I stumbled out the back door of the station in a daze, finding my way back to my car and sitting in the front seat, unable to process much in the way of anything, especially not about the revelation that my boss, my mentor was apparently working with the very person trying to wipe out my kind. It was absolute insanity, why would he possibly have a reason to do something like that? He’d been there to see what that shapeshifting bastard had done, what he had been planning to do, why would he join with someone who wanted to do exactly the same but with more of a religious angle to his insanity?
But then he was also a man of logic, his whole career and his entire life had been based on the assumption that everything that happened had a logical, human reason for happening, his entire reason for being had been making sense out of things that looked like they didn’t make sense at all. For him to find out that everything that he knew wasn’t just far more complicated than he had ever thought, but in some cases was an outright fabrication… that would drive anyone to do some insane things. Why wouldn’t you after all, if you’d found out nothing made sense anyway?
“Jesus Rick,” I said to myself, turning the key in the ignition and hoping that he didn’t see me pull away, “What have you gotten yourself into?”
I needed to take a drive to clear my head, everything was spinning and it was like I’d been thrown into a washing machine, all chaos and no calm. The serial killer that we’d managed to thwart had clearly been sent by the hunters, he wouldn’t have been able to get that paralyzing toxin otherwise, but where exactly did Rick’s involvement start? Was he involved the whole time, giving pointers and information to the killer all the while? Or did this only start after Damon shot the killer in self defense and saved the only witness to the crimes?
Now that I think about it, I’m almost certain that I’ve seen Tristian around the station once or twice, just fleeting glimpses out of the corner of my eye and he was gone before I could get a clear look but… you can’t really hide a presence like that, whenever he’s around it’s like you can feel someone analyzing the best possible way to kill you, it’s creepy. I’d been willing to chalk it up to paranoia, maybe just the long nights or the lack of sex getting to me and making me antsy, but now with this explicit confirmation that he was around there was absolutely no denying it. Rick was absolutely in Tristian’s corner, one of the men that I’d thought that I could trust most in the world was working against me.
How fun, Damon and Vincent are going to be furious.
When I pulled into the parking spot outside my apartment it took me a minute to actually move to get out, I couldn’t help but be… basically dumbstruck by how everything had worked out. My life had been normal little over a year ago, I hadn’t had much in the way of a relationship or a sex life, but everything else had been good. I had friends that cared about me, a mentor that was still focused on mentoring me and not succumbing to bullshit politics, who was dedicated to doing what was right instead of working with genocide idealizing mad men. I had a fucking pet that wasn’t disemboweled and spread across my living room.
What the fuck happened to my life?
I slammed my door behind me so hard I was honestly shocked that I didn’t shatter the glass, I was rapidly going from dumbstruck to absolutely pissed, how dare Rick pull some shit like this. How dare he think that he can work with the very same people who tried to kill every single one of my new friends, the people that I have sworn to protect and treat like family, how fucking dare he think that what he is doing is anything except completely morally repugnant! I am going to tell Damon and Vincent everyone that I know, then I’m going to go to Joseph, and I swear to god once we have a plan I am going to march right up to him and demand to know just what the hell was going through his mind when he decided to become an accomplice to mass murder. The Rick that I knew wouldn’t have even considered doing something this terrible, which means that either I never knew him as well as I thought I did or he was reacting to his new knowledge of the paranormal like any regular coward would. Either way, he was absolutely destroyed in my mind, there was no atoning for something like this, not after everything that’s come before this.
“Amy?” Damon said, looking up at me groggily from the bed. Vincent’s arm was wrapped around his waist, I guess that they both thought that I was in the middle of them since they’d fallen asleep. Or maybe they hadn’t, either way it brought a small spark of joy to me and a face burning level of embarrassment to Damon.
He jumped up, waking a very unkempt Vincent in the process and hopping over to me quickly. “Are you alright?” He asked, “You look… kind of pissed actually.”
“I’m…” I sighed, shaking my head, “No, I’m not alright. Get your pants on and I’ll tell you in the lounge, this is going to be a long day…”
“Wait, Rick?” Damon couldn’t believe his ears, you’d think I would have told him that the earth was flat and dinosaurs never actually existed. “The same Rick who stood by and let us bring Vincent back from the dead, the same Rick who covered for us and said that the suspect killed themselves to avoid being captured? That same Rick is working with Tristian?”
“You sound surprised,” Vincent said, impassive on the surface but it was easy to see the tension in his knuckles. “People in positions of power are usually the most susceptible to corruption, whether monetarily or morally. Rick isn’t the first and he won’t be the last.”
“You make it sound so… normal,” I said, “Like this sort of thing happens every day.”
“I’ve been alive a long time Amy, not as long as some but longer than any of you.” He shook his head, seemingly out of sadness for everyone. “I’ve seen better men than him fall just as hard, and I’ve seen worse men resist the urge, corruption is just something that can infect anyone. He very well may think that he is doing the right thing by joining with Tristian, but through history the worst atrocities have been committed by those who think that they are doing what is right.”
Damon nodded in agreement. “I’ve done some bad things Amy, but I didn’t do any of them knowing that they were wrong. The reason I was able to do it for so long and without hesitation was because I was absolutely certain that what I was doing was the moral thing to do.”
“But you learned otherwise,” I said, “It took a long time, but you saw the other way.”
“Yeah, but logically you shouldn’t have wasted the time.” He shrugged, sighing at me and Vincent, both of us bewildered. “You might have been in love with me, but I was trying to kill the other man you loved over something that I didn’t even fully understand. I was in love with you even knowing that you loved him, but I still would have been willing to hurt you so badly by killing him. I’m glad that you gave me the chance, don’t get me wrong, but logically you should have just cut your losses before I hurt you or someone else you loved.”
“You think… you think I should have killed you?” I couldn’t believe what I was hearing, or maybe I just didn’t want to process it. I wasn’t sure which was more horrifying, the thought of actually going through with killing him or the fact that he was speaking about it so matter of factly.
Going by the pinch between Vincent’s eyebrows, I wasn’t the only one who thought so.
“You saw how quickly the hunters turned towards genocide, who’s to say that I wouldn’t have been joining them if things had been only a little different?” Damon frowned, looking away from us. “Once upon a time I probably would have been proud to be a part of it, but that’s not how things worked out. Because you gave me a chance, even though I was trying to kill Vincent, even though I tried to kill you. You gave me so many chances at a time when you really shouldn’t have.”
I must have started to look absolutely distraught, next thing I knew he’d stepped forward and wrapped his arms around me, crushing me in a powerful hug while he buried his nose in my hair. “I don’t want you to think that I’m not grateful, because I am. Every day that I get to spend from now on with you and Vincent is one that I’m going to cherish forever, but I don’t want that caring nature of yours to be the thing that kills you.”
Vincent nodded, finally understanding and placing his hand over mine. “What he means is that while he is here by your side after all the chances you gave him, Rick very well may not be the same. Instead of taking the chance that you give him he may just decide that he has already come too far and that there is no point in trying to atone.” He smiled, though it looked significantly sadder than usual. “You insist on doing everything yourself, offering all of your chances personally, so there is no question that you would be in the line of fire.”
I sighed, I’d been thinking about exactly this on the way up, so it was nice to know that they knew me so well. But even so I didn’t want to think about the possibility of the man who had basically raised me into the investigator I was today choosing to turn his back on everything that he had ever believed in so easily.
“I’ll keep that in mind but… I’ve got to give him a chance at least,” I said, “I can’t just give up on him right away you know?”
“Of course,” Vincent said, “That’s because you are you, you always try to see the best in people, no matter who they might be. But just keep it in your mind always that even as you offer him a chance that he may not want it, you need to accept the possibility that as much as you may not wish it to be so, you might have to end him before he can hurt anyone else.”
“I… you mean I should be prepared to kill him.”
He nodded, though not without clear sympathy. “I know it sounds unfair, because it is, but if you need me to step in and deliver the blow for you I am prepared to do so. I… understand if you feel you need to do it yourself though, from what you have told me of him he is… very important to you. That’s not something that can be so easily swept aside.”
“No,” I said, “It’s not.” I ran my hands through my hair, already regretting having gotten out of bed that morning and ruining everything for myself all over again. At least if I had never found this out I could have been stabbed in the back without a care, I wouldn’t have had to deal with my heart being broken into a thousand pieces on top of that.
“Dammit, we need to talk to Joseph about this,” I said, “He’s not going to be happy that we can’t trust the police on top of whatever else we’ve got going on right now.”
Damon snorted, already picking up his coat. “It’s Joseph. He doesn’t trust the cops anyway,come to think of it none of us do.”
“I do! Kind of…”
“Amy when was the last time you actually thought they could do their jobs, without you having to step in?”
I frowned, guess they had me there. Not… exactly a good mark of quality when not even the people that work there think that it’s run competently. I was hoping that I could be the change that it needed but no single person can change things so completely like that, and now that it looks like the man in charge of the whole thing is irreparably corrupt then I guess the chances of changing anything just went from improbable to impossible. Bummer, but at least now I don’t have to wonder if I’ll eventually quit my job now, my time was probably coming to an end soon anyway.
“It’s almost dark, we should be fine to go to him soon.” I turned to Vincent, raising my eyebrow in question. “What’s the limit on light that you can be out in?”
“If the sky is still orange then I’ll get a bad sunburn, but I shouldn’t die or anything like that.”
“Well, we’ll wait an hour or something then I guess, I don’t want you to have to sleep away from us because your skin is sensitive.”
“Trust me,” He said, taking my hand and placing his hand on Damon’s shoulder, “That wouldn’t be an issue.”
I was honestly shocked that Damon’s blush didn’t burn him.
“So what do you think?” I asked, rapping my knuckles against the door, “Do you think he’s going to be pissed or excited by all this?”
Vincent tapped his chin, humming in thought while we waited for one of Joseph’s day servants to answer the door. “I think that anything to do with Tristian is going to make him angry, but this whole twist with Rick really is just too much for him to turn his nose up at. He’s going to be a very confused brand of angry.”
When we were greeted at the door and led through the hallways, after a short minute of having to convince the servant to let us in without calling ahead, I still couldn’t quite nail down just how I thought Joseph was going to feel. God knows that he loves drama, the image of him swinging around a werewolf head completely shirtless was something that was going to be burned into my skull for all eternity, but when you actually started involving and hurting people that he cared about… things could get pretty messy. Literally, I’ve seen him tear tongues from mouths and rend people limb from limb, just because he acts the part of the hedonistic slacker does not change the fact that he is one of the most dangerous beings you would ever meet in your life.
“Amy!” He said from his usual seat, making me wonder if he actually moved from it when he didn’t have to leave the mansion, “To what do I owe this unexpected pleasure? I don’t suppose the three of you have decided to take up the invitation from me and the girls?”
“I… no, no we haven’t come for that.” I tilted my head at the two of them, asking a silent question and getting shakes of the head in response. “No, we haven’t come here for that. Something’s come up and… it’s pretty important that you know about it.”
“Serious business?” He looked over each of our expressions, clearly seeing that we weren’t exaggerating how bad things were, his own face slipping from easy mirth to cautious impassiveness so easily you would think he had never been smiling in the first place. “Have a seat, please. Tell me everything that you know.”
Though I’d already had the conversation with Vincent and Damon, saying it out loud wasn’t any easier a second time around, even if I’d already seen it with my own two eyes. There was absolutely no question that Rick was working with Tristian, with how closely they had been sitting, how easy Rick’s body language was, the files that he had been handing over… you couldn’t have a clear admission of guilt if Rick himself called me and told me he had betrayed me. But… it was Rick, and saying these things out loud would make them real. I didn’t want them to be real, I wanted the man who had raised me to still be the man who cared about me, I wanted truth and justice to still be the things that we fought for, not superiority. I wanted everyone to fight for the right thing, not to wipe each other out
But what we want and the way that things are often couldn’t be further from each other, so it was with a heavy sigh and a soul crushing amount of regret that I looked Joseph in the eye and said, “Rick is betraying us for the hunters.”
For a moment he didn’t respond, and I was almost ready to tell him again when his eyes darkened and his tone became harder. “Your boss? The man in ‘charge’ of the police in this city? The man who swore to protect the innocent, regardless of what walk of life they come from?”
I ducked my head instinctively to avoid his gaze, I’d never seen him truly angry before but it was clear that he was heading that way very fast. I would like to say that it made me glad to have found one of his buttons so I knew not to push it in the future, but being this close to it was enough to make me regret ever bringing it up. But still, I had come here to tell him all I knew, he asked me to tell him as much as well, so it was my duty to do so.
“I went into work today to hand some things in, make sure that the workers in the labs are actually doing their jobs, you know, the usual stuff…” I sighed, rubbing at my eyes, “I decided to swing by Rick’s office, let him know that I was starting to feel better and… that’s when I saw him. Tristian.”
“They were cooperating?” He asked, “You’re certain? This couldn’t have been extortion or… coercion?”
I shook my head. “No, the way that Rick was acting… he was calm about the whole thing, like this wasn’t the first time that he had been in his office. They were comfortable around each other, they clearly trust each other, that took me a very long time to get and Tristian just has to waltz in with a promise to kill all of us and he’s his best friend.”
“How do you know that he’s working with him? For all we know he could have been warding him off, maybe telling him to back away from the three of you or the police will get involved.” Joseph ran a hand through his hair, actually looking his age for once. I wasn’t proud to know that I was the reason for that. “Just to be clear I’m not calling you a liar or doubting your suspicions, I just need to know everything and we need to go through everything before I can risk making a move. Rick isn’t some bargain bin serial killer from off the street, people will notice if we’re following him.”
“No it’s fine I… understand that we need to be sure, I spent a while trying to convince myself that I hadn’t actually seen what I’d seen, or that maybe he was trying to work with us. But then I remembered…” I shook my head, everything really was unravelling around me. Things were finally working out nicely for me and now I have to deal with something as world shattering as a personal betrayal. “He was giving Tristian files Joseph, a whole lot of them. He treats… he treated information very carefully, he wouldn’t just give those over as a ruse. They contain crime scene information, possible motives, identities of witnesses, there is just too much in there to treat like a random macguffin to fool people with. And then there’s everything that I’m starting to remember…”
They were silent waiting for me to continue, which I very much appreciated, given exactly what I was thinking of. There was a lot about this that just wasn’t sitting right with me, but what I was about to tell them next was maybe the one that I was taking the hardest.
“There was a witness to the latest crime, the one that killed those witches…” Joseph sucked in a breath, from the look on his face he was still far angrier about that than he let on in public. “She said that she could positively identify who she thought was the killer, even said that he had blood on his suit and a strange aura around him, the whole thing was spelling out killer to me right away. I took her up to her apartment, got her information, told her that we would keep her safe and then I left. But not before I called down to Rick to let him know about the report.”
“I take it he was surprised?”
“Yeah, that’s the word that I would use. Said that they’d already checked around for witnesses and hadn’t found anyone, then he told me to come down and take care of things with the scene. So I told him her address and said that she needed protection.” Things were rapidly beginning to fall into place in a way that I didn’t like. “That night, that same night, she got attacked by the killer in her apartment, Damon and I getting there and killing him was the only thing that stopped her from being killed that night. He’d only encountered her once when he was walking out, how could he know her specific address without someone telling him?”
“It could have been someone else on the force…” Joseph groaned, “But he treats information very sensitively, he wouldn’t have let just anyone know about her right away. The witches were attacked that same night as well weren’t they?”
“Yep, right when I went downstairs I got the call. That can’t have been a coincidence when I was making some headway on finding the killer.” I grabbed Vincent and Damon’s hands, squeezing them just so I could have something to brace myself with. “My mentor helped someone kill two innocent people and almost killed a third, how could I not see it before?”
“You were blinded by the respect that you had for him, and by the relationship that the two of you have shared for years, but this isn’t your fault.” Joseph stood, pouring a drink quickly from a bottle that seemingly appeared from nowhere and sliding a glass towards me. “Drink, please. I think we could all do with something to calm our nerves, no?”
I accepted the drink gladly, half of it already down my throat by the time I started to feel the burn. He’d obviously been expecting that outcome, given that he calmly waited for me to finish my glass before pouring me another. Two more glasses appeared out of nowhere for my two companions, Vincent curiously choosing to have a drink as well. It wasn’t going to calm him down like it would for Damon and I, either he was more rattled than I thought or we were rubbing off on him more than I had thought. Probably both actually.
“Now,” Joseph said, taking a few more breaths to make sure that he was calm and in control, “I know that this is a very shocking development for all of us, most especially yourself Amy, but I need to stress how important it is that we handle this the right way. We cannot just go head first into a fight on this one, not if we wish to keep a low profile after all is said and done.”
“What do you mean the right way?” I placed my glass down, leaning forward and asking, “Joseph, what are we planning to do?”
He looked almost regretful when he looked back up at me, though he couldn’t disguise that level of anger that coursed through his entire being. It was intimidating without any effort, and whatever it meant for Rick surely wasn’t good even before he spoke up
“Amy… we are going to research, we are going to confirm one hundred percent that it was him who leaked the information and is actively working with Tristian, we have agents all over the city, it shouldn’t take much time at all. But if he really was the one…” He sighed, “Amy he had a part in killing two of us, he was part of an attempted cleansing of the entirety of our witch population, there are men far more important than him who were guilty of far lesser crimes that we have disposed of. I… cannot afford to treat him any differently.”
“You’re… going to kill him.” I felt sick, there was no way that this was happening, but my life had gotten fucked up enough lately that I couldn’t be bothered to even deny it. “Oh Jesus he’s meant so much to me for so many years and now he’s just going to be snuffed out…”
“Amy, Amy listen to me.” Joseph knelt in front of me, taking my hand in his and bowing his head. “I am not sorry for what will happen to him, but I am genuinely sorry for the grief that it will cause you. I… understand what it is like to be betrayed by people you have been close to, to feel like you can never really trust again, to wonder if anything that you went through with them was ever actually real or not. But I am telling you that there are people out there who will cherish you and who will lay themselves on the line for you. You’re sitting with three of them right now.”
“But… everything that the two of us have been through, all the cases and all the late nights…” I could feel tears welling up in my eyes, but even with everything going on I wasn’t going to let them fall. I was already losing too much tonight, I wasn’t going to lose my dignity. “I can’t just forget about what he meant to me out of nowhere.”
“If it makes you feel better… no that’s not right, if it makes it easier I should say, he was all too willing to throw that aside when he tried to kill you along with all the others. And even if his aim was not to kill you that night, by allying himself with a madman like Tristian he is clearly aware that it will eventually happen, he is not stupid.” He tapped the back of my hand before moving back to his chair, and for the first time I noticed the lines of stress that marked the edges of his face. “I sympathize with how you feel, believe me I do, but you need to accept the inevitability of his sentence. If he is truly involved in this, and we will have an answer in almost no time at all, then he is living on borrowed time as it is.”
“It sounds harsh Amy, but it’s the way that our survival is assured.” Vincent sipped at his drink, making sure to keep his eyes trained on mine. “We cannot afford to coddle our enemies, not when they so easily butcher and disrespect us at every turn. The only way that we can be safe is by proving ourselves to be more ruthless than they can hope to overcome, which means that by the time this is over there will not be anything left of Tristian’s group to speak of.”
“If you wish I can ask that Rick is kept… intact, in case you feel that his family would like to pay their last respects at a funeral. It is much more than we normally reserve for those that have killed us.”
“That’s about as best I can hope for, isn’t it?” I wasn’t an idiot, I knew there was no way that I would ever be able to convince Joseph that Rick should live. He burned down Chicago when his brother was killed for god sake, why would he care about one man? But the best case scenario to be for Rick would be to still at least have a body when all was said and done… it all just felt so wrong, this wasn’t the sort of thing that I’d signed up for when I decided I wanted to help people. There is blood on my hands already, Vincent is only here because I was willing to engage in a human sacrifice, but for more of that blood to belong to Rick of all people? How can I possibly make peace with that?
I’m also not blind to the rather disturbing knowledge that I only really care because I called him a friend. When it comes to someone like Tristian I have to admit that part of me is actually looking forward to seeing him finally go away for good, and I have to say that I am very much not thrilled by knowing that. But if the two of them are working together, if I’m really seeing the truth and not going completely insane, then they really weren’t that different from each other after all, were they? Why would it be fair of me to be willing to act out the punishment on Tristian but not on Rick, if they are guilty of the very same crime?
Much as I may hate it, much as I might go to bed sick for years from now on, I’m not going to sit by and let my compassion for a murderer get even more people killed. If the time comes, if there really is no other option… “If it comes down to that, I’ll do it myself.”