ami, take my calls, I'm heading out."

 

The Answering Machine Interface beeped. "Voicemail activated."

 

"You're a doll." Davion winked to 'her', before grabbing his coat and heading out to start on this exciting new case.

 

Holly had given him a file with the subject's relevant information, including last known whereabouts. It seemed he was doing some freelance work photographing some movie starlet Davion recognized generically as a celebrity. Hannah Ichigo. It seemed he had posted to his Facebook wall that he was aiming to get some shots of her, however Holly had noted his Facebook page had been taken down at some point since his disappearance. She had also made a note of the location that was tagged in the post, which gave Davion a place to start looking. He was always impressed by her meticulous research and organization - if only he had an assistant like her. 

 

The location was an affluent area known to be home to several celebrities. Fortunately there were roaming packs of paparazzi about who were knowledgeable enough to point Davion toward Hannah's mansion, otherwise he'd have been lost in the sea of ridiculously extravagant mansions with their matching elaborate security measures. Hannah's mansion was gated, with a hedge running around the perimeter, growing in front of a high piked fence. There was a camera at the gate, but no visible security personnel. Davion stroked his stubbled chin and nodded. Nothing he couldn't handle.

 

Late that night, Davion carefully navigated the piked fence and sneaked into the compound. Fortunately this was a night when Hannah was out at some event, and the sole security guard patrolling the grounds was so bored that Davion had no trouble avoiding him. He set up listening devices and hidden cameras through several of the prominent rooms - he didn't have enough equipment to cover them all in such a huge mansion. Once that was done, he headed back to his van and checked that they were all working, and began monitoring.

 

It didn't take long to get a hit. The next day, when Hannah returned after her night out partying, Davion caught the information he needed. However, he soon realized that he had gotten involved in a bigger and more dangerous case than he had ever had before.

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“Cut!†the director shouted.

Holly continued standing at her spot for a few more seconds as camera crew bustled about packing up the equipment. There was simply so much to do, and she knew she would interfere if she moved about. And so the conscientious reporter waited, not for long, for her crew had been in this line for years. Cables were coiled up, machinery switched off, and water was passed around by the assistants, for the weather was indeed blistering hot outside. Holly stepped away from the Town Hall, which had formed the background of her latest Scoop show, and calmly patted the perspiration off her face with a scented handkerchief. The cheery grin which she had put on for the show had since faded away, for how could one be cheery when a staff member had just disappeared into thin air?

“Holly, would you like to join us for dinner?†the Assistant Director asked. It was a tradition for everyone to gather for dinner after a show. This time, however, she shook her head sadly.

“You guys go ahead,†she said, mustering a beam on her face. “I’m not very hungry, and I think I’ll just go straight home.â€

Home, for Holly, was a fairly standard bungalow at the outskirts of town. People often expected a giant pink house, or a house of candy like the witch’s house in Hansel & Gretel. Holly was sure sometimes that people considered her an alien. A childish, over-excited, perhaps bimbotic alien with a glaring pink dress. At least, this was indeed what some people in the public commented about her in chatrooms and forums. She had read them all, and delighted in the positive comments while distressing about the negativities. After all these years of experience, though, she had learnt since to ignore the negatives and only selectively perceive the positives. This kept one’s sanity and self-esteem intact, at least.

The W&T Show blared on radio as she drove down the lonely streets. Holly let Weston Finagle’s husky voice wash over her as he read out the news of the night.

“And Senator Arnie Swashbuckler was charged today of ten counts of corruption and two counts of sleeping with his secretaries, with one count of sleep-talking in a Norio Wakamoto voice taken under consideration. Perhaps that lightened his sentence.â€

Weston Finagle and Tristan Oculatus from the W&T Show were two rival reporters who were always out to compete with her. They were witty and had a way with acquiring information through thoroughly dubious means. Holly was sure they were still beneath her league at the moment, but she knew that they had already been slated to take over the Scoop should anything happen to her.

As Number 263, Starr Drive loomed up to the left of her blue convertible, she drove into the parking space and remained in the car for a while, letting the engine run as she stared at her handphone. Should she phone Davion to ask if he had any results? She knew he hated being pressed, though, and it had really only been a day since she visited him. She ought to trust him, right?

She suddenly thought back to his messy table, to the time he forgot all about an appointment he had with her, and when he left a stain on his jacket for days without bothering to clean it off. And then there was that escapade of the pink clothes. Trust wasn’t a word one would automatically associate with Davion Dreven, sometimes. And yet, despite his seemingly nonchalant attitude, he was a man who produced answers, when he wanted to.

It was with this conviction in mind that Holly put away her handphone again and ascended the stairs of her porch. Her living room was one strangely devoid of pink. It was white, a colour she thought ought to be on all walls. It looked clean and made the room seem much wider than it actually was. It also had the added effect of making the room much cooler, especially now during the summer. She fell into a slump on the couch, unbuttoning her bright pink dress, and her gaze fell on the pile of letters on the coffee table. She had collected them on her way to work, forming a bulge in her handbag. Letters from fans poured in everyday, and she would sometimes read them during breaks and pen replies. She had become much more listless nowadays, though, and still had nearly half the stack left unopened. She raised a hand to her forehead and sighed. It had never seemed so much like a chore before.

It wasn’t as if she was really very close to Arthur, the man who disappeared. He was the newest guy, in fact, but he was quiet and didn’t talk much and she felt herself gravitating towards him. He reminded her of DeathDealer. Speaking of DeathDealer, a warm glow spread to her cheeks. Why, she had not checked in on him yet. She excitedly picked up her phone and dialled the number she had memorised by heart.

“Oh, hey, Holly,†said the deep voice over the phone. “I can’t talk to you now. There’s a problem with one of my workers. He, well, unexpectedly couldn’t make it. I’m covering his work now and settling some loose ends he left behind. I’ll probably see you in a few days when the business is done.â€

“Oh, of course…†Holly murmured in return, unable to suppress a dejected feeling as the phone clicked on the other end. Even DeathDealer couldn’t entertain her tonight. Well, he was a busy man, running many businesses. She couldn’t be selfish and ask too much of him.

She looked back at the unopened fan mail and sighed again. In a spurt of recklessness, she took a garbage bag and swept all the mail inside. It was what most celebrities did with their mail, anyway. She was about to discard it in the chute, but found she couldn’t quite go through with it, and instead let the bag rest in the kitchen cupboard. She would look at them another day.

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Davion kept listening, double-checking that his equipment was recording this scandalous news.

 

"Well aren't you guys, like, meant to take care of that? Duh! Geez!" Hannah was screeching in her annoyingly high-pitched voice, "Like, isn't that what I pay you for!?"

 

The cameras showed she was talking to a shady-looking suited man in dark glasses. "You pay us to keep you in show business, so that you can keep making money to pay us. It is your own responsibility to manage your fans and paparazzi. Consider yourself fortunate we stepped in in the first place. But with this new news, we must ask for additional funds to wrap up the loose end. That recording will bring you down if it gets out. But we will simply vanish."

 

Hanna kicked around and shook her fists in the air, throwing a tantrum. This is why Davion had little patience for celebrities. At least Holly wasn't so spoilt. "FINE! Like, fine. I'll give you, like, more damned money or whatever. But you better make it go away properly this time, this is, like, so lame I'm paying you again, grr."

 

Of course by now Davion had discerned they had been talking about the missing cameraman, Arthur, that he was trying to find. He had caught a meeting similar to this on tape, and it seems this shady character had done away with Arthur to cover that up, but now they had not managed to recover the recording and feared he had mailed it to someone before they got to him.

 

"That light bulb..." the shady character said, looking at the bulb above himself and Hannah in the living room, "has it been changed recently?"

 

Hannah looked up dumbly, "Eh? I don't think so? What are you even, like, talking about?"

 

"It has rotated several degrees since I was last in this room." he said, before standing on the couch - causing Hannah to object, "HEY THAT IS, LIKE, REAL LEATHER!" - and unscrewing the bulb.

 

Davion cursed under his breath. That was where he'd hidden a microphone. How could he have guessed someone would notice the bulb wasn't at the exact same rotation when he screwed it back in?

 

The shady character yanked the microphone out and took out his phone, making a hasty call. Davion could no longer hear what was going on, but from other microphones in the house he could hear Hannah's screeching "MY HOUSE IS BUGGED? LIKE, O.M.G!"

 

The man, still on the phone, headed to the window and looked out - in the direction of Davion's white van across the street. And then, ending his phone call, he opened the living room window and climbed out, and started sprinting full-speed towards the van.

 

Davion threw off his headset and clambered into the driver's seat. "Christ is this guy for real?" he tried to start the engine but it sputtered and whined, failing. "Sometimes I wish my life wasn't quite so much like an action movie." he sighed, trying again and again. But before he knew it, the suited man's arm was smashing through his side window and grasping to try to unlock the door. Davion kicked at it hard, digging his heel in, which cause the hand to retreat. But then Davion heard a slightly metallic scraping sound, quite like the sound of a gun being ripped from its holster hastily.

 

Oh...

 

The engine roared to life just as the gun appeared through the smashed window, and Davion slammed on the accelerator and flinched as a silenced shot from the gun shattered the front windscreen. He recovered and took the wheel in both hands, turning sharply around the first corner and speeding out of there as more shots clinked against the back of his van. Through the now permanently-open side window, Davion could hear shouting and revving as other cars started up. He had to get out of there fast.

 

--

 

Fortunately Davion had little trouble evading them. He knew the streets well and the cover of night helped him disappear. What he did have trouble evading was several hundred dollars worth of tickets.

 

Broken tail light. Broken windshield. Speeding. Running a red light. Driving on a disqualified license.

 

His van was actually impounded on the spot and he had to take a taxi home. Fortunately he was allowed to retrieve the hard drives from the back of his van, with his newly recorded material.

 

He got back to his office and collapsed on his couch, exhausted. Eventually he pulled himself up again, poured himself a glass of scotch, lit up one of the cigars he saved for very good or very bad occasions, and set about thinking what in the world to do about the night's events.

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A man in a blue uniform rang the doorbell and said he was here to check the meter.

Holly sat on the couch, a facial mask over her visage and her hair casually clipped up, waiting for him to be done with his work. It was a bother she couldn’t apply her eye masks as well, not with a man walking about in her house. Still, she wasn’t that motivated to get up entirely and follow him around either. Her eyelids fluttered despite her valiant effort to keep them open. The facial mask was really soothing, after all…

Somehow she managed to jerk herself awake again and valiantly sat up, peeling the mask off. She looked around for the meter reader and saw him stepping out of her bedroom.

“I saw from the meter that there was an unnaturally high surge of electricity from the appliances in your bedroom, so I went to check,†he explained. “Fortunately it’s not a big problem, but there’s some loose wiring at your hair dryer. You should notify an electrician to get it replaced. In any case, I’ll be going now. Have a nice day.â€

“Oh yes,†said Holly absently, walking to her bedroom now to inspect the hair dryer. Indeed, a section of her thick wiring was frayed. How had she not noticed it before? She made a mental note to take the meter reader’s advice tomorrow.

When the next day came, she had clean forgotten the mental note, for another meter reader had arrived and stood at the door for an hour insisting to her that it couldn’t have been a meter reader who came yesterday, because he was scheduled to come today and as far as he knew none of his colleagues had covered the area before him. He was the new guy who would be stationed to this neighbourhood for the next few months. Tired by the pointless argument, Holly finally stepped in and he immediately set to work opening the meter box by the door. Holly furrowed her brows. She had forgotten that the meter box was just right by the door. Had the meter reader even stopped there yesterday?

She couldn’t understand any of this, but something told her that the whole situation was very wrong. She paused, then thought of something and went up to the meter reader.

“Is there any overload or something in my bedroom?†she blurted out.

“What? What’re you talking about? No there isn’t,†said the meter reader, instinctively shrinking away from her. Perhaps she had now etched a negative image of celebrities in his mind. Well, she hadn’t meant to after all, if circumstances had not taken such a turn.

“But I’ve a frayed wire in my hair dryer. I can show it to you,†she said.

“Frayed wires don’t cause overloads in the meter,†said the man in reply. “In any case, I’m done now. Have a good day.†He kept his clipboard in his briefcase and marched out. Holly quickly shut the door behind him and, for good measure, drew the blinds, suddenly shrouding the living-room in a dim brown pallor. She shuddered. Perhaps that was a bad idea. She walked up to the window and peeped between the blind shutters. It was probably her imagination, but she felt quite positively that there was someone who was watching her house from afar.

“DeeDee, it’s so great to see you here.†Holly heaved a sigh of relief when DeathDealer appeared at her doorstep that night. Somehow everything felt all right again with him around. “You wouldn’t believe it, I’ve had such a scare!â€

DeathDealer narrowed his eyes as she promptly recounted the strange case of the two meter readers, and how she suspected that the first meter reader had gone into her bedroom for a reason.

“It couldn’t be a spy for the paparazzi, could it?†he suggested.

“No, I don’t think they’d go to such trouble. Besides, I’m a reporter, not some big-shot actress! And I’d gladly accept any interviews without resorting to such sneaky tactics,†she protested, crossing her arms with a pout. Really, she had no idea why anyone would do this sort of thing to her. Could it have something to do with… a serious expression crossed her face.

“A penny for your thoughts,†said DeathDealer, tossing a coin. Holly shook her head. She didn’t know how to voice her suspicions just yet.

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Davion threw an old suitcase down on his desk, opened it, and started filling it with essentials. The hard drives with the recordings, his laptop, money, various IDs, Ami, a disposable mobile phone, cigarettes, his spare pistol and ammunition, and some changes of clothes. He made sure his main pistol was loaded and readied, before holstering it under his jacket. He snapped the suitcase shut and grabbed his hat, before turning off his office lights.

 

It wasn't safe to stay there anymore, not when the registration on his van led back there. He wasn't going to underestimate the preparation of people who had opened fire on him last night. He checked into a hotel under a false name and decided to base himself from there until he got to the bottom of things.

 

--

The office door opened with a creak and suited men with black gloves and silenced pistols filed in before closing it again. They began clearing the few rooms methodically. But one of the men was surprised when he opened the slightly ajar storage room door and was met with a bucket of bricks falling onto his head. He fell instantly to the ground... much like a bucket of bricks.

 

"Careful!" hissed Raul. He turned to the still-standing associate, "Don't touch anything else. He's not here, I'll handle the search. Just take him and get out of here." The associate nodded and helped his dazed colleague up, and the two of them left the office.

 

Raul moved to turn on the light switch, but paused and felt the switch with his gloved hand first. The switch was missing, and it seemed there were exposed wires in its place.

 

This P.I is crafty.

 

He produced a torch instead and conducted his search. He couldn't find any helpful information, but he did find several more traps. A bear-trap near the side of the desk, a small explosive trap rigged to the desk drawer, a bathroom door topped with a bucket full of some corrosive liquid, and a false PC tower that seemed to also be rigged to electrocute anyone trying to turn it on. Raul gritted his teeth, frustrated. The P.I was one step ahead of them it seemed.

 

But he wasn't perfect. Raul managed to 'persuade' the building's manager to allow him to view the security footage from the lobby. It wasn't hard then to monitor the times Davion had entered the building and take note of others who had entered while he was presumably in his office, during business hours. The P.I had to have been spying on them for a job, and Raul smiled a sly smile as he identified Davion's client.

 

--

 

After an unrestful night's sleep, Davion set about the next stage of his investigation. He knew now that Hannah Ichigo was indebted to some shady characters who were prepared to remove anyone who discovered the relationship, and that was the fate of Arthur. However, Arthur's recording was unaccounted for, and they were intending to get it. While he somehow doubted they had neglected to search his dwelling when dealing with him, it was worth a look still.

 

Rather than risk the possibility that the shady characters had arranged something with the apartment manager, Davion took it upon himself to let himself into Arthur's apartment. The interior seemed undisturbed, but Davion could see that was not quite the case. While his computer desk was coated with a few days of dust, the keyboard and mouse seemed to have a lighter coat, suggesting they had been used more recently. It was of course the first place someone would look for his recordings, and so Davion did the same, finding there was fortunately no login password. A cute anime girl with big eyes and bigger breasts stared back at him from the desktop, and Davion knew prying through this computer was going to be some dirty work.

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Holly Hearts was a woman who knew how to pamper herself on the weekends. She would wake up early in the morning for a jog around the neighbourhood, then come back home for a nutritious and delicious breakfast of ham and cheese omelette. Sometimes she would go out with friends to shop, eat or sing in the karaoke, but on this Saturday morning, she had no appointment, and was looking forward to enjoying her time at home.

But of course, the best-laid plans of mice and men were bound to go awry. Just as she was reclining into her favourite massage chair, preparing to flick the “on†switch, the telephone rang.

“Hey Holly,†the familiar soft breezy voice could be heard over the phone. “I got a couple of movie tickets, and you were looking forward to watching that film ‘Enamel’, weren’t you? Well, if you’re not busy today, shall we go out for a date?â€

Of course Holly would never pass up a date, especially when DeathDealer had been especially busy lately. She immediately ran up to her wardrobe and picked out a pink dress. Even if she wasn’t as attracted to pink as her reporter persona suggested, she wasn’t completely repelled by it either. And as DeathDealer once admitted, pink did look good on her.

After the past few days of worrying and suspicions, going out felt like a breath of fresh air. With DeathDealer by her side, his icy gloved hand over her shoulder, everything was all right with the world. Why, as she looked about her now, she didn’t think anyone was tailing or watching them either, as she had often felt the past few days on her way to work. She was starting to think that maybe she had been imagining stuff after all.

The film turned out to be pretty mediocre, but she was content to just rest her head on DeathDealer’s shoulder and soak in his smoky scent. When the movie ended, they went for lunch as well, and DeathDealer even humoured her by joining her for karaoke, something he didn’t often do. It was to make up for being too busy to spend time with her nowadays, he said. This was one of her best days ever.

It was late afternoon by the time DeathDealer accompanied her back home. He had something on at the nighttime, and so they could not have a romantic candlelit dinner. It was fine with her though. She strolled up the driveway slowly, holding his hand, a dreamy expression on her face. When they neared her house, though, the dreamy expression turned to one of shock. Her eyes widened.

The door had been flung wide open, and from her angle she could see her things thrashed all over the place. Books and vases were on the floor, her blinds were half-torn, and more importantly, she could see silhouettes darting about at the living-room window.

“Stop right there!†she screamed, running up to the door. The silhouettes belonged to two masked men, who gasped when they saw her and DeathDealer coming in. Before they could go up to catch them, though, the duo had jumped out the window and sprinted off. DeathDealer was about to give chase, but Holly held him back.

“It’s alright, I don’t think they managed to take anything,†she said. “We probably startled them. The kitchen’s untouched, for one. I don’t think they managed to go upstairs either, but I must check carefully. Either way, thankfully you’re around! I wouldn’t know what to do if I were alone with them.†She crumpled into his embrace and he patted her back soothingly.

She straightened herself again soon after, though, her eyes glittering with determination. There could be only one reason her house was being ransacked. She was right, and she was indeed being watched. It was likely to be related to Arthur’s incident. She just needed to find out the link. She hoped it had something to do with Davion’s investigation. It would be good if it had borne fruit!

“You did wrong to mess with the master reporter, Holly Hearts!†she declared to no one in particular. “My journalistic senses are on to you now, and I’ll dig up your secrets with all my power. Trust me on that!â€

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Follow the anime girl road.

 

Davion picked up on a subtle pattern as he went through the PC. It was filled with pictures of anime girls, and while Davion at first thought the guy was just a typical otaku, it became evident there was some deliberate positioning and arrangement. The girl on the desktop had her finger pointed at a folder. Inside that folder was more scantily-clad anime girls, but they were arranged horizontally, and the ones on the left were facing right and the ones on the right were facing left. In between those two distinct sides was a single girl facing forwards, with what appeared to be whipped cream sprayed all over her chest. But, upon looking closely, Davion noted there was writing edited into the cream, which seemed to be a filename. After following the trail through several more folders of girls with similarly subtle clues, decreasing amounts of clothing, and increasing amounts of fetishes, Davion finally came to what seemed to be the final link in the chain. It was a fanart image, that depicted anime versions of Holly Hearts and Hannah Ichigo in a... compromising position together. Davion was about to facepalm and growl about wasting so much time on this elaborate shrine to Arthur's fetishes, but then he noticed that in the image, it seemed Hannah was covering Holly's modesty with a DVD case that said "evidence". Suddenly the speech bubble from Hannah that said "Is this what you've always wanted~?" made more sense.

 

Davion switched off the computer and rubbed his eyes. Unless this was an incredibly specific fetish, it seemed that Arthur had sent the evidence of Hannah's corruption to Holly. But if he sent it before he was (presumably) killed, Holly should have it by now easily. He took out his phone and called Holly.

 

"Holly, it's Davion. Yes, I do have something: Arthur definitely is the victim of foul play. But there's more, I believe he has posted you a disc with a recording on it - it's what got him targeted. It should have arrived in your mail a few days ago at least, do look for it."

 

He held the line while she rummaged around, until she finally found it; an envelope that turned out to have nothing but a DVD disc inside it, labelled 'evidence'. "That must be it" Davion concluded, standing up and rushing out of the apartment hastily now. "Listen, Arthur got involved in some very dangerous matters with this. You're now in danger too, they're trying to find that recording. Lock your doors and stay put, I'm coming over to get you. We'll work out what to do next once we get you to safety." he ended the call and broke into a run to his rented car.

 

On the road, Davion noticed he was being followed. "They're still underestimating me." he said to himself. Though he realized that if they had followed him without confronting him, that meant they were likely hoping he would lead them to the recording. They indeed hadn't discovered it was with Holly yet, then.

 

Davion casually took a detour, then entered a different main street. He approached a set of amber traffic lights slowly, first in the line of traffic, with his pursuers a few cars back. But as the lights turned red, Davion hit the accelerator and speed forward through them. He narrowly avoided the traffic that had started crossing the intersection and sped off, leaving his pursuers stuck behind both traffic and a busy intersection. He then took the first turn and diverted his course back towards Holly's place, content that they wouldn't be able to catch up to him again let alone find which way he went.

 

He pulled up to Holly's house on the outskirts of town, skidding to a sudden stop. There was a black van not unlike the one that had been tailing him, parked in her driveway. As he jogged up to her porch and drew his pistol, he noticed her door was missing - it was broken down. He darted into the living room with his gun pointed and searched the place quickly. No sign of her or anyone else.

 

Damn don't tell me they got to her first? Did they guess? No... they must have traced incoming calls to her phone, and when their buddies tailing me let them know I sped off and lost them, they put it together and deduced I was coming for her. Damn!
 

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"Holly, it's Davion.†Holly’s heart skipped a beat when she heard the voice. Davion had not contacted her since she visited him about the case, and they both knew that whenever he called, it must be a signal of some great discovery.

“Yes, I do have something: Arthur definitely is the victim of foul play. But there's more, I believe he has posted you a disc with a recording on it - it's what got him targeted. It should have arrived in your mail a few days ago at least, do look for it," he said.

Her mail? She blinked, startled. She rarely kept her mail after reading them; they could be in the trash by now. Then again, she was sure she had opened every mail she received these past few days – she couldn’t have missed a recording.

Her mouth widened in horror. The burglars! They had barged into her house, likely hunting for the recording, and had probably taken it away before she even had an opportunity to see it. She was about to groan in exasperation when a passing bird started squawking from the kitchen window. She stared at the kitchen. Of course…

She ran to the cupboard and flung the door open. There was a day when she had been too sleepy to read her mail, and had stashed them in here! She had forgotten about them afterwards, but she grabbed the sack now and began rummaging. Sure enough, she found a brown envelope containing a disc, labelled “Evidenceâ€.

"That must be it," Davion concluded. "Listen, Arthur got involved in some very dangerous matters with this. You're now in danger too, they're trying to find that recording. Lock your doors and stay put, I'm coming over to get you. We'll work out what to do next once we get you to safety."

“Got it!†she replied, her voice turning squeaky from the agitation. She had been holding on to such a precious clue all along, and had actually forgotten it and failed to read it in time! She stashed it into her handbag, determined not to make this mistake again, and went up to lock her door. She paused and her blood froze.

A black van was parked on the other side of the road, its windows darkened so she couldn’t see into the interior. The house behind it was a decrepit place, uninhabited for years, so she knew it couldn’t have been here for her. It was too late, they were already here.

The door to the van opened and Holly bolted out the kitchen window with her handbag. She couldn’t wait for Davion anymore.

~~~

She didn’t run very far before some other people in the van began to give chase. Fortunately, being a beat reporter for four years had given her enough experience in running and hiding, and she hastily picked a garbage dump to hide into. There was a heap of garbage bags, each big enough to hide a person and filled to the brim with junk. She boldly dived into one of the bags, held her nose and listened.

The pursuing footsteps soon died out. To be safe, Holly waited a moment longer before she would deem it safe to emerge. However, her phone chose this time to ring. A loud gay bubblegum pop melody rang out from her handphone and as she fumbled for it in the dark, cursing whoever had thought it a good idea to ring her up at this time, she stifled a gasp.

The footsteps had returned.

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Davion pressed the phone to his ear but Holly wasn't answering. He lowered the phone, about to press hang up, when he realized that without the dial tone in his ear he could hear something. Some nearby music that sounded like a ringtone.

 

Oh...

 

Davion let the phone keep ringing and ran towards the sound of the ringtone, drawing his handgun. He made his way around to the back of her building, and saw two men in suits cornering a pile of garbage bags from whence the ringtone sounded. "Stop right there, turn around slowly!" Davion shouted, pointing his gun at the men. The men turned slowly at first, but as they faced towards him and saw his gun, they suddenly drew their own silencer-equipped handguns from inside their jackets and opened fire immediately.

 

Davion let out a gasp and dove to the side, scrambling around the corner of the building as bullets chipped pieces off the brick corner. He growled as a piece of shattering brick scratched his face, before he could turn away.

 

These guys are really serious.

 

Around the corner, one of the men motioned for the other to continue with the garbage bags while he advanced on Davion, but when he started pulling out the bags, he did not find a trace of the hiding target. Wily Holly had taken the chance to escape again while they were distracted.

 

Davion knew he was outnumbered and could be easily flanked, so he readied himself before boldly diving out from cover and firing his gun at the suited men mid-air. His own was not silenced and so loud gunfire now resounded. He missed many shots, as to be expected from such an inaccurate firing position as sideways-in-midair. But one connected with the kneecap of the closest assailant, and the man collapsed clutching his knee. His friend gave up on the garbage bags now, turning to fire at Davion again.

 

Davion had taken up cover again behind a stone pillar that punctuated Holly's metal side fencing, and once again found himself sheltering there as chunks of the stonework exploded outward as bullets impacted it. He stood up straight and aimed over the top of the pillar this time, hits shots hitting the enemy in the right shoulder and arm, causing him to lose his grip on his gun.

 

Suddenly there was the sound of an engine and horn behind him, and he turned around with gun at the ready. A car - his rental car - was heading for him, but it screeched to a halt abruptly, and Holly leaned out of the window. "Davion! Get in!" she called out.

 

He needed no further encouragement, and casting one last glance back to check on the wounded enemies, he ran around to the side of the car and got in the passenger side. He quickly told Holly the address he was staying at and told her to head there. He wasn't able to explain more, however, as the engine of the black van outside her house roared to life, and it reversed out of the driveway to pursue them.

 

"Swing past the van Holly!" Davion instructed. They were still close and going at low speed, so it wasn't a particularly difficult maneuver. As she came up to the side of the van, with it facing the opposite direction now, Davion leaned out the window and unleashed the last of his handgun ammo on its tires. He managed to hit both front and rear tires on the side facing him, before his gun clicked empty. "Now go!" he told Holly, rolling back up his window.

 

Holly put her foot down and they left the disabled van in the dust behind them.

 

Davion's heart was racing and he just sat back a moment and caught his breath, before realizing how distraught Holly must also be. "So, Holly, there are some things I have to fill you in on." he began, in understatement.

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“So you’re saying,†yelled Holly over the sound of the screeching engine as the rental van careened across the highway, “that Arthur left a video recording for me, before he was caught by men in black, and Hannah Ichigo is behind this- I mean, she hired someone to do this,†she hastily corrected herself as Davion made a move as if to speak. A car zoomed past her as she calmly switched lanes to the side, her GPS reminding her to turn right.

They reached Davion’s motel, situated in the outskirts of town, within twenty minutes. His room was a frightfully messy place, with newspapers trailing off the table and clothes slung over armchairs. Holly wondered how Davion could ever find anything in this nest. It was a shocking contrast to his neat and well-kept office. It would be a nightmare if anyone tried to find clues here, certainly. This was a great anti-burglar trap. She stepped lightly over a pile of soda bottles and located the video player connected to the television set.

“Let’s watch the video that Arthur gave me,†she said, popping the video quickly into the player. She cleared a space on one of his armchairs and settled down, realising she had been holding her breath all this time. They could finally see the clues Arthur left behind, that were apparently important enough to warrant his kidnap, and having people storm her own house several times to locate it.

The video started. It was a series of slide shows comprising photographs that Arthur had taken. Holly recognised them as shots of Queston Harbour, where they had intended to shoot a documentary. Arthur had been tasked to recce the place out, but had not turned the photographs in.

At first Holly couldn’t see the purpose of these shots; they seemed completely normal, until Davion pointed something out. There, at the corner, was Hannah Ichigo’s blurred frame, linking arms with what looked like Mr Jack Humphrey, an award-winning movie director.

Subsequent photographs showed up more scandalous footage. Apparently Arthur had caught on to the scene and had gone on to pursue the matter. Later snapshots were taken in Hannah’s room, featuring her and Mr Humphrey’s faces prominently on her bed in various stages of undress. Holly clapped a hand to her mouth. Was that how Hannah had risen in the ranks to become the movie starlet she was now?

What followed next were photographs showing exchanges of cash between Hannah and shady news reporters. There were photographs of these reporters planting suspicious items in the trailers of other celebrities – Holly recognised the distinctive purple one of Erena Autumnstrait, an actress recently found to be doing drugs. There was also singer Hard Boulder, whose career took a plummet a week ago for having allegedly molested a girl. He was also rumoured to have broken up with Hannah a few months ago.

Holly leaned forward, gripping the edge of her seat. Hannah was connected to all of these news! And what was worse, it seemed to imply that she was paying people to frame them. Davion turned towards her now.

“She’s working with some organisation to make all these happen,†he said grimly. “We have to find out who’s masterminding all these plans, because it doesn’t look like she thought them up on her own.â€

Holly wasn’t listening to him now. She was staring, transfixed, at the television screen. The video had reached its end, the Replay button appearing as a translucent filter over its last slide. Her head was slightly cocked to the side in confusion.

The last slide was a storehouse of some sort, a place painted black on what looked like a jetty. There was nothing else in the photograph, no indication or clue of why it was in there.

As Holly looked, she felt a strange unease, as if the building was watching her intently in return.

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